Shostack + Friends Blog


Wearing Many Hats

Fascinating history of a transformation in how hackers were seen. A timeline

There's a fascinating new history, Wearing Many Hats: The Rise of the Professional Security Hacker by Matt Goerzen and Gabriella Coleman, which charts "the movements of the digital underground during the 1990s to reveal what underground technologists or “hackers”, did—technically, linguistically, and culturally—to establish their legitimacy as employable, trustworthy security experts."

Having been present for much of this, I think they've done a great job at capturing the history. My only comment, a bit of a nit, is that early in the report, the authors claim that "Other types of social insecurity and risk stemming from the use of networking technologies—such as harassment, surveillance, and the targeting of civil society activists—were only substantially addressed later by different types of communities and actors." In fact, the early cypherpunks were very focused on surveillance and possible targeting of activists by government in the mid-nineties, and there was substantial overlap between the hacker and cypherpunk communities. There was substantial activism around cryptographic export controls; also Lance Cotrell's Mixmaster, Zero-Knowledge's Freedom, and other software was created in the time covered by the report.