chapter  11
23 Pages

Skills and Trust: A Tour Inside the Hard Drives of Computer Hackers

Stories of the exploits of computer hackers who have broken into supposedly secure government and corporate information systems appear almost daily on the front pages of newspapers and technology websites, yet we know very little about the individuals behind these headlines. They are often caricatured as socially inept (Denning, cited in Leeson & Coyne, 2005: 518) but intellectually gifted teenagers who unleash a technical apocalypse on their helpless victims from the solitary confines of their parents’ basements, a representation fueled to a large extent by Hollywood movies.2 This stereotype is helped by the very limited number of arrests made by the police, and the even smaller number of cases that go to trial, as most of the accused plead guilty in order to negotiate a favorable arrangement with prosecutors. The resulting lack of real-life accounts describing malicious computer hackers and how they operate means that policy makers and criminal justice practitioners as well as members of the public rely on fictional depictions or selfaggrandizing autobiographies (Mitnick & Simon, 2011; Calce & Silverman, 2008) to make sense of this new class of offenders.