The Age of Authority Ending?

We have seen an increase in Internet hacks and leaks undermining corporate and personal integrity alike. Sony, Anonymous versus the Ferguson Police Department, the Ray Rice elevator security tape, starlet cell phone pic hacks, and on and on.

As noted in my Cision’s 5 trends for 2015 post, vigilante style attacks will increase and continue to negatively impact individuals and businesses alike. There is little we as a society can do to stop it.

In a recent Pew Internet survey on future media, dozens of experts agreed: Cyberwar, hacks and vigilante attacks are expected to continue. Attacks involve a wide complicated group of parties, ranging from governments, companies (yes, we have to know some corporations engage in hacking), organized vigilante groups like Anonymous, and of course, individual hacks. Below is my contribution to the Pew study.

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The bottom line: Authorities may act to apprehend and prosecute online offenders, but it has become harder bring vigilantes to justice. The Fifth Estate can go farther than speak their mind, now. They can act — right or wrong — and escape.

Impact

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We are now living in a Neuromancer-esque world (see William Gibson’s book) where anyone or any entity’s data can be exploited.

Surveillance is everywhere, personal location can be surrendered by our phones, watches and clothes, and our wallets are on our phones, there is no turning it off. The reasons why can be as simple as angering the wrong person with an axe to grind. In some cases, people will be completely innocent, but cannot stop their credit cards, email, photos and more from being used against them.

Inevitably, we will all be touched. Just last month I found my check card cancelled, its number one of many captured by a hacker who had raided one of my online retailers. There as no follow-up, just a new card.

Companies, athletes and stars who have a public stake in their business would be wise to prepare for the worst. No secrets are safe. And on the Internet there is little recourse for exposed wrong doing or naughtiness.

The Wild West is upon us. There is no true security, no safe haven.

In the online world power is determined by security skill, hacking creativity, and resources. Authority, right and wrong, well, these concepts of justice have become weakened. In fact, they may simply be antiquated.

What do you think?

The Murky Nature of Internet Vigilantes

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Image by Frank Tellez

Freedom allows many things, good and bad. The rationalization of justified Internet vigilantes arguably falls in both camps, depending on your perspective.

We love the archetype of the vigilante, the person who goes out and meters justice when authorities fail to do so. In a romantic sense, it makes sense. Consider our pop culture heros; Batman, Iron Man, Jack Reacher (in spite of Tom Cruise), Clint Eastwood’s many tough guy characters, and on and on. We worship their ability to right wrong in the spite of flawed protection mechanisms.

Thanks to the Internet, practicing vigilantism has never been easier. Social media empowers anyone to speak out for justice, and successful acts are met with attention and notoriety.

That’s unfortunate. Vigilantism (or “digilantism” online) is dangerous because the actor may not be well grounded in their ideas of right or wrong.

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