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The Internet Underground - A Hacker's Culture- Part I

The Social Organization of the Computer Underground has come a long way. It used to be understood that the computer underground consisted of actors in three roles - computer hackers, phone phreaks, and software pirates.

Oct 12, 2004

By Greg Richburg
Netricks, Inc.

Information is and should always be, PUBLIC DOMAIN! – The Hacker’s Manifesto.

The Social Organization of the Computer Underground has come a long way. It used to be understood that the computer underground consisted of actors in three roles - computer hackers, phone phreaks, and software pirates. Today, the system includes multi dimensional players that parallel the infrastructure of an organized crime syndicate.

We need to understand hacking and piracy in order to set up proper security precautions. A solid infrastructure can and will act as a deterrent from hack attempts that could lead to mishaps in your working environment.


The term “hack” has been around since the 60’s. A "hack" was a clever programming trick that exploited hardware features of a computer for purposes other than what they were originally intended. People good at such tricks were dubbed Hackers.

Today hackers carry a bad rap. The term has become a catch-all phrase with a derogatory connotation that defines someone breaking into computer systems with mal intent. Hackers are often blamed for the entire business of Internet piracy. The truth is, there are many corrupt users out there that abuse their knowledge and power.

In reality, most hackers abide by a simple law, “it is asserted to be a categorical imperative to remove any barriers between people and the use and understanding of any technology for the sake of learning.” This credo has evolved into an entire ethical set of rules.

Still, the piracy blame weighs heavy on the Hacker’s shoulders. Much of this blame stems from their associations with other members of the Internet Underground. Phreaking refers to the practice of using either technology or telephone credit card numbers to avoid long distance charges. When the telco line was the only means for the layperson to access computer networks, phreakers were in high demand. Hackers and phreakers often operated in unison. Today, with high speed Internet advancements, phreakers are almost obsolete.

In the mid 80’s, movies like War Games and books like Neuromancer by William Gibson offered a stretched warning that technical savvy youths could obtain power by compromising computer networks. This foresight was not too far skewed, and further books were written that illustrated how hackers worked together and developed communities based on similar technological beliefs. The rooting of a new type of culture had begun.

The New World Order

Today, Hackers and Phreakers play relatively small rolls in the structured hierarchy of the modern Internet Underground. Like the New York Mob, there is a strictly defined rank and rule among the members of this new cyber culture. Ettiquette and ethics are forfront in our digital playground, and to be a part of, one must proove him or herself by action. And although there are always bad seeds, for the most part, the hacker pushes one thing, “Above all else, do no harm.”

Please do not mistake hacking for piracy. As stated above, hackers take a bad rap and are often blamed for the bulk of piracy, when in essence, the Internet Underground is comprised of a multi-tier consortium of workers. The structure consists of a simple hierarchy that defines job and goal. A person qualifies by experience and proof of ability.

There is also a new rudimentary form of piracy that many of us partake in, but pass it off like everyday trade. These pirates have been dubbed the Kazaa Kiddies, users of the many peer-to-peer file sharing applications like Kazaa, Morpheus, and Limewire. There are enormous dangers that can easily be avoided with simple network rules in your work environment. Please see the June 2004 article in Business Street called MP3s and the Peer-to-Peer Fiasco.

The IRC channels offer the next level of piracy. Users of the Internet Relay Chat apps that download from FServers and XDCC bots are significantly higher in the chain of command. This is where the users begin to write their resume.

An even higher ranking group is dubbed the Script Kids. Script Kids have acquired some real skills. They scan, hack, and fill. That is their job. Often they work in groups. This is where we really begin to see the organization of the Internet Underground take shape.

There are several other levels of this organized culture that advance dangers and security disruptions into the business network environments. We can assess many problematic network architectures and provide firewalls and other safe housing computer rules for your network users and employees. However, it is vital for secure network operations that you enforce these rules.

To be continued…

A Rule for the Road: If you don’t know enough about the Warez World, it is best not to venture inside. It is a dangerous game, and if you value the working function of your PC, keep out.

All past articles written by Greg Richburg are available at http://www.netricks.com/news. Please address article suggestions to: info@netricks.com.

Greg Richburg a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer and the owner of Netricks, Inc. a network consulting, web design and hosting company located in Fresno, CA. Visit Netricks at http://www.netricks.com.

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