Use the back doors on network hardware to prevent terrorism case included

Assignment 1:  Ethical Case Analysis

Case to Analyze - Use only this case and no other.

Consider the case of the NSA at the time it was developing a plan to intercept shipments of routers and other networking hardware and install a “back door” without the knowledge of the manufacturer or the client.   The purpose of the “back door” is to be able to unobtrusively monitor all activities that go through that piece of network equipment, solely in order to detect and prevent any potential terrorist activities.

Ethical Dilemma: Is it ethical for the Director of the NSA to have this plan implemented?


Grading Rubric

The grading rubric (form) is posted on Canvas.  Understand it before you write or submit your analysis.

Due Dates

  • Refer to the schedule of deliverables for the due date


  1. Learn how to conduct an ethical analysis of a socio-technical scenario (a computing-related issue that affects people).
  2. To use the ethical theories and professional codes of ethics we have learned to analyze a socio-technical scenario.   This will help you better understand the theories and codes, as well as gain practice in using them.


Review the slides on How to Do an Ethical Analysis 

Review the grading rubric for Assignment 1

Assignment – Analysis

Everyone will do the full analysis (all 10 parts) of the case, submitting that analysis to Canvas.

Analysis Sections

Each analysis contained in the deliverable will include the following 8 sections for the scenario. 

Each section should be separate and marked with its own section title.

  1. Copy and paste the case and ethical dilemma you going to analyze 
  2. Identify the moral agent.
  3. What of value is at stake?
  4. Who/what are the stakeholders?
  5. Possible courses of action (identify at least the required 2 – to do the action of the scenario and to not do the action of the scenario). For each, state: “A possible course of action is XXX”.
  6. Consequences associated with each course of action. For each, state: “A(nother) consequence of the action XXX is YYY”.
  7. Analyze the case using ALLof the objective ethical theories (Act Utilitarianism, Rule Utilitarianism, Kantianism, Social Contract Theory/Rawls’ Principles of Justice, and Virtue Theory).
  8. Identify any clauses in both the ACM Code of Ethicsand the Software Engineering Code of Ethics that would apply and if the clause is violated in this situation. Give the name of the Code (ACM or SEC), clause number and the actual clause and then state how and why each would apply.  The clauses in the codes are generic enough that several can apply. You must have a minimum of 3 clauses from each code of ethics.

    (Warning: Do not say they are software related and the case is not about software.  There are broader principles that do apply because the cases concern computing and/or the design of systems with socio-technical aspects.)

  9. Concrete action that you would recommend (supported by your analysis). Justify your recommendation by clearly explaining why. It must be one of the actions you mentioned in number 5.
  10. Bibliography:  You must reference in your bibliography all materials used.  (The bibliography is not part of your page count.)