Andrew Napolitano Redefines Hacking, and Other Nonsense (@judgenap)
Here is an example of some bullshit mongering on Fox News. Judge Andrew Napolitano, on hacking vs. leaking, tries to frame what intelligence agencies found regarding alleged Russian actions against the Democratic National Committee’s servers as something less nefarious than it actually is:
Leaking is the theft of private data and its revelation to those not entitled or intended to see it. Hacking is remotely accessing an operational system and altering its contents – for example, removing money from a bank account or contact information from an address book or vote totals from a candidate’s tally. When Trump characterized the CIA claim that the Russians hacked the DNC and Clinton campaign emails intending to affect the outcome of the election as ridiculous, this is what he meant: There is no evidence of anyone’s altering the contents of operational systems, but there is evidence – plenty of it – of leaking.
Hacking does not require altering data on a server in order to be defined as “hacking.” This is preposterous. Gaining access to a system on which a user is not permitted is one aspect of hacking. Stealing data is another. Nothing needs to be “altered.”
Napolitano probably got the definition he pushes in his article from the first result in a Google search for “computer hacking definition”:
Computer hacking refers to the practice of modifying or altering computer software and hardware to accomplish a goal that is considered to be outside of the creator’s original objective.
If that’s as far as he went to find a definition of hacking, it’s shoddy journalism. That same source, on the same page, elaborates beyond that misleading description with examples of hacking that do not involve altering anything.
The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) outlaws what is commonly accepted as hacking, which, again, does not require altering anything. The DOJ has more about it here. There are many other sources as well (see the end of this post).
A leak, by the way, is simply the intentional disclosure of information that is not intended to be shared, and often involves information that was misappropriated or stolen… by hacking.
Napolitano also offers a specious justification for why the alleged Russian actions against the DNC do not constitute anything substantive:
If hackers wanted to affect the outcome of the election, they would have needed to alter the operational systems of those who register voters and count votes, not those who seek votes.
If the hackers had information they believed could have influenced voters, releasing or leaking that information could have certainly affected the outcome. That may in fact have been what happened in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election.
Napolitano concludes with a baseless and vague allegation about who actually leaked the data obtained in the hacking of the DNC servers, yet he offers no evidence for any of it.
If you are a conservative and the Napolitano piece is an example of a source you routinely tap for information, do everyone a favor and compare stuff like this to more credible sources. For example, want to understand what hacking actually is? There are tons of resources from experts in the computer science and legal fields that will help you more than a, uh, hack like Napolitano, such as the CFAA links above, and here, here, here, here, etc.