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The Ethics of Hacking 101

PPP team members at DefCon 22

Brian Pak, left, founder of a recreational hacker team called PPP, participates in the DefCon 22 "Capture the Flag" competition in Las Vegas. Pak's team won.

Credit: The Washington Post

Some of the United States' most prestigious cybersecurity university programs make a point of teaching their students offensive skills, but in doing so also must address the thorny ethical issues surrounding the gray-hat world.

At the University of Tulsa, students who mostly go on to careers with government agencies such as the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency are taught to hack into oil pipelines and energy infrastructure and carry out penetration testing for clients, while Carnegie Mellon University has developed an elite team of hackers who dominated this year's capture-the-flag hacking competition at Defcon in Las Vegas. Professors from both universities say they take great pains to teach ethics to their students and ensure they are not teaching offensive skills to individuals who might use them for malicious purposes.

Tulsa professor Sujeet Shenoi says all of his students are subjected to rigorous background checks and interviews and go into the program with the understanding they will go on to government work. Still, it is unclear how certain any educational institution can be of the integrity of its students and to what extent it can influence their ethical outlook.

From The Washington Post
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