The death of “hacking”

The net is still buzzing with the statement by the Full Disclosure list manager, but most people have forgotten this essential part:

There is no honour amongst hackers any more. There is no real community. There is precious little skill. The entire security game is becoming more and more regulated. This is all a sign of things to come, and a reflection on the sad state of an industry that should never have become an industry.

The clowns have come in to clean up the mess and quickly created a new “Full Disclosure” list, but only those who want to be fooled are fooled. This is a vastly important decisional moment for this community.

Nothing good dies except from inner forces, although possibly those are external forces that got brought inward by overly-inclusive policies. The fact is that most things in life follow a pattern: be good, get popular, and then get converted into the same stuff everyone else is doing.

In this case, “hacking” became a subset of web design. Use specialized tools to find a number of well-known exploits, and do it more rigorously than others, and you’ll get famous and possibly rich.

But that misses the point of what hacking was and will be again, when we have a new frontier. Hacking is the Wild West. When the rules are stagnant, hackers appear and they do things in a way that is both (a) unorthodox according to method but (b) more realistic in terms of how technology is applied.

In the 1980s, corporations and government put vast computing resources online without any idea of how to use them. A dying and over-regulated telecommunications industry was taking rents for what otherwise should have been a low-cost service.

Hackers rushed into the gap and exploded both. They put that underutilized equipment and bandwidth (modem over long distance) to use, spreading information and software tools around the world.

It is probably because of their opening up of this frontier that the internet eventually went public, and that the basis of a new aspect to our society became normalized. But with their role expanded, they retreated. No active mind wants to seek out repetitive pro forma roles like hacking has become.

Similarly, “maker” culture is basically a hobby for people who like doing what others have done. The real hackers are tackling actual frontiers, places where there is doubt and uncertainty, where the rules are either unclear or wrong.

Hackers are the growth tips of the human tree. We push into places where the existing order is stale, and we make new things. We are not here to become repetitive, to become detail-obsessive workaholics. We are here to destroy empty spaces, not perpetuate them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.