The right to break things

July 22, 2016 — Leave a comment

What is the last thing that you have broken just to verify if it could have been broken? A phone? A car, perhaps? Or the new TV set of your neighbor?

Well, breaking thing definitely is not something that people normally do. Incidents happen, surely, but good people simply do not break things for the thrill of doing that.

Good people do not do that, but bad people definitely do. They break things not only because it can be done, but because much can be gained in the process.

So, intentions are really important: are you breaking things to obtain unwarranted advantages, or are you doing that to help who make those things to improve how they are built? The first are simply robbers, while the second are doing a service to all of us, makers and users alike.

In software security, we refer to the good “breakers” as White Hat hackers, while the bad “breakers” are Black Hat hackers. And yes, you guessed well: there are Gray Hat hackers too.

This is a very simplistic description of the world of the hacking. You could find various types of hackers everywhere: for example, do you recall that time when as a boy or a girl you opened that toy to understand how it worked? Well, you have been an hacker without knowing anything about that!

Now, I think that clearly White Hat hacking is a good thing for everyone if done ethically, and for that reason it should be encouraged. It is not easy to be a White Hat hacker: it requires both a broad and deep knowledge of technology, processes and of human behavior.

If the White Hat hackers would not do their job, applications and systems will remain unprotected and Black Hat hackers will have much easier access to your data.

That said, why someone would want to punish White Hat hackers?

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