Crackers are criticized for their unethical hacking, but in fact the practices of both crackers and hackers are often juvenile. This reduces their potential for political resistance. There are differences between hackers and crackers that help hackers maintain their status and which they try to use to protect themselves from prosecution. Crackers and people striving to join the hacker elite have developed an alternative sub-culture. One method inexperienced people use to get into elite circles is to employ a hacker dialect. However, hackers resist attempts by crackers to bridge the boundary, because they need to have scapegoats to maintain their position.
Status and Conflict (White vs. Black Hats)
Status is very important in the computer underground and experienced hackers want to guard theirs’ against the newcomers. Hacker turnover is very rapid because of the short frame in which typical people will hack, and the high rate of technological change. Many people will only hack for several years, until they get busted, retire, or go to college, and thus there is always a relatively large influx of newcomers. As shown above in the Phrack interviews, some of the nostalgic discourse which is mentioned in more detail below comes to play within the hacking community, as the older hackers revere the "good old days," which may be as recent as the late eighties or early nineties.
‘Elite’ is actually used more outside of hacker circles, but it still exists within the hacker community as a way of identifying who has the highest status. If you are elite then you would have access to private BBSes (which often required recommendations before they would give you a username), or to a special sub-board on a BBS which was otherwise hidden, to a private FTP site (with "special" files), and to chat sessions. Distinguishing between the "elite" and "lamers" also allowed hackers a measure of protection against undercover law enforcement by limiting the people they would discuss hacking techniques, and more critically specific exploits, with to fellow hackers. But it was primarily used as a status boundary.
What is Hacking?
Juvenile Discourse, Black Hats, and White Hats
Juvenility and Carding
Problems with the White Hat Hacking Discourse
Problems with the Nostalgic Discourse
Law Enforcement and Computer Security Discourse
The Legal Discourse
Problems with the Law Enforcement Discourse
Hackers as Resistance (illegal and legal)
Limitations to Resistance