You've read the headlines: "A frenzy of hacking attacks." "Smells like teen malcontent." "How the cyber vandals zapped Yahoo!" A bad name is nothing new for the hacker. We hardly need to add a pejorative to the word anymore, as if there could be any other type of hacker than a "criminal" one. Wired News quoted one source as saying "What we're seeing here is as if a group of moral-less teenagers had discovered automatic weapons...and were going around killing small animals with tremendous firepower."
But hackers are far from being solely the cyber-terrorists that the media's brush often paints them to be. Hackers are, in the broadest definition, people with a creative, expert knowledge of computer systems at the technical level. They are, simply put, programmers. Eric S. Raymond, a chronicler of hacker history, author of The New Hacker's Dictionary and a long-time hacker himself, points out that hackers are a culture that exerts a positive force on information technology.
"Hackers solve problems and build things," Raymond writes in his FAQ How To Become a Hacker, "and they believe in freedom and voluntary mutual help."
Hackers design systems, they work with computer code, and they enhance existing systems, including the security systems that are meant to protect us from attacks in the first place. They do a lot of the thankless work that those on the user end, whether individual or corporate, take for granted.
The Web as we know it today, in all its ease of use and quirky cleverness, is due to the efforts of hackers.
with additional research by Tammy Lawrence
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