Hackers: Cavaliers or criminals

When being online, my firewall reports trial intrusions,
probably by the ‘Red Code’ virus (or whatever is going on). In the past we’ve had the ‘love letter’ worm and other attacks. Very few hackers have been found guilty (IIRC), most have been pardoned as being some guy not quite understanding what he was doing. For me, these guys create a major damage to economy, and should be punished very hard.
So my question: should hackers go and continue or should they be arrested and given a very severe punishment.

I don’t think you recall correctly, for what it’s worth. The trial and punishment of most hackers just isn’t widely publicized (I mean, who cares about what happens to some anti-social nerd?)

Arrested and punished, although I don’t know what you mean by “severe”. Certainly, they shouldn’t be executed (unless their actions have the direct and purposeful result of someone being killed). But hacking into computer systems is akin to any other unlawful entry… the punishment should fit the crime.

Since someone is going to point this out eventually, I might as well be the one. People who break into computers are crackers. Hackers has a more noble meaning, something along the lines of “someone who pushes technology to its limits, or uses it in creative ways, or finds clever ways to use technology”.

Something like that anyway.

Of course, some hackers are crackers. That is, some people find creative and inventive ways to use their computers to break into other computers. Many crackers aren’t hackers, since their attacks on other computers show neither style nor sophistication, things like just running canned programs that they don’t really understand.

Crackers should be punished according to their intent and how much damage they do. For example, someone might have just wanted to break into a computer for the sheer thrill of it, and maybe they don’t alter or delete any data on the target computer. For these people, the punishment should be relatively light. Another person might break into another computer for with the intent on stealing or damaging data. These people should get a stiffer sentence, how stiff depending on how much damage they actually do.

“someone who pushes technology to its limits, or uses it in creative ways, or finds clever ways to use technology”.
I think that it is important to go beyond the movie-stereotype of the hacker that is fueled by an anti-social impulse to cause destruction whether it be real or virtual. This is a commercial conception, brought to you by makers of internet defense to sell their product (or by a movie producers to string together some action sequences). It is also important to recognize our early stage in the computer/human evolution; hackers are perhaps nature’s ‘technological’ chance, the fight against centralization, toward the center of the bell curve…first post

Hey I’m a hacker too, a tweaker, in my own limited way. I can tool around with .ini files as well as anyone!! :slight_smile: I, I once crashed a computer using one line of BASIC code (of course it had to be a Commodore Pet, and it was by accident. Honest!!) I Just can’t alter another computer remotely. Not yet anyway.

Anyway, a cracker/script kiddie/zombie server administrator sometimes knows exactly what he is doing. He doesn’t have the ethical brain cells to know when he went too far. And society doesn’t steer him to the right path.

Yeah, true. Mr. and Mrs. Joe Public have started using the word “hacker” to mean just about ANYbody who does ANYthing with computers, however.

Hackers, crackers, tweakers, phreakers, scripters, coders, whatever… my point still stands that virtual crimes should be punished just as real crimes should be.

I certainly didn’t want to send the message that I think ALL hackers et al were villainous, anti-social, vengeful shmoes.

Any “hacker philosophy” that I’ve read seems to mention a “freedom of information” idea. The internet (and information itself) is (and should be) free, and they’re gonna keep it that way.

But of course, for every well-intentioned Marx (snicker) there’s a hundred Stalins ready to screw shit up.

There is a dichotomy between a “free-flow of information”, espoused by hacker philosophy, and the boundaries and fences put about information and its use by the law.

So in trying to disseminate information by releasing it from the shackles of concepts such as private property (copyright, and website accessibility) and confidentiality, hackers break the law.

As I understand it, in law, people distinguish between pre-meditated murder and a “spur-of-the-moment” murder correct?

I think the same would have to go for hackers and crackers.

Most script kiddiots are pre-teens out to try and impress what little friends they have by doing something destructive or “leet”. These kids have no idea about the ethics of hacking and free-information. I can’t really imagine throwing a kid in jail for 5 years because most of these kids have no idea what impact they’re having on the world. However they must be punished.

Black hat hackers (the bad guys), on the other hand, seem to have a more pre-meditated attack. It can take weeks, months, or even years to break into a system and do some damage and cover up your tracks well enough so that you wont be caught. If someone is willing to spend this much time just to take down a system, they deserve to spend a long time in jail. I think they should spend more time depending on their actions i.e. stealing credit card numbers or releasing viruses/trojans.

Other hackers (white hat) may break into systems and leave messages to sys-admins. explaining the exploit they used to enter a system and how they can fix it. No harm no foul right?

Freedom of information and freedom of speech should not be held captive by the big companies of the world.

Check out http://www.2600.org

As Cecil Adams (or his proxies, at least) wrote, “you may say ‘information wants to be free’, but THIS information wants to be bound in paperback and sold for $9.95 at a bookstore near you.”

Why? Usually that information or speech has had an enormous amount of labour and cost in its creation, promotion or mode of dissemination. Why shouldn’t someone - a company or whatever - profit from the spoils of their labours?

But why should someone be sued or taken to court because they made a http://www.fordsucks.com or sent to jail because they own a telecommunications device?

Maybe you could give me an example of where the information should be a secret?

(Warning: possible overgeneralization and speculation ahead. Apologies in advance.)

Well, if slashdot.org is any indication, it seems a lot of those people who are inclined to become hackers/crackers are libertarian, and specifically hate the idea of copyright and intellectual property, which is one reason why many seem to favor Linux and open source so much. In that case, it’s almost a moral thing to them to do what they do; it goes along with the “information wants to be free” thing. It’s their way of trying to take down what they see as an evil institution, that of copyright/intellectual property.

Of course, this theory can’t possibly cover all of 'em, and I may be entirely wrong. If so, see the disclaimer above. :slight_smile:


Sure. A client list. Most common form of information that I can think of off the top of my head which people like to keep confidential.

Client names, addresses, contact details, preferences.

Someone in business might have put years into making up that client list. If you don’t like thinking of these things in terms of “big business” think about it in terms of a corner shopkeeper, a little old man who has a nice card system.

Someone breaks into our friendly shopkeeper’s shop, and steals the card system. Or burns it, or just messes it up. This is devastating for the old man - he can’t remember who wants what, or when, or even who.

Worse, someone steals the card system and sells it to the big chain supermarket down the road. The supermarket goes on to approach the old shopkeeper’s customers, and undermines the old shopkeeper’s goodwill using the information it has procured.

Convert “shopkeeper” into “any business” and “card system” into “pdf file”.

Another type of information which must be kept confidential: a patentable idea which is in the steps of being finalised. Breach of confidentiality can result in competitors getting hold of this information and using it. Years of research can go down the tubes, along with millions of dollars in shareholder invested cash. (Many shareholders are retirement funds - so a breach of confidentiality can affect someone’s retirement).

A book, which is incomplete and not yet published.

A pre-use trade mark.

A pre-use industrial design.

Trade secrets, such as methods of manufacture which are not patentable, or marketing plans.

Military secrets.

Lots and lots…

Forgot to answer this part of what you posted…
If someone wants to try and diminish someone’s trading reputation by relying upon their right to freedom of speech, then they have to be prepared to fight for that right.

Ford spends millions of dollars in advertising. They can afford to spend millions of dollars in legal fees swatting someone who undermines their reputation. And what if Ford does not in fact suck? Shouldn’t Ford have the right to defend itself?

Not sure what you mean by the second example…

Back around 79 or so when I was an obnoxious punk high school kid breaking into computers with my 300 baud modem, the term Hacker ment someone who breaks into computers. Cracker was usually used for someone who specialized in breaking copy protection. Crasher was a hacker who did damage, and were generally looked upon as scum(exception, I used to crash a white power bbs, and that was honorable). Later I was told that hacker was not someone who broke into computers, but someone who was just really into commputers. This struck me as a load of crap, but who knows, maybe in some circles this was the case…The people I talked about hacking to, including some of my friends dads who were big time computer folk (one of them was head of computer security at a nuke plant),always refered to hackers as someone who broke into computers. Thats the way I remember it anyway.

Dave Stewart I think I agree with you more than I thought at first but not completly. Hacking for the sole purpose of stealing, crashing, and destroying systems is wrong no doubt about that.

However, take the DVD case for instance. Somebody hacked a DVD player, found out the workings of it, and made it possible to record other DVDs. (I’m sure someone can explain this a bit better, but it’s late and I have work tommorow) The DVD “hacker” bought the player just like any other person would. He or She seemed to have a nack for electronics and stubbled upon something really cool. They found a flaw in the DVD player. They posted the source code to a bunch of websites and now they’re getting into trouble for this. Why? It’s information that anyone could have found out, how is this illegal? I think it’s a good thing! Now the DVD company has to come out with a better product. Hackers are fueling technological progress.
As for the Fordsucks site. Why should I have to go to court to defend my opinion? Maybe I don’t fully understand the Bill of Rights but I thought I could pretty much say whatever I thought, good or bad. Ford knows that not everyone is going to like their product and the general public knows that the people at Fordsucks.com can buy from other companies. Who’s really being hurt? Can I be sued if I make: http://www.Timmy-down-the-street-sucks.com? Where is the line drawn?

Cykrider, I actually had a long answer for you and then the power went out in ourt building, forcing me to start from scratch. Here’s the condensed verion, anyway.

The DVD case is a little special - as I understand it, the guys are suing for breach of contract - not being allowed to publish their findings as promised, on how to get around the coding used on DVDs. Besides, source code is enormously valuable. Its the fundamental building block for a company’s individual software. Someone once said to me that handing over his source code to a third party would be like giving someone his company cheque book.

I’m also told you can’t reverse engineer for source code - object code yes, but not source code, but welcome anyone setting me straight.

Reverse engineering per se isn’t illegal where I come from. Using someone else’s patent or copyright on technology derived from reverse engineering is. Patents protect ideas that a company or individual has spent potentially millions of dollars developing. Why should just anyone be able to use that?

Hackers no more fuel the technological process than bank robbers serve to improve security in banks. Its an exact parallel. If bank robbers are in the business of breaking into a vault just to show people how its done, then their still trespassing on private property. And that’s the key point - information can be private property.

This is a defamation question. Defamation is a complex area of the law. I’m not a US attorney, so I don’t know much about the Bill of Rights (I might call up Watsonwil, who knows more about this than me), but I extremely doubt that the US bill of rights permits someone to make comments calculated to injure someone’s reputation or good standing.

That applies equally to cars. If you publish a website which says, “Ford cars irreparably rust after 3 years”, and its not true, then Ford should be entitled to sue you for defamation of their trade. The sentence has exposed Ford to “ridicule contempt and hatred”.

If you write “Timmy Nohoper of Backwater, Ohio is a child molesting bastard” then Timmy should be entitled to sue you.

But saying “Timmy sucks” is a mere insult, not a defamation. (Timmy might have to prove that he doesn’t suck, on a literal interpretation of the word, and call evidence that he has never sucked, only chewed and nibbled in order to be successful. That’s a joke, but its meant to be illustrative.)

Part of the problem veteran internet users have is that they figured the law wouldn’t be applicable to the internet; that because it was everywhere and nowhere, it was non-jurisdictional and the law couldn’t apply. This just isn’t true.

Those who break into other’s computers or plant virus’s should do a month or so in jail, be barred from ever owning a computer again, and then sued into oblivion.

Dave Stewart:

You’d be surprised. Look at the success of the National Enquirer.