Hackers and criminals . They are not synonyms

hacker or criminal“We have to make a clear distinction between hackers and criminals . They are not synonyms”.

From my point of view I find strange how people perceive the situation about how to ‘protect’ citizen privacy. Their approach is purely legal for some, commercial for some, and political for others. Having different angles is required.  But that’s not the goal of this post.


I was following a 3 days event about Data-Privacy in Brussels ( CPDP2014 ). Here, you can see lobbyists, EU commission guys, Jurists, Lawyers, Financial sectors, Medical Sectors, Hacktivists, NGOs… not a lot of ‘technical’ guys, those able to manipulate data.

During this event, one panel discussion topic was “Hackers: Defenders or Enemies of Privacy ?”. The idea that ‘hackers’ ARE criminals was said several times. This was for me a sad approach and a misconception of what is really hacking. The discussion was oriented from a pure legal / politic point of view. Christian Horchert from the CCC was the only one who wanted to give his positive view about Hacking.


Hacking is (my definition):

  • Searching how stuffs work and what’s behind the scene.
  • Searching how a process or an idea is implemented and find how to improve it, or use is with a different objective it was created.
  • Going outside the “Frame” and try to improve his own life (and usually sharing it to others).

Just in the word ‘Hacker’ there is a large nuance of ideas depending of your culture, your work and your age. From the DiY to the Dark Pirate.

Criminal (internet definition):

  • (Law) a person charged with and convicted of crime
  • a person who commits crimes for a living

You spot the difference?

1. Don’t mix the ideas

Don’t use the same term for different stuffs.

  • Milkshake = ICE + Milk + Banana (and some stuffs). That does not mean that banana is milk.
  • Cybercrime or Criminal hacker = hacker + crime + a once of Internet.

Hacker AND Criminals you have a nice cocktail. Example of hacking technics to do an illegal AND criminal activity. (DDOS a website, ATM hacking, Phishing, Creating Viruses, …)

2. Open your map, see the possibilities

What do you think about those “hacking” :

  • Jailbreak your iPhone to allow the use of 4G,
  • Install a dedicated firmware on your smartphone,
  • Building a 3d prosthesis for kids,
  • Finding that Amazon hides the last 4 digits of your Visa card online, but PayPal hides all but them (old story).
  • Analyzing yourself the water components to determine what is inside and if it is healthy,
  • Searching the Web if none of my ‘Private data’ is disseminated,
  • Discovering a breach or a vulnerability in a software or a website, calling the owner and having no response,
  • Cracking a Kindle to be able to read some books or saving the books outside of it,
  • Finding that electronic door locks are not safe,
  • Finding that payment systems are storing Card numbers in clear text (sometime you ‘just’ have to read the available source code or sniff the network),
  • Asking for open-data and improving the process and declaring that something is wrong
  • Finding that Passport security or transportation card can allow someone to track you.
  • Converting old Music, Video, Books and Films to a digital format, because their are not available in shops or on the Internet,
  • Finding that some data considered as ‘Personal’ is miss-used by a company.
  • Improving the performance of your computer or unlocking your Xbox or your PlayStation limitations,
  • Rebuilding a computer from spare parts and installing and OEM windows license.

Is it criminal ?

From a legal perspective and in certain countries, yes.  Hacker can be convicted for this, and can go in jail for that.

But is it really a crime, does it put your life in danger, not sure.

There is a full panel of possible appreciations. Did you install Wireshark on your computer ? How many MP3 do you have ? Are all your softwares paid ? Did you check your wife / husband e-mails or Facebook ? Did you changed the oil in you car, without going to the official garage ? You probably are a hacker. Are you a criminal ?

Note : opening your husband / wife’s email or Facebook with his or her consent is a crime in most countries.

3. Conlusion

So for me hackers are, in general, not criminals. Criminals can be hackers.

Some nice links :

And Daren did it well

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