Most of us observe the news items on the latest hacker activity or cyber crime with detachment, because, after all, we’re not in any way connected with this activity are we? But a recent hacking event involving Twitter (the victim) and TechCrunch (the recipient), and an unknown hacker who calls himself Croll, got me thinking about how many of us online may be feeding the cycle of hacking and cyber crime unknowingly, or certainly unintentionally.
What I’m about to say may be considered by some as unnecessarily harsh: Life is tough let’s face it, and this is one of those things that, if you’ve never been hacked will seem not-all-that-important. But if you have ever been hacked, or worse, if a hacker has taken over your website or one of your social media identities, you will feel this acutely and may even feel as strongly as I do.
In the case of TechCrunch’s role in even considering publishing data sent to them by Hacker Croll, I have to make a highly critical observation. This pains me somewhat because up until now I have admired Michael Arrington for his astuteness and business acumen. But maybe I was being gullible.
My observation is this: For a high-profile website like TechCrunch to openly cooperate with a hacker–and let’s face it when you accept the goods and make use of them you are cooperating, in the same way that fences cooperate with thieves–is a ludicrous abdication of their responsibility to set the tone for the Internet. Any website with the readership that TechCrunch has must shoulder the responsibility it has earned as an industry-leader to set and maintain ethical standards.
For TechCrunch to publish any of the data passed on by that hacker is tantamount to leading us all lemming-like over the cliff, because it will surely be seen as a huge, red-carpeted encouragement to hackers everywhere.
I acknowledge that many experts, Mashable is just one, put the blame pretty much on Twitter, and anyone else in their shoes, for allowing such glaring security flaws to continue unchecked. But to me, that attitude is like saying that if you accidentally forget to lock your back door, a thief has every right to come in and ransack your house.
It was a bit of a disappointment that out of all the experts I called on for input, only Lee Odden of Top Rank Marketing was prepared to make a statement about how he feels:
Regarding TechCrunch publishing allegedly “hacked and stolen” private documents, there’s a clear ethical issue. They’ve disclosed that only some of the documents will be published but there’s still a choice to be made. News sites and blogs can decide in situations like this whether the newsworthiness of publishing someone else’s private information is worth more than their own integrity and ethical standards. TechCrunch and its advertisers stand to gain from a criminal act perpetuated against Twitter. From an ethical standpoint, how is that different than Murdoch Media benefiting from hacking the cell phones of Politicians and celebrities?
I wholeheartedly agree with Lee. Where is TechCrunch’s trustworthiness score now huh?
The ‘Other’ Scenario
On the other hand, if TechCrunch was to openly condemn the hacker to the greatest extent possible, turn him over to law enforcement (digitally-speaking of course), and then refuse to publish even one word of what was passed to them, they would be setting themselves on a pedestal and would become the focus of just as much publicity I’d say. Then, if some two-bit blogger were to publish any of that data at a later date, he would be seen as just that: A two-bit blogger trying lamely to make a name for himself.
Come on now, stand up and be counted. If you agree with me, just leave me a short comment below to say so. If you don’t agree, let’s hear that too: have the courage of your convictions and tell me why in a comment.