Counter culture / Hackers Essay

This essay has a total of 1363 words and 7 pages.

Counter culture / Hackers

Why Hackers Do The Things They Do?


Hackers. You know them as gangly kids with radiation tans caused by too many late nights
in front of a computer screen. Evil beings who have the power to wipe out your credit
rating, cancel your cable TV, raise your insurance premiums, and raid your social security
pension. Individuals who always avert their eyes and mumble under their breath about black
helicopters and CIA transmissions. Paranoid, social deviants who could start World War III
from the privacy of their bedrooms. Or so the mainstream media would have you believe.


In reality, most hackers are ordinary people with a great deal of curiosity, above-average
skills with a computer, a good understanding of human nature, and plenty of time to kill.
Hackers have no distinguishing characteristics. Your next-door neighbor could be a hacker,
as could your niece or nephew, one of your co-workers, or even the kid who serves you
coffee in the morning. Not all hackers are dangerous and out to destroy business or damage
lives. The view of the general public toward hackers is mixed. A recent CNN-poll shows 33%
of respondents labeling hackers as "useful," 17% seeing them "as a menace," and the
majority (45%) seeing hackers as "both" useful and a menace (CNN, 1999).


Why do hackers go through all the trouble to do what they do? Most people in society do
not spend the time to break into computer systems. It does not have much appeal to them.
Why then do certain people spend so much of their time and energy accomplishing these
feats of technological wizardry? What is the cause that turns those mostly above-average
intelligent people to pursue a criminal career, and destroy their otherwise very
successful careers? Why do they commit these computer related crimes as an obsession?


There are probably as many answers to that question as there are hackers (maybe more). It
is important to realize that these people are individuals with their own hopes, fears,
desires, and everything else that comes with being human. However, there are general
patterns to the motivation behind the computer hacker's drive to manipulate technology.
The problem of hacker motivation is probably one of the more interesting questions
concerning this sub-culture (Hacker-Bible, 1995).


Hackers rarely use information to gain wealth. This is not considered socially acceptable.
Carding (using stolen credit card numbers for profit) is "poison to the underground," and
"doesn't make one a hacker, it makes one an idiot. They do, however, use it within their
group to stratify themselves. Hackers with the most information gain the highest prestige
within the community. They also gain a great deal of power from that information. Most
people cannot cancel the phone service of those who upset them. To a truly proficient
hacker, this is not a very difficult problem. Hacking involves the accumulation of
knowledge, which is accompanied by the greater status and power.


To almost all computer professionals the actions of hackers are despicable and justify all
sorts of nasty punishments. I fully agree that hacking is a criminal offense and should be
prosecuted. The only thing that bothers me from a moral standpoint is that these criminals
are essentially the cyberspace equivalent of teenage vandals. They do not know the
implications of what they are doing. These people are displaying situational morality, and
their actions are random, yet predictable.


Many professionals argue that the cause why hackers hack is about the same as any other
criminal. It mostly has to do with their families, and friends and the environment they
grew up in. I agree with professionals at this point and I believe that the issue goes
back to how they are raised. I am not saying that these people have bad parents. I think
that while parents go around telling their children not to do drugs, to study hard in
school, etc., they do not tell their children that it is bad to break into computer
systems. Parents don't think of discussing it. This leaves teenagers to learn the morals
of computer hacking on the streets, and in this case, cyberspace. They learn about hacking
on bulletin boards, chat lines, etc. Are there established experts in the field on these
forums to discuss the moral issues of hacking? Clearly not, they don't have the time or
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