On the Millennium Trilogy

Lisbeth Salander, Hacker

By Bernadette Schell

The word hacker has taken on many different meanings ranging from a person who enjoys learning the details of computer systems and how to stretch their capabilities to a malicious or inquisitive meddler who tries to discover information by poking around, possible by deceptive or illegal means.

–Steele et al,The Hacker Dictionary1

I became interested in hackers in 2000, when I was part of a university research team determined to summarize the personality and social behavioral traits of computer hackers and separate the myths from reality. Our team, consisting of two professors and two students, wanted to understand whether industry’s and society’s fears were reasonable in regards to the alleged toxic personality and behavioral predispositions of hackers. Could hackers cause a cyberwar or a virtual apocalypse?

Unfortunately, we discovered that answers to these intriguing questions were not easily forthcoming since there was a paucity of empirically based findings reported in the psychosocial, computer science, and business literature. Furthermore, after we set up a special website designed to have hackers respond to our survey items, we were hugely disappointed to discover that hackers did not trust us and, therefore, did not cooperate in our online study. The only way that we could crack the distrust issue was to gain the trust of a respected hacker who could help us enter the Computer Underground (a concept acknowledged by the media since 1980 to describe the virtual world of hackers). We eventually gained the trust of once-imprisoned hacker Bernie S (mainstream name Edward Cummings),  …

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