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What is Hacking?

September 5, 2011

Over the last several issues of 2600 Magazine, they’ve had articles on what hacking means. I thought that this would be a great topic for the group. I will start with a description of what I think hacking is and I hope that either through comments here, on this blog, or on the Facebook group page; people will share their views one what hacking is.

I have a rather broad view of hacking. Hacking is the use of critical thinking skill to probe systems. Those systems don’t have to be electronic or even mechanical. They can be social systems, like government and law, or physical systems, like quantum mechanics or neural networks. We begin this intellectual inquiry by asking how a system works; what is its internal structure. We then ask if the system is vulnerable to exploitation. Along with this question comes the ethical question of whether or not we should exploit the system. An important aspect of this ethical question is, “Is this exploitation for personal gain?” I would say that we should never exploit as system for anything other than to increase our knowledge.

The next question that arises is whether or not we can patch the hole that can be exploited. Most of the time holes can and should be patched unless it is the system that is broken; in which case the holes should be held up for public scrutiny and there should be a call for the system to be abandoned.

This is a brief sketch of how I see hacking. These are not the only questions that should be asked, but they are a good start. The inquiry is going to be system dependent.

I look forward to hearing your views on the subject.

Addendum: I foregot to mention one of the most important parts of hacking; creative problem solving. This can be used to patch a hole, create a new part for a system, or create a new system.

–Tim Fake

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