ADIR - L'altro diritto

ISSN 1827-0565

Hacking and computer crime

Federico Tavassi La Greca, 2003


Hackers, more or less intentionally, have been labelled by the media as computer criminals and pirates. Though not entirely groundless, this label crated a link between hacking and computer and information crime that is a rough simplification of reality.

To get an in-depth picture of these phenomena this research moves from the work of authors like Levy, Sterling, Himanen, and presents the results of months of 'netsurfing' and debates in mailing lists and newsgroups. Hacking turns out to be a complex phenomenon, whose only constant feature is probably its attachement to freedom of expression. Hacking is considered to be also a way of life, and a cultural model for the development of free software in an open, collaborative environment. And, finally, hacking means also computer crime.

The first chapter is mainly an historical-sociological survey, whereas the second one is mainly theoretical, attempting to describe how a computer network works, and which are the most common attacks that a computer and its data have to face, that is, which are the real threats a company or a common citizen should be afraid of when using the Internet.

The research follows examining the 1993 law n. 547 on computer crime. Its criminal and procedural rules are discussed, with a particular attention to those aspects that more affects hacking. In the same context, and from the same perspective, also the copyright laws are attentively examined, being the hacking community notoriously engaged in a cultural struggle against copyright.

The fourth chapter adopts an empirical approach and presents the results of a visit to the Postal and Communication Police and to the Florence Hacklab.

The Police officers stressed vigorously the difficulties of preventing computer crimes, mainly because of the virtual nature of the environment in which those crimes are committed. The raid to the Hacklab unveiled a socially and politically committed community, inspired by the 'traditional' hacker ethics and engaged in a struggle for the 'socialization of the knowledge'.