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Having just read this timeline, I'm sure that few (if any) of you probably feel sorry for computer hackers. I can't blame you. Like hundreds of companies, Dynamic Chiropractic fell victim to the "I Love You" virus late last year; in fact, I was the one who accidentally opened the file containing the virus. As a result, our company's e-mail system was shut down for two days, and it took the better part of a week before every computer in the office was declared virus-free.

Because of that virus, our company has instituted a policy whereby every computer in the office automatically receives the latest virus updates weekly, and every file sent to DC via e-mail is scanned for viruses before it is opened. Those policies weren't in place before the virus attacked; we've now taken steps to insure such an accident doesn't happen again.
Personally, I think hackers play a necessary role in the advancement of technology; in fact, they've been a major influence on modern society long before computers were invented. Most of our greatest inventions were created by people who broke into existing technologies, examined how they worked, and looked for ways to improve or expand those technologies. In effect, the Kevin Poulsens and Vladimir Levins of today are providing the same type of service that people like Bell, Marconi and Thomas Edison did a century ago.
I also think hackers serve a useful purpose in that they make companies take action and be responsible for their laziness and lack of organization. Last year, CNN reported that more than 100 federal computer systems were compromised by hackers. They were so successful because many federal system operators failed to download and apply a software patch from Microsoft, even though it had been available on line - for free - for more than a year.
If a 15 year old breaks into the Wells Fargo banking system, for instance, who should we be more angry with: the teenager who expolits a problem and takes down the network for an hour, or the multibillion dollar corporation that failed to have the propersecurity systems installed in the first place, left vast amounts of personal data exposed, and could have caused financial ruin for thousands of customers? It's not an easy question to answer.
Computer crime exists, and these crimes rake in millions of dollars a year. In the grand scheme of things, though, I think the price is well worth it. The fact is that computer hacking, as much as people hate to admit it, is an integral part of the internet. By exposing flaws in other people's systems and forcing companies to be responsible, hackers do something most of us would like to do, but can't: they make the internet a safer, more secure place for everyone. I may not agree with their methods, but I respect what they do, and I'm thankful they're around.
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