The Hacker Mindset

I'd like to talk about hackers. Not the kind of hackers that you often hear about in the media. These are most probably common criminals, or, to be precise, 'cybercriminals'. I don't want to talk about those. But it's important to distinguish between the two. Now, before I move on I need to note that this post has been inspired by a recent conversation with my wife. I suddenly realised that I might call myself a hacker, even though I'm not an engineer of any sort. All I have done is troubleshooting hardware and software bugs. In fact, that's one of the misconceptions people have about hackers. You don't need a degree to become one. And you certainly don't have to be a criminal.

First, let's discuss hacking in terms of curiosity. Hackers are essentially tinkerers, masters of DIY. They need to know how stuff works, inside and out. They enjoy solving problems and pushing technology to its limits. If something doesn't work they will find a way to make it work. You might have heard about Kevin Mitnick (rest in peace) or Linus Torvalds. The former specialised in exploiting human vulnerabilities to gain access to various systems. He went from being a 'grey hat' to a 'white hat' hacker. His actions were shady at first but later he contributed greatly to the society by running a company and writing several books on social engineering. BTW, I highly recommend reading “The Art Of Deception”. My second example, Linus Torvalds, is best known for creating the Linux kernel. This time we're talking about a proper software engineer who wanted to make a truly free and open source operating system. He followed the principle: my computer, my rules. Importantly, he's still true to his ideals. Both hackers tried to push the boundaries of what's possible in a constructive way.

Second, hacking is about problem solving. If you're a hacker you'll do your best to find a solution to the problem at hand. It doesn't really matter if the problem is technical or not. What matters is the attitude. This in itself is a valuable skill which can help advance your career. Earlier I mentioned the term 'white hat' hacking. It refers to ethical hackers who employ their skills to improve the cyber security of various organisations. They play a crucial role in safeguarding our digital infrastructure.

Ultimately, hacking is often a community effort. There's a strong sense of community among hackers. Many of them are part of open source projects, hacking away and improving code so that we can later benefit from their actions. When you find yourself in a hacker group you are bound to improve your technical and social skills. In this setting, hacking is about sharing knowledge, and doing it responsibly. Ethical hackers often publish their findings and contribute to open source projects, which benefits the whole community.

To sum up, I wanted to make it clear that hackers are not inherently bad. The term 'hacker' is often used to describe anyone who uses their computer skills to commit crimes. But this is inaccurate and misleading. Sure, there are bad apples but let's call them accordingly: cybercriminals. They are the ones who harm people. If you enjoyed this short article please share it with others, hackers or not ;)

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