I don't know if I'm a hacker or not.

I'm certainly not a cracker - I know nothing about networks beyond what your average computer literate geek knows.

However, I'm hardly a script kiddie either - I don't use terms such as k-rad and l33t. I don't generally use off the shelf exploits either.

What I do do is come up with some interesting ways of manoeuvering around obsticles: for example, WinLock. WinLock was a lame security tool which stopped people from doing anything. Notepad was forbidden. We couldn't use the machine as nothing had been installed on it (except, of course, WinLock) and the whole idea was that the machine was for CD-Roms.

So I made my way around WinLock, by bypassing the parts in the Autoexec.bat and Config.sys files and the part loaded in Win.ini. And it worked. (I still wasn't allowed to install the CD-Roms, despite being a pupil librarian, since that was the IT staffs job. It never got done.)

So I put the restrictions back in place, making sure there were no traces.

I also made my way around Cumberland Family Tree for Windows. The version I had was incredibly buggy, and we weren't going to shell out £35 for the pleasure of owning it. When the next version came out fixing a few bugs but leaving the majority, we realised that it was time-trapped. So I set to work on disabling it.

I tried to uninstall and reinstall it. Didn't work. This suggested to me that the time data was kept in a separate location. Got to be Windows! A quick look in win.ini yielded data2=5827482 or something similar. I made it a few tens of thousands bigger. We had another two months. I changed it to 9999999. We now had a seventy year trial software. We then upgraded to Personal Ancestory File as soon as possible. Far better software.

More recently, I discovered a hack that allowed me to discover peoples cookies on sites which allowed use of unmoderated HTML. With a little bit of JavaScript I was able to publish peoples cookies. Big wow, you might say. But on some sites this means that you can 'become' that person (ie: the cookie identifies the individual) and cause quite a bit of damage. How would you like it if someone decided, under your name, to send all of your nodes to be nuked, started flame wars in the catbox and generally messed up your e2ing life?

I alerted, like any good hacker, the authorities, who quickly said 'Ah. Oh. Eee....'. Within twelve hours the loophole was quickly sealed off in most incarnations.

So am I a hacker?


Now to the small print, the disussions between the noders.
Firstly, Sir.Cracked's point about hacker being a title which is bestowed upon you, not one you decide you are. That's why I asked this node in the first place!
Why do geeks claim to not be interested in titles, yet grasp at hacker, guru, whizzkid? Simple - they're so socially inept that they can't get any 'real world' titles - dude, hoopy frood... so they say "Hey - I don't care. It doesn't matter." And they believe this. But when they can have a title (within their own culture) they feel starved of the attention it brings and try desperately for it. Maybe.
I feel also that tribbel confuses different meanings of the word hacker with the one I am trying to ask. I realise that this meaning is fluid... hence the question. I would like to thank Sir.Cracked for putting his suggestion forwards.

The first problems you mention are obviously blatant design flaws, security through obscurity and all that. The insecurity of cookies is a well-known fact. That's why there is an option in most browsers that allows you to disable cookies.

But that is all quite irrelevant, since you are asking wether you are a hacker or not. First of all, it is pure idiocy to ask such a question . Does it really matter what "title" you have? I have been dubbed a lot of titles over the years; everything from "guru" to "dickhead". And I don't care. I am just tribbel, the adequate computer user and part-time human being.

Secondly, the term "hacker" is a very loose one. There are about as many definitions of the word as there are "hackers". One says a hacker is a malicious security expert, the other says a hacker is a programmer. Yet another claims that a hacker is a bad writer. All and all, the title no longer holds any value whatsoever.

Here are few definitions of the word `hacker', from various sources, for your reading pleasure:

  1. Someone who plays golf poorly.
  2. A programmer for whom computing is its own reward; may enjoy the challenge of breaking into other computers.
  3. One who works hard at boring tasks.
  4. A person who enjoys exploring the details of programmable systems and how to stretch their capabilities.
  5. One who programs enthusiastically.
  6. A person capable of appreciation hack value.
  7. A person who is good at programming quickly.
  8. An expert at a particular program.
  9. An expert or enthusiast of any kind.
  10. One who enjoys the intellectual challenge of creatively overcoming or circumventing limitations.
  11. A malicious meddler who tries to discover sensitive information by poking around.
  12. A programmer who does not understand proper programming techniques and principles.
  13. Someone who makes furniture with an axe.
  14. One who, or that which, hacks.
  15. A player of the nethack game.
  16. A person who uses the Internet under a false name.

And finally, this is the part I hate about "geeks", "nerds", or whatever you want to call them; they claim that they have outevolved the craving for social status. They keep whining about the `jocks' and `cheerleaders' who bugged them in high school, but at the same tim e they long for such idiotic titles as "hacker".


Sir.Cracked, I agree with you; sensitivity is natural. But saying one thing ("I hate those who are obsessed with social status"), and then doing another thing is ("I am a hacker! Honour me!"*), in my world, annoying, if not unacceptable.

* mildly exaggerated, but you get the point.

Tribbel, Try going through it yourself sometime, You will find that its only natural to develop a little hyper-sensitivity to social structures.

The term 'Hacker', as the The Cow describes it, Originated, as far as anyone can tell, from MIT. The Hacker's Dictionary can give a far better description of the history than I can, but it is a bit like a combination of Jester, social commentator, and perhaps (but not necessarily) computer literate. It's a noble title, and while it won't give anyone any special powers, titles are important for the fact that they communicate who you are or who you want to be. Think Dr, or even Sir (in the British system). Tribbel misses the point when he talks about people describing themselves as hackers. They misuse the word, and it's doubtful anyone uttering such a statment would live up to the term.

As far as if you are a hacker or not? Do other people consider you a hacker? Really one cannot declare themselves a hacker. It's a title that must be bestowed. Personally(IMHO), I would describe you as a proto-hacker (or larval stage hacker). You show much potential, and you certainly aren’t a normal (l)user.
This was an editorial I wrote a while ago for WarpedReality, when the Denial-of-Service attacks were going on. Yes, I know the difference between Hackers and Crackers :) but the medium required Hacker as the operative term.


I'm an old school hacker. My definition of old school is pre-Internet availability, in the days of BBS's. Unfortunately that actually places me in the ancient school category, as I've been hacking on boxes since 1977, when I was able to access the source codes in a hidden directory for a bunch of text-based games on the PRIME mini-mainframe we were connected to in high school.

I am a hacker. I am not a criminal.

To lump me into a category of miscreants who willfully damage systems and software is rude and scurrilous. I don't break into other people's property to be a nuisance. I do break into systems when I am asked to by the rightful owners in order to help determine what security measures need to be taken to protect their property.

Am I against "script kiddies"? Short answer -- no. Long answer -- if you've been running around for longer than one year using other people's tools and ideas, and you've contributed nothing in return except destruction and defacement, then you're not a hacker. Some folks get into hacking via the "script kiddie" route, and there's nothing wrong with that. I look upon it as a stepping stone to a greater knowledge. Some folks learn better by example, and if you've done more than one of the following, you're on your way:

  • Written a program in C, C++, VB, Modula-2, assembly, Java, or any language except BASIC.
  • Modified any source code, excluding BASIC and HTML, substantially enough to improve the original code.
  • Learned another operating system excluding Microsoft or Mac (Double points for Unix. Triple for Oberon).
  • Read more than four technical books in the past 12 months, excluding the For Dummies series.
  • Learned or read any reference materials concerning networking or TCP/IP, and know what 192.168.X.X is.
  • Understand the classes of IP addresses, and how to figure subnet masking.
  • Learned how to write in your native spoken language without resorting to numbers or high-ASCII (for example, 3£337).
  • Set up a website to disseminate information and help others out.
  • Helped another individual with a complex computer problem or program, excluding cracking tools.

True hackers are well-read individuals. They are constantly reading the latest news on sites such as HNN or Slashdot. They contribute new programs, ideas, texts and solutions to the scene. They are either working on learning developing technology before it is released or are contributing to it. Do you know what IPv6 is?

True hackers do not fuck with other people 'just because they can'. They do have the ability to install NetBus on your system if you attempt to Back Orifice them or hit them with a port scanner (hello to Dmitri, 195.56.34.236 : bolgar-13.dialin.datanet.hu on 21JAN2000, you wonder why your .DLL's were renamed to .D11?). They don't mail bomb or listserve-of-death people because they make honest mistakes.

Hackers don't destroy things, they create them. I don't consider folks who deface websites without telling the owner how it was done or leave out a link to the original index.html from the cracked page hackers. I don't consider folks who continue to deface pages after six months starting from the first site they cracked to be a hacker.

A hacker does not go around shouting from hacked websites how '£337 they are. Hackers are subtle. They command respect -- not because their words, but for their actions. Think of all the truly famous hackers on the net. Folks like Mudge, Jericho and Mitnick. You've never seen website pages hacked by them. There are no businesses who have lost large sums of cash replacing their e-commerce sites or shutting down from a distributed denial-of-service attack because of them. Are they Gods, Perfect Hackers? Nope, and they'd be the first ones to say so. The only differences between most of the self-proclaimed hackers and these three examples are experience, reliability and an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. They want to know, but not at the expense of others. Mitnick had huge inventories of information, but he never sold it or gave it away. Do I think he deserved to be jailed for years? No. Do I think he deserved time for being caught with the information and phreaking? Yes, maybe 30 days and 2 years probation requiring him to complete college and find suitable employment, and to let the admins know how he waltzed into their systems virtually undetected. The big outcry was not that Mitnick was innocent, but that he was unjustly imprisoned for years with wanton disregard for the founding principles of our country. Are these three guys Elite? In my opinion -- no, simply because Elite is a hypothetical goal to strive for. Technology evolves so damn fast (for example, Moore's Law) that even if one person attained the status of Elite, it would be fleeting. Figure it as king for a day. These three guys are just damn good, deserving respect and admiration for the hard work they used to assemble their vast knowledge base and how they apply it.

Now, about these DDoS attacks against major net companies... I don't think there's a single true hacker that would condone, let alone sympathize, with the actions taken by these criminals. If there was a rhyme or reason for the attacks, like DDoS'ing a company because they use cheap child labor (such as Iomega using Malaysian factories) or because they were for or against abortions and they hacked related sites, I would be more lenient, even if I didn't agree with their message. But this huge DDoS attack falls into the 'because we can' category, and that removes it from the realm of hackers. Their message (if any) was killed by their medium.

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