My Journal



Violations Transgressions

These could be considered the “thou shalt nots” of the new hacker ethic, as opposed to its affirmative “you shoulds.” Some of these transgressions of the hacker ethic are already implied by some of its basic affirmative principles. We can get an idea of what hackers believe they should do, based on what they reject as unsuitable activities of their peers.

1. Bootlegging Commercialism; selling pirated software; hacking for profit; selling out. Bootlegging violates the new ethic of sharing and the original hacker ethic which eschewed profit (and embraced personal satisfaction) as a reason for creating software (hence the existence of Richard Stallman’s GNU Free Software Foundation.)

On occasion the possibility of making a profit from these advances tempts hackers into commercialism. On other occasions, they see commercialism as the only way to get their work into the hands of the masses. When they succeed they become rich, and usually get moved further and further from hacker life and more and more into paperwork and then don’t live happily ever after.[21]

Bootleggers are to pirates as a chop-shop is to a home auto mechanic. Bootleggers are people who DEAL stolen merchandise for personal gain. Bootleggers are crooks. They sell stolen goods. Pirates are not crooks, and most pirates consider bootleggers to be lower life forms than child molesters.[22]

Bootlegging seems to contradict new hacker ethic 7, share!

2. Freeloading Always taking and never contributing. Profitting from other peoples’ efforts without adding to them. “Warez d00dz” and “Codez d00dz” who are hunting for free software or phone codes without offering anything in return (a hack, a number, whatever) are looked down upon. Hoarding and refusing to tell others about your hacks are seen as wrong. This also violates the new ethic of sharing.

In fact, pirates may be one of the best forms of advertising for quality products, because sharing allows a shop-around method for buying warez. Most of us buy a program for the documents and the support, but why invest in four or five similar programs if we aren’t sure which best suits our needs? Nah, pirates aren’t freeloaders. We are against freeloading.[23]

3. Trashing Crashing systems; destroying hardware; hurting other users; malicious vandalism; irreversible damaging or destroying of data; unleashing destructive viruses, Trojans, logic bombs. Prankful (non-harmless) games with users and sysops and systems is acceptable… This is seen as the obvious corollary of the new ethic to “do no harm.”

I. Do not intentionally damage *any* system. Trashing BBSes is wrong, plain and simple.
II. Do not alter any system files other than ones needed to ensure your escape from detection and your future access (Trojan Horses, Altering Logs, and the like are all necessary to your survival for as long as possible.)[24]

The one thing I hate, is the way some self-appointed hackers find there way into a system, and ruin the name of the rest of us by destroying everything they can find. Now that is pathetic. First of all, as I said, it ruins the name of the rest of us. Thus, once again, the “Destructive Computer User” Stereotype… A board crasher is no more a “hacker” than my grandmother is.[25]

4. Excessive Selfishness Self interest overrules any concern for other hackers whatsoever. This violation implies others… once again, we run into the strange divide at the heart of the Hacker Ethic, which is deeply individualistic, yet also fiercely communal. Individuals are expected to be highly self-motivated, but not selfish.

I think you’d be less agitated if you define your categories as hackers and criminals. The former are in it to explore and the latter are in it for themselves and nothing else. Of course, some hackers do break laws on occasion but I don’t think that necessarily turns them into criminals, at least not in the moral sense.[26]

Also, some hackers have this massive ego problem… I must name one here, for that problem, and he is Corporal Punishment… I have had numerous run-ins with this guy. He seems to think he is a God, constantly running everyone into the ground. He even went as far as saying “PHRACK sucks!” But he isn’t the only one with that problem… Some feel that if they put others down, they will elevate to a higher level. Sorry to burst you bubble guys, but your only viewed as massive ego-maniacs that deserve nothing less than being run down yourselves…[27]

Let us not forget that hackers, crackers, chippers, crunchers, and whatnot all have ego, and one thing that bothers me about using the Hacker Ethic to describe people is that ego and self-interest are not accounted for. How else can you explain crackers selling pirated software, otherwise intelligent people distributing viruses to the general public in hope of causing maximum damage to other users, or hackers breaking into some system and erasing files for laughs? People break into computers because it’s fun and it makes one feel powerful, not because there is untapped power waiting to be used if only the right programming “wizard” comes along.[28]

5. The (Selective) Anti-Stealing Ethic Information, services, and software are not property; hardware, physical property, money, and monetary services (credit cards, digital cash, phone card numbers) are. Theft of these is still wrong. Also, the target makes a difference. Stealing phone service (say, voicemail boxes) from a large institution like a corporation or the government is OK. Stealing it from an individual or a small nonprofit is not.

Thus the new hacker ethic, according to its propagandists, does not embrace theft; instead it simply defines certain things (like information) as not being personal property, or certain actions (using phone service) as “borrowing” rather than theft.

So where is the boundary between the hacker world and the criminal world? To me, it has always been in the same place. We know that it’s wrong to steal tangible objects. We know that it’s wrong to vandalize. We know that it’s wrong to invade somebody’s privacy. Not one of these elements is part of the hacker world.[29]

6. Bragging Calling too much attention to oneself. It is acceptable (‘elite’) to brag in private hacker circles, unacceptable to brag or make taunts and dares to sysops, law enforcement, or authorities, or in any public forum where they tend to listen. Some hackers even consider the first unacceptable, since hacker boards are monitored by the Secret Service as well. Bragging and boasting to the media or other non-hackers violates the ethic of ‘leave no trace’ and keeping a low profile.

Bragging after a neat hack may seem like the natural thing to do. But just remember that it can only call attention to yourself, and not everyone who pays attention to hackers are admirers. You may jeopardize your friends and anyone else who ever accesses the same system as you.[30]

True hackers are quiet. I don’t mean they talk at about .5 dB, I mean they keep their mouths shut and don’t brag. The number one killer of those the media would have us call hackers is bragging. You tell a friend, or you run your mouth on a board, and sooner or later people in power will find out what you did, who you are, and you’re gone…[31]

7. Spying Snooping, monitoring of people, and invading their privacy is wrong… so therefore is reading private e-mail, etc. This follows from the new hacker ethic which sees privacy as a fundamental right. However, part of the hacker praxis is about finding out passwords and security holes from users, whether through “social engineering” or simple snooping and “sniffing.” This is the contradiction, once again, of embracing privacy but also insisting on unrestricted information.

Some crackers are using computers in the exact *opposite* way that the first hackers intended them: first, by restricting the unimpeded and unmonitored flow of information through the computer networks and phone lines; and second, by using computers to monitor people, by intrusive methods of information-gathering.[32]

8. Narcing It is wrong to turn other hackers in. This part of their ethical code is not different from many other criminal organizations or subcultures, such as prison inmates, drug addicts, prostitutes, etc., or even ‘above-ground’ subcultures such as police departments. (“code of silence.”) However, this code has special meaning for hackers, since many ex-hackers often decide to become computer security personnel later in life. Many of their peers consider this ‘selling out.’

There’s no lower form of life than the narc. Hackers who go and rat on other hackers are scum. They get lots of promises of immunity and stuff if they turn in all their friends. Some hackers get back at other people by turning them into the feds. This is wrong, and it only damages the hacker community. We need to stick together, because nobody else is really on our side.[33]

The last thing I will mention, will be hackers turning in other hackers to federal crime agencies, or to the PhoneCorp security offices, or any other type of company that deals with computer related phraud. This activity, refered to as Narcing, is getting to be too popular for a hackers good… You may be saying, ” Come on, no hacker in they’re right mind would turn another on in “. And your right… It’s once again those self proclaimed hackers, or the ones who think they are who will do this to get “Even”…[34]

We can then see that new hackers do believe certain things are wrong – and people who commit these actions are frowned upon and often prevented from being recognized by the hacker community. Many of the things new hackers reject, would also be rejected by the community of old hackers.

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