The Public Benefit of Hackers Stealing and Publicizing Corporate and Government Data

The term “hackers” used to be a complementary term, meaning someone who was computer literate and able to use computers to their full extent. That changed a few years ago and the word “hacker” now generally refers to an evil person, often a criminal, who steals data for the purposes of making money, usually by illegal means. Security and cryptology expert Bruce Schneier writes in his Crypto-Gram blog that all is not evil, however. The activities of non-criminal hackers has some secondary benefits for citizens of all nations, especially in making transparent the hidden and often illegal activities of the nations and corporations. These hackers are not engaged in making money. Instead, they are trying to publicize the activities of governments and corporations alike in order to create a better-informed public.

Schneier writes:

“Organizations are increasingly getting hacked, and not by criminals wanting to steal credit card numbers or account information in order to commit fraud, but by people intent on stealing as much data as they can and publishing it. Law professor and privacy expert Peter Swire refers to “the declining half-life of secrets.” Secrets are simply harder to keep in the information age. This is bad news for all of us who value our privacy, but there’s a hidden benefit when it comes to organizations.

“The decline of secrecy means the rise of transparency. Organizational transparency is vital to any open and free society.”

The one statement in the article that still echoes in my brain is: “Holding government and corporate private behavior to public scrutiny is good.”

You can read Bruce Schneier’s full article at and look at the article on “Organizational Doxing.”

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