Released 9/25/92 -----=====> SANctuary <=====-----
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As a member of a speech and debate team I had to write an essay on, well…whatever I wanted. So deciding to write about what I knew, I wrote about the Computer Underground and here we have it. It is basically a philsopshy session (remember, I had to deliver this publically, like in front of teachers..) about the mind and habits of the hacker, so those of you expecting hardcore facts, figures and phone numbers - you've got the wrong file. However, if you are interested in knowing a little about how the hacker ticks, because just getting passwords from other people is NOT hacking, than you might wanna read this. Also, if it's a short research paper you need for your sociology class on deviant cultures (i.e. the Computer Underground, Hippies, Skinheads, etc.), well then again, you're in luck.
So we're off…
Cruising the Electronic Highways ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
A boy in his early teens sits in a brown swivel chair with an oak desk
in front of him. A light tapping sound fills the room as the average looking fourteen year old adeptly types on his keyboard. His hands moving quickly, the adolescent stares into a computer that glows a bright green. Across the monitor the cursor zips side-to-side speaking the language in which the child is so well versed. "Access granted", the words blink on the screen; the young man's face lights up as he smiles wide and his eyes come alive with anticipation. Now he's inside someone else's computer, set for the exploration of an unknown and distant place. Welcome to the world of the hacker.
A computer hacker; someone who, usually between the ages of thirteen and
twenty, uses his personal computer to investigate other people's by way of a link through telephone lines. That's the technical explanation, the same one most commonly expressed through articles in newspapers or stories in magazines. That is also only the icing on a cake that has many layers, for the true definition of a computer hacker goes much deeper.
A hacker worships the computer and the systems he peruses through. To
him the possibilities that the computer is capable of are limitless in power and infinite in scope. A person who hacks is someone who has been born to explore. And when a hacker sits down and prepares for one of these journeys, a hacker does not think, 'Is what I'm doing legal or illegal?'. A real hacker just does it because he must satisfy his intense curiosity and want of learning.
Christopher Columbus was a hacker; Of course not in the same technical
sense as the computer hackers of today, but he did possess the same need for exploration and want of learning that the computer hackers have. Columbus explored new lands simply because they were there for the exploring. Upon his discovery of the New World, Columbus didn't stop to wonder how his finding would affect the inhabitants there; He just did it. Leonardo da Vincci was a hacker. He explored the human body, by performing autopsies. This specific activity was forbidden by the church, but Da Vincci had an intense desire to know what made the human body tick so he just did it.1
Throughout history our world has been pushed through innovation by
hackers of all sorts. It's true that these people may have at times used questionable means, but that's when you must consider, do the ends justify the means? Columbus found us new lands and Da Vincci gave us early glimpses of human anatomy. If it wasn't for hackers of all generations questioning and sometimes even disobeying the authority that presided over them, we wouldn't be where we are in history today. I'm sure we wouldn't still be wearing shining armor and gallivanting around on horses while carrying out the codes of chivalry; however, we wouldn't be by far quite as advanced. For this, we owe a lot to the hackers.
The media will often portray computer hackers merely as juvenile
delinquents who go through systems to purposely invade others' privacy, perhaps get rid of some long distance phone calls, or possibly even raise a grade or two on his report card; This isn't a true hacker. This person is an example of a bad apple in society. All societies have them, and the underground hacking community is not immune to this.
A true hacker damages nothing, and leaves behind as little a trace of
himself as possible. This is done out of respect for fellow hackers who naturally don't enjoy bad media attention, and out of respect for the owner of the system, towards whom the hacker intends no harm.
Yet there are people out there who do fear hackers and think that these
kids are bent on destroying every tiny piece of information they can get their hands on. In his 1984 Newsweek article, Richard Stanza said that computer hackers are nothing more than "high tech street gangs dedicated to making mischief". First one computer, then the downfall of our whole economic system! What's next? The nation? The world?
For all of the people that feel that hackers represent such a tremendous
threat, why not try putting some of this immense energy within these youths to work. Instead of screaming how people are just walking through their systems, why not harness the innate curiosity that is driving these kids? Utilize the skills they possess to provide something that is positive for everyone. A working example of this is the conversion of The Legion of Doom. This one time underground computer group consisting of some of the most able hackers to ever grace the electronic highways has now become Comsec Data Security. From adolescent break-in artists to one of the most knowledgeable computer security companies in the nation, these people have transformed an obsession of youth into a money making venture known the world over.
In this country, privacy is dead. We are living in an age when the
American Government keeps files on just about everyone, whether it be because you have a driver's license, received a college loan, or because you pay your taxes on time every year. These are indeed suspicious activities! The extent to which information is kept on the average citizen is astounding. There are people out there that can go rummaging through your house on a regular basis without you even knowing it.
Companies such as TRW, which holds files on over 150 million people,
regularly sell information to other companies and business persons looking for new customers. It's a fact - every time you open up your mailbox and see a pile of junk mail staring back at you, someone, somewhere has accessed your credit records.2 Ironically, people didn't even know what TRW was doing until hackers broke into their computer system and exposed them in 1984. TRW considered this intrusion an invasion of privacy, but stated that their collections of personal data on millions of people was perfectly fine and dandy.
And still we should be worried about young, teen-age kids that will
occasionally poke around some computer? Just maybe they'll happen to read a tidbit that says I bought two lamps and a toaster from Macy's last year. Oh no, my life is ruined, what ever shall I do? The true invaders of privacy have slipped through the fingers of lady justice. If a company such as TRW is caught, a rare occurrence indeed, they will receive a whole- hearted slap on the wrists. So for a change, how about leaving alone the thirteen year old rummaging through trash bins, looking for written down passwords that may have been thrown out by some absent-minded secretary? Instead, let's realign our misdirected fire at the real crooks such as TRW, Exxon, and political parties.
The computer hackers of today represent something that this country is
in dire need of, those willing to take risks in order to learn and to achieve. People like these can wake up our generally apathetic society; Continuing to push it through the world market with the creativity and ideas that have made this country great. The old adage is 'the key to success is hard work'. Here we have a culture full of young people that only attain their goals through strict persistence, diligence and chutzpah <grin>. Isn't this exactly what we are looking for in tomorrow's adults? Tomorrows leaders?
And yes, the majority of these hackers are young. Is this much of a
surprise to anyone? In this country we are quickly losing touch with our people, especially our youth. In the Winter 1990 issue of 2600 Magazine, a letter to the editor read:
Here we stand, bitterly complaining how many youths cannot read a map(much less read) ... and yet we have those able to discover new means of accessing information which even the so-called 'experts' never realized existed! We are punishing talent that this country desperately needs, rather than reaching out to exhort this raw and excellent energy into new and vital means beneficial to all.
The hackers of today must survive. Looking back on history, we see how
the ones of the past have shaped out future. A key to ending the fear that the public holds for hackers is education. Our society needs to learn what hackers are, and who they are. The people in our country must also try to ignore the derogatory press they read about the deeds of computer hackers because, let's be honest, a computer hacker that does no harm and maybe even helps someone out, does not make the five o'clock news. The minority few that do cause trouble, those are the ones you're going to see on your TV set.
Eric Corley wrote in an article for 2600 Magazine:
Hacking is not wrong. Hacking is healthy. Hacking is not the same as stealing. Hacking uncovers design flaws and security deficiencies. Above all, hacking proves that the ingenuity of a single mind is still the most powerful tool of all... We are hackers. We always will be... Call us co- conspirators, fellow anarchists, whatever you want. We intend to keep learning. To suppress this desire is contrary to everything that is human... Like the authors who rose to defend Salman Rushdie from the long arm of hysteria, we must rise to defend those endangered by the hacker witch-hunts. After all, they can't lock us all up and until they do, hacking is here to stay.
Originally written around 3/19/92, or a little before
1. 2600 Magazine: The Hacker Quarterly, Winter 1990, pg. 34 2. Ibid., pg. 33
2600 Magazine: The Hacker Quarterly, Winter 1990 Richard Stanza, "Night of the Hackers", _Newsweek_,1984. And some other stuff which I don't remember, oh well.. Shoot me..
This has been a SANctuary Production Hey! Get up! You look silly bowing like that! Feel free to distribute this file all over the known world
Ohh in another world……./Yeah he could wear a dress - The Wonder Stuff
Damn blast, look at my past,/rippin up my feet over broken glass. Oh wow, look at me now,/I'm building up my problems to the size of a cow.
Maybe I should take the mike,/stand up tall like Michael Stipe, /and try to solve the problems of the earth./Or maybe then I should sit back down,/scratch my chin and use my frown,/and try to figure out exactly what I'm worth. - The Wonder Stuff