Friday, June 17, 2011


Assalamualaikum. Oh, these few days back have witnessed the country's being loud with this news of hackers making havoc by shutting down the government web services. Well, as a commoner, I'm on the middle side. Being neutral & everything, that's my stand. 

Not my pic.

Yet, I think, we need to get back to basics. For the sake of general knowledge. What is a hacker & what does they do? How to become one? How did it start at the first place? Is it good or is it not? Again, I'm back to my Googling activities to find out these: 

When did people learn to hack?

Hacking has been around for more than a century. In the 1870s, several teenagers were flung off the country's brand new phone system by enraged authorities. Here's a peek at how busy hackers have been in the past 35 years.

Early 1960s
University facilities with huge mainframe computers, like MIT's artificial intelligence lab, become staging grounds for hackers. At first, "hacker" was a positive term for a person with a mastery of computers who could push programs beyond what they were designed to do.

Early 1970s

John Draper makes a long-distance call for free by blowing a precise tone into a telephone that tells the phone system to open a line. Draper discovered the whistle as a give-away in a box of children's cereal. Draper, who later earns the handle "Captain Crunch," is arrested repeatedly for phone tampering throughout the 1970s.

Yippie social movement starts YIPL/TAP (Youth International Party Line/Technical Assistance Program) magazine to helpphone hackers (called "phreaks") make free long-distance calls.

Two members of California's Homebrew Computer Club begin making "blue boxes," devices used to hack into the phone system. The members, who adopt handles "Berkeley Blue" (Steve Jobs) and "Oak Toebark" (Steve Wozniak), later go on to found Apple Computer.

Early 1980s
Author William Gibson coins the term "cyberspace" in a science fiction novel called Neuromancer.

In one of the first arrests of hackers, the FBI busts the Milwaukee-based 414s (named after the local area code) after members are accused of 60 computer break-ins ranging from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center to Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Comprehensive Crime Control Act gives Secret Service jurisdiction over credit card and computer fraud.

Two hacker groups are formed, the Legion of Doom in the United States and the Chaos Computer Club in Germany.
2600: The Hacker Quarterly is founded to share tips on phone and computer hacking.

Late 1980s
The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act gives more clout to federal authorities.

Computer Emergency Response Team is formed by U.S. defense agencies. Based at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, its mission is to investigate the growing volume of attacks on computer networks.

At 25, veteran hacker Kevin Mitnick secretly monitors the e-mail of MCI and Digital Equipment security officials. He is convicted of damaging computers and stealing software and is sentenced to one year in prison.

First National Bank of Chicago is the victim of a $70-million computer heist.

An Indiana hacker known as "Fry Guy" -- so named for hacking McDonald's -- is raided by law enforcement. A similar sweep occurs in Atlanta for Legion of Doom hackers known by the handles "Prophet," "Leftist" and "Urvile."
Early 1990s

After AT&T long-distance service crashes on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, law enforcement starts a national crackdown on hackers. The feds nab St. Louis' "Knight Lightning" and in New York grab Masters of Deception trio "Phiber Optik," " Acid Phreak" and "Scorpion." Fellow hacker "Eric Bloodaxe" is picked up in Austin, Texas.

Operation Sundevil, a special team of Secret Service agents and members of Arizona's organized crime unit, conducts raids in 12 major cities, including Miami.

A 17-month search ends in the capture of hacker Kevin Lee Poulsen ("Dark Dante"), who is indicted for stealing military documents.

Hackers break into Griffith Air Force Base, then pewwwte computers at NASA and the Korean Atomic Research Institute. Scotland Yard nabs "Data Stream," a 16-year-old British teenager who curls up in the fetal position when seized.

A Texas A&M professor receives death threats after a hacker logs on to his computer from off-campus and sends 20,000 racist e-mail messages using his Internet address.

In a highly publicized case, Kevin Mitnick is arrested (again), this time in Raleigh, N.C., after he is tracked down via computer by Tsutomu Shimomura at the San Diego Supercomputer Center.

Late 1990s
Hackers break into and deface federal Web sites, including the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Air Force, CIA, NASA and others.

Report by the General Accounting Office finds Defense Department computers sustained 250,000 attacks by hackers in 1995 alone.

A Canadian hacker group called the Brotherhood, angry at hackers being falsely accused of electronically stalking a Canadian family, break into the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. Web site and leave message: "The media are liars." Family's own 15-year-old son eventually is identified as stalking culprit.

Hackers pierce security in Microsoft's NT operating system to illustrate its weaknesses.
Popular Internet search engine Yahoo! is hit by hackers claiming a "logic bomb" will go off in the PCs of Yahoo!'s users on Christmas Day 1997 unless Kevin Mitnick is released from prison. "There is no virus," Yahoo! spokeswoman Diane Hunt said.

Anti-hacker ad runs during Super Bowl XXXII. The Network Associates ad, costing $1.3-million for 30 seconds, shows two Russian missile silo crewmen worrying that a computer order to launch missiles may have come from a hacker. They decide to blow up the world anyway.

In January, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics is inundated for days with hundreds of thousands of fake information requests, a hacker attack called "spamming."

Hackers break into United Nation's Children Fund Web site, threatening a "holocaust" if Kevin Mitnick is not freed.
Hackers claim to have broken into a Pentagon network and stolen software for a military satellite system. They threaten to sell the software to terrorists.

The U.S. Justice Department unveils National Infrastructure Protection Center, which is given a mission to protect the nation's telecommunications, technology and transportation systems from hackers.
Hacker group L0pht, in testimony before Congress, warns it could shut down nationwide access to the Internet in less than 30 minutes. The group urges stronger security measures.

What Is a Hacker?

The Jargon File contains a bunch of definitions of the term hacker, most having to do with technical adeptness and a delight in solving problems and overcoming limits. If you want to know how to become a hacker, though, only two are really relevant.

There is a community, a shared culture, of expert programmers and networking wizards that traces its history back through decades to the first time-sharing minicomputers and the earliest ARPAnet experiments. The members of this culture originated the term hacker. Hackers built the Internet. Hackers made the Unix operating system what it is today. Hackers run Usenet. Hackers make the World Wide Web work. If you are part of this culture, if you have contributed to it and other people in it know who you are and call you a hacker, you're a hacker.

The hacker mind-set is not confined to this software-hacker culture. There are people who apply the hacker attitude to other things, like electronics or music actually, you can find it at the highest levels of any science or art. Software hackers recognize these kindred spirits elsewhere and may call them hackers too and some claim that the hacker nature is really independent of the particular medium the hacker works in. But in the rest of this document we will focus on the skills and attitudes of software hackers, and the traditions of the shared culture that originated the term hacker.

There is another group of people who loudly call themselves hackers, but aren't. These are people (mainly adolescent males) who get a kick out of breaking into computers and phreaking the phone system. Real hackers call these people crackers and want nothing to do with them. Real hackers mostly think crackers are lazy, irresponsible, and not very bright, and object that being able to break security doesn't make you a hacker any more than being able to hotwire cars makes you an automotive engineer. Unfortunately, many journalists and writers have been fooled into using the word hacker to describe crackers; this irritates real hackers no end.

The basic difference is this: hackers build things, crackers break them.

How to become a hacker?

  1. 1. Adopt the mindset of a hacker. Hackers solve problems and build things, and they believe in freedom and voluntary mutual help. To be accepted as a hacker, you have to behave as though you have this kind of attitude yourself. And to behave as though you have the attitude, you have to really believe the attitude. So, if you want to be a hacker, repeat the following things until you believe them:
  2. The world is full of fascinating problems waiting to be solved. Successful athletes get their motivation from a kind of physical delight in making their bodies perform, in pushing themselves past their own physical limits. Similarly, you have to get a basic thrill from solving problems, sharpening your skills, and exercising your intelligence.
  3. No problem should ever have to be solved twice. The thinking time of other hackers is precious — so much so that it's almost a moral duty for you to share information, solve problems and then give the solutions away just so other hackers can solve newproblems instead of having to perpetually re-address old ones.
  4. Boredom and drudgery are evil. When hackers are bored or have to drudge at stupid repetitive work, they aren't doing what only they can do — solve new problems. To behave like a hacker, you have to want to automate away the boring bits as much as possible.
  5. Freedom is good. The authoritarian attitude has to be fought wherever you find it, lest it smother you and other hackers. Not all authority figures are authoritarian, however; authoritarians thrive on censorship and secrecy. And they distrust voluntary cooperation and information-sharing.
  6. Attitude is no substitute for competence. Hackers won't let posers waste their time, but they worship competence — especially competence at hacking, but competence at anything is valued. Competence at demanding skills that few can master is especially good, and competence at demanding skills that involve mental acuteness, craft, and concentration is best.

  7. 2. Learn how to program. The best way to learn is to read some stuff written by masters of the form, write some things yourself, read a lot more, write a little more, read a lot more, write some more, and repeat until your writing begins to develop the kind of strength and economy you see in your models. To be a real hacker, however, you need to get to the point where you can learn a new language in days by relating what's in the manual to what you already know. This means you should learn several very different languages. Besides being the most important hacking languages, the following represent very different approaches to programming, and each will educate you in valuable ways.

  8. Phython is a good language to start off with because it's cleanly designed, well documented, and relatively kind to beginners. Despite being a good first language, it is not just a toy; it is very powerful and flexible and well suited for large projects. Javais an alternative, but its value as a first programming language has been questioned.[1]
  1. If you get into serious programming, you will have to learn C, the core language of Unix (C++ is very closely related to C; if you know one, learning the other will not be difficult). C is very efficient with your machine's resources, but will soak up huge amounts of your time on debugging and is often avoided for that reason (unless machine efficiency is essential).

    • Perl is worth learning for practical reasons; it's very widely used for active web pages and system administration, so that even if you never write Perl you should learn to read it. Many people use Perl to avoid C programming on jobs that don't require C's machine efficiency.

    • LISP is worth learning for a different reason — the profound enlightenment experience you will have when you finally get it. That experience will make you a better programmer for the rest of your days, even if you never actually use LISP itself a lot. You can get some beginning experience with LISP fairly easily by writing and modifying editing modes for the Emacs text editor, or Script-Fu plugins for the GIMP.

    • 3. Get one of the open-source Unixes and learn to use and run it. Unix is the operating system of the Internet. While you can learn to use the Internet without knowing Unix, you can't be an Internet hacker without understanding Unix. For this reason, the hacker culture today is pretty strongly Unix-centered. So, bring up a Unix (like Linux but there are other ways and yes, you can run both Linux and Microsoft Windows on the same machine). Learn it. Run it. Tinker with it. Talk to the Internet with it. Read the code. Modify the code.

    • There are other operating systems in the world besides Unix. But they're distributed in binary — you can't read the code, and you can't modify it. Trying to learn to hack on a Microsoft Windows machine or under any other closed-source system is like trying to learn to dance while wearing a body cast. Under Mac OS X it's possible, but only part of the system is open source — you're likely to hit a lot of walls, and you have to be careful not to develop the bad habit of depending on Apple's proprietary code.
    • Download Linux online[2] or (better idea) find a local Linux user group to help you with installation.

    • While other distros have their own areas of strength, Ubuntu is far and away the most accessible to Linux newbies.

    • A good way to dip your toes in the water is to boot up what Linux fans call a live CD, a distribution that runs entirely off a CD without having to modify your hard disk. This is a way to get a look at the possibilities without having to do anything drastic.

    • 4. Learn how to use the World Wide Web and write HTML. Most of the things the hacker culture has built do their work out of sight, helping run factories and offices and universities without any obvious impact on how non-hackers live. The Web is the one big exception, the huge shiny hacker toy that even politicians admit has changed the world. For this reason alone (and a lot of other good ones as well) you need to learn how to work the Web. This doesn't just mean learning how to drive a browser (anyone can do that), but learning how to write HTML, the Web's markup language. If you don't know how to program, writing HTML will teach you some mental habits that will help you learn. So build a home page. Try to stick to XHTML, which is a cleaner language than classic HTML.

    • 5. If you don't have functional English, learn it. English is the working language of the hacker culture and the Internet, and you will need to know it to function in the hacker community. Translations of technical books written in English are often unsatisfactory (when they get done at all). Being a native English-speaker does not guarantee that you have language skills good enough to function as a hacker. If your writing is semi-literate, ungrammatical, and riddled with misspellings, many hackers will tend to ignore you. While sloppy writing does not invariably mean sloppy thinking, the correlation is strong. If you can't yet write competently, learn to.

    • 6. Earn respect as a hacker. Like most cultures without a money economy, hackerdom runs on reputation. You're trying to solve interesting problems, but how interesting they are, and whether your solutions are really good, is something that only your technical peers or superiors are normally equipped to judge. This is why you aren't really a hacker until other hackers consistently call you one. Specifically, hackerdom is what anthropologists call a gift culture. You gain status and reputation in it not by dominating other people, nor by being beautiful, nor by having things other people want, but rather by giving things away: your time, your creativity, and the results of your skill.

    • Write open-source software. Write programs that other hackers think are fun or useful, and give the program sources away to the whole hacker culture to use. Hackerdom's most revered demigods are people who have written large, capable programs that met a widespread need and given them away, so that now everyone uses them.

    • Help test and debug open-source software. Any open-source author who's thinking will tell you that good beta-testers (who know how to describe symptoms clearly, localize problems well, can tolerate bugs in a quickie release, and are willing to apply a few simple diagnostic routines) are worth their weight in rubies. Try to find a program under development that you're interested in and be a good beta-tester. There's a natural progression from helping test programs to helping debug them to helping modify them. You'll learn a lot this way, and generate good karma with people who will help you later on.

    • Publish useful information. Another good thing is to collect and filter useful and interesting information into web pages or documents like Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) lists, and make those generally available. Maintainers of major technical FAQs get almost as much respect as open-source authors.

    • Help keep the infrastructure working. The hacker culture (and the engineering development of the Internet, for that matter) is run by volunteers. There's a lot of necessary but unglamorous work that needs done to keep it going — administering mailing lists, moderating newsgroups, maintaining large software archive sites, developing RFCs and other technical standards. People who do this sort of thing well get a lot of respect, because everybody knows these jobs are huge time sinks and not as much fun as playing with code. Doing them shows dedication.

    • Serve the hacker culture itself. This is not something you'll be positioned to do until you've been around for a while and become well-known for one of the four previous items. The hacker culture doesn't have leaders, exactly, but it does have culture heroes and tribal elders and historians and spokespeople. When you've been in the trenches long enough, you may grow into one of these. Beware: hackers distrust blatant ego in their tribal elders, so visibly reaching for this kind of fame is dangerous. Rather than striving for it, you have to sort of position yourself so it drops in your lap, and then be modest and gracious about your status.

To cut it short, hacking is initially is a good term. Eventually, some people turned to misuse it & thus making bad of the "hacking" term itself. Same case as drugs & so on, it seems. 

Nevertheless, it depends on the person him / herself who learned hacking to determine whether he / she shall be a hacker or "cracker" - at least that's how it is said. Assalamualaikum.

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