I remember learning to hack in high school and to circumvent certain Windows and *nix security by my computer teacher, Mr. Smith (no the name isn’t made up). I learned from him the basics of hacking, real hacking. I wasn’t a “l33t hax0r” or a script kiddie, he just insisted it was important to understand these vulnerabilities to be a smarter computer user and to understand computer security. He also insisted that it wasn’t for reading other peoples e-mail or planting malicious code. “The only secure 100% computer is a computer not connected to the Internet or a LAN, but no computer is secure if you can physically get to it,” I remember him saying.
In grade 8 we watched two movies; Sneakers and Hackers. Sneakers has mildly realistic hacking scenes, with Hackers being so far blown out of proportion with a graphical hacking environment that the whole thing is laughable. Both movies shared the same message; true hackers aren’t evil, but hacking can be used for bad things.
Throughout high school most students didn’t use their computer accounts for anything very interesting. Some didn’t have the knowledge or desire to do so, but some knew that I would be able to gain access to their account if I wanted to and feared it. Just for the record; I could, but never once did. I found the situation pretty funny considering that I also had administrator access granted to me for the purposes of study, but didn’t bother to tell anyone that.
The later years of school is when “hacking” became a term used almost every night on the news. Stories of how script kiddies have bought down a server or managed to guess someones credit card details would circulate, while calling these people “hackers.” I knew there was something wrong with this and began to notice that all my online friends who studied hacking began going underground.
Hackers began calling themselves Computer Security Experts and script kiddies began calling themselves hackers. The world changed before my eyes and before I knew it The Mentor, someone I was mildly familiar with, was arrested and he wrote the Hacker Manifesto. It talks more about the psychology of a hacker, the curious computer user, but since has been used in films like Hackers.
Suddenly the hacker culture is gone and has been replaced by some form of wannabe culture, a culture that is “too cool for school” and has shaped what modern hacking is. The problem with this culture is the fact that it has created a culture in mainstream society of paranoia and it’s the very paranoia that drives these “hackers” to succeed. Think of when you were back in high school and your parents would say, “just ignore them and they’ll leave you alone.”
Now the biggest reason I write this is because while looking around digg as I often do, I came across this news presentation (watch the video that is attached), which is possibly one of the most paranoid views of the modern computer world I have seen in some time. It pigeon holes internet talk (a.k.a. l33t sp34k) as something dangerous to society and encourages parents to do everything short of anally probing their children to make sure they know everything they say and do on the internet.
Parents, lighten up for crying out loud, it’s an MSN conversation, not a plot to take over the world. While I understand that the internet makes it slightly easier for children and teens to communicate without their parents knowing, it’s no different than taking the cordless phone to the bedroom, chatting about things out or earshot or at school, or simply making a verbal code for when parents are around. Parents will often talk about “C.H.R.I.S.T.M.A.S.” in front of their children by spelling it out, do they honestly think their children will not one day be smarter than them and find their own ways of communicating in this fashion?
Majority of the acronyms used on the internet are to save time and not to undermine anyone. I would honestly rather write “lol @ Dave,” than, “oh wow Dave, your humor has gotten me once again and I must admit I just let out a rather loud chortle!” PAW (Parents Are Watching) was around when I was a kid, but I never once had to use it. Why? Because my parents gave me the freedom to explore the internet and enjoy my teenage life without putting a microscope up my ass. And given that fact, I am not an imprisoned hacker and I am a part of a majority, not a minority.
I think most parents these days would remember times when they had done something they didn’t want their parents to know about. I am furthermore sure that at least one of these times their parents nearly found out from a friend, but they managed to give the appropriate signal (a wink of the eye, gesture of the head or just a “shut up” look) to terminate the conversation. Would they seriously deny their children the same adolescence?
Hackers, real hackers, are not a danger to society. Internet talk or l33t speak is not a danger to society. Can the world just lighten up a little and take it with the appropriate measure of good sense. It’s the fucking internet, not a terrorist playground!