When you think of someone who is a hacker, the immediate connotation is of someone bad, correct? Well, not exactly. Anyone with the right skills and knowledge in computer programming could be considered a hacker. When these people use their expertise to help businesses and organizations as IT security professionals, they are “white hat hackers.” Today, the more common meaning of hackers refers to “black hat” hackers who use their skill set to break into networks and access data without the owner’s permission. What separates most IT security professionals from these cybercriminals is their ethical conduct. In discussions revolving around IT security, we can’t forget the critical role of human decisions that enable or threaten business networks and stored information, not just the technological aspects.
Why is Ethics Necessary?
More specifically, why is ethics necessary for IT security professionals? These security professionals are found across several different industries performing vital functions for various organizations. In general, these individuals hold a great deal of power that can impact their company, from the employees to their clients and customers. IT personnel have access to networks and systems that hold confidential data. Without ethics — moral principles and beliefs that dictate behavior — IT security professionals can wield this power for wrongful, malicious, and, often, illegal reasons. For this reason, it’s not surprising that businesses have both ethical and legal obligations that are, in many cases, closely related.
Blurry Lines and Guidelines
Cybersecurity professionals typically obtain educational or industry certifications to show formal proof of their training and background. However, there hardly exists any set standards for how these professionals should behave or handle ethically-concerning situations. These issues are sure to come up when these individuals hold so much power and responsibility for managing company data and systems. Even IT professionals who conduct themselves with the best of intentions may inadvertently violate an ethical or legal standard. Without a set guideline for ethical behavior and proper protocols, IT security personnel default to their human ethics and decision-making to resolve issues. That in itself is troublesome because each individual’s ethics are subjective and vary heavily based on their backgrounds.
For organizations that hire IT security professionals, it’s important to establish ethical guidelines and instill these practices into your new-hires. Organizations should lay out a clear policy on what is considered ethical or the proper thing to do in a scenario. This helps eliminate some confusion. Be sure to make ethical practices and considerations a regular part of the employee onboarding process, as well as provide continued training. As the cybersecurity landscape changes, so do the ethical concerns IT professionals must face.
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