“Thou shalt not use a computer to steal.”
This is the fourth of the Ten Commandments created by the Computer Ethics Institute. Technology allows users to upload, share, and store a lot of public and personal information. Some may think this information is secure, but what happens when there’s a glitch in the system, or worse a hacker deliberately steals the information?
In the 1995 film The Net, Sandra Bullock stars as a computer system analyst that winds up with a security system disc in her possession. This “Gatekeeper” system has a backdoor that allows unauthorized access to important information such as FBI and NY Stock Exchange files. Bullock plays the role of a secluded character that does all of her work and personal operations, such as ordering pizza, from home on her computer. Through a series of life or death events involving cyberterrorists and hit men trying to retrieve the information on the disc, Bullock’s character’s identity is erased from all computer files and is replaced with the identity of a wanted criminal.
The cyber-action thriller provides a lot of examples that demonstrate the harm that can be caused through hacking and stealing information on the Internet. A highly ranked official, that was against using the Gatekeeper security system, committed suicide when he found out “he had HIV”. Turns out it was the work of the hackers that tapped and changed his medical information. Bullock was tricked into spending time with a hit man after the hackers gathered information about her idea of a perfect man from an online chat room. Even though she escaped, her identity, credit cards, and medical history were erased completely.
In these situations, the cyberterrorists are breaking the computer ethic commandment by using computers to steal and create harm. The two characters had their private information tampered with and dealt with harmful consequences. The harm for the official that committed suicide is obvious. He died because of false information, a situation that could have been avoided. Bullock’s character had to deal with trying to regain her identity, the most private and personal thing a person can lose, and avoid being charged for a crime that she did not do.
It is unethical for people to take and use private information, even if it is stored on the web. This brings up questions if information is actually secure on the Internet. People must be careful with what they upload and share. Chris Sims brings up the question, “…if on-demand digital pizza ordering is worth having all of our personal lives stored on computers that can be freely accessed, modified and occasionally even obliterated by anyone with the ability hack a database” (Wired, 2013). Mindlessly entering personal information on the computer may be convenient, but it runs the risk of losing privacy and creating other problems affecting every day life.
Computer Ethics Institute. Ten Commandments of Computer Ethics. Retrieved from http://computerethicsinstitute.org/publications/tencommandments.html
Sims, C. (2013, April 30). What we learned about technology from 1995’s The Net. Wired. Retrieved from http://www.wired.com/2013/04/the-net-movie-technology/
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