The Null Device

Posts matching tags 'crackers'


Could this be the viral marketing campaign for a new William Gibson/Haruki Murakami collaboration?

Police in Japan who have for months been taunted by an anonymous hacker have found a memory card attached to an animal's collar after solving a set of emailed riddles, according to reports. The discovery was made after messages were sent to newspapers and broadcasters, with the sender claiming details of a computer virus were strapped to a cat living on an island near Tokyo.

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Crackers break into Linux source code server, attempt to trojan the Linux kernel, giving root privilege to processes. The attempt was caught, and even had it not been, it wouldn't have matched against Linus' separate copy of the kernel sources.

It makes you wonder who's behind it? A teenager with something to prove? Spackers laying the groundwork for the next generation of distributed spam-hosting/sending/DDOS servers? The Russian Mafiya/Shanghai Triads/Yakuza doing a spot of long-term strategic planning? Al-Qaeda? Maybe even our own intelligence agencies?

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In his Jargon File, Eric S. Raymond argues that using the word "hacker" to mean "someone who breaks into computers" as opposed to "intellectually curious tinkerer" is deprecated and factually incorrect. Someone named Raven Black has a good rant about why ESR is wrong:

The Jargon File talks absolute bollocks about the word hacker. It claims that using it as a synonym of cracker is deprecated. No it's bloody not, Mr Jargon File, it's common usage, quite the opposite. What you mean is you, like Mr How To Become A Hacker, want it to be deprecated because you want your precious word back, just like wiccans claim that witch means wiccan even though it's fucking obvious that common usage has it meaning the green evil warty cauldron broomstick variety. Claiming that the common usage is deprecated just gets those people you'd have call themselves hackers (or witches) into trouble when they do so in non-wanker company and are misunderstood.

Mr. Black proposes a new word (akin to "wiccan" for "witch") to be used for the benign meaning of "hacker". The word proposed, however, is "phrenic", which sounds (a) about as daft as atheists calling themselves "Brights", and (b) like a plausible abbreviation for "schizophrenic" (much in the way that "tard" is used as a derogatory term for the mentally challenged). Chances are if tinkerers started calling themselves "phrenics", the word would devolve to become a slang term for "weird and/or crazy person" in popular usage, applying to everybody from the mumbling, long-bearded programmer in the back office to the mumbling, dishevelled itinerant on the street corner.

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Hacker/cracker tirelessly crusades to expose security holes, ends up persecuted by the FBI; the usual story, right? Except that there's a twist. According to editor and bOING bOING guestblogger "Macki", fugitive hax0r Adrian Lamo brought it on himself to get glory:

The fact that there's now a warrant out for his arrest won't come as a surprise to anyone whose has been following news of his exploits. He has been roaming the country hacking into corporations (not necessarily a bad thing) trying to generate the maximum publicity. He's been doing things that would be very easy for him to get away with and that no one would really care about all that much. Instead of getting away with it, Adrian made a decision a long time ago to become a hacker martyr. A close friend of his already registered over a year ago. So with each hack he rubbed the companies' noses in it and gave juicy leads on his latest exploits to friendly reporters. He dresses it up with rhetoric relating to the responsibility of people to secure their networks and about doing a public service.

Or so one guy (who admits to having a grudge against Lamo) says.

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I've just heard that the ABC is showing In the Realm of the Hackers, a local documentary about two hackers/crackers from late-1980s Melbourne, their exploits and the law's pursuit of them, tomorrow (Thursday) night at 10PM. I saw this in the cinema earlier this year, and can recommend it.

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Tonight I went to a screening of In the Realm of the Hackers, a documentary about various hackers/crackers from Melbourne in the late 1980s (apparently not just another BBS/h4x0d-d00d scene, but one of the major hacker nexuses in the world); in particular, about a young man calling himself Electron and his friends, who apparently broke into machines like nobody else. It was pretty interesting; the details, connecting the mundanity of suburban Melbourne with the international computer networks of the time, were fascinating, and the reconstructed Commodore 64/Apple II screens (rebuilt from police phone intercept transcripts) were apparently the most authentic in the genre. (I half-remember various of the names seen on the hacker BBS message boards, from print-outs I saw many years ago. Of course, I never was k3wl enough to actually do any of that hacking shit myself.) Anyway, it does one proud to see that Australia can lead the world in something other than cricket.

The film was based on the book Underground, by Suelette Dreyfus, which is now online in freely downloadable form. It sounds like it's well worth a read.

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