[ISN] Upside: Down the Toliet 8.5.98 -- Hackers Go Pro

From: mea culpa (jerichoat_private)
Date: Sun Aug 09 1998 - 13:20:25 PDT

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    Forwarded From: William Knowles <erehwonat_private>
    By Sam Williams
    While it may not be completely true that "every American is a born thief,"
    as Jack Kerouac observed in On the Road, there is one common emotion that
    unites us as a group: The fear that somebody, somewhere is making a
    killing off our ignorance. 
    Nowhere is this more true than in the world of computer technology. 
    For most of us, computers are both a daily necessity and a daily source of
    frustration. If they aren't crashing or taking five minutes to download a
    simple GIF file, they're doing all sorts of other scary things, like
    spewing our vital stats and personal secrets all over the Internet. The
    mere fact that a few unscrupulous individuals might know how to operate
    these machines--and use that knowledge to exploit our own weaknesses--is
    enough to wear holes in even the most durable stomach lining. 
    This sentiment came to mind as I read through recent news reports about
    Def Con 6.0, the sixth annual hacker confab held last weekend in Las
    Like a lot of folks in the high-tech world, hackers, crackers, "phone
    phreaks" and other assorted members of the digital underground have
    watched their stock value rise sharply over the past few years. To give
    you an example, this year's version offered a brand new "Spot the
    Screenwriter" contest in addition to its traditional "Find the Fed" game. 
    Coming soon to a theater near you: Frank, Dino, Sammy and Phiber in "Rat
    Pack 2000." 
    The best indicator of Def Con's trend toward the upscale, however, was
    Wednesday's "Black Hat Briefings," a pre-conference summit between
    corporate security, military and law enforcement representatives and
    various reformed and semi-reformed crackers. As New York Times reporter
    Matt Richtel described it, the representatives of hacking's "dark side,"
    were more than willing to divulge a few trade secrets in exchange for
    plugging their services as independent "security consultants." 
    Please pardon the slight retching sound. I think my Ludvico Treatment is
    kicking in again. 
    Now, I have nothing against making a little money at the expense of
    corporate America. It's that "born thief" thing, remember? And I certainly
    have nothing against giving crackers something to do besides rip off my
    credit card number and sell it to a 15-year-old kid from Michigan with a
    bad porno addiction. 
    No, what concerns me is the simple fact that professionalism, that
    unfortunate byproduct of corporate capitalism, has finally seeped its way
    into technology's amateur underground. 
    Think about it. When was the last time you saw a couple of 10-year-old
    kids playing baseball in a sand lot? Unless you live in San Pedro de
    Macoris, most of the kids you know are probably sitting at home right now,
    working the controls of their Sony Playstation. 
    There's one simple explanation: Money. Money took over the professional
    game and eventually worked its way down to the kiddie league level in the
    form of added rules, organized teams and adult participation.  Since the
    whole reason kids went out to play in the first place was to get away from
    this kind of stuff, it wasn't long before most turned to other, more
    adventurous pursuits like hacking.
    Historically, the world of computer technology is a lot like baseball
    pre-1970. Companies rely on a bottomless supply of 14-, 15- and
    16-year-old phenoms to propel innovation. Ever since the first MIT
    students set their eyes on a TX-0 computer and yielded to the "hands-on
    imperative," hackers have been more than willing to do this type of
    guerrilla R&D for free. 
    Sure, there have been a few bad apples, but for the most part, even the
    outlaws have been motivated less by greed and more by the desire for
    respect within their small circle of peers. 
    Now that Fortune 500 companies and law enforcement agencies are trying to
    hire away the best players and put them in corporate uniforms, that circle
    is surely to be broken. Old-school hackers can go on and on about
    mistrusting authority and other central principles of the Hacker Ethic,
    but new-school hackers come into the game knowing that they have a
    well-marked, not to mention lucrative, career path ahead of them, if they
    just follow a few basic rules. 
    As for the hackers who don't want to follow the rules, there are two
    choices: They can find something else to do with their free time or stick
    around and develop their own league, complete with underground rules and
    sponsors. After all, there's nothing that says criminals can't be just as
    professional and disciplined as the people chasing after them. Right? 
    Excuse me. Was that your stomach or mine? 
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