Hacking Turned Nasty

“Turned” nasty?  I think hacking is nasty in general.  It has been hard to change people’s attitudes toward hackers and copyright violators, because the damage is generally not physical.  But the fact is that hackers and spammers cost businesses money.  These activities are not some sort of harmless joke–they do damage.  Anyone who works in information management or computer security obviously realizes that.  But even now many in the general public aren’t aware of the kind of damage that can be done.

Now MSNBC.com reports that there has been a hacking attack that is intended to cause physical harm.  A breach in the security of the Epilepsy Foundation allowed the posting of animated images and links to pages containing similar graphics.  These were made to flash quickly and in such a way as to induce seizures in people with certain types of epilepsy–the very people who would be seeking help at the Epilepsy Foundation site.

This is an undeniably nasty sort of activity, but hopefully it will result in a silver lining–more people realizing that breaking other people’s security isn’t a prank and isn’t a crime with limited victims.  It’s a property crime and often an invasion of privacy.

I’m amazed that I still encounter people who don’t realize this after all the identity theft and the amount of spam that people report.  I will have someone reporting to me that they are overwhelmed by spam but at the same time refusing to consider using more secure passwords, for example, or running with inadequate security.  Try almost any apartment building, for example, and you’ll find unsecured wireless connections available.  But do you realize that it’s both stealing and a risk to your personal information to use such a connection?

The law is catching up.  The public needs to do so as well.  Information isn’t optional; it’s at least as important these days as the locks and security system on your home or your business’s physical location.

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