What is Cyberethics?

Cyberethics is the study of moral, legal, and social issues pertaining to computers, covering user behavior and what computers are designed to do, and how this impacts people and society. Cyberethics also refers to the study of ethical and moral quandaries caused by the rise of digital technology and global virtual worlds. The emergence and developments of the internet have led to increased issues over privacy, ownership, safety, authenticity, transparency, censorship, filtering, etc. Some of cyberethics’ critical issues are hacking, copyright/downloading, and cyberbullying. There are also many issues surrounding the use of Artificial Intelligence, from their impact on jobs and society, to inherent bias that may cause unintended outcomes.


Hacking refers to stealing confidential data, obtaining credentials to access a website, and sometimes restructuring a website without the owner’s consent. Hackers can build viruses that can bring down websites and computer systems. Viruses are often spread via email, or via removable media such as flash drives. In addition to anti-virus tools that work with email systems, some companies also deploy malware kiosks, a turnkey solution that scans for potentially infected media threats on peripheral devices.

Copyright and Downloading

Copyright infringement on the internet is a type of Intellectual Property theft that can result in legal consequences. If a user tries to use or disseminate another user’s work without permission, they may be guilty of copyright infringement. The unlawful download of films, audio files, and unauthorized copying software programs are the most widespread copyright offenses on the internet. Copyright in a digital environment may also include publishing copyrighted content, such as text or graphics, online without the owner’s consent.


Cyberbullying is harassment that takes place through the use of digital technology. It may occur on social networking sites, chat networks, gaming websites, and smartphones. It is repetitive behavior intended to frighten, enrage, or shame targeted individuals. Some examples of cyberbullying are:

  • Creating falsehoods about someone or uploading humiliating photographs of them on social media.
  • Sending harsh comments or blackmail through messaging systems.
  • Imitating someone and sending unpleasant messages to others on their account.

When someone encounters cyberbullying, they should:

  • Avoid opening, reading, or responding to communications from cyberbullies.
  • Constantly keep bully messages. They can be required to take disciplinary action.
  • Use necessary software to block bullies.

Artificial Intelligence

As Artificial Intelligence (AI) becomes more advanced, it is increasingly taking on more complex tasks, some of which introduce ethical issues that must be considered.  This is often conveyed using some version of the “Trolley Problem”. The Trolley Problem is a hypothetical situation where a runaway tram is heading towards a crowd of people. It will most likely injure or kill many of them. An AI has the ability to redirect the tram to a second track where it would definitely kill one person, but the crowd would be unharmed. What decision should the AI make?  

Another issue is bias. Current AI tools are built using large data sets, which can introduce significant bias. AI also has the potential to impact or eliminate many jobs. For example, autonomous trucks could reduce the need for human truck drivers. 

Common Applications of Cyber Ethics

Typical uses of cyber ethics in the modern world are:

  • To avert misuse of personal information.
  • To protect users from unethical internet behavior.
  • To consider the impact of artificial intelligence on jobs and society.
  • To reduce and eliminate bias from AI systems.
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