NEWSFLASH: Hacking is Good -- Atom Ramirez

NEWSFLASH: Hacking is Good

Author: Atom Ramirez

Hacking has been around for many years and its applications have evolved for both the better and the worse. As described by Merriam Webster’s dictionary, hacking is the process "to gain illegal access to (a computer network, system, etc.);" a relatively negative connotation. Although this definition concisely and accurately explains hacking, it unfortunately only represents a one sided view. Hacking can actually be used for good! When hackers identify weaknesses, they can improve the security of computer systems. This protects the infrastructure, and makes the internet safer in general. However, there is also a combination of both good and bad hacking that lies in a grey area.

I recently posed the question, "What do you think hacking means?" to my friends, who have a level of knowledge comparable to the average Internet user. Their responses were all in-line with the negative viewpoint. For example, "[Hacking can be defined as] when you look into people's information that they don’t want you to know, leaked information" or "Hacking is when you're doing illegal things online, stuff you're not allowed to go through." This demonstrates the common mindset that hacking is bad.

Indeed, hacking can be bad but there are more benefits than people realize. Hacking can be used in many positive ways such as learning about vulnerabilities of systems which can result in helping companies better secure their systems, and supports creative activities that can lead to innovative solutions in our ever increasing technological world.

One way to help address the negative connotations of hacking is through the teaching of ethics in hacking and cybersecurity. As we begin to teach the younger generations about Cybersecurity and utilizing "hacking" skills to defend and protect computer systems, we must also emphasize the importance of ethics. Including ethics in cyber security education can help reduce the misuse of cybersecurity skills.

For example, there are different classification of hackers to help distinguish their intentions: white hat, black hat, and grey hat. A white hat has the same skill set as black hats but have the opposite intentions. They usually get permission from a company to hack into their system and improve their security. Black hats are hackers that have a malicious intent and are focused on primarily personal gain such as information of someone’s credit card information. Finally, we have grey hats which are in the middle. They usually do the same thing as black hats but they get permission. They would find out about a vulnerability in a company's security and ask for money to fix it, if the company refuses the hackers post the vulnerability online.

I have learned a great deal over the years about hacking through participation in cybersecurity competitions such as Cyberpatriot, National Cyber League, and the California CyberCup challenge to name a few. My opinion of hacking has changed quite a bit from being opposed to it to being interested in it because it brings many positive benefits in securing computer systems. Despite my praising of hacking, I still believe it is important to be aware of internet technologies and understand how vulnerable they are. Regardless of the current negative views, hacking can be a very powerful tool to keep our cyber life safe. Like the Great Uncle Ben (from Spider-Man) has said "With great power comes with great responsibility."



1."Hack." Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster,

2."What Is the Difference Between Black, White and Grey Hat Hackers?" Norton,