In today’s fast-paced world, the high-tech computer industry offers a unique opportunity for high-paying jobs. Many people start their careers much younger than I have, so consequently I have to search for a career in a field that will offer me adequate financial rewards in a limited amount of time. I started working with computers four years ago, upgrading systems, and increasing modem speeds to enable me access to the World Wide Web. I find programming to be the most interesting area of Computer Science; there is a subculture within this area that call themselves hackers. There seems to be a negative connotation with the word hacker. This is a misunderstanding because these programmers, who consider themselves to be hackers, are not the evildoers that the media portrays them as. Some misguided souls do attack systems for profit and pleasure, but these are usually the wannabe hackers; they are referred to as crackers or cyberpunks. True hackers do not waste their time with these types of antics. It is similar to an artist who, instead of painting a beautiful picture, sprays profanity on a city wall. There are many misconceptions surrounding the artform of hacking.
Computers have made our world and lives much easier. In the past, many jobs were done by hand. Computers have replaced calculators. Word processing is now much faster and more conveienent than it was when we had to use typewriters. Not only can we type and correct errors much quicker since it can be done on a computer, but we don’t even have to type at all as a result of dictation software, which allows us to speak to our computers. Computers revolutionized our world. We can communicate through e-mail with friends around the world. Research on any form or type of information is readily and easily accessible through the Internet. Computers have opened doors to people all over the world that just twenty years ago were not even dreamed of. Through all this innovation computers are, nevertheless, electronic components. They can only do what man tells them to do. This is how Alan Gauld, a computer programmer, explains computers:
The logical thinking comes into play because computers are
intrinsically stupid. They can’t really do anything except add single
digits together and move bytes from one place to another. Luckily
for us some talented programmers have written lots of programs to
hide this basic stupidity. But of course as a programmer you may
well get into a new situation where you have to face that stupidity
in its raw state. At that point you have to think for the computer.
You have to figure out exactly what needs to be done to your data
and when (Gauld).
Who are programmers? They are people who write the software, which runs the hardware in your computer. Without the software, computer systems would be electronic components incapable of performing any useful operations. There are types of programmers, who are called ?hackers?. In the early 1960’s, university facilities with huge mainframe computers, (like MIT’s artificial intelligence lab) became staging grounds for hackers. At first, a ?hacker? was a positive term that described a person with a mastery skill of computers who could push programs beyond what they were designed to do. Today’s ?hacker?, however, comes with a negative connotation.
Eric S. Raymond reveals this about hackers:
There are a bunch of definitions of the term ?hacker?, Most having
to do with technical adept nests and a delight in solving problems in overcoming limits? There is a community, a shared culture, of expert programmers and networking wizards that traces its history back to the decades to the first time-sharing minicomputers and the earliest ARPAnet experiments. The members of this culture originated the term ?hacker?. Hackers built the Internet. Hackers made the UNIX operating system what it is today. Hackers run Usenet. Hackers make the World Wide Web work. If you are part of this culture, if you have contributed to it and other people in it know who you are in call you a hacker, you’re a hacker.
Kim Kamondo elegantly explains it this way:
The computer-cracking culture can be broken down into four basic groups. To the general public, the term hacker has come to mean someone who gains illegal access to a computer system. However, in geekspeak, the term has a very different definition. To insiders, a hacker is merely an avid computer enthusiast. These types often do gain access to systems they’re not supposed to, but they don’t do it with ill intentions. Instead, the goal of the hacker is mental stimulation, much like fiddling with a Rubic’s Cube. The bigger the hack, the greater the bragging rights
The most obvious troublemakers in this culture are termed crackers. These are generally misguided people with some sort of anarchist bent. They delight in breaking into systems and fouling things up.
Perhaps the most dangerous contingent of the hacker corps is the one you never hear about. These people aren’t interested in fame or intellectual stimulation.
They’re simply in it for the money. They hack into the computer systems at financial institutions, transfer money to different accounts and then vanish. Sound interesting? So why do we seldom, if ever, read of such exploits? The answer is simple: security. Financial institutions are very tight-lipped about such breaches, fearing that any publicity will only encourage copycat offenders. They’d rather take the hit and deal with the matter internally than trigger a potential feeding frenzy among the hacker community.
THE GOOD THINGS HACKERS DO.This may be a rather long quote but it’s difficult to explain the good things hackers do. I can say that hackers helped created the World Wide Web, or I could go on to say that they test financial institutions systems for the safety of our funds.But to say they hacker has gone outafter pedophilesin the better many of the Internet needs to be quoted directly from the passage for the reader to understand.
Some hackers have chosen to use their skills for the betterment of society. Theirs is a higher cause. Case in point: Christian Valor, a k a Se7en. Valor spent 17 years in the hacker underground, and for most of that time he dismissed reports of online kiddie porn as exaggerated claims by overzealous lawmakers. His suspicions were reinforced when in 1996, he spent eight weeks combing the Web for child pornography and came up empty-handed. Then he discovered chat channels and newsgroups that catered to pedophiles and other perverts. That was a rude awakening for Valor.
In 1997, after discovering just how low his fellow Netizens could stoop, Valor made a vow to disrupt the online activities of kiddie porn peddlers in any way that he could–legal or not. Of course, it’s highly unlikely that any child pornographer would cry foul to the authorities. And if someone were stupid enough to turn this Robin Hood-like figure in to the police, Valor says he’s been assured by the Secret Service that they’d probably decline to take action on the matter.
Valor’s first target in his new crusade was an employee of Southwestern Bell. Although the perpetrator took numerous steps to cover his tracks, Valor was able to determine that this fellow was using his employer’s computers as home base for his kiddie porn operation. Valor claims that several days after e-mailing the evidence to the president and network administrators at Southwestern Bell, he received a message back that the pornographer was no longer employed there.
Valor’s crusade has led other hackers to join the fight. In fact, there’s even a Hackers Against Child Pornography site that encourages others to take up their keyboards and modems against online kiddie porn peddlers. Combined with a couple of large-scale multinational child pornography busts that took place in 1998, maybe these cyberspace sexual misfits will think twice about their chosen lifestyle.
In the battle against child pornography, one of the authorities’ best allies turns out to be hackers, the ultimate haters of authority. Although police won’t acknowledge them publicly, some hacking groups informally assist law enforcement agencies in both technical training and evidence gathering.
Computers and Internet Essays