New Hacker Ethic

From my documents, I found that there is a new hacker ethic which 90s hackers live by. There are fragments of continuity from the old hacker ethic, as one can see. The new ethic appears to have developed like the old one, informally and by processes of mutual reinforcement. The new ethic seems to contain some ambiguities (like the old one) and a few contradictions. This may be due to the fact that its practicioners are more numerous and more dispersed than the original 60s hackers.
  1. "Above all else, do no harm" Do not damage computers or data if at all possible. Much like the key element of the Hippocratic Oath.
    According to the "hacker ethic," a hack must: * be safe
    * not damage anything
    * not damage anyone, either physically, mentally or emotionally
    * be funny, at least to most of the people who experience it


    It is against hacker ethics to alter any data aside from the logs that are needed to clean their tracks. They have no need or desire to destroy data as the malicious crackers. They are there to explore the system and learn more. The hacker has a constant yearning and thirst for knowledge that increases in intensity as their journey progresses.[9]

    2. The belief that system-cracking for fun and exploration is ethically OK as long as the cracker commits no theft, vandalism, or breach of confidentiality.[10]
    Of course, the key problem with this ethical position is its stance on intent. One should not damage data deliberately. But what if, as often happens in hacking attempts, one accidentally erases or alters data while trying to alter system log files or user records? Is that an ethical violation? Also, the question of what constitutes "harm" is left open. Most hackers seem to see pranks and practical jokes as harmless, regardless of their psychological impact. Yet their victims may not feel these are so 'harmless,' especially if this causes them to lose valuable time or effort.
  2. Protect Privacy People have a right to privacy, which means control over their own personal (or even familial) information. Privacy rights are notably missing from the U.S. Constitution, but they have been brought to the forefront of modern legal argument due to the growing surveillance power of technology. There still is no codified right to privacy for U.S. citizens, although the Supreme Court has ruled that it is contained implicitly in its judgements legalizing the distribution of birth control and the right to first-trimester abortion.How far do privacy rights go, however? Do people also have an intrinsic right to online anonymity? Do I have the right to conceal my health status, criminal record, or sexuality from my employer? Are some people (politicians, celebrities, etc.) entitled to less privacy than others? Does my social security number, credit history, or telephone number belong only to me? Further, the strange thing about hackers asserting a right to privacy is that it declares a certain kind of information to not be free. Thus, in some ways this is a contradiction to the original hacker ethic.

    Your right to Privacy
    Privacy is a right we beleive we have. Unfortunately privacy is not explicitately protected in the constitution. Our consitution is dated in that respect, there weren't the threats to privacy then as there are now. Technology is truly a double-edged sword. The abscense of privacy provisions in the constitution does not make it any less important. Indeed, the lack of constitutional protections have allowed our privacy to be gravely threatened.[11]

    The concept of privacy is something that is very important to a hacker. This is so because hackers know how fragile privacy is in today's world. Wherever possible we encourage people to protect their directories, encrypt their electronic mail, not use cellular phones, and whatever else it takes to keep their lives to themselves. In 1984 hackers were instrumental in showing the world how TRW kept credit files on millions of Americans. Most people had never even heard of a credit file until this happened. Passwords were very poorly guarded - in fact, credit reports had the password printed on the credit report itself.[12]
    The second argument is an interesting one. The problem most hackers had with TRW is not they kept files on most peoples' credit histories without their knowledge (thus they couldn't see if they contained any errors), and it was on that (unknown) basis that they were denied loans, credit cards, mortgages, etc. It was that those files were insecure.
  3. "Waste not, want not." Computer resources should not lie idle and wasted. It's ethically wrong to keep people out of systems when they could be using them during idle time. This is what some people call the "joy riders' ethic." If you borrow someone's car, and return it with no damage, a full tank of gas, and perhaps even some suggestions for improved performance, have you not done them a favor? Especially if they never know you borrowed it in the first place for a few road trips? Isn't it wasting that precious engine power to leave the car in a parking spot while somebody else could be using it for a grocery trip? (Is it an ethical violation to borrow the car and make a set of keys for yourself so you can borrow it whenever you feel like? This is, after all, what most hackers do when they give themselves sysadmin privileges.) Yet most are possessive over the use of their own personal computer.
    The hacker ethics involves several things. One of these is avoiding waste. Over the internet, we have about a quarter million computers each of which is virtually unused for 10 hours a day. A true hacker seeing something useful that he could do with terraflops of computing power that would otherwise be wasted might would request permission to use these machines and would probably go ahead and use them even if permission was denied. In doing so, he would take the greatest possible precautions to not damage the system.[13]
  4. Exceed Limitations Hacking is about the continual transcendence of problem limitations. Some old hackers assert this principle, as an informal seventh addition to the original Ethic. Telling a hacker something can't be done, is a moral imperative for him to try. "Extropians" believe there is a universal force of expansion and growth, inverse to entropy, which they call "extropy." Hacking is seen as extropian because it always seeks to surpass current limits. Technology is seen as a necessarily exponential force of growth. Limitations must be overcome. For some hackers, these limitations might be unjust laws or outdated moral codes.
    To become free it may be necessary to break free from medieval morality, break unjust laws, and be a disloyal employee. Some may call you an disloyal, sinful criminal. To be free in a room of slaves is demoralizing. Free your fellow man, give him the tools, the knowledge to fight oppression. Do not infringe on others' rights.[14]
  5. The Communicational Imperative People have the right to communicate and associate with their peers freely. The United Nations International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has stated in many conferences that this should be a fundamental human right, with which no nation should ever interfere. The sweeping freedoms given to amateur radio hobbyists internationally reflect this belief. Globally, it remains a significant moral problem, in that most developing nations lack the infrastructure to grant this right. Various UN reports have shown that despite the rhetoric, many Third World nations do not have access to the "global" information superhighway because they lack "onramps." Their telecommunications infrastructure is lacking.Most hackers strongly support the 1st amendments' rights to communication and assembly, since these are necessary for the free flow of information. Phreakers take this a step beyond, however, in asserting that people should have the right to communicate with each other cheaply (thus poor people have as much right to talk on the phone long distance as the rest of us) and easily . When telecommunications companies are an obstacle to this right to communicate, phreaking (blue boxing the phone system, making unauthorized 'bridge' conference calls, using empty voicemail boxes, etc.) is said to be the answer.

    The Right to communicate
    This is our strongest right, and our most crucial. There mere fact that this page is allowed to exist is proof that our 1st amendment has not crumbled completely. Despite the governmental protection, there are threats to our freedom to communicate.
  6. Leave No Traces Don't leave a trail or trace of your presence; don't call attention to yourself or your exploits. Keep quiet, so everyone can enjoy what you have. This is an ethical principle, in that the hacker follows it not only for his own self-interest, but also to protect other hackers from being caught or losing access. Such a principle can be found among various criminal or underground organizations. Of course, there is a contradiction between asserting a need for secrecy (as well as privacy), and the need for unrestricted information.
    The rules a Hacker lives by:
    1. Keep a low profile.
    2. If suspected, keep a lower profile.
    3. If accused, deny it.
    4. If caught, plea the 5th.
  7. Share! Information increases in value by sharing it with the maximum number of people; don't hoard, don't hide. Just because it wants to be free, does not mean necessarily you must give it to as many people as possible. This principle can be seen as an elaboration on an original ethical principle. The Pirates' ethic is that piracy increases interest in software, by giving people a chance to try it out and experiment with it before paying for it. So sharing software with your friends is a good thing.
    Pirates SHARE warez to learn, trade information, and have fun! But, being a pirate is more than swapping warez. It's a life style and a passion. The office worker or class mate who brings in a disk with a few files is not necessarily a pirate any more than a friend laying a copy of the lastest Depeche Mode album on you is a pirate. The *TRUE* pirate is plugged into a larger group of people who share similar interests in warez. This is usually done through Bulletin Board Systems (BBSs), and the rule of thumb is "you gotta give a little to get a little...ya gets back what ya gives." Pirates are NOT freeloaders, and only lamerz think they get something for nothing.[17]
  8. Self Defense against a Cyberpunk Future Hacking and viruses are necessary to protect people from a possible 1984/cyberpunk dystopian future, or even in the present from the growing power of government and corporations. It's a moral imperative to use hacking as the equivalent of 'jujitsu,' allowing the individual to overcome larger, more impersonal, more powerful forces that can control their lives. If governments and corporations know they can be hacked, then they will not overstep their power to afflict the citizenry.
    I believe, before it's all over, that the War between those who love liberty and the control freaks who have been waiting for to rid America of all that constitutional mollycoddling called the Bill of Rights, will escalate.Should that come to pass, I will want to use every available method to vex and confuse the eyes and ears of surveillance. Viruses could become the necessary defense against a government that fears your computer.[18]
    What's interesting is that this principle recognizes and asserts that it's not only possible but also likely for computers to have a dark side and to be used for purposes other than truth and beauty, and that we need to be wary of technology, or at least technology in the wrong hands.
  9. Hacking Helps Security This could be called the "Tiger team ethic": it is useful and courteous to find security holes, and then tell people how to fix them. Hacking is a positive force, because it shows people how to mend weak security, or in some cases to recognize and accept that total security is unattainable, without drastic sacrifice.
    Sense 2 is more controversial: some people consider the act of cracking itself to be unethical, like breaking and entering. But the belief that `ethical' cracking excludes destruction at least moderates the behavior of people who see themselves as `benign' crackers (see also samurai). Based on this view, it may be one of the highest forms of hackerly courtesy to (a) break into a system, and then (b) explain to the sysop, preferably by email from a superuser account, exactly how it was done and how the hole can be plugged --- acting as an unpaid (and unsolicited) tiger team.[19]
    Many software companies today, including Lotus, regularly use tiger teams to test their security systems. So, this ethical principle seems to be agreed upon by some members of the industry -- to a certain extent. Even Lotus does not want its systems being tested by hackers who are not under its employ or control.
  10. Trust, but Test! You must constantly test the integrity of systems and find ways to improve them. Do not leave their maintenance and schematics to others; understand fully the systems you use or which affect you. If you can exploit certain systems (such as the telephone network) in ways that their creators never intended or anticipated, that's all to the better. This could help them create better systems. One of those systems that may require constant revision, testing, and adjustment, apparently, is constitutional democracy.
    Democracy is always being tested -- it's an inherent part of what it stands for. whether it's flag burners, gay activists, klansmen, or computer hackers, we're always testing the system to see if it holds up to pressure. i stress that this is NOT an end iwe do because it interests us, but in the bigger picture we're actually testing the sincerity of the democratic system, whether we're aware of it or not.[20]
    One of the most important manuals for British hackers was called "beating the system." The essential argument is that as systems (like the phone network) become more and more complex, they become impossible to manage from a centralized office. Hacking at the edges of the system not only becomes possible, in some cases it becomes necessary. It becomes an ethical imperative to test the system, lest it fail when it is most needed (like the AT & T phone switches did in 1990.)
So, in short, the new hacker ethic suggests that it is the ethical duty of new hackers (or the CU), to : 1) protect data and hardware 2) respect and protect privacy 3) utilize what is being wasted by others 4) exceed unnecessary restrictions 5) promote peoples' right to communicate 6) leave no traces 7) share data and software 8) be vigilant against cyber-tyranny and 9) test security and system integrity of computer systems.


These could be considered the "thou shalt nots" of the new hacker ethic, as opposed to its affirmative "you shoulds." Some of these transgressions of the hacker ethic are already implied by some of its basic affirmative principles. We can get an idea of what hackers believe they should do, based on what they reject as unsuitable activities of their peers.
  1. Bootlegging Commercialism; selling pirated software; hacking for profit; selling out. Bootlegging violates the new ethic of sharing and the original hacker ethic which eschewed profit (and embraced personal satisfaction) as a reason for creating software (hence the existence of Richard Stallman's GNU Free Software Foundation.)
    On occasion the possibility of making a profit from these advances tempts hackers into commercialism. On other occasions, they see commercialism as the only way to get their work into the hands of the masses. When they succeed they become rich, and usually get moved further and further from hacker life and more and more into paperwork and then don't live happily ever after.[21]

    Bootleggers are to pirates as a chop-shop is to a home auto mechanic. Bootleggers are people who DEAL stolen merchandise for personal gain. Bootleggers are crooks. They sell stolen goods. Pirates are not crooks, and most pirates consider bootleggers to be lower life forms than child molesters.[22]
    Bootlegging seems to contradict new hacker ethic 7, share!
  2. Freeloading Always taking and never contributing. Profitting from other peoples' efforts without adding to them. "Warez d00dz" and "Codez d00dz" who are hunting for free software or phone codes without offering anything in return (a hack, a number, whatever) are looked down upon. Hoarding and refusing to tell others about your hacks are seen as wrong. This also violates the new ethic of sharing.
    In fact, pirates may be one of the best forms of advertising for quality products, because sharing allows a shop-around method for buying warez. Most of us buy a program for the documents and the support, but why invest in four or five similar programs if we aren't sure which best suits our needs? Nah, pirates aren't freeloaders. We are against freeloading.[23]
  3. Trashing Crashing systems; destroying hardware; hurting other users; malicious vandalism; irreversible damaging or destroying of data; unleashing destructive viruses, Trojans, logic bombs. Prankful (non-harmless) games with users and sysops and systems is acceptable... This is seen as the obvious corollary of the new ethic to "do no harm."
    I. Do not intentionally damage *any* system. Trashing BBSes is wrong, plain and simple.
    II. Do not alter any system files other than ones needed to ensure your escape from detection and your future access (Trojan Horses, Altering Logs, and the like are all necessary to your survival for as long as possible.)

    The one thing I hate, is the way some self-appointed hackers find there way into a system, and ruin the name of the rest of us by destroying everything they can find. Now that is pathetic. First of all, as I said, it ruins the name of the rest of us. Thus, once again, the "Destructive Computer User" Stereotype... A board crasher is no more a "hacker" than my grandmother is.[25]
  4. Excessive Selfishness Self interest overrules any concern for other hackers whatsoever. This violation implies others... once again, we run into the strange divide at the heart of the Hacker Ethic, which is deeply individualistic, yet also fiercely communal. Individuals are expected to be highly self-motivated, but not selfish.
    I think you'd be less agitated if you define your categories as hackers and criminals. The former are in it to explore and the latter are in it for themselves and nothing else. Of course, some hackers do break laws on occasion but I don't think that necessarily turns them into criminals, at least not in the moral sense.[26]

    Also, some hackers have this massive ego problem... I must name one here, for that problem, and he is Corporal Punishment... I have had numerous run-ins with this guy. He seems to think he is a God, constantly running everyone into the ground. He even went as far as saying "PHRACK sucks!" But he isn't the only one with that problem... Some feel that if they put others down, they will elevate to a higher level. Sorry to burst you bubble guys, but your only viewed as massive ego-maniacs that deserve nothing less than being run down yourselves...[27]

    Let us not forget that hackers, crackers, chippers, crunchers, and whatnot all have ego, and one thing that bothers me about using the Hacker Ethic to describe people is that ego and self-interest are not accounted for. How else can you explain crackers selling pirated software, otherwise intelligent people distributing viruses to the general public in hope of causing maximum damage to other users, or hackers breaking into some system and erasing files for laughs? People break into computers because it's fun and it makes one feel powerful, not because there is untapped power waiting to be used if only the right programming "wizard" comes along.[28]
  5. The (Selective) Anti-Stealing Ethic Information, services, and software are not property; hardware, physical property, money, and monetary services (credit cards, digital cash, phone card numbers) are. Theft of these is still wrong. Also, the target makes a difference. Stealing phone service (say, voicemail boxes) from a large institution like a corporation or the government is OK. Stealing it from an individual or a small nonprofit is not.Thus the new hacker ethic, according to its propagandists, does not embrace theft; instead it simply defines certain things (like information) as not being personal property, or certain actions (using phone service) as "borrowing" rather than theft.

    So where is the boundary between the hacker world and the criminal world? To me, it has always been in the same place. We know that it's wrong to steal tangible objects. We know that it's wrong to vandalize. We know that it's wrong to invade somebody's privacy. Not one of these elements is part of the hacker world.[29]
  6. Bragging Calling too much attention to oneself. It is acceptable ('elite') to brag in private hacker circles, unacceptable to brag or make taunts and dares to sysops, law enforcement, or authorities, or in any public forum where they tend to listen. Some hackers even consider the first unacceptable, since hacker boards are monitored by the Secret Service as well. Bragging and boasting to the media or other non-hackers violates the ethic of 'leave no trace' and keeping a low profile.
    Bragging after a neat hack may seem like the natural thing to do. But just remember that it can only call attention to yourself, and not everyone who pays attention to hackers are admirers. You may jeopardize your friends and anyone else who ever accesses the same system as you.[30]

    True hackers are quiet. I don't mean they talk at about .5 dB, I mean they keep their mouths shut and don't brag. The number one killer of those the media would have us call hackers is bragging. You tell a friend, or you run your mouth on a board, and sooner or later people in power will find out what you did, who you are, and you're gone...[31]
  7. Spying Snooping, monitoring of people, and invading their privacy is wrong... so therefore is reading private e-mail, etc. This follows from the new hacker ethic which sees privacy as a fundamental right. However, part of the hacker praxis is about finding out passwords and security holes from users, whether through "social engineering" or simple snooping and "sniffing." This is the contradiction, once again, of embracing privacy but also insisting on unrestricted information.
    Some crackers are using computers in the exact *opposite* way that the first hackers intended them: first, by restricting the unimpeded and unmonitored flow of information through the computer networks and phone lines; and second, by using computers to monitor people, by intrusive methods of information-gathering.[32]
  8. Narcing It is wrong to turn other hackers in. This part of their ethical code is not different from many other criminal organizations or subcultures, such as prison inmates, drug addicts, prostitutes, etc., or even 'above-ground' subcultures such as police departments. ("code of silence.") However, this code has special meaning for hackers, since many ex-hackers often decide to become computer security personnel later in life. Many of their peers consider this 'selling out.'
    There's no lower form of life than the narc. Hackers who go and rat on other hackers are scum. They get lots of promises of immunity and stuff if they turn in all their friends. Some hackers get back at other people by turning them into the feds. This is wrong, and it only damages the hacker community. We need to stick together, because nobody else is really on our side.[33]

    The last thing I will mention, will be hackers turning in other hackers to federal crime agencies, or to the PhoneCorp security offices, or any other type of company that deals with computer related phraud. This activity, refered to as Narcing, is getting to be too popular for a hackers good... You may be saying, " Come on, no hacker in they're right mind would turn another on in ". And your right... It's once again those self proclaimed hackers, or the ones who think they are who will do this to get "Even"...[34]
We can then see that new hackers do believe certain things are wrong - and people who commit these actions are frowned upon and often prevented from being recognized by the hacker community. Many of the things new hackers reject, would also be rejected by the community of old hackers.

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