URL Manipulation and the Slippery Slope: The Case of the Harvard 119 Revisited

URL Manipulation and the Slippery Slope: The Case of the Harvard 119 Revisited

Michael E. Whitman (Coles College of Business, Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, Georgia, USA) and Humayun Zafar (Coles College of Business, Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, Georgia, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/jitn.2013040104
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Abstract

While computer ethics and information security courses try to teach computer misuse and unauthorized access as clear black and white examples, when examining the use and potentially misuse of URLs the discussion becomes less clear. This paper examines a number of computer use ethical scenarios focusing on the modification of URLs within Web browsers. Using the documented case of applicants to several Ivy-league schools as a discussion point, this paper presents a survey of U.S. students enrolled in information security and computer ethics classes, asking at what point does modifying the URL become hacking, and at what point does it become unethical. The findings of this study are discussed.
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Previous Work

Past research in this area has predominantly revolved around ethics in IS (Banerjee, Cronan, & Jones, 1998; S. Harrington, 1996; Leonard & Cronan, 2001). Ethics according to these studies refers to informal norms and behaviors that may help deal with situations for which there are no formal rules or policies (Dhillon & Backhouse, 2000). A limitation in this line of research is that there is a general difficulty in classifying behaviors as being ethical or unethical. It is not always straightforward. According to prior studies (Calluzzo & Cante, 2004), some undesirable behaviors related to use of organizational IT property were viewed as being neither ethical nor unethical. An example of such behaviors is downloading files at the workplace or at an educational institution from the Internet for personal use.

Some work has investigated the issue of training employees on how to integrate ethics into decision making and behavior related to the recommended use of computers (Harrington & McCollum, 1990). Anderson et al. (1993) focused on the practical implications of the ACM code of ethics, with a number of illustrative case studies. There has also been some extensive research done in the area of computer and cyber-crime (Cymru, 2006; Kshetri, 2006; Tavani, 2000). Braunfeld and Wells (2001) provide a concise introduction to issues such as copyrights, patents, and trademarks. Digital Millennium Copyright Act and Digital Rights Management, alongside their legal ramifications have also been discussed (Camp, 2003; Gibbs, 2000; Liu, Safavi-Naini, & Sheppard, 2003).

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