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Digital vigilantes: Aiding or impeding justice?

Oct 24, 20112 mins
Data and Information Security

In the last post, I found it hard not to be happy about Anonymous targeting child porn pushers. But once you get past the human reaction, there’s the question of what this does to the justice system.

True, the dad and uncle part of me is for chasing down, exposing and locking away child predators. But some readers have raised mighty important points about the dark side of being a digital vigilante.

One friend said: “My concern with vigilante acts like this is, what if someone is hacked and sites/torrents accessed from the computers of innocent people end up on a public list?”

A good question when you consider that millions of computers are operating as part of botnets and users are often blissfully unaware that the bad guys are using their machines for evil activities.

Another friend asked if it’s right to be happy about Anonymous’ latest actions when they could be disrupting ongoing investigations.

“Vigilante behavior is rife with trouble,” another friend warned me.

The notion that vigilante activities can and do end in disaster is the stuff of countless films.

But sometimes the justice system fails, and this is what happens.

I honestly can’t say what THE right answer is. But the point of the last post — that I’d rather see Anonymous doing this than the other stuff I’ve criticized it for in the past — is unchanged.

–Bill Brenner

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