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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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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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