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Voodoo People: Hire, Jail or Forgive Young Hackers? (Part 1)

Posted January 19, 2009 12:10 PM by april05

OK, first an admission: this blogger is not without sin. Back in the very early 80's, over 9600 baud and slower links, I connected to various computer systems I should not have been attempting to connect to. Nothing automated - I was guessing, from context, what the access codes might be. Once I was in, having experienced the thrill of gaining access, I quickly left. That was the extent of my hacking career.

<-- Mid 80's example of a Prime 9950 minicomputer. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Afterwards, in the late 80's while taking a college course in Pascal computing language, I encountered a real-life, out-of-the-closet hacker. In our college's computer room, he sat at the dumb terminal near mine, gleefully writing code that took down the print queue on our Prime mini-computer system. The stressed-out faces of his fellow students, working hard to complete their engineering and computer science coursework end-of-term assignments, didn't seem to phase this guy.

At right: 1995's movie "Hackers", featuring Angelina Jolie and a soundtrack including U.K. band "The Prodigy" (Wikipedia). -->

When the queue started backing up, with a grin on his face, he proudly proclaimed that it was he who had locked-up the mini-computer that all of us depended on. Being a relatively brawny guy, most of my fellow classmates, and myself, didn't challenge him on this, but just moved on with our other assignments, and hoped that our professor might catch up to him.

Later, I spotted him on-campus at the same quality (or so I thought) engineering and technical school I had transferred to - he had been accepted to the prestigious computer science department there, and apparently rewarded for his hacking efforts!

All this begs the question for me:

Have hackers around the world, like the one I encountered, been rewarded over the years for fundamentally immoral behavior?

I often hear that hackers like the one I met get hired by the very same companies they hacked into, but how much truth is there to this? Looking forward to hearing what the CR4 community has to say.

- Larry

Resources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WarGames

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hackers_(film)

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/cyberwar/

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/click_online/

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/3640506.stm (2004 Sasser virus prosecution story from Germany)

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#1

Re: Voodoo People: Hire, Jail or Forgive Young Hackers? (Part 1)

01/19/2009 1:36 PM

Employ them in the banking sector, they are bound to be better than the bunch of incompetents we've had for the last n years.

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#2

Re: Voodoo People: Hire, Jail or Forgive Young Hackers? (Part 1)

01/19/2009 4:03 PM

Jail (one year should do it) and after he repaid his debt to society and feel remorse then forgive.

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#17
In reply to #2

Re: Voodoo People: Hire, Jail or Forgive Young Hackers? (Part 1)

01/29/2009 1:07 AM

You don't get out much eh

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#19
In reply to #17

Re: Voodoo People: Hire, Jail or Forgive Young Hackers? (Part 1)

01/29/2009 9:27 AM

true, but whys that?

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#20
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Re: Voodoo People: Hire, Jail or Forgive Young Hackers? (Part 1)

01/29/2009 9:53 AM

An example would be a guy by the name of Frank Abagnale.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Abagnale

He got a second chance, after he did time. And found a way to make a more honest living. (only after he hit bottom)

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#3

Re: Voodoo People: Hire, Jail or Forgive Young Hackers? (Part 1)

01/19/2009 4:45 PM

Franklin Roosevelt, when asked why he appointed Joseph Kennedy to whatever position he was appointed to (I believe it was something like today's SEC), is reported to have responded to the effect, who better to catch a crook than another crook? So, if you want protection from hackers, who better to consult than those with a proven track record of exploiting vulnerabilities? Not being a hacker, I find it difficult to pass moral judgement in this case. I suspect the moral issues are what motivates the individual (i.e., malicious damage to others' properties is obviously immoral; ferreting out wrong doing by our government officials could be construed as motivated by high moral goals;cracking someone's secret code just because you can is more likely amoral rather than immoral; and on and on...).

There is a very, very easy and secure way to safeguard your system: never put it on line. Anything that I don't want to lose or share with others, does not go on this computer. My really deep, dark secrets don't go on ANY computer (nor do I write them down).

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#4
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Re: Voodoo People: Hire, Jail or Forgive Young Hackers? (Part 1)

01/19/2009 5:00 PM

when asked why he appointed Joseph Kennedy to whatever position he was appointed to

I think it was ambassador to england.

who better to consult than those with a proven track record of exploiting vulnerabilities?

I disagree whole heartly, The hacker have to realize when they get caught, they get punished first and not reinforced with job offers

phoenix911

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#5

Re: Voodoo People: Hire, Jail or Forgive Young Hackers? (Part 1)

01/19/2009 6:08 PM

I think their is a distinction between a hacker and a cracker, and this blog is more about crackers.

Doing a quick search on the phrase "hacker vs cracker" you get a lot of results. A hacker usually just pokes around our of curiosity and leaves. A cracker pokes around but will do something malicious.

I also think their is a gray area as some will access systems and leave something behind as a sort of card for other hackers to find for bragging rights like hacker graffiti. Some may access systems and set up their own username and passwords for easy future entry to prove to others they have been there.

I have known people who are not just computer hackers but also hack or crack other type systems. An example would be someone who found the radio frequency used for the drive through window head sets at a fast food restaurant. Said person could then pretend to be the customer or the person taking an order for some juvenile amusement. Or they could just think its cool that they have the power to pull a prank if they ever decided they wanted to, but probably never would.

I think what matters is what was the intent, and what was the harm they caused. If the goal was simply to look around to learn, and prove to themselves they could do it, then give them a job. If they were in their for personal gain or destruction then give them a punishment that fits the crime.

Of course you realize its only the bad hackers and crackers that get caught, the good ones don't leave a trace unless they want you to find them.

For no particular reason, I would like to reference the movie Sneakers

I would also like to reference 2600, phrack, 40hex (old) and Def con, once again for no particular reason.

Or PeRhApS I ShOuLd Of WrItTeN ThIs ReSpOnCe LiKe ThIs. But damn thats annoying and I have no idea why a cracker would write like that other than to be annoying.

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#6

Re: Voodoo People: Hire, Jail or Forgive Young Hackers? (Part 1)

01/20/2009 4:32 AM

The clue is the purpose of the activity. You can try to break into systems in order to find the weaknesses ("ethical hacking") and sometimes you can bump into weaknesses unintentionally. If you report them and don't try to use/abuse them you are on the right way.

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#7

Re: Voodoo People: Hire, Jail or Forgive Young Hackers? (Part 1)

01/20/2009 6:25 AM

I agree with frankd20. If they do it just to prove they can then OK hire them. But if they do it with malicious intent like stealing charge card #s then prosecute to the fullest extent.

I accidentally hacked into the FEMA system when they were here in town during a flood. I'm no computer geek. I was just surfing (looking for flood info) and came across their site & link and entered an area I shouldn't have gone into. It was an area for the area management. I guess I got there before they had set up a password. I looked around a little. Lots of personal info of families in the area getting help from FEMA. If I was a crook I probably could have easily have gotten a check or 2 from FEMA that I didn't deserve.

Rather than take a chance on getting myself into lots of trouble I told my brother who volunteers for the Red Cross and happened to be helping FEMA setting up their computers what happened. He made sure it was fixed ASAP.

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#11
In reply to #7

Re: Voodoo People: Hire, Jail or Forgive Young Hackers? (Part 1)

01/20/2009 12:03 PM

If they do it just to prove they can then OK hire them.

that is the most idiotic thing I heard, and I'll tell you why

So what your saying, if someone broke into your house and watched your teenage daughter sleep, and go through her things. Your would hire the piece of $#it, to protect you, just on the basis because he could do it............

phoenix911

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#8

Re: Voodoo People: Hire, Jail or Forgive Young Hackers? (Part 1)

01/20/2009 8:03 AM

Jail is too good for them, take a page from the Muslim's laws and cut off both of their hands. That way they will never repeat their crimes and will serve a useful purpose as examples to others contemplating this silly "game"

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#9

Re: Voodoo People: Hire, Jail or Forgive Young Hackers? (Part 1)

01/20/2009 8:38 AM

THERE IS ONE SIDE THAT SAY THE HaCKING IS THE WAY TO GAIN EXPERIENCE AGAINST HACKERS. BUT THAT IS JUST SELF PROMOTION FROM UNETHIICAL PEOPLE.

i am not talking about acidental entries like that were mentioned before but crosssing a threshold that is secured shuld be the same as unlawfull entry of any dwelling or business. the hype that we need protection from these individuals is all from the companys that employs them to sell internet security and anti virus software.. realy you guys cant figure that out.. every time you keep getting pop ups from a company that says "your hard drive might be infected scan now" yea its infected with the bloody cookie you sent me... al of this b.s is tying up the bandwith and making the disinformation disease spread more. it needs to be stopped at the national level with sevear internet regulation or the internet will just be one of those thing used for maps and restaraunt directions. If an ad says the word free on it then it has to free no offers to complete no other forms , any offers from africa and such for fake lotterys should have the server that the email comes from shut down so that the industry starts policing itself better.

look at it this way some day we put our minds in to the digital world it is science fiction now but this is a posibility for the future, then what has a hackerd done if he messes with one of those files rape or even murder if he corrupts a persons data storage. that is the seriosness and the posssible gravity of the actions, the punishment should be as swift and heavy as the potential for harm the crime has, not the actual effect . thats why we arrest people for attemted murder they are bad people and should be punnished.they shopuild also be black listed and not allowed to work for any sector eveny closly related to programing then the "im just showwing off" b.s. wouyld be cut off right away. it is typical in any scam industry to reward the criminals a full investigetion into all anti spy ware companys should be launched i bet they are the ones out here making all these virues so they can sell more software. with the help of hackers that they hired . see how we all suffer from this "rewarding crimes"

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#10
In reply to #9

Re: Voodoo People: Hire, Jail or Forgive Young Hackers? (Part 1)

01/20/2009 10:23 AM

Thanks for your comments (along with everyone else's), Spotsart - will be talking about Interpol and NBC's Chris Hansen next week in Part 2, so stay tuned. - Larry

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#12

Re: Voodoo People: Hire, Jail or Forgive Young Hackers? (Part 1)

01/20/2009 2:42 PM

Long ago when I was a research associate the school decided to upgrade their minicomputer system to a Data General (now defunct) Eclipse. They chose this system largely because DG guaranteed that no user could ever bring down the system. When I heard about this I thought 'Oh really?'. Now this wasn't hacking because I had a valid account on the system but the gauntlet had been thrown down. I was programming a data acquisition application in Fortran and was using an instruction called FSEEK to stream data onto the disk. FSEEK(x) forces the hard drive head to sector x.I wrote, compiled and ran a three line program:

10 do 30, n=1 to 65,535

20 FSEEK(RND(n))

30 loop

This thrashed the drive head around to random locations and crashed the system in about 10 seconds. (This was on a Sunday, during spring break and my terminal was the only one logged on so no experiments were ruined.) Monday morning DG had their technicians in trying to figure out what happened. I introduced myself as the only user on the system at the time of the crash. "WHAT did you DO?" I showed them the three lines of code. "Yup, that'll do it." The DG supervisor handed me his business card and said "We've got a position for you when you graduate."

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#13
In reply to #12

Re: Voodoo People: Hire, Jail or Forgive Young Hackers? (Part 1)

01/20/2009 2:50 PM

The DG supervisor handed me his business card and said "We've got a position for you when you graduate."

and the result even though you probally did not take them up

decided to upgrade their minicomputer system to a Data General (now defunct) Eclipse.

They chose this system largely because DG guaranteed that no user could ever bring down the system.

They are asses for saying that

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#21
In reply to #13

Re: Voodoo People: Hire, Jail or Forgive Young Hackers? (Part 1)

02/05/2009 9:34 PM

"and the result even though you probally did not take them up"

I didn't take them up. (Good thing too.)

I've been happy practicing I&C electrical engineering for the past 20 yrs. But since manufacturing has largely been outsourced out of the U.S. my services here are not in demand much. So I work for a search engine company now and offer my real world experience to their engineering expertise. (To be honest, I sure do miss actually building things though.)

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#22
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Re: Voodoo People: Hire, Jail or Forgive Young Hackers? (Part 1)

02/06/2009 1:18 PM

I didn't take them up. (Good thing too.)

good for you.

(To be honest, I sure do miss actually building things though.)

I'm the same way. from the idea thats no more that twinkle in someones eyes to start up or commissioning the a project.

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#14

Re: Voodoo People: Hire, Jail or Forgive Young Hackers? (Part 1)

01/21/2009 11:42 AM

What is the difference between some hacker breaking in to my computer, and Microsoft breaking in to my computer? Or the Federal Government, in the name of Homeland Security?

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#15
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Re: Voodoo People: Hire, Jail or Forgive Young Hackers? (Part 1)

01/26/2009 12:53 AM

An actual hacker has no malicious intent while I can not vouch for the others because their actions speak of other motivations. A cracker in your system looks for gain or destruction while an actual hacker would be in your system from curiosity only.

MIT model railroad club was the start of hackers. The term proceeds computers.

Brad

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#16

Re: Voodoo People: Hire, Jail or Forgive Young Hackers? (Part 1)

01/27/2009 12:30 AM

Good free, college level course covering black hat/white hat hackers, cyber-law at http://www.act-online.net Look for Cyber-Ethics course -- even covers Patriot Act and current issues

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#18

Re: Voodoo People: Hire, Jail or Forgive Young Hackers? (Part 1)

01/29/2009 8:25 AM

Author's note: Part 2 is now available - click here.

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