The classic Robin Hood thrives in ambiguous moral character and cannot wholly be classified as hero or villain. With a motto of “steal from the rich, give to the poor”, he is an outlaw who simultaneously plays the role of champion for the common man. In our world of sophisticated cyber theft, hackers are applying this same mentality to the access and release of classified information, data and products. While questionable in the eyes of the law, there are a series of high profile hackers whose “criminal activity” has ultimately helped people. Thriving in moral grey area, here are 5 hackers from around the world who have committed cyber crimes for the good of the people.
1) Ilmar Poikans
“Latvia’s Robin Hood” has recently been discovered to be Ilmar Poikans, an artificial intelligence researcher in the University of Latvia’s computer science department. He exposed the large salaries of Latvian State Officials, who earn the equivalent of as much as $7100 a month while teachers only make $600. His work aims to expose government corruption and the wealth disparities within Latvia.
2) Phineas Fisher
This hacker primarily targets groups that aid government corruption and the oppression of citizens. In 2014, he released data from the Garra Group, a company that produces malware products that are documented tools used by oppressive regimes. Specifically, these products have been used by governments in Uganda, Ethiopia, and Bahrain. Additionally, he hacked the Turkish government, publishing 100 GB of information to Wikileaks, including stolen emails and shady government dealings. He donated 25 bitcoin to a crowdfunding effort focused on fighting ISIS in Syrian Farmlands. Sounds undeniably righteous – the caveat, the bitcoin came from a bank that he robbed. While he is still active, he has reverted to more anonymous methods.
3) Hamza Bendalladj
“The happy hacker”, known for flashing his eye-catching smile just before his arrest, is an Algerian hacker. He has hacked about 217 banks by gaining access to people’s mailboxes to get over $4 Billion. He spent this money by donating millions to several African NGO’s and $280 Million specifically to Palestinian charities. Additionally, he hacked sites of foreign ministries of European countries to grant visas to Algerian Youths. One of his most controversial “achievements” includes the takeover of the Israeli government site, providing the Palestinian resistance with classified information and valuable reports.
4) Aaron Swarts
He was a brilliant programmer who commonly advocated for freedom of information. At the young age of 12, he created The Info Network, a website for people to share information – a wikipedia before wikipedia came to be. The next year he began to develop the RSS tool. He moved on to become a cofounder of Reddit. He also wrote most of the code underpinning Creative Commons, a system that uses copyright law to give ordinary people control over how their digital creations can be used by others. He pursued large scale projects attempting to make government funded documents, previously only available through paid access, publicly attainable. Swartz turned his computer genius to political organizing and he became an advocate for information sharing and online freedoms. He created the internet activism foundation, Demand Progress.
He was ultimately convicted due to a stint where he downloaded a large number of sources off of JSTOR, through MIT. He did this with the intention of making these journals widely accessible. Tragically, in light of his arrest charges, he took his own life at age 26.
5) Edward Snowden
This former NSA contractor turned high profile whistleblower became a household name following his divulgence of NSA classified information. In 2013, he released a number of NSA documents and highlighted the US government’s surveillance of its own citizens, as well as ally nations. He currently resides in Russia, where he has temporary asylum, as he has been charged with multiple accounts of espionage and is considered a threat to the US government. However, he has largely contributed to the American people’s understanding of government surveillance and has opened debate concerning surveillance, government secrecy and the balance between national security and private information.
The William Woods University Online BS in Cybersecurity specifically offers a course in Cybersecurity Law & Ethics through which students are challenged to pursue a deeper understanding of the multifaceted implications of cybersecurity issues on larger world perspectives.