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Many of the products and softwares we produce could be converted to weapons for use in conflicts with other Nations. What are some of the moral implications of creating a weapon?
"WAR! What is it good for? Absolutely Nothing! " - Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, Motown 1969.
That is pretty much how I feel about it, but its not always something we can prevent or avoid as an adult or as a corporation. This brief article looks at the moral implications of "weaponizing" products originally intended for peaceful commercial uses such as Ethical Hacking and Pentesting.
For this discussion we will consider a mail-able computer security tool designed by my company, The Computer Dudes, Inc. We named it "The Skunk" because it is small and looks like it has a tail.
The Skunk is a small computer run by a cell phone battery pack that has a high power WiFi antenna. We designed it a year ago for a client to test their internal network at several sites. To do so we configured it to do passive scanning and to "call home" when it found an open public WiFi access point . It would record its data internally too for when it reached its final destination. The Skunk, as designed, is "Passive" and Legal when used in Pentesting.
We could "weaponize" The Skunk by making it become ACTIVE to jam, disrupt, plant viruses on or monitor any network. Legally such a device could be sold to Law Enforcement or the Military.
Sounds good, but is it moral? Consider a couple of examples.
Play "Devils Advocate" and say the Skunk was developed by people who do not approve of illegal uses, uses in war, or any uses outside the original design. To violate their contracts, trust, or values is clearly a conflict of interest.
The thing that sticks in my mind, is what if our weaponized system disrupted something or caused other problems that resulted in civilian deaths.
Is it moral to take something peaceful and make it a weapon? I don't really know. It is something my companies, employees, and I will research to consider further. If you have good answers to the moral questions, or just want to discuss some of this, feel free to comment or email me at: email@example.com
Thanks! - Todd W. Byars, Founder, The Computer Dudes, Inc. Tallahassee, Florida. Since 1997 :)