Florian Cramer on 14 Mar 2001 00:01:11 -0000

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[Nettime-bold] Re: <nettime> Hackers: the political heroes of cyberspace + URL target

Am Tue, 13.Mar.2001 um 13:20:31 +0100 schrieb Josephine Bosma:

> What also bothers me about the criticism of hackers on hacktivism is
> this hammering on the lack of technical abilities of hacktivists. I

I disagree. The mere label "hacktivism" makes me wonder about a few things:

- "hacktivism" seems to imply that previous, "classical" hackers were not
(political) activists. Which is neither true for "classical" cracker-hackers
from, for example, the German Chaos Computer Club, who have been political
activists since the early 1980s, nor for the "classical" programmer-hackers
from, say, the GNU project, which stands out as a brilliant example of
coding politics into software and legal documents (by literally hacking the
Western copyright into the copyleft).

I haven't heard of any Chaos Computer Club-style crackers or GNU-style
hackers yet who would call themselves "hacktivists". For the mixed feelings
"hacktivism" has created in Free Software culture, check out the Slashdot
discussion on "Is Hacktivism Robin Hood Politics?"

- What I know as "hacktivism" to date are politically motivated
denial-of-service attacks. If denial-of-service attacks qualify as "hacks"
at all, then they are bad hacks in various respects: They are
unsophisticated (while the word "hack" implies some simple, but
sophisticated and efficient tricks are used), and they never merely affect
the target system, but the whole net (since all rooters between the
attacking and the target systems are being flooded as well). Since bandwidth
is a cultural resource and access to it is so obviously a political issue
(and an issue of global inequality), I think that carrying out technical
attacks in a sophisticated way is not just a question of style, but also of
political awareness and consequence.

So I would have a lot more respect for hacktivists if they get more
sophisticated in their methods, and I don't think this implies
techno-elitism. Clever hacking can be done with simple pranks and social
engineering tricks (like calling a company on the phone, disguising oneself
as a technical service person and requesting a system password for
maintenance). According to "classical" hackers, such methods are
surprisingly successful.


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