Friday, 27 March 2015

Ethics in Computing

Ethics in Computing

The Ten Commandments of Computer Ethics

In my opinion, ethics are rules outlining things that people should already know; what is right and what is wrong, rules that should not have to be recorded.

Perhaps the oldest recorded ethics are in the form of biblical principles, known as the Ten Commandments, but they only go so far with various rules applying only to the religious among us. However, the general ethics, such as “thou shalt not kill” should be common knowledge, and should not need to be taught.

However, it would be dangerous to assume that everybody understands right from wrong, and the same goes for actions in computing. Available on the internet are principles, basic principles in the form of the Ten Commandments of Computer Ethics. [1]

The Ten Commandments of Computer Ethics were draw up by the Computer Ethics Institute.[2] 

You can imagine by the title of the principles that they are not too dissimilar from the way the biblical principles are presented.

  1. Thou Shalt Not Use A Computer To Harm Other People      
  2. Thou Shalt Not Interfere With Other People’s Computer Work
  3. Thou Shalt Not Snoop Around In Other People’s Computer Files
  4. Thou Shalt Not Use A Computer To Steal
  5. Thou Shalt Not Use A Computer To Bear False Witness
  6. Thou Shalt Not Copy Or Use Proprietary Software For Which You Have Not Paid
  7. Thou Shalt Not Use Other People’s Computer Resources Without Authorisation Or Proper Compensation
  8. Thou Shalt Not Appropriate Other People’s Intellectual Output
  9. Thou Shalt Think About The Social Consequences Of The Program You Are Writing Or The System You Are Designing
  10. Thou Shalt Always Use A Computer In Ways That Insure Consideration And Respect For Your Fellow Humans

You read through these rules, and instantly you may think that they are all a given, and you would not have had to have read through them to learn anything new. However, whether or not a person knows from right and wrong, there are still many counts of wrong-doings ranging from bullying on social networks to plagiarism.

The 3 most prominent examples of unethical use of computers are, in my opinion, intrusion, piracy and bullying.

Hacking another person or business’ personal computers, servers or networks is the computing equivalent of breaking into a place of residence or the building that belongs to the business being hacked. The average person would not do the latter, so why do it on a computer?

For more than enough people, the internet has different rules from the real world, and perhaps people feel that they can get away with more illegal activities than in the outside world. As aforementioned, a person may not actively invade people’s homes, but they would have no problem invading a personal computer on a regular basis for their own personal gain.  

Hacking appears to have become a hobby for many, with a study showing that a third of all world-wide malicious attacks originated in America alone, according to Symantec.[3]

Beyond general intrusion is the DDoS attack. DDoS is short for Distributed Denial of Service, and these attacks are designed to compromise systems with infected files which enable the hacker to maliciously control as many sources as they want to flood the target with an unmanageable amount of incoming traffic to overwhelm their system(s).

Recent examples of DDoS attacks on major companies were the attacks on Xbox Live and the Playstation Network. The hackers targeted these giants to disrupt their service during arguably the most busy time of the year as far as gaming goes; Christmas. In reply to the attacks, Xbox boss Phil Spencer spoke to his rivals at Playstation and Nintendo in an effort to counter any future attacks made on their systems.[4]

Hacking can however be used for a good cause; whether or not it’s ethical is up for debate. In recent news, Anonymous, a group of ‘hacktivists’, have taken to the internet to expose more than 1,500 ISIS supporters via social media.[5]

“We will hunt you down and expose you”, read a statement from Anonymous.

They make it clear that they are “Muslims, Christians, Jews. We are hackers, crackers, hacktivists, phishers, agents, spies, or just the guy from next door”.

Generally speaking, they could be anybody. Reflecting on the number of hackers based in America, it wouldn't be a surprise to learn that the majority of Anonymous members are American nationals, but undoubtedly there will be a great number based across Britain, Europe and the rest of the world. Their statement indirectly suggests that there is nowhere to hide for ISIS, or for anybody willing to commit crimes against humanity.

Groups like Anonymous are commonly known as vigilantes, but taking their recent actions into account, you can’t help but argue that they are ultimately undertaking ethical tasks by way of unethical actions. The right outweighs the wrong.

“You will be treated like a virus, and we are the cure.”


To be in the industries of music, videogames, film and general media brings with it the war on piracy. One of the biggest areas to be hit since the introduction of digital piracy is the music industry.

Lars Ulrich, drummer of Metallica, is not only famous for his role in the colossal metal band, but also for taking a stand against piracy when it first became a notable issue.[6]

Napster was the flagship service for peer-to-peer file sharing, and was mainly founded on the sharing of MP3 audio files, which eventually got them into many legal disputes over copyright infringement, one of which was fronted by Lars Ulrich.

The general public did not agree with Lars Ulrich when he spoke out against Napster when he disagreed that P2P would have a role in evolving the music industry for the greater good. Sure, unknown artists can be found a lot easier thanks to video and music file shares on the internet, however, piracy in the music industry has no doubt caused revenue to plummet, thus causing more damage than effective evolution.

The above chart shows how revenue from music sales has taken a significant hit since the birth of Napster back in 1999, which had a knock-on effect when various other file sharing services came to be, such as Limewire.

Aside from filing law suits against whoever can be caught, little can be done against digital piracy. The internet cannot be tamed. If a website or service is blocked, there will be a guaranteed proxy which people can use as a gateway to get back onto those sites or services.

However, the war on piracy is a little different for videogames developers. If they choose to make the effort, there are techniques that the developers can use to punish pirates for illegally obtaining their game. One of the more prominent examples being the censor method used by Electronic Arts on The Sims 4.

EA took their pixilation technology to the next level, and instead of pixilating things like the characters’ use of the bathroom, they stepped it up by progressively pixelating everything but the user interface if a bootleg copy of the game was detected.[7]

In regards to software such as Windows applications, or even the operating system itself, such as Windows 8, they have registration protection for most products. If a user hasn't registered a product key before the end of a set period of time, then the application will lock the user out, and they will not be able to use that program again until a product key has been entered.  

However, prevention methods such as those only separate the casuals from the hard-core pirates. If there’s a will, there’s a way, and simple methods such as amending the system clock can stop a program from ever reaching the registration deadlines. It just depends on how much a user wants that program without having to pay for it, because some workarounds require effort.


Online social networks have been one of the most ground-breaking creations in the history of computing, and though they are not the oldest social network, Facebook are the most notable pioneers.

Twitter is another social network that has risen above many others. It brings with it a lot of positives, which arguably makes it better than Facebook for people who want to keep in touch with the news from around the world, or news from their favourite celebrities.

However, with the positives come the negatives, and one of the biggest negatives of social networking as direct as Twitter is the bullying and general abuse. One of the more prominent examples of this is the attacks on celebrities or sports personalities after certain events have taken place.

If a music artist gives a bad performance, then people will feel the need to directly message their Twitter account to berate them, and take criticism to a personal level. It’s the same with sports personalities. If a football player has a bad game, or says something in a post-match interview that isn't to the fans’ liking, then certain fans will send abusive messages to that player, which can sometimes devolve even further into racism.


With so many areas in computing, and a plethora of users being involved in these areas, there are bound to be millions of people wanting to exploit something for their own good. It’s impossible to enforce ethics in computing, because as we have seen of late from Internet Service Providers in the UK, such as Virgin Media and Sky, blocks on certain websites such as the aforementioned Pirate Bay can be made redundant by proxy websites.

The internet is the wild west of the world. You can carry on with illegal activities and not necessarily get caught. However there are some who will be caught and made examples of for software piracy, hacking or bullying, but that still doesn't seem to stop unethical behavior in computing.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Group Presentation Reflection

In a team of 2, myself and my partner were tasked with creating a presentation on successful groups and teams. We would be judged on our presentation skills and uses of presentation aids.

We chose to go with a standard power point presentation, but with emphasis on a clean and sharp design to effectively complement our speaking roles.

I felt that the presentation went well, with the only negative being that I lost track of time which lead to my part of the presentation being slightly longer than it should have been. This in turn made the latter part of our presentation slightly rushed, and we did not have time to discuss some points with any great elaboration. Having said that, it was a valuable learning experience.

We were given the presentation task before we broke up for half term, so during the week off myself and my partner needed a way to stay on the same page whilst not being in the same room as each other.

Trello is an online application I often use for my university assignments, as per recommendation from our tutor, and I thought it was best to stick with what I knew worked, and it inevitably helped our progress.

We were able to upload the presentation template for us both to use, which enabled us to separately construct our own parts of the presentation, during which we discussed Hawthorne's X & Y and Belbin.

Below is a screenshot of our Trello to-do lists.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Groups & Teams

This week we discussed the differences between groups and teams, giving examples and defining them. 

We came to the conclusion that groups are like Microsoft, and the teams are like development companies who work for Microsoft. The group has an overall target and objective, whereas the teams have specialist and specific goals. 

Below is our team's 5 key characteristics of a successful team. 

Sunday, 30 November 2014

What happens when a group gets together?

This week, as part of a group of 3, we created a mind map of what happens when a team gets together in the workplace, discussing roles, processes and advantages of group work. 

We then implemented all of our ideas into a short presentation, which contained all of the key points from the mind map, which we then elaborated on during the presentation. 

Below is an image showing all key points from 2 presentations. 

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

The application process

Just before half-term, and in our first week back, I've been focusing on refining my ability to apply for jobs whilst recognising the relevant details needed in a CV and cover letter. 

Before our sessions on both CVs and cover letters, I've always applied for jobs with a CV that states every single grade, experience and achievement I could think of, no matter the vacancy. It worked out well for me, however, I see now why it was highly unecessary to include information about an engineering achievement when I was applying for a part-time job in Tesco. 

Once I had completed my new CV and cover letter for the first part of the assignment, I compared them to the ones I had prior to undertaking this degree, and was shocked to see how cramped it was. This process has definitely helped me improve, and just goes to show that 7 years work experience doesn't necessarily mean you have the best looking CV. 

With both CV and cover letter submitted for the assignment, I then started preparing for the job interview. I had a good advantage going into this area, because I've been invited to a variety of interviews since leaving college, so I felt confident that I would be able to handle anything that was asked. 

The brief feedback seemed positive, and I felt I performed well, and look forward to officially seeing how I did. 

Monday, 20 October 2014

The Belbin Questionnaire

This week, we began looking at something called the Belbin Questionnaire. This is a questionnaire which is used to identify strengths and weaknesses in regards to teamwork; the Belbin Team Roles.

Below is a table displaying my results from the questionnaire. The questionnaire had 7 sections, with answers A-H to choose from. In each section, you could select more than one answer, so long as your choices added up to 10 points.


  • 5 points to sentence G
  • 3 points to sentence H
  • 2 points to sentence A

Co-Coordinator (CO)
Co-ordinates efforts, social leader
Shaper (SH)
Outgoing, dominant, task leader
Plant (PL)
Ideas person, creative, intelligent but potentially shy
Resource Investigator (RI)
Finds out where to obtain resources – the ‘fixit’ person
Monitor Evaluator (ME)
Assesses how valid suggestions are, analytical
Implementer (IMP)
Practical organiser
Team Worker (TW)
Maintains group needs, supportive
Complete Finisher (CF)
Checks details – conscious of task deadlines

Here is my summary of the results:

"I believe that for the most part, the result of the Belbin questionnaire was accurate. The highest score appears in the IMP section. I would consider myself to be an Implementer above all other roles. I’m punctual, thorough, and can work on my own initiative. If necessary, I will take on extra work if needs be, to meet or exceed targets. At the same time, I don’t consider myself to be inflexible, which is a prominent weakness in Implementers.

Complete Finisher, the second highest scoring role, is another thing I believe myself to be. It ties in with my aforementioned point about being thorough; being a perfectionist to make certain of the accuracy of work.

Co-ordinator being one of the lowest scoring roles is relatively accurate. I am able to delegate effectively, but it isn’t something that I’ve put into practice a lot, due to it only coming into play later on in my last place of employment.

I also agree with the Shaper role being one of the lowest scoring roles. I don’t see myself as a “whip cracker”, and instead look for the equal team-effort, having everybody involved. That could be perceived as a slight contradiction.

Being an effective communicator, and being able to work with a variety of people, I was surprised to see the Teamwork role scoring in the middle ground. I see teamwork as being one of my strongest qualities, so do not agree with this result."