(Fwd) [ISN] Meet the 'Hactivist' (fwd)

From Hacktivism Workers <hacktivism@tao.ca>
Date Sat, 21 Oct 2000 11:06:22 -0400 (EDT)

[: hacktivism :]

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Date: Fri, 20 Oct 2000 01:07:12 +0100
From: lsi <lsi@lsi.clara.net>
Reply-To: stuart@cyberdelix.net
To: tucana@listbot.com, hacktivism@tao.ca
Subject: (Fwd) [ISN] Meet the 'Hactivist'

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Date sent:      	Wed, 18 Oct 2000 14:09:10 -0500
Send reply to:  	William Knowles <wk@C4I.ORG>
From:           	William Knowles <wk@C4I.ORG>
Organization:   	C4I.org - http://www.c4i.org
Subject:        	[ISN] Meet the 'Hactivist'


By: Deborah Radcliff
October 16, 2000

Yetzer-Ra, a 6-foot-3-inch, 300-pound giant of a man, paces 
his "subjects" in the smoke-filled Goth club Click + Drag, located in
the old meat-packing district of Manhattan.  Inside the club are
leather-clad, black-lipped females and young men dressed in 

Yetzer's a hacker and an acknowledged "social engineer" with 
nocturnal habits. There are thousands of people like him, who by 
are system and network administrators, security analysts and start-
co-founders. When night comes, they transform into vampire 
hedonists, Goths, cross-dressers and sadomasochists.

These are the self-proclaimed freedom fighters of cyberspace. They've
even got a name for it: hactivism. And political parties and human
rights groups are circling around to recruit hactivists into their
many causes.

In July, for example, the Libertarian Party set up a table at the HOPE
2000 (Hackers on Planet Earth) conference. The San Francisco-based
Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) collected donations. And members
of civil-rights groups, including the Zapatistas, a Mexican rebel
group, spoke up at one of two sessions on hactivism.

But even without such civil-liberties groups trying to organize them,
hactivists have been busy on their own. They have formed
privacy-related software companies like ZeroKnowledge Systems USA Inc.
in Montreal. They're developing anonymous, inexpensive e-mail and
Web-hosting services through the DataHaven Project Inc. (www.dhp.com).
And they're trying to get the Internet out to Third World human rights
organizations through groups like Cult of the Dead Cow Communications
(cDc; www.cultdeadcow.com/hacktivismo.html).

In fact, Yetzer says he feels hactivism's pull so strongly that he
makes a dramatic claim: "The Internet is the next Kent State, and
we're the ones who are probably going to get shot."

Vietnam Marches to Cyberdisobedience

Like any social engineer, Yetzer exaggerates. Except for the four-year
jail terms handed down to Kevin Mitnick and Kevin Poulsen, sentencing
for even criminal hacking in the past two years has been relatively
light (mostly probation and fines) because of the suspects' young

But the comparison to the psychedelic hippies of the '60s who spoke
out against the Vietnam War may not be so far off the mark. Only this
time, the hackers are Goths and hedonists. And they're using the
Internet to rid the world of tyranny.

"The government tries to put electronic activism into the peg of
cyberterrorism and crime with its Infowar eulogies. But E-Hippies, cDc
and others aren't criminals. The Internet just multiplies our voice,"
says Ricardo Dominguez, who edits a Zapatista revolutionary
publication and operates the Electronic Disturbance Theater

Dominguez has been working with the Zapatista rebels in Mexico since
1994 to develop nonviolent direct-action tools and spread information
about conditions in Chiapas, a mountainous state in southern Mexico,
where for the past five years the Zapatistas have clashed with the

"I want to bring the net.hacker, net.activist and net.artist into a
dialogue about what we can leave to the future for those without a
voice and without power - something the Zapatistas can teach us all,"
Dominguez says.

Another group reaching out to hackers and technologists is the EFF,
which last year successfully argued in the infamous Bernstein ruling,
which stated that software code is protected as a form of speech.

Robin Gross, the EFF's lead attorney in the case of the Encino,
Calif.-based Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) vs. 2600
Magazine, an online hacker quarterly, says hackers are naturals for
political activism.

"[Hackers] question conventional models. They don't just look at
technology and say, 'This is how it works.' They say, 'How can I make
it better?' " Gross explains. "They look at society that way too -
their government, their schools or their social situation. They say,
'I know how to make this better,' and they go for it."

In the MPAA case, staffers at Middle Island, N.Y.-based 2600
Enterprises Inc. were threatened with imprisonment if they didn't
remove a link on the 2600 Web site to the code used to crack DVD
encryption. Because the link was editorial content, it sets Yetzer off
on another diatribe.

"It's all about greed," Yetzer says, tapping his claw-handled cane on
the wooden floor at Click + Drag. "But we have a fundamental right to
watch our movies whatever way we want and share our music with who we

The Libertarian Party also recruits hackers and technologists. At
HOPE, the party's New York State committee (www.cownow.com) handed out
fliers, signed up recruits and took a "sticker" poll of party

"The poll got hacked, but I'd say about half the stickers were yellow
- for libertarian, anarchist or independent," says Bonnie Scott, who
heads the Libertarians' New York state committee under the hacker
handle Rabbit.

According to Scott, many party members are programmers. "We're trying
to rally hackers around encryption, privacy and
freedom-of-communication planks," she explains. "Hackers can offer us
. . . freedom, because the Internet routes around tyranny."

But hackers have ways beyond the Internet to electronically spread
their message.

Take a young dude named Numeric Overflow, for instance, who late one
night broke the lock to a lit-up roadside-construction sign and
reprogrammed it to read, "Hack Planet Earth" in support of the 2600
Magazine staff. But then, he also says he likes to use his
reprogrammed garage-door opener to pop open his neighbor's garage

Sounding a lot like Yetzer, Numeric justifies this in the pedantic
hacker way. "One of my friend's mothers sees me later and says, 'Oh,
don't let that guy come over again,' like I'm some hoodlum or
something," Numeric, 21, says. "But isn't it better that I showed them
before someone else did it and stole their stuff?"

Growing Up

This moral confusion is typical of the younger hacking crowd. But
Stanton McCandish, advocacy director at the EFF, says most of the
older hackers (28 years and up) have grown up.

"I saw disillusionment in the mid-1990s, as more bleeding-edge hackers
ended up going to jail for cracking. That bummed out their whole
theme," McCandish says. "But now they've learned some limits, and they
can still operate within them."

That means the older hackers do develop some scruples. For example,
McCandish recounts that the EFF Web site (www.eff.org) was a popular
target of punk hackers back in the mid-'90s, with hacks and
defacements occurring weekly. Now, it's been six months since the last
attack on the EFF's site, he says. When the site did get hacked,
McCandish posted a message about it on 2600's bulletin board, and the
"hackers who responded called that hacker a lamer," he says.

Get a load of Yetzer's scruples. A Windows NT administrator by day,
Yetzer, 28, says he can't stand that his former employer, an East
Coast-based Web-hosting firm, lies to its customers.

"My leader, the grand Bruhaha, had this ethical dilemma," he says over
the din of technometal music pulsing from Click + Drag's dance floor.
"We had this three-hour power failure. When clients called in, I told
them the truth: that we'd had a power failure. I got demoted for that.
My co-worker told them we got struck by lightning. He got a

Yetzer later quit without leaving any logic bombs or Back Orifices on
the network. "Would serve them right," he says. But Yetzer, the
grown-up with scruples, adds, "Of course, if I did anything like that,
I'd never work again."

There are even more mature hackers ahead of Yetzer who have grown into
heavy hitters in the information technology community. Hackers like
Yobie Benjamin, 40, a partner at New York-based Ernst & Young

Infamous hackers Mudge, Weld and Hobbit are another example of
maturity, having spun off a venture capital-backed consulting services
firm called @Stake Inc. in Cambridge, Mass., which now has five
offices around the country.

McCandish says this growth process is no different than the hippies
who spun off their surfboard and T-shirt shops into big businesses
after they grew up.

"The process that turned the dope-smoking hippie of 1968 into the
employed investor of 1985 is similarly going on here today," says
McCandish. "I just hope that the hippie-to-yuppie disillusionment that
took place historically doesn't happen to hackers, too."

"Communications without intelligence is noise;  Intelligence
without communications is irrelevant." Gen Alfred. M. Gray, USMC
C4I.org - Computer Security, & Intelligence - http://www.c4i.org

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. ^               Stuart Udall
.~X\     stuart@cyberdelix.net
.~ \    http://cyberdelix.net/

..revolution through evolution

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