Virtuous Hackers: developing ethical sensitivity in a community of practice


  • Paula Roberts
  • Jenny Webber



hackers, ethics, computer security, community of practice


It is estimated that losses due to computer break-ins by malicious 'crackers' (who might be external intruders or disgruntled employees intent on personal gain or revenge) are costing companies billions of dollars each year. But former hackers are now assisting the computer security industry to track down such intruders, and to develop sound security practices in order to ward off future attacks. It is argued that in recent times computer programming has moved from a craft-based, bricolage activity to a scientific approach which has led to a knowledge gap developing between the former fraternity of hackers and the computer security industry. The current inadequacies of the security industry have made this co-operation with hackers necessary but problematic, that is, should hackers who have developed their unique skill by breaking into company and government systems now be used for the rightful purposes of strengthening computer security? However, this relationship might also suggest that the hacker ethos, which has developed through the membership of a 'community of practice', and which has as its cornerstone the moral custodianship of computers and the information they contain, may represent the best way of developing ethical practice in the computer industry.


How to Cite

Roberts, P., & Webber, J. (2002). Virtuous Hackers: developing ethical sensitivity in a community of practice. Australasian Journal of Information Systems, 9(2).



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