Monday, August 25, 2008

Why Do Cyberthieves Steal?

A few months ago my debit card was compromised by cyberthieves who intercepted the data coming from my transaction at the local Hannaford's supermarket. They bought about $800 worth of stuff in Kuala Lampur. Fortunately, my credit union noticed that I was buying things locally and thought that the Malaysian purchases might not be legit. It took several months for the money to get credited back to my account because of delays in getting the police report done. The whole thing was at least mildly disruptive to my finances.

This has gotten me thinking. Why is it that people steal through online networks? Why do people hack systems? What separates the regular 'hacking for the fun of it' people from the 'hacking for the profit of it' cybercriminals?

As I have read through some of this information, I realize that I and many of my students may be considered Hackers. We like exploring systems and making them better for our own purposes. Personally, I have no real interest in exploiting these experiences for profit, my goal is to gather information about how things work and how to make them more capable.

There are many misunderstandings about Hackers. These misunderstandings come at least in part from the actions of people like those who stole my debit card information, and others who choose to cause chaos on our computer networks. I can't say I understand why people do this kind of thing much better now than I did before, but I do know that there is a lot of good to be done with Ethical and Productive Hacking.

Here are some links that I found on my quest for more information:

How to become a Hacker: The Cathedral and the Bazaar Link
The Five Principles of the Hacker Mindset (from Eric S. Raymond): Link
The Cathedral and the Bazaar by Eric S. Raymond online at Link published by O'Reilly in book form as well.
Why I love hackers by Tim O'Reilly (presentation): Link

Defcon is an influential event in the Hacker community: Link
MIT/MBTA fare dispute discussion at The Tech: Link
- on Yelp: Link
- at Information Week: Link
- on The Bostonist: Link

Hackers by Steven Levy: Link
Cloud Collaborating, virtual worlds and the hacker mindset: Link
The Hacker Ethic by
Pekka Himanen: Link
Old and New Hacker Ethic by
Steven Mizrach: Link

Hacker Manifesto on Wikipedia: Link
Chaos Computer Club on Wikipedia: Link
Timeline of Computer Security Hacker History on Wikipedia: Link
It is useful to note that there are a variety of interpretations to the word "Hack": Link
The Happy Hacker: Link

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