How much do computer hackers know about hardware?

As a computer hacker, how much stuff do you know (on average) about the hardware of a PC?

Is it really in-depth?
Usually I imagine hacking to be more software-dependant, so I’ve got programmers in mind.
BTW I’m not referring to “script kiddies” who download and apply warez.

I mean the guys that actually write the programs (or “real hackers” as opposed to “crackers”) in the first place.

If you mean “hackers” in the proudly-boasted hacking-away-at-code sense, the answer probably varies. Some don’t give a fig about the hardware but can crank out optimized bug-free code like nobody’s business; others, who tend to work more at the assembly level, can memorize the number of cycles needed for each processor instruction and time the code to run at the maximum possible.

If you mean “hackers” as in the folks who know how to break into a computer system, I suspect the answer is “no very.” It’s usually sufficient for a malcontent to find and know about the software exploits of a system and use those; knowledge of the hardware isn’t that important, relatively speaking.

You may be interested in this recent thread.

It would depend on the type of exploit they use.

The recent Greasemonkey exploit was entirely software-based. You just had to send certain requests to read files off the user’s computer, and greasemonkey would perform them.

A standard Buffer overflow exploit, on the other hand, probably requires knowledge of the memory architecture, how the stack is allocated, and probably some assembly. At the very least it would require knowing the chip architecture so that the code inserted would be runnable. You might be able to get around knowing some of the other stuff with a special compiler setup.

I’m sure there are other types of exploits that require very detailed knowledge of the hardware itself.

Also, while “hacker” is a commonly used word for someone exploiting systems, most coders don’t use “hacker” in a necessarily negative way, and prefer the word “cracker” to be used for such people. Which one is better has been the subject of countless debates (some of them here), but “cracker” has the benefit of being unambiguous.

Gah. I just reread the OP and saw that I answered the wrong question entirely. Sorry about that. And it does look like ultrafilter’s link is what you want.

No actually I found what you wrote rather interesting.