: : : Perhaps, given the potential for real harm, a hacker is much more culpable then a street thug.
: : Anyone who uses their computer to wield power over others is doing so because they can and because they have no compunction about it. In this, they are effectively acting like street thugs or robber barons. However, you can defend yourself against cracks and worms by practising security until it becomes second nature to you; you do at least have the power to defend yourself here, unlike the physical world.
: Learning curve, larval stage, hmmmmm. So once the computer geeks get beyond this stage they become upstanding cyber-citizens, if I read you right. I understand the attraction of going where your forbidden to go, do the things your not supposed to; things that make for a well mispent youth.
: But by the same token I would hope that once these guys have sown their wild bytes and have had their unforgettable one night assembly language programing sessions (doesn't quite roll off the tounge; oh well...) they would all become anti-hacker hackers, or crackers.
Some people just enjoy writing scripts or worms or cracking security; in much the same way that some people never really grow up; it reflects the personality of the person concerned as much as anything. People choose the level and type of coding they feel at home with, which is where you get Perl scripters and Java coders and C coders from.
Which means you get people like David Smith; a 30 year old, creating something like Melissa because he enjoyed writing worms and exploiting the inherent weaknesses of Windows to create a worm that would make him famous in the community.
: Uh, by the way, the Tamil Tigers. I think I said Tiger Teams. The Tamil Tigers are a militia group in Sri Lanka I believe. Or are we talking about two different things?
The Tamil Tigers are indeed a guerilla group in Sri Lanka; they are also possibly the world's most fearsome electronic assault team; they managed to bring the Sri Lankan civil service to a halt in 1996 with some well-placed cracks and mail bombs. Like I said, conventional balances of physical power are largely obsolete on the 'net.
Ironically enough, it's the fact that many of these countries have old hardware and software that make them so good; the US doesn't produce so many really great hackers any more because the vast majority of US computer users are Windows users and thus dependent on WIMP interfaces. To connect to the net using Windows '95 requires no technical aptitude at all; to connect to the 'net using a homebuilt 80286 and homebuilt code requires real computing skill. It's one of the reasons I prefer GNU/Linux; you can use either a WIMP interface or a command-line interface (or both at the same time), depending on which you prefer.
With Microsoft's efforts to put PCs running Windows into every library, school and university, this is only going to become more the case; vital skills are being lost in the US due to the restrictive and addictive nature of WIMP interfaces.
And given that the People's Republic of China just announced that they were going to standardize on Linux for their official OS, there are going to be a *lot* of people out there not limited to Windows interfaces very soon, which is liable to wreak havoc on the US computing industry.
(I'm not fond of the PRC, but they're not dumb in this regard; and China produces some of the world's best mathematicians and programmers. This also means that the largest country in the world is standardizing on Linux. Linux is also spreading like wildfire in India; various Indian states like Karnataka are standardising their computing infrastructures on it. This adds up to the world's two largest countries (by population) being positioned to dominate world computing in 10 to 15 years time.)
It's misleading to use the human-nature statement, though; 'human nature' is dependant on the surrounding environment rather more than it is on any inherent human blueprint.