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View Full Version : Freedom Downtime

2005-04-30, 05:26
Freedom Downtime is a movie that was released 2002 in VHS format by the 2600 (http://www.2600.com/) organization. It focuses largely on Kevin Mitnick, a hacker who was imprisoned without a trial for many years. The movie is a documentary with the same feel as a Michael Moore film. 2600 released a two-disc DVD version of the movie in 2004 which contained hours of extra material, including an interview with Kevin Mitnick on the first disc, and on the second disc all the extra footage that couldn't fit into the original movie due to time constraints. You can buy the DVD for thirty dollars here (http://store.2600.com/film.html). The DVD is really good and I recommend that you buy it.

The use of the word "hacker" has different meanings to different people. For some it is interpreted to mean something bad; as in a malicious person trying to destroy computer systems. For others the meaning refers to people who like to explore, modify, or tinker with systems. Some people are bothered by the popular association of the word "hacker" with something bad. So they have tried to create a distinction, with the bad hackers being called "crackers", and the good hackers being called "hackers". That is overly complicated and too subjective. Let it suffice that those who like to tinker with things, whether their intentions are malicious or they are just curious and trying to learn, can all be called "hackers".

Being a hacker is a good thing. Anyone who is adept at something or has figured out a use for something besides its purposed use is a hacker. A common type of hacking that people do is put magnets or pictures on their refrigerators. It would count as hacking because a refrigerator was not designed to be a magnet holder or as a scrapbook. Imagine if a law was passed stating that one could not use a refrigerator to post magnets and pictures on, but only to refrigerate things. That is how ridiculous laws against hacking are. One law that outlaws hacking is the DMCA 1998. It has a clause which states that it is illegal to circumvent copyright protection. One such person who did just that was Jon Lech Johansen. He wanted to play DVDs on a Linux computer, but was unable to do so because of the CSS encryption on the discs. So in 1999 he and some other computer hackers in a group named Masters of Reverse Engineering hacked the encryption and created DeCSS, and were then able to play DVDs on their Linux computers. Their computer hacking was illegal according to the DMCA 1998 law.

Organizations like 2600 have been fighting a long time against the tyranny of governments, corporations, or organizations; long before there was p2p filesharing. Hackers were a smaller minority then, but as I see it the p2p filesharers of today are also hackers too in the sense that they are doing what is forbidden with their computers. As more people have access to computers and are becoming technically adept, the amount of computer hackers is also increasing, because anyone who is adept at using a computer can in some ways be called a computer hacker.

2600 magazine, The Hacker Quarterly, has been published ever since 1984. I first started reading it in 1995 and have subscribed to the magazine since then. I developed an interest in the magazine because I had the label "hacker" placed on me in that year when I lost my job as a contracted security guard at Chase bank in Hicksville New York. At the time they were installing a new computer system at the Fire Command Station using DOS as an operating system and they had trouble getting the software to boot up properly. So while working on the midnight to morning shift, I was bored and I took a look at the autoexec.bat file where I noticed a spelling mistake, which prompted the computer to try to open up a folder upon its startup that was misspelled and caused the program not to load. So I reported my findings to them, thinking I was being helpful, but instead I caused great embarassment to the company that couldn't figure out the error themselves and was receiving a lot of money from the bank for their software contract. To cover for their embarassment they claimed I caused $40,000 dollars of damage to the computer. The bank security supervisor totally took their word for the assessment of damages and fired me from the site, not knowing anything about computers himself.

Accusations of damages made against hackers or filesharers tend to be exaggerated and are quite often nonexistent. These damage figures tend to be impressive and can be made to bolster the seriousness of the charges against any hacker who manages to embarass a powerful company or entity.

The culture of the uncorrupted p2p community can be summarized into three sacred groups which overlap: computer hackers, the open source movement, and the filesharers. Computer hackers are the ones who like to tinker with things or modify them and are inventive and creative. They are the program developers. The open source movement represents the element in the p2p community that is repulsed by the notions of copyright and intellectual property. It is a belief that information and knowledge should not be proprietary, and that mankind is benefited more by having things in the public domain. The filesharers are either motivated to share their material with others because they love the material they share and want to share it with others, or like librarians, they see the value in contributing their material to a vast digital library.

Seeing how much these three groups all tie together, we have to be careful in the p2p filesharing community not to be turned against the computer hackers or to think of them as bad people or as a separate group of people. WE ARE ALL HACKERS. The community should not be divided in such a manner where p2p filesharers are led to believe that hackers are the enemy.

Look around and you will see hackers disparaged all over. Take for example a recent news article over at ZDNet here (http://news.zdnet.co.uk/internet/security/0,39020375,39195963,00.htm) which has the article headline "Hacker attacks music file sharers", referring to the new Nopir worm which deletes mp3s from a computer's hard drive. And the propraganda against hackers starts early for children, where there's a show on PBS Kids called Cyberchase in which the bad character in it is named Hacker (http://pbskids.org/cyberchase/meet_hacker.html).