Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec Dept. of Sociology and Anthropology Honours Seminar - Soci 409/3 Submitted April 27, 1994 -------------------------------------- Computer Hackers: Rebels With a Cause by Tanja S. Rosteck Introduction Since the introduction of the personal computer in the late 1970s, the vocation of computer hacking has not only grown in scope and membership, but the dynamics of the institution have changed as well, as a result of the changing role of technology in society. Consequently, the public image of the "typical" hacker has been transformed from harmless nerd to malicious techno-criminal. Fuelled by media sensationalism and corporate zealousness, their activities have been criminalized and hackers are now being legally persecuted on a scale disproportional to the actual threat they pose. Hackers want their motivations and ethics to be viewed as legitimate, or at least understood, instead of being simply written off as devious teenagers who have nothing better to do than crash every available computer. Despite this, there has not been much sociological research done on hackers and their culture. I find this strange; the academic community widely accepts the concept of the "Information Society", yet this future version of common society has not been given its due within the discipline of sociology. The prospect of a dual-class society, in which the population is segregated into the information-rich and the information-poor, certainly qualifies as a serious social problem. The computer hacker community, and the important role this subculture plays in the Information Society, must therefore be studied with equal attention. Most of the available studies approach the subject from one of two perspectives: one, a criminological perspective, employing deviance theory to explain the formation and organization of the hacker community; two, a civil-liberties approach that focuses on current computer-crime laws and how apprehended hackers are being denied their Constitutional rights. (All such studies focus on United States constitutional law - a similar comprehensive treatment on Canadian hackers has not yet been done.) Although these approaches are essential to understanding the hacker culture, it must be also be studied from a number of diverse perspectives in order to properly show its depth and richness of content. Therefore, this project will analyze the hacking subculture as a form of organized revolutionary collective, by utilizing a theory of social movements developed by Stewart, Smith, and Denton (1984). Through its activities, this subculture actually plays a vital role in the progression of technology, and also performs a regulatory function for social control, by protesting, mocking, and subtly undermining state and corporate control through computers and related technologies. It will be shown that the hacker's relatively harmless activities are forms of such protest; yet, this cannot be effectively vocalized to the public because of the nature of the activities, ie., hacking is widely considered illegal. As with any revolutionary subculture, the hacking movement is stigmatized, discredited, and persecuted by the media and corporate culture as juvenile, disruptive, and criminal. And, all the while, being generally misunderstood. Because of this problem, it is necessary to bring the hacker's plight to the attention of sociologists through a theoretical framework; that is the primary purpose of this paper. Because of the lack of current, comprehensive studies available, this is a largely exploratory project. By surveying common hacker communications, the various social and political themes of their activities can be examined, and conclusions drawn about what hacking represents for the participants. Hacker communications on electronic bulletin board systems (BBSes) - electronic message and file transfer bases that are connected to by a computer and modem - are generally considered "underground". Private, heavily screened, and generally short-lived, these bulletin boards are invisible to the general public, and most require private invitation. Such types of communication are therefore difficult to observe and study; a different channel of hacker communication will be utilized here. As with any subculture which has been sparsely studied, various definitions of what constitutes a "hacker" abound, and these definitions vary according to the socio-political position of the defining group or individual. For the purposes of this study, hackers are defined as computer enthusiasts who have an ardent interest in learning about computer systems and how to use them in innovative ways (Denning, 1991:25). This definition, therefore, does not include, for instance, malicious hackers who deliberately crash systems and delete files, but those hackers who explore systems purely for the intellectual challenge and leave no traces of their wanderings. In addition, there are often misuses of the term, as the computer underground is made up of not only hackers, but other kinds of computer enthusiasts - for instance, phreakers, software pirates, and carders as well. For a complete discussion of the organization and topography of the computer underground, see Meyer, "The Social Organization of the Computer Underground", 1989. Literature Review As previously mentioned, the hacker culture is a relatively new phenomenon and major writings on it have only begun to surface in the past 10 years, beginning with the 1984 publication of Steven Levy's landmark work, _Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution_. Levy examines the evolution of the Hacker Ethic, a sextet of credos that emerged from the activities of the "pioneer" hackers of the late 1950s: 1. Always yield the Hands-On Imperative! Access to computers - and anything else which might teach you about the way the world works - should be unlimited and total. 2. All information should be free. 3. Mistrust Authority - Promote Decentralization. 4. Hackers should be judged by their hacking, not bogus criteria such as degrees, age, race, or position. 5. You can create art and beauty on a computer. 6. Computers can change your life for the better. (Levy, 1984) This original code of ethics forms the political basis of the modern hacker's activities. Although the methods used by the hacking community have changed somewhat over time, the principal motivations and ethics have remained the same. This point is reiterated in several studies and commentaries (Felsenstein, 1992; Meyer, 1989; Sterling, 1992). There is also much support for the contention that the hacking community is rich in cultural diversity (Levy, 1984; Hafner and Markoff, 1991; Meyer and Thomas, 1990; Wessels, 1990). However, contradictory findings are available; there are also those studies and media reports that reinforce the stereotypical image of the hacker as a teenage loner, devoid of social skills, who is often petty and malicious in their actions and hold absolutely no morals or ethics whatsoever (Forester, 1987; Parker, 1991; Stoll, 1989; Turkle, 1983). Sensationalist "pop culture" TV shows such as Geraldo and NBC Dateline have featured episodes on hackers; such episodes are wildly exaggerated in their claims and portray the featured teenage hackers as brilliant-but-devious thieves that spend their days stealing credit information. These latter works are often ill-researched; their opinions and "facts" come not from extensive observation, contact with the diverse hacker community, or investigations into the motivations behind the actions of hackers, but rather from media reports and/or encounters with only one particular breed of hacker. To base entire judgements on the findings from a segment of a culture, rather than a representative whole, leads to inaccurate reports and certainly does the hacker community no good in having their side properly understood. Reports like these simply perpetuate the popular image of the lonesome computer criminal, without making crucial divisions between the anarchists and the explorers, for instance. Yes, there _are_ hackers who destroy files and crash systems intentionally, but they certainly do not comprise the overwhelming majority of hackers; they are in fact only a small percentage. Many hackers, as is their primary intention, go completely unnoticed on the systems they choose to hack and are never discovered. Leaving no path or trace is of the utmost importance to hackers. And at this point, many people assume we would then proceed to copy everything we find and then trash the system so we could then sell the only remaining copy of the data to the highest bidder, preferably a foreign agent or the richest competitor of the company... It makes no sense. We thirst for knowledge and information, and then you can possibly think we are going to destroy that which is sacred to us? To take away someone else's chance to succeed in getting in as we did? To fuel an already terrible reputation and increase our chances of getting caught and thus have our lives and careers effectively ruined? ("Toxic Shock", 1990) For this reason, it is often difficult to estimate the number of active hackers at any given time (Denning, 1990; Landreth, 1989). Not only is leaving no trace on a system intellectually challenging and part of the "hack", but leaving a trace makes it much easier to lead the law enforcement authorities right to you - and, most importantly, any detection will likely lead to the hacker's stolen user account to be changed or deleted by the system administrator. On the other hand, the studies and commentaries from the hacker's point of view are often written by current or ex-members of the computer underground. This "insider's view" is most likely to present a more balanced picture, of the type that only a member of the studied culture can produce. These studies explain the primary motivations behind hacking and how the original code of ethics is adhered to in the modern computer community. Publications such as _Computer Underground Digest_ and _2600: The Hacker Quarterly_ strive to show a balanced view of hackers that is both academic and well-debated, as a contrast to often erroneous media hype. In addition, the literature strongly supports the notion that the hacking culture contains a strong element of rebellion and/or (Denning, 1990; Hollinger, 1991; Levy, 1984; Meyer and Thomas, 1990; Sterling, 1992). Hacker groups often compile their own newsletters and electronic journals, as well as debate topics on BBSes, many of which are devoted strictly to those with a rebellious and anarchist bent. Such electronic publications will be discussed in detail in Methodology, and will comprise the data set for this project. Theoretical Approach As stated earlier, the majority of approaches to studying hackers are either criminological or civil-liberties ones. This paper will employ theory of social movements, in order to demonstrate the existence of socio-political protest within the hacker culture. Stewart, Smith, and Denton (1984) outline the six essential requirements for the existence of a social movement: 1. A social movement has at least minimal organization. 2. A social movement is an uninstitutionalized collectivity. 3. A social movement proposes or opposes a program for change in societal norms, values, or both. 4. A social movement is countered by an established order. 5. A social movement must be significantly large in scope. 6. Persuasion is the essence of social movements. Through the application of this criteria, the hacking subculture can clearly be considered a social movement: 1. Minimal organization: the hacking culture has a significant membership of "followers", and its share of "leaders". Such leaders may be "gurus" - programming experts who are legendary for their knowledge and helpful expertise (Raymond, 1993) - or outspoken members of the community, such as "Emmanuel Goldstein" (editor and publisher of 2600: The Hacker Quarterly). Hackers often form small groups of their own, which network with other groups through various channels of communication; this type of organization efficiently serves the needs of the community without the necessity of a large- scale single organization. 2. Uninstitutionalized collectivity: The social movement is always an "out group" and is criticized for not handling the controversy through normal, proper channels and procedures - even when the channels and procedures are denied to the movement. The movement has virtually no powers of reward and punishment beyond personal recognition and expulsion, and expulsion often leads to competing organizations created by the exiled. (Stewart, Smith, and Denton, 1984: 5) Hackers have always been considered an "out group", in schools (where the hackers are simply "nerds") and in larger society (where they are labelled "criminals"). They are not considered part of any social institution. In addition, they are often denied their own voice in the mass media, which often leaps at chances to discredit and undermine members of the hacking community. 3. Proposes or opposes change: this is what the hacking culture is all about. Hackers wish to change the attitudes of the mass public towards technology, and believe above all that knowledge is power. If people are not willing to learn all they can about technology, they are allowing themselves to be controlled by state and corporate power; therefore, their activities both oppose current norms and propose new ones. 4. Countered by an established order: The enemy of hackers are those who try to oppress them the most - the state and large corporations. Hacking, as a form of socio-political protest, is therefore vilified and denounced through the media by these two institutions. Hackers' innate knowledge of this manifests itself in various forms: in anarchist collectives, in anti- establishment collective action (Meyer and Thomas, 1990), and the fact that corporate and state computers are most often the intended targets of hackers. 5. Significantly large in scope: As stated earlier, it is often difficult to estimate the number of hackers currently operating because of the lack of trace they leave on systems. However, there have been several estimates as to the number of hacker bulletin board systems currently operating - another difficult survey because most hacker BBSes are "underground" and the phone numbers are not widely available - Meyer and Thomas (1990) estimate that there are currently a few hundred in the United States alone, compared to over a thousand non- underground boards. Hacking is an international phenomenon, and its membership cuts across ethnic, racial, gender, and vocational lines. For instance, there have been many documented reports of extensive hacking activity in Europe (Hafner and Markoff, 1991; Stoll, 1990). 6. Persuasion: The typical uninstitutional, minimally- organized social movement enjoys few means of reward or punishment necessary either to coerce people to join or to remain loyal to a cause or to coerce the established order to capitulate to all or some of its demands. ... Persuasion is pervasive when a movement attempts to bargain. For instance, a social movement that decides to bargain must convince both supporters and opposition that it is serious, that it is operating from a position of strength, and that it has something of value to exchange for concessions. (Stewart, Smith, and Denton, 1984: 11) Persuasion, in this case, is also present. For the first part of the defintion, the hacking culture complies by offering a subtle system of reward or punishment to its members. For instance, the code of ethics is strongly enforced; if a member derides this and deliberately deletes some files, for instance, other hackers will in turn deride him or her. Snitching, backstabbing and turning one another in to the authorities is not uncommon ( Hafner and Markoff, 1991; Sterling, 1992). This is done primarily out of fear and mistrust of authority and the law - that if they do not offer information, they will be prosecuted as an associate in the crime - rather than out of spite for a fellow hacker. As a bargaining chip with state and corporate powers, hackers offer the explanation that they are doing them a favor by unearthing security holes in their systems (Denning, 1990; Goldstein, 1990; Hittinger, 1991; Landreth, 1989.) In the words of one hacker: A major problem in Cyberspace is the lack of communication between hackers and non-hackers. Corporations are fully entitled to their privacy, and so they feel threatened by the hacker "menace". ... If hackers and corporations and security companies and software companies, etc., were to overcome their differences much could be done. By trading bits and pieces of knowledge, the two opposing groups could together develop revolutionary advances in computing that would benefit all. ("The Dark Adept", 1990) Therefore, through this model of social movement construction, the assertion can be made that the hacker community indeed comprises such a movement. An analysis of relevant data will further support this conclusion. Data and Methodology This project utilizes an ethnographic approach, using qualitative data and document analysis, to studying the hacker culture. By analysing various electronic hacker journals and commentaries, support for the theory of hacking as a social movement, employing socio-political protest, can be found. As discussed previously, "underground" communications such as those found on BBS message bases provide much richer and representative sources for study; hacker journals and commentaries are mainly representative of only the more outspoken members of the culture. However, there are several methodological problems inherent in gathering BBS data. Firstly, hacker BBSes are very well-guarded, and difficult for an outsider (even a well-meaning researcher) to access. There are "new-user" questionnaires to fill out, and such questionnaires usually include technical questions, in order to test the potential worth of the new user (Meyer and Thomas, 1990). Sometimes the new user is given a small test, such as finding the unlisted phone number to a certain computer, or asked to provide a piece of information such as a account name and password to a well-secured corporate system. Such tests serve as filters for worthy and un-worthy potential new members; it is imperative that new users be screened properly. If a system operator (referred to as a "sysop" - the one who maintains the bulletin board system) does not screen users properly, any kind of computer user could gain access - even a police officer or government agent. It is in the sysop's best interests to weed out unsuitable members, for if the user is not going to contribute in the sharing of information on the board, there is really no use for them; if all they do is constantly take information or files and not contribute anything equal in value (referred to as a "sponge"), they are ridiculed and their account deleted from the board. Secondly, there is an innate mistrust of new users among the hacker community. This is fuelled by the fact that police officers or government agents often try to gain access to the board under false pretenses - and quite a few succeed. Anyone, upon discovery, claiming to be simply a sympathetic reporter or researcher will likely be instantly shut out, and blacklisted on other hacker BBSes - the word gets around fast. The mode of computer communications, where you cannot see, hear, or physically speak to another person, makes it easy to masquerade as someone you are not. Law enforcement people with an excellent technical knowledge of computers and some conception of the underground culture can easily pass as a hacker. For this reason, phone numbers of hacker BBSes are closely guarded and are not publicly distributed. Lists of other hacker BBS numbers are often maintained and are available on the board; but these lists are often outdated, since BBSes are extremely volatile and usually have extremely short lives (Meyer, 1989). For these reasons, I have chosen to employ as data underground hacker publications and newsletters rather than BBS communications. Although not as representative of the diverse hacker community as BBS data, publications and newsletter analysis avoids the problems inherent in ethnographic research, such as winning the trust and cooperation of the members of the underground in order to gain entry to the culture - which, because of their justifiably paranoid nature, would take a very long time. As well, there is the problem of being intrusive in the culture. It is important to avoid intruding on the way the group normally functions. Nothing sinks a field project faster than interfering with the group's way of thinking and doing things. At the very least, such intrusiveness will change the situation you have come to study; at the worst, it may result in your expulsion. (Northey and Tepperman, 1986: 71) By utilizing document analysis, however, these problems are avoided, without a difference in quality of data. Many passionate debates on underground BBSes are summarized by individuals and submitted to hacker journals, which (with a limited amount of technical skill, research, and Internet access) can be found on several public archive sites. These are still the words of hackers, yet it is not completely necessary for this study to enter the culture itself as an observer. As mentioned, several hacker journals and newsletters comprise the data set. Each journal or newsletter is comprised of articles, usually on a specific how-to topic (eg., "Hacking Answering Machines", by Predat0r; "The Improved Carbide Bomb", by The Sentinel), as well as commentaries, written by various authors. As with underground BBSes, hacking journals and newsletters tend to spring up and disappear in a very short time, with no explanations. The ones used for this study, in no particular order, are: PHRACK: (A contraction of the words Phreak/Hack) This journal is generally recognized as the "official" electronic publication. (The other "official" publication, 2600: The Hacker Quarterly, is available only in print form.) Phrack is the oldest hacker journal in existence, with its first issuance in 1985. COMPUTER UNDERGROUND DIGEST: Known as CuD. This weekly electronic newsletter features both academic articles and commentaries from members of the underground community, and began publication in March 1990. DIGITAL MURDER: Issued first in October 1991. A general hacking/phreaking/ newsletter. FBI: (Freaker's Bureau Incorporated) General newsletter, started in September 1991. HACKERS UNLIMITED: Began in December 1989. INFORMATIK: (The Journal of Privileged Information), 1992. MAGIK: (Master Anarchists Giving Illicit Knowledge), 1993. THE NEW FONE EXPRESS: June 1991. P/HUN: (Phreakers/Hackers Underground Network) One of the better-known and longer-running journals, began in 1988. NARC: (Nuclear Phreakers/Hackers/Carders) Another long- lasting journal, started in 1989. TAP ONLINE: (Technical Assistance Party) First established in 1972 as YIPL (Youth International Party Line) by Abbie Hoffman, and soon thereafter changed its name to TAP. Recognized as the "grandfather" of hacker publications (Meyer, 1990). TPP: (The Propaganda Press) Barely a year old, and one of the "fly-by-night" newsletters. NIA: (Network Information Access) Another relatively new publication, bearing the motto "Ignorance, There's No Excuse". H-NET: Begun in June 1990. LOD/H TECH JOURNALS: These are the technical journals of LOD/H - the elite Legion of Doom/Hackers group. This four-part set was released in January 1987 as a one-time release. These periodicals constitute a rich cross-section of the computer underground culture. The authors of articles that appear in these journals and newsletters are generally considered the more "elite" or knowledgeable hackers in the culture, especially those who write the how-to articles. Therefore, these periodicals can be considered adequately representative of the culture's ethics, beliefs, and values. The following sections will provide and discuss data, culled from these periodicals, supporting each of the six characteristics of social movements outlined by Stewart, Smith, and Denton (1984). These six points were provided as the theoretical framework for this study - please refer back to Theoretical Approach for an outline of this model. Characteristic #1: Minimal Organization Gordon Meyer (1989), in "Social Organization of the Computer Underground", provides a comprehensive study of how hackers and computer underground members organize through BBSes and other illicit channels of communication, such as corporate voice-mail bases and telephone "bridges". These methods allow hackers to share vital information such as who's been arrested or searched, which systems have shut down, new numbers to try, security holes that have been discovered, etc. Although hacking is primarily a solitary activity, hackers need to network, through BBSes and other channels of communication, into groups to share information and technique, and also to give a feeling of community. Such groups usually do not have leaders in the real sense (Meyer, 1989), but some members are bound to know more than others, and the veterans of the group act as "big brothers" and guides to novice hackers. For instance: I learned as much as I could as fast as I could, and after several months of intensive hacking and information-trading, the Cracker was no longer a novice. I knew a lot about hacking by then, and because I liked to share what I knew, I gained the reputation of being someone to go to if you were having trouble. ... As the Cracker's reputation grew, answering such requests became a matter of pride. (Bill Landreth (aka "The Cracker"), 1989: 16) In addition, hackers regularly get together socially, whether in small groups, or at large national gatherings called "cons" (conventions). Cons are organized by elite groups and tend to draw fairly large crowds. Cons feature guest speakers, who are usually elite and well-known hackers, and occasionally academic or professionals in the computer fields as well. Once planned, cons are advertised on underground boards and through hacker publications. Each convention has a unique name - the HoHoCon in Houston, SummerCon, PumpCon at Halloween, and DefCon, to name a few main ones. Conventions as social gatherings, however, have their own set of problems: Friday, October 30, 1992, Pumpcon began, at the Courtyard of the Marriott, in Greenburgh, NY. All in all, about 30 hackers showed up, and had a great time. At least until the evening of Oct. 31st, when 8-10 members of the Greenburgh police force showed up and raided the Con. A few hackers who had been out driving around during the time of the bust returned a few hours later, and when they were seen by police, they were immediately taken to 255 and questioned. (They were walking down the hall, when a cop appeared, and told them to step into a room.) The cops asked them if they were hackers, and when they didn't answer, one police officer reached into the coat pocket of one of the people, and produced an auto dialer. This in itself was enough to send the three to room 255, where the rest of the hackers were being held for questioning. My question to you - isn't that just a bit illegal? Bodily search without probable cause OR a warrant? Ooops - I'm forgetting - we're HACKERS! We're ALL BAD! We're ALWAYS breaking the law. We don't have RIGHTS!. ... In one of the rooms, there were about 2 dozen computer magazines which were apparently confiscated, although the warrant did not specify that magazines could be taken. But, when you're busting HACKERS, I suppose you can take what you want. After all, hackers are evil geniuses, and don't have the same rights as NORMAL criminals do. (by "Someone Characteristic #2: Uninstitutionalized collectivity Hackers have always been considered an "out" group in society. In schools, hackers are seen as "nerds" and "loners" without social skills (Levy, 1984; Turkle, 1983); in larger society, they are prosecuted by those in power. In the words of a hacker: "I am a hacker." If I ever told that to anyone, it would immediately be assumed that I am a malicious, vandalising, thieving, pseudo-terrorist out to take over the computers of the world for personal gain or quite possibly to glean some morbid satisfaction from deleting megs upon megs of valuable data. "I am associated with the computer underground." If I ever told that to anyone, there would be a flash flood of foolish associations in that person's mind between myself and The Mafia, with Saddam Hussein, Syria, Libya, Abu Nidal, and who knows what else. Almost universally, among the ignorant majority, we hackers are considered to be dangerous thugs whose sole purpose in life is to cause as much damage as we can in as little time as possible to the largest number of people. Sure, there are those little kiddies (mental and physical) who call themselves "hackers" and fit the above descriptions. There are also people who call themselves "human beings" that rape, murder, cheat, lie and steal every few minutes (or is it seconds, now?). Does that mean that all "human beings" should then be placed in prison? ("Toxic Shock", 1990) As with any minority group, hackers are judged as outcasts, and social, economic, and political resources are withheld from them as a result. The commentary on the police raid at the PumpCon convention (see page above), as well as the commentary above, are reflections of hackers' anger at being constantly derided and looked down upon as a worthless menace. The hacking culture is definitely not a part of any established institution. However, hackers often express a wish to work with an established institution, such as the police, for both personal gain (less chance of being prosecuted yourself) and for the good of the movement (hackers feel that police should be spending their time and resources going after the real computer criminals, such as corporate embezzlers). We cannot, we WILL not, allow this tyranny to continue! The United States Government has ignored the voice of the Electronic Community long enough! When we told the government that what they were doing was wrong, they refused to listen! When we formed political action groups to bring our cases to court and before Congress, we were told that we were using loopholes in the law to get away with crime!!! We have, in a peaceful and respectful manner, given our government more than reasonable petition for redress of our grievances, but if anything the situation has gotten worse! Government administrations use computer crime as a weapon in internal battles over jurisdiction. Government officials, who have only the slightest understanding of computer science, use computer crime as a tool for career success. Elected Representatives, who have absolutely no understanding of computers, use "information superhighways", computer crime, and cryptography to gain constituent money and voter support! The Electronic Community, the only group who fully understands the issues involved here, and the only group who is effected by the decisions being made, has been completely ignored! ("The White Ninja", 1994) Characteristic #3: Proposes or opposes change Here, hackers definitely qualify under this criteria. As stated previously, a primary hacker ethic is that information and knowledge is power (Denning, 1990; Landreth, 1989; Levy, 1984). In fact, the motto of the electronic hacker journal NIA (Network Information Access) is "Ignorance, There's No Excuse". There is a general call to the public to educate themselves in technology, lest it be used to control them: As we can see, this has not been the case. The computer system has been solely in the hands of big businesses and the government. The wonderful device meant to enrich life has become a weapon which dehumanizes people. To the government and large businesses, people are no more than disk space, and the government doesn't use computers to arrange aid for the poor, but to control nuclear death weapons. The average American can only have access to a small microcomputer which is worth only a fraction of what they pay for it. The businesses keep the true state of the art equipment away from the people behind a steel wall of incredibly high prices and bureaucracy. It is because of this state of affairs that hacking was born. ("Doctor Crash", 1986) Most, if not all, of us think information should be exchanged freely... If everyone is kept abreast of the newest technologies, techniques, what have you, then everyone can benefit...The more each of us knows, the fewer past mistakes we will repeat, the greater knowledge base we will have for future developments. ("Toxic Shock", 1990) Many hackers share a common utopian vision - that of an electronic society where information is free and uncontrolled, democracy reigns on the "information highway", and creativity and ingenuity are revered traits: The hackers are needed again. We can solve problems, get it done, make it fun. The general public has a vested interest in this! The public has a vested interest in electronic privacy, in secure personal systems, and in secure e-mail. As everyone learns more, the glamour and glitz of the mysterious hackers will fade. Lay people are getting a clearer idea of what's going on. ("Johnny Yonderboy", 1990) For further reference, see Steven Levy's landmark work, Hackers: Heroes of the Compu Characteristic #4: Countered by an established institution As was seen in the previous section, hackers are angry at the way they are portrayed in the mass media. In this case, the "established order" includes most of those - the legal authorities, the corporations, the government - that have a vested interest in keeping hackers and their socio-political messages at a standstill. This is our world now... the world of the electron and the switch, the beauty of the baud. We make use of a service already existing without paying for what could be dirt-cheap if it wasn't run by profiteering gluttons, and you call us criminals. 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 the criminals. Yes, I am a criminal. My crime is that of curiosity. My crime is that of judging people by what they say and think, not what they look like. My crime is that of outsmarting you, something that you will never forgive me for. ("The Mentor", 1986) Hackers are very prolific on this topic, and certainly don't mince words when it comes to voicing their anger at those institutions that oppress them: But, even as I type this, I begin to realize just why we are such a feared group of people... We are misunderstood by the majority. You cannot understand someone who judges others by what they say, think, and do, rather than how they look or how large their income is. You cannot understand someone who wants to be honest and sharing, instead of lying, stealing, and cheating. You cannot understand us because we are different. Different in a society where conformity is the demanded norm. We seek to rise above the rest, and then to pull everyone else up to the same new heights. We seek to innovate, to invent. We, quite seriously, seek to boldly go where no one has gone before. We are misunderstood, misinterpreted, misrepresented. All because we simply want to learn. We simply want to increase the flow of information and knowledge, so that EVERYONE can learn and benefit. ("Toxic Shock", 1990) Such oppression, without a proper venting of anger and frustration, can lead to anarchy - and many hackers have an anarchist/rebellious bent for this very reason (Meyer and Thomas, 1990). There is one last method of this war against computer abusers. This is a less subtle, less electronic method, but much more direct and gets the message across. I am speaking of what is called Anarchy. Anarchy as we know it does not refer to the true meaning of the word (no ruling body), but to the process of physically destroying buildings and governmental establishments. This is a very drastic, yet vital part of this "techno-revolution." ("Doctor Crash", 1986) Many anarchist newsletters and journals began circulation in 1989 and 1990, which were the beginning years of a massive legal crackdown on hackers in the United States. Suspected hackers' houses were raided, equipment confiscated (and to this day, much is not yet returned), and various charges laid. Several high-profile trials went to session, such as that of "Knight Lightning". One of the more paranoia-fueled raids was done on Steve Jackson Games, a company that produced role-playing simulation games. The accompanying book for one game, GURPS Cyberpunk, was admonished by legal authorities as "a manual for computer crime" (Sterling, 1992: 142). For a complete discussion of these raids and accompanying legal hassles hackers faced, refer to The Hacker Crackdown by Bruce Sterling (1992). These arrests and trials were also closely monitored by the Electronic Freedom Foundation, a lobby group started as a response to this crackdown. Various commentaries, responses, and angry manifestos regarding these raids are also published regularly in The Computer Underground Digest. Characteristic #5: Significantly large in scope As mentioned, the hacker culture is not unique to North America; many hackers in other countries have been similarly prosecuted and hounded by the media. The best-known case of this is the hackers of Europe. One group, the Chaos Computer Club, has members in France and Germany. The Netherlands has their own prominent group, HACK-TIC. These groups, as well as others from around Europe, gather each year for the Chaos Computer Club's annual conference in Germany. Contrary to the name, the CCC is well-organized, publishes its annual conference proceedings, and is generally considered a resource base for other European hackers. Most famous of the German hackers is Markus Hess, whose long-distance explorations into American systems was documented by Cliff Stoll, in his 1989 book The Cuckoo's Egg. Another example of large-scale organization are the hacker conventions in the United States. Also, the number of hacker bulletin board systems in the United States alone, previously stated as somewhere around a few hundred, are a testament to the wide scale of this phenomenon. Hackers maintain that there are others just like them all around the world, and when they realise they are intellectually and mentally different than most other people, it's like a revelation. And then it happened... a door opened to a world... rushing through the phone line like heroin through an addict's veins, an electronic pulse is sent out, a refuge from the day-to-day incompetencies is sought... a board is found. "This is it... this is where I belong..." I know everyone here... even if I've never met them, never talked to them, may never hear from them again... I know you all... I am a hacker, and this is my manifesto. You may stop this individual, but you can't stop us all... after all, we're all alike. ("The Mentor", 1986) Characteristic #6: Persuasion As previously discussed in Theoretical Approach, the hacker culture often employs reward and punishment in keeping their movement together. Hackers that defy the ethics and values of the underground are castigated, and the word of the deed and the offender quickly travels through the social network. For instance, in Out of the Inner Circle, Bill Landreth (aka "The Cracker") documents the development of the Inner Circle, an elite group of hackers which he helped create. The Inner Circle had unwritten rules similar to the Hacker Ethic, and such rules were strictly enforced: The fact that we tried to invite only those people who already met these two requirements quickly resulted in an unwritten "code of ethics" that was, and remained, the philosophy that held the Inner Circle together. ... We had many good reasons to follow these basic rules. But the most important, as far as the Inner Circle was concerned, had to do with the basic principle of respecting other people's property and information. We wre explorers, not spies, and to us, damaging computer files was not only clumsy and inelegant - it was wrong. (Landreth, 1989: 18) Some hackers think the time has come - that those in power are finally willing to listen to them: Just exactly how far should the government go to protect companies and their data? Exactly what are the responsibilities of a company with sensitive, valuable data in their computer systems? There is a distinct feeling that private-sector companies should be doing more to protect themselves. Hackers can give an important viewpoint on these issues, and all of a sudden there are people willing to listen. ("Johnny Yonderboy", 1990) Others become activists, and one hacker actively seeks out the corporate sector by submitting technical security articles to The Computer Underground Digest, a journal that is widely read by both hackers and computer professionals alike: ... I hope to break down this barrier of resentment by crossing over the lines of the Underground into the "real" world and providing valuable information about systems, security, interfacing, etc. I hope other will follow suit, and that the private sector will reciprocate by allowing technical information to flow into the Underground. Ultimately, I hope there will be a rapport between hackers and members of the private sector so that we may learn from each other and make the best use possible of this greatest of inventions, the computer. ("The Dark Adept", 1990) Overwhelmingly, it looks like The Dark Adept's vision is not being realised so far. Hackers continue to be raided and charged under newly-constructed computer crime laws that are vague at best, and constitutionally improper at worst. This largely misunderstood culture is extending the symbolic olive branch to corporate industry, by offering to share their knowledge and expertise to create better technology for everyone. However, corporate culture constantly denies this offering. Preliminary experiments have been done in the United States, with hackers being hired by companies to test their systems, and the results have been overwhelmingly positive (Denning, 1990). Why, then, is this practice not adopted widely? A discussion of the implications of this, including power relations and econo-political control, could easily comprise another thesis; for this reason, it will not be delved into here. Conclusions and Summary In this paper, the conception of the computer hacking phenomenon as a social movement has been explored. Working with a theoretical model of social movements developed by Stewart, Smith, and Denton (1984), various hacker writings have supported the idea of the existence of social collectivity. As the hacker culture is relatively new and astonishingly under-studied, these conclusions can be taken as preliminary. I hope this study has laid a groundwork for further sociological study of the computer underground. As the proliferation of hackers' anarchist tendencies suggests, this culture desperately needs some understanding, as well as a sympathetic ear. We have seen that corporate industry rejects the knowledge and technical expertise of hackers; could not a higher level of technology be realised if these two factions were to work together? The answer to this will be found in the future. As the possibility of a global Information Society draws closer, people must be willing to take their technical education into their own hands. We could all learn a valuable lesson from hackers: that intellectual hunger and the quest for knowledge should be central in our society. The coming of the Information Society has been heralded by academics and non-academics alike. The notion of a free, democratic, electronic society has been beholded as a sort of utopia, where information flows unencumbered and freedom of speech is key. However, there is a dark side to this as well. Information is becoming increasingly private, and many people fear the Information Society will actually be a sort of Orwellian 1984- type society instead: There's something wrong with the Information Society. There's something wrong with the idea that "information" is a commodity like a desk or chair. ... Knowledge is power. The rise of computer networking, of the Information Society, is doing strange and disruptive things to the processes by which power and knowledge are currently distributed. I don't think democracy will thrive in a milieu where vast empires of data are encrypted, restricted, proprietary, confidential, top secret, and sensitive. I fear for the stability of a society that builds sandcastles out of databits and tries to stop a real-world tide with royal commands. (Sterling, 1992) The debate goes on; either we can sit, wait patiently, and see how it all turns out; or we can act, educate ourselves and each other, and be ready for whatever hits. I will end this project with an appropriate quote from a hacker: If you need a tutorial on how to perform any of the above stated methods, please read a file on it. And whatever you do, continue the fight. Whether you know it or not, if you are a hacker, you are a revolutionr Crash", 1986) Bibliography (not in alpha order here) Doctor Crash (1986) "The Techno Revolution". Phrack 1:6, June 10, 1986. Sterling, Bruce (1992) "A Statement of Principle". Computer Underground Digest 4:47, September 30, 1992. Denning, Dorothy (1990) Concerning Hackers Who Break Into Computer Systems. In Proceedings of the 13th National Computer Security Conference, October 1990. The Dark Adept (1990) "The Ultimate Interface: Hackers and the Private Sector". Computer Underground Digest 2:9, October 23, 1990. Johnny Yonderboy (1990) "A Hacker's Perspective". Computer Underground Digest 1:13, June 12, 1990. Landreth, Bill (1989) Inside the Inner Circle. Microsoft Press: Redmond, WA. The Mentor (1986) "The Conscience of a Hacker". Phrack 1:7, January 8, 1986. Stoll, Cliff (1989) The Cuckoo's Egg. Simon and Schuster: New York. Sterling, Bruce (1992) The Hacker Crackdown. Bantam: New York. Meyer, Gordon and Thomas, Jim (1990) "The Baudy World of the Byte Bandit: a Postmodernist Interpretation of the Computer Underground". Forthcoming in F. Schmalleger (ed.), Computers in Criminal Justice, Wyndham Hall: Bristol, Indiana. Toxic Shock (1990) "Another View of Hacking: The Evil that Hackers Do". Computer Underground Digest 2:6, October 6, 1990. Levy, Steven (1984) Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution. Dell: New York. The White Ninja (1994) "A Declaration of Complaints and Grievances of the United States Electronic Community". Phrack 5:45, File 6/28, March 30, 1994. Turkle, Sherry (1984) The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit. Simon and Schuster: New York. Someone who has been there but wishes to remain anonymous (1992) "A Bird's-Eye View of the PumpCon Problem". Computer Underground Digest 4:60, November 22, 1992. Meyer, Gordon (1989) The Social Organization of the Computer Underground. Unpublished Master's Thesis, University of Northern Illinois. Stewart, Charles, Smith, Craig, and Denton, Robert E. (1984) Persuasion and Social Movements. Waveland Press: Prospect Heights, Illinois. Hafner, Katie and Markoff, John (1991) Cyberpunk: Outlaws and Hackers on the Computer Frontier. Simon and Schuster: New York. Wessells, Michael (1990) Computer, Self, and Society. Prentice Hall: Englewood Cliffs, NJ. Northey, Margot and Tepperman, Lorne (1986) Making Sense in the Social Sciences. Oxford University Press: Toronto. Parker, Donn (1991) "Response to Dorothy Denning", in The United States vs. Craig Neidorf: A Debate on Electronic Publishing, Constitutional Rights and Hacking. Communications of the ACM 34:3, March 1991, p. 34. .
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