Australian-born entrepreneur and known hacker Nik Cubrilovic was recently charged with breaching the website GoGet’s app making up to thirty illegal bookings on a stranger’s account. Cubrilovic is a well-known cyber-security researcher who has previously reported security vulnerabilities on government websites, Adobe databases and even Facebook.
Nevertheless, despite having provided a “white hat” service to these agencies, Cubrilovic crossed the white hat hacker line by breaching GoGet’s secure servers after his girlfriend’s account was suspended.
Naturally, when you know all about hacking and how to prevent it; it is very easy to hack and get away with it. Therefore, white hat hackers can easily go “grey”.
As a result, it is essential to teach and enforce the importance of white hat hacking ethics. When granted the skills and ability to access almost any database, it is important for those in the know to not take advantage. As per the superhero Spiderman’s ethos ‘with great power comes great responsibility’.
For the most part, being an ethical hacker is a lucrative job. Many governments and companies seek out top hackers to test, identify and strengthen security weaknesses in their networks. A lot of the time, these white hat hackers started their careers by deliberately infiltrating or damaging secure networks. Some famous white hat hackers include Marc “Chameleon Maiffret” and Kevin “Condor” Mitnick, who were originally arrested for their hacker activities before they were recruited by security agencies for their skills.
As with all aspects of security enforcement, things are never black and white. Hacker organisations such as Anonymous are sometimes considered morally righteous activists, whose activities can be classified as illegal, even if one approves of the action (E.g. – their known hacking of Iranian government websites). Nevertheless, such ‘hacktivist’ groups have been known to orchestrate damaging black hat activities that are neither approved nor sanctioned by governments or legitimate organisations.
Teaching ethics in cyber-security is crucial for training the next generation of cyber security specialists. Most hackers cut their teeth on cyber-security activities by trying things out; testing their computer skills and pushing the boundaries of what they can do. It is for this reason that ethics must become a core component in their formation.
It is one thing to be skilled enough to know how to hack into a stranger’s bank account; it is an entirely different matter to understand why you shouldn’t. Knowing the consequences of your cyber activities is becoming more important in a world where anonymity is standard.
When governments and corporations are hiring the best hackers to test and secure their cyber security capabilities, a good hacker should understand the consequences of accessing the military intelligence of another nation.
Nik Cubrilovic’s offence has slapped him with a ban against accessing the Internet, cryptocurrency and travelling. His actions and the seemingly light bans placed upon him has helped him avoid jail time yet provided him with global notoriety.
Once his bans are dropped, Nik will likely be recruited and continue to apply his skills for organisations around the world. Talent like his, after all, is required in this modern age.
Nevertheless, being talented should not mean you could or should get away with anything. Cyber ethics is a crucial component in the education and training of the future’s white hat hacking community, especially since we hold them in such high regard.
For further information on offensive security and white-hat hacking, please do not hesitate to contact Agilient.
The Agilient Team