Hacking as a Trade

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Most hackers are hobbyists, tinkerers or they are employed in technology fields. Fictional tales have created the modern day image for what a hacker looks like. In such movies as The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and Ex Machina hackers are portrayed as possessing a rare combination of genius and skill. If you replace these characters with a humble family technician working for Google, you lose the mysterious edge to the tale. The truth is hackers can be average doers and dreamers with an above average interest in technology.

Some hackers are geniuses, and many technologists are by default a very smart group, however, the skills and intelligence are often exaggerated by the media. Up and coming hackers have an immediate advantage of starting out with technology young and becoming familiar with it at an early age. Would you describe yourself as a genius because you know how to drive a car? Perhaps 100 years ago, your driving ability and comfort would seem incredible to most. This is often the analogy that relates best to modern hackers. Most are hobbyists, tinkerers or employed in technology simply because it aligns with their interests and they have readily had the opportunity to learn and grow with the tools.

Fictional tales have created the modern day image for what a hacker looks like. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo or movies like Swordfish, portray hackers in a way that makes them seem like they posses a rare combination of skill and ethics. If you replace Lisbeth Sanders (Dragon Tattoo) with a middle aged college professor or Stanley Jobson (Swordfish) with a humble family man working for Microsoft, then you lose the mysterious edge to the tale. The truth is hackers really are, in most cases, just average doers and dreamers with an above average interest in technology.

Furthering the exaggerated image of hackers, news outlets are often romanticizing hacker stories. Dramatic news reports are released describing hacker attacks as “elaborate” or sophisticated when in reality, most attacks occur when one hacker buys another hacker’s malware and finds a new target to deploy it on. Most hackers do not even really know complex tools, principles or systems well enough to be considered elite hackers. Instead they lazily poke around look for common vulnerabilities and make a very weak attempt at exploiting it.