I wouldn’t want to be a Yahoo! employee today. According to CNN, the internet juggernaut recently lost control of 450,000 user passwords to a group of hackers. Perhaps more embarrassingly, the hackers posted all the stolen data online for the world to see. Their rationale?
“We hope that the parties responsible for managing the security of this subdomain will take this as a wake-up call, and not as a threat. There have been many security holes exploited in Web servers belonging to Yahoo! Inc. that have caused far greater damage than our disclosure. Please do not take them lightly.”
That’s from a quote on the website where the information could be found earlier today.
If this public-service-like decree sounds familiar to you, you’re probably recalling the string of cyber attacks launched by the “hacktvist” group Anonymous earlier this year. Anonymous, which bills its members as “defenders of the free internet,” claimed responsibility for several attacks in response to the proposed SOPA bill sitting before congress back in January. The group warned the law could lead to increase government censorship of online content, and joined forces with Google and Wikipedia to have it pulled.
Censorship is not something conservatives take lightly, but cyber-crime is a serious issue as well. While we want our passwords safe, it could be argued that publicly shaming companies like Yahoo! could do more good than harm by teaching other sites a lesson. After all, businesses are contractually obligated by privacy agreements to keep this data safe – and if January’s events mean anything, both they and the government are now wary of stepping on the common netizen.
So who’s really on our side?
The internet is the wild west, a frontier where dusty old issues like privacy and property rights twist together into a difficult-to-untangle tumbleweed. With no landmarks to reference and no borders to fall back on, we’ll have to decide for ourselves if hacktivist groups like Anonymous wear the white hats or the black ones.
Then again, perhaps they’ll always be gray.