Hackers rarely play themselves in the media.
More often, the printed word "hacker" represents little that's real, and
much to do with raising paranoia or placing blame.
Ever since Pieter Zatko told the U.S. Congress that he and his friends
could "take down the Internet" in 30 minutes, the media hasn't stopped
yammering about hackers as if they'd already done it. And the Motion
Picture Association of America (MPAA) has hackers pinned as thieves who are
bankrupting their industry, with 2600 as the axis of evil.
Yet somehow, in the midst of all this illusion, some very sensible words
about hackers trickled through the media faucet this weekend.
Entertainment Media reported on a conference on February 10th in
Rancho Mirage, California, in which panelists and industry-types gathered
to discuss the future of digital cinema. Conference attendee Brad Hunt,
who serves as Chief Technology Officer of the MPAA, was asked by a
panelist how digitally encoded movies would be protected as they are sent
over the Internet to movie theaters. In a moment that must have turned
Jack Valenti's stomach, Hunt replied that "[The MPAA's] losses aren't from
hackers, it's from camcorders recording right off the screen."
Then, in a NewsFactor report on the
same day, Gartner Group security researcher Richard Stiennon was asked
about the vulnerabilities of the Internet. Stiennon pondered the
insecurity of the net's routing protocols, and repeated the notion
that "[a]n expert could take out the Internet any time they want to." When
asked why such a catastrophe hasn't yet occurred, however, Stiennon bucked
the trend. "I guess... the hacker world really is made up of
well-intentioned hackers, for the most part," he said.
Why all the good words about hackers? A fluke, or a developing trend of
common sense about hackers and their real purpose? As America weathers
another wave of national panic about war and terrorism, Stiennon's analogy
rings true. "You can have a group of citizens who are armed," he said,
"and not have everybody shooting at one another."