Hacking Rhetoric

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Hackee Response

         For the most part, I didn’t really mind being hacked because I was expecting it and I only use my word press blog for this class. However, if I had other active blogs connected with personal information, I would have felt more violated. My Facebook has been hacked before where the hacker compromised my password and messaged the majority of my friends. I remember feeling so shocked that someone was able to access my private information like that and I was also forced to change the password for my Gmail account because they were the same. The sandbox hack was harmless and actually pretty fun. It was cool to experience the life of a hacker for a few days and read through a classmate’s work and respond/change it up a bit. I can understand how hackers get an adrenaline rush from gaining access to foreign accounts.

         I learned a lot about password security and how easy it is for someone to quickly glance at your social networks and figure out thousands of passwords idea. Someone with enough time on his or her hands could easily hack into another persons account with a weak password. Now I understand why many secure websites (like my bank) require capital letters, lowercase letters, numbers, and special symbols in their passwords.

         I liked how Haley performed her hack on my word press account. I hadn’t even realized I did back to back blogs somewhat relating to candy (Halloween and the candy crush hack). I didn’t even realize the irony while I was writing my blogs just a week apart. Haley’s hack was thoughtful because it showed the difference between pragmatics and meaning. She mixed up the words in my blog about hacking Halloween with words from my candy crush blog. Someone who has never played Candy Crush or read my hacking Halloween blog probably would have never known the difference.

         In conclusion, it was a good experience to act as a hacker and be able to change somebody’s blog. Haley had no bad intentions when she hacked into my account and she successfully demonstrated the difference between a pragmatic analysis and a semantic analysis. The hack was effective and I could see hackers doing the same type of hack to prove a point (as many of us did as we vandalized many Wikipedia sites). 

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Hackee response

My hacking experience was kind of mixed since I accidently found out that Josh was going to be my hacker while telling Beck I hadn’t been hacked yet.  Even though my password was my high school mascot, I forgot that I never had my high school listed on my Facebook or Linkedin page.  So I apologize for that Josh for making it more difficult for you on this assignment than it should have been.  But at least I take comfort in knowing that even though I have a digital footprint, it’s smaller than the average person.  This is because I take my privacy a bit more seriously than most.  My preference is not to let everyone know about my information unless I know him or her first.  There isn’t exactly a solid reason that I have for this besides the fact that it is just my preference.

Once I gave Josh the name of my high school I was a bit unnerved.  He warned me that his hack was going to be subtle, which made me look at my blog in both nervousness and excitement on what he might do.  After a few times of checking though I simply just waited.  When he finally did confirm to me in class that he did hack me, I wanted to see what he did and sure enough he went for the one blog where we both worked on the same assignment. Quite honestly it was humorous and I wasn’t the least upset.  Maybe because the curtain of mystery was already lifted before he did anything.  In addition, because I’ve worked with Josh in the past and got to know him a bit better throughout the course of the semester I probably wasn’t threatened by him or his actions during this hacking assignment. 

 What he did mention in his artist statement is true, I didn’t realize that whatever photos you have on Facebook in the cover photo is public.  So when he told me he read through some pictures of a graduation, I went to search for it.  Looks like I missed something after all.  And it did slightly disturb me that I never knew it was public and caused me to review all my privacy settings.  So there was a residual effect of Josh’s hack.  Even though his hack I knew was friendly, it made me concerned that I could be vulnerable to a real hack by someone anonymous.  

Overall this assignment was a mixed experience, but a good one no doubt.  

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Artist Statement

The person who I was assigned to hack was Audrey. Before Audrey posted a hint, I looked her up on Facebook to find out details about her. She went to Highland Park High school in Dallas and I thought this would be a good place to start. Highland Parks High School’s mascot is the “Scots” I typed this in immediately thinking this would be my answer and I would be done so quickly. I was wrong. It wasn’t her password. Then I proceeded to type in every color of the rainbow. Those were not her password choices either. I gave up for awhile until she posted a hint on her blog. That she went to Highland Park High School and their mascot is plural along with 1234 at the end of her password. This made it really easy.

Once I was pretty sure I knew what her password was I tried it thinking I would get in right away. It did not work. I tried different number schemes and beyond and again it did not work. After many, many attempts to hack into Audrey’s word press account I finally tried the first password again. This time it worked. I must have typed it in wrong the first time otherwise I would not have been spending all that time trying to figure out the right password when I had it all along!

When I was finally into her account I went through and changed one of her blog posts to ever other sentence bolded. This was just something funny that amused me. Hacking into her account was more fun for me than I thought.  Although, I did feel a little guilty for being on someone else’s private account it gave me some sort of rush. I had just successfully completed a hacking task. Even though the directions and hints were all there I still did it magnificently. I was also very proud and impressed with myself that I knew her password would be her high school mascot right away. Maybe I thought this about her because that is what I made mine. Once I was on her account I felt nervous, as I could get caught or get into trouble. Hacking is a serious issue. This was for school purposes but I could not imagine getting onto someone else’s social media account. Example, Facebook or Twitter, I have been hacked by my friends many times on these social media websites. Every time I feel the same way, frustrated and I want to make sure my Facebook friends and Twitter followers know it was not me. After the hack is over me and my friend can laugh about it. But, Audrey is just a classmate and she is not one of my best friends that I can hack and it can be funny. This is her personal account and this made me feel awful about hacking.

I rhetorically changed the word “hack” or any form of the word hack into “prank” on her first two blog posts. This was something that is humorous to me and prank is a little similar to hack. Especially this type of hack I would consider it a prank. In her first two-blog posts it even makes sense with prank instead of hack. This hack is so minor that no one would noticed unless they knew that this class was about hacking! Hacking into someone else’s blog was intriguing but showed me that hacking into other peoples personal space is not my thing.

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Artist’s Statement

I was assigned to hack Tim for our Sandbox hack. I did not really start until after halloween so I was given the hint that it was his high school mascot. I figured this would be simple considering that the information was supposed to be accessible. It turned out to be much harder than I first anticipated. Tim had a lockdown on most of his information. I knew once I found out the name of his high school it would be easy. I started with hos facebook which I succesfully found since I happened to know Tim’s full name since we had worked together in previous projects. Unfortunately I found nothing on there, or google plus, or linkedin, or anywhere. I even read the comments of a picture of his where he was surrounded by what I asumed were high school graduates, but still nothing. I was given a 2nd hint after being unable to find it. I was given the high school. I found a school website where the mascot was Vikings but didnt work. I was confused but after awhile I figured I had the wrong highschool. Sure enough, my 2nd try got me into his account. It was cougars!

Overall I think I am a failure at hacking. Well not really, just that Tim’s info is very secure which I suppose is a good thing. I took the wrong approach. I probably should have tried to social engineer the info from him.

After successfully infiltrating his account, I knew exactly what I wanted to change on Tim’s posts. I remembered due to a discussion we had that for the “Summary of a Hack / Hack of a Summary” project we had coincidentally chosen the same article to summarize and hack. This was the hack of the Westboro Baptist Church. I figured it would be clever to simply change the reference from his work, to that of my work, so that it seemed like he plagiarized me and was a bad student, whereas praising me and my stellar work. Unfortunately, I was unable to be as subtle as I planned to be due to the nature of his post. The way he hacked his summary was much different than mine. Instead, I had to explicitly mention how great I was and remove whole sections of his original post. This made it quite obvious that I hacked him, and therefore it lost much of it’s credibility as being originated from Tim. It lost much of it’s luster, but still got my point across. My argument was simply that my work is superior (although this probably is not true). I wanted to demean Tim’s value as a student, to boost mine. It’s not very often you see a student praising someone else’s work, so when they do it makes the work seem much better. It also brings it to a larger audience. It’s often said that to be the best, you simply have to better than everyone else you’re competing against. This is the approach I took.

It didn’t quite have the attended effect, but I still got a laugh out of it because I thought it was clever albeit explicit. I feel no remorse. I don’t quite feel like a hacker, because they knew it was coming, and they are not bothered by it. Tim did mention he was bothered by the fact that I was able to snoop around his photos and comments though. It felt awkward for me, so I guess I would not make a very good hacker. You definitely need to ignore social norms and be a bit creepy to be a succesful hacker, and clever. Very clever. When you are hacking it is very easy to make it obvious, being subtle is much harder. I can see the allure in being a hacker, but I can also tell it’s not something I would enjoy.

It was fun, but creepy.

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Artist’s Statement

I was assigned to hack Cayla and when I finally got around to it, it was immediately apparent to me what I should do. My gmail account was recently infiltrated, and while I didn’t suffer any lasting damage and nothing of value was taken/learned, emails were sent to everyone in my contacts. These emails were plugs for various probably infected websites, which is pretty terrible. I’m fairly certain that the spam filters caught most of these emails, but I still had to apologize to everyone who had an email sent to them just in case. It was a very annoying and scary experience, and I promptly changed all my passwords to very difficult and different things. I tried to do the same thing with Cayla’s account. After spending some time figuring out that her password was high school mascot related, I was able to figure out that her password was probably something related to Chaparrals. I tried many different versions of this word and was having no luck; none of the passwords were working. I then retried the first password I attempted and it was correct… Technology never ceases to frustrate me. I guessed the password right the first time and had to try twice before WordPress accepted my answer. Upon gaining access to Cayla’s blog account, I noticed something strange. I was very excited and paranoid. Despite the ease with which I gained access, I felt inordinately accomplished and energetic. Despite the tame nature of the hack and the fact that it was teacher-sanctioned, I was still subconsciously worried because I was trespassing and might be caught. Hacking, even in superficially easy scenarios, is a fun pasttime and I can see why people pursue it with such fervor. The reason that I hacked Cayla’s blog in the way I did was because I thought it was similar to my real life experience, and was obviously not her doing. In the same way, whoever hacked my gmail made no attempt to produce a realistic or believable spam message. I’ve noticed in our class that we often talk about hackers as wizards and creative geniuses, but at the same time we should acknowledge that there is a second level of online hackers. There are scores of idiots and phishers from foreign countries who don’t try hard and don’t do anything with tact or strategy. They prey upon people so ignorant that they don’t notice the very obvious attempts at theft and info stealing. And I’m not entirely convinced that it’s a bad business model. If your only targets are people who barely know how to defend themselves from predictable attacks, your actions are more likely to work. Smart people who receive obvious online threats ignore them and move on. Smart people who receive smart online threats will wise up eventually and will report the hackers and get them arrested or make their work publicly known and easily defendable. But the hackers who attack stupid people spend less time per attack, have a higher chance of success, and a lower chance of being punished for their actions. The hack that I did to Cayla was so innocuous that if it was acknowledged as a bona fide hacking attempt, no one would care anyways. Hiding in plain sight, as it were, might actually be the smartest thing to do if you;re an unskilled internet thief.

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Hacker Artist Statement

The ‘target’ for my hack was Sammy! Luckily she friended me on facebook (possibly as a guise for my true hacker Meagan??) before I could add her, so I hoped this coincidence would give my hack a certain ‘element of surprise’. After a little stalking, I deduced her password and logged in… now… time to hack!!

Sammy’s 3D printer story particularly struck me because I’ve gotten to play with a 3D printer once… and it was awesome. But here was this horror story about something I had seemingly thought was so mundane! All I made was a little wood carving, yet hackers were making spare keys to someone’s home with a mere photo of the lock. I found 3D printers utilization to make keys extremely disconcerting. Her phonetic ‘encryption’ of keys are no longer private really grabbed my attention as well; I wanted to learn more about that, too. With my hack I choose to incorporate a similar format to Sammy’s original post, but instead show another facet of 3D printing. The medical achievements 3D printing facilitates are truly astounding– from affordable prosthetic limbs http://www.iflscience.com/technology/man-makes-3d-printed-prosthetic-hand-son-only-10 to printed organs, 3D printing will revolutionize access to medicine in terms of affordability and availability for patients. Not to mention the innovations yet to be built!

But, Just as Sammy discussed in her summary of a hack on making keys with a 3D printer, not all printed items are so beneficial nor heartwarming…

“It’s about liberation of information. It’s about living in a world where you download the file for the thing you want to make… As the printing press revolutionized literacy, 3D printing is in its moment….

…With the free and distributed nature of file sharing on the internet there is no longer the threat of certain information, and thus, certain material objects, can be denied provision to men and women who need them.” -Cody Wilson

These quotes from the video, once distanced from the source, are ideologically appealing, ringing of free information and open access. Yet, I find open access in regards to guns thoroughly chilling. As with many new technologies, there is often a duality of benefit and harm. Defense Distributed and the Wiki Weapon certainly open up the dialogue of tech frontiers in the age of the 3D printer– and one giant can of worms.

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Artist’s Statement – MinChul Han


            When I first received the name of my victim whom I had to hack, I was blank about how I would perform this assignment. I didn’t have a single idea about any of the process that I could do to reveal this person’s password. Even though the password options were limited to few questions, obtaining such personal data of someone I completely do not know about felt like a difficult mission.

           The very first option I could reach out was to find this person’s Facebook profile. My Facebook profile was deactivated at the time since I felt like I was devoting too much of my time into it but due to this assignment, I had to re-activate to access the system. After re-activating, I searched for my classmate’s name but I could not get the exact match from this search. Almost all of my friends on Facebook are Koreans and so, the search gave me all the Korean people with the same English name. I tried typing in the full name but that also didn’t work out well. I was stuck at that position until a hint was given on the blog from my hackee. The hint made everything work out and I was able to progress. The hint was “I spent most of my life in Marlton and Cherry Hill of New Jersey, but I was born in _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _, New Jersey, 08043.” This hint told me that his password is the answer to the question, “What city were you born in?” and by typing in “New Jersey, 08043” into a Google search gave me the exact answer I was looking for which was “Voorhees.”

           Now that I broke into his system, I started reading few of his blog posts to choose what hack I can perform with his account. As I was reading, I found out that my hackee was very much into cyberpunk and the cyberpunk culture. One of his blog posts talked about an art piece that dealt with this topic and this particular piece of art actually caught my eyes with its explicitness. It was an art named “Medialand: The Bastardization of Humanity in a Time of Great Need” by Jeffery Scott. It starred a naked woman right at the middle of the image. Looking at this, I thought that since he is very interested in this culture, I could actually hack this blog post to talk about my ideas of this image and see how it contrasts with his ideas.

           Before I jumped right into talking about my opinions on the art piece, I actually thought that censoring this image is the appropriate thing. My hackee actually started his blog post saying “WARNING: The piece I’ve chosen is NSFW, view at your own discretion” but I changed this phrase to “The piece I’ve chosen is NSFW but I censored it to an appropriate level. It is fine to view the image without any warning NOW.” I downloaded the image and blocked off the explicit parts with a black square. Then, I made a website to upload this image so that I can link the piece directly from the blog post. Now the image was censored and anyone was allowed to view it without any warning for NSFW.

           After dealing with the art piece itself, I started manipulating my victim’s thoughts in his writing into my opinions. I tried to edit it, not too much tweaking on the style of the writing. I maintained the original author’s tone so that people would see my arguments as my hackee’s ideas. My ideas and the original argument on the blog differed like this. I said,

“Notice how all the men watching the TV all look the same; this could be to show the anonymousness of the people on media. We know that people in real life have different characteristics to each other so that we can identify various people around us but people we see through media are all anonymous and thus cannot identify the true identity of each other.”

when the original writing said,

“Notice how all the men watching the TV all look the same, this could be to show a future filled with clones, or a race that has evolved to be the same, or maybe that people don’t care about the fact they look different anymore.”

I actually interpreted the artwork’s message differently from my hackee thus, wrote down on the blog my ideas as if it was his.

           We had similar but different views on this same artwork and connected to the exact same piece with different messages in our minds. I wanted to show my hackee that other people might have alternative thoughts that differ from his, just like mine.


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Hayley Gruwer Artist Statement

The person who I was randomly assigned to hack was Meagan.  Before she posted her hint, I decided to try to hack her blog by going to her FaceBook profile.  From her FaceBook profile I found the name of her high school.  I, then, googled her high school in order to find the mascot.  However, her high school mascot was not her password.  I then decided to try typing in the city she was born in.  Because the city has two words, I kept trying to put the name of the city together, and it wouldn’t work.  I decided to just wait for Meagan to post her password hint.  Her hint made it clear that her password was the city she was raised in: San Antonio (go spurs!).  I decided to continue to try to type San Antonio in everywhere possible (sanantonio San Antonio san antonio SanAntonio) until I finally figured it out.

Once I was on Meagan’s blog I felt really guilty.  I knew we were assigned to hack, but it still felt weird actually being on another person’s blog account.  I read through all of Meagan’s blog posts until I decided what I wanted to hack.  I decided to mix up her blogs from “weekly blog” on 10/7 and “weekly blog: Hacking Halloween” on 10/14.  I chose to hack these blogs because the weekly blog from 10/7 was about a new, popular game called Candy Crush.  For someone who had never heard of the game Candy Crush, he or she would probably just assume candy crush had something to do with a type of candy or even Halloween.  Her blog from the next week was actually about Halloween, which made the Candy Crush blog from the week before ironic to me.

The rhetorical effect that I intended to demonstrate was the difference between a pragmatic analysis versus a semantic analysis.  In a pragmatic analysis, you find the meaning of a statement while in a semantic analysis you take a message literally.  For example, if I told a child, “I’m going to count to five,” the pragmatic analysis would be: If I don’t complete this task in five seconds, I will be in trouble.  However, the semantic analysis would be: I will spontaneously speak several different digits.  With Meagan’s Candy Crush blog, I demonstrated the semantic analysis technique.  I decided to mix up the words she used when talking about Candy Crush to mean talking about Halloween.  Every time she used the words Candy Crush, I changed it to Halloween.  I even changed words such as game into holiday.  I then decided to take it one step further and go to her actual Halloween blog.  In this blog, I changed the word Halloween into Candy Crush and the word pumpkin into candy wrappers.

Performing an actual hack on somebody else’s blog post showed me that my original perception of hackers was not exactly spot on.  It does not take a sketchy, super intelligent person to perform a hack.  Any normal person can attempt at a hack.  Already in this class I have hacked numerous things.  I hacked an everyday item to be used in a way that it was not intended to be used for, I hacked the McDonald’s and Burger King slogans and logos together, and I hacked onto someone’s blogging account.  I realized that not all acts of hacking are negative ones.  Hacking can be a way to make life easier, to be creative, to learn, and even to have fun.  Of course, I would not have hacked onto Meagan’s account unless it was an assignment, but once I had the opportunity I did not have any negative intentions.  I did not want to embarrass her, troll on her blog, or even mess up her hard work.  I just wanted to be creative and use the skills I had acquired so far from this class.  It is important to keep your ethics in mind in hacking, just like I did when hacking onto Meagan’s account.  The hacks we have done in this rhetoric class have been harmless, taught us new skills, and made us go out of our comfort zone.  I’m glad I got the opportunity to hack onto another person’s account!


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Sandbox Hack – Artist Statement

I was assigned to hack Woody for my sandbox hack. I had a very difficult time figuring out Woody’s password. I first went through the hints of potential password categories and used any information I could find on Woody’s Facebook to crack the password. But because of Woodpress’s password security protocols, it wouldn’t let me use this plug and chug method very many times. Then Woody posted a hint, “My password is the city I was born in. don’t forget the “1″ after the city name”. At this point all I knew about Woody is that he was born in China (from his first blog post), but no where had he posted the exact city he was born in. I could also not find any of this information on any of his social media. So I began the plug and chug method again using the largest cities in China with a 1 after it. After going through the top 30 cities based on population (and getting locked out the of login screen several times) I eventually gave up as there are over 800 cities in China. Eventually Woody posted his password hint number 2, “I was born in a city about 140 km east of Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong. Google map might help but make sure you don’t confuse cities with districts.” I took his advice and used Google maps to find out that he was born in Huizhou.

I decided to hack Woody’s third blog which talked about how he had never used Siri up until he discovered some Siri suggestions on hackerlife.com. I decided to hack his post by converting the entire text into Siri’s voice.

My first instinct was to use Siri on my actual iPhone to have her speak Woody’s post, but I couldn’t figure out a method to record the voice digitally. I then figured out that Siri’s voice is a built in Apple voice that can be downloaded into your system preferences. This voice was called “Samantha” and I proceeded to download and install the file into my preferences. I then used Terminal (Mac OS’s built in console application) to make my computer speak Woody’s text. I did this with the command “say” along with –o and “filename” plus Woody’s blog text. This automatically saved an audio file of the spoken Siri text to my computer. I then converted the file to an mp3 using an online converter and uploaded the file onto Soundcloud. You can listen to the mp3 at the following link:


My main reasoning for hacking Woody the way I did was purely because I wanted to transform the text in an unusual way. I didn’t want to edit or delete his blogs, but rather I wanted to completely transform his post into something new, much like how I converted my hacking paper to Morse Code. I soon found Woody’s post about Siri and knew right away that it should be converted to Siri’s voice.

This hacking experience for me was somewhat frustrating but yet exhilarating. Although I was frustrated that I couldn’t figure out his password without substantial assistance (but seriously a random city in China is pretty dang obscure as far as passwords go) actually performing the hack was both exciting and a little scary. Even though I knew that everything I was doing was perfectly legal, and I had complete permission to do it via the class, something about typing in someone else’s username and password and editing a blog as that person made the whole experience very edgy.

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Sandbox Hack- Artist Statement

My assigned person to hack was “Tom”. I had no idea who Tom was, just that we has in our class and obviously a boy. I looked on the website and found the username Tomlam93, and guessed that this had to be my guy. My hacking process consisted of first searching Facebook for Tommy Lam’s page. I tried to look at his interests, where he was from, but I don’t think I could have done it without the hint he gave about where he attended high school in Houston. From there, I searched his school to finally crack his account and gain access. It surprised me how easily I gained access to his account.

It was exciting looking for information about Tommy and scrolling through his Facebook account with a purpose. At first, I felt very creepy hacking into his account. Even though it was assignment, it felt wrong and like I wasn’t respecting his privacy. I can understand the thrill factor hacker’s have after this though, because since it is such a process to gain bits of information before completing the task, it makes the build up very large and anticipated. The whole time I didn’t think that I was going to be able to, so I was trying to hack the whole time with this sort of mentality that I wouldn’t ever be able to. However when I finally did, it was kind of a shocking moment for me. Since it looks just like my page, I actually forgot I was logged in and started writing my weekly blog on Tommy’s account! It was crazy–I just lost track of what I was doing and it looked the same as my account.

At first, I had no idea how I would go about hacking Tommy’s blog. I decided to leave a comment on one of Tommy’s weekly blog posts. The blog was about using Hackasaurus tool and being able to really feel like you’ve hacked something. I changed his working to mean the opposite of how he really felt when using the Hackasaurus tool. Tommy said it was thrilling and he understood how hacker’s strive for this rush and it makes him feel powerful. I changed the wording my make Tommy feel like this act was unethical and he felt frightened with this power. I also changed his wording to say that he will never understand these individuals, when actually he originally said he completely understands them now.

I felt like it really related to the act of hacking that I had just done. I wrote a comment saying I understand and agree with his thoughts on this, and how when I hacked into his blog it was the task that I was trying to accomplish, but for some reason right when I gained access it was like everything had changed and all of the sudden, I had crossed a privacy line and I should be here. It’s an uncomfortable feeling messing with someone’s work. I don’t like it!

I guess I feel like way because in this generation, we are so tech savvy and I probably have 50 different accounts out there. Although this is different because we had clues, its scary to picture someone having total access to my account, and some of my accounts have credit card information and my addresses! Makes me want to go in and delete everything.

This experience does make me think differently of hackers, especially black-hat hackers. The thought of hacking is very different then experiencing the way it feels, even on such a small scale like this one. I can’t imagine stealing information or compromising national security. It’s weird to think when of if hackers question their ethics in a situation like that. I could see it being like once you start doing it multiple times, it gets to seem so normal that you don’t question the thoughts in your head anymore. I do completely understand why hackers hack. It was fun and I can definitely understand white-hat hackers, I think that is a good type of hacking. But I wonder, where does it stop for black-hat hackers? Is there ever any consideration of whom they’re affecting?