Black hat or white, real or fictional, it makes no difference: hacktivism is here to stay. As we approach the end of the century’s second decade, tech-based vigilantism has become entrenched in our digitally connected society, a connection that would only be furthered by the introduction of the internet directly into one’s mind.
The targets of hacktivism are generally multinational corporations, high profile officials, or governments themselves, the first among these forming the basis for USA Network’s smash hit television series Mr. Robot.
Given hacktivism’s efficacy and the general lack of preparedness most have to confront it, it’s no wonder it’s taken off both in real life and in the world of fiction, and as the century advances, it’s likely to become all the more common. So how do we characterize those that undertake various hacking-related initiatives, and how are they featured in the EMPATHY series?
Wrong Hat, Right Hat; Black Hat, White Hat
For the uninitiated, it’s worth laying down some definitions, specifically for what’s meant by black hat and white hat in the world of hacking.
The definitions are simple: hackers who act for personal gain or out of maliciousness are said to wear black hats. This contrasts with hackers employed by a company to flag security weaknesses in order to prevent them from being exploited. These are known as white hats.
So what color hats are worn by those who expose corruption, for example, but do so through illegal means?
Introducing the Merry Hacksters
In the EMPATHY series, I introduce the Merry Hacksters, a hacktivist collective that, generally speaking, would likely identify as a group of gray hats. Their targets are often the kleptocratic government of the North American Union or mega corporations that betray the trust of the people, but they’ll target anyone who violates their ethos, whatever that happens to be at the time.
The Hacksters are, in spirit, inspired by hacktivism here in the real world, notably by that of Anonymous and LulzSec, whose targets have been both governmental and corporate worldwide. Like their real life counterparts, the Hacksters’ intentions are sometimes opaque and their selection of targets imperfect.
Another commonality they share with these real life groups is that they’re very good at what they do—perhaps even to a fault. But what does hacking look like in a world in which the brain-computer interface flourishes? How do the Hacksters’ techniques compare to those put to use by real life gray hats?
We’ll examine that more closely in next week’s post, but if you’re curious about common hacking techniques employed in the real world, check out this article from Fossbytes.
You may have to wait until next week to learn about what brain-computer interface hacks might look like (and until January 2019 to begin to see them in action in the EMPATHY series), but until then you can keep your eyes on my Twitter feed, Facebook page, and newsletter for more.
Oh, and there’s a blogful of other articles like these right here on empathynovel.com.