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hacker (hàk´er) noun
1.Computer Science. a. One who is proficient at using or programming a computer; a computer buff. b. One who illegally gains access to or enters another's electronic system to obtain secret information or steal money.
2.Sports. One who enthusiastically pursues a game or sport: a weekend tennis hacker.
[Perhaps from hacker, amateurish or inept golfer or tennis player (possibly from hack1) and or perhaps from hack, practical joke, clever scheme (from dialectal hack, to embarrass, confuse, play a trick on).]
Hacker, in computer science, originally, a computerphile- a person totally engrossed in computer programming and computer technology. In the 1980s, with the advent of personal computers and dial-up computer networks, hacker acquired a pejorative connotation, often referring to someone who secretively invades others' computers, inspecting or tampering with the programs or data stored on them. (More accurately, though, such a person would be called a "cracker.") Hacker also means someone who, beyond mere programming, likes to take apart operating systems and programs to see what makes them tick.
"Hactivism is the new 4th branch of government in
order to monitor the other three . . . Fighting back and resistance
isn’t just fun, but it is our patriotic duty."
~ ~ Jello Biafra.
Hacking is the art of esoteric quests, of priceless and worthless secrets. Odd bits of raw data from smashed machinery of intelligence and slavery reassembled in a mosaic both hilarious in its absurdity and frightening in its power.
_Phrack_ Magazine, issue 43; 1993
[originally, someone who makes
furniture with an axe] 1. 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. 2. One
who programs enthusiastically (even obsessively) or who enjoys
programming rather than just theorizing about programming. 3. A person
capable of appreciating hack value. 4. A person who is good at
programming quickly. 5. An expert at a particular program, or one who
frequently does work using it or on it; as in `a Unix hacker'.
(Definitions 1 through 5 are correlated, and people who fit them
congregate.) 6. An expert or enthusiast of any kind. One might be an astronomy hacker, for example. 7. One who enjoys the intellectual challenge of creatively overcoming or circumventing limitations. 8. [deprecated] A malicious meddler who tries to discover sensitiveinformation by poking around. Hence `password hacker', `network hacker'. The correct term for this sense is cracker.
The term `hacker' also tends to connote membership in the global community defined by the net (see the network and Internet address). For discussion of some of the basics of this culture, see the How To Become A Hacker FAQ. It also implies that the person described is seen to subscribe to some version of the hacker ethic (see hacker ethic).
It is better to be described as a hacker by others than to describe oneself that way. Hackers consider themselves something of an elite (a meritocracy based on ability), though one to which new members are gladly welcome. There is thus a certain ego satisfaction to be had in identifying yourself as a hacker (but if you claim to be one and are not, you'll quickly be labeled bogus). See also wannabee.
This term seems to have been first adopted as a badge in the 1960s by the hacker culture surrounding TMRC and the MIT AI Lab. We have a report that it was used in a sense close to this entry's by teenage radio hams and electronics tinkerers in the mid-1950s.
hacker ethic n.
1. The belief that information-sharing is a powerful positive good, and that it is an ethical duty of hackers to share their expertise by writing open-source and facilitating access to information and to computing resources wherever possible. 2. The belief that system-cracking for fun and exploration is ethically OK as long as the cracker commits no theft, vandalism, or breach of confidentiality.
Both of these normative ethical principles are widely, but by no means universally, accepted among hackers. Most hackers subscribe to the hacker ethic in sense 1, and many act on it by writing and giving away open-source software. A few go further and assert that all information should be free and any proprietary control of it is bad; this is the philosophy behind the GNU project.
Sense 2 is more controversial: some people consider the act of cracking itself to be unethical, like breaking and entering. But the belief that `ethical' cracking excludes destruction at least moderates the behavior of people who see themselves as `benign' crackers (see also samurai). On this view, it may be one of the highest forms of hackerly courtesy to (a) break into a system, and then (b) explain to the sysop, preferably by email from a superuser account, exactly how it was done and how the hole can be plugged -- acting as an unpaid (and unsolicited) tiger team.
The most reliable manifestation of either version of the hacker ethic is that almost all hackers are actively willing to share technical tricks, software, and (where possible) computing resources with other hackers. Huge cooperative networks such asUsenet, FidoNet and Internet (see Internet address) can function without central control because of this trait; they both rely on and reinforce a sense of community that may be hackerdom's most valuable intangible asset.
hack mode /n./
1. What one is in when hacking, of course. 2. More specifically, a Zen-like state of total focus on The Problem that may be achieved when one is hacking (this is why every good hacker is part mystic). Ability to enter such concentration at will correlates strongly with wizardliness; it is one of the most important skills learned during larval stage. Sometimes amplified as 'deep hack mode'.
Being yanked out of hack mode (see priority interrupt) may be experienced as a physical shock, and the sensation of being in hack mode is more than a little habituating. The intensity of this experience is probably by itself sufficient explanation for the existence of hackers, and explains why many resist being promoted out of positions where they can code. See also cyberspace (sense 2).
Some aspects of hackish
etiquette will appear quite odd to an observer unaware of the high
value placed on hack mode. For example, if someone appears at your
door, it is perfectly okay to hold up a hand (without turning one's
eyes away from the screen) to avoid being interrupted. One may read,
type, and interact with the computer for quite some time before
further acknowledging the other's presence (of course, he or she is
reciprocally free to leave without a word). The understanding is that
you might be in hack mode with a lot of delicate state (sense 2) in
your head, and you dare not swap that context out until you have
reached a good point to pause. See also juggling eggs.
- from _The New Hacker's Dictionary_ by Eric S. Raymond
Be robbers and ravagers as long as you cannot be rulers and owners, you men of knowledge! - Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche - _The Gay Science_, 1882
film _Hackers_ (vhs/ntsc)
- faces: Angelina Jolie, Johnny Lee Miller (Sick Boy
in _Trainspotting_ (vhs/ntsc)
book _Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution_ by Steven Levy
Paperback (February 1994)
Delta Books; ISBN: 0385312105
Steven Levy's classic book explains why the misuse of the word "hackers" to describe computer criminals does a terrible disservice to many important shapers of the digital revolution. Levy follows members of an MIT model railroad club--a group of brilliant budding electrical engineers and computer innovators--from the late 1950s to the mid-1980s. These eccentric characters used the term "hack" to describe a clever way of improving the electronic system that ran theirmassive railroad. And as they started designing clever ways to improve computer systems, "hack" moved over with them. These maverick characters were often fanatics who did notalways restrict themselves to the letter of the law and who devoted themselves to what became known as "The Hacker Ethic." The book traces the history of hackers, from finagling access to clunky computer-card-punching machines to uncovering the inner secrets of what would become the Internet.
Worker vs. Hacker
The theme of work and the workplace are the dominant discourse in the computer mainstream. From the retail outlet sales pitch, to the ads on TV for software, using a computer is equated with the idea of the 'office in the home' rather than the plaything for the hobbyist. In its original use, the phrase "to hack" meant to open up and investigate, to be curious, to experiment, to play and to discover. This broad definition of hacking is the most useful in understanding what differentiates computers as media from computers as work implements. Hackers play with the technology of computers as and end in itself. As a creative form of experimentation, hacking opens up technology to innovation and revision. For many hackers 'work' if done on a computer means play.
This spirit of experimentation and play is at the very core of the culture-jammer aesthetic. The collage/essay style of film making for example, takes delight in the actual process of film assembly itself, and makes this explicit within the film's structure. A growing creative youth movement is emerging which identifies with open systems of all kinds. The rise of theLinux computer operating system is a good example. Unlike Microsoft Windows or Macintosh Operating System Linux is free and available to anyone. "Shareware" culture of this type reflects a broader sense in the community that ideas, like software and a good joke are there to be shared, circulated and made available.
The D.I.Y. or "do it yourself" movement had its correlates in the punk scene of the seventies and prior to that in the 'homegrown' media production culture of the anti-Vietnam war counter-culture. Here "low-tech" and "hands-on" techniques for music and self publishing became very popular and widespread. When I studied Media Studies at college in the early 1980s, many values of the counterculture were still in circulation: principles of 'take a camera and shoot' and 'go out and publish your own magazine'. As the eighties unfolded, gradually cuts to the liberal arts by the then treasurer John Howard hulled the media education sector of its former liberalism. Outside centers of learning, arts funding has recently favoured youth led festivals and events, of which the Newcastle Electrofringe/Young Writers Festival is exemplary.
Culture-jamming for many is an entire way of living. Its advocates generally reject the notion of the citizen as merely consumer, and the idea of society as merely marketplace. The culture-jammer and media activist approach to life questions the underlying social relations which govern the place of media (and by extension, capital) in our culture. Culture-jammer methods are strategies for self-empowerment. They embrace self-publishing in all its forms. Self made magazines (or "fanzines"' or just 'zines), techno music done by teenagers in bedrooms, personal web site production, graffiti, hacking, billboard alteration and other forms of popular media resistance to the mainstream can reside under the broad banner of media activism.
- David Cox on Culture Jamming
film _23_ (1998)
The movie's plot is based on the true story of a group of young computer hackers from Hannover, Germany. In the late 1980s the orphaned Karl Koch invests his heritage in a flat and a home computer. At first he dials up to bulletin boards to discuss conspiracy theories inspired by his favorite novel, R.A. Wilson's Illuminatus", but soon he and his friend David start breaking into government and military computers. Pepe, one of Karl's rather criminal acquaintances senses that there is money in computer cracking - he travels to east Berlin and tries to contact the KGB.
A hacker is anyone who enjoys the intellectual challenge of creatively overcoming or circumventing limitations, primarily in their fields of interest, namely programming or electrical engineering. As will be discussed below, there is a trend in the popular press to use the term to describe computer criminals, and others, whose motivations are less pure than the traditional hacker. This trend greatly annoys many of those old-school computer/technology enthusiasts.
Origin of the term at MIT
The term originally developed at MIT long before computers became common; a "hack" meant a simple, but often inelegant, solution. The term hack came to refer to any clever prank perpetrated by MIT students; the perpetrator is a hacker. To this day the terms hack and hacker are used in that way at MIT, without necessarily referring to computers. When MIT students surreptiously put a police car atop the dome on MIT's Building 10, that was a hack, and the students involved were therefore hackers.
Computer culture at MIT developed when members of the Tech Model Railroad Club started working with a Digital Equipment Corporation PDP-1 computer and applied local model railroad slang to computers. In modern computer culture, the label "hacker" is a compliment, indicating a skilled and clever programmer. In the media, however, it has negative connotations and has become synonymous with "software cracker".
The term hacker has five meanings that are in common usage:
1. Someone who knows a (sometimes specified) set of
well enough to write novel and useful software without conscious thought
on a good day.
2. Someone who (usually illegally) attempts to break into or otherwise subvert the security of a program, system or network, often with malicious intent. This usage was annoying to many in the developer community who grew up with the primary meaning in sense (1), and preferred to keep it that way; they preferred the media used the term cracker. However this wound up causing even more problems as simply creating a new word did nothing to dispel misconceptions. "Black hat hacker" is a phrase that wound up with the same problems as the word "cracker".
3. Someone who attempts to break into systems or networks in order to help the owners of the system by making them aware of security flaws in it. This is referred to by some as a "white hat hacker" or sneaker. Many of these people are employed by computer security companies, and are doing something completely legal; and many were formerly hackers within sense 2.
4. Someone who, through either knowledge or trial and error, makes a modification to an existing piece of software, made available to the hacker community, such that it provides a change of functionality. Such change is normally a benefit. Rather than a competition, the exchange of improvements is most often experienced as a cooperative learning effort.
5. A Reality Hacker or Urban Spelunker (origin: MIT); someone who enjoys exploring air ducts, rooftops, shafts and other hidden aspects of urban life, sometimes including pulling elaborate pranks for the enjoyment and entertainment of the community.
"Script kiddie" is reserved for a computer user of little or no skill who simply follows directions or uses a cook-book approach without fully understanding the meaning of the steps they are performing.
"h4x0r" (pronounced Hacks-Or) is a script kiddie in the context of a computer game (i.e. someone who uses a program to modify a game giving them special and unfair advantages). "h4x0r" is often used jokingly or as a term of endearment between gamers.
Note that while the term hacker denotes competence, the noun hack often means kludge and thus has a negative connotation while the verb hack generally shares the same competent connotations.
The hacker community (the set of people who would describe themselves as hackers, or who would be described by others as hackers) falls into at least three partially overlapping categories. The word hacker probably derives from the somewhat derogatory hack, used in the newspaper industry typically to refer to a Journalist who types his stories without checking his facts first.
Hacker -- Brilliant Programmer
One who knows a (sometimes specified) set of programming interfaces well enough to write novel and useful software without conscious thought on a good day. This type of hacker is respected within the development community for the freedom they represent, although the term still carries some of the meaning of Hack, developing programs without adequate planning. This zugzwang sets freedom and the ability to be creative against methodical careful progress. Corporate programming environments typically favor only either the good hackers or the careful computer scientist.
At their best, Hackers can be surprisingly productive. Industry standard rates of development are in the range of 6-10 lines of code (debugged, and documented) per hour. A Hacker in stride can produce a few hundred or occasionally even thousands lines of code an hour by leveraging their previous work. As a result a Hacker may be able to sketch out the full shape of a program to a level of quality that can be used for demonstrating ideas in less than a week. Thus it isn't hard to see what some companies find useful in Hacker talent.
The down side of Hacker productivity is generally agreed to be in maintainability, documentation, and completion. Very talented hackers may become bored with a project once they have figured out all of the hard parts, and be unwilling to finish off the details. This attitude can cause friction in shops where other programmers are expected to pick up the half finished work, decipher the structures and ideas, and bullet-proof the code. In other cases, where a Hacker is willing to maintain their own code, a company may be unable to find anyone else who is capable or willing to dig through code to maintain the program if the original programmer moves on to a new job.
Hacker -- Computer Criminal
The popular press has been known to use the terms "hacker" and occasionally "cracker" for someone who attempts to break into or otherwise subvert the security of a system or network. Both usages are annoying to many in the developer community who grew up with the primary meaning of "hacker" in the Guru sense, and who don't see the problem solved by the invention of new and nebulous words like "cracker" or "black hat". Instead, there has been a move to define terms when describing these people. What makes someone a "hacker", a "computer criminal", or just a regular computer user? Once these details are known, the proper word (or combination) can be accurately applied.
While it will always be possible to use one's "hacker" skills in a destructive way, this tends to go against the loosely defined hacker ethic. One can certainly use hacking skills to commit a crime. However, this means that this particular hacker is now a criminal, vandal, malicious user, etc., existing words that do a much better job of describing the person's actions than the nebulous "cracker". If a locksmith used his skills to break into a building, few would debate that he had crossed into the criminal world and there would be no need to invent a word to define criminal or malicious locksmiths. The reason hackers face these kinds of problems is because the mass media tends to believe anyone who says they are a hacker - and people say they are hackers because of the mass media's sensationalist portrayals. This deceptive cycle will probably only come to an end with the education of reporters and the general public on what constitutes a hacker and what does not. A group known as the "Hacker Antidefamation League" has this goal.
But, indeed, it's likely that the confusion and dissonance exists precisely because "hacking" describes a skill set -- akin to picking locks -- whose tools can be used both ethically and unethically, by both people who are basically ethical, and those who are not (these are two related, but separate distinctions -- what long-time system administrator has not violated a company policy by breaking into some company facility for an authorized user in order that that person can complete an important project?) This may well be the crux of the argument, in fact: so-called 'white-hat' hackers are uncomfortable at the exposure of the darker side of their skill-set, notwithstanding the fact that, like comic-book superheroes, they only utilize those skills for Good.
Software cracking is the process of removing any sort of software enforced protection scheme from a piece of software.
There are several recurring tools of the trade used by hackers to gain unauthorized access to computers:
* Trojan horse -- These are applications that seem
to do useful work, but set up a back door so that the hacker can later
return and enter the system. These include programs which mimic login
screens. Viruses that fool a user into downloading and/or executing them
by pretending to be useful applications are also sometimes called trojan
* Snooper -- Applications that capture password and other data while it is in transit either within the computer, or over the network
* virus -- An application that propagates itself opportunistically by waiting in the background until the user offers it a new medium to infect. The term came into usage by comparison with biological viruses, which reproduce by infecting a cell and taking advantage of its life functions. Similarly, computer viruses, unlike worms, embed themselves within files on the host system. When "infected" executables run, or sometimes when infected binary data files are read, the virus is able to spread to other binary format files on the local system, floppy disks or over the network. Viruses are often confused with worms.
* worm -- An application that actively probes for known weaknesses across the network, then propagates itself through an exploitation of those weaknesses. The original Usenet post describing the MorrisWorm described the distinction between viruses and worms thus: worms do not attach themselves to code. Popular usage appears to favour worms being more active than viruses. However, the Jargon File, as of version 4.4.1, maintains the original sense of the term. A Worm in this original sense is any independent program which reproduces itself over a network (a program reproducing itself on the local machine only repeatedly until the machine crashes is known as a wabbit). After the comparison between computer viruses and biological viruses, the obvious comparison here is to a bacterium.
* Vulnerability Scanner -- A tool used to quickly check computers on a network for known weaknesses. Hackers also use Port Scanners. These check to see which ports on a specified computer are "open" or available to acess the computer through.
* Exploit (computer science) -- A prepared application that takes advantage of a known weakness
* Social engineering -- Asking someone for the password or account (possibly over a beer.) Also includes looking over someone's shoulder while they enter their password, or posing as someone else in order to get sensitive information.
* Root kit -- A toolkit for hiding the fact that a computer's security has been compromised. Root kits may include replacements for system binaries so that it becomes impossible to see applications being run by the intruder in the active process tables.
* Leet -- An English pidgin that helps to obscure hacker discussions and web sites, and paradoxically it simplifies the location of resources in public search engines for those who know the language.
Hacker -- Grey Hat
1) A black-hat hacker turned white-hat.
2) A white-hat hacker who uses black-hat techniques to satisfy their employers, for whom they act as white-hat.
Hacker -- White Hat
White hat hackers often overlap with black hat depending on your perspective. The primary difference is that a white hat hacker observes the hacker ethic, a sort of golden rule of computing similar to: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Like black hats, white hats are often intimately familiar with the internal details of security systems, and can delve into obscure machine code when needed to find a solution to a tricky problem without requiring support from a system manufacturer.
An example of a hack: Microsoft Windows ships with the ability to use cryptographic libraries built into the operating system. When shipped overseas this feature becomes nearly useless as the operating system will refuse to load cryptographic libraries that haven't been signed by Microsoft, and Microsoft will not sign a library unless the US Government authorizes it for export. This allows the US Government to maintain some perceived level of control over the use of strong cryptography beyond its borders.
While hunting through the symbol table of a beta release of Windows, a couple of overseas hackers managed to find a second signing key in the Microsoft binaries. That is without disabling the libraries that are included with Windows (even overseas) these individuals learned of a way to trick the operating system into loading a library that hadn't been signed by Microsoft, thus enabling the functionality which had been lost to non-US users.
Whether this is good (white hat) or bad (black hat) may depend on whether you are the US Government or not, but is generally considered by the computing community to be a white hat type of activity.
* Richard Stallman -- A hacker of the old school,
Stallman walked in off the street and got a job at MIT's Artificial Intelligence Lab in 1971. Stallman is a
legendary hacker, the founder
of the free software movement, a MacArthur "genius grant" recipient and
a programmer capable of prodigious exploits. Stallman is also the
founder of the GNU project, which produced the majority of the software
considered to be part of the Linux
* Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie -- The driving creative force behind Bell Labs' legendary computer science operating group, Ritchie and Thompson created UNIX in 1969.
* Steve Wozniak -- The co-founder of Apple Computer got his start making devices for phone phreaking.
* Linus Torvalds -- Torvalds was a computer science student at the University of Helsinki when he wrote the Linux kernel in 1991.
* Eric S. Raymond -- He is one of the founder of the Open Source Initiative and he wrote the famous text The Cathedral and the Bazaar and many other essays. He also maintains the Jargon File for the Hacker culture, which was previously maintained by Guy L. Steele, Jr..
* Larry Wall -- The creator of the Perl programming language.
* Johan Helsingius -- Operated the world's most popular anonymous remailer, the Penet remailer (called penet.fi), until he closed up shop in September 1996.
Here are a few of the more famous crackers (many of whom have since turned to positive hacking):
* Eric Corley (a.k.a Emmanuel Goldstein) -- Long
standing publisher of 2600 the Hacker Quarterly. He has been part of the
hacker community since the late 70's.
* John Draper (a.k.a. Captain Crunch) -- Figured out how to make free phone calls using a plastic prize whistle he found in a cereal box.
* Mark Abene (a.k.a. Phiber Optik) -- Inspired thousands of teenagers around the country to "study" the internal workings of the United States's phone system. One of the founders of Masters of Deception.
* Adrian Lamo -- Revised a Yahoo! news article and was prosecuted for a New York Times break-in.
* Robert T. Morris -- This Cornell University graduate student accidentally unleashed the first major Internet worm in 1988.
* Kevin Mitnick -- The first hacker to have his face immortalized on an FBI "Most Wanted" poster.
* Kevin Poulsen -- In 1990 Poulsen took over all telephone lines going into Los Angeles area radio station KIIS-FM to win a call-in contest.
* Vladimir Levin -- This mathematician allegedly masterminded the Russian hacker gang that tricked Citibank's computers into spitting out $10 million.
* Hacking means to attack something with a blade in an imprecise manner - "hacking down the tall grass with a machete".
* In connection with computers and computer software
* Hacking also means to ride a horse cross-country
* Hacking is British slang for driving fast - " I was hacking up the M1..."
* Hacking is the act of a person coughing up phlegm
Reality Hacking - anonymous installations