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Turning hackers into helpers

What do you do when your software is being used for nefarious purposes? Figure out a way to make someone else's life better.

I heard an interesting story from the guys at WildPackets, a provider of network and application performance monitoring, analysis, and troubleshooting that's faced with an unexpected dilemma.

More than 100,000 unique visitors a month--a large percentage of them, ne'er-do-well hackers--are downloading WildPackets' free drivers for reasons other than their intended purpose, capturing wireless network traffic for monitoring and analyzing network and application performance.

These drivers are often being used in conjunction with AirCrack, an open-source program that cracks WEP passwords, typically for the purpose of accessing password-protected wireless networks.

The people at WildPackets are trying to be good Web citizens--their license agreement and the Web page state that the drivers are only downloadable for use with licensed WildPackets' products--but the downloads persist. So the company is trying to put this high volume of traffic to good use by turning hackers into helpers.

Prominently displayed at the top of the driver page is a banner that reads "105,000 people access drivers here from WildPackets monthly, $1 from you could help find a cure for Parkinson's - please donate today" linking directly to the donation page of the Parkinson's Institute and Clinical Center in the Silicon Valley.

Turns out some hackers have compassion, or at least are curious enough to check it out further. In less than one week, more than 1,000 people have clicked on the banner. WildPackets doesn't yet know how many clicks have yielded donations, but it's reached out to the charity for details to spread this story to a larger audience.

Follow me on Twitter @daveofdoom