Culture of Sharing - 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 14: Culture of Sharing

The hacking community has lasted this long because of the concept of sharing. This has been a fundamental element in hacking, from its early days until the present. The ethics and culture of open sharing and of collaboration has made the hacking culture flourish and improve over the years. Software is commonly shared, which included the source codes. Sharing is the hacker norm. It is something expected in the culture of non-corporate hacking.

The culture of sharing among hackers started in MIT, when hackers would develop programs and share the information (including source codes) to other users. This allows other users to try to hack the newly develop0ed program. If the hack was considered good, then the program is posted on the board. This allows others to improve it and add or build programs upon it. The offshoot programs and improvements were saved in tapes and then added to a program drawer that other hackers can access. It’s like building a free library that any hacker can access and use anytime for learning, inspiration or innovations. Hackers would open these program drawers, choose any program, and then add or “bum” to it to improve it. “Bumming” is a hacker term that refers to making a program code more concise. This enables programs to take up less space, perform more complex tasks using fewer instructions, and become more simplified. The memory space saved allows for the accommodation of more enhancements by other hackers.

This was during the early days of hacking and it has continued up to this day. This also opened the hacking community to a wider population, allowing more people to be able to learn and share their ideas. This contributed to several advancements that would have taken more years to develop if not for the combined efforts of hackers everywhere.

In recent years, sharing in the hacking culture is all about sharing information with other hackers and with the general public. An example is “Community Memory”. This group was concerned with making computers more accessible to the general public. Hackers and idealists are part of this group, which all collaborated and worked together to put up computers in several public places. These computers are free for everyone, allowing more people to have free access to computers. The first free public computer was placed in Berkeley, California outside of Leopold’s Records. Another group that promoted better access to computers is PCC or People’s Computer Company. This non-profit group opened to the public a computer center where they can have access to computers for only 50 cents per hour.

This extended culture of sharing drove the demand for open and free software. Programs are no longer reserved for big corporations, universities or governments. Prices considerably became more and more affordable. In recent years, there are more programs and operating systems that are available for free. One example is the Altair version of BASIC developed by Bill Gates. This was shared for free within the hacker community. The free sharing made Bill Gates lose a lot of money because very few actually paid for the software. This prompted Bill Gates to write hobbyists an open letter, which was published in several newsletters and computer magazines. It was also published in Homebrew Computer Club, where majority of the sharing happened.

The “Hands-On” Imperative

This is the hacker community’s common goal. The Hands-On Imperative is what drives the hacking community. The community believes that vital lessons about systems and about the world can only be fully appreciated by taking things apart and observing how each component works. Then, this knowledge becomes the basis in creating something new, more interesting and innovative.

To employ this imperative, there must be free access sharing of knowledge and open information. In the hacking world, unrestricted access allows for greater improvements. If this isn’t possible, hackers would find ways to work around any restrictions. There is a “willful blindness” among hackers in their single-minded pursuit for perfection. This may look deviant behavior, but it does prove to produce some amazing results that the whole world benefitted from. This is a prickly issue but the hacking community stands by the concept that the end can justify the means. There are, admittedly, quite a number of remarkable and very innovative results from the hacking world, despite, well, having to break a few rules. The general public has experienced some advantages, too, from some of the hacking activities. The truth is hacking is not all bad, but it isn’t all good, either. It is both a selfish, willful noncompliance to certain rules and a something like a Robin Hood kind of thing.

For instance, hackers in MIT, in the early days of hacking, had to work around login programs and physical locks. The entire operation was not something malicious. There was no willful intent to harm any of the systems or to inconvenience other users. It was a means to improve, build upon and perfect existing systems. This is in contrast with the usual hacker activities that get in the news, where hackers crack security systems merely to wreak havoc, create cyber vandalism or to steal information.