Hacking Culture Re-Visited


Recently the Israeli government has announced the launch of an initiative, which will train students aged 16-18 in cyber defence. Three years of training in cybernetics, will prepare the students to protect the state of Israel from future cyber attacks. This new generation of civil servants is being trained to do what hackers are doing all over the world - taking apart code. To Keren Elazari hacking is more than that. She is an Israeli cyber security expert, who says that the definition of a hacker is very dynamic, because “it’s post-modern and keeps evolving in the age of technology”. At #dld13 Keren will be talking about the rise of hacking as a new form of power in the 21st Century.

“To be a hacker is to have the mindset of a child” she says, “you take something apart to make something new out of it.” This Lego version of hacking illustrates how hacking culture has evolved from being an underground movement, with sometimes criminal affiliations, to something creative and productive. Keren says the Silicon Valley is a driving force in rehabilitating the image of hackers by sponsoring hackathons - get together’s for programmers to create usable code and software - as well as organizations like Hackbright Academy, which supports the development of women programmers.

While Forbes magazine describes the hacker mindset as “harnessing passion and raw ingenuity for solving problems and accomplishing hard things,” Keren is excited by initiatives which make programming accessible to normal people who want to understand the internet. At cryptoparty.org people who are interested in basic programming skills get together and learn from one another. The parties have spread across several countries and form a real grassroots movement of self-empowerment.

Although Keren Elazari sees the rise of hacking as a possibility to do good, she says it is complex and hackers are neither heroes nor villains in cyber space. “No private individual or government can ignore today’s cyber risks, and there are anti-social aspects in hacking culture too.” To Keren, groups like Anonymous symbolize how close legal and illegal acts of hacking can be. The group stands for a modern form of political protest, they want to protect privacy and freedom of expression in cyberspace, but use controversial and sometimes illegal tactics. In November 2012 Anonymous also hacked an Israeli bank and Israeli government websites, to demonstrate Anonymous’ opposition to Israeli attacks on Gaza. Keren says that it is in the interest of every government to protect its electric grid. “A government has to understand the internet like an important infrastructure of society.”

Reason enough for Eugene Kaspersky, founder and CEO of one of the most far reaching IT security firms, to believe there is too much freedom online. On the Kaspersky Lab website it says “the term hacker was once used to describe a clever programmer. Today, it’s applied to those who exploit security vulnerabilities to break into a computer system. You can think of it as electronic burglary.” In 1989 Kaspersky found a virus for the first time, “Cascade” laid the seed for his passion in stopping viruses. The Russian security expert sees his mission in preventing the abuse of cyber space, and is known to propagate ideas like an internet passport which would require authorization and prevent unknown hackers access to sensitive systems, like nuclear plants for example.

Cyber space is increasingly a mirror image of our physical world, including geo-politics. In 2012, Kapsersky caused headlines for stopping two viruses which were allegedly used by the U.S. as cyber attacks against Iran. At DLD13 Eugene Kaspersky will be discussing how governments are waking up to the dangers of cybercrime and share his ideas on how to make the inernet a safer place.

Mentioned in this article

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Keren Elazari
Cyber Security Researcher & Author
Tel Aviv
Kaspersky photo bw quadrat
Eugene Kaspersky
President and CEO