From the macro/micro perspective, the world of the electron, despite its extraordinarily minuscule size, is the foundation of society. Computers have not only brought us electronic shopping, email, and online banking, but now control our cars, how we board a plane, our MP3 players, and almost every other aspect of our lives. With any great advancement in civilization, there are always those souls who seek to capitalize on the misfortune of others by finding some way to exploit a weakness in the newest technology available; the computer industry is no exception. With the thousands of Gigabytes of data stored on our home computers, from tax information to social security numbers and banking information, it was only a matter of time before someone came along with the idea of gaining access to all of our personal information and using it against us: the cyber criminal was born.
In 1990s, when evidence of computer criminal activity began to surface, the popular U.S. news media, degenerating into their current non-journalistic preferred writing style, came up with a name for this cyber criminal that would ‘strike fear in the hearts and minds’ of the populace. They wanted to make their stories more interesting and sell more newspapers. Instead of using the industry-acknowledged correct term for someone who illegally breaks into a computer system with malicious intent, a cracker, the popular media decided the then neutral word, hacker, was a better descriptor for the cyber criminal.
This was a blow to the legitimate hackers operating in the computer industry. In the early days of computers, a hacker was someone held in high regard; they were the innovators who could figure out a problem by ‘hacking’ together a software solution. Hackers are not the ‘bad guys’ the popular media has made them out to be; crackers are the bad guys, like criminal safe crackers.
Etymologically speaking, hacking began in the 1960’s with MIT’s Tech Model Railroad Club. Due to the exceptionally slow speeds of mainframe computers at that time, (personal computers were not invented yet), software programmers came up with ‘hacks’ to improve the processing time of their programs. These hackers became the core of the MIT Artificial Intelligence Lab (AI Lab). Their talents pushed a program beyond its intended capabilities, at the same time expanding their personal programming talents and the professional reputation of the AI Lab. These individuals believed the educational bureaucracy at MIT should not come into direct conflict with being able to accomplish any productive task. The hackers picked door locks, climbed ducts, or came up through the floorboards all in an effort to have access to computers to test their software code. “Even now, there is a big wrench at the AI Lab titled, “the seventh-floor master key” to be used in case anyone dares to lock up one of the more fancy terminals” (Schell, “The Hacking of America: Who’s Doing It, Why, and How” 44).
One of the ways in...