Is Hacking like Modern Spying?

For a long time espionage has been an important element of waging wars, whether it be between nations or companies or two neighbours, spying and breaking into things happens quite often. Spying has long been frowned upon as dishonourable and as an arguable contemporary equivalent so is hacking. Hacking means to gain access to data that you normally aren’t allowed to access. It’s important to note that while in pop culture hacking is often depicted as very computer intensive with lots of coding involved when most often hacking involves tricking someone into giving away a password or physically stealing some kind of key. So, if hacking involves getting virtually into something you shouldn’t can be considered modern espionage?

The Formal Business

On November 24 2014, it was made clear that Sony Pictures Entertainment had been hacked by a group referring to themselves as “Guardians of Peace”. The hackers obtained roughly 100 terabytes of data including private and secure data pertaining to Sony’s business. Within days films from Sony that were currently in theatres and some that were yet to reach theatres had been uploaded to file sharing sites and downloaded, some files up to one million times. A couple of days after the initial attack speculations arose that North Korea was behind the attacks in response to a film in development that criticised North Korea’s leader. Following this, many theatres chose not to show that film.


Suppose North Korea is behind the attacks despite it’s denial, what we have here is a case of a nation and a corporation engaging in cyber based spying. Property was stolen and virtual spaces were entered illegally. In this case, hacking appears to be a more effective, more relevant, more ‘contemporary’ kind of espionage.

For The Lulz

As an alternative to the corporate level espionage conducted through hacking there are organisations such as ‘lulzsec’ who hack regularly “for the lulz”. A seemingly not for profit group of largely anonymous people working under the unified title ‘lulzsec’ often target other groups or individuals for anything from comments the target made that members of the group do not agree with to policies that violate members of the groups ideals, ultimately the group appears to not be after any one goal of stealing something or specifically accessing something they shouldn’t for personal gain. I stress that luzsec only “appears” to be or do anything because the group is anonymous in nature and so not strictly organised and some would argue that they aren’t truly ‘unified’ either.


All In All

In her article “The internet has changed everything- and nothing” Deborah Orr says,

“Maybe technology allows human beings to know much, much more about their fellow human beings than is wise. Our vanities, our prejudices, our foibles, our failures of understanding, our anger, our hatreds – the internet seethes with it all. Does all that in itself shake our faith in our idea of humans as developed, refined and civilised? What is civilisation, after all, but the collective and settled expression of our ability to move away from savagery?” (Orr, 2014)

In her article, Orr is talking about the behaviour of individuals online but I think her point is relevant to groups, corporations and nations as well. The internet truly is a place to hide all and to a greater degree bare all. On the surface a nation attacking a company through hacking and threats seems like serious acts of aggression but when broken down how is it any better than an anonymous, barely organised group of individuals attacking anyone they disagree with? Or even more, how is it any better than little johnny starting a fight in the playground with little Benjie for calling him dumb? perhaps disregard for law and privacy just comes hand in hand with the aggression we’re all born with and subject to, regardless of context.


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