[ISN] World: A Computer Hacker Explains His Perspective

From: mea culpa (jerichoat_private)
Date: Tue Dec 01 1998 - 21:18:12 PST

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    Forwarded From: Virus News <spam@mail-me.com>
    Posted to: Virus News 12/01/98
    World: A Computer Hacker Explains His Perspective
    By Julie Moffett
    Washington, 30 November 1998 (RFE/RL) -- His online name is Route and he
    is a self-described computer hacker -- as long as you consider hacker in
    the positive sense of the word, he says. 
    Route, who declined to give his real name during an interview with RFE/RL,
    says the actual definition of a hacker is someone who enjoys pushing
    technology to its limits. He blames the media for the more negative
    definition of a hacker, and causing what he called an "artificially
    induced hysteria" over people who simply enjoy testing the boundaries of
    computer technology. 
    Route says he has been involved with computers all his life and that
    hacking was a natural progression for him. He enjoys the challenge and
    excitement of hacking, or what he says is "innovating as opposed to
    Route is in his mid-twenties and lives in the western U.S. state of
    California. By day, he works in the respectable field of computer
    security.  By night, he is the editor of a popular online hacker magazine
    called "Phrack." 
    Phrack -- whose name is a combination of the words hack and phreak
    (meaning phone hacking) -- is the longest online computer security journal
    and reportedly has about 8,000 regular subscribers. It came online in
    November of 1985 -- ancient history in terms of hacker years. 
    Route says Phrack caters to whoever wants to read it, but mostly computer
    security types in both the amateur and professional community. He says the
    journal provides interesting technical tidbits and hacker programs, useful
    industry information and articles on computer security. 
    Phrack itself has an interesting history. It became the object of a U.S. 
    federal investigation in 1990 when Craig Neidorf -- the editor at the time
    -- published a document with certain details about the nation's emergency
    telephone system. The case was eventually dropped when Neidorf was able to
    prove that the same information had been already published in the phone
    company's technical catalog. 
    Route acknowledges that there are items posted on the site today that
    might be considered questionable by some people. But he says he only puts
    out materials that can be obtained from other places like the library or
    in catalogs. 
    "I don't publish anything that is illegal, in the sense that it would get
    me arrested for publishing it," he says. 
    Besides, Phrack is protected by the First Amendment of the U.S.
    Constitution which deals with freedom of speech, he adds. 
    But Route admits that classified and protected material sometimes comes
    his way. He says he doesn't post it. The items he does decide to post are,
    in his words, a "judgment call." 
    Route explains: "That is the nature of the industry I work in....But I see
    it as full disclosure. You have to disseminate the information to
    everyone.  You basically take the stance that the bad people already have
    the information, so you have to get it out to the good people so they can
    do something about it." 
    Route says overall hackers have gotten an unfair reputation from the
    He says: "The whole scene of computer security....it is a mirror of
    society.  You have good people and bad people. It is a lot easier to think
    of hackers as bad people. It is easier if there is a single bad entity.
    But reality isn't like that." 
    Route says what the media is largely referring to when discussing hackers
    are really what he calls "crackers." He explains that crackers are people
    who break into systems with malicious intent or the desire to do serious
    damage. Hackers, he insists, are just curious and inquisitive people who
    have no intention of causing any harm -- they just want to chart new
    territory and look around. 
    But Daniel Kuehl, Chairman of the Information Operations Department at the
    National Defense University in Washington, told RFE/RL that this is a
    typical "hacker mentality." 
    Says Kuehl: "They believe that whatever is out there that they can connect
    to -- they should be able to get into as long as they are skillful enough
    to do it. If they break into a system, then you didn't protect it well
    enough and it is your fault. The analogy to that is that if they break
    into my house at night, it is my fault because I didn't have enough locks
    on my door." 
    Route disagrees: "Hacking is a more of a pushing the limits thing. I would
    consider the innovation verses the implementation aspect of it rather
    gratifying and rewarding. I mean, you go out there and do things that
    haven't been done before or haven't been done well." 
    But perhaps what explains the "hacker mentality" best is the quote which
    follows the automatic signature line on Route's electronic mail. 
    It says: "I live a world of paradox... My willingness to destroy is your
    chance for improvement, my hate is your fate -- my failure is your
    victory, a victory that won't last." 
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