A Guide to Cracking Down Cyber-Ethical Dilemmas

A Guide to Cracking Down Cyber-Ethical Dilemmas

Wanbil William Lee (The Computer Ethics Society, Hong Kong & Wanbil & Associates, Hong Kong)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3473-1.ch064
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The advancement in computing technologies raises more complex moral and security issues, thus intensifying the urgency for resolving cyberethical dilemmas. At the same time, we spend a lot on cybersecurity, yet still get hacked whereby, it is argued, a hidden cause transpires - we don't take ethics seriously due to a poor understanding of ethics. Society in general and the computing technology community in particular recognize that ethics is important. However, corporate managers and information security operatives still fall for the fallacious ‘what's legal is ethical' or accept the relativistic ‘if Tom can do it then Dick can do it'. This is no surprise because the concepts of ethics seem plain and simple yet their implications abstruse. A guide for improving our knowledge of ethics and in the same vein discovering and identifying ethical issues and linking the issues to the relevant theories and technologies, and resolving the dilemmas will be desirable.
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Brutal cyberattacks continues, the exorbitant cost of damages keeps on soaring, cyberwar proliferates fast despite the big spending (in billion US dollars) on cybersecurity. This is skin to a vicious circle culminating in a chronic disease aptly called a “chronic problem of data protection” (Lee, 2019). The problem is arguably rooted in our indifference to ethics or insufficient understanding of the ethical principles and the practice of these principles, so that the ethical dimension of the problem is missed out when formulating information security policies and implementing information protection systems.

Fallacious beliefs and relativistic arguments exacerbate the problem; the tripartite relationship, called the “Ethics-Law-Security Connection”, complicates the situation. The techno-ethical threats prove the urgency of the problem. The ethical ramification and challenges reinforce that urgency.

Given that it is unrealistic to keep all threats out as threats inflicted by insiders, clients, contractors, etc. are ever-existing, eradicating the problem is desirable but doomed to be futile. Hence, mitigating by lessening the incidence of hacking or making hacking exasperate so as to minimize damages is a sensible and feasible alternative. An ethics-based guide underpinned by Ethical Computing was conceived. The aim of this guide is to identify ethical issues, to discover significant ethical and security ramifications, to connect the issues to the relevant theories and technologies, and to resolve the ethical dilemmas, with a 3-point precondition: Know your ethics, Shift view and understanding of risk and ethics, and Take ethics seriously. This chapter is about that guide and concludes the exposition with an illustration of some common dilemmas.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Hexa-Dimension Metric: Is a measure of six factors for consideration in decision making. The six factors are technical efficiency, financial viability, legal admissibility, social desirability, and ethical acceptability, plus environmental sustainability. Depending on the nature or objectives of the problem, not all six factors are required).

Computer Ethics: Is an applied Ethics about ethical issues arising from using the computer and its peripherals.

Knowledge Effect: Refers to the assumption that understanding the ethical principles would lead to the ethical use of the computer.

The Guide: Comprises three steps: Know your ethics; Shift view of ethics and risk; Take ethics seriously.

Ethical Computing: Is the practice of Computer Ethics and can be regarded as a branch of Computing, somewhat akin to Green Computing, Mobile Computing, and Cloud Computing. Whereas the others deal with tangible aspects of Computing, Ethical Computing handles techno-ethical aspects.

Ethical Matrix: Is a 2-dimension table showing the concerns with respect to the value that the stakeholders respect.

Cyberwar: Refers to state-to-state, organization-to-organization, interest-group-to-interest-group, etc. conflicts in cyberspace.

Big Spending: Refers to the huge amount of money spent on data protection and paid for damages caused by cyberattacks.

Double-Edged Sword Effect: Refers to the dual function of ethics – ethics can be a risk as well as an anti-risk shield.

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