Reading 01: Hackers

What I think of when I think of the word “hacker”

From my own experience, the word hacker usually brings to my mind the image of a shady guy sitting in the dark of a basement or garage with a hood pulled over his head and eyes fixated on a screen with terminal black and white (or green) text. In movies and television, I feel that there tend to be two common types of hackers. The first kind is the hacker who hacks just to mess with people or just to get whatever the heck they want (like the hacker from Black Mirror in the episode “Shut Up and Dance”). The second kind of hackers I think of are vigilantes and activist hackers like those in Anonymous. These are people who “hack” their way through the barriers and secrets of the system to make a stand for what they believe in. In the article “A Portrait of J. Random Hacker,” the author mentions that “hackers dress for comfort” and that “hackers often have poor person-to-person communication skills.” To some degree, these traits can be somewhat true. However, it is when the media focuses on traits like these that the image of a hacker being a cloistered and often troublesome figure come to light. To me, it seems that due to these commonly painted stereotypes in particular, hackers are often seen as villainous. The stereotypical antisocial “hacker” bends the rules and makes the general public feel unsafe because of what he can do, whether it’s malicious of not. You rarely ever hear stories of hackers working for a good cause, but you very often hear stories of security breaches and hidden malware. These particular attributes of a hacker are not ones that I would identify myself with, and frankly, I find that the media portrays hackers in a less than flattering and less than complete picture. As Zuckerberg says in the Wired article, “The word ‘hacker’ has an unfairly negative connotation from being portrayed in the media as people who break into computers.” In the article by The Mentor on Phrack, he says, “We explore… and you call us criminals. We seek after knowledge… and you call us criminals” and “Yes, I am a criminal. My crime is that of curiosity.” I think something that the media fails to highlight is that hackers and coders do what they do (for the most part) because they find what they are doing to be a journey. This journey is something that will teach them something new, and they explore because they are passionate about learning more. Zuckerberg says, “Hackers believe that something can always be better, and that nothing is ever complete. They just have to go fix it — often in the face of people who say it’s impossible or are content with the status quo.” Yes a hacker can be bad, but there are a lot of good hackers out there too who are trying their best to “hack” us into a better and safer life. A hacker then, in the general sense, is someone whose inherent curiosity drives them to learn, innovate new solutions, and reevaluate old solutions. With regards to these attributes, I do see myself as a hacker. I’m a firm believer in the idea that you can never learn enough, so it’s good to explore what you don’t know. From what new things you do learn, you better equip yourself to face new and old problems from a different and sometimes enlightening perspective.

Hacker image from: