The things those hackers do

Here’s an eye-opening post from Jason Calacanis on a former hacker employee of his. It’s Jason telling what must be a gut-wrenching story of a fellow who’s heading for a 48-month jail sentence for crimes related to computer security when he was an angry teenager. In the piece, Jason makes statements about computer security that most people likely don’t know.

Almost all talented developers push the envelope when they’re young. Anyone in technology knows this dark, dirty little secret.

When I worked for Sony, I watched folks in the IT department read their bosses’ email. When I was in high school and college, I watched daily as folks explored the areas of the computer networks they were specifically told not to enter. In fact, I was fired from my first computer job for creating a partition on a hard drive in the computer lab where I stored my files.

When the Web emerged, I watched as folks created honey pots to prove they could socially manipulate people into giving away private information.

Many of these folks moved on to marketing firms which do essentially the same things–except they play by the rules. At conferences, I see people pop out WiFi sniffers and show me passwords of executives in the room. I’ve heard senior executives recount stories of putting keyboard monitor software on computers in their offices and recording all instant messaging traffic to find out what their employees are up to.

What is the difference between the hackers who put one foot over the line and the ones who race past it? Being bored? A lack of guidance? Low self-esteem? I’m not a psychologist, so I can’t tell you exactly.

This story is both a reminder that security will always be an issue (never assume your correspondence is absolutely confidential) and that young people do stupid things. My prayers are with Jason’s friend and his loved ones.

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