[ISN] Hackers Called Truthseekers, Problem-Solvers

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Thu Aug 08 2002 - 23:28:27 PDT

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    Sam Costello, IDG News Service
    Monday, August 05, 2002
    LAS VEGAS -- Hacking is not about creating viruses, breaking into 
    computer systems, or even rainbow-dyed hair, but is instead about the 
    search for truth, critical thinking, and the pursuit of knowledge, 
    according to Richard Thieme, an author, consultant and former 
    Episcopal priest, who addressed attendees here at DefCon Saturday.
    Thieme discussed hacking in its original meaning--the discovery of and 
    mucking about with the basic components of any system--rather than the 
    more popularized definition that connotes malicious computer use.
    "My belief is that hacking, above all ... is about the passion and 
    obsession for knowledge and truth," Thieme said. Hacking is also about 
    freedom and the attempts to maximize it, he said.
    Changing Times
    Such values are more important than ever, in the post-September 11 
    world, he said. After September 11, "the stakes are different, the 
    game has changed. And therefore, you have to be more careful," he 
    Hackers need to be more aware of what their actions mean, but they 
    must also agitate for freedom and truthfulness, he said. With the rise 
    in government surveillance, the possibility of propaganda campaigns, 
    and disinformation and other responses to terrorism, hackers can help 
    guard American freedoms, he said.
    "The danger is that through the fighting ... we will come to look just 
    like the enemy ... because we will use the same techniques and 
    tactics," he said.
    Thieme said it was troubling that those who seek to maximize personal 
    freedom after September 11 also feel the need to simultaneously 
    declare their patriotism in order to stave off criticism.
    Telling the Truth
    "This community is the only antidote to the distortion of the truth in 
    the public space" because it is obsessed with knowledge, passionate 
    about understanding things, and committed to discovering the truth, he 
    Hacking is "the antidote to the all-too-human tendency to not caring 
    or not finding the truth," he added.
    Truth must be searched for in daily interactions, not just online, he 
    Thieme told the convention attendees from government and law 
    enforcement agencies not to assume that hackers were automatically the 
    enemy. By the same token, he cautioned hackers not to see everyone is 
    government as out to get them.
    "You don't know who the enemy is until you test their heart and soul," 
    he said.
    Inside Their Minds
    Though it may not have tested their hearts and souls, a pair of 
    Canadian researchers have been spending the past three years studying 
    the minds of hackers.
    In a study consisting of a questionnaire and longer-form answer 
    section started at the hacker convention H2K and Def Con 8 in 2000, 
    Bernadette Schell, dean of Business Information Technology, University 
    of Ontario Institute of Technology and John Dodge, professor at the 
    School of Commerce of Commerce and the Department of Math and Computer 
    Science at Laurentian University, profiled 216 hackers and their 
    styles of thinking, coping with life, and problem-solving.
    The researchers found that the respondents, whose median age was 25, 
    have "extremely low" tendencies towards terrorist and obsessive traits 
    and possess "relatively balanced temperaments," according to Schell.
    Respondents also tested as particularly creative, she said, noting 
    that the top score for creativity was 20 and that 62 percent of those 
    polled scored 15 or higher on the test.
    The combination of creativity and problem-solving styles revealed a 
    commonality between hackers and a group that might not expect they 
    have much in common with hackers: corporate presidents and chief 
    executive officers. The combination of analytical and directive 
    problem solving styles is shared by both hackers and corporate 
    executives, Dodge said.
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