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Are Computer Hacker Break-ins Ethical?

Eugene Spafford
Journal of Systems and Software, 17(1):41–48, January 1992.
ISSN 0164-1212
January 1992

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Abstract

Recent incidents of unauthorized computer intrusion have brought about discussion of the ethics of breaking into computers. Some individuals have argued that as long as no significant damage results, break-ins may serve a useful purpose. Others counter with the expression that the break-ins are almost always harmful and wrong.

This article lists and refutes many of the reasons given to justify computer intrusions. It is the author’s contention that break-ins are ethical only in extreme situations, such as a life-critical emergency. The article also discusses why no break-in is “harmless.”

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