Three French journalists have been thrown out of the Black Hat conference for sniffing their fellow hacks. Apparently, sitting in the press room, finding people with insecure connections and telling the organisers is Just Not Done.
I have mixed feelings about this. Yes, it is wrong -- in the sense of against the law -- to hack. But at a place called Black Hat, where the creatures of the press room really, really should know about wirelesss security? The French, who have perhaps the most finely tuned irony on the planet, can scarcely be faulted for smelling a story. And the various journos who fell foul of the wi-fi fiends don't seem particularly angry about it: a bit shamefaced, if anything.
My reticence in judgement is at least partially because I've done the same myself, at least as far as scanning the SSIDs in a reputably secure location, attempting to connect to those without security -- and succeeding. I talked myself into thinking this was a valid bit of investigation - but I also felt it was a breach of hospitality and, well, something to still feel guilty about. That, I think, is because my motives were mixed: I've been a hacker in the (far distant) past and it is a very addictive activity. I loved it, and the only reason I don't do it now, if I'm honest, is fear of the consequences. And there's always a part of my mind that's mulling over how to do it untraceably, and deciding on targets and techniques.
So I find it hard to condemn others with the same tendencies - which rarely stretch beyond curiosity and pranks to serious vandalism or actual harm - let alone those who find themselves in such a richly rewarding environment. But is that because I'm trying to justify my own tendencies?
Your moral guidance would be appreciated.