Dreams & Realities of the internet - Hacking into Heaven


SOMETHING DIED on the Internet or the wonderful wide world of the web. It's hard to know when it all happened, but the last post will be sounded for it as soon as the authorities catch and punish those responsible for hacking into the web sites of Amazon and E-Bay in February. It is most likely that they'll serve prison sentences. This appears to be the solution to all problems in the US at the moment. They shall be made an example of, and the Internet will be kept safe for business.

We all secretly smiled - especially if you're working for one of the computer companies - when we found out about this most famous hack. Basically, four of major companies' (Yahoo, Amazon and E-bay plus one other) large computers collapsed due to requests being sent to it by DDOS (Distributed Denial of Service Attacks- which is the name the hackers gave themselves). There are a number of different views as to why these specific companies were singled out for attack. Some people think it's a form of blackmail - and that the hackers will subsequently be able to gain some money from the companies if they leave them in peace to operate.

A few of us think differently. One anarchist viewpoint is that these major Internet companies were singled out for the attacks because the Net is now the new tool with which the man is going to exploit us further. The invention of E-business and E-commerce - while it's being championed by every thick politician from California to Kiltimagh - is killing the hopes that others had for the Internet.

The Internet - when it arrived on the scene and began to expand in the early 90's - heralded for some the dawning of a new age of communication and learning. People hoped to exchange ideas and pass on knowledge with no censorship impeding on this. All you needed was access and some computers. The hackers may have deliberately decided to take out those firms because now that business has arrived on the net it means that everything you wish to see will soon demand a credit card number. The movement of big business into any arena has always meant that controls and fees usually follow.

A good comparison with the way the internet is going is to compare it to the postal system. It's not so long ago that you would only get either proper correspondence or some bills though the letter box. Now in some apartments you have to wade though a hallway full of junk mail advertising everything from shampoo to the latest pizza delivery menu. The internet commenced with e-mail and is now a billion dollar industry with companies fighting with each other just to get your eye to look at a specific screen for 10 seconds.

What makes Hackers criminal?

Well - they have no respect for authorities. They destroy web sites and have even caused the computers to crash. This is not good for business and what is not good for business will not be tolerated. As Kevin Mitnick - a hacker who's just been released from prison after serving a 5-year sentence recently wrote

"Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs founded Apple Inc In the 1970s, Jobs and Woz(sic) were famous throughout the 'phone phreaker' underground in Berkeley, California, for their development of sophisticated "blue boxes" that enabled anyone to place long distance telephone calls for free. "Wire Fraud" is the name of that crime to which prosecutors forced me to plead guilty. For many in the computer world Steve Jobs has the status of a modern day messiah. He's helped bring Apple back from the edge of a deep abyss. In the geek world he plays the role of Han Solo to that of Darth Vader which is ably filled by Bill Gates. Jobs started out his life as a hacker.

But that's just history - a couple of smart business moves like utilising the talent he discovered in the basement of Rank Xerox means he graduated to the school of business. The leap from hacker to businessman is not a great one.

Jobs is now a respected businessman to most Wall Street investors. You are only a hacker if you are working against the company. You are not one if you are working for the company.

It's Ours- To Keep

The DDOS attack was akin to an attack by vandals. They tore into the Internet and helped knock over a few big business computers. Whatever their motives, it acted like a statement to many of us to remember that when this technology (originally developed by the military ) fell into our hands and away from military control was a time of great hope. I had hopes that net access would be available in every school and in every public library. The Internet didn't start out being designed for us but eventually we ended up getting access to it.

Now we seem to be going into a time where it will just become another sales tool. The free exchange of ideas is the vitality of the net - and if that changes then we'll be left to seek out the diamonds of information from the steaming dung of advertising.

There will be a backlash because too much money is being made by these companies for them not to be able to apply some heavy political pressures. This may well lead to curtailed access and a whole host of other nasty inventions that will determine what you can and can't see. What has to be remembered is this - 1% censorship is 99% too much. What the hackers did was to raise two fingers at the business heads who've invaded their turf. But it's not just their turf - it's our turf. The Internet is just a communication method - so let's try and fight to keep it open access.

Charles Parker

*Article in Comment & Analysis, Guardian, Tuesday Feb 22nd 2000

From Workers Solidarity 59, Spring 2000