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Should Cyber Vigilantes Be Cheered Or Feared 232

Posted by samzenpus
from the everyone-likes-an-ani-hero dept.
snydeq writes "InfoWorld's Ted Samson raises several challenging questions in the wake of HBGary, first and foremost being, should the cyber vigilante acts of 'hacktivists' such as Anonymous be embraced? No doubt the alleged HBGary plot is troubling, Samson writes, 'but also troubling is how quickly some members of Congress seek to use illegally acquired information to further their own political agenda.' The underlying message seems to be that cyber vigilantes may have more leeway than those who engage in equally illegal, though decidedly nontechnical methods to expose their targets."
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Should Cyber Vigilantes Be Cheered Or Feared

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  • none of the above? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bhcompy (1877290) on Wednesday March 02, 2011 @07:53PM (#35363592)
    Maybe they do something worthwhile sometimes, but maybe the consequences of that results in a less free internet. I'll withhold cheering
  • False dichotomy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Local ID10T (790134) <ID10T.L.USER@gmail.com> on Wednesday March 02, 2011 @07:56PM (#35363624) Homepage

    None of the above.

  • by ron_ivi (607351) <sdotno AT cheapcomplexdevices DOT com> on Wednesday March 02, 2011 @08:01PM (#35363672)

    In the case of HB Gary - they did everyone (especially those who pay for HBGary's services - meaning mostly taxpayers) a great service by exposing a security company apparently so fraudulent it had no business in the computer security field.

    If it were my own web sites, I'd very much hope that if someone found an exploit, they'd let me know by visibly defacing my homepage, rather than just ignoring the vulnerability and leaving me vulnerable until some less scrupulous hacker finds it next.

    I hope the law would take intent into consideration a lot in those cases. If the intent was to inform HB Gary and HB Gary customers that their security knowledge sucked, IMHO they did a service to all by demonstrating that. OTOH, if their intent was to steal people's credit cards or something from HB Gary, they should be gone after just like any other credit card thief should.

  • Sometimes cheered (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Yaa 101 (664725) on Wednesday March 02, 2011 @08:07PM (#35363732) Journal

    Sometimes cheered and sometimes booed, better question is why the press is always so binary and void of grey areas.

  • Re:False dichotomy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by suomynonAyletamitlU (1618513) on Wednesday March 02, 2011 @08:10PM (#35363764)

    Agreed. In the end, the appearance of vigilantes is a symptom of something else; I won't go so far as to say it's inevitable, but if it takes vigilantes before things come to light, your country got problems.

  • Re:False dichotomy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Darinbob (1142669) on Wednesday March 02, 2011 @08:10PM (#35363766)

    How about "jeered"? A vigilante, regardless of motivations, is a vigilante. And I'm pretty sure many of these poeple are doing it for the lulz rather than to do any sort of meaningful protest that will accomplish something.

  • Re:False dichotomy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by russotto (537200) on Wednesday March 02, 2011 @08:26PM (#35363936) Journal

    Agreed. In the end, the appearance of vigilantes is a symptom of something else; I won't go so far as to say it's inevitable, but if it takes vigilantes before things come to light, your country got problems.

    The appearance of a few vigiliantes, despised by most, means little. The appearance of a fairly large number of vigilantes, operating with at least the tacit support of the general population, means they're serving a need for justice (whether poorly or well) that the government has failed to fill. The government condemns them regardless, because the government claims the privilege to dispense justice to be solely its own, but when the government claims that privilege then fails to fulfill the implicit duty, what do you expect?

  • by Lead Butthead (321013) on Wednesday March 02, 2011 @08:30PM (#35363964) Journal

    It's always "their (cyber) terrorist" and "our (cyber) freedom fighters/freedom watchdogs." Whenever it's not serving the agenda of those in power, it's always "theirs." When it does, it's always "ours."

  • by Cwix (1671282) on Wednesday March 02, 2011 @08:36PM (#35364000)

    Be less interesting to read thats for sure though.

  • by FriendlyLurker (50431) on Wednesday March 02, 2011 @08:41PM (#35364036)

    "No doubt the alleged HBGary plot is troubling..."

    Troubling? That's an understatement... "The Obama Administration’s Justice Department advised the largest bank in America where to find a corporate hacker [Three military contracting 'cyber-security' companies] to fabricate information that could be used to blackmail American journalists" [colbertnation.com] Corporate America, the Military Industrial Complex and the Government all in bed together [msn.com] to operate outside the law inside the US and without any checks, balances or semblance of respect for the law... and this Ted Samson character is more worried about the civil disobedience group Anonymous... Hellooo... threat assessment!?

  • Re:False dichotomy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cheekyjohnson (1873388) on Wednesday March 02, 2011 @08:46PM (#35364058)

    The appearance of a fairly large number of vigilantes, operating with at least the tacit support of the general population, means they're serving a need for justice (whether poorly or well) that the government has failed to fill.

    I don't quite understand how a large number of people believing something makes it right. I mean, it might indicate that the government has angered them, but it doesn't necessarily mean that the people are 'in the right.'

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 02, 2011 @08:50PM (#35364082)

    "Anonymous" is no hacker group. They're just a bunch of angst teenage script kiddies who post on 4chan. Some of them might know a thing or two but the vast majority use tools and exploits written/discovered by much smarter more talented people than themselves. They're not vigilantes. They attack whoever the fuck they want to attack, for whatever reason, malicious or not.

    And while we're at it I might as well say that I'm sick of seeing script kiddie crackers who expose security holes in website (without being asked to) referred to as "security researchers." This article didn't do it but just about every other fucking article on slashdot does.

  • Re:False dichotomy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jmorris42 (1458) * <`jmorris' `at' `beau.org'> on Wednesday March 02, 2011 @08:52PM (#35364090)

    > A vigilante, regardless of motivations, is a vigilante.

    More like common vandals. If you wouldn't cheer em rampaging in a mob with fireaxes and making off with file cabinets you shouldn't be cheering them doing essentially the same smash and grab and sticking an i, cyber- or some such hip prefix that boils down to the same ol 'take something ordinary stick "on the Internet" on and call it new and fresh. (And probably patentable but that is a rant for another thread.)

    They aren't vigilantes anymore when they attack someone for the sole reason they were investigating them. That is so clearly across the moral line the only reason more people don't see it is they agree so strongly with Anonymous's stated political goals it blinds them. Gotham PD gets tired of Batman's vigilante tactics and decides to track him down and arrest him. He shoots Gordon in the face when he shows up at Wayne Manor with a warrant. Goodbye Batman, hello Supervillan looking for a new name.

  • by causality (777677) on Wednesday March 02, 2011 @08:53PM (#35364104)

    "No doubt the alleged HBGary plot is troubling..."

    Troubling? That's an understatement... "The Obama Administration’s Justice Department advised the largest bank in America where to find a corporate hacker [Three military contracting 'cyber-security' companies] to fabricate information that could be used to blackmail American journalists" [colbertnation.com]
    Corporate America, the Military Industrial Complex and the Government all in bed together [msn.com] to operate outside the law inside the US and without any checks, balances or semblance of respect for the law... and this Ted Samson character is more worried about the civil disobedience group Anonymous... Hellooo... threat assessment!?

    It's simple really. This is mainstream (i.e. lowest common denominator, bottom of the barrel, that which is easiest to sell, what has style but no substance, etc.) thought on the matter: if you are concerned about the government or members of the government acting completely outside of the law, with impunity, well then you're just another paranoid tin-foil hat-wearing insane nutter conspiracy type. You will be dismissed and ridiculed without ever testing the veracity of your claims. That's because we just don't like the way you sound, and that tie you're wearing pisses us off too.

    But, if you're concerned about a group of online vandals who cause a lot of inconvenience to a few people, but nothing on the scale of abusive government with no effective checks and balances... well then, we approve of that. Those damned vigilantes. It's definitely okay to believe that a bunch of people with little no no association, organization, or preperation can conspire to bring down a Web site.

    It's those insane morons who believe that a bunch of people who are from the same social class, who play golf with each other, who are in bed with the same special interests, who work similar jobs, who all benefit from a more powerful government, why it's madness to believe that they are anything other than saints who are acting in our interests. MADNESS I TELL YOU. What kind of idiot would believe a story like that? Clearly we must ridicule them immediately. We absolutely must, at all costs, ignore every historical precedent for such abuses of power, every self-interested motive of any authority figure involved, every precedent for past abuses of power our own government has perpetrated, and every lack of oversight and basic competency any public official has ever shown. After all, we have some nutters to ridicule.

  • by EdIII (1114411) on Wednesday March 02, 2011 @11:53PM (#35365532)

    Those that wish for an Internet without Freedom, Privacy, Anonymity, Choice, or Competition do not need the existence and actions of Anonymous to create the foundation for their arguments.

    I am cheering Anonymous for their actions with HBGary. However, I am cheering for the specific people that did this specific act.

    Cheering for Anonymous is like modding an AC on Slashdot as +5 Insightful and then wondering why he was being such a dick two posts later.

  • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Thursday March 03, 2011 @01:24AM (#35365992) Homepage Journal

    Maybe they do something worthwhile sometimes, but maybe the consequences of that results in a less free internet. I'll withhold cheering.

    Do you hear yourself? Are you saying they shouldn't do anything worthwhile because there will be crackdowns on the rest of us? Have things gotten that bad?

    The old saying, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions" only applies if you're not already in hell.

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