On Hacking in the Classroom

On Hacking in the Classroom

 

This forum will explore why hacking may be a viable entry point into discussion and methodologies around ethics in a technological society. What are the different societal perceptions of hacking (are they all negative)? How can hacking skills be employed in ethical ways, and why might undergraduate computer science students learn how to hack?

 

 

17 comments

I think that hacking would be a good subject to learn about in class. I'd like to learn about it because the better I understand how to hack, the better I will understand how others hack. In turn, I will be able to take more preventative measures for myself. I have been hacked in the past and it has created a very inconvenient experience that I would like to avoid or minimize as much as possible in the future. Learning hacking skills can help me to do this.

 

I also think that learning hacking skills in this class would be interesting. We see hacking all the time happen to our own devices and to those around us. Perhaps hacking can be used in a way that is not malicious, and more beneficial. For example, finding holes in a security system can help to improve them. Learning how to hack would also help me to gain an understanding of the mechanics of databases, websites, and servers, and I would enjoy gaining such knowledge. I think that it can be related to many different computer science topics and because of that, learning hacking skills would enhance my overall understanding of computers and how they work.


Because hacking skills can be used in such a harmful way, learning them is not often offered. I would like to take the opportunity we have in this class to learn those skills because it is unlikely that another chance will arise. Learning these skills in a classroom environment can also be safer, for lack of a better term, than trying to learn over the internet or by trial and error.

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I agree with your analysis, it's a sound argument. It really boils down to the saying, "It takes a thief to know one." The fact that you pointed out that hacking can reveal holes in defences is spot on and many times these defences are unseen buried beneath layers of coding. Unfortunetly this doesn't come to light until its too late and someone has exploited this weakness. While is retrospect a test-run hacking session may have revealed this and measures then couldv'e been taken to, so to speak, patch this hole up.

You're also correct in why its not taught in the majority of classrooms, you can't predict what someone will do with the skill. However, I think that in the method in which its taught, it could give the student a sense of how or what to use it for (obviously for good intentions). In my personal opinion, I think it's all in the way it's taught which is where the teacher must be careful in the methods he or she chooses. By doing this correctly, it breeds a new type of defense where policies and laws need not apply so long as there's regular testing. 

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While it is often pinned down with a largely negative reputation, hacking does have positive uses. It can be used for good deeds rather than crime, but only in the hands of those who are willing to be held responsible if their powers are used for evil deeds. The police force could use hackers to crack the databases of criminal organizations to gather information that the police might need, like information on members or any records they may carry on their systems. Hacking is a skill that would be useful to computer scientists that are willing to get into the world of criminal justice or private investigation, seeing as their findings can prove to be crucial evidence in the event of a criminal case. However, such a skill requires a great deal of responsibility, and the willingness to be potentially looked upon by others as a criminal and an illegal invader of personal space. As stated before, hackers get bad reputation whether what they are doing is for the good of the general public or not. They need to be ready for potential backlash from the general public, the wariness of investigative forces to use their methods, and they must even be wary of other hackers and other people who could be capable of issuing a direct denial of service (DDoS) on their hacking tools. The job of a hacker is a very risky one, as it could put even their personal information on the line. This is probably why groups like Anonymous exist, forever masked not only physically, but digitally, with no knowledge of their true identity, and hackers may need to follow that example. Either way, hacking is a grey area; neither a good nor bad practice, and while it could be taught, the person learning needs to be responsible for any acts they may commit, whether good or bad.

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Hacking is often thought as always a bad thing, or a danger to our personal lives.  However, I believe that hacking can be used for good to help fight these crimes.  To do this I would suggest hiring a small group of computer hackers to help build a fire wall type system around what they know how to do.  As long as technology is out in our world there will always be hackers to try and cause havoc.  If the military and government were to train certain computer/tech savvy individuals to be top hackers we could greatly strengthen our security revolving in the online world, by building defense programs based around the skills of the hackers.  I do not believe that hacking skill should be taught in a class room setting in great detail, instead the government and computer security companies should seek out these individuals and train them separately.  The basics of hacking can be taught in the class room setting to maybe spark interest of those willing help improve our security.  But anything beyond the basics should be taught at the military/ corporate level. 

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Most of the students in this class, if not all, have a computer-related major or minor. As such, many of us would be invested in learning something that would better prepare ourselves for creating or protecting computer content. One of the ways in which we could be educated in these matters could be through hacking. By learning how to hack, we would be able to better understand the thinking of hackers and their actions. If we were able to learn how to hack, we would in turn also learn the process that hackers go through in compromising another computer. By understanding their methods, we can then also think of and develop obstacles and safeguards that can act as appropriate countermeasures for hacking.
We would also benefit from such a lesson by being able to better understand the mindset of hackers. By learning essentially how a hacker thinks, we will be able to figure out what/who is most targeted by hackers, specific weaknesses they may look for, and other characteristics of hackers.

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I agree with you Joy. One of the best defences we can have against hackers is understanding the process. By learning to think like the hackers  we can better prepare our software/technology to be better suited in preventing them in the first place. No one technology is 100% safe from these malicious hackers but we can always be on guard to try and negate them. 

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I'm unsure what you mean by hacking. The word has taken on a number of different meanings and is now used in everything from "less yack more hack," to hacking the classroom (again, largely vague, as it seems to include everything from using Twitter to WordPress to a flipped classroom), to exploiting cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerabilities, to penetration testing and full security audits. There are Ikea hacks and lifehacks, as well as buffer overflows and DDoS attacks. Is there a specific definitino of "hacking" we're talking about here?

I haven't been able to take any, but a number of university's have penetration testing units (or full classes) in their various computer science / computer information systems curriculum. The term seems to be a positive thing when talking about posititve things: profhacker, lifehacker, ikea hacks, hack your Keurig to be DRM-free, and negative when it's being used to talk about the latest website defacement, stolen Twitter login, or DDoS. 

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            Hacking in an ethical sense can be good for penetration testing, such as testing the security of software and web applications. Hacking in the sense of software, requires you to know a system’s architecture; a developer that knows an OS in and out can help in developing a more secure and fluid application. It may be considered ethical to hack into something for curiosity and to improve a piece software as the “hacker” isn’t stealing anything and the “hacking” doesn’t affect anyone in a negative way.

            As history shows, hacking leads to creativity and the birth of amazing technology. According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “a hacker is an expert at programming and solving problems with a computer.” In other words, a hacker is someone who finds a solution to an existing problem, sometimes using unconventional methods. Hackers created a lot of today’s modern technology: Bill Gates modified the kernel of an OS that he bought from someone else, and Kevin Mitnick of Mitnick Security was formerly a hacker and is now a security specialist for penetration testing (mitnicksecurity.com, 2015). Often, a hacker is simply someone who just enjoys heavily modifying programs on their own machines; making them faster, more efficient and more how they’d like it to run.

            Hackers can also help businesses improve their security. Murali Balasubramanyam notes that “Black Hat Hackers have helped to make leaders in the design industry the potential risk that their businesses are exposed to…. For hackers that are trying to stay on the right side of the law with their hobby, this could mean more potential IT job opportunities involving a subject that they enjoy.” In other words, hacking creates jobs and leads to increased measures to defend against the few malicious hackers who exist. In an attempt to create a better security, Microsoft recruits talented hackers rather than press charges against them (Balasubramanyam, 2015). It’s like fighting fire with fire; we need really good hackers, and for them to be on the good ethical side of technology. Hacking is something that will always be a part of technology and without it computers and technology would not be as advanced as they are today.

 

 

 

Sources:

Mitnick Security Counseling LLC, 2015. https://www.mitnicksecurity.com/

Murali Balasubramanyam Ethical Hacking Jobs: How some Computer Hackers Earned Legitimate Careers. http://www.softwarespecialists.com/ethical-hacking-jobs-how-ethical-computer-hackers-earned-careers/

 

 

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Hacking is always looked at with a bad perspective; people do not see the skill behind it or the information needed to execute it. Hacking skills should be learned in a course entitled “Ethics in a Technological Society” because it could teach us a lot about how hacking actually works and about the security involved with hacking. We could eventually learn how to prevent hacking or counter it. But, more importantly, we would learn more about programming and the different ways it can be used.

            Ethics in general is what is wrong and what is right. We would be learning something that can be wrong when used maliciously, but it can help us understand hacking in-depth and the requirements you have to meet in order to hack. We could also learn the psychological background of hacking, meaning the mindset required to actually hack someone or something and the purpose behind the hack. Overall there is a lot to learn about hacking because we now live in a world divided between those who understand the inner-workings of a computer society and those who do not. Learning the depth of programming would allow us to learn the actual background of hacking. In a computer science ethics class, hacking is a big topic, but learning hacking skills would allow us to be more hands-on with the topic and would allow us to truly understand the meaning of hacking not just what Hollywood makes it out to be. Learning about coding doesn’t just mean being able to make or fix a particular program; it means learning how to think about the world in a certain way.

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Hacking is not only used for attacking others, but for security purpose like david said. By teaching students how to hack, it will give them a better understanding on how to defend themselves againts hackers. We have to know how to make new technology "unhackable" and the only way to do that is to undestand how to hack.

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For a Computer Science or an IT student hacking is a great skill to learn. Proficiency in this skill allows a programmer to modify their own programs, and others as well. It allows them greater flexibility, by modifying and optimizing their programs.

More importantly it allows them to have more secure software. By knowing how their software can be tampered with they can test their own material and see how other people could cause malicious damage to the program and how to better prevent it. Programmers who can hack their own software can build preventative features that make their programs more secure.

In addition, cybersecurity is a very lucrative field. Hackers and hacking prevention are very sought out in todays market for major companies. Having these skills allow a programmer to start higher up on the company chain, because of this rare skill.

From a more theoretical side, we can learn what hacking truly is. Due to the perversion of Hollywood movies that very poorly show what hacking is, most people don't know what it is, or wouldn't even be able to recognize it if they saw it. Learning what hacking is and is not will make us much more informed about our field.

Teaching this skill at an early level of computer science will help make the next generation of software much more secure.

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Although hacking can be extremely dangerous because of the damages that it
can cause overall. There are many greater goods that can come out of knowing how to protect oneself from being hacked. In today’s age, technology is soaring and continuously improving, unfortunately many hackers use their expertise to access other people’s personal files. The danger in that is the fact that hackers can completely ruin a person’s life in many aspects, including financially, socially or personally. 
For that reason there is a very specific positive purpose for knowing how to hack. This is not in utilizing the knowledge maliciously but to use the knowledge instead to build defensive network systems that would protect one’s personal information -  or to simply be able to recognize whether or not one’s personal computer has been hacked. Besides the fact that it can also protect a person’s PC personally, there are professional opportunities as well. For example, the Department of Defense (DOD) requireS personnel who are knowledgeable about hacking, in other to help detect computer threats that could later on become a national security issue.
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Hacking is used for both good and bad in today's world. For example, the terrorist organization ISIS have been using social networking websites such as twitter in order to recruit others to join their fighting cause. When these accounts are seen by other users, they are immediatly taken down and most of the time not by Twitter employees, but hackers. There is an interent group of hackers taking the web by storm called Anonymous. This group does their fighting on the world wide web, and make it their obligation to prevent terrorism and other threats from emerging over the internet. In my opinion, this is an example of good hacking and benefits the world in a positive manner. Computer hacking is often seen as a bad thing, and one reason for this is the way hacking is shown in popular movies millions of people are seeing. Computer hacking is commonly seen in movies by hacking into the United States government computers and releasing confidental information, releasing missiles, and so on. i have seen countless movies where computer hacking is often the villians skill, which doesn't benefit hacking in the real world. I think hacking in a positive manner should be taught to students to show them that it can be used for good. Students majoring in computer related majors should learn this hacking skills and apply them in a positive way to help the world and improve on the growing technology we see every day. 

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I agree with Mark's earlier comment about how we can use hacking for good.  By taking hackers and seeing how they work and operate we can help defend our security from future hacking attacks.  However, the term hacking is far to broad of a term.  Now a days we consider logging into someone else's Facebook when we know there password as hacking, and we also consider foreign hackers taking millions from companies hackers too.  The term hacking should be better defined in my mind, seeing the difference between the two kinds of hacking I just mentioned are .  We do not need to teach hacking skills in the classroom to crack peoples email or other accounts.  I think that more computer programming classes should be enforced in this growing technology era though.  The basics of programming can go hand and hand with hacking and help develop better understanding for computers.  All in all in my eyes it is far more important to teach and asses the basic computer programming skills for all groups people, rather than hacking in general.

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Hacking is seen as the cardinal sin when discussing technology, or more specifically, the internet. It is perceived as morally and ethically wrong as well as illegal. People having their identities stolen, privacy invaded, or just having their computers or other devices and appliances connected to the internet (as in “the internet of things”) are put at risk of an attack. However it is also a double-edged sword as large powers such as national governments intend to hack or spy on potential threats to national security. In that case, hacking is viewed as very acceptable and even encouraged in some instances. Where the line is drawn is therefore very interesting. How does hacking go from illegal to patriotic?

    Another aspect is the fact that whether or not you believe hacking is good or bad, it will always be there. Students will be taught hacking under the guise of network security, which is actually what they are learning, but it becomes a slippery slope. Hacking is always present and the question might become similar to net neutrality; can there be rules in place to govern and watch the actions of others, while making it legal?

    For a Computer Science course, we can discuss the issue of privacy that keeps popping up as well as how security is handled. Who do we trust and how much power is given? Learning the skills of hacking will give a better perspective on it in general as well as jump start the discussion of, “Can we trust people with these skills to use them for good and not evil?”. There will always be those with negative intentions who will learn on their own anyway, so having these skills taught in a classroom could only benefit those who wish to use it for good.

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Hacking in this class will be useful to learn primarily for preemptive measures. Since hacking can be dangerous, it’s important to learn to defend your computer and programs from those who may try to hack programs that we use and create. Understanding how hacking works would be the first basic step on how to do it. Most of the class is planning to become programmers or use technology in some way, if the programmers of the future, understand how hacking works then they can produce programs that are better protected from hacking.

Another aspect of hacking that would be relevant, would be to learn and discuss the various uses of hacking. This includes having Have in class discussions on whether if there are any “ethical” ways to hack or “ethical” uses, such as discussing criminal activity and an individual's right to privacy and how those relate to hacking, and including current =events about hacking in the news.  If we do learn how to hack, or at least the building blocks of hacking, I think we then need to learn about how we can use those skills ethically, and not abuse them.

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    Although hacking is an unethical topic if taught in the wrong way. Hacking at its core is a subject that can make many nervous, when people think about hacking they think about steeling data or inserting viruses to help you for financial gain or even for a company with corporate hacking. But it is still a viable learning topic in an ethics class, this can be ethical by teaching penetration testing and how to hack so that a person is able to identify vulnerable points and places for hacks to stop any kind of future intrusion. By learning hacking a person is able to learn how to penetrate systems and exploit different applications to steal or harm servers and other computers. By learning this we will be able to acknowledge how an attack happens, what it does, and exactly how to both implement and counteract it. With this knowledge, we will be able to apply it ethically and use this information to prevent and stop attacks or fix attacks after they happen. Hacking becomes more and more prevalent as time passes and technology advances. For example, at one of the major conventions for hacking it was revealed that there is a hack for pacemakers, in this reveal it was proven that a hacker could infiltrate a person’s pacemaker and shut it off or shock someone to death. With life-threatening hacks like this coming out into the open it is more important than ever that we teach people about hacking and how to stop hacking. As it should always be said as technology advances so does the security risk and danger concerning exploits. Without ethical learning of hacking these dangerous hacks can just progress. To equate this to another topic think of hacking as a virus in the human body something that can cause great harm and destroy life if medical professionals don’t search and find ways to eradicate viruses then how can we keep people healthy, same goes for hacking if we don’t teach and search and learn about hacking then how can we stop the dangerous hacks from happening.

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