The origins of the hacker

Hacker culture is defined as a group or subculture of individuals who enjoy creatively overcoming the limitations of software to achieve 'clever' outcomes. Whatever these 'clever' outcomes may be, the word 'hacker' does not have positive connotations for most people. Nowadays, 'hacking' could mean a whole company goes completely bankrupt from one exploitation in their code or an individual is victim to cyber identity theft. With today's rates of cybercrime incidents, law enforcement is struggling to keep up, and these incidents are no longer easy to identify and prosecute. However, the origins of hacker culture were quite different. ​ In the 1960s at MIT, the word "hacker" originated as an extremely skilled individual who practised what we now may think of as ancient computing languages like FORTRAN or LISP. Hackers used to be people who were locked up in a room, programming all day, and no one seemed to mind them in the 60s. Most people did not even own a personal computer or laptop, let alone know what hacking was. Yet, people who knew about these programmers viewed them positively and welcomed them to challenge computer systems and software to improve them. ​ However, in 1971, the first major hacking was carried out by a vet named John Draper, who figured out how to make free phone calls and this act later became known as... phreaking. Although this may not be similar to the overscaled hacking you may be used to, at the time, it was considered completely groundbreaking. Those who followed John Draper were groups called "Legion of Doom" and "Choas Computer Club", two of the largest and most respected hacker groups ever found, and Kevin Mitnick still the world's most famous hacker. As technology and code progressed, so did hacker culture. Hackers can find more ways of exploiting holes in software and remote machines; most things you would not even think you could hack, like a boiler system or an electric iron. Hackers can also find and release vulnerabilities that can be very useful for software engineers to know about and fix before those vulnerabilities cause even worse problems. ​ Although hackers are commercialised as the evils of cyberspace, real hackers only want to learn more about a program and tend to be more helpful than problematic. While it is often true that hackers do commit malicious attacks, their acts should not be considered as part of 'hacker culture', something that originated from a place of curiosity and love for programming. ​ By Ailin

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