Who are the real hackers, and why most of the news about hackers are fake (snippet from my upcoming talk)...
By Eh'den Biber
As you might have seen from my previous posts, I've been writing a long post called "the revolution", which covers my journey into finding ways of communicating and connecting with my son, who have severe autism. I was about to post a new update to it - but then I stopped.
You see, in the last two years I've been planning to give a talk about the subject of substance abuse in the hackers’ community. This is a topic which has have HUGE implications for anyone who either is a hacker, working with a colleague who is a hacker, employing one, or planning to employ one. The reason the update to "the revolution" was delayed is because substances and their impact on non-ordinary states of consciousness was just too big for a written update.
And the good news is that thanks to it, I'm finally ready to give a talk on the subject. It would be lovely to share it with Peerlyst members, here in London, and will be looking for an event space for it. Also, I plan to share it in upcoming CONs because it’s probably the most interesting topic I’ve researched, and one with huge implications to many people who are reading it right now. Based on my experience, if you are reading it you’re either abuse substances or know a substance abuser. If you have an upcoming CON and wish me to talk on the subject, please contact me directly. I assure you that it's going to be one of the most interesting talks you will have in your event.
Please share thoughts, comments, and stories either below or, if anonymously, via my secure email account: ehden at protonmail dot com.
There is an epidemic of “hacker news” that dominates our world in an alarmingly increasing pace. It’s moving so fast that mentioning any reference here is a mistake because it will be blown away by another data breach so fast that the reference will most likely be forgotten.
The problem is that most of these news are fake.
No, I don’t mean to say that mainstream media is not reporting the truth. Well, there don’t, but that’s not what I mean. What I wanted to say is that almost in all cases where data breaches occur, the people who performed it are simply not hackers.
Most of the people you call “hackers” are not real hackers. They are individuals with specific high technical skills that allows them to perform specific activities which will be hard for non-trained people to do. We used to call that kind of people “scientists”, but since no university have a bachelor degree in “hack sciences”, not to mention master’s degree, everyone can call themselves “professor hacker” and get along with it. Don’t get me wrong – the skills a hacker requires varies greatly, the same way the skills of a doctor who practice surgery varies greatly. Amputating a leg requires knowledge but is relatively easy, same for SQL injection. However, it’s complicated to do a heart surgery, and it can be pretty darn hard to penetrate a well-fortified organization and steal information from it. Regardless of the level of expertise required, having a particular set of skills does not turns you into a true hacker. The same way being able to perform a surgery does not mean you will be able to develop a new procedure to help patients with severe issues, knowing how to penetrate into an organization does not mean you will be able to find new ways of getting root access on a system.
Let’s start with the fact that most of what you read about in the news when the word “hack/er/ers/ing” is being used are actually “crack/er/ers/ing”. As Ben Yagoda pointed out in his “The New Yorker” article entitled ‘A short history of “Hack”’, The Jargon File, a glossary for computer programmers that was launched in 1975, lists eight definitions for “hacker.” The first reads, “A person who enjoys exploring the details of programmable systems and how to stretch their capabilities, as opposed to most users, who prefer to learn only the minimum necessary.” The following six are equally approving. The eighth, and last, is “[deprecated] A malicious meddler who tries to discover sensitive information by poking around. Hence password hacker, network hacker. The correct term for this sense is cracker.”
PS - this is how to pronounce the word "cracker":
Some people might say that all of this terminology is just jargon wars, which aren’t important at all. I strongly disagree with that. The same way calling all Muslims “terrorists” is wrong, calling everyone who are involved with technology meddling “hackers” is bad. If you’re a policy maker and you treat all Muslims as terrorists you’re a racist. If you are in charge of threat intelligence and you think all crackers are actually hackers you are doing a horrible job in identifying your threat actors, their capabilities, and the probability of their actions within the domain you try to protect.
You see, we are not dealing with a new human trait/behavior that started in the last few decades. Hackers existed throughout human history, but until recently they weren’t called hackers, but artists. Hackers are the artists of the digital information era. Yes, real hackers are artists whose work with technology, the same way real data scientists are artists of data.
Some scientists (of all domains) are also hackers – those who seems to have an exceptional perception beyond what most scientists have. They are people who are wired differently, and their form of art is science. Most scientists are not artists, the same way most of the people you call “hackers” today are not real hackers.
REAL artists break structures, either expand them into new directions, or diminish them. As Jordan Peterson said, artists live on the edge between the known and unknown, and via their art show us the unknown. They do so via music, writing, sculpture, architecture, dance, love making, science, and "hacking". And again – most of the “artists” are not real artists. Albert Einstein and Richard Feynman had more artistic talent than Katie Perry, Justin Bieber or most of the people you watch online will ever have.
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