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Photo: Pablo Dalence/Sveriges Radio.

Hackers: menaces or guardian angels of the net?

It came to light this week that dozens of Swedish websites have been hacked into, jeopardizing the passwords of tens of thousands of people, including journalists and politicians. But it so happens that a conference drawing Internet activists to Stockholm Tuesday puts hackers in a more flattering light, as people who help pave the way for democracy.

As of Wednesday morning, the tabloid Aftonbladet reported that lists containing the account information of over 200,000 people were circulating on websites like Twitter and the Swedish website, Flashback Forum.

This could be the worst hacking attack to have hit Sweden yet, according to Joakim von Braun is the security advisor here at the Swedish Radio and has formerly advised the Swedish Security Service. The hacker or hackers behind the attack have not yet been discovered.

But hacking has other uses, too. Stephan Urbach is a young German "hacktivist" whose come to Stockholm to take part in a conference on Internet and democratic change, organized by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.

Radio Sweden catches up with the blue-haired Urbach while he takes a quick cigarette break before going on stage to speak. He says the hacking attack that happened in Sweden is not at all what he stands for. He calls it "bad hacking."

He is a member of a website called Telecomix, which currently helps people in Syria safely disseminate information from the repressive regime out into the world, so the global public can see what the situation is like there.

"Most people don't know how the surveillance is working," he says, "so they would bring themselves in very great danger [without us]. So, I think our work is very important for them."

Besides helping Syrians now, his organization also ran modem lines to Egypt during the beginning of the Arab Spring, when the government had restricted Internet access to prevent communication about the revolution.

"We do hacking for the greater good," he says. "We want to make this world a better place."


Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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