Whenever I have the privilege of addressing a group on the topic of people who perpetrate premeditated attacks on computer systems, a singular, troubling question inevitably arises: Why do they do it?
Of course, for the garden-variety criminal, the answermonetary gainis obvious. But what about those “crackers” who simply want to “break things,” as hacking expert Eric S. Raymond notes in a recent column of mine? Why do they risk the embarrassment of arrest and the very real possibility of jail time and hefty fines by releasing malicious code or destroying a companys ability to do business on the Web?
For a while, my stock answer”because theyre idiots”seemed satisfactory, yet true as that statement may be, it does little to explain the cause of such risky and irresponsible behavior. Raymond points out that crackers are often adolescent males, but surely that fact alone is not sufficient to infer motive.
Fortunately for purposes of this question, however, a number of such individuals have been interviewed by Phrack, a magazine that deals with the hacking culture. Their answers to the “why” question are both disturbing and revealing.
“Hacking is a means to an end,” says Grandmaster “Swamp” Ratte. “I dont give a rats ass about hacking or any of that crap on its own. I just want to make cool stuff.” Cool, in this case, might mean bringing a company to its cyber-knees for a few hours and sharing the good news with ones cracker pals.
Another interviewee, DiGiT, says he spends “an absurd amount of time at my computer doing crazy stuff for no other reason than to get the best rush imaginable.” Move over, crack cocaine; theres a new drug in town. You, too, can get off by trashing someones computer system.