Since the creation of the Turing machine in 1936 human beings have been on a strange trajectory. Computers changed history, granting us super-human abilities to calculate, communicate, formulate, and educate. They are perhaps the most functional and diverse tools ever created by man. And we have come to depend on the services they provide for us. We have come to lean on computers and the Internet like a crutch. With every passing year our technology advances and our computers become more powerful and we put more weight on our cyber support.
Computers and the Internet have become such an integral part of modern society; so quickly that rules and regulations have yet to temper and break this space. The bureaucracy of law can’t keep up with the evolution of the digital world. It is the modern Wild West – a cyberspace frontier where bandits and outlaws prowl. Where criminals lurk, and work. And where vigilantes hack at some of the biggest, baddest corporate bean-stocks around.
There are as many types of hackers as there are motives for someone to hack. But most generally fall into three categories: first, there are the mercenary hackers who will attack any system they get hired to attack. They work for governments, or criminals, and sometimes for themselves – but their motives are rarely righteous.
In 2000 Chinese hackers broke into Nortel Networks, the second largest producers of Telecom Equipment in the world at the time. They accessed executive’s computers and stole business plans, reports, and emails, which they then used to undermine their business adversaries. Just nine years later Nortel filed for bankruptcy and laid off nearly all 90,000 employees. Cut to 2011 and Sony lost $170 million due to a hack on their PlayStation gaming system. Citigroup lost $2.7 million, and AT&T lost $2 million – all because of cyber-attacks. Hacks like these are estimated to cost the US around 500,000 jobs and $100 billion annually – which is not insignificant.
The second category is government hacker-spies. Cyber espionage has grown rapidly as one of a developed nation’s most important capabilities. Being able to protect your country’s secrets and information is of top priority for any 1st world country. As such, government employed computer hackers can be found in any intelligence headquarters around the world. Recently, the leak of home addresses and cell phone numbers of over 200 Democratic lawmakers has resulted in widespread identity theft issues amongst those politicians. And the attack is believed to have originated in Russia. If this is true, then it was likely a plot to meddle with the American presidential election.
Then we have the anarchists. Random disassociated groups and individuals that act alone or collaboratively to attack targets that they deem “amoral,” “unjust,” or “evil.” Even this group can roughly be broken two sub-divisions: There are the vigilantes, and the troublemakers. Groups like Anonymous act as vigilantes (or “hacktivists”). Just in 2015 they declared war on ISIS, the KKK, and Donald Trump. Anonymous fights in cyberspace for the people, like batman or superman, taking down social media accounts, interfering with communications, and creating general confusion and disarray amongst their enemy’s digital resources. The troublemakers are the ones that brought us “the fappening” and the infamous Ashley Madison leaks. They might have their own motives, but to the rest of us, their attacks typically seem more like widespread invasions of privacy. But no matter what the motive, both the vigilante and troublemaker hackers work to create cyber-anarchy – which translates into physical anarchy. And that’s a goal I can get behind.
The further into the future we move, the more dependent on computers and the Internet human society will become. That seems clear. And in a world where cyberspace is expanding at an exponential rate, hackers are going to play an exponentially larger part in the development of human history. No matter whether they hack for the government, or for the mafia, or Anonymous or their own selfish motives, hackers are going to be a force to shape the world. And they can do it from a coffee shop, or a library or at a desk. That is a comforting thought, for some reason. As if there’s some cyber-shadow watching over the rest of us, making sure that there’s always a thorn in the side of corporate big business, government and terrorist organizations.
While Anonymous is a headless conglomerate of hackers working around the world and around the clock to achieve their group goals and successfully complete their “Ops,” the world could use an updated version; a reorganization around a common goal. Maybe I’ve been watching too much Mr. Robot, but hackers indisputably have the power to change the world – they are the chosen warriors of this, the digital age. And their greatest advantage is their Hydra like nature. Hackers are faceless, nameless assailants that obey no time zone, nor any geographical obstacles. They are a beast of many heads, with many motives, and many means for crippling their adversaries.
I’d like to believe that hackers and cyber activists could erase our debt, and release our binds to government and the economy. I’d like to believe that they could free us and start a revolution, change the world, alter history. But only time will tell. Perhaps in our lifetimes we will see the cyber attack that levels the economic and social playing fields totally, and finally. It wouldn’t be pretty, nor would it be opportune for everyone – but it would reboot the system, and that might be the only real solution to the problems humanity has grown into.
Sources: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/25/hackers-jobs_n_3652893.html, http://techin.oureverydaylife.com/negative-effects-hackers-2867.html, http://www.esquire.com/news-politics/news/a43070/fappening-hacker-pleads-guilty/, http://bgr.com/2015/08/19/ashley-madison-hack-email-search/