Count Zero
   Member of the Cult of the Dead Cow

   February 5 --  Count Zero, as he prefers to be
   called, is a co-founder of l0pht and member of the Cult of the Dead
   Cow, two long-standing hacker groups.

   Count Zero says he began as a "classic" hacker in his teenage years,
   but has given up breaking into protected computers in favor of
   "studying the complex exchange of ideas on the Internet" and hackers'
   "role in it all." He is a strong proponent of "hacktivism" -- using
   computers and hacking as a tool for social change.

   Count Zero is 31 years old, lives in Boston, and works in the "real
   world" in the health care field. He also works at a major university
   conducting research in computer-supported cooperative work.

   Moderator at 3:00pm ET
   Hello, everyone. We're just waiting for Count Zero to chime in and say
   hello, and then we'll get started. If you haven't posted your
   question, go right ahead!

   Count Zero at 3:01pm ET

   Count Zero at 3:01pm ET
   I'm ready when you are.

   Moderator at 3:02pm ET
   Hi, there. Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, and please
   extend our thanks to the cDc for helping us with our story. First
   question coming right up....

   open-Bin from at 3:02pm ET
   Most hackers do "this" for the fun of it, most do it for the
   challenge, most do it to test system security and finally most do it
   to be Known. Which motivated you..?

   Count Zero at 3:03pm ET
   I was motivated by curiosity and challenge. Being "known" had nothing
   to do with it. I was always interested in how the innards of things
   worked (mechanical and electrical). Hacking was just a way of
   expressing that curiosity.

   oldHACK from [], at 3:04pm ET
   Are the new breed in it for the "edge," or just bored? In college I
   learned Assembly Code and others on AT's, and it's still a buzz to not
   be fazed when "cracking the case" or fixing Windows hangups.

   Count Zero at 3:07pm ET
   Well, I think the "old breed" of hackers sometimes forget what it was
   like to be a "young breed." I think younger hackers are doing it for
   all the same reasons that us "old school" hackers did it...sometimes
   we were just bored, sometimes it was curiosity, and sometimes it was
   even a bit knocking over mailboxes, etc.

   nikki from [], at 3:07pm ET
   How do you study to be a hacker?
   Where do you start?
   What kind of programing is helpful to know?

   Count Zero at 3:11pm ET
   You don't study to be a read BOOKS and MANUALS
   first...heh. I would go thru weird technical manuals just for the
   sheer enjoyment of learning how something worked. Also, meeting OTHER
   hackers was key in my life. I learned much from older hackers, both
   technical things and even philosophical things... That's why I started
   writing things and trying to organize other hackers into "clubs"
   get people talking to each other and the free flow of ideas going. As
   for programming, that's totally arbitrary. But Java is
   everywhere....and when in Rome... :)

   Quicksilver from [], at 3:12pm ET
   Where's the line between hacking and cracking? What should we do about
   people's legitimate rights to use the web v. the ability to abuse it?

   Count Zero at 3:15pm ET
   When I was a kid and learning about computers, you HAD to "crack" a
   bit to explore the Net (cracking= explicitly breaking into computers
   where you don't belong!). There were no commercial ISPs or ways you
   could set up your OWN system, and if you weren't in college there was
   no legit way to get an account or an email address. But THESE days, I
   think most hackers are actually setting up their own servers, their
   own networks...there's no real reason to break the law to explore. And
   as for legitimate rights to use the web, I think EVERYONE has a right
   to say whatever they want. Freedom of expression is very important to
   hackers. Anything that seriously stifles that is wrong.

   Capt. Hemp from at 3:16pm ET
   How do you feel about the fact that Back Orifice is being used pretty
   much exclusively for malicious intent by script kiddies that couldn't
   hack their way out of a wet paper bag?

   Count Zero at 3:19pm ET
   Back Orifice is a powerful tool, and yes, it can be easily used for
   malicious intent. But that's true of ANY powerful,
   hardware, machines..... and it doesn't mean BO should not have been
   released. Should all knives be outlawed because they're used to commit

   Robin from [], at 3:20pm ET
   You use the word "hacktivism". Are you implying that hacking has some
   good points?

   Count Zero at 3:25pm ET
   First of all, hacking is, by it's very nature, a GOOD thing. It's
   about exploring and pushing the boundaries of knowledge. Hacking is
   not just related to computers. Columbus was a hacker...scientists and
   researchers are by their nature, hackers. "Hacktivism" is the
   evolution of activism in a wired, global community. Using hacking
   "techniques" to achieve activist goals. And like "real world"
   activism, sometimes "hacktivism" involves breaking the
   law.....spraypainting slogans on a public wall vs. altering a
   website...both are the same level, in my mind. Also, what some people
   call "hacktivism" is, in my mind, really "information warfare."
   InfoWar is about nuking your enemy..stifling their expression...and
   that's something that "hacktivism" definitely is NOT.

   KRASH2c from at 3:25pm ET
   Hey Count Zero. Ya know your my hero? Yeah keep the power movin
   hacktavism, yeah thats what I'm groovin. What do you think about this
   whole Declaration of War on China and Iraq?

   Moderator at 3:26pm ET
   For our readers' information, a group of hackers recently declared an
   "infowar" on China and Iraq, threatening their computer
   infrastructures. The cDc, l0pht, 2600, and others have spoken out
   against the declaration.

   Count Zero at 3:28pm ET
   Hackers declaring InfoWar on Iraq and China is stupid, stupid, taking out the telecommunications infrastructure of a
   country, you're hurting the PEOPLE in that country more than anything're taking away their eyes and ears. BUT...focusing on
   empowering the people in those places with the TOOLS of
   hacktivism......making the WORLD know about the injustices and human
   rights other words, getting the FLOW of INFORMATION
   pumpin' around the globe...UNIMPEDED and UNCENSORED.....THAT'S

   Leo from at 3:29pm ET
   Who is at risk of being hacked into? What can one do about it?

   Count Zero at 3:30pm ET
   ...and if anyone threatens the free flow of information....hackers
   should use ALL their "skills" to stop that.. :)

   Count Zero at 3:34pm ET
   Leo, if your computer has a wire out the back of it connecting it to
   the world, then you're at risk...period. That sounds flippant, but
   it's true. The only way to be 100% secure is to have a computer in an
   RF-shielded bunker with a dude with a rifle at the door checking
   retinal patters. What can you do about malicious hacking? Well, you
   can FIRST complain to MAJOR SOFTWARE COMPANIES that tell their users
   "oh, yeah, your software/operating system is secure...go for it," and
   then secretly try to patch and re-patch and re-re-patch security flaws
   and holes like some insane quiltwork. Make yourself AWARE of what
   EXACTLY is running on your computer...and what the insecurities

   Lone Paranoid from [], at 3:36pm ET
   Call 'em Hackers, crackers, whatever, but I've noticed a new element
   of politically-driven kids in Chatrooms and websites who unleash
   viruses and 'freeze' people out who don't agree with their particular
   socioreligious views.
   As in Abortion chats, where the young pro-life drones seem more
   aggressive than ever.
   This concerns me as a Net User and a Pro Choice activist, and I am
   wondering how or what can be done to thwart or retaliate to these
   people? I sense they are like the young ones in the article, more
   destructive, less informed but just as deadly...

   Count Zero at 3:39pm ET
   The best thing you can do about destructive, malicious young hackers
   is to EDUCATE them. I remember a time when I was a young hacker, and
   filled with confusion and free-floating anger, but also insatiable other words, a typical teenager.. :) If it hadn't been
   for older hacker friends who guided my skills in CREATIVE ways, I
   might have turned out much different. It's like in the real world, if
   you see a kid who's in a gang and doing crimes, you try to channel
   their skills into something POSITIVE. Show young hackers how cool it
   is to CREATE stuff...write new software....and how the FREE EXPRESSION
   of ideas on the Net is the coolest thing.

   syfur from at 3:40pm ET
   I always thought that a hacker
   hacked into servers, not into
   workstations. So what's the use
   of Bo then?

   Count Zero at 3:42pm ET
   Well, these days, EVERY computer is essentially a server...the power
   of your desktop workstation is great enough to run what used to be
   dedicated "server" functions, like shared file spaces and FTPd. With
   BO, you can turn a desktop workstation into a webserver without the
   user even knowing about it.

   aNvil from [], at 3:43pm ET
   iwirk for a infosec firm and they bill me out to clients for an unreal
   amount of money to do hacking security related tasks. Did you ever
   think that one could make a living (and a very comfortable one at
   that) by hacking?

   Count Zero at 3:48pm ET
   Years ago, I never planned on making a living hacking, and honestly
   didn't expect hacking to ever be such a popular subject in the press
   as it is now. I think it's pretty wild how quickly hackers have gone
   from being nerdy geeks in basements to people with skills that are
   extremely valuable in the "real world." In an electronic global
   village, hackers are now real GUIDES...exploring the wildlife, knowing
   what plants are safe to eat, and how to avoid getting snatched up by
   'gators. It's cool, and it's also a really big SOCIAL
   responsibility....hackers have to do the right thing...the future of
   electronic free speech really depends on it.

   Lonely from at 3:49pm ET
   What do you think about the stereotype being used against hackers and
   stating that they are all "malicious" also, what do you think about
   the situation with Kevin Mitnick?

   Count Zero at 3:53pm ET
   People who stereotype all hackers as "malicious" are just afraid of
   the power that hackers have in general. To oversimplify a bit, hackers
   know how computers work....and you depend on computers more and more
   each day....and every day the average person feels like they know LESS
   and LESS about how all the computers work around them. Knee-jerk
   stereotyping hackers as all "evil" is natural in this
   circumstance...people are simply afraid. Sure, some hackers are
   malicious....but that's just a common human trait that you'll find in
   any population. As for Kevin Mitnick, I think it's a tragedy...and I
   hope people don't forget about the situation as it drags on. Go to for all the details if you don't know...

   biggie from [], at 3:54pm ET
   What is the classiest hack you know of?

   Count Zero at 3:58pm ET
   I remember at a hacker convention in Las Vegas (defcon), I saw one of
   those huge video screens mounted outside of one of the hotels on the
   Strip. It was blasting a constant stream of mindless video
   drivel...advertisements, etc. I came back later in the day, and I saw
   that the whole screen was now a computer desktop, and I saw a huge
   mouse pointer clicking here and there, exploring the system. I'm
   pretty sure it was a hacker exploring the computer that was sending
   the video, and I thought.. this is hacking...LIVE and 50 feet
   tall....everyone who saw it laughed.

   Jo from [], at 3:58pm ET
   I've read about you (the cult of the dead cow) for some time. What, if
   anything, inspired the name. Just Curious.

   Count Zero at 4:02pm ET
   If I remember correctly, the founder of the group years ago was
   exploring an old slaughterhouse and was inspired by the...well, dead
   cows, lying everywhere. :) Someone recently wrote: "You don't go to
   cDc and get a steak. You get a dead cow. It's fresh and raw and not
   always pretty." Raw pretty packaging,
   just the REAL STUFF. That, to me, is what the name really implies...

   Moderator at 4:03pm ET
   Folks, we're going to have to wrap this up. Sorry we couldn't get to
   all the questions, folks, but thanks for your participation. Count
   Zero, thanks for stopping by. You can read more about hackers here on, and the cDc site is at

   Count Zero at 4:04pm ET
   You're pleasure..and if anyone wants to ask me stuff by
   email, I'd be happy to homepage is
   ... and my email is