Computer hacking is a very major crime in today’s world. It takes a large amount of intelligence and dedication to be a hacker. Not just anyone can store thousands of commands and codes in their head. Because these hackers are so intelligent it makes them even more dangerous. Dangerous to the point where if they wanted to they could probably wipe you off the face of the earth. Maybe not literally, but defiantly in the computers. The reason hackers are such a concern today more than ever, is that now a days everything is run by computers. EVERYTHING!!
Kevin Mitnick, a hacker who has yet to have a harsh punishment when caught, can somehow lower his punishment for his hacking crimes down to a couple months probation. When Kevin was seventeen, he was caught for breaking into a phone center in Los Angeles. He was tried and sentenced to three months stay in a juvenile detention center and one year probation. Kevin is a very intelligent man. He could use his computer skills in a good way by stopping other hackers, but he didn’t, so he faced the law many times. In all those times, he never spent more than a year in prison (Shimomura 1). Kevin was also a “Phreak”; a phone freak. He studied the phone system. He soon knew how to make free phone calls from payphones and how to crash a system. Kevin Mitnick has yet to be harshly punished for these crimes, which are very numerous (Shimomura 1).
Another major player in the hacking industry is an unidentified man, identified by his pseudonym, or nickname, Deth Vegetable. His group of hackers, Cult of the Dead Cow (cDc), is one of the oldest hacker organizations still in effect today. He is the leader and founder of (Cult of the Dead Cow). Cult of the Dead Cow is a leading group in the hacking industry; another leader that has fun with what they do. (Sullivan 1). They are a notorious group of hackers who have a couple problems; one of which is drugs. At a convention that the cDc holds for “some of the most notorious hackers from around the world” (Sullivan 1), one of the members of cDc said, “Drugs and hacking go hand-in-hand” (Sullivan 3). Deth Vegetable said, “Taking Drugs is like hacking your brain” (Sullivan 3). This is the way hackers are, they have fun in hacking, and the more they hack, the more fun they have. “If hacking is taking an electro-chemical computing device and altering it for your own enhancement, then taking XTC [, a type of drug,] is doing the same for your brain. At least that’s the rationalization” (Sullivan 3). Hacking is just another way to receive a build up of adrenaline in the body. Hackers will receive the thrill and chills of the rebellious act and then have all that adrenaline, making themselves feel really good (4). Hackers also gain many possessions from hacking.
One thing that they gain is knowledge. Not just knowledge of how to hack, but knowledge of the systems that they are hacking into and knowledge of different security precautions that people take to try to keep hackers out. There are a vast number of different systems that hackers have to know in order to hack into them. Hackers will read up on the different programs. They will also go to conferences to learn about new techniques, and new ways that one can break into a system with out a lot of work (Sterling 73). A hacker can receive anything he/she wants from hacking into other computers. They can download, or copy to their computer, applications, games, and many different kinds of powerful programs for their computer. They can make credit card numbers and also calling card numbers. If a hacker dials into the telephone companies computers and hacks into them, they can reek havoc on the telephone system. Phone numbers can be changed among other things. The type of phone that a phone number has can be changed; i.e. a regular house phone can be changed into a pay phone. When a person tries to dial out, they get a request for money.
Being a rebel, and knowingly doing something that is wrong, is just the kind of thing that hackers do. The adrenaline rush that comes with doing something totally against the law, and knowingly doing so, is very intense. Hackers enjoy this feeling and get addicted to it. It is a great feeling that a hacker gets when they do this and this is why they are addicted (Sullivan 4). Hackers have to avoid the law. What they are doing is very illegal. The United States government passed the Computer Fraud and Abuse act in 1986. This law states that one can’t intentionally break into a computer system, and then it gives the consequences of such an act. This was a follow-up law to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986. This law outlawed the “unauthorized interception of digital communications” (Sterling 195). These laws really haven’t done much to prevent hackers from hacking. They most likely have decreased the number of hackers though. Young hackers may have been scared about getting caught, so they didn’t go into the hacking industry. There is a plus side to these laws, but hackers don’t see it that way (190). Hackers do have consequences because of the laws that the government has passed, but not many of them.
Most hackers are good enough to cover their backs, and their trails, and their phone calls. If a hacker is caught, he can face a long time in jail. Unfortunately, this usually doesn’t happen. A hacker covers his tracks so good, that there isn’t much evidence to convict them. So hackers get off with a little jail time, and a little probation. The system isn’t fair for the people who want to catch the hackers.
Until someone develops a hack-proof system, hackers are still going to use all of their resources to hack into the system (Sterling 193). The hacker has resources or tools, to perform different tasks. A hacking tool will help a hacker hack. It takes some of the grunt work out of hacking. Some of the different tools used are: war dialers, [all-color] boxes, and many different password crackers. A war dialer is a program that will call a given list of numbers, and will record which of those numbers have modem, faxes, or any other computerized communication device hooked up to the line. Each of the different boxes does something different. The basic idea behind the boxes, is to issue an audible tone that switches the phone lines to re-route calls. There is a password cracker for every kind of password available. The name is self-explanatory, but a password cracker is a program that runs through every possible combination of letters until it finds the right password; assuming of course the password cracker is a sophisticated one.
Every major hacker develops his or her pseudonym, or nickname. It is thought up of by themselves or another hacker, but reflects something major that they have done. For instance, the hacker Captain Crunch, got his name because he was able to re-route long-distance phone calls with a whistle the he got free from a box of Captain Crunch cereal. Without nicknames, a hacker wouldn’t be complete (Sullivan 2) Hackers also need to hide some of the tools that they use. Tools such as the different color boxes. If a federal agent broke into a hacker’s house or apartment and found a blue box and knew what the box did, then a hacker could be sent to jail or put on probation. Hackers hide all of their tools in safe places, and hopefully un-findable places. They do this to save themselves when the police or federal agents attempt to gain evidence against them. (Sterling 175)
Even with all of the laws that the government has passed, hackers have yet to be stopped. The more time that the government takes to find a way to stop hackers, the more time it gives the hackers to increase their knowledge and skill in the area of hacking. I don’t know about you, but when I think of the things that hackers can do, it gives me the chills. You never know who is out there, or better yet who is out to get you. The last thing I would want is someone out there getting his or her hands on my files and messing around. This is not only a problem on the individual level, but also a worldwide problem that must be stopped!
Blumenthal,R. “Going Undercover in the Computer Underworld”. New York Times, Jan. 26, 1993, B, 1:2.
Sterling, K., “Computer Crime,” Technology Review, April 1989, V89.
Sullivan, D. “U.S. Charges Young Hackers”. New York Times, Nov. 15, 1992, 1, 40:4. 2600: The Hacker Quarterly. Issues Summer 92-Spring 93.