Cerf urges hacker restraint
- By John K. Waters
Vint Cerf, co-creator of the TCP/IP protocol and the current chairman of ICANN, has filmed a public service announcement asking hackers to use their energies constructively in the wake of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks. The spot was produced with Cyberangels, a non-profit group devoted to Internet safety, and was scheduled to begin airing early in October.
In the weeks following the attacks, numerous reports surfaced of cyberactivists targeting businesses and countries perceived, not always accurately, to be sympathetic to the terrorists. Among the known victims of these cyber attacks were Iranian Web sites, the computer system belonging to the police of Dubai, one of the United Arab Emirates and a Chicago risk management company.
In an e-mail sent to reporters, Cerf corrected a widely held misunderstanding of the meaning of the title "hacker," which has a long and honorable past and was originally applied to dedicated, if somewhat anarchistic, engineers who believed in sharing information freelyand in doing no harm.
"In recent years, the term has been misapplied to people who have very different objectives," Cerf wrote. The correct term for hackers seeking to cause mischief, do harm, or commit cybercrimes is "cracker."
Cerf urged computer jocks everywhere to refrain from creating worms and viruses, and instead to donate their skills to non-profit groups like Cyberangels or the Internet Society. The Internet played an important role in the aftermath of the attacks, Cerf wrote, and "damaging Web sites, launching worms and viruses and initiating distributed denial of service attacks are NOT constructive and literally interfere with the utility of the Internet as a communication medium."
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John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached