Re: [ISN] Deciphering the hacker myth

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Sun Feb 10 2002 - 23:52:54 PST

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    Forwarded from: John Q. Public <tpublicat_private>
    Cc: Aj Effin Reznor <ajat_private>
    sorry, this really turned into a general rant...
    On Fri, 8 Feb 2002, InfoSec News wrote:
    |Forwarded from: Aj Effin Reznor <ajat_private>
    |"InfoSec News was known to say....."
    |> By Rachel Konrad 
    |> Staff Writer, CNET
    |> February 5, 2002, 12:00 PM PT
    |> Newsmakers - Sarah Gordon doesn't dye her hair black or wear a nose
    |> ring, and neither do the people she studies.
    |Wow, I've never seen an entire subculture so rapidly reduced to a
    |formulaic equation in such a short exspanse of words!
    |It seems as tho much confusion exists within the researcher between
    |hackers, crackers, virus writers, and any true criminal subsets of
    |those classes, as well as the existant ignorance that many people
    |straddle lines between two or even three of those classifications!
    You must still hold a distance, I read that as words from the
    journalist. Tell me you're not surprised that a journalist can take a
    researcher and twist their findings into something that's more of a
    current-event social expectation.
    > Paint a picture of the garden-variety hacker, as opposed to a
    > virus-writing kid. Are they nerdy, loners, social outcasts?
    > No, not at all. The people who get attention, who make it into the
    > news, are a bit different, and a lot of them have dyed black hair
    > and pierced noses. They make good pictures on the front page, but
    > really most hacking is done by the guy next door--the guy who
    > doesn't make good news.
    These would clearly be her words.  She wouldn't be that far off.  I
    don't understand why it was mentioned, as it certainly builds a
    stereotype against anyone that looks like that, and anyone claiming to
    be a computer criminal.
    You still can't deny the truth about the media-wrangling 14-22 year
    olds who attend cons and wave their stink in the air.  While I
    wouldn't call them all hackers or even coders, those are the people
    that come into her mind when she's asked to describe "typical" in her
    This is her flaw.  Not just pointing out fashion statements, but
    assuming they are the majority around the globe.  Her research appears
    to be global in basis, but she clearly only has interacted with con
    kids, probably all Americans, and probably all in the US.
    |I once said something to the effect of "I just love labels, it makes
    |pigeonholing people so much easier without taking the effort of
    |actually getting to know them."  I feel that applies to this article.
    I'll still offer a partial defense and say she may have been wrangled
    into such a description by the journalist.  We both know they don't
    ask questions, they ask statements and look for confirmation.  They
    also steer the interview, as they have done here by making much more
    of a stink about viruses than we would think is important in "the
    |And I personally feel it'd be criminal to waste any more words on such
    I may be wrong and could conclude that Ms. Gordon is a fraud like
    every other anthropologist/psychologist/sociologist/thesis author has
    turned out to be. You and I have been involved in this subculture for
    more than half of our lives, and I still don't have any clue of how to
    generalize us.
    I feel that it's important to figure out this behavior for so many
    reasons. The two biggest reasons I can think of right now are legal
    and medical.  If I might take a HUGE step in all the wrong directions,
    let's look at an act that was treated as both criminal and
    psychologically unstable for decades (and still is illegal in many
    states of the US)...  sodomy.  I realize this might get silly to some
    right about now, but please hold on for a second.
    I wandered to from a Denver BDSM club's page and
    was enlightened about how sodomy was outlawed in every state, and
    still is in many.  The excuses of some were just flat out poor.  It
    stretched from public decencey all the way to moral and psychological
    My coorelation to "hacking" is that both actions appear to be widely
    misunderstood outside of the participants.  Therefore, we have seen
    huge punishments for both, but so far psychology has only come into
    hacking as "addiction" and not some ass backward pre-domination of
    social downfall.
    We just might have those years of dealing with "socially unacceptable"
    crimes that have saved computer criminals from the funny house, but
    governments are still far from being able to appropriately handle
    young miscreants because they are misunderstood.
    Medically, I'm as interested in the short and long term affects of our
    habits as NASA is about the effects of space travel.  I realize
    they've taken a long time to determine even simple results, and I
    realize that will probably happen here as well.
    There are clear rules that should be laid down to our children,
    similar to what was mentioned in this article.  Elementary school kids
    are getting an education on computers and networks, and they need to
    realize what should not be acceptable.  Journalists sensationalizing
    hacking cases are compariable, in my mind, to gratuitous violence on
    television.  But my fear is that some of the laws are so strict that
    children will not understand the full legal impact of something as
    simple as jokingly sifting through their friend's email messages.
    I'm all for this kind of research, but it clearly needs to stay away
    from hair color and clothing style.  Certainly Ms. Gordon's assumption
    that all haxors have darker fashion senses is not in the right step,
    but it's parallel to every other outsider that has taken an interest
    in our dissection.  There's a hell of a lot more to us than fashion
    interests.  Just as their was with beatniks, hippies, punks and
    And I wish someone would figure out why bell bottoms are coming
    PLUR, baby.
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