Cybercrime: The Net Was Not Built For Privacy

As discussed in my previous post the internet has provided the avenue to not only allow individual nodes to network and speak their minds but to share information freely to all nodes (Benkler 2011). However, this freedom of information may be at the expense of privacy and security. The internet is built in a way that makes it cheaper to store data than to delete it (Sterne 2014). This is why hackers were able to allegedly distribute the usernames and passwords of Dropbox users last week and personal snapchats the week before.

Some users prefer data to be held in ‘walled gardens’ which offer protection from the open internet and come with the illusion of privacy and security (Zittrain 2008). These closed systems offer some comfort to users who feel safer within the ‘walled garden’ (Zittrain 2008). In reality, hackers are able to surpass these boundaries. A flaw was found in Amazon’s walled garden through the ‘Manage Your Kindle’ page which enables the hacker to access credit card details.

Hackers are also not stopped by the boundaries of nations. Hacking and cybercrime are global issues which makes them difficult to police. For example, the Syrian Electronic Army does not respect national borders (Fisher & Keller 2011). Despite their name, the Syrian Electronic Army targets opposition organisers within Syria and notably, media outlets outside Syria (Fisher & Keller 2011). Similarly, in the case of LulzSec, they had never met in real life (Arthur 2013). Some were based in the UK while others were based in the US and they were unaware of their true identities (Arthur 2013).

Often the intentions of cybercrime are less sinister than assumed. This is a reminder of the ‘playful’ value of some hackers who see the practice as a game. The intention of LulzSec was to “gain attention, embarrass website owners and ridicule safety measures” (Arthur 2013). But the potential of hackers to do more than the humorous is worrying.

The internet is not built with the intention of privacy but the freedom of information (Benkler 2011). So it might pay to check out some online tools such as Tor, Avast and Thunderbird, all of which will bring you one step closer to protecting your privacy.


Arthur, C 2013, ‘LulzSec: what they did, who they were and how they were caught’, Guardian, 17 May, viewed 18 October 2014, <>.

Benkler, Y 2011, ‘A free irresponsible press: Wikileaks and the battle over the soul of the networked fourth estate’, Harvard Civil Rights – Civil Liberties Law Review, pp. 1-33, viewed 10 October 2014, <;.

Fisher, M & Keller, J 2011, ‘Syria’s Digital Counter-Revolutionaries’, Atlantic, 31 August, viewed 18 October 2014, <>.

Sterne, J 2014, Is it cheaper to keep than delete?, ClickZ, weblog post, 10 April, 19 October 2014, <>.

Zittrain, J 2008, The future of the internet and how to stop it, Yale University Press, Massachusetts.


13 thoughts on “Cybercrime: The Net Was Not Built For Privacy

  1. Hi Anna, I like that you have referred to different examples regarding hacking incidents as it gives readers context to the topic. I particularly liked how you specified that often hackers are assumed to be more sinister when in actual fact, it is usually not the case. Jordan & Taylor (1998) discuss the demographics of hackers in their article ‘A sociology of hackers’ ( They find that hackers are often demonised not because of what they have done but because of what they can do. They also look beyond ‘the fear of the unknown’ and view hackers in their social communities. What I found most interesting is their study of hackers as ‘pathological’ mad men and why this interpretation is attractive; because it perpetuates the instilled fear of computers potentially controlling our lives.
    Your article was short and sweet. One thing that I would add is it would’ve been good if you could have listed or described some of the online tools you linked in the last paragraph to make for easier reading and attempt to provide some solution or light at the end of this (dark fiber) tunnel.
    Thanks 🙂

  2. Hi there!

    I liked how you concluded your post with “The internet is not built with the intention of privacy but the freedom of information (Benkler 2011)”. Personally, I think it is a debatable issue when it comes to the extent of information freedom permitted and the amount of privacy expected. We want both free-flow of information from others yet we expect high-level of privacy for ourselves. We just can’t seem to find an optimum balance between the two.

    Personally, I believed we somehow “agreed” to the risk of our information being leaked online whenever we provide our information or store our data online. All we could do is put in extra efforts to make sure that we are not disclosing any confidential data or things we do not want the world to see.

    Last but not least, great post you have there! It’s succinct and and straight-to-the-point. Keep up the good work!

  3. Great to see the use of so many sources, especially those that we were given to choose from. Also like how you were able to incorporate an event that occurred last week into this post. It shows how cybercrime is constantly happening and will never truly be stopped as long as the Internet exists. A very strong post!

    LulzSec is only briefly mentioned, and I also wrote about them. Perhaps you could have elaborated more on them and given explanation as to who they were and what they did, as there are countless examples to choose from! Also, just a small nitpick, don’t forget to italicise your in text references. Thanks Anna!

  4. Overall a very informative post. Your addition of sources is beneficial for the discussion, however your post seems like more of a recount, it would be better to see some of your own interpretation in the post. I did like the idea you introduced that walled gardens offer a false sense of security. I like that you chose the Amazon example over the more common iCloud example it shows you put more thought into your post.

  5. Some users prefer data to be held in ‘walled gardens’ which offer protection from the open internet and come with the illusion of privacy and security (Zittrain 2008).

    Very insightful point there! The first thought that came to mind when I read that was the recent iCloud hacking scandal. The hacking of celebrity iCloud accounts reinforces your point of walled gardens providing users with false sense of privacy and security. After all, the flimsy firewall was built by human; it just takes another mind to bring it down. In my opinion, one can never be fully safe on the net. As long as we put ourselves out there, we are exposed to risks and danger of all sorts.

  6. I really enjoyed your blog this week as you referred to numerous examples regarding hacking incidents, this gives your audience a clear understanding of the topic. I also agree with you when you state that often the intentions of cybercrime are less sinister than assumed and that this is a reminder of the ‘playful’ value of hackers who see it all as a game. I also believe that one of the biggest issue surrounding cybercrime and online hacker is that it’s particularly hard to prosecute, being online, crimes often cross jurisdictions and this can make investigations complicated and time-consuming. As you quoted ‘The internet is not built with the intention of privacy but the freedom of information (Benkler 2011)’ so it is up to the individual to do everything they can to try and keep personal information to a limit online, however I agree with the comment by ameliadigc202 one can never be fully safe on the net. As long as we put ourselves out there, we are exposed to risks and danger of all sorts.

  7. Nice post, with a wide variety of sources. You have covered the themes of the lecture well and I like the focus on hackers, in particular, the nature of the crimes (the fact that cyber criminal may not know of the others within their criminal enterprise, and are bound by geographical/physical boundaries). It will be interesting to see how Australia will deal with large scale, mutli-national, hacktivist groups and cyber crimes. Based on the current nature of Australian Federal politics, law reform seems plausible. Once again, good job.

  8. This was a really good read; you have covered the main themes very well. It seems as though there is nothing hackers can’t do. I find myself torn between not wanting to risk it and thinking you can’t live life in fear. I am a big online shopper. Where I would once enter my visa card details without a second thought I am now pausing to think about what we have learnt in this topic. You made a good point that the Internet wasn’t created to be a private place for us to do what we want so it is somewhat naïve for us to think hacking wouldn’t be a threat. I will definitely be looking into the online security websites you linked. Great job!

  9. I really enjoyed reading your post, you have provided your arguments clearly and raise some important points. I commend you on your first point that the internet is built in a way that it is cheaper to sort data rather than to delete it. This point, I believe, sums up this week’s topic perfectly. You have a used a great range of sources and no doubt I will be following the links you have provided in ways to manage privacy online!

  10. Hey Anna,

    The idea that ‘the net was not built for privacy’ is an interesting one and I think it shaped your blog post this week really well. This post had great flow and a good use of relevant references – I appreciated that the closing sentence came back to your initial point, reiterating your overarching argument. Although I agree that the ‘intentions of cyber crime are often less sinister than assumed’ I do not believe that there is enough education or dialogue given to the potential risks of cyber warfare. The last time I was warned about the ‘dark side of the internet’ was probably in year 6. I think digital complacency is a big issue in the 21st Century. Great Post!

  11. I like your philosophy behind the Internet. ‘Internet is not built for privacy’. So true and straight down the line. It begs the question why we put so much trust on an open platform that people you do not know have access to. I’m personally not a paranoid internet user, but freedom of information for others is true to an extent. I believe certain types of information should be given to the public, but certain information like the color of someones secret lucky draws or the number of times someone has intimacy with someone, its the same in the way that no one should have access to your bank details or your social security number/tax file number.

  12. I enjoyed your points about groups like LulSec. Their physical separation around the world gives them a power of anonymity that offline activists don’t have. It is a shame that these groups use their skills for more sinister purposes, or sometimes just to be annoying. The world of hacktivism is still growing and developing, and hopefully more groups will emerge in the future that use their skills for the benefit of others.

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