It's a hacker's world, we just live in it

This year's Defcon and Black Hat conferences show that hacking has gone mainstream. But some digital deviants still need to get spanked

Dear Sony: Sure, you lost 100 million user accounts, suffered a weeks-long outage, got sanctioned by your own government, and were so thoroughly humiliated that it's amazing your executives can still show their faces in public. But look at the bright side: You get to take home a pretty pink pony.

This past weekend Sony won a Pwnie ("pony") from the Black Hat security conference for "Most epic FAIL," after having been thoroughly pwned by hackers this spring. The award itself: an orange, pink, and purple unicorn.

[ Cringely offers a lesson for would-be hacktivists in "When digital protest turns into cyber crime." | For a humorous take on the tech industry's shenanigans, subscribe to Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter and follow Cringely on Twitter. ]

(To be 100 percent accurate, I should note that this was not a real unicorn but a miniature representation of one. Also, to the best of my fact-checking ability this is not a hoax perpetrated by Tarandeep Gill.)

With Defcon and Black Hat running back to back in Las Vegas every August, midsummer has become high season for hackers. And hacker culture is very much becoming mainstream culture. It's a short jump from being an anonymous hacker out to pwn The Man to pulling in six figures a year as a security consultant. When the director of security research at McAfee looks like this guy, there is no longer any gap between the hacking world and the corporate one.

One of the things I love about the hacker community is that they usually have a wicked sense of humor -- hence the pretty pink ponies and those droll posts by Anonymous. I also appreciate their growing sense of social responsibility, though I'm not sure how hacking and defacing a tyrannical government's website -- as Anonymous did again with Syria this week -- does anything to bring down a government.

But the hacker community is still extremely diverse, and many of them don't know where the boundaries are -- or, rather, don't believe in boundaries. Let's face it, many of them are still teenagers who if given half a chance would crash your car and trash your house, then brag about it to their friends.

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