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Home » Hacking News » Tech watch: Hackers get no respect

Tech watch: Hackers get no respect

by ivy on August 12th, 2001 Hackers are a misunderstood lot. And they're more powerful than they realize. So says John Lee.

"They can destroy, steal or corrupt valuable information if they want to," Lee said. He should know. In 1992, he earned the distinction of making Wired magazine's "Rogue's Gallery" after he and four cronies (his code name was "Corrupt") were convicted of hacking the networks of AT&T, Bank of America, TRW and the National Security Agency and stealing confidential information from credit reports. Lee was sentenced to a year in time, and he served another year for violating parole. He denies the allegations.

"The only charge I was convicted of was 'conspiracy to wiretap,'" he said. "All I wanted to do was look around."

Lee said hackers have a "responsibility."

"We're not far from the day when hacking will be a tool used in warfare, if it isn't already," he said. Serious hackers say Lee belonged to a radical fringe that distorted the hacker's image by confusing it with that of a "cracker." Crackers are the bad guys who delight in breaking into secure systems and creating havoc.

Hacking "is a cross between science and art," Lee said. "I respect it. It's actually a mindset."

Jude Milhon has her own definition of hacking. A Web designer in Oakland, Calif., she is one of the first known female hackers. Milhon (code name St. Jude) said, "Hacking is the clever circumvention of imposed limits, whether imposed by your government, your own skills or the laws of physics."

Like most hackers, Milhon is self-taught and boasts advanced skills. She taught herself FORTRAN computer language from a library book.

Lee started playing with computers when he was 8 years old. His first computer was an Apple II. By the time he was in his mid-teens, he was an experienced programmer who taught himself VAX, FORTRAN, Assembly Language and Perl, to name a few. He developed a computer engineer's understanding of operating systems, which is a nucleus skill for hackers.

Hackers belong to a world unto themselves, a unique cyberculture with their own books, clubs, heroes, Web sites and jargon. Most are younger than 25, Lee said. Milhon said there is no cutoff age. The majority retain finely polished skills, which can lead to job offers from companies and the government. They often are candidates for security work. On the corporate front, their skills can be applied to designing and evaluating firewalls. Their patience, determination and understanding of many programming languages make them a valuable commodity - if they choose to market these skills.

Even in a sluggish economy, such technical talent always will be in high demand. Recruiters would do well to scour hacker Web sites to unearth the rebels of cyberspace.

from: Star Tribune

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