Why Everyone Should Learn to Be A Hacker

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Robert Siciliano


I know enough about hacking to make all of my software un-usable, mess up my operating system, and crash my PC. I also know enough about hacking to re-install my operating system, re-install all my software and get my PC running fresh and relatively secure. I’m no criminal hacker. And I am not suggesting that. Nor can I program; I don’t know code but I do know enough to hack in a way that keeps me running, and again, secure.

Hacker isn’t a bad word and hacking isn’t a bad thing to do. It’s something that if everyone who plugs into a PC every day did, they’d be a heck of a lot more versed in the functionality and security of a computer.

The beauty of becoming a “do it yourself” (DIY) hacker is you don’t need to pay a dude to come to your home or office to fix your computer when it’s not working. Three hundred and twenty five years ago I used to pay someone to fix me. Now I can do most of it myself, and when I don’t know how to do it I look it up on Google. Chances are if you have had this problem, then thousands of others have too. There are a bazillion forums that you can go to and solve annoyances and real technology issues.

Once you start asking questions you begin to find people who know the answers. Next thing you know you are the person with the answers. Along the way you connect with people that are smarter than you are who actually do know code and how to really hack a system. Then keep this stable of experts on your contact list so when you are in a pinch, you reach out. But do your best to figure it out on your own first so you aren’t constantly bugging them. You’d be amazed at how capable you are once you invest the necessary time to learn this stuff.

Another great way to learn how to be a DIY hacker is through tech support of your new PC. Most computers come with a one year guarantee that includes phone support. Now many people complain about lousy support, but the hundred or so hours I’ve spent over the years with these people from all over the world has definitely upped my hack-abilities. Even when the tech support guy is wrong, you learn something.

Recently I got rid of all my old 5-6-8 year old PCs and upgraded all but one to Windows 7 boxes and couldn’t be happier. In the process, I had to go through a litany of changes that were always frustrating, but made me a better, smarter, faster DIY hacker. I’ve spent about 20 hours with tech support on the phone getting everything to work like it should and now I know how to do it myself when things go wrong.

“Why I want my daughter to be a hacker” is the title of a post that’s been making waves in the blogosphere. It doesn’t exactly make my point, but worth a read.

Security Awareness Privacy
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Ray Tan Oh no, this is not a real hacker.
As a real hacker, you need to have a thoroughly knowledge of networking and computer, you need to be an expert in specified aspect, such as programming,algorithm and so on.

There is no doubt that everyone should know more about your computer and network, then you can do it yourself and protect yourself better.
John England Hi Ray

I think he is classed as a Hacker hobbyist, which is someone who heavily modifies the software they use on their home machine. We inherently think of computer security hacking, whereby the hacker attempts to gain access to a remote machine they have no rights to.

I agree with you and Robert, that awareness of operating systems and applications is beneficial, both in aiding selection, use and keeping services running. Today, the small PC shop in the UK has disappeared to the multi-nationals, and with a new laptop now costing £300 base, there is no market in expensive PC repairs and fixes. The market adapts, and so must the user. My partner still thinks typewriters are mainstream in an office!
Rakesh Goyal What a new definition of HACKER? Are you writing a new dictionary?

DO you say to maintain your machines as "HACKING"???

Then all Engineers and enthusiasts, who can repair a washing machine, TV, microwave, automobile, bike or change electric bulb/switch, etc are hackers in their trade.

Robert, what you describes is just maintaining your machine (PC in this case), yourselves. I fully subscribe that one must know enough about all gadgets before calling a technician / tech-support.

But, Hacking, as the word evolving is much more than. It has various colours, shades and flavours also like white, blue, gray, red, black hats. Some of these are also evolved in more exotic terms like "crackers".
Anthony M. Freed I think I agree with everyone in most respects, as divergent as the viewpoints may seem.

Robert is saying you can teach yourself to operate at a skill level well beyond the typical computer and software user/consumer by learning hacker methodologies.

The pursuits of a truly orthodox hacker is measured in their skill level and knowledge of a broad array of disciplines - as Ray points out.

John's comment reinforces that line of thought, that it is the hacker's ability to supersede hardware and coding that defines them as a class.

Lance points out the sad fact that the term hacker has been soured by script kiddies and punks who do little more than cyber drive-by's and vandalism.

Rakesh echoes the sentiment by pointing out that legitimate hackers have been so disenfranchised by the bad connotations associated with the term hacker that they have had to try to differentiate themselves from the punks by aligning with various codes of conduct and then color-coding themselves by their ultimate intentions.

Hacking is skill-based and dependent on someones knowledge alone, not a diagnosis of someone's psycho-social pathologies.

Robert Siciliano (previous comments I made went out too early)

"Thanks everyone, and Anthony for summarizing. Its always amusing to me when the terms hacker and hacking are discussed and the outpouring of feedback as a result.

This post has been elsewhere in other forums with completely different audiences and the commentary is completely different due to the knowledge base/perspective of the reader.

These terms mean completely different things to different people and it always results is a healthy awareness for everyone. In the end, I try to take the "dirty" out of the terms because I believe they aren't bad words and the more people who can use them positively the better off/secure we will all be.

So don't get yer panties in a bunch. "
Rakesh Goyal Robert,
Now you have sufficient data, as you have enjoyed the response in many forums with different mindsets under different cultures and different maturity levels.

May I request you to write a report or at least an executive summery of this learning, so that all enjoy the same.
Dave Brown I agree with some of the other comments regarding the definition of hacking vs. maintaining one's on PC. Many people can upgrade their systems, and even build their PC's, but know little to nothing about "hacking" into a network, capturing packets, spoofing an IP address, poisoning an ARP cache, or understanding DOS and Botnets. No big deal, but they are different, bottom line.
Robert Siciliano Hi David, this is where the conversation gets fun. In my humble opinion,"Hacking into a network" isn't the only form of hacking, and the examples you provide are essentially cracking.

Thomas Edison was a hacker, Benjamin Franklin was a hacker. Today's software developers are inventors, and are hackers. Someone who tears down a PC and puts it back together is performing techniques liken to hacking. Again, I believe the terms were made dirty by the media and nothing more. It happened in the Clinton administration when they were chasing Mitnick, but they didn't know what the hell they were talking about. And I dont care what the web definitions are.
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