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Dated: Aug. 13, 2004

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Network Security

By Najmi

The FBI is monitoring "potential vulnerabilities" in computer networks that could leave portions of the Internet open to disruption by hackers, the agency said last week in a News Paper." We're aware of potential vulnerabilities... and to date there have been no confirmed exploitations of these vulnerabilities," said Steven Berry, spokesman for the FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Center.

Some experts believe that computer crime is nothing more than ordinary crime committed by high-tech computers and that current criminal laws on the books should be applied to the various laws broken, such as trespass, larceny, and conspiracy. Others view cyber-crime as a new category of crime requiring a comprehensive new legal framework to address the unique nature of the emerging technologies and the unique set of challenges that traditional crimes do not deal with; such as: jurisdiction, international cooperation, 2 intent, and the difficulty of identifying the perpetrator. Another source of confusion is the meaning of "hacker" and "cracker" and the distinction behind their motivations.


Word "HACKING", different people have different views on the hacking scene. Often times, people of similar skill level have similar opinions. There is no official definition of a hacker, rather a vague idea amongst the masses. In addition, the media loves to add false information to draw audiences' attention across the nation, for the pure sake of money.

It all began in the 1960s at MIT, origin of the term "hacker", where extremely skilled individuals practiced hardcore programming in ColdFusion and other older languages. Some may ignorantly dub them "nerds" or "geeks" but these individuals were, by far, the most intelligent, individual, and intellectually advanced people who happen to be the pioneers and forefathers of the talented individuals that are today the true hackers. The true hackers amongst our societies have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. Boredom is never an object of challenge for hackers. They have an almost anomalous ability to absorb, retain, and exert vast amounts of knowledge with regard to intricate details. In 1969, Bell Labs employee Ken Thompson invented UNIX and permanently changed the future of the computer industry. Then in the very early 1970s, Dennis Ritchie invented the computer programming language "C", which was invented specifically for UNIX. Programmers ceased to use assembler, while developing an appreciation for the portability of "C."

Hackers used to be viewed as people who sat locked in a room all day programming nonstop, hours on end. No one seemed to mind hackers back in the 1960s when this was the most widely excepted reputation. In fact, most people had no idea what hacking was. The term HACKER was accepted as a positive label slapped onto computer gurus who could push computer systems beyond the defined limits. Hackers emerged out of the artificial intelligence labs at MIT in the 1960s. A network known as ARPANET was founded by the Department of Defense as a means to link government offices. In time, ARPANET evolved into what is today known as the Internet.

In the 1970s, "Captain Crunch" devised a way to make free long distance calls and groups of phone hackers; later dubbed "phreakers" emerged. Throughout the 1970s and halfway into the 1980s, Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) spit out fresh new innovations such as the laser printer and LANs.

During the 1990s, Kevin Mitnick is arrested after being tracked down by Tsutomu Shimomura. The trials of Kevin Mitnick were of the most publicized hacker trials in hacker history.

Hackers have developed methods to exploit security holes in various computer systems. As protocols become updated, hackers probe them on a never-ending mission to make computing more secure. When hacking first originated, the urge to hack into computer systems was based purely on curiosity. Curiosity of what the system did, how the system could be used, HOW the system did what did, and WHY it did what it did.

Hacktivism in recent years, according to the Department of Justice's National Infrastructure Protection Center, there has been a rise in what has been dubbed "hacktivism." Hacktivists launch politically motivated attacks on public web pages or e-mail servers. The hacking groups and individuals, or Hacktivists, overload e-mail servers by sending massive amounts of e-mail to one address and hack into web sites to send a political message. In 1999, for example, political activists protesting the site's politics attacked the homepages for the White House, the U.S. Department of the Interior, White Pride, the United States Senate, Green peace, and the Klu Klux Klan. One such group is called the "Electronic Disturbance Theater," which promotes civil disobedience on-line to raise awareness for its political agenda regarding the Zapatista movement in Mexico and other issues. Also, during the 1999 NATO conflict in Yugoslavia, hackers attacked web sites in NATO countries, including the United States, using virus-infected e-mail and other hacking techniques. On February 7, 2000, the official web site of the Austrian Freedom Party was hacked to protest the inclusion of Jörg Haider and his party into a coalition Austrian government.

People in our modern day society tend to stereotype hackers as well. All hackers aren't 31337lbs, 5'5, wearing glasses and suspenders, scrawny, pale skinned, with a comical Steve Urkel resemblance and no social life. If you think this, you are WRONG. Hackers are black, white, Asian, European, tall, short, socially active (and not), cool, nerdy, and a bunch of other miscellaneous categories. Just like you can't make an assumption that if someone is from "Clique X" than they must be really [whatever], you can't apply a stereotype to genres of hackers. Although there are people running around saying, "Look, I defaced a website, I did it, and therefore I'm a hacker," doesn't mean that they're a hacker. Nevertheless, nor does it mean that ALL people claiming to be hackers are fakes and wannabes. It's the same in the digital underground as it is with any other realm of society.

And finally, hackers who naively believe in their right to access information must be made aware that even harmless computer intrusions can trigger criminal sanctions. The financial stakes have risen dramatically over the past five years. Until there are more high profile hacking prosecutions, naïve hackers will continue to believe that they are invulnerable and their hacks are a form of innocent digital thrill seeking. Nevertheless, over the next few years, there will be a few hackers whose only hacking and cracking is going to be breaking rocks on a chain gang.

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