Hacker culture is seen as a platform for new innovation ideas. In hacker culture, hackers keep technological innovation as a key goal. They strongly value the principle of freedom, as this principle largely develops their innovations as well as improving their creativity. However, there is a paradox, “It is because of this principle of freedom that many hackers also claim the right to choose commercial development of their innovations.” （Castells, 2002） This means that while they will profit from their work, for example by monetizing their technological innovations, they should always provide access to the underlying code and allow others to modify and improve it, thus maintaining the spirit of collaboration and openness that underpins hacker culture. “On the condition of not betraying what is the most fundamental principle of all: open access to all the program’s information, with the freedom to modify the program.”（Castells, 2002）With the development of information technology in our society, there is a growing debate about hackers. And we are going to discuss about if hackers contribute to the society or is a threat.
In this era of development around digital media and the Internet, “Hacking’s location at the heart of the central technologies of information societies also offers analysis a privileged vantage point for tracing the nature of twenty–first century societies.” （Jordan，2009）Most of the hackers are advocates of open-source software, it has led to the development of powerful and widely used software, such as the Apache Web server, which is a great contribution for society. As the information age evolves and information technology is mastered by more and more people, hackers will be tweaking and refining computer systems for our benefit. “The hacker culture plays a pivotal role in the construction of the Internet for two reasons: it is arguably the nurturing milieu of breakthrough technological innovations through cooperation and free communication; and it bridges the knowledge originated in the techno-meritocratic culture with the entrepreneurial spin-offs that diffuse the Internet in society at large.”（Castells, 2002）On the one hand, hackers often collaborate and share their expertise and skills on projects. This kind of collective intelligence leads to the rapid development of new technologies and solutions. The culture of freedom promotes open and transparent communication. Which is benefit to the information flow freely, and make individuals build on each other’s work and ideas. Their curious minds help to create new solutions and discoveries. On the other hand, hacker culture bridges the gap between the culture of the technological elite and the entrepreneurial activities associated with the Internet. Internet-related technologies are widely disseminated to the community, inspirations are provided for entrepreneurial activities. Furthermore, hackers utilize their technical expertise to carry out a constant stream of creating new products, services and businesses. So that the corporate Internet may gain a competitive advantage in the industry. It effectively contributes to sustained socio-economic development and brings wider benefits of the Internet to people.
In addition, Hacker culture encourages innovation and creativity. Hacking usually involves thinking outside the box and finding unconventional solutions to problems. Moreover, this mentality affects a variety of industries outside of technology. The book Hackers by Steven Levy traces the exploits of the computer revolution’s original hackers, and it profiles the brainiacs who found clever and unorthodox solutions to computer engineering problems. They had a shared sense of values, known as “the hacker ethic,” that still thrives today.
Source from https://www.librarything.com/work/45895 . It is a book called Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution, written by Steven Levy in 1984.
There is no doubt that Hacker culture has contributions in society, the threats for hackers’ existence also cannot be ignored. Because of psychological marginality for some hackers who try to prove themselves and satisfy their pervasive feelings, crackers of hacker subculture emerged. These crackers eavesdrop and attack corporate networks through the Internet with their technology. （Castells, 2002）For example, in spring 2019, hackers lurked in the corporate network of German automotive giant BMW. During this time, they hacked into some of BMW’s systems and stole data for automotive trade secret. They committed robberies over the Internet for own profits by new technological means.
“Although hackers philosophically oppose secrecy, they also self-consciously exploit it as their modus operandi, further complicating their ambivalent status in relation to technology and contemporary culture” (Thomas,2002) .Based on people’s inherent impression of hackers as having superb cyber skills and being able to easily obtain any private information they want from the Internet, hackers often brag about or exaggerate their cyber skills. For example, by making a statement that “one hacker to take down the majority of the Internet” (Thomas,2002) . While such claims not only challenge the authority of the government, but also may cause panic among the public, which is a kind of threat to the social security, and it may lead to destabilize society. It is contrary to morality and ethics. However, because some of their actions are descriptive, it raises awareness about the important of cybersecurity. Organizations are forced to take cybersecurity seriously and invest in protecting their internet system.
“Bureaucrats emphasize state laws instead of looking at how computer programs operate. They possess these laws to convey authority and to show that hackers have become a threat to the way that society works in a sense.” (Thomas,2002) Based on the fact that even authoritative governments have taken the lead in promoting hackers as a social evil. Therefore，it’s no surprise that hackers are still seen as a threat by the majority of the population in the society. “Hackers shouldn’t be defined by their actions, it should be based on the reasons behind the action.” (Thomas,2002)
In the cyber security expert Keren Elazari word, hacker is the one force us to evolve and improve. Although there is cybercrime among hackers, there is a lot of them make the network more robust and healthier by exposing vulnerabilities. Furthermore, they fight with government corruption and standing up for our rights and wield the power to create a better world. Hacking not only as an ally of business, but also the agent of revolution. （Jordan，2009）Elazari presents the idea that hackers can be seen as the immune system of the Internet. Just as the human body’s immune system that fights off infections and threats, ethical hackers work to identify vulnerabilities and weaknesses in computer systems, which ultimately making the Internet a safer place. While there are malicious hackers who engage in cybercrime, there are also ethical hackers who use their skills for good, such as exposing security flaws and preventing cyber threats. In her presentation, Elazari encouraged the audiences to view hackers not as threats, but as the potential allies in the ongoing fight for a safer and more open Internet. In short, hacker culture has the potential to drive innovation, benefit organizations, and even be a force for positive change and revolution. And the premise is that we must also seriously address the ethics of hacking.
Hacking is double edge. They could be ethic hackers or cybercrimes. Especially for cybersecurity, there’s no denying that hackers are a significant threat to cybersecurity. But the hackers who engage in hacktivism use their technological skills to promote social or political causes. While it has controversial in society, hackers play a key role in technological advancement. They discover vulnerabilities and weaknesses in computer systems, which can lead to improved security measures. Collaboration between hackers and security experts can carry out stronger and more secure technologies. To a large extent, these has been an effective and positive achievement in protecting internet security privacy and avoiding surveillance. We need to fight with the negative stereotypes associated with hackers and recognize their potential to drive the positive change to our communities.
Jordan, T. (2009, February 13). View of hacking and power: Social and technological. determinism in the digital age. https://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/2417/2240
Thomas, R. (2014, March 26). Hacker culture. Digital Culture.
Gatlan, S. (2019, December 6). BMW infiltrated by hackers hunting for Automotive Trade Secrets. Bleeping Computer. https://www.bleepingcomputer.com/news/security/bmw-infiltrated-by-hackers-hunting-for-automotive-trade-secrets/
Manuel Castells. (2002, October). The Internet Galaxy: Reflections on the Internet, Business, and Society. Pages 36-63.
YouTube. (2014). Hackers: the internet’s immune system. YouTube. Retrieved October 7, 2023, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=erCAp_Bd0AQ.
Kanugargng. (2022, December 22). Types of hackers. Geeks for Geeks. https://www.geeksforgeeks.org/types-of-hackers/