= H =
hacker ethic n.
1. The belief that information-sharing
is a powerful positive good, and that it is an ethical duty of
hackers to share their expertise by writing open-source code and
facilitating access to information and to computing resources
wherever possible. 2. The belief that system-cracking for fun and
exploration is ethically OK as long as the cracker commits no
theft, vandalism, or breach of confidentiality.
Both of these normative ethical principles are widely, but by no
means universally, accepted among hackers. Most hackers subscribe
to the hacker ethic in sense 1, and many act on it by writing and
giving away open-source software. A few go further and assert that
all information should be free and any proprietary
control of it is bad; this is the philosophy behind the GNU
Sense 2 is more controversial: some people consider the act of
cracking itself to be unethical, like breaking and entering. But
the belief that `ethical' cracking excludes destruction at least
moderates the behavior of people who see themselves as `benign'
crackers (see also samurai, gray hat). On this view, it
may be one of the highest forms of hackerly courtesy to (a) break
into a system, and then (b) explain to the sysop, preferably by
email from a superuser account, exactly how it was done and
how the hole can be plugged -- acting as an unpaid (and
unsolicited) tiger team.
The most reliable manifestation of either version of the hacker
ethic is that almost all hackers are actively willing to share
technical tricks, software, and (where possible) computing
resources with other hackers. Huge cooperative networks such as
Usenet, FidoNet and the Internet itself can function
without central control because of this trait; they both rely on
and reinforce a sense of community that may be hackerdom's most
valuable intangible asset.
--The Jargon File version 4.3.1, ed. ESR, autonoded by rescdsk.