Expert: Hackers will be the 'immune systems of the internet'

Posted 9.11.2015

Timothy C Summers photographTimothy C. Summers, PhD in Management: Designing Sustainable Systems '15 from the Weatherhead School of Management provides his input about the recent Ashley Madison hack.

by Ayesha Salim, from

“If I were to make an educated guess, I would say that the motivation was hacktivism and the intent was data theft and humiliation. Consider the personalised messages taunting CEO  Noel Biderman. It implies that this was something quite   personal. I suspect that this hack has more to do with intimidating, embarrassing, and punishing the leaders of the organisation, and by proxy, the customers,” says Dr. Timothy C.  Summers, CEO of Summers & Company, LLC in the US and a leading expert on hacker cognitive psychology.

Summers is talking about the Ashley Madison hack, a data breach that has had far wider ramifications than data theft. Two users of the site have reportedly committed suicide, targets have been collected for blackmail, and millions of families have been affected.  A group calling itself the “Impact Team” has claimed responsibility for the hack by pointing the moral finger at the users on the site. But in order to breach something on such a massive scale, hacking involves special abilities that go far beyond possessing simple technical skills.

“The compulsion to hack is fuelled by high levels of curiosity and exploration. Hackers [are natural] with technology which [helps] their exploratory nature. Of course, motivation and intent [are factors too],” Summers tells me.

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