Dr Shane Horgan, Edinburgh Napier University, Yanna Papadodimitraki, University of Leeds, Dr Sarah Anderson, Edinburgh Napier University, Dr Ben Collier, University of Edinburgh

What comes to mind when you hear the term ‘computer hacker’? A malicious tech-savvy criminal mastermind infiltrating computer systems? A geeky kid in their bedroom trying to break into government computer systems? Agents of a foreign governments attacking UK institutions? In this virtual roundtable, we will unpick and challenge stereotypes and suggest why we should love hackers*. We will explore how attempts by UK policing and security agencies to protect us online might work against this aim, damaging our security and privacy. These issues affect everyone, given the wealth of information held about us online – and the growing presence of cyber-attacks and surveillance in our everyday lives.

This virtual roundtable will bring together people with different perspectives on these questions:

  • What do you think of when you hear about hackers?
  • Why should we love hackers?
  • Do criminal laws against computer misuse make us safer online?
  • Should police services target young people who are at risk of illegal ‘hacking’?
  • What else might make people stop illegal, malicious or harmful hacking?
  • How do the activities of criminal justice and security services threaten our privacy?

The event will interest those working in policing/infosec, those engaged in activities falling under the broad banner of ‘/hacking’, anti-criminalisation activists and members of the public concerned with privacy and online security. We want to share lessons from research being conducted at Scottish / UK universities and hear your takes on these questions.

The event’s format will feature a panel discussion with panel members offering 2 minute responses. Any audience member who would also like to contribute their thoughts on a question will also get 2 minutes to respond (so come prepared!). But you’re also welcome to just come along and listen. The event won’t be recorded, although we will take some notes of the discussion, for sharing in a blog after the event.

*Hacker: An expert or enthusiast of any kind. In our case a person who enjoys exploring computer systems and coding, pushing the limits of their capabilities (see The New Hacker’s Dictionary).

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