Is The Line Between 'Hacker' And 'Criminal' Really That Fuzzy?

from the only-if-you-don't-really-understand-stuff dept

We recently wrote about a series of cases where young computer hackers were either charged or threatened with criminal charges for doing things that don't seem particularly criminal at all. The NY Times now has a blog post on more or less the same subject, but focusing on the "fuzzy and shifting line between hacker and criminal." While it's good that more attention is getting paid to these kinds of questionable cases, I wonder if that framing is really accurate. I don't think there's a "line" -- fuzzy, shifting or not -- between "hacker" and "criminal." The two things are different. Can you be a criminal hacker? Sure. But the problem is that many non-techie folks seem to assume that any kind of hacking must be criminal. And that's the problem. It's not that some imaginary line is moving around, but that some people don't seem to understand that hacking itself is not criminal, and that there are plenty of good reasons to hack -- including to expose security holes.

Filed Under: cracker, criminal, freedom to tinker, hacker, intent


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jan 2013 @ 9:50am

    I have to say i'm kinda in their boat that "Hacking" is against the law, but then again you have to look at the definition of hacking. To me, hacking is "gaining unauthorized access to another computer." While your intentions may be honorable in reporting bugs later, if you manipulated your way into a system without others authorizing you to do so, you have broken the law.

    It's like a stranger throwing a brick through a store window, walking inside, walking out, and then coming back the next morning and telling the store owner that he should have used laminated glass.

    But I am somewhat mixed about this because I don't think the people that expose these vulnerabilities responsibly should be repremanded (Like telling the business before going public, and waiting a reasonable amount of time for them to have a fix). But there are others that find the hole and immediately take to the internet to get their 15 mins of fame, and put the users of the service at real risk.

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