When D.W. Griffiths epic silent film “The Birth of a Nation” debuted in 1915, it engendered a storm of outraged protest so powerful that it continues to this very day.
The outrage came in response to the way in which the film denigrated post-Civil-War Southern blacks and celebrated the Ku Klux Klan as American heroes. In large part because both blacks and whites have raised strong objections to these depictions in the years since its opening, the film today is widely viewed as both a milestone in cinematic achievement and as a low point in U.S. race relations.
Outrage, or righteous anger, is the normal response when events strike us as shocking or morally objectionable. But what can we say when our society not only fails in efforts to contain criminal activity, but allows it to be actively promoted?
The criminal activity Im pointing to is hacking, the unauthorized computer system break-ins that may result in anything from some annoying graffiti on a Web page to data theft to extortion demands from those who do the breaking in.
And how is such activity promoted? Believe it or not, hackers have their own trade shows and conventions, and the programs read like something out of Kafka.
Take, for example, The Fifth HOPE (Hackers on Planet Earth) convention held this past July in New York. The event, now apparently in its fifth incarnation, is sponsored by 2600, a magazine devoted to hackers and their activities.
Perusing the program for the conference, one sees a session on the IBM AS/400 system that promises “to show where interesting data can be found and where possible weaknesses are in the system.” The course is taught by one “StankDawg” (obviously his real name) who is alleged to be “a senior programmer/analyst who has worked for Fortune 500 companies and large universities.” He is also the founder The Digital DawgPound, a hacker group. Maybe he works for your company right now.