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[ISN] Hackers go crook on being mixed up with crackers
From: InfoSec News (isnC4I.ORG)
Date: Wed Jun 21 2000 - 01:28:21 CDT
By Helen Meredith
Jun 19 2000 20:14:19
Victims of recent acts of cyber crime say it's time to strip away the
aura surrounding criminal activities conducted on the internet and
show the perpetrators up for what they really are: crooks.
These are the people involved in child pornography, fraud, stalking,
trespass, e-mail threats, theft, industrial espionage, obscene
material, software infringements, wiretapping, denial of service,
cryptography export and terrorism.
Traditional hackers complain that their name has been tainted by
association with cyber crime perpetrated by what they call "crackers".
"Hackers build things; crackers break them," they say.
Hackers claim they are pursuing a tradition of "real programming" that
dates back to WWII, when people started to build the technology that
was to be the launchpad for today's digital age.
A lot of folklore is associated with the computing culture of the
early programmers and, although that has been eclipsed by interactive
computing and the internet, some ageing hackers want to keep alive the
memory of a time when programmers pushed the envelope often enough to
propel technology forward.
Hacking, in its purist sense, involved people with engineering and
physics backgrounds or, earlier, amateur radio hobbyists.
While the time-sharing minicomputers that were their proving ground no
longer exist, hackers made the Unix operating system what it is today
and made the World Wide Web actually work.
Eric Raymond, who chronicled the history of the breed, says the
hacking line has been reborn with Linux and the mainstreaming of the
net, bringing the hacker culture from the fringes of public
consciousness to its rebirth in an open-source world of programming.
This culture is no more disposed towards cyber crime than its
predecessor, proponents say. Many are employed in big business helping
to protect systems from intrusion and ensuring security technology is
In contrast, cyber criminals are part of a global crime wave with the
ability to cripple critical systems, damage economies, and tie up web
sites in a way that can potentially bring businesses to their knees.
So what distinguishes this law breaker? Says Dr Paul Wilson, a
well-known criminologist, the profile of a cyber criminal is no
different from other law breakers. Most crime is committed by white
males aged from 16 to 25. He notes that's unlikely to differ in
Eric Halil, senior security analyst at Auscert, which monitors online
crime and helps sites recover from security incidents, says cybercrime
covers the gamut of criminal activity. "The media tends to glamorise a
lot of issues surrounding this. But the reality is that people
committing these crimes have a wide range of motivations, as with
crime in general," he says.
The experts seem to agree that no special profile separates this kind
of criminal from the mainstream. What is different is the lack of
obvious deterrents. No patrol cars cruise in cyberspace; no police
walk the beat; there is little potential for alert citizens to report
With most crime against industry carried out from within, there is an
urgent need for a corporate work culture to evolve that ensures
employees practise ethical behaviour.
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