What do you think of when you hear the word hacker–a leather-clad, mohawked, teenager with a malicious grin on his face just itching to destroy your computer? This is what the average person will picture in their head, but they fail to truly understand what it is that hackers do, and how it can actually be helpful to them. The reason this stereotype of hackers has not gone away is because the media shows only the bad. If a hacker has been stealing credit card numbers CNN reports it instantly, but if a hacker creates a program that helps keep a system secure, you would be hard pressed to find anything about it in a news source. (Dissident p. 1)
Real hackers are not out to destroy systems, they simply want to break in for the challenge, to know that they can do it, and get away with it. ?Don?t ever maliciously hack a system. Do not delete or modify files unnecessarily, or intentionally slow down or crash a system.? (Deicide p. 3) A statement similar to this one will be found in nearly any document you find about hacking. Movies and television create an image of hackers that is completely false in most cases. They show people breaking into a system in a matter of seconds and erasing the data to keep the bad guy or good guy from accessing it, which is not accurate. Many systems can take long hours or even days to get into. (Dissident p. 1)
There are quite a few hackers who ruin systems and destroy files on other people?s computers. The real hacking community usually shuns this type of hacker (or cracker as they are commonly called). Today they even have hacking conventions where hackers can share their latest creations with other hackers and also companies looking for safer methods to operate. The most famous of these, Defcon, is held in Las Vegas and is a giant gathering of hackers who trade ideas and programs with their fellow hackers, and to teach people who are just getting into hacking about how to hack legally and safely. (Brandt p. 1)
There are ethical methods of hacking. Many of the hackers from the 80s are now using their talents of breaking into systems to teach companies how to safeguard their own equipment. Hackers are creating great programs for everything from virus protection to encryption. In the movie Sneakers, hackers are hired to break into companies? systems, and if they discover the system is not secure they charge a fee and upgrade the system. While the movie is not an accurate or realistic example, this kind of thing happens commonly now. Companies want to be protected from hackers and crackers. Who better to have setup your security than a guy who knows how to break into it? Granted, not any hacker could do this because of the trust issue, but many companies hire these hackers or system operators as full time consultants for their business firms. These hackers are making big bucks now. The government is even paying hackers to create hack proof systems and networks. These guys are the true pros and they started out being looked at as punks and misfits. Now they have salaries that reach into six figures, and are highly respected members of corporate America, whether they like it or not. (Brandt p. 1)
it?s because I screwed it up. Not because it doesn?t like me?Or
feels threatened by me?Or thinks I?m a smart ass? (Plowsk? p. 11)
This quotation comes from the Hacker?s Manifesto. It is a great explanation of how a hacker thinks, how they feel, what they do, and why they do it. Hackers are not the enemy. They are not out to get you. When you are logged onto the internet, if you somehow get a virus or someone breaks into your email, don?t say, ?Darn hacker.? The people who do foolish things like that are not hackers, they are probably someone who looked up a few hacking documents and wanted to try out their newly found skill. (Dissident p. 1)
Reading about hacking will not make you a hacker. True hackers have ethics. They know what to break into, what not to, and why. They never alter a system or the files it contains, the exception being the log files so they can cover their tracks. If all the hackers in the world did decide to start destroying the systems they break into, there would be nothing left. Hackers leave government systems alone, they know that they will be caught even though they could probably get in, but the consequences would be grave if they were discovered. (Dissident p. 1)
The hacking community is huge, and the internet has helped this community immensely. Hackers in Japan can now freely communicate with hackers in the U.S. But the hacking community also has its problems such as sexism. Primarily, hackers are male. Many hackers don?t give female hackers respect and actually want them gone. I feel this is a foolish notion, the internet (cyberspace) is a place where sex, or race usually is not of consequence. ?We exist without skin color, without nationality, without religious bias?? (Newbie handbook p. 12). Hopefully this issue will be resolved and hackers will once again share information and ideas without worrying if the person they are getting it from is female or not. (Fennelly p. 3)
In conclusion, hackers can be your friends and occasionally, your enemies. Learning to understand the ethics and morals that a hacker operates by can help you appreciate what they do. This knowledge will also teach you not judge a hacker by appearances or some stereotype implanted in your mind by television, movies and newspapers. All they are after is knowledge and the challenge of gaining that knowledge. The following is another excerpt from The Hacker?s Manifesto and I think it summarizes the thoughts of a hacker and the person who judges him.
We explore? and you call us criminals. We seek after
knowledge? and you call us criminals. We exist without
skin color, without nationality, without religious bias? and
you call us criminals. You build atomic bombs, you wage
wars, you murder, cheat, and lie to us and try to make us
believe it?s for our own good, yet we?re criminals. Yes, I am a
judging people by what they say and think, not what they look
like. My crime is that of outsmarting you, something you will
never forgive me for. (Plowsk? p. 12)
Brandt, Andrew. Hackers Gather in Vegas.
Deicide. The Neophyte?s Guide to Hacking.
Dissident. The Ethics of Hacking.
Fennelly, Carole. A Well Known But Overlooked Threat to Hackers: Themselves.
McClure, Stuart. Hacking contest throws spotlight on numerous methods for
attacking web sites. URL: http://www.infoworld.com/
Plowsk? Phreak. Newbies Handbook: How to Begin in the World of H/P