Creating a Status in the Hacker Culture - Hacking by Solis Tech: How to Hack Computers, Basic Security and Penetration Testing (2014)

Hacking by Solis Tech: How to Hack Computers, Basic Security and Penetration Testing (2014)

Chapter 11: Creating a Status in the Hacker Culture

The hacker community runs not on money, age, education or economic status. It runs on reputation, regardless of whatever background a person has. In fact, there are no other considerations for getting into the hacking community. The community judges a person based on one’s ability to solve interesting, challenging problems and how interesting the solutions were. Hence, one has to be highly skilled and very creative. Remember, hacking is not just about technical prowess, but of creativity as well. Technology and art rolled into one.

Also, one only becomes a hacker and a recognized member of the hacking community when other hackers mention that name on a consistent basis. That means consistently showcasing one’s hacking skill and being active in hacking activities. What other hackers think of one’s hacking skills matter very much because that will have a major contribution to building one’s reputation.

Hacking is not about solitary work. It’s not a picture of an individual working for hours in a dark room, as the media popularly portrays hackers. It is about working mostly alone physically, but working with others through Internet communication and information sharing. Also, reputation is garnered by gaining respect from fellow hackers, which means that in order to become a hacker, external validation is needed.

Before, it was taboo among hackers to be openly concerned about their reputation. The hacking community in the early days wanted members to be sharing one focus and one goal, and that is to make the growing technological/cyber world better and more accessible to everyone. Individual pride was supposed to be set aside in order to work together to achieve this common goal. Reputation in those days was all about an individual’s skills and ideas, and how it can contribute to the community’s goal and overall reputation. By the late 1990s, the hacking community has slowly come to admit that individual reputation—as well as ego—does play an important motivating factor in one’s becoming a part of the community.

Gift Culture

Hackerdom or the hacking community is described by anthropologists as a “gift culture.” Status and reputation is achieved by giving away to others. It is unlike the type of culture that dominates the rest of society, where reputation and status are gained through establishing dominion over other people, having something others want or need, or being the “most” (i.e., most beautiful, richest, etc.).

In the hacking community, one’s reputation is established and reinforced by giving something away. It may in the form of giving away (sharing) information, ideas, creativity, time and results. A hacker becomes better known within the community if he is willing to give away his idea that can help others in their projects. Advice and opinions are very valuable in this community, especially if information is not readily available or easy to obtain. For instance, if one hacker needs a certain source code or software to hack or fix something, he may just turn to the rest of the community for help. Looking for it from “legitimate” sources, i.e., from the rest of society, may prove to be challenging and time-consuming, and may often turn out fruitless. In the hacking community, a person who is willing to share what he has is better embraced. In return, a hacker who received help from previous endeavors will return the favor by giving away results to others. A person who does not live by this code is most likely to be shunned from the hacking community. Alone, a hacker can only do so much. Hacking is all about establishing a reputation based on how helpful and giving one is. This will establish a network, which is invaluable in this type of community.

How to get respect from other hackers

The hacking community is close knit yet reaches far and wide. It embraces people from everywhere, without any prejudice. However, as previously discussed, one has to earn respect and establish a reputation within the community. There are only 5 types of things that anyone can do to gain respect from the hacking community. These are:

· Writing open-source software

· Helping with testing and debugging open-source software

· Publishing useful results and information

· Helping in keeping the hacker infrastructure working

· Serving the hacking culture

Writing an open-source software

This is the most traditional yet most central and THE first thing to do to earn the respect of the hacking community. Write programs that the other hackers will consider useful or fun. The program’s sources and source codes should be made available to the entire hacker community for use. This is called an open-source software, where the source code is accessible for anyone who wants or needs it.

In the past, open-sources were known as free software. However, the term “free” got some people confused on what it exactly meant. To avoid the confusion and make it clear to all, the term “open-source” is currently used.

Great impressions are often received by people who wrote large and highly capable programs that can make varied tasks and cater to a wide variety of needs. These programs generally cost a lot and giving such programs away is a huge plus when it comes to making an impression. It is also one of t he greatest methods of establishing reputation in the community.

Writing open-source programs is at the core of this latest hacking community. However, the ability to work with closed-sources is still a desirable skill that earns the respect of other hackers.

Testing and debugging open-source software

Aside from writing one, testing and debugging open-sources is also a way to earn the respect of the community. Hackers and open-source developers rely on each other to test their materials and help in improving the systems. People who make notable contributions to fixing vulnerabilities and some issues on other’s work are highly appreciated in the hacking community. While ego and external validation have high standing in the hacking community, hackers everywhere do know how to recognize and appreciate talents and skills. They do appreciate input from other hackers, willing to set aside their egos in the quest for creating the perfect software program. The different hacker generations were able to produce notable software and hardware, made huge ripples in the cyber world not because they were working alone. No software or hardware started out perfect, and the issues were not resolved by just one person. The idea may have stemmed from an individual, but the final product was perfected because of the community’s collaborative effort. Each hacker has his own forte, which can prove valuable. Hence, a hacker who is able to contribute to the improvement of someone’ else’s work earns the respect of the community.

Debugging, in particular, can take too much precious time. It can seriously setback the timeline before a technology, hardware or software can be launched for the public to use. By having a community work together, this is when the adage “two heads are better than one” is fully appreciated.

In the hacking community, one of the best ways to quickly earn respect is to be a good beta tester. These are people with the knowledge and skill to clearly describe symptoms of a bug, issue or vulnerability. Then, the problems are localized, such as determining which part of the source code creates the problem, etc. A good beta tester should be able to tolerate these bugs well in a quickie release and willing to apply simple diagnostic routines to the open-source software. Good beta testers are priceless, not just within the hacking community but in the entire cyber world. These people are often highly sought-after even by non-hackers, in order to test new software and to debug programs. Good beta testers make a huge difference in making a bug or software problem reduced to a mere salutary nuisance. Without them, a problem can quickly turn into a protracted and exhausting nightmare.

If you’re new to the hacking community, try looking for newly released software or programs that are undergoing development. From there, you can practice how to be a good beta-tester. Be available and offer insights and ideas. Remember that the hacking community is not as discriminating as the rest of society. If an idea sounds plausible, they’ll readily accept it. They won’t waste time in digging up one’s background before they accept an idea or proposed solution. Remember also, it’s the skill that matters. If the proposed solution sounds credible and plausible, then pout it forward. This is also when communication skills comes very important. A person should be able to communicate his ideas well. And this includes being coherent and grammatically correct.

Helping with the testing and debugging process is also one of the quickest ways to gain recognition and acceptance, as well as build a reputation in the hacking community. This step also sets in motion a natural progression, from helping with testing programs to debugging to modifying. A lot of things can be learned from this process. This will also set off good karma- help others and others will help you, too. Helping and sharing is what makes the hacking community thrive. These same principles will help a person thrive in this community as well.

Publishing Useful Information

Another good way to get noticed in the hacking community is to bring together useful information and make it available as document or web pages that anyone can use. Make some sort of a “Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)” list or a collection of interesting things about what concerns others such as information and technical support for open-source programs. Some maintainers of technical FAQs do get as much respect as the authors of open-source programs receive.

Keeping the hacking infrastructure working

This means taking part in the time-consuming, massive responsibility of working behind the scenes and keeping things running smoothly. There is so much to do within the hacker community and the world of Internet for that matter. There is keeping things well categorized so that other hackers can look for specific items more efficiently in less time. There is also the maintenance of software archive sites that are usually large. Newsgroups also need monitoring and moderating in order to keep things calm and relevant for everyone. Imagine having to log into a chatroom only to have to be forced to scroll through long lines of gibberish. A moderator is needed in order to eliminate distractions and keep topics focused. Other technical standards such as developing RFCs are also part of maintaining the proper and smooth function of the infrastructure,

This might sound unglamorous but people who help with the infrastructure gain great respect from the hacking community. Everybody knows how much this job requires time, effort, and skill for the benefit of everyone. Performing this job also shows one’s dedication to getting jobs done. Also, this is a rich ground to search for opportunities to learn and demonstrate hacking skills. For instance, moderating newsgroups is getting first dibs on the latest open-source available, or what programs needs testing and/or debugging.

Serving the hacking culture

Propagate and serve the hacking culture. There are so many ways to do this. One example is to write accurate primers on how a person can be a hacker. In order to do this, first be a hacker and perform any of the previous 4 activities. Sharing experiences to newbies and those who are interested in becoming a hacker is a very important role to play.

There are no leaders in the hacking community. There are spokespeople, “tribal elders,” and heroes. These are people who have valuable lessons and tips to share that can only come from the seasoned hackers.

However, hackers wanting to be mentors or go-to persons for advice should be very careful not to sound too egoistic. Be modest when taking this role. Also, actively striving for this position may do more harm than good. Start by joining chatrooms and newsgroups. Then be ready to provide answers to any of the queries or issues. This, of course, requires gaining a few experiences in order to provide valuable and useful tips and help to others.