That Blue Square Thing

AQA Computer Science GCSE

July 2019: the AQA CompSci area is almost complete. Most of the content for units 3-6 is now up and there's quite a lot of Unit 7 material. There's still some work to do, particularly on Paper 1 units, but it's getting there.

Ethics - Hacking and Cracking

Hacking is the unauthorised access to computer systems and the data they contain. This is sometimes done deliberately to disrupt a system or to steal data and is illegal - it is covered by the Computer Misuse Act 1990. This is called "black-hat hackng".

Other hackers do so out of intellectual curiosity ("grey-hat hackers") or in order to help protect systems by showing they are vulnerable ("white-hat hackers"). Deliberate hacking to check a system is secure is a form of penetration testing (see this video from the BBC for a real-world example).

Another group of hackers do so in order to highlight a social or political cause of some kind. Known as hacktavism, the aim of this is to target a government or company website in order to highlight a particular issue - perhaps a human rights or environmental issue.

Cracking is essentially the same thing as hacking. Some computer security experts ("white-hat hackers") think that their work would be better termed cracking in order to distinguish their activities from criminal hackers.

PDF iconHacking Answer Structure

Research Links

It's useful to read more about hacking examples. There is more on this in the Unit 6 - Security section.

In terms of vulnerabilities to cyber-attack, the video at Huawei's 'shoddy' work prompts talk of a Westminster ban (BBC, 8 April 2019) is well worth a look.

The ways in which hacking can be used in postive ways include:

But surveillance is a tricky thing to get right:

An example of a grey area is: Inside the printer-hacking army spreading PewDiePie propaganda - Wired

The 2017 NHS ransomware attack

This is an interesting example which has a number of levels in it. So I thought a new section was needed.

The "hacker" who helped stop the attack, Marcus Hutchins, demonstrates why the question of "hacking" is less straightforward:

There are some really interesting videos about ransomware in general on the BBC site. Worth a look.