Date of Award




Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Department of English


Liberal Studies

Content Description

1 online resource (iii, 45 pages)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Kevin J Williams

Committee Members

Kevin J Williams, Ray Bromley


Crackers, Cyber Attack, Ethics, Hackers, Hacktivist, Legal Risks, Hacking, Internet, Computer programming, Hacktivism

Subject Categories

Criminology | Intellectual Property Law | Physiology


This thesis examines situations in which computer hacking might be considered ethical. It addresses fundamental questions regarding the motivation and consequences of ethical hacking. The paper is organized into three sections. The first section discusses the history of hackers, classifies them according to their motivational background. The second part of the paper comprehensively describes the features of the ethical or “white hat” hacker group, and explores the positive and negative behaviors of ethical hackers in relation to their ethical principles. In the final section of the paper, I discuss hacktivist groups, their unique ideologies, and the risks they face, including harsh punishments from the government. Currently, laws in most Western countries do not differentiate between types of hacking, and treat all hacking as illegal. I propose that the law should leave room for ethical hacking, since hackers have demonstrated faith in the rule of law and have created ethical frameworks to guide activities within their communities.