What is a Hacker?

The Truth About Computer Hackers

So what exactly is a “Hacker?” It is a term that now strikes fear into the hearts of anyone that owns a computer or related device. Only those that are Amish or in a UNICEF commercials are exempted from that list. Most people think that a hacker is actually a bad thing. This is because of the media’s knack for warping the truth. Hackers used to belong to an exclusive club that many did not understand. They were the founders of the modern computer and the internet. It was their knowledge of the computer that tarnished their name. Now that many are starting to understand the origins of the term and its true meaning, there has been a distinction made. There are now White hats and Black hats. Some of you may be lost at this point but I will attempt to clear it all up.

Long ago, before color TV and cellular phones, there was a time when computers were gigantic things that only the extremely rich and the government could own. There were no CD’s or flash drives. They had to use huge reel-to-reels and punch cards that would store data or run a program. Made the number of people that actually understood the programming of these gigantic dinosaurs. These rare few were hackers. When the U.S. government decided that they wanted computers to be able to communicate with each other, they decided to get a group of these computer nerds together. These few were called hackers. They were the best of the best and the only ones with the knowledge and ability to create ARPANET, what we refer to now as the internet. This was a time, believe it or not, when it was honorable to serve your country and many people would jump at the chance to do their part, for the right salary, of course. These talented individuals were hand picked based on their aptitude and abilities. They were the designers of modern society. It was an honor among all in the computer world to be called hacker, and for many, it still is. They were the pioneers of the internet and created most of the protocols, networks, and software used today. The reason that it is a negative term to anyone else is due to the media’s lack of research into the truth.

When the internet was still in its infancy, more and more people began to see the usefulness in it. Universities and students flocked to it to share information, scientists were able to share notes from across the country and even across the globe in some cases. It started becoming a very useful tool. The problem was that it was very vulnerable. With every improvement in the internet caused more hype and praise for the few hackers there were. This title was held in high regard and coveted by many in the programming community. This also led to jealousy. Some programmers felt overlooked and had the same, if not more, skill in their field. All they desired was to be a hacker. This is not a title you can give yourself or inherit; your peers must bestow it upon you. When these few rebels did not receive the title from their associates, they decided to prove tot the world that they were good enough to program a computer as well. What better way is there to prove that then to design a virus that will cripple the world. Then they would have to acknowledge your skill. When this happened, the media immediately assumed that one of the true hackers was responsible and they all reported that a hacker had done the deed. This blackballed all talented computer programmers from society. Once lauded, they were now outcasts and viewed as criminals. The term hacker still is being used maliciously as a term for someone causing harm to others.

Hacker's evolution

The old model of a hacker who is a mischievous nerd is now abandoned and we now define hackers as people who illegally gaining access to someone’s computer for the purpose of destroying, carrying out illegal activities. Hackers hack for the same reason that Michael Jordan dunked basketballs or that Beckham plays soccer: because they can.

No one under any circumstances has the right to invade your privacy, read your e-mail, defraud your accounts, or alter and gain access to your information in any manner. It is wrong, plain and simple. It is as wrong as murder, rape and armed robbery. Anyone who thinks otherwise needs to re-evaluate their morals. The fact that your personal information is on the computer and the person does not have your permission to access your information is both immoral and illegal. These kind of people is called crackers.

There is a difference between a hacker and a cracker. A hacker usually hacks for ethical reason, such as looking for weaknesses in a bank’s security system. A cracker does hack for reasons that are malicious. Is it okay for someone to invade your privacy and send or write e-mails from you when you did not write them? Is it okay for someone to leave death threats are you computer? Is it okay for someone to delete your photos gain access to every one of your e-mail account? YOU decide.

The fact is, hackers create and crackers destroy

The term cracker was created in the programming community to accurately distinguish between true hackers and what the media had labeled as hackers. A hacker is still a very coveted and important title in the field of computer programmers. They are people that dedicate their lives to making the computing world a better place for all mankind. They create better software and use their experience and knowledge to everyone’s advantage. Crackers, on the other hand, are the ones that are out there creating viruses, worms, Trojans, and logic bombs. They spend their energy and ability tearing others down and committing cyber-crimes. For many years, there was no distinction between the two groups in the normal world. Thankfully, this is now changing.

With many crackers seeing “the err of their ways”, and even more hackers voicing their views of the two different groups, there has been a distinction. Now there are two categories of hackers. The first category is the Black-hat hacker. These are the crackers. These are the people that spend years in brute force attacks or designing the perfect virus to unleash. These are the criminals that come up with the phishing schemes to steal identities. Then there are the White-hats. The White-hats are a considerably smaller group consisting of some of the true hackers of old and some of the crackers that have turned good and helped to block the scams, spyware, and malware. They have turned over a new leaf and are helping to protect against such attacks in the future.

It would seem that the media has realized their mistake and are now trying to correct it. More and more you hear of the term white hat and black hat instead of a generic title of hacker used for the bad guys and computer geek used for the real hackers. The only problem is that there is still a little ways to go. The term black hat still grants the title hacker to the people that do not deserve it, while still tarnishing the title so revered by many in the computer world. The only way to decrease the attacks and set things right is to “call a spade a spade”. We must refer to crackers as crackers. It is time to put some honor back in the title of hacker. After all, your blackberry, cellular phone, laptop, and e-mail would not even exist if not for the hackers.

PROOF OF KNOWLEDGE: Many students hack computer systems for proving their knowledge of technology. They want to demonstrate many networks are not secure and they see it as a challenge to show how easy some networks can be hacked. Some of them have no bad intention and doesn’t harm the computer system but there are also many of them who are a danger for our society because they spread viruses through the entire world.

Hacking in the sense that it is most commonly understood is morally wrong on many levels, and while it is unfortunate that the word has lost its original meaning. Overall, I’d say hackers is not a good thing whether it is to learn, teach or anything. If possible, we should try to do what we can to help to prevent hackers.

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