The Conscience Of An Ethical Hacker

As many of you already know, I host a YouTube channel where I share a variety of penetration testing tutorials. As a result, I’ve encountered a handful of individuals who question the ethicality of my YouTube content. Although these individuals form the minority, their argument is valid and, like every perspective, deserves objective consideration. Their argument is quite simple actually. They argue that my videos are unethical because the information that I share could potentially be used to facilitate criminal activity. While their argument is justifiable and well supported, it’s not the only factor that dictates my decision making.

I’m sure some of you are already thinking of analogies that apply here, particularly the firearm analogy. With that said, allow me to deliver it. If you were to hand a man a gun, he could do one of three things- he could secure it in a gun safe and discard the key, he could use it to commit a crime, or he could use it to hunt and protect himself. If you were to list the tools that could be used in each of those three ways, the list would be extensive. So here’s the question- if a tool has the potential of doing harm, should it be destroyed? Before you answer, take a moment to imagine what civilization would be like if we were to remove the automobile, the watercraft, and the aircraft. While you’re imagining this, consider the opportunities that these instruments of transportation have afforded us. They’ve given us the ability to traverse our seed of life, satisfy curiosities that extend beyond the Earth’s atmosphere, deliver medicine and education to remote communities, and so much more. Now, take a moment to reflect on circumstances under which these tools are used for something else. All of these tools, for example, have been used to transport illegal drugs across boarders, engage in wars, and traffic human beings. From these examples spawns the next question- Do the negative consequences outweigh the positive consequences?

As technology evolves, new risks are born. With some of those risks being significant, it seems only natural to construct a mechanism for managing them. This brings me back to my YouTube channel. I think of my channel as an avenue of communication, a way to broadcast a healthy dose of reality, if you would. Through my videos, I’m able to accomplish several goals. I’m able to bring awareness to risks that stem from our use of technology, I’m able to share my passion for technology, and I’m able to educate others about technology. I gain an immense amount of satisfaction from knowing that I’m responsible for igniting your interest in technology and from knowing that my demonstration convinced you to protect yourself against technology. I suppose you’d say that it’s my risk management mechanism.

To help put those of you who are skeptical at ease, I’d like to highlight some precautions that I take when creating a tutorial.

  • During the course of an instructional video, I never divulge information that could assist someone in evading law enforcement.
  • I try to emphasize the importance of practicing on a controlled test platform.
  • Whenever possible, I allow my viewers to practice what they’ve learned on my own personal website.
  • I don’t encourage criminal behavior, and I avoid enabling any viewer who gives me reason to believe that he or she intends to use my guidance for malicious purposes.
  • I don’t provide instructions on how to avoid detection, and I don’t discuss the methods that are used by law enforcement and other security professionals to identify, locate, or apprehend criminal hackers.

While it is justly argued that some people may place my videos neatly within their arsenal of criminal tools, I have to believe that the majority of my viewers are using my videos to educate themselves and to prepare themselves for a productive career in the security industry. My videos are not designed to undermine law enforcement or assist criminal hackers, but rather to bring a much needed awareness to security issues. If I’m able to fashion the fork in the road which leads just one individual down a successful career path, I will be satisfied.


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