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Ask Slashdot: Do We Need a New Word For Hacking? 196

goombah99 writes: Hacking and Hackers get a bum rap. Headline scream "Every Nitendo switch can be hacked." But that's good right? Just like farmers hacking their tractors or someone re-purposing a talking teddy bear. On the other hand, remote hacking a Intel processor backdoor or looting medical data base, that are also described as hacking, are ill-motivated. It seems like we need words with different connotations for hacking. One for things you should definitely do, like program an Arduino or teddy bear. One for things that are pernicious. And finally one for things that are disputably good/bad such as hacking DRM protected appliances you own. What viral sounds terms and their nuances would you suggest? Editor's note: We suggest reading this New Yorker piece "A Short History of 'Hack'", and watching this Defcon talk by veteran journalist Steven Levy on the creativeness and chutzpah of the early hackers.
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Ask Slashdot: Do We Need a New Word For Hacking?

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  • I suggest (Score:4, Funny)

    by mandark1967 ( 630856 ) on Tuesday April 24, 2018 @01:14PM (#56495209) Homepage Journal

    Pigjizzlekor

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Pigjizzlekor

      Blockchaincryptocybering

    • How about, "Fracking"? It would be a confusing oxymoron describing [a] something we do: hacking computers (and watching SciFi); [b] something we wouldn't do: hydraulic fracturing (forcing liquid at high pressure into fissures) and [c] something no one wants us to do: have sex with them - certainly not in our parents' basement (see description of "b").

      As for differentiating out non-hacker hackers, we already have a phrase for that, "Script Kiddies".

    • Perhaps we can import a word used from another language as a way to have a ready made set of new words?

      Sadly when I google for the translation of hacker in another language all I get back is Hacker!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    We need a lot of new words, language can be quite ambiguous. Hammer, for example. I can hammer a nail or I can hammer a server with flood pings. Do we need a new word for everything now? As with anything in language, context helps determine and define the meaning.

    • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Tuesday April 24, 2018 @01:24PM (#56495303)

      Not to mention word order, it's ok to prick your finger on YouTube and get a million hits, but don't finger your prick or you'll be banned.

  • by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Tuesday April 24, 2018 @01:16PM (#56495223) Journal

    What you're asking for is not a new word, but for the public to understand a nuance of something they don't frankly give a shit about. A new word is just as likely to be misunderstood/misused by I-can't-be-arsed-to-report-precisely journalists and bloggers, and far more likely to actually ADD confusion.

    Face it: words like 'hack' 'drone' and 'troll' have vanished into the collective linguistics of the culture; we're no longer able to recover them and insist they still have the specificity of meaning they used to carry when used by insiders in the tech culture.

    • by gtvr ( 1702650 )
      "Hacker" is someone who knows more about computers than the average Joe. Whether you use that knowledge to set up a home automation empire, break into WOPR and start WWIII, or program some Bitcoins (yes, I know), to most people that's hacking.
      • by Miser ( 36591 ) on Tuesday April 24, 2018 @03:41PM (#56496265)

        100% correct.

        Hacker is a tinkerer. Someone who likes to play with tech and learn.

        Cracker is the criminal element, doing things systems weren't designed to do for "bad" or whatever your definition may be.

        Or perhaps just call them what they also may be: white collar criminal.

        Maybe I'm tech-splaining now? ;)

        • Maybe I'm tech-splaining now? ;)

          Yup, and taht is the same for many fields: The common usage of a domain specific term often fails to capture the nuances and lumps broad categories together. Unfortunately, once a term becomes commonplace there is no easy way to correct or modify its usage. Hacker used to be a badge of honor amongst a group of tech savvy folks, now it's a generally pejorative term, especially in the mass media.

        • Yep. And the Nintendo example is clearly an cracking. Cracking by hackers, to enable further hacking on hardware they supposedly own. But still cracking a security system.

    • by shabble ( 90296 )

      What you're asking for is not a new word, but for the public to understand a nuance of something they don't frankly give a shit about.

      We already had a word for what 'hack' means these days - "crack", but because the aforementioned lack of giving a fuck, the good connotations of the word 'hack' got lost, and it basically became synonymous with 'crack.'

      • Thank you! The word already existed. Journalists were too lazy and did not want to educate the public....
      • Wouldn't someone who cracks a DRM scheme to give everyone access to use what they own as they please be a cracker? If so, "cracker" doesn't distinguish good actors from bad actors.

        • by sjames ( 1099 )

          At one time, a hacker was someone who probed various systems to learn about them and perhaps use them in unexpected ways. A cracker was someone who mindlessly applied someone else's instructions to copy prevention to make copies. It was akin to script kiddie. Typically, the hacker did it for fun and knowledge (perhaps cred), the cracker did it for money and free stuff.

          So figuring out how to make the Nintendo willing to load unsigned games = hacking. Mindlessly applying that procedure for $50/pop = cracking.

    • What you're asking for is not a new word, but for the public to understand a nuance of something they don't frankly give a shit about. A new word is just as likely to be misunderstood/misused by I-can't-be-arsed-to-report-precisely journalists and bloggers, and far more likely to actually ADD confusion.

      Face it: words like 'hack' 'drone' and 'troll' have vanished into the collective linguistics of the culture; we're no longer able to recover them and insist they still have the specificity of meaning they used to carry when used by insiders in the tech culture.

      There's certainly times when there's overlap or ambiguity, but in general the people hacking databases and the people hacking together cool arduino projects are fundamentally different groups and I think the public does care about that.

      However, I do agree that there's no point trying to reclaim "hacker", the public has defined it their own way and we're not going to get them to redefine it. But we can certainly figure out something else to call the non-malicious hobbyists who are doing cool stuff.

      • by Zontar_Thing_From_Ve ( 949321 ) on Tuesday April 24, 2018 @01:55PM (#56495557)

        I do agree that there's no point trying to reclaim "hacker", the public has defined it their own way and we're not going to get them to redefine it. But we can certainly figure out something else to call the non-malicious hobbyists who are doing cool stuff.

        The problem is that the public uses it in very inconsistent ways to mean basically "Something happened that I don't like", "Here's a new idea I thought of", "My computer got broken into", and other wildly differing meanings. Just last week I read a blog post from a guy complaining (with no real hard evidence) that a sports related post he made on his own blog was copied by a sports writer who gets paid to write about sports. The complaining guy wasn't hacked if the blog is publicly readable (I think it is) and the contents aren't copyrighted. But the complaining guy said "I got hacked". Doesn't sound like hacking to me. And then we have people who talk about "hacks" with regards to food, like dumping the ground beef from a Taco Bell taco onto a slice of pepperoni pizza. "Hack" as a term reminds me of a saying we have about email - when it's everybody's responsibility, in reality it's nobody's responsibility. When hack has turned into a word that means anything and everything, it has no real meaning any more. Yes, we need a new word.

    • by samkass ( 174571 )

      Who hasn't seen "life hack" videos? The idea that the word has completely lost its original meaning is perhaps overstating it a bit. But with regards to surreptitiously gaining access to computers and systems, I don't think the popular word and the original word are as far apart as a lot of Slashdotters would like to believe. The Steves' first device before starting Apple was a box to make long distance phone calls without paying, and experimenting with access that wasn't completely appropriate was part of

    • Face it: words like 'hack' 'drone' and 'troll' have vanished into the collective linguistics of the culture; we're no longer able to recover them and insist they still have the specificity of meaning they used to carry when used by insiders in the tech culture.

      I got the impression that he was trying to face that, by giving up on those words and coining some new ones.

      Isn't the whole point of inventing a new word for hack, that you're giving up on "hack," abandoning it as a lost cause?

    • Well said.
    • The really strange thing is that the word has entered the mainstream with all the nuance that it has in the tech community. That's why people keep sharing life hacks I can do to simplify my X, for example.
  • Cracking? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 24, 2018 @01:16PM (#56495227)

    I suggest the absolutely, 100%, brand new, just thought of, totally original word: cracking.

    • I suggest the absolutely, 100%, brand new, just thought of, totally original word: cracking.

      It's taken. Cracker groups have been successfully cracking software for decades.

      • by cyberchondriac ( 456626 ) on Tuesday April 24, 2018 @01:26PM (#56495319) Journal

        I suggest the absolutely, 100%, brand new, just thought of, totally original word: cracking.

        It's taken. Cracker groups have been successfully cracking software for decades.

        That's the biggest whoosh I've seen in a decade.

        • I think the point is that "crack" got specialized to mean circumventing digital restrictions management, such as cracking a game. I've used "intrude" to refer to the sort of malicious network activity that people associate with a website or someone's email getting "hacked". An intrusion authorized by a resource's owner is called a "pen test".

          • by acroyear ( 5882 )

            No the point and the "Whoosh" was that the Cracker post that started this thread was an intentional joke...at least to anybody older than 40.

            We had this discussion 25 to 30 years ago and tried to get the media to stop using "Hacker" when they meant "Cracker". It failed. They like the word. We're stuck.

      • It's taken. Cracker groups have been successfully cracking software for decades.

        Which just goes to show that there is still much work to be done to promote diversity in the field software development.

    • by Matheus ( 586080 )

      lol. That and *many others... We don't need a new word. We have *many* words that describe these many different activities as exactly what they are. As has been previously stated no one cares. The news will continue to report it the way they do and the unwashed masses will continue to not understand and ergo get all panicy about it and the fear driven road to the bottom will continue as scheduled.

  • We should call it screwing. I know a lot of hackers that would love to finally be able to say they were tired because they were up all night screwing. Otherwise, no... It doesn't matter what some people try to change the term to.. it'll always be hacking.
  • There's already a word for it: cracking. The fact that Slashdot editors apparently aren't aware of this - well I was going to say it was disgraceful, but sadly it's what we all expect.
  • by UnknownSoldier ( 67820 ) on Tuesday April 24, 2018 @01:19PM (#56495253)

    A new world will NOT solve the problem. The media will just hijack it like they have in the past:

    i.e.

    * Piracy = practice of attacking and robbing ships at sea --> illegal copying of numbers
    * Hacking = implementing a quick fix or investing systems for curiosity's sake --> digital breaking and entering

    • From your own post *Hijack = illegally seize (an aircraft, ship, or vehicle) in transit --> change the meaning of a word or term What you're demonstrating isn't something bad, it's just language evolving like it always does. Hell, even "computer" is a "hijacked" word.
      • From your own post

        *Hijack = illegally seize (an aircraft, ship, or vehicle) in transit --> change the meaning of a word or term

        What you're demonstrating isn't something bad, it's just language evolving like it always does. Hell, even "computer" is a "hijacked" word.

        I don't know, the media illegally seizing words seems as bad to me as illegally stealing a transport... all the same, yep.

    • A new world will NOT solve the problem. The media will just hijack it like they have in the past:

      I dunno, a new world might just solve the problem. But seems like too drastic a solution to me.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    A kludge is a solution that works, even if it's inelegant. Seems close enough to me.

  • Hacking a tractor is actually usually illegal these days because farm suppliers like to lock in their customers to support contracts, and they are backed by the law in doing so. Hacking is objectively good in the context of freedom and bad in the context of anyone seeking control. Whether that control is from the government or over your own machines is irrelevant to the term "hacking." The word you're looking for in the case of malware is "theft," because that's what it is. The questions also comes down
    • what about saying renting = landlord needs to fix it that there own cost. If john deer wants to clam that you are renting the software then they need to fix it for free.

    • Hacking a tractor is actually usually illegal these days because farm suppliers like to lock in their customers to support contracts

      I thought Deere just lost that case, and an exception to the DCMA to fix farm equipment was law (or regulation, or whatever). Cannot find the results online (easily) though, so maybe someone will find it and link?

  • We already kindof do. We have cracker for the bad hacker and maker for the good hacker. Makerspaces use the term maker. We have cracking for bad hacking but I've never seem "making" used for good hacking. We also have the word tinkerers. Many places still use the term hackerspace but many more use the more politically correct makerspace to distance themselves from the bad connotations of hacking.

    • "Tinkerers" would be my choice (unless there's a better one) - a lot harder to hijack the meaning - comes off as harmless and fun and hobbyist.

      The problem with "hacker" is that it didn't have a well-established widespread meaning before it entered the broader public consciousness which allowed (as if often the case) uninformed, ignorant journalists to pollute it's meaning and changie it. Tinkerer has a well-established widesporead meaning and so is more resillient to clueless journalists faulty/inaccurate

      • "Tinkerers" would be my choice (unless there's a better one)

        You've got one er too many there. The word for both the person and the act is tinker. Sure, you can use tinkerer these days, but it's unnecessary.

        • You've got one er too many there. The word for both the person and the act is tinker. Sure, you can use tinkerer these days, but it's unnecessary.

          "Tinker" is someone who makes tin cans. I guess "tinkerer" would be a mother of many in a family of tinkers.

      • by Falos ( 2905315 )

        It's hardware-oriented as is, but that sort of detail is very much susceptible to drift. Lord knows "Hacker" was.

    • but many more use the more politically correct makerspace to distance themselves from the bad connotations of hacking.

      ...and in so doing come off as boring and safe. Probably necessary in some cases, but it doesn't really convey the "breaking things" aspect their core demographic is attracted to.

    • by acroyear ( 5882 )

      The problem with "Makers", and even Tinkerers, is the implication that there must be hardware involved. Makers Fairs in various cities are all about physical inventions, that may have software components or drivers.

      Just being a home software hacker doesn't have an applicable word that isn't tainted by the media.

  • ..."white hat" and "black hat" were for...?
  • Back in the heady days of Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and the space race, as a non-English-native speaker, I was fascinated how the lexicon smartly evolved to include succinct, precise and short nomeclature of every part, procedure or metodology of the new evolving technology. Lexical engineering at its best, if you will. In that spirit, maybe it is the time and the place to do the same with these new and growing computer actions. But beware of going overboard and overburdening the language with a clog of sense

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Tuesday April 24, 2018 @01:29PM (#56495339)

    What good did EVER result from inventing new words? Just think of all the politically correct bullshit circulating. You used to call people with dark skin something I can't even write here anymore. Then colored. Then it was Afro Americans. Then black. Then ... whatever, I don't keep up with the PC bullshit. And what exactly did it change for them? Zip, nada, zilch, not even nothing.

    And now the racists use those "PC words" to make fun of the whole politically correctness and mock it. You think it would be any different if you invent something new for "hacking"? You think the media would suddenly start using the "polite" word for "good" hacking? What's "good" anyway? I'm pretty sure Nintendo thinks the whole Switch-hack is pretty bad.

    If you want to vilify something, you will find a way. No matter how "correct" your wording is. If anything, it helps them pretend that they want to be "unbiased" while slandering.

    • What good did EVER result from inventing new words?

      Shakespeare was better able to write effectively, Orwell constructed a new vocabulary that's very handy for succinctly describing distopian forces, and Tolkein and Gygax described a whole suite of fantasy tropes. New technical words ("smartphone") work well, and even those that are invented to describe subsets are useful ("phablet", "netbook"). As long as the subset is referred to frequently enough, it's worthwhile.

    • What good did EVER result from inventing new words?

      Lots actually. New words are routinely required to accurately or concisely communicate new concepts. For example when a new particle is discovered we assign it a new word to describe the particle ("positron" for example) so that people can talk about it without using an entire paragraph. The word hacking was utilized to describe a particular activity. Over time it's come to mean something slightly different. That's how language works.

      Just think of all the politically correct bullshit circulating. You used to call people with dark skin something I can't even write here anymore.

      Are you seriously complaining that society now frowns on you using a

  • IMO, the word "hack" is a lot like the word "shoot". The target is what matters, not the verb. Shoot a Nazi? Get a medal. Shoot up a school? Lethal injection.

    Context is what matters.

    • IMO, the word "hack" is a lot like the word "shoot". The target is what matters, not the verb. Shoot a Nazi? Get a medal. Shoot up a school? Lethal injection.

      Context is what matters.

      So true... "Eats, Shoots & Leaves" [wikipedia.org] - a book about the dangers of misused punctuation and, presumably, rogue pandas.

      A panda walks into a café. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and proceeds to fire it at the other patrons.

      "Why?" asks the confused, surviving waiter amidst the carnage, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder.

      "Well, I'm a panda," he says. "Look it up."

      The waiter turns to the relevant entry in the manual and, sure enough, finds an explanation. "Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves."

    • IMO, the word "hack" is a lot like the word "shoot". The target is what matters, not the verb.

      Through carelessness or malice, numerous media organizations have abused the word hack to make it seem like hacking is always nefarious. A significant percentage of the population has taken on this notion as a result. I share your opinion, but a significant slice of the general populace does not.

  • Hint: The "Hackers and hacking is a good thing, don't let those nasty crackers tarnish our name!" camp lost.

    • by Falos ( 2905315 )

      Isn't that why forking is proposed? We're abandoning the unsalvageable, not chasing it.

  • Because it’s spelled with an X therefore it’s Xtreme.
  • I often use the phrase "Classical Hacker" to distinguish from the contemporary adulterated use of the word.
  • Hacking and Hackers get a bum rap. Headline scream "Every Nitendo switch can be hacked." But that's good right? Just like farmers hacking their tractors or someone re-purposing a talking teddy bear. On the other hand, remote hacking a Intel processor backdoor or looting medical data base, that are also described as hacking, are ill-motivated.

    This conflates the activity with the motivation. Inappropriately in my opinion. All the activities described above are "hacking" because both are a form of tinkering with a piece of technology to do something. The motivation behind such activities is irrelevant to what it is. We already have separate words for the motivations which are perfectly adequate. We don't need a single word to describe the activity and the motivation or if you get such a word you'll need at least two of them and probably more.

    • The word is informative. http://catb.org/jargon/html/C/... [catb.org] That fact that you are too lazy to understand it does not change that. That's the job of a journalist, to educate people. They missed used the word. They need to do their fucking job an inform and educate.
      • The word is informative

        The most common uses of the word cracker are as a flat piece of dried bread and as a racial epithet [wikipedia.org]. No journalist is going to use that word to describe computer related activities. Get over it.

        That's the job of a journalist, to educate people.

        No it isn't. The job of a journalist is to report news. This is not news. It's an old and lame attempt by a group of computer geeks to try to claim a word means something other than what it means to 99.9% of the general public.

        They missed used the word.

        No they did not. They used it in exactly the way it is most commonly used. If that i

  • Definitions of words change over time.

    You can accept this, or you can keep holding on to an older definition that the vast majority will never know the history of and not accept.
    • Definitions of words change over time.

      You can accept this, or you can keep holding on to an older definition that the vast majority will never know the history of and not accept.

      Definitions of words happen by the way they are used. Words can have multiple meanings - even mutually-contradictory ones.

      There is no either/or to accepting this vs. striving to promote one meaning over another - especially an older meaning vs. a pejorative corruption - or at least bring to more public attention the existence of th

    • by Falos ( 2905315 )

      TFS isn't challenging the undefeatable majority.

      Isn't that why forking is proposed? We're abandoning the unsalvageable, not chasing it.

  • There are those who do not like having hackers not under their control; it's been very convenient for them that the word has acquired negative connotations. It seems likely that any new word invented would acquire similar connotations if it became popular.

  • I think the most appropriate work would be asshatting!
  • How about digital criminal?

  • by shuz ( 706678 )

    Back in my day we referred to malicious hackers as blackhats and they read 2600 [wikipedia.org]

    Society could correct the "hacker" term by including security hacker or blackhat hacker or malicious hacker in news articles. Throughout history lots of benign hobbies have been related to criminal or social negative behavior. Though it is difficult to reprogram society at large to understand the difference between good and bad behavior via a single word or description, we can tackle the issue of applying pre-crime and profiling

  • For Black and White hat hacking? Uhhh, maybe not...

  • I LOVE it when someone gets an email with something that looks like my name in the "From" field and they tell me "YOU'VE BEEN HACKED!!!"
  • Defeating security systems, cracking codes, and cracking safes is known as cracking. Duh.

    How the hell hacking became cracking is a mystery to me. Hacking was always about one of two things:
    1) coming up with something clever such as hacking an X-Box to run Linux.
    2) Hacking code to death as in "sales said the customer wanted right now so I hacked it to death until I got something to run"

    • Defeating security systems, cracking codes, and cracking safes is known as cracking. Duh.

      Agreed that it is duh. But expecting people to be smart is also duh.

      How the hell hacking became cracking is a mystery to me.

      The media was led by corporations like Microsoft (primarily via the BSA) which want to see no unauthorized modification ever.

      Hacking was always about one of two things:
      1) coming up with something clever such as hacking an X-Box to run Linux.

      That's cracking! There were protection schemes defeated! It's also hacking.

    • I was about to post what THIS says.
  • Let's call it Smock.

    Not that it really describes the action or anything. I just like to say smock. Smock Smock Smock Smock Smock Smock. [dontknockmysmock.com]

  • By John Brunner, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

    The "title" of the protagonist was in German: "Computer Sabotage Spezialist", unfortunately the wikipedia article does not give an english term. Freely translated it means "Computer Sabotage Specialist", who had guessed that?

  • The original synonyms when I started ...umm.. hacking...in the early 1970s were "wizard" (person) and something close to "trick" (creative solution). "That's a good hack" was pretty close to "that's a neat trick", but the undertones could also imply that a lot of just hard work went into it. If someone was "hacking" on something it meant they were working on it, probably with at least some obsession to get it to work.

    If someone cracked into a system in some way, they might not be a hacker; that associatio

  • Good and bad guys both do the same thing but for different reasons. Let's just leave it at "White Hat Hackers" amd "Assholes".

  • I did a quick search but in the mid to late 90's, I think it was Andrew Burt wrote a posting about hacker vs. cracker. In the end the distinction is meaningless for a tiny % of the population.

    Another example is motor vs engine, most people use the term interchangeably but when referring to a gas powered car it is an engine and not a motor. How many people care? I don't even care, I just know the difference.

  • I suggest using the word Cyber since the media and governments seem so in love with it.

    Who wouldn't want to cyber Fannie Mae?

  • AK Komputing?
    AR Computing?
    Far-Right Computing?

  • Instead people (media especially) should take the 20 seconds necessary to learn the proper definition of hacker, and realize they are really talking about crackers when they say hackers.
  • The media embracing the lowest common denominator.
    The media does understand computing and most of the ears they have don't understand the difference.
    In other words it is whatever the media calls it.
    Anything that happens at a keyboard that is not shopping or downloading porn is hacking.

  • What is commonly used today as 'hacker' used to be referred to as 'cracker', because they crack security open. Hackers hacked stuff together.

    But as usual, words brought into the public theatre gets multilated beyond recognition because people can't be bothered to use the correct terminology for things, (assuming they don't completely reinvent words to suit their purposes, eg: fake news).

    But almost nobody uses "Cracker" anymore, and I'm betting a lot of people had never even heard of the word due to disuse.

  • The big thing is the corporate media, will never use a positive or benign word to describe something that multimillion dollar companies hate. So a word for modifying something you own when it comes to ipad's, consoles etc... will always be reffered to as whatever word has a negative connotation.
  • Data dissenter.
    Secrecy seditionist.
  • For example, putting anyone who uses the phrase, "life hack", into a coma.

... though his invention worked superbly -- his theory was a crock of sewage from beginning to end. -- Vernor Vinge, "The Peace War"

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