What's a Hacker Anyway?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

We hear from Douglas Rushkoff, media theorist and author of, most recently, Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age, on News of the World, Anonymous, and just what "hacking" is in 2011?


Douglas Rushkoff

Comments [8]

John Weldon from Bayside

The question I see here isn't what really constitutes "hacking". What I see going on in this interview is a guest that's essentially unchallenged by Lehrer that wants to draw some kind of legitimacy for the acts that these punks --and that's the most charitable way to describe them -- known as "Anon" or "Anonymous", "Lolzsec", etc., are committing.

I guess Lehrer is OK with companies like Citigroup being hacked (OK, cracked) by outsiders. Hey, it's only financial information that could lead to people's ruin if manipulated. Who cares?

I guess Lehrer is OK with PayPal being attacked. Hey, PayPal is only the the payment service provider of choice by Ebay and many, many individuals who make their living as internet merchants. Who cares about their livelihoods?

I guess Lehrer is OK in naming the News of the World hacking scandal as something that News Corporation, itself, countenanced at the highest levels. After all, it MUST have been directed and okayed at the very highest levels of News Corp, right Lehrer? How pathetically disingenuous. But hey, it's Rupert Murdoch, and he owns Fox News Channel, so whatever we can do to somehow, SOMEHOW cause problems for Fox News Channel, that's the mission -- truth be damned in the process.

Giving moral legitimacy to these script kiddies in these groups as if they have some real purpose in "leveling the playing field" (how absurd) is really despicable. They are criminals, plain and simple, and I trust governments around the world will weed them out and send them off to jail where they belong.

Jul. 26 2011 01:04 PM
Nick Farr from Washington DC

Hacking is not committing crimes with computers, it's JOB CREATION.

Makerbot ( is a company formed from a hackerspace in NYC ( that has, in one short year, gone from three hackers around an open-source machine to employing dozens of people who are actually making and manufacturing things in the USA!

I agree with Rushkoff that the definition of Hacking is innovating, creating and evolving new purposes for existing technologies. Just like a hammer can be used to drive a nail or smash in a window, the application of these purposes is separate from their creation.

However, the current generation of people who grew up with computers and became hackers are the ones who are driving innovation and going to save us from the economic slump created by the real criminals on Wall Street.

If you ask Larry Page, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg if they're hackers--they'll consider themselves hackers, they'll all say yes! What they all have in common is that they took the existing technology and created something new and amazing with it and enabled billions of people to do things they could not before.

What do we call people who break into your house? Thieves, criminals, etc. So why do we use a term that stands for intensive applied creativity to mean someone who breaks into a device with an on/off switch?

Jul. 26 2011 12:12 PM

AFAIK the hacker tradition goes back at least as far as the 1970s and was mainly focused on exploring the telephone network early on.

Jul. 26 2011 12:05 PM
Bill from New Rochelle

Daniel, the original hackers preceeded the computer age; and were pests to the phone network in the real old days.

When computer networks (connected computrers) were created, it was a natural extension of their skills and amoral activity.

Jul. 26 2011 12:04 PM
Daniel from Munich

I think your guest is cherry picking his examples. What about Karl Koch, the young German hacker who turned his hobby into espionage for pay? That was as far back as the 1980s.

Jul. 26 2011 12:01 PM
Bill from New Rochelle

The best comment on computer hackering; and how we are being changed may be derived from playing the Frank Zappa song, Central Scrutinizer"

Jul. 26 2011 12:01 PM
john from office

These groups sound like nerds who have seen one to many Sci Fi movies, computer voice and all. WOW, Lets fight the EMPIRE, where is my light saber!

Jul. 26 2011 11:54 AM

I thought hacking means writing code and cracking means illegally entering secure networks.

Jul. 26 2011 11:40 AM

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