Mainstream media portrays the wrong definition of whom and what a hacker does. Commonly mainstream media would define it as a person who maliciously cracks software and or passwords for their own personal self-financial or political gain.
According to Schell & Martin, 2006: “In the positive sense of the word, a hacker is an individual who enjoys learning computer system details and how to capitalize on his or her capabilities this term is often incorrectly used for a cracker, which refers to someone who engages in unethical or illegal computer exploits.”
I believe the media portrays hackers as bad people because bad media will grab the reader’s attention better; in addition, it is easier to label one group as bad than trying to define all the different types. I am sure you can think of multiple social groups or organizations which the media labels wrong without truly understanding their intentions.
My definition has simply put a hacker is nothing more than a scientist. They are experts of information systems. As any scientist of any field, a system scientist their seek guidance from colleagues, explore, and put their knowledge to the test.
Regardless of class, gender, racial, and religious differences, hackers work together and will abandon previous stereotypes and prejudices to meet a common goal (Schaefer, 2011). This is often to educate each other on different events in the world of security to reach the shared goal of awareness. As expected, most communication between hackers is done through the Internet medium. However, if you ever go to a hacker or security conference with face-to-face interaction, you can never stereotype or profile who may be in attendance.
Communication is accomplished through the use of Internet Relay Chat, Bulletin Board Systems, or Instant Messaging; in other words, a hacker posts or relays a message through text and another hacker reads the text-based message. Information does not have class, gender, race, or religion it is simply 1s and 0s being pass through and translated by the computer. In fact, in the Hacker Code of Ethics, it is stated, “Inherent in the hacker ethic is a meritocratic system where superficiality is disregarded in the esteem of skill…criteria such as age, sex, race, position, and qualification are deemed irrelevant within the hacker community” (Levy, 1984/2001, pp. 3-36).
The interactionist viewpoint is interested in the understanding of daily behavior (Schaefer, 2011). They examine technology on the micro level by focusing on how day-to-day social behavior is shaped by the distinctive norms, values, and demands of hackers (Schaefer, 2011). Hackers have one general goal in mind. All information shall be free, but with that demand with branches of norms and values sometimes has negative consequences.
Regardless of the laws layout in the new century hackers wish to explore new digital territories sometimes at the expense of the privacy of another person. This illustrates the hackers desire to write code and software in a ‘laboratory’ for evolutionary ‘artificial life’ design. However, sometimes the code and software leaks out into the wild, the Internet, and become malicious (Mizrach, n.d.).
Personally, I have always made sure my test environments are completely sealed from the public also known as the Internet. I waited till I was old enough to properly quarantine my laboratory before demonstrating proof of concept on information systems. Unlike MafiaBoy, a famous hacker handle, Michael Calce at the age of 17, demonstrated an exploit to the world to educate the world on the lax of security at large firms such as Yahoo, eBay, Amazon, Dell, ETRADE, CNN, and Buy.com (Evans, 2001).
Hackers believe access to computers and information systems that might teach you something should be unlimited and total through existing and pre-existing systems by giving hackers access and “the opportunity to take things apart, fix, or improve upon them learning and understanding how they work” (Levy, 1984/2001, pp. 226).
The art of hacking can lead to social challenges between peers during hacking competitions where their participation looks superior to their peers; however, faced against the masses they have an unrealistic ability. Sometimes referred to as the Dunning-Kruger effect where the inferior do not have the capacity to recognize their shortcomings (Morris, 2010). Through competition among the hacker subculture, their inability is demonstrated.
By obtaining guidance from colleagues, exploring the ability of science, and putting their knowledge to the test in competitions, hackers can fulfill their career as system scientists in the field of security. Regardless of social identification, communication medium or ability, there is an active influence, which affects the media’s perception of the hacker’s definition. I do not blame the mass media for their misunderstanding. I embrace it as a challenge to educate not only the awareness of my lab results but also, the very nature and purpose of our being.
Competition Overview. (n.d.). Retrieved February 10, 2012, from http://nationalccdc.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=46&Itemid=27
Evans, J. (2001, January 24). Mafiaboy’s Story Points to Net Weaknesses. PCWorld. Retrieved from http://www.pcworld.com/article/39142/mafiaboys_story_points_to_net_weaknesses.html
Levy, S. (2001). Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution (2nd ed.). Penguin. (Original work published 1984)
Mizrach, S. (n.d.). ITERATIVE DISCOURSE AND THE FORMATION OF NEW SUBCULTURES. Unpublished raw data, Florida International University, Miami, Florida. Retrieved from http://www2.fiu.edu/~mizrachs/subcultural-discourse.html
Morris, E. (2010, June 20). The Anosognosic’s Dilemma: Something’s Wrong but You’ll Never Know What It Is (Part 1) [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/06/20/the-anosognosics-dilemma-1/
Schaefer, R. T. (2011). Sociology A BRIEF INTRODUCTION (9th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill. (Original work published 1994)
Schell, B., & Martin, C. (2006). Webster’s New World Hacker Dictionary. Indianapolis, IN: Wiley Publishing.