<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
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