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Computer Hackers

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What is the definition of the term "hacker?" Is it someone that terrorizes companies by shutting down computers and satellites otherwise rendering them helpless? Or is it merely someone that is curious as to how technology works? The United States Government doesn't agree at all with the latter of the two. It is almost frightful that the Government of the United States, the most powerful force in the world, can be so discriminative. You think that they would be the ones with some sort of understanding. This is not the case. Although the government believes that computer hackers are an enormous threat to our country, I believe that if they came to an understanding with hacker ethics they would comprehend the fact that computer hackers are not terrorists.

It is the government's belief that if a crime is committed and it involves a computer, hackers are the cause. No questions asked. Since when was the term "hacker" conceived as a person involved in malicious actions on a computer? A true hacker will cause no damage through any means. Hackers merely explore technology to figure out how things work so that they may share their findings as a protection from cyber terrorism and other potential harms. It has been stated that "Knowledge Is Power." How is it that this power has become such a threat to our government? Former President Thomas Jefferson once wrote that "Ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density at any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement of exclusive appropriation. Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property. Ideas and discoveries should be shared and known by all. Only then will we not suffer the fate of what has happened in history. This is how we learn not to do wrong; by doing wrong and realizing it was wrong (Goldstein 4). As humans we have the ability to learn this. A hot pan isn't touched over and over again. Once it is learned that the pan is hot the necessity to touch it again becomes superfluous. All success comes from the failure of either the individual or someone that the individual has followed. Computer hackers are simply learning that "the pan is hot." Sharing the discoveries of hackers is the only way that technology will be able to evolve.

Bill Clinton, former president of the United States, gave a speech January 22, 1999 targeting computer hackers as "a significant part of the future threat facing western civilization." Is it to be understood then, that teenagers using their computers are as much of a threat as an international terrorist? President Clinton also declared his belief that "hackers break in to government and business computers, stealing and destroying information, raiding bank accounts, running up credit card charges, extorting money by threats to unleash computer viruses." This characterization of hackers is both unfair and completely inaccurate. Unaware citizens are lead to believe that hackers engage in these types of actions. It is amazing that someone as powerful as the President of the United States could make such an ignorant comment towards computer hackers. Statements such as these are much better suited for afternoon talk shows. Although mischievous occurrences certainly happen, they are invariably at the hands of insiders, such as career criminals or people with a grudge against a certain company (Drake 5). To make the assumption that because it involves computers and crime, it can only be hackers is a most unfortunate, and all too typical, supposition. Seeing as how the President himself has come to stereotypes, more and more people will come to believe this and hackers will universally be seen as a negative force.

A perfect example of the inaccurate perceptions of the United States Government and the authorities in the rest of the world is the currently pending "Jon Johansen Case." Jon Johansen was arrested a year ago for "reverse engineering" DVD encryption. DVD encryption allowed manufacturers to protect their DVD's from being copied. Reverse engineering consists of taking a piece of hardware or software and trying to figure out how it was created, working from the finished product back to the beginning. This knowledge would basically allow the copying of DVD discs that could eventually upset the income of many corporations. However, Jon never copied any DVD's, nor did he intend to. In this particular case, the government took Jon's computers and all computer related articles in his house. He was interrogated for 8 hours immediately after he was taken to the police station. Jon stated "if they would have gotten to the point with the questions, the interrogation would have taken probably 3 hours." They are charging him with breaking in to computer systems, which ironically is something he never did. The authorities are simply presuming that the system was broken into because they do not understand what happened. Although there has been no outcome in this case yet, Jon Johansen will surely be punished to the fullest extent of the law, if not beyond it, to ensure that no one else will ever try anything similar again.

The longest and most complicated of all cases involving computer hackers to date is the indictment of Kevin Mitnick. Since February of 1995, when Kevin Mitnick



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