This book came out a few months ago, but I am such a fan of 2600: The Hacker Quarterly — I just had to say something about it. I have been curious about hackers since I bought my first computer back in 1987. It always seemed like a closed world to me. Not because I wanted to do anything ‘bad,’ but because I wanted to know more about the computer itself. The only problem was, I had spent time in Silicon Valley, with real coders — and knew I had no skills in that department whatsoever.
Even more so than in the previous collection, The Best Of 2600 (2008), Emmanuel Goldstein spells out what he considers a hacker to be. It is certainly not the demonized evil kid the media has presented us with. No, a true hacker as defined by 2600, (which has been publishing since 1984 by the way) is a person with a quest for knowledge. If one discovers things that could be used for ill will — then they have discovered flaws that have always been there. The difference between a hacker and a criminal is what the person does with the knowledge once they have it.
Dear Hacker is nothing more than a collection of letters to the editor of 2600 magazine, broken down into nine sections. These include “The Magic Of The Corporate World,” “The Challenges Of Life As A Hacker,” and “A Culture Of Rebels.” Believe me, those titles may sound somewhat incendiary, but they are not at all. In fact, what comes through is the humanity of these people. On one page you will find a writer talking about how she discovered a massive security hole in a major credit corporation, and reported it to them — right next to some misguided schlump looking for help in hacking his ex’s Yahoo account to mess with it.
In all cases, Goldstein’s integrity shines through. In the former he praises her for doing what he would have done. In the latter, he calls the guy out with a razor-sharp satirical response. The poor bastard probably never even got the joke — but I did.