Minus The Nemesis
A Collaboration of Some of the Finest Thought on Today's World


Monday, January 23, 2006
You may see 'Media Misconceptions' and think to yourself: really?! Imagine that. In this article there is detail of a man convicted of felony hacking.

The 20-year-old man from California admitted to seizing control of thousands of computers for promotion of pop-up ads for which he was paid $61,000 USD. Jeanson James Archeta faces up to 6 years in prison. What may be the misconception in this case is the use of the word "hacker". The media has taken this word and turned it to pure evil, invoking images of idiots like Archeta and giving real hackers a bad name.

It used to be that a hacker was someone who "hacked" away at the keyboard producing code and being able to hack (modify) software and hardware. It was first introduced to the public by MIT labs where the hackers were producing the code for programs back in the 1960's. Since the personal computer revolution (thanks to both Steves) of the 1970's the personal computer has become commonplace in many homes across the world. In the early 1980's those hackers developed into (typically) the teenagers lucky enough to own a TRS-80 (trash-80) from the local Rat Shack who found an almost surreal interest in the technology placed before them. With this interest the new breed of hacker used this technology to exploit security vulnerabilities and learn the ins and outs of all-things computer related. This in turn led to the discovery of how the telephone networks functioned (both pre and post AT&T divestiture) and brought about the term "phreaker" meaning nothing more than a hacker of the telephone system.

These were not the script kiddies that you see running rampant across the internet today. You know the type; the kid who has a program that does all of the work for them, but without the knowledge pertaining to the how or the why it works for them. They consider themselves hackers because they use the knowledge already discovered by many before them. They are not hackers. This type of kid (including Archeta) has turned the word hacker into the evil that it is today. What is not realized is that this type of person is referred to as a "cracker" simply because they want to break into computer systems and steal information, sell it for profit etc. They are a disgrace to the true hacker.

There are several famous hackers and phreakers that are worthy of mention here. Keep in mind due to their own undoing some became crackers and cheated their own ethic. First mention should go to the likes of Captain Crunch (a.k.a. John Draper). Draper was introduced to the art of phreaking by his blind friend Joe Engressia when Joe showed Draper that the simple use of a toy whistle found in boxes of Cap'n Crunch cereal at the time, produced the 2600Hz tone necessary to emulate the signal to AT&T that a trunk line was waiting to be used (and you could get free telephone calls). Next I would probably mention the likes of crews like the LOD and the MOD. LOD stemmed from old members of the crew known as the Knights of Shadow. Most notable were Erik Bloodaxe (a.k.a. Chris Goggans), Lex Luthor, Prime Suspect, Phase Jitter, Professor Falken and Skinny Puppy; all forming LOD. Also around the same time was a group formed (some say) from disgruntled members of LOD, calling themselves MOD. MOD didn't initially have any meaning and was in fact supposed to be a joke in itself. At any rate, the feud began supposedly because a member of one crew (on a conference bridge) a racial epithet and things went downhill. The major players were Erik Bloodaxe (Chris Goggans), Doc Holliday (Scott Chasin) of LOD and Mark Abene (Phiber Optik), Elias Ladopoulos (Acid Phreak), Paul Sitra (Scorpion) of MOD. The feud escalated to the point of members of MOD cracking and downloading credit files, toll fraud, etc. perpetrated against members of LOD. LOD's Chris Goggans is now a one-man security consulting firm (becoming an informant for the FBI and Secret Service; post Operation Sundevil in which the Atlanta 3 of LOD were nailed). Most of the other players served jailtime for their "hacking" activities and are now employed (as they should be) by security firms. I would say that the likes of Kevin Poulsen, Justin Peterson and Kevin Mitnick were on the fringes of the terms.

The point of all this is to demonstrate that there were some that started in line with the original hacker ethic to exploit systems for security vulnerabilities (and then report them to the company in question) but strayed into the cracker realm against their own original ethic. The media has taken the word hacker to encompass people who steal and break into computer systems. This is not the case! The word hacker should have always been left to its original definition given by the MIT crowd. This rant does not justice to the entire history of hacking now spanning over 40 years. Just a rant really...


Comments: Post a Comment