Full disclosure I think of myself as a hacker. Specifically I do best with Hardware Hacking and Linux boxes though I’m also a pretty good software developer with Python, Java and C. But hacker is a label and I hate labels. Not to mention a label with so much attached stigma thanks to our lovely news media and political climate. I’m not trying to make assumptions about you the reader but if you watch a lot of evening or cable news I guarantee we have very different idea’s of what the term means. To me the most clear definition of hacking I have ever heard goes like this.. Hacking put simply is when someone takes a complex system and operates it in a manner that their creators never intended. I understand that can seem pretty vague so to clarify please know that I could care less about your credit card numbers. I’m not about to trash the life I have built for myself committing fraud when it is easier for me to make the money myself. I’m also not about to put myself at risk trying to digitally attack corporate or governmental institutions unless of course they struck first and I had nothing left to lose. Rather I am a hacker for two reasons.
For one it is simply in my blood. I cannot deal with using a piece of technology I cannot understand. I don’t care if it is an electronic singing birthday card or a Boeing 787. I want to know what makes it tick down to the lowest level bit triggering and processor code. Now in the case of the 787 I can sit through a flight without opening up controls panels and such because I understand the concept of consequences and desire to reach my destination UN-crashed and UN-arrested. But that doesn’t stop me from watching every technical aviation video on YouTube that I can find before and after I fly. Like I said it’s in my blood..
Secondly, concerning those same corporate and governmental powers that I have no desire to hack. They have made it very clear that they do not have the same hangups. I trust them both about as far as I can throw them. They store every last little scrap of data that comes into their possession forever. They actively install malware, tracking software, and full blown backdoors on your devices. Christ the FBI even has this ritual now where every few years they go to congress and scream up and down that they need to have permanent backdoors built into your devices so they access them at will because that is what they think it will take to make us safer. Now, It doesn’t make us any safer quite the opposite and the reasons why could fill up another whole blog post but in short there is no real way to give one group access and not all groups. It may take the ‘bad guys’ longer to gain access but they will eventually. But regardless doesn’t the Constitution have something to say about illegal search and seizure? Assuming these people even remember we have a Constitution to begin. I would like to think so but someday try reading through the patriot act yourself and then tell me straight faced that the Constitution still applies to us.. I could go on like this but suffice to say that they have given me very little reason to trust them.
So I learn, because honestly you cannot protect yourself from hackers without traveling at least part way down the road to becoming one.
I learn always, I refuse to specialize and I consider education to be an ongoing lifetime pursuit. I have committed myself to learning the inner working of everything in our society that utilizes electrical power knowing full well that it is a goal I cannot possibly ever achieve. I go to the conventions. I drop $200 or more in book stores per visit. I read the blogs. Watch the videos. Read the datasheets. Write the code. Always.
I’ve been this way to some extent or another since I was 12. More so in recent years with the increase of political paranoia both in my mind and the world around me. And do you know what I learned in all that time? I learned that the tale of our data security is not quite as bleak as some assume. The NSA may have a huge budget but they are still bound by physics. Encryption works for the most part providing you actually USE it. Obfuscation can also be a powerful tool providing you know it’s limitations. But all these benefits evaporate if you refuse to learn. Every time someone looks at a technology or process and convinces themselves that it is beyond them they lock that door. While they think they are perceiving a barrier they are in fact creating one. Hackers never think this way. Hackers only have lists of things they haven’t had the time to learn yet. So go out and dive in head first into the exciting complex playground of tech that we have created for you.