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This paper is about the hacker subculture. The paper breaks the misused term 'hacker' in to its sub categories provides descriptions of the categories and a psychological profile of the most common type.


Hackers cannot be defined by skin color, religion, or race, nor can they properly be generalized as one group. Hackers are not a homogeneous group, they have a variety of values, beliefs and experience that can dramatically set one hacker apart from another; the only common ground is their desire to understand the inner most workings of the computer. As a result of its broad misuse, the term hacker has become rather generic. As it is commonly used today, the term hacker can basically be broken up into two major categories: "Hackers", who are intensely interested in the "system" per se, and enjoy relating to machines; and "phreaks" who are more social, manipulating the [phone] system in a rough-and-ready fashion in order to get through to other human beings, fast, cheap, and under the table (Sterling).

Phreaking is the art and science of cracking the phone network so as, for example, to make free long-distance calls. Phreaking is by extension, security-cracking in any other context especially, but not exclusively, on communications networks. At one time phreaking was a semi-respectable activity among hackers; there was a gentleman's agreement that phreaking as an intellectual game and a form of exploration was OK, but serious theft of services was taboo. There was significant crossover between the hacker community and the hard-core phone phreaks who ran semi-underground networks of their own through such media as the legendary "TAP Newsletter". This ethos began to break down in the mid-1980s as wider dissemination of the techniques put them in the hands of less responsible phreaks. Around the same time, changes in the...