The Proper Response to Hacking

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On November 24, 2014, Sony Pictures was attacked by hackers. Attacked is the proper word to describe hacking in this context. The hackers intended to harm Sony financially and instill fear into the hearts of the studio’s executives and employees. Sites like Lifehacker make hacking sound like a cutesy hobby, but it is not cutesy. It is destructive and a form of terrorism.

The victims of the attack feel vulnerable, abused, and angry. Digital burglars stole their personal information and private data. That hurts. Victims deserve our empathy and kindness. The breach itself is enough to cause real pain and suffering, but that is only a small piece of the destruction the hackers have wrought.

Every time someone reads a nugget of personal information or consumes media stolen by hackers, the knife is being plunged into their backs again, and again.cyber-attack-hacker The first blow is struck when hackers gain illicit access to private materials. It hurts to be violated. It also hurts that a few anonymous people know things that are supposed to be secret. Blame the hackers for the agony caused by their actual breach and the discomfort they caused by knowing things they should not know.

At that moment, publicly releasing all the confidential information and data has no further inherent negative consequence. That is to say, when hackers leak stolen information, the leak is not the thing that hurts. The thing that hurts is the public imbibing in the leak. If no one would care to taste the forbidden fruit the hackers are dangling in front of us, the victims would suffer no further harm. The leak hurts so much because far too many voyeurs gleefully devour the forbidden fruit. That’s on the voyeurs, not the hackers. That’s not kindness to victims of an attack.

It’s true that the hackers are the thieves. That’s evil. But the rest of us are “in possession of stolen property.” That’s also evil. We understand that viewing child pornography is immoral even though the viewer has not taken the photos or taken advantage of a child. But the demand for depraved images contributes to the market by giving the images value. If no one would look, fewer images would be produced.

Hacking is not the same as child pornography. But the personal violation is similar. No one granted us permission to view these divulged secrets. Hacking would be practically useless if we all agreed to embargo anything that is leaked by the hackers. But we don’t do that. Sadly, there is demand for hacked data. We drive the market. We glorify the hackers and get drunk on illicit access to intimate secrets. Suddenly, we are all Peeping Toms.

I doubt we can figure out a way to stop hackers from hacking. I am hopeful that we can find a way not to look.

It’s a lesson taught very early in the Bible. Upon witnessing the destruction of his world, Noah gets drunk and his sons discover him sprawled naked on the ground. One son stares. Two sons look away and cover their father’s shame. They are praised. The other is cursed. When we are confronted by the shame or nakedness or private information of others, there is only one moral choice. Gawking is a curse. Look away and cover their shame. That’s blessing. It’s what we would want others to do for us.

When hackers steal private information, it’s on us to ignore it. When hackers release pirated movies, it’s on us to go to the theater and pay to see the film. When hackers want to tell us secrets, it’s on us to ignore them. When hackers leak intimate photos of celebrities, it’s on society to look the other way and cover their shame. Our voyeurism is the fuel to the hackers’ fire. If we would just walk away, the fire would burn itself out. When we gawk, we are no longer innocent. We step across the moral line and we become the hackers.

Let’s neuter hacking. Don’t look. Avert your gaze. Respect privacy, especially betrayed privacy. Let’s make our society a place that refuses to drive the hacking market. Let’s care more about the victims of hacking than our prurient curiosity. Let’s not be voyeurs peering luridly into the figurative bedrooms of others as they suffer. Let’s knock on the door, offer our care and concern, and be their security blanket.

Cross-posted to Medium.

Don’t Blame Hackers For Your Voyeurism

  • MarkSoFla

    You should have added a portion about how the news media erupts in glee every time these things happen and then proceed to publicize these things far and wide for all to see. If a hacker just hacks and puts it on a hacker site, 1000 people will see it, but when the media publicizes it, millions see it.

    • Shlomo Abraham

      The media is just a conduit for the public.

      You see the same thing about terrorism. If a young Israeli died in car accident, nobody bats an eyelash. Media doesn’t run the story because nobody cares. If an Arab stabs an Israeli (or vice versa), it becomes an international incident because of the media, and the public appetite for such a story.

      • Agreed. The media sells what the public consumes.

  • Shlomo Abraham

    Moral of the story: Hug your IT person.

    And your point is silly: We live in a voyeuristic society for better or for worse. If you truly wanted to rid society, or even yourself, of voyeurism, ‘Avert your gaze’ would have to apply to pretty much all news, much of your Facebook postings, sports, etc..

    • Huh? Avert your gaze from things that were intended to be private and were exposed by criminals. How is that like sports?!

      • Shlomo Abraham

        (Watching) sports is voyeuristic at its core: You’re watching someone, generally on TV, attempt some athletic feat, and getting a thrill out of it. The relationship is one-way, in the sense that the athletes normally have no idea who is watching them. The only difference is the athlete consents, and generally desires to be watched. If the athlete messes up spectacularly, it gets watched over and over, with train-wreck appeal, much like this case.

        • No. The comparison is borderline offensive. The athlete is performing. It’s art. The purpose of the competition is for the spectator. So no, it is not voteurism and no it is not a one way relationship. The athlete is inviting you to watch and generally is being paid handsomely. Stealing private information and reveling in its exposure is not only a one way relationship, it’s an abusive relationship, if you could even call it a relationship.

          • Shlomo Abraham

            What is the difference between reading SPE’s dirty laundry and an article about Adrian Peterson’s?

  • vladimir

    Public privacy is oxymoron. Media is filled with the fake knowledge. Media is to blame for the publicising intimacy. Media must be at least ignored, if not to be taken to the high court.

  • Neil_Parks

    (quote) >”When hackers release pirated movies, it’s on us to go to the theater and pay to see the film.”
    (end quote)

    You hit the nail on the head right there. I think the whole “hacking” thing was a publicity stunt engineered by Sony to drum up interest in a ridiculous movie–an alleged comedy about the dictator of North Korea!