Stereotypically, they are either overweight, nerdy 35-year olds who crack some passwords in the semi-darkness of their stuffy room while still living with their mom, surrounded by old pizza boxes and cheap energy drinks. Or they are unique prodigies who joined the cyberwar in order to fight for their ideologies.
But just as cheerleaders are not always popular blonde beauty-queens and Italians are not always having spaghetti for dinner while wearing white tank-tops and golden rings, the hacker community is not what the cinema culture shows it to be.
Invading computers and writing malicious code with the intention to harm is not even perceived as hacking, but as “cracking” instead. Specifically, what is broadly understood as criminal hacking is known by the label “black hat hacking”, whereas “white hat hacking” is morally legitimate and permitted. In fact, the black & white analogy is derived from the black and white-hat symbolism in Western movies. But as the cyber world is too complex to cluster in a mono-chromatic scheme, “gray hat hacking” was added, making the lines between inside and outside the law even blurrier. And while cyberspace has steadily been transforming into a battlefield of individuals, industries and governments hacking each other, some actors even choose to flee into the Darknet.
If you want to know why “there’s a strong whiff of half-baked anarchism” around hackers and how “certain disabilities can manifest themselves in the hacking and computing world as tremendous skills”, don’t miss out his TED Talk.
You will be surprised how afterwards you too will want to hire a hacker…
header image credits to Alina Nikolaou