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Computing (FOLDOC) dictionary
hacker ethic
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philosophy 1. The belief that information-sharing is a
powerful positive good, and that it is an ethical duty of
hackers to share their expertise by writing free software and
facilitating access to information and to computing resources
wherever possible.
2. The belief that system-cracking for fun and exploration is
ethically OK as long as the cracker commits no theft,
vandalism, or breach of confidentiality.
Both of these normative ethical principles are widely, but by
no means universally, accepted among hackers. Most hackers
subscribe to the hacker ethic in sense 1, and many act on it
by writing and giving away free software. A few go further
and assert that *all* information should be free and *any*
proprietary control of it is bad; this is the philosophy
behind the GNU project.
Sense 2 is more controversial: some people consider the act of
cracking itself to be unethical, like breaking and entering.
But the belief that "ethical" cracking excludes destruction at
least moderates the behaviour of people who see themselves as
"benign" crackers (see also samurai). On this view, it may
be one of the highest forms of hackerly courtesy to (a) break
into a system, and then (b) explain to the sysop, preferably
by e-mail from a superuser account, exactly how it was done
and how the hole can be plugged - acting as an unpaid (and
unsolicited) tiger team.
The most reliable manifestation of either version of the
hacker ethic is that almost all hackers are actively willing
to share technical tricks, software, and (where possible)
computing resources with other hackers. Huge cooperative
networks such as Usenet, FidoNet and Internet (see
Internet address) can function without central control
because of this trait; they both rely on and reinforce a sense
of community that may be hackerdom's most valuable intangible