Research Question: Are hackers heroes or criminals?
Aim: The aim of this paper is to analyze examples of hacking activity and to estimate whether it may be considered as bringing benefit or harm to society.

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Type of Focus: Heroes and criminals
Introduction elements:

Hook 1: Dozens of hackers have been convicted in the United States starting from 1983, with the longest sentence of 20 years, given to Albert Gonzalez.

Hook 2: On the other hand, hackers significantly facilitate the development of modern computer industry, as they help to discover weaknesses and gaps in applications, thus motivating software companies to improve the quality of their products.
Connecting sentences to thesis:

Sentence 1: The concept of hacking initially had a rather positive meaning in the computer enthusiasts’ community.

Sentence 2: It used to mean a gifted individual able to manipulate a computer and cross the boundaries imposed by the hardware and software manufacturers.

Sentence 3: However, at a certain point, the term “hacker” gained negative sense, as a number of those started using their knowledge and abilities to achieve criminal goals, namely: hacking online banking, attacking online shops and payment providers, stealing classified government information, etc.

Sentence 4: Today, a number of professional hackers are employed by the state security agencies and help protecting the interests of their countries, while others work in cooperation with organized crime structures.

Thesis Statement: Hackers may be considered criminals when their actions are illegal, and cause damage to applications or computer data, when they intercept data within a system or network without authorization, conduct computer espionage. Hackers may be considered heroes when they help improve product quality, stimulate innovation or restore justice.

Main Points:
Hacking activity that breaks the law is viewed as a crime. The following hacking actions may bear criminal responsibility: (Lee, 2014, paragraph 15)
Financial crimes that prevent companies from conducting business.
In 2012 Albert Gonzalez was convicted to 20 years of prison for hacking into the Heartland Payment Systems, and stealing 130 million card numbers (Zetter, 2015, paragraph 2).
Piracy, unauthorized copying of authentic material.
Gaining access and using a computer system or network without owner’s permission.
A group of hackers attacked computers running Microsoft Windows systems in eastern countries, infecting PCs with viruses, recording audio, including Skype conversation, making screenshots, and monitoring network traffic (Balkhy, 2015, paragraph 8) .
Conducting cyber-terrorism acts, objected at causing terror, violence against individuals or property.
Being involved in espionage, gaining access to classified information and disclosing it.
Edward Snowden, being an employee of the National Security Agency, disclosed classified information about the surveillance programs realized by the U.S. around the world (Kelley, 2015, paragraph 4). .

Hackers are regarded as heroes, when their activity helps improve products, enhance security, or restore justice (Levy, 2010, paragraph 21). .
Hackers expose vulnerabilities of software in the process of their activity, thus motivating software developers to innovate (Nayar, 2010, paragraph 6)
They enhance security when they track and destroy parts of software codes infected with computer viruses and retrieving severely damaged data.
They restore justice when discover and disclose illegal actions of third individuals or organizations.
Snowden released data exposing government programs that were initially designed to breach personal information for the sake of ensuring national security (Kelley, 2015, paragraph 13).

Hackers may be heroes or criminals, depending on their activity.
When improving product quality, simulating innovation and restoring justice, such activity brings benefit to society and thus may be considered heroic.
When causing damage to applications or computer data, illegally intercepting information and facilitating espionage, such activity harms society and is considered a crime.
The line between hacking practices that are generally acceptable and those that cross the border of law and bear criminal responsibility is thin and easy to cross. That is why the concept of hacking still continues to swing between freedom fighting and cyber crime.

  • Balkhy, S. (2015). 25 Biggest Cyber Attacks In History. Retrieved 2 December 2015, from
  • Kelley, M. (2015). Edward Snowden Is Both A Patriot And A Traitor. Business Insider. Retrieved 24 November 2015, from
  • Lee, M. (2014). History of Hacking. Engineering & Technology Reference.
  • Levy, S. (2010). Hackers : Heroes of the Computer Revolution. Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly
  • Zetter, K. (2015). TJX Hacker Gets 20 Years in Prison. WIRED. Retrieved 2 December 2015, from