Can there be a 'grey area' in hacking?

Ok so I'm going to give a very brief reason as to why this is suddenly on my mind. I live in a relatively nice cul-de-sac, mostly old folk and all around good people. However, 2 families are present that are without doubt scum of the earth, I won't go in to detail as to why I think this but I can assure you they are not very nice people.

Now having recently watched 'Mr Robot' I was quite taken be the opening scene to episode one with the Cyber Cafe owner of whom the protagonist hacks and provides police all the evidence they need to arrests him. I've even come across a Defcon video by a guy called 'Zoz' where his computer was stolen but given his technical background was able to hack back in to his machine when it was online and obtain A LOT of information regarding the offender.

So I've started wondering if there is a grey area within hacking? Is it justifiable to hack a 'criminal' to provide law enforcement with evidence of some description? I'm under the impression invading privacy (regardless of the person) is not a good thing. I know law enforcement agencies generally have their own technical divisions that would do this to build a case but is doing this off one's own back (like a cyber vigilante) a good or bad thing?

So coming back to my opening paragraph and these two families which I detest - I'm annoyed by the fact our police force has been able to do nothing to get rid of them - would learning to hack and posting evidence of their activities (as they are the kind to brag online about shooting people or dealing drugs) be a wise or idiotic move? This is just the thoughts of an enraged nerd, I've not done anything in this field and I'm a ware that learning to hack is not something you can do in a short space of time but I was curious to the public's perception as to whether this is a good or bad thing. Not sure where I stand personally.

theres grey hat hackers where they try to hack a piece of software and if they find a vulnerability they contact the company and they pay you to keep quiet about the exploit and get access to some software im not sure for what your talking about maybe if you do something like that send it in anonymously so if its not allowed they wont know its you but for the public the most they hear about hackers is bad stuff never good stuff so they would think something bad about you if you did it publicly and if your saying they brag about shooting people it would be most wise to do it anonymously so they dont know its you

Where I live this would definitely be illegal, and the evidence would be invalid as 1) it was obtained through illegal means and 2) How can a court be sure it wasn't the hacker who placed the material there or fabricated it? These are reasons why the police will do this on their own, this way the court can be (more) sure there has not been tampered with the evidence.

Must be a pain that the police is not doing anything. Where I live, if anyone brags about having shot someone and the police have the slightest doubt whether it is true or not, they would definitely have seized their phones and computers and found whatever evidence you would be able to find through hacking, except for packets in transfer, but then again, they would most likely also be under surveillance both on and off line.

Edit: I should add, there is almost no legitimate reason to shoot someone here, so it would raise eyebrows both with the police and everyone else and thus be investigated through and through.

To address the issues others have brought up: I guess you could use the information gained by hacking for making an anonymous tip without disclosing how you came to know of the crimes.

I would argue that this would be ethical. You would be taking the justice into your own hands, but that would be reasonable if you have a strong suspicion of crime and the authorities are too busy or incompetent to deal with it on their own.

I would like to put it this way, if you as the person that came up with these ideas/plans, are not 100% convinced that it is legal and moral, its probably not.

Like @wkpsfbx says, there's an ethical argument to be made here. You don't want people who are behaving in certain ways to live near you, that's perfectly understandable.

Granted it won't result in auto-arrests, but it is an avenue to kickstart an investigation. Also granted, it's probably illegal where you live, so in tipping the police off you'd want to be anonymous.

That said, there are things to avoid, online or otherwise.

  • Don't stalk anyone
  • Don't steal anything
  • Don't threaten these people in any way
  • Don't put yourself in danger
  • Make sure you understand exactly what you're doing and in what ways does it make you vulnerable
  • Remember that everyone is innocent until proven guilty

But at the end of my too-long post, I suggest you do nothing. Complain to the police if you see or find anything illegal. I would want to, and therefore advise you to, stay on the correct side of the law. Yes, I know that's frustrating and galling to an extreme, but almost always it's the correct, if not necessarily 'right', thing to do.

well, by your terms it's a vigilante, and by law it is illegal, but morally, if you do take down a child pornography site that's on TOR and your neighbor is running it, that morally that is the correct thing to do, albeit there is a greater fine for finding someones password and logging in as them than there is for arson, and look what happened to anonymous, so if you go to the extra mile to cover your ass, and I mean cover your ass, leave no fucking place not seen, than go at it, as long as it is for "good" also concider the fact that this is a public forum, not a private IRC channel, so I suggest you get off this website if your looking into kicking your neighbors ass, because this isn't really the site that you should be shouting out about it.

As a fellow human being, I totally agree with your ideas. However, the law is a tricky thing. Assholes are resilient. A little food for thought. I say keep your eyes and ears open and report anything LEGITIMATE. The cops will find you annoying if you call about something stupid like apron parking or a little noise before midnight.

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Is Batman good, or bad? I think Batman is awesome. Don't you think Batman is awesome? Seriously, who doesn't think Batman is awesome?

Vigilante justice is not justice, so no, it's not okay.

I see we got a Captain America fan.

Hey all - thanks for the replies, interesting to see where others land in this debate.

I fully agree with the common theme that if evidence is provided to police via this manner then yes it should always be sent anonymously. Personally I'm of the belief that if you did hack someone 'evil' to prevent some bigger crime from taking place or at the very least help build a case against said people then it's the right thing to do.