Studying The Culture Of Underground Hackers

from the nothing-you-wouldn't-expect dept

There are certain stereotypes around malicious hackers/crackers/whatever you want to call them and a doctoral student decided to explore them in more detail in her dissertation about how such hackers perceive themselves. In general, she found the basic stereotype was true: they weren’t typical criminals at all. They were overwhelmingly young, male and middle class (some with families). They don’t view themselves as criminals at all, and generally think of what they’re doing as a mixture of competition, a prank and idle curiosity. Most aren’t out to cause any harm (or to make any sort of profit), but are in it for the fun of the challenge – and for the rush it seems to give them when they can crack some system. The article also suggests that many in the public don’t view such hacking as a particularly terrible criminal act. Many people think of it as being similar to a prank, and feel that police tend to be too hard on those caught breaking into computer systems or figuring out how to copy software. Still, it tends to be those who understand the least about what’s happening that end up making punishment decisions for these folks, and that means that they overreact.

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Comments on “Studying The Culture Of Underground Hackers”

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LittleW0lf says:

Re: Re: Re: Still, it tends to be those who understand the

One could drive a car on the wrong side of the highway and “not actually damage anything”, but that does not prevent us from locking up such drivers.

Coming from an “Anonymous Coward”, I am sure this is a troll, but in case this is a serious argument…

This is apples and oranges, when driving a car down the wrong side of a highway, there is no doubt that this is wreckless driving, and in doing so, especially with the speeds involved, there is little doubt that any collision will result in at least significant injury if not death of one or more people involved. You may not actually damage anything driving down the wrong side of the road, but you are knowingly putting your own life and the life of others in danger doing so… But sadly, however, in most cases like this, the person is usually ticketed and released, not locked up.

The worst you can do illegally accessing a normal computer and destroying data on the computer is adding a ton of work to either the administrator of the machine (if the data was backed up,) or those contributing the data (if it wasn’t backed up.) In all but the most extreme case, the life and liberty of those involved is not in danger. But instead of ticketing and releasing the hacker, we throw them in jail for 10 years, and restrict their computer use for another 5, so they are forced to work as a janitor or some other non-computer job.

Come to think of it Anonymous, you have pretty much shown why our justice system sucks so bad…drive a car the wrong way and actually kill someone, go to jail for 5 years for agrivated vehicular manslaughter, hack a computer and accidently destroy some data, 20 years in pound you in the rear federal prision…sounds fair to me, after all, business data is far more important than human life anyway, humans are a dime a dozen, but if our computers go down, that costs us a bazillion dollars.

LittleW0lf says:

Re: Re: Re: Still, it tends to be those who understand the

What’s an appropriate punishment for destroying something I’ve spent 6 years building?

I am sorry, but unless it has a dollar value, the government doesn’t care how long it took you to build it. Sentencing guidelines are based on dollar values of the damage caused. If you don’t have a dollar value, then the appropriate punishment for destroying it will likely be based on the base sentencing guidelines for the destruction of or depriving you of the use of that something, and any other charges which may apply, such as breaking and entering, vandalism, or in the case of computers, unauthorized access to that something.

Tony, the problem is that the appropriate punishment for destroying something you spent 6 years building in our current system is in excess of the punishment someone could get for taking your life (figuratively, please don’t take this as a threat.) While people who illegally access computers should get some jail time, and I don’t think you’ll find any of us regulars here that disagree, the point is that the justice system cares more about throwing the book at hackers that don’t destroy anything (or even worse, hackers that write software to decrypt movies, music, etc., that they have bought and have legal access to, but whom choose to use Linux instead of Windows on their computer, and thus cannot play the material,) then they do about prosecuting other, more important crimes.

And Congress is more worried about passing laws on computer terrorism (if it really exists,) than trying to pass laws which make real-world terrorism more difficult and easier to prevent.

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