WHO’S A HACKER?
Raise your hand if you don’t know Steve Jobs! The founder of Apple Inc. – contemporary giant of the Silicon Valley – started his brilliant career as a hacker with his friend and partner Steve Wozniak. It was back to the Seventies, when the Blue Boxes (currently at the Computer History Museum of Mountain View in California) were hitting the market. They were tiny tools, which allowed students to gain phone services for free and illegally. Interesting, isn’t it? Jobs and Wozniak got together to build up their incredible universe also thanks to the lessons they learned during their hacking days. And you know what? Alessandro Fossato, our CEO, has followed the same path: from the Blue Boxes not to Apple rather to our modern Interlogica, a constantly working-in-progress-system, built up with four “partners in crime” of him.
However, the average citizen tends to associate the term hacker to a negative concept. Hacker = informatic pirate. What is more, the press and the TV use this term to label those who use the computer to do something illegal.
All this creates a big confusion. How is it possible to shed light on the present times, which prefer the speed of information rather than the correctness? And how is it possible to forget about the mass-media and common sense in order to embrace a different interpretation?
Richard M. Stallman, programmer, informatic and American activist, said what follows about the hackers who program:
“What they had in common was primarily love for excellence and planning. They wanted the programs they developed to be the best. They also wanted to make them do perfect things. They wanted to be able to do something in a more exciting way than anyone thought possible and show “See how wonderful it is.” I bet you did not think this could be done”.
They are people who spend their time to program, to develop front or back end, to work as software developers, analysts or web designers. In our modern gergo, we tend to define them as techies, nerds or geeks, we assume that they spend much of their time typing in front of a laptop.
Actually, we are talking about a very variegated universe, which includes different entities and often antithetical to one another. For example, what’s the difference between the Black and the White hat (which we often find in the news)?
BLACK HAT VS WHITE HAT, THE ANTI-HERO
It’s the hat which makes the difference. Black stands for bad, white stands for good. It’s necessary to shift one’s own point of view to deeply understand where the difference lies. Bad and good hackers all operate within the same “ether”, handling the same tools and developing the same strategies. But on the one hand, the black hat employs all these resources to commit crimes; on the other hand, the white hat uses all these tools to highlight what doesn’t work in a system and then immediately refer that to the responsible. The same tools → a different purpose.
Is it correct to call heroes the white hat hacker, who unveil and denounce?
This is our world now… the world of the electron and the switch, the beauty of the baud. We make use of a service already existing without paying for what could be dirt-cheap if it wasn’t run by profiteering gluttons, and you call us criminals. We explore… and you call us criminals. We seek after knowledge… and you call us criminals. We exist without skin color, without nationality, without religious bias… and you call us criminals.
You build atomic bombs, you wage wars, you murder, cheat, and lie to us and try to make us believe it’s for our own good, yet we’re the criminals.
Yes, I am a criminal. My crime is that of curiosity. My crime is that of judging people by what they say and think, not what they look like.
My crime is that of outsmarting you, something that you will never forgive me for.
I am a hacker, and this is my manifesto. You may stop this individual, but you can’t stop us all… after all, we’re all alike.
(HACKER’S MANIFESTO “The Conscience of a Hacker” written by The Mentor, January 8th, 1986)
The anti-heroes are not the bad men, maybe politically incorrect, human protagonists who live within a certain reality and do not care about the rules of society. They are alternative heroes, who make their ethic their banner.
So, the difference lies in the word ETHIC. Ethical hacker. It may sound like weird. But ethic is a guide, a philosophy of sharing knowledge, and it’s precisely what discerns a black hat from a white hat.
BUT WHAT’S A “HACKER” AFTER ALL?
Heroes, anti-heroes – long story short, simple human beings. Being a hacker means being an expert of something – whatever this “something” may be. I take a look around and what I find out is that we are all tightrope walkers. We go to the ends of the earth – someone puts into practice their informatic knowledge, someone is more creative and produces ideas and projects, and someone else get people connect together.
Of course, I don’t want to underestimate the work of my colleagues who are always doing great things. [Well, finding out a bug in Gmail and another in Tor Browser with an international resonance is something quite outstanding, isn’t it?].
But that’s the point: hacking means “breaking”, “biting into something”. It’s a different way of living and acting. It means highlighting what doesn’t work and replacing it with something innovative. Ethic is an essential pillar, it lies at the basis of the way we all act in here. And I’m referring to this office as a whole.
“Hacker” not only refers to informatics. Lately, the use of this term has gone beyond its intrinsic linguistic barriers, and has managed to be used in fields where it had never been used before. You can be a hacker of a piece of furniture and you can also be a hacker of a certain discipline. It’s enough to think of the Growth Hacking, which in the last years is getting more and more popular as a performative system in the management of marketing. This is a discipline which constantly breaks the rules throughout attempts and mistakes, in order to get to the best result. Doesn’t ring a bell?
A bug is never just a mistake. It represents something bigger. An error of thinking that makes you who you are. The bug forces the software to adapt, to evolve into something new because of it. Work around it or work through it. No matter what, it changes. It becomes something new. The next version. The inevitable upgrade.
(from Mr. Robot, TV series)
Let’s not look at the world around us only from one point of view – rules exist to be broken, revised, improved, adapted, and changed… whatever our point of view may be. Let’s think as hackers, let’s act as hackers, let’s be hackers: we, you, me… Ethic hacking means break the rules to go ahead, it’s the DNA of us all as a group.