The 21st century has been dubbed ”the digital age” because of the monumental achievements witnessed in the Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) fields, which have impacted every aspect of human life. The internet has become one of the most lucrative Information Technology (IT) tool which has made communication and exchange of information faster and efficient. Consequently, it has transformed how people consume information. In spite of its benefits, the internet has led to a severe decline in ethics among internet users (Salman, Saad & Ali, 2013).
The widespread use of internet has led to increased and sophisticated crimes, terrorism and wars (May, 2004). This essay will be based on a case involving hackers who hold Personal Computers (PC) hostage. It will outline the potential computer ethics issues associated with holding computers hostage. It will also highlight methods that computer users could use to prevent this type of attack. Moreover, it will highlight governmental legislations that could be enacted against this type of attack.
Ethics is defined as the principles governing both right and wrong among free humans (free moral agents), whose actions are influenced by their freedom of choice (Soskolne, n.d). Advancement of technology presents both positive and negative impacts to a society. Technological advancements have led to a rapid decline in social and ethical issues regarding to security and privacy of personal information (Shieh & Tanthuwanit, 2004). One of the major forms of social ethic violation includes hackers holding personal computers hostage, and hence infringing on both privacy and security of targeted computer users. This in turn compromises information security concerned with the protection of information confidentiality, availability and integrity (Gordon & Loeb, 2002)
According to Perlroth (2014), cyber criminals have devised a new mechanism of freezing computers through malwares, and then demanding a steep ransom pay before unlocking them. Perlroth (2014) adds that computer owners throughout the world have fallen victims of this malicious attack, which denies them access to their personal computers and files stored on them. The hackers instead serve them with a “pop up” message demanding some ransom payment before their computers could be unlocked. Hackers holding computers hostage infringe on personal privacy, and gain access to sensitive information regarding online bank accounts, security passwords and other highly private information (Perlroth, 2014).
Security systems and other general-purpose computers are also vulnerable to this kind of attack because, if these hackers can break into users’ accounts even from [GoDaddy] domains to create malicious subdomains through which they send mails to target clients (Perlroth, 2014), then every computer system is vulnerable to such attacks. This means that not only is the privacy of the computer users compromised, but also the security of their data and the general security of their computer systems (The Canadian Press, 2014).
In order to prevent hackers from holding computers hostage, computers users should double check their domain names, user accounts or web addresses before responding to any email clicks. In line to this, Perlroth (2014) observes that: Hackers were breaking into GoDaddy users’ accounts with stolen passwords and setting up what is known as a subdomain … hackers would set up the Web address… then send emails to customers … because it appeared to come from a trusted source – was more likely to lure clicks.
Likewise also, users should either contact an IT professional to help them remove the ransomware incase infected, or they can wipe their computers clean through formatting them and reinstalling new Operating system as well (Perlroth, 2014). In addition, professional network security personnel should be consulted in order to ensure that passwords, firewalls, authentications and proxy servers among other security utilities are properly set and enhanced to fortify system security (French, 2012)
Although the hunting, catching and eventual convicting of these hackers has not yet achieved substantial success (Perlroth, 2014), the government should enact privacy laws that pronounce higher penalty for perpetrators of personal privacy and security infringement so that their benefit is less in value when compared to pending punishment. Some of the active laws that have been enacted to curb this tragedy include the Computer Fraud and Abuse Acts which cover the use of malicious codes including worms, viruses, and other malicious programs intended to alter or damage data in a user’s computer (Title 18 U.S.C Section 1030). Another legislation that could counter this attack is the National Information Infrastructure Protection Act (NIIPA) which criminalizes the transmission of a command, program, or code with malicious intentions [like holding a compute hostage] (Colombell, 2002).
In conclusion, when hackers hold computers hostage, they infringe on the personal privacy and security of personal information. During the period when the computers are held hostage, computer users not only risk having their sensitive information accessed and sometimes damaged, but they are also financially exploited in order to have their computers unlocked. Some of the feasible strategies of avoiding this attack include exercising a lot of care regarding the types of sites visited and clicked, and avoiding sending payments to hackers whenever a computer is hacked. Instead seek immediate assistance from a professional who will help you to manually get rid of the ransomware without paying the hackers off.
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