Hackers: the hunt for the “witches” in the XXI century




Hackers: the hunt for the “witches” in the XXI century

Everyone knows who the hackers. Now for most, it almost sounds like the word “criminal”. But it was not always the case. And now, the original meaning of the term “hacker” gradually returned. It is desirable to understand why this is important

At all times, all power with fear and suspicious of competent people who know the business well, and therefore have a tendency to independent thinking and independent judgment. In ancient times it was typical of shamans and magicians, with the onset of a high-tech era of acute irritation of the authorities were called to the so-called “hackers”.

Now no one, probably, would not say at what point the term “hacker” rooted criminal sense. Usually in this surface to blame journalists and filmmakers who can not draw a line between the inquisitive researcher professionals and some crackers. That is irresponsible or malevolent villain, using other people’s results in their own selfish interests.

To understand the people who respect the original meaning of the term is commonly understood by hacking process insights of a thing. The end result of the process – the understanding of “how it works”, which is often accompanied by the effective suggestions for improvement. Long ago coined the formula “Hackers built the Internet” in this context – is not an exaggeration, but just a statement of fact.

In the structures of the same with power and influence (whether state or mega) understanding hacking is quite different. Hackers are accepted to perceive normally only if they work directly for you.

Same for all the other “hefty smart” or have already adopted, or are in the process (usually secret) prepare a bunch of draconian laws. In which as serious criminal offenses are treated not only to the usual methods of computer hacking, but even the operation of programs and services in violation of the rules established by the provider.

This is the reason for computer crimes in U.S. courts now endure disproportionately harsh sentences to prison terms, far exceeding the punishment for premeditated murder. A legal picture as a whole is full of absurd situations.

Such as the one student quietly penetrated the network of college and a little pomudrit there on the database with the estimates now can easily get five years in prison. But if he went to college with a sledgehammer and just defeated the server equipment in the trash, you would have received for his disorderly conduct on the strength of a year …

It is hardly necessary to explain that there is a very abnormal situation, indicative of larger problems available to the authorities and the public with an understanding of not only the nature of hacking, but the degree of social danger. Fortunately, however, it is now more clearly began to show signs of recovery situation.

Where not only ordinary people but even politicians in state institutions are slowly being taken and hackers, and their value to society is fundamentally different. However, this process is very difficult and controversial, so that for each of the individual episodes at once and do not understand how to perceive what is happening.

And that there was more clarity, it is useful to consider recent developments in the general culture science background, so to speak. Attracting well-known examples from mythology, literature and history. And as a structuring principle to take the famous essay by Jorge Luis Borges, “The four-cycle.”

In this very small in shape, but very thoughtful work of Borges identified four major, archetypal story, which from ancient times to the present day permeate the entire culture of the world, repeated in a variety of variations.

Stories of all four … No matter how many times we, as humanity, or left on this planet, we will recount them – in one form or another.

Suicide God

In our nervous times, alas, freethinking reasoning about God again became the subject of a very dangerous. Promising, as it is known, if not an attempt on the part of kakih-nibud religious fanatics, then at least brought to trial for “inciting sectarian strife”. Therefore, in this situation it is very convenient to the concept of “God” in some treated extremely neutral, harmless for all context.

For example, it is appropriate to use the curious ideas of the ancient Greek philosopher Empedocles Akraganta (lived ca. 490-430 years. BC. E.). Completely dissimilar in outlook on anyone of the other wise men of Greece, thinker and poet, physician and lexicographer, a religious reformer and a miracle worker – it was a man according to their works in the lifetime of many of his contemporaries esteemed as bogoravny.

Empedocles took such reverence as quite natural. As a staunch supporter of the idea is about the evolutionary reincarnation of souls, who are recruited through the chain of births of wisdom and knowledge, gradually evolving from a lower state to a “bogoravnogo”:

In the end, they have people living earth are prophets, singers of hymns, doctors, leaders of the people, and then really go back to the gods, the supreme glory honored …

But (if we move from Empedocles to Borges) often happens and so – as the myths of various peoples – that God decides to commit suicide. Why is it done? The reasons are very different, it is important only that they are there and they are serious.

Earlier this year, committed suicide Aaron Schwartz (Aaron Swartz), a brilliant mind very young American hacker, who was suffering from heavy depression and chronic disease.

A tragic death Schwartz immediately took quite a unique place in the history of the hacker movement. In fact, from his childhood, he was an integral part of the active and rapidly blossoming culture that is typical for computer geeks, fighters for freedom of information, ardent advocates of free software and of all sorts of other online activists.

Without doubt, Schwartz was a hacker. But he was a man totally the type in the word “hacker underground” – sort of what once was, say, Kevin Mitnick. Activists hacker “underground”, no doubt, they can often get pleasure from violating silly, in their opinion, the laws – just for fun or lulz, as now expressed. But it is similar to their actions are not always politically motivated.

Aaron Swartz, by contrast, was primarily ideological political activist. Because of this at a very early age, he was able to gain respect and recognition from such online characters, as Harvard professor and legal scholar Lawrence Lessig (who has spearheaded the Creative Commons), or World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee.

It was Berners-Lee, by the way, wrote the most pathetic, perhaps, a word about the heavy loss of a friend and colleague. He presented the young Schwartz as an old and wise mentor:

“Aaron was dead. Wanderers in this crazy world, we have lost a teacher, a wise old man. Hackers for Human Rights, one of us has become smaller, we have lost one of their … ”

It is quite possible that this is a rare combination of qualities Schwarz – belief in the rightness of favorite things, a brilliant mind and a clear public support – and it was the factor that made it into such a frightening phenomenon for power. Widely respected hacker, he not only knew professionally technical part, but also actively used his experience as a hacker effective political tool.

Schwartz started the persecution in 2011, the federal government the U.S. put forward against him set of 13 charges in the aggregate hauling, according to various estimates, for a period of 32 to 50 years in prison. And all this for what it is connected to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and downloaded through her gigantic cloud of scientific articles from JSTOR – the commercial archive of scientific publications, officially allows free and unlimited downloads for anyone who operates a network of MIT.

While Schwartz no way “hacked” website JSTOR. From a technical point of view, his actions do not inflict any harm or servers JSTOR, no network at MIT. He just wanted to get people what they long to belong by right. When the state judiciary decided to put a brake on, and quietly close the case, he picked up and blew up “serious crime” federal prosecutors – threatening to jail for half a century, in fact, that a person has to type in the library too many books.

After what happened next, almost everyone agrees – Schwarz action, regarded as illegal U.S. Attorney’s Office, is not worthy of 50 years in prison. Feels like so many, what we do is power, is more reminiscent of a witch hunt.

Unfortunately, only after the suicide of Schwartz, the psyche is constantly pressed prosecutors, pulling strongly with court hearings, it became clearer to the public what is happening.

The U.S. government, as well as the following in the same waterway authorities in many other countries, trying to criminalize hacking in all its forms and in all circumstances. Not wanting to see the difference between the apparently criminal acts, mischievous pranks and hacking for political reasons – as a modern form of social protest.

Thanks to the powerful resonance caused by the loss of the society of bright and talented young man, there is hope that it is now a lot more people will be able to see and understand the very different facets of the phenomenon that is usually called collectively the hackers.

The need for change in the general perception of hacking is understood not only the public, but some government agencies. Initiative group of U.S. congressmen, for example, initiated concrete steps for the preparation of new and updating existing laws – in order to balance the overly rigid, frankly “anti-hacking” distortions in the legislation.


The story, according to Borges, the oldest of them all. Of fortified citadel, which for a long time one storm heroes and thus defending others. Defenders in general, know that their city is doomed, but resistance is futile, but stubbornly continue to fight – against all odds. The most famous example of this typical story in the history of literature, of course, is the siege of Troy. And the most famous mythological episode in this long war should probably be considered a Trojan horse. That’s it, then – but in the context of the modern era of hacking – and we will go further.

But only once should be warned that this “Trojan horse” (TC) – in spite of the same term – has nothing to do with computer viruses and malware. Moreover, here at TC meant a real person, a very famous American politician, who, most likely, and never thought that such a strange comparison though someone may come to mind.

If he and his like statesmen (understands the essence of hacking) – is Trojan horses, through which the hacker community gets into the current structure of power within. And ultimately, naturally can itself become a power – based on entirely new principles of state government and civic self-organization. But consider this curious process is better in order.

It is about a young Californian policy named Gavin Newsom (Gavin Newsom). During the 2000s, he spent two consecutive terms (not more) as the head of the city administration of Mayor of San Francisco. But now Newsom is the Vice-Governor of California, and in February it was published a very remarkable book called “Grazhdangrad» (“Citizenville: How to Take the Town Square Digital and Reinvent Government”, by Gavin Newsom with Lisa Dickey. Penguin Press, 2013).

If someone is not very good at geography, San Francisco – this is the metropolis, which is a suburb called Silicon Valley at the time became the seat of the most important breakthroughs and achievements in the revolution of digital computer technology. And Gavin Newsom, respectively, not only directly familiar with the most prominent representatives of the IT industry and the hacker culture, but also to a large extent share their views on the Modernity.

We can say that one of the key themes in the book Newsom – a problem technophobes in the current government. But not so much in a critical way (many politicians do not understand, and therefore instinctively fear and information technology, and the people who own them), but in the design and positive attitude: how technologically advanced private sector could help to change the situation.

In other words, with the widespread introduction of computer technology and hacker approach to problem solving at all levels of government – local, state, federal – have the opportunity, I’m sure Newsome, do these structures are more responsive, attentive, and deployed to the needs of ordinary citizens.

The book does not just float Newsom and stories about hackers (and it is in a positive way, “people who know how to effectively do the work”), and their very strange from the point of business ideas – such as open source software code. While Newsom came to politics from business, and very profitable, he has the wisdom to recognize that it is the hackers were right here: “They did this – for the good of us all.”

The most important feature of the book – this is not abstract, divorced from the life of the arguments about the benefits of the new approach to politics, and many specific examples from life. Examples of how these approaches have been able to implement with the support of the mayor of San Francisco, and then they spread to other cities and countries.

For example, the “Foundation for the Arts,” The Grey Zone, “or briefly GAFFTA (Gray Area Foundation for the Arts), sponsored in SF so-called” Summer of Smart “- a three-month program of intellectual marathons (” hakafonov “), and other activities designed to ensure that people involved in the technical side of city management.

Large-scale experiment brought together artists, programmers, social activists and designers – to solve critical problems in the city, along the way creating new interesting applications for its inhabitants. During a series of 48-hour marathons hacker people have developed a lot of ideas: the type of hyperlocal sites to organize volunteers, interactive tools to show people how their tax dollars are being improved their habitat; smartphone app to track municipal vehicles and to help people is optimally to get to your destination by car or bicycle … And so on.

Remarkable creativity, open these marathons hacking, spread throughout the city, pushing and other constructive dream of their own applications and services. All this concludes Newsom, a perfect example of how the government can make the best of what is possible – just make room for creativity and no one interfering.

In the film, which sees the author of the book, the government must raise themselves to the “level of 2.0”, where comprehensive information about the work of the government, “is available from anywhere, at any time and from any device.” Instead, the current form of government, according to Newsom, is more like a vending machine: the money come from, outstanding service. If this machine is not working as it should, it starts to shake. But the vice-governor of California believe that it is time to build work is fundamentally different way: “We need to change this outdated dynamics of the relationship between government and citizens.”

Nobody yet knows how the rest of career advancement of young and successful politician Gavin Newsom. But one of the governors of California, it may be recalled, in 1980, became a popular U.S. president.


Again recall cycles Borges: next archetypal story is connected with the previous and the story of the return. If we again turn to the ancient examples, it is “the story of Odysseus and his long journey to the native island of Ithaca.”

In the context of interest to us here can generally draw a parallel with the beginning now the process of returning the term “hacker” to its original, deeply positive way. But far more interesting is the consideration for the unique image of Odysseus – as a brilliant representative of a very important archetypes: the cunning rogue and trickster. Or “trickster”, as expressed in cultural studies.

If we talk about the archetype of the trickster as a whole, it is very ancient, archaic character early mythology in almost all nations of the earth. This character is always and necessarily violates generally accepted rules of behavior. As a rule, the trickster does it not for “bad faith”, just for the gameplay cheating trickster is vital and necessary.

One can even say that our very existence – is the result of the antics of the trickster, as in the myths of many peoples of the world creation involves deceit, cunning, theft and violation of all kinds of taboos. To date, the role of this prohindeya is that in philosophy and cultural trickster is one of the fundamental character of human culture.

The characteristic features of this fundamentally important to our culture archetype carry a variety of literary heroes – from Puss in Boots to Svejk and Carlson, who lives on the roof.

As for the particular subject that occupies us here, then, as has been already demonstrated the famous American anthropologist Gabriella Coleman (Gabriella Coleman), the clearest embodiment of the image of the trickster in contemporary culture are hackers in general, and in particular – hacker movement Anonymous.

In July of 2010, Coleman, as anthropologist studying the hackers since the late 1990s, was engaged in research of one of the large “projects” movement “Anonymous” called Chanology – massive compromise of the Church of Scientology.

It is in this work was first introduced the idea that would become the central motif in her description of this particular group of Internet activists – “the trickster archetype,” which, in her words, “often does not look very clean and fragrant character, but it can be life important for social renewal of our society. ”

In an interview with Coleman says she “thought about the relationship between the trickster and hacker” for several years before she caught the eye of Lewis Hyde’s “Trickster makes this world: mischief, myth, and art» (Trickster Makes This World: Mischief, Myth, and Art by Lewis Hyde). From the first pages of this book before a vague analogy was not to be denied. Because there are too many links can be specified between the Trickster and hacking.

Many of these characters are constantly pushing the limits and released from the shackles of various kinds. They compromise the integrity of the ideas and property. They use their sharp wit sometimes just for fun and games, and sometimes in order to achieve political results. Because of your mind every now and then they get entangled in the trap (with Trickster happens all the time – that’s how they learn.) And they finally remake the world – technically, socially and legally – that includes the software, and licensing rules, and even the forms of literature.

A dozen years on Gabriella Coleman “in the field of anthropological research” among hackers and others like them computer geeks, led her to the firm belief that these people are now and build “one of the most vigorous movements for civil rights of all that we had to watch. ”

It is a culture, says Coleman, sincerely devoted to the release of information, insisting on the right to privacy and fight censorship. All this, in turn, pushes them to wide-ranging political activity. Over the past year alone, like a scientist, it turned out that hackers are a force that was behind some of the most powerful political action.

Despite the many differences in the colorful hacker movement, there are some web sites and conferences that bring together different hacking clans. As with any mass political movement, under the right conditions, the organization, bright individual with extraordinary abilities are ready to work in harmony for the common goal.

Take, for example, the reaction to the “anti-piracy” law SOPA, or Stop Online Piracy Act – is very far gone in the bill bans the copyright, intended to reduce online piracy. As you know, SOPA has been rolled before came to making procedure – thanks to the massive and very inventive protests, sends hacker movement.

The apotheosis was the “boycott day” – a network of unprecedented scale protest in the form of closed web space. In order to significantly express their opposition to the Bill, January 17, 2012, many non-profit organizations, some large web companies, community groups, as well as thousands of individuals Setyan, while removing their sites from the Internet, and thousands of others began to call or send e-mails deputies of their districts.

Journalists, respectively, followed suit caravans written articles. And less than a week, in response to these events are very impressive scope, laws SOPA and PIPA (closely related to the bill in the U.S. Senate) were removed from the agenda of lawmakers.

This beautiful victory was based, of course, a broad base of support, prepared by hackers and geeks. No doubt, in the campaign of corporate giants like Google, reputable online people like Jimmy Wales and advocacy organization EFF was also fundamentally important to the success.

However, the hacker contingent was here immensely, including, of course, and the movement of Anonymous. Under this banner anonymous activists gathered in 2008 – to begin targeted demonstrations, publish all sorts of unsavory things about the authorities and corporations merge to the disclosure of sensitive information, to participate in direct actions of digital effects, and to provide technological assistance to the revolutionary and dissident movements in countries with authoritarian regimes.

In protest against SOPA «Anonymous” prepared videos and propaganda posters, which provides constant updates to several popular “Twitter” accounts, such as “Your Anonymous-news” quickly become overgrown with readers and followers. When the day of the boycott ended, participants from corporations naturally retreated into the shadows, and returned to their daily work. To “Anonymous” and other freedom fighters, however, the battle is always going on.

When a few weeks later in Europe, especially in Denmark and Poland, have gone online and offline mass demonstrations against ACTA, another international agreement to protect copyright, a newly invigorated and “Anonymous.”

Hardly the Polish government agreed to ratify ACTA, Anonymous in protest “put” some government website and widely published images of street protests that swept Krakow. Soon after, the left-wing Polish party, “Palikot movement,” has adopted a distinctive character “Anonymous” mask of Guy Fawkes, and was in them at the parliamentary session – to protest against ACTA. Among all these, and many other protests in July 2012, the EU refused the draft law.

As noted by Coleman, the effect of Anonymous in all these actions was felt very strongly. However, the special beauty and singularity “Anonymous” is their lack of control and unpredictable spontaneity. As they like to say, “We are not your personal army.” Intuitively, however, you can feel that they are now an important part of the mix, which is organizing the protest movement.

Searching and finding treasures

Fourth and last, according to Borges, the cycle of stories. Not the most, perhaps, instructive yet. Because, from Jason, sailing for the Golden Fleece, and up to the adventures of Indiana Jones, the newfound treasure hunters almost never makes its owner happy.

Why is it so – a separate issue, but the Borges and the account has a clue. Real treasure should not have material value, but is acquired only in the way of spiritual self.

Brightest to illustration – an ancient allegory of the search king bird Simurgh, told in the poem “Mantiq al-Tair” Persian Sufi mystic-XIII century, Farid al-Din Attar, known chemist. Attar translated title of the poem in different ways, “Conference of the Birds,” “The Parliament of Birds”, or even “The logic of birds.” More importantly, however, the content of the parable.

Accidentally seeing the magnificent pen, dropped Simurg birds decide to find him and make him a king, tired of endlessly tearing their strife and discord. But to go on a long journey is not easy, as long as each of the birds very tied to the familiar life – who to his swamp, who to his ruin, and who to his cage.

Most persistent of all – the hoopoe – yet persuade the birds, and they go on a journey. Adventure is very difficult, the path seekers have to overcome seven valleys and seas, some of the travelers deserts, someone dies. Finally, finally, the thirty most persistent get to the mountain Kaf, inhabited Simurgh. At last they saw the king. And this is where the birds perceive that they themselves – this is the Simurgh. Each of them individually and all of them at once.

As they say in these cases, mystics Indians, there was a comprehension complete identity of Atman and Brahman. That is the creator and the creation.

What does – and most direct – this beautiful parable has to hackers and their diverse activities, it is necessary to talk in terms of their famous offspring called Creative Commons, that is, “Creative communities.”

This is, however, a great story, of which the need for a separate story. So some other time.



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