Patriotism by another name?

We subscribe to the Hindustan Times. Ardent Times Of India loyalists till some years back, we moved to HT when the newspaper was launched in Mumbai, mainly because we found the Mumbai edition of TOI too pager three-ey for our taste.  Flipping through  HT is an integral part of my morning routine but sometimes,for the sake of variety, I like to read other newspapers  too.

I picked up a copy of  DNA on my way to work today and found an article that caught my attention. Titled “Meet India’s silent cyber warriors” the article talked about how Indians were engaging in a hacking war with Pakistanis.  It was a  brief article so let me reproduce  it here for you.

Who are our soldiers in the cyber war with Pakistan? Contrary to popular belief, the cyber war is not fought by hackers hired by the government but by software engineers loosely connected through anonymous chat severs who want to do “something for their country” in their own way and in their free time.

Meet Rahul Shekhar (name changed to protect identity), a 26-year-old software engineer with one of the top IT firms in India. Rahul is one of the many “soldiers” India has in its cyber war against known and unknown enemies.

A harmless coder of taxation-related software during the day, Shekhar tunes in to the cyber war by night. “I get home and relax for some time. Post an early dinner I spend three hours working on a form of attack, defence or training in India’s cyber wars,” he told DNA.

Globally, hackers not connected with the government machinery are known to supply intelligence to their governments. Like snipers on a tall building, computer hackers often act as cyber vanguards. Working in tandem with like-minded people worldwide, Indian and Pakistani hackers fight this silent battle round-the-clock. They keep tabs on each other’s possible vulnerabilities and send in worms, viruses and other malware once vulnerabilities are confirmed.

According to Shekhar, hackers fighting for any country are of three kinds: Black hats, white hats and grey hats. In cyber parlance, black hats are hackers whose professional lives are spent trying to attack other systems. White hats defend against attacks. “I am of the third kind, the grey hat – not a professional hacker but I pursue it seriously as a hobby and out of patriotism.”

Source: DNA, Mumbai 7.1.09

If you prefer reading  the e-article, you can go  here.

Now there are lots of things in this article that I don’t like. I am not even getting into the issue of hacking here. I am focusing on how some people consider hacking patriotic.   If Shekhar here said he had taken to hacking as a hobby I wouldn’t have too much to say to him, after all a hobby is a personal choice. But the fact that he considers it an act of patriotism is what upsets me.Love for one’s country doesn’t mean we harm others.  Granted that we are talking about Pakistan here and that there are bound to be some people who will hold grudges against the country in spite  of knowing that most of the trouble between the two nations is politically created. But that still doesn’t  justify intentionally harming others. If you are patriotic shouldn’t you be doing something that helps your country develop and prosper instead of trying to harm others and slow their progress? What better way to show your love for your country than by making genuine contributions towards its development? For most people, I think, a “genuine contribution” would simply mean undertaking  their professional and personal tasks with honestly and sincerity.  If  we all shoulder whatever little responsibility we have earnestly, we make a contribution whether or not we realise it. How does hacking help us make our contribution to the nation’s development? It doesn’t. So to my mind, this whole virtual hacking war is a waste of manpower, talent and time. If only people from both the countries would divert these resources to better use, we ‘d all benefit.

What do you think? Can hacking be considered patriotic?If something is essentially unethical, can it still be considered patriotic?

If this post was of your interst, you may also like reading the post on myths about Pakistan on Tazeen’s blog.

11 thoughts on “Patriotism by another name?

  1. Mandira, I agree with you. Countering any cyber attacks by Pakistan should be the job of Indian Government agencies alone. Independent action by private hackers is potentially dangerous.

    There is no place for private players in such a potentially volatile situation. Any action- cyber or otherwise- should be taken only by our government.

    I agree that these hackers would be better occupied doing something constructive for India.

  2. Hacking has its own rules and regulations. If done to invade someone’s privacy and cause damage it will be considered a crime. So whatever he must be doing for the country, as he says, he will and must follow the Govt. as well as cyber rules for hacking. It is not as easy as we think. If something goes wrong, he will obviously be answerable. Any hacking done in personal interest to cause harm is a CRIME! Hacking is not unethical, it has its own ethics 🙂

  3. They keep tabs on each other’s possible vulnerabilities and send in worms, viruses and other malware once vulnerabilities are confirmed.
    And this is Patriotism? Find random vulnerabilities and send in worms and malware!!

    I just don’t understand… How does this help the country?

  4. Thanks for the link 🙂

    I too have read stuff about hacking and counter hacking. It is indeed sad state of affairs.

    You want to read about another kind of interaction? Read my latest blog, i am sure you will enjoy it.

  5. @manju- exactly, individuals are not supposed to take over the govt’s job.

    @lively-i donno , it sounds totally unethical to me!

    @HC-hopefully they wont go to such lengths..

    @chakoli- thats what i am saying!!unethical remains unethical no matter who does it and in wat context.

    @dhiren-yes!

    @IHM-beats me!

    @tazeen-glad to see that you can see my point.:D

  6. Totally agree with you.
    I condemn any kind of destructive activity in the name of patriotism.
    It has to be constructive. And my patriotism should not be a curse for you.

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