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Grassroots Hacktivism - tekst Kevina Poulsena

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(U ovom tekstu se prvi put pojavljuje termin "haktivizam"(hacktivism) koji označava korišćenje hakerskog umeća radi promovisanja političkih ideologija. Autor je bivši Black Hat haker Kevin Poulsen, a sada novinar i urednik magazina Wired News)

Grassroots Hacktivism
written by Kevin Poulsen on Wednesday, September 16, 1998


As a grassroots insurgency, the Free Kevin Mitnick movement has taken off. The movement now includes the paradoxical marriage of idealism and pragmatism, the infighting over power and position, and, as we were reminded last Sunday, a lawless, radical faction that might raise the cause to new levels of visibility-- or destroy it altogether.

The hacker group HFG (Hacking for Girliez) broke into The New York Times website Sunday and posted a message protesting Mitnick's imprisonment.

Unlike some prior Free Kevin intrusions, the targeting in the HFG case was not completely arbitrary. The protesters' message began by focusing on Times reporter John Markoff, whose up-close-and-personal coverage of the Mitnick case led to a lucrative book and movie deal, both of which are entitled Takedown. Markoff's critics contend that the journalist deliberately hyped the story in the Times to raise its market value, and actually aided in Mitnick's capture-- charges that Markoff has denied.

If Hacking for Girliez had limited their message to a summary of the Mitnick case, or a critique of Markoff, it might have served as a pure-- if illegal-- act of protest.

But they didn't. Like most website hackers, they devoted much of their fifteen minutes of fame to a lengthy discourse on how great they are, how much other hacker groups suck, and how inept computer system administrators are. Moreover, the message was rife with gratuitous raunch, racism, lowbrow insults, and was written in the stylistic lingua franca of the computer underground, which is nearly incomprehensible to the average reader: "TH3R3 AR3 S0 MANY L0S3RS H3R3, 1TZ HARD T0 P1CK WH1CH T0 1NSULT THE M0ST."

As the first known case of a Web hack against a traditional media outlet, the HFG action received considerable news coverage around the world-- putting the much-neglected Mitnick case back in the news. But, given the intrusion's infantile content, it might do more harm than good to a cause that's on the verge of public acceptance.

Kevin Mitnick is midway through his fourth year in jail, and he still doesn't have access to a computer with which to review the evidence against him. When he's released, he will live under the most constrictive anti-technology parole guidelines in history. And, last month, no less an authority than the US Supreme Court denied him a right to a bail hearing-- presuming him guilty until his January, 1999 trial date.

Mitnick is charged with illegally accessing Internet systems and copying proprietary software. He is not accused of profiting from his crimes.

Mitnick's supporters, who range from fellow cyberpunks to respected civil libertarians, believe the hacker has been unfairly singled out to bear the full brunt of the federal government's prosecutorial power. Together, they've formed a burgeoning grassroots movement built on such staples as bumper stickers, picketing, and fund-raising.

As with any growing movement, there are internal conflicts. Behind the scenes, a dispute is raging between two supporters over supervision of one of the Mitnick websites, and the email list of Mitnick partisans is as subject to flame wars as any other online forum.

Now, the Free Kevin mainstream must face the oldest question of grassroots organizing: How will they position themselves in relation to their most radical allies?

Hidden within the HTML code of The New York Times message was a second message. In this one, Hacking for Girliez reveals that their juvenile prose masks some truly intelligent, mature, and literate guys-- guys who can quote Milton and Voltaire and back up their incomprehensible statements with solid facts. "Just because we type in all caps and use 'elite' speak doesn't mean we are kids.... For everyone who calls us immature kids, it shows one more person has underestimated us."

One could theorize that HFG deliberately chose an extreme and ludicrous childish voice, with the sophisticated goal of drawing the most extreme and ludicrous authoritarian reactions from their targets.

Consider a Times spokesperson's public statement: "This is a very serious crime, and once the hackers are identified or tracked down, we will prosecute to the full extent of the law." The absurdity of the Times claiming the authority to personally prosecute a criminal case may not have arisen if the intruders had been less offensive.

But their motives don't really matter. Kevin Mitnick never showed the kind of malice that the Times intruders did, and he came no closer to freedom last Sunday.

Hacking for Girliez should re-examine one of the quotations, attributed to Christopher Dawson, from their hidden, adult message. "As soon as men decide that all means are permitted to fight an evil, then their good becomes indistinguishable from the evil that they set out to destroy."
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