[Air-L] CFP: Expanding the frontiers of hacking

David Golumbia dgolumbia at gmail.com
Tue Jun 14 21:35:53 PDT 2011

the incredibly condescending tone of this email is remarkable. what makes
you think i don't know the claim you are making and reject it, rather than
need to "learn" about it?

you can call them 'not hackers" if you want. i have been at this a long
time, and in my observation the number of 'white hat" hackers who actually
do anything is remarkably small.

the number of hackers who steal is overwhelmingly large. but there are no
"special issues" or classes about them. even if i grant for you that there
is some small coterie of people who are actually "doing good" (and who need
to be constantly redefined to serve your own purposes), they are dwarfed by
the number who use hacking techniques to do very bad things. you are welcome
to willfully define one as one thing and another as another, but I don't see
an interesting or principled way to make the distintction.

and i do think anonymous promotes itsself as a hcaking enterprise, and i
find almost everything they to to be authoritarian, anti-democratic, and
typically very destructive.

and as a career path, "good" hacking often leads to industry employment.

the entire world of internet studies is beset by an awful wishfulness: to
find only what looks "good" and to absolutely ignore the bad.

the fact is, numerically speaking, the number of people who use hacking
techniques to violate the law far outstrips the number who "do good."

and the kind of "good" that the do-gooders do it not really legible to me. i
don't recognize it as informed, thoughtful, directed, meaningful political

and i ask again: where are the special issues on Stuxnet? where are the
waves of threads on AOIR-L and nettime etc. about that? and the tip of the
iceberg it represents?

i have been here for over a decade, watching. i find what was once a sad
off-the-cuff observation seems more and more the absolute truth: these lists
exist to promote computerization. when stuff starts to rub against that, it
won't be talked about.

it does not surprise me that your response has to become ad-hominem and
start telling me i need to "learn" things that I have been reading about for
decades. surely i must be the know-nothing, not the scrappy kids who come
out of high school armed with a copy of 2600 and having never
read Bakunin  Kropotkin, let alone Marx or Emma Goldman, but will
proclaim themselves our anarchist political saviors. what do they even mean
by anarchy? i've yet to read a coherent account. and yes I've read about
"agorism," another amazingly uninformed movement.

our world is going to hell in a handbasket. hackers (and COMPUTERS
THEMSELVES) are not the solution. informed politics is the solution. there
is more information available today than ever before, but if it doesn't fit,
it doesn't get discussed. there is more information, but peole are so much
less informed and so much more manipulable than they were 20 years ago that
it isn't funny.

 I have been watching informed politics drain away from the world of
intellectual discussion since 1995--coincidentally, just the moment when the
internet was commercialized, and so took over.

if i need to "learn" more stuff, please feel free to let me know. i really
appreciate the informed engagement with my own research that spurred your

i worked in investment banking for over a decade. the damage done by hackers
(who "are not hackers" in your funny definition, because they do evil? but
they use the same techniques) is absolutely amazing, and kept quiet because
the bankers don't want the general public to know how vulnerable their
assets are. when anonymous took down several credit cards for a period of
hours (which was good WHY?) that started to reveal it.

show me anything like that pervasive kind of effect of the "good" hackers.

better: show me a place where anyone is actually talking about politics,
because we are getting pretty close to the end of ability to do anything
about it.

On Tue, Jun 14, 2011 at 11:44 AM, Nathaniel Poor <natpoor at gmail.com> wrote:

> David that view can continue to be promulgated because it's correct.
> You see no real hacking from anonymous because they are not a hacker group,
> although from time to time some of them are involved in hacking. When you
> say "anonymous and other groups", what other groups do you have in mind? (If
> you want to learn more about anonymous, Biella Coleman does work on them,
> she's at NYU. She even has a class on hacker culture and politics.
> http://steinhardt.nyu.edu/faculty_bios/view/Gabriella_Coleman )
> The items you list in the bullet points are not hacking, they are either
> organized crime or government espionage.
> The problem you are running into is one that hackers themselves have run
> into, that is, of different definitions of the word hack/hacker. Mostly in
> the mainstream media (news, movies, television), it has a negative
> connotation (good for news, and good for dramatic tension in movies). There
> have been suggestions I've seen to call the criminal side of hacking either
> "cracking" or "black hat hacking", while the legal side that most people do
> but yet that few hear about "white hat hacking" (since if it's legal it
> certain isn't of much interest to the news media and is rather ho-hum for
> movies).
> Hacking has a very old history (that the CFP does not touch on enough to my
> liking). Early wireless telegraphy, young men with their crystal radio sets
> transmitting over the ether, they were hackers (since they had to build
> their sets and keep them tuned). Early hot rodding was car hacking, and to
> this day car modding has its own cultures, meetups, and magazines (and these
> days web sites).
> No hackers have been identified in the cases you mention since it can be
> very hard, if not impossible, to identify perpetrators. Not every
> non-computer crime is solved either. And when it's done with the backing of
> the Chinese or American governments, that simply won't happen.
> The examples at the end of your email aren't hackers in the sense of the
> CFP, they are organized crime syndicates who use computers. Organized crime
> goes where the money is. There's money to be had over the internet, in a
> variety of ways (bank accounts, personal info, botnet creation), so of
> course that's where they are now. It would be quite surprising if they
> weren't.
> If you'd like to learn more about real hackers and hackerspaces, there is,
> for instance, one a few blocks from where I live:
> http://www.nycresistor.com/
> I've been there, and met the people there for an event they had around the
> Debian conference. As you can see they have a variety of classes for the
> public, so that people can learn more about the computers they own and what
> they can do with them. Part of the ethic, in my understanding, is that,
> "this computer that I bought is mine, I'd like to play with it and see what
> it can do, beyond what it does currently, beyond what the manufacturer says
> I can do with it."
> There are lots of examples of hacking all around you on the internet. Most
> of the software that runs the internet is open source, and, given the
> methods of open source programming, it's all a hack, not in the sense of a
> kludge (somewhat badly hacked together) but in the ethos of its manufacture.
> (Again we see how the word "hack" has multiple and conflicting meanings.)
> Linux is a total hack, which has been well-detailed elsewhere so I won't go
> over it here (but I'd suggest Torvalds's book, "Just For Fun"). Basically,
> Torvalds wanted to do something else with his computer, so, he did it. He
> hacked his computer. Now Linux is so mainstream that even IBM ran a
> advertising campaign that consisted of spray-painting the Linux penguin on
> the sidewalks of several cities (this was a few years ago, the cities were
> generally not amused). Because Linux is so mainstream (relatively speaking),
> those not overly familiar with it probably don't consider it a hack, but it
> is.
> Ten years ago when I took apart two Intel boxes, bought some new parts, and
> built a new computer (I went AMD if anyone is curious) and then installed
> Linux on it (Red Hat or Slackware, I don't recall), that was hacking
> (installing back then was terrible!). When someone took a version of Linux
> and stripped it down to boot off of a floppy (which I used to make a
> router), that was hacking.
> Even the titanium screw I have in my jaw is essentially a hack, a
> biological one. (It's part of a crown, but that's a long story that involves
> the summer of 1972 and a springer spaniel.)
> Hacking is all around us. Always has been, always will be, even if the
> mainstream news uses the term for the more negative side of its meaning.
> Hacking (not the organized crime side of it) is a form of play, which is why
> it is a part of who we are -- see Brown's "Play", an excellent book -- he's
> an MD who is a play researcher -- I liked it so much I'd advise everyone
> read it:
> http://www.amazon.com/Play-Shapes-Brain-Imagination-Invigorates/dp/B002KAORUM/
> Brown differentiates nicely between rough play (in children) and violence,
> which I think is a decent parallel here between what I call hacking (play)
> and organized crime (violence).
> Hopefully now you have an idea that there is this whole other component to
> the word "hack" that the CFP is, quite correctly, talking about, but one
> that is almost never covered in the news (it does get touched on from time
> to time in movies and on TV, though).
> -Nat.
> On Jun 14, 2011, at 9:54 AM, David Golumbia wrote:
> > On Tue, Jun 14, 2011 at 4:24 AM, Mathieu ONeil <mathieu.oneil at anu.edu.au
> >wrote:
> >
> >>
> >> During the past two decades, hacking has chiefly been associated with
> >> software development. This is now changing as new walks of life are
> being
> >> explored with a hacker mindset, thus bringing back to memory the origin
> of
> >> hacking in hardware development. Now as then, the hacker is
> characterised by
> >> an active approach to technology, undaunted by hierarchies and
> established
> >> knowledge, and finally a commitment to sharing information freely.
> >
> >
> >
> > i wish I had any understanding of why this view can continue to be
> > promulgated.
> >
> > i see so little of it from groups like anonymous and so on. to the
> contrary,
> > contemporary hacking is characterised by:
> >
> >   - attempting to steal every bit of information and financial property i
> >   and you and every other person on this list has earned or owns by
> whatever
> >   means;
> >   - doing so without any clear political program or input from political
> >   thinkers, but typically because there is something they don't like
> about the
> >   target, and/or the target has something of value they want to steal;
> >   - being absolutely antidemocratic and authoritarian with regard to
> their
> >   decisions and actions;
> >   - keeping whatever profits they make solely for themselves;
> >   - in many cases, working on behalf of large multi-national corporations
> >   and governments. the most famous recent example is Stuxnet.
> >
> >
> > where is the special issue on that topic? why do we keep having them, and
> > endless list and conference discussions, on this one, which does not map
> > onto the reality i know at all?
> >
> > it's not like this was in the news as recently as yesterday or today or
> > anything...
> >
> > Hardly a month has gone by this year without a multinational company such
> as
> > Google Inc., EMC Corp. or Sony Corp. disclosing it’s been hacked by cyber
> > intruders who infiltrated networks or stole customer information. Yet no
> > hacker has been publicly identified, charged or arrested.
> >
> > If past enforcement efforts are an indication, most of the perpetrators
> will
> > never be prosecuted or punished.
> >
> > “I don’t have a high level of confidence that they will be brought to
> > justice,” said Peter George, chief executive of Fidelis Security Systems
> > Inc., a Bethesda, Md.-based data protection consulting firm whose clients
> > include International Business Machines Corp., the U.S. Army and the
> > Department of Commerce. “The government is doing what they can, but they
> > need to do a lot more.”
> >
> > In the U.S., the FBI, the Secret Service and other law enforcement
> agencies
> > are confronting what amounts to a massive crime wave that’s highly
> organized
> > and hard to combat with traditional methods. The hacker organizations are
> > well-funded and global, eluding arrest except in the rarest of cases.
> >
> > Attacks are coming from organized crime groups based in Eastern Europe
> and
> > Russia, from industrial spies in China and from groups such as LulzSec,
> > whose members appear to reside mostly in the U.S. and Europe and seem
> more
> > interested in publicity than in making a profit from their crimes. (By
> > Michael Riley, Greg Farrell and Ann Woolner, Bloomberg News, "Cyber
> > intruders confound: Few hackers are brought to
> > justice<
> http://www.telegram.com/article/20110612/NEWS/106129977/-1/NEWS05>,"
> > Jun 12 2011)
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > --
> > David Golumbia
> > dgolumbia at gmail.com
> > _______________________________________________
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> > http://www.aoir.org/
> -------------------------------
> Nathaniel Poor, Ph.D.
> http://natpoor.blogspot.com/

David Golumbia
dgolumbia at gmail.com

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