Most of us have been trained by mass media to view hackers as vile criminals, usually thieves lurking in cyberspace, ready to empty our bank accounts and leave us destitute. Cyberthugs, too lazy to get a “real job” and work for a living. What mass media doesn’t mention is that hackers are responsible for discovering the very security breaches that enable criminals to get access to our information. They also don’t mention that the government is trying very hard to recruit hackers for the purpose of their own criminal activities, like invading our privacy.
Corporations, including Facebook, pay hackers big money—they even call it a “bounty” for information about security breaches in their systems. One Palestinian hacker found one such security loophole in Facebook’s code—but was told that he wouldn’t be paid the bounty, despite it saving Facebook potentially millions of dollars in lawsuits, and probably the life savings of many users, because he didn’t report it correctly. So the hacker community raised $30,000 dollars to pay him for his valuable work.
If you don’t believe that the existence of hackers provides us all with a vitally important system of checks and balances to keep corrupt governments and corporations from completely controlling the internet, I would urge you to watch this brilliant and fascinating TED talk on the subject. Here’s a link.
I for one am extremely grateful for the bravery, hard work, and social commitment of hackers and organizations like Anonymous who are dedicated to preserving our freedom of speech and association. Our ability to connect and communicate on the internet may well prove to make war obsolete one day—and governments and war profiteers like Halliburton wouldn’t like that at all, would they?
Information is power, and bit by bit, knowledge is being commodified and put under lock and key. Increasingly, it is available only to those able to pay for it. Why? I think it’s because those with money are the most invested in maintaining the status quo. In the global game of monopoly called capitalism, the number of people able to thrive within the status quo is shrinking rapidly as resources are owned by fewer and fewer people. Greed and power-lust are the foundation upon which the system is built, and making knowledge freely available to all is the only real antidote for the toxic concentration of wealth and power that threatens our very existence as a species.
Hackers will continue to play an important role in both reestablishing a balance of power and exposing corruption. This is why the current power structure is making an example of Julian Assange. He provided information not intended for consumption by the masses, but for their masters’ eyes only. I’m hoping hackers will be able to help us become informed enough to free ourselves from enslavement or at least save ourselves from extinction.