So this question here made be look at the FAQ, and maybe it's just me, but I can't find anything in there to specifically (or generally) say that hacking questions are not a good fit for SU. I mean, someone asking for instructions on how to hack is asking a question that correctly deals with computer hardware/computer software/home and personal networks... providing they are not asking for instructions on how to hack into a facebook account, or an iPhone, or a corporate network, or an xBox(??), etc. It's a technical fit if they aren't asking where to buy books on hacking... and let's face it, digging up viable information on how to hack goes beyond basic search requirements.

All that said... SHOULD questions regarding the request for instructions on how to hack into computers on a personal network be answered? Is it right? Yeah, maybe there are viable reasons... and maybe there aren't. People can and do lie... and honestly, someone who is looking for instructions on how to hack another computer on their network is PROBABLY lying about some if not most of the details involved.

What is the SU stance on hacking, and questions regarding it... and why isn't it spelled out in the FAQ? Or would people just lump these kinds of questions under the "Book Answer" clause?

EDIT Apparently the thought that the community itself would filter out questions like this didn't prove to be the case. Not only that, but flagging the question as a violation of the TOS doesn't appear to have been valid... since it did not work. Furthermore, it seems the question has garnered an answer that clearly states within the text of the answer, that some of the advice given is illegal. Not only does an answer that gives illegal advice still stand, but the question that spawned it still stands.

So. To Recap... The TOS does not govern what keeps a question here. The FAQ does not govern what keeps a question here. CLearly stating that you are posting illegal information does not get a question removed. Is it really just up to the whim of the moderators, and whether they feel like removing something? Is that all that is left?

  • 2
    We can't have everything in the FAQ but the community essentially deals with those questions pretty fast. We do have questions covering the on-topicness of hacking on MSU though.
    – slhck
    Commented May 9, 2012 at 15:28
  • So, the SU stance is that there is no stance... if people want to answer them and provide instructions, then can... even if those instructions involve steps that could allow someone to compromise their neighbor's secure wireless network? Or can those instructions only be provided on MSU?
    – Bon Gart
    Commented May 9, 2012 at 15:30
  • What I meant to say is, these are off topic as far as I recall, but it's not explicitly mentioned because we deal with them on a case by case basis. Community consensus seems to be that we don't encourage hacking.
    – slhck
    Commented May 9, 2012 at 15:32
  • 2
    But someone asking for instructions on how to hack their own WiFi network and one of the computers on that network, is asking a question regarding computer hardware, computer software, and a home network... nothing off topic.
    – Bon Gart
    Commented May 9, 2012 at 15:33
  • Correct, but that's also the case for Hackintosh and circumventing software license restrictions, pirating, et cetera. It's not mentioned in the FAQ but established anyway, so you can direct people to Meta questions covering those topics if they're unsure about why the question was closed.
    – slhck
    Commented May 9, 2012 at 15:36
  • I totally get it that you can't have everything in the FAQ... but is nothing in the FAQ dealing with things that would be considered illegal. That's kind of a big loophole to leave exposed, even after it's been noticed.
    – Bon Gart
    Commented May 9, 2012 at 15:40
  • @BonGart that's mentioned in Legal/TOS
    – Sathyajith Bhat Mod
    Commented May 9, 2012 at 16:26
  • Ok then. That settles that. @Sathya turn that into an answer and it's yours.
    – Bon Gart
    Commented May 9, 2012 at 16:33
  • 3
    You fail to provide any evidence that what the user wants to do is illegal in either the user's or SE's jurisdiction. Tom's question about privileges to do this (IIUC, whether it's the user's own machine) is unanswered. AFAIK, in the US, I can hack into my own systems as much as I want.
    – Daniel Beck Mod
    Commented May 9, 2012 at 18:01
  • 1
    Repressing information is far more dangerous than free information. We want to educate people - even if it can be used for good and bad actions alike. It's far better to bring the information to public light, rather than keep it in the dark, so it can be used unknowingly against the public. So long as the intentions are not malicious, I see no problem with any question regarding hacking. How else does one ensure their own system is secure (as @DanielBeck mentions above)? Commented May 9, 2012 at 19:44
  • @DanielBeck Yes, you can hack your own system all you want. You can also lie to others to make them believe you want to hack your own system, in order to learn how to hack into a neighbor's system. There is no way to know the difference.
    – Bon Gart
    Commented May 9, 2012 at 19:48
  • @breakthrough The repressing information argument works when applied to your kids wanting to try drugs... let them try the drugs with you else they will get them somewhere outside your control. However, it doesn't work out here with this kind of information. You are not repressing the information. You are not seeking it out and keeping people from finding it by removing it. You are simply not PROMOTING it. There is a vast difference. How do you ensure he is only going to use the information on his own system? Simple. By not giving him the information.
    – Bon Gart
    Commented May 9, 2012 at 19:50
  • 1
    @BonGart I don't understand your point. Do you really think Super User is the only place on the internet to find out how to hack things? If someone really wanted to find out how to do something, they could. We should take questions at face value, and leave each question (as well as the users on Stack Exchange) "innocent until proven guilty", so to speak. Commented May 9, 2012 at 19:51
  • 2
    What's your point @BonGart? If he wrote "my other system", he'd be in the clear as far as I'm concerned. If he wrote "I think my neighbor steals my wifi", it'd be different. As the topic is right now, you don't know either way. You're implying we're tolerating questions asking for assistance in breaking the law, and that's just BS. While I also assume the user is planning something illegal, he doesn't state it, and there's not enough information in the question to be sure. As long as the tools he'd use have a legitimate use case, and if the question does not imply illegal use, it's OK.
    – Daniel Beck Mod
    Commented May 9, 2012 at 19:59
  • 3
    @BonGart there's an explicit difference between sharing information and promoting it's use. If I posted a guide on how to break a type of encryption, and explicitly state that it should only be used to recover files that you own, am I promoting that activity? Are people all of the sudden going to go find encrypted files to break just to try it? No. The information is there for the people who need it. And last I checked, on the internet, there is no concept of "the only place" on the internet, especially since it's trivial to make a copy of something digitally. Commented May 9, 2012 at 20:08

2 Answers 2


Posting this as an answer before it's lost in some comments. We've been over that a couple of times already:

Most importantly, Jeff (the founder of this site, yknow), stating:

Unless it is a clear call for warez, discussion of DRM should be given the benefit of the doubt.

I think this can be extended to similar legal areas. Last but not least, I think this is something the community should handle on their own, on a case-by-case basis.

  • +1 to you, sir. Sometimes you're like my Super User Hero, delivering logical arguments and viewpoints when we need them most. Commented May 9, 2012 at 20:38
  • Well, there it is then. The information is there for people to use as they choose. It's a stance, for better or worse... and this most accurately describes the one here.
    – Bon Gart
    Commented May 9, 2012 at 22:36

Well, it may or may not be allowed - the Community's generally quick to act on these and even quicker to call a bluff. It's not really practically have the FAQ mentioning each and every part that's offtopic.

. but is nothing in the FAQ dealing with things that would be considered illegal.

Right, that's because the legal/TOS explicitly has the word on that:

The Services are accessed by You (“Subscriber” or “You”) under the following terms and conditions:

Subscriber is responsible for all of its activity in connection with the Services and accessing the Network. Any fraudulent, abusive, or otherwise illegal activity or any use of the Services or Content in violation of this Agreement may be grounds for termination of Subscriber’s right to Services or to access the Network. Subscriber may not post or transmit, or cause to be posted or transmitted, any communication or solicitation designed or intended to obtain password, account, or private information from any Network or Service user.

  • Basically, so long as it's not abusive or illegal, and not about hacking Stack Exchange itself (including other SE users), it's fair game. Commented May 9, 2012 at 19:41
  • @Breakthrough With grey area topics, it makes sense for the questions to be stated in a way that makes them clearly legal. You want to strip DRM from ebooks to read your purchases on your ebook reader, not to share them with the world. You want to know how secure your network or computers are, and not take over your neighbors'.
    – Daniel Beck Mod
    Commented May 9, 2012 at 19:44
  • 1
    @DanielBeck agreed, but sometimes, less is more. Obviously such a question should be closed if the user explicitly states "I want to break the DRM from this file I own to share it with others", but what if they only say "I want to break the DRM from this file I own"? I totally agree with your viewpoint, but anyone can just append "to put it on my other devices" after the question is written. If that small addition is enough to keep a question open on SU for legitimate purposes, I'm all for it - but I still don't think it's explicitly required. Commented May 9, 2012 at 20:04
  • 1
    @Breakthrough Well, I wrote it makes sense. Some users (some of those with a twitchy finger on the close link) might not be aware of legal uses for a certain kind of application. They'll VTC and flag and tell you you're a bad person. Stating that you don't intent to kill puppies and kittens therefore makes sense.
    – Daniel Beck Mod
    Commented May 9, 2012 at 20:08

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .