Have script, will destroy!

Interview of the hacker Clata G. Sopht, by Cornelia Sollfrank
February 2000


Q: Clara, would you call yourself a hacker?
A: No. Always the same stupid question. I guess there are some hackers who would call me a "hacker,” others would call me "cracker” and others just "lazy-assed destroyer." There are a lot of dirty names for people like me, but I don’t care.

Q: From what you said about the congress, I conclude that you are mostly interested in the political aspects of information technology.
A: Every aspect of information technology is political. And it is definitely true that I’m very much concerned with the idea of resistance and political activism on the Net—the electronic underground. Hackers are the spearhead of a new form of resistance. They have an enormous political potential, although most of them aren’t aware of it. And there are also other political activists who fight for goals outside the Net, and use the Net as the site for their dissent.

Q: What are the forms electronic resistance takes today?
A: I give you an example. In the mid ‘90s the group Critical Art Ensemble published a book called Electronic Civil Disobedience. The basic assumption of the book is that power and its representations are no longer located in the real world but have been shifted into the Net. That’s why the resistance against power has also got to take place within the Net. The model they developed transfers civil disobedience from the real life to the virtual world. So that’s what I do, a kind of electronic civil disobedience. What it’s about is blocking the flow of information rather than the flow of personnel, and it takes place at military, corporate, or governmental sites.

Q: But what is the controversy about?
A: The name of this concrete form is Denial of Service attack. It basically means remotely disabling machines by flooding them with more traffic than they can handle. You can effectively cripple any network, regardless of size or bandwith with this method. So, in minutes all network activity on the attacked server is shut down because the attack consumes all available network resources. To automate these processes all you need are simple scripts that are used to generate endless traffic.

Q: What do you personally think of these attacks?
A: First of all, I would like to note that the people who own computers, especially hackers, are gaining more and more power. The computer networks are one big display of power, and somehow by mistake, they sold millions of computers to the people. We made them rich by buying those machines, but now we have these weapons. Obviously, they didn’t think when they sold us the tools, because the last thing governments want is "power to the people.” So with regard to Dos attacks: all people I know who carry out such attacks are skilled hackers. Secondly, those people think about who they’re attacking and why. So, it’s not just stupid script-kiddies who don’t know what they’re doing. I do not really want to promote DoS as the best form, but we do not really have a better one yet. The good point about it certainly is that it attracts a lot of attention, and the people who execute these things don‘t usually get busted. If you do it intelligently, it is very secure.

Q: I would like to switch to another aspect, Clara. You are operating in a dominantly male domain. Does that cause problems for you? Do you have to fight for equal rights? Would you consider yourself as a feminist?
A: Well, my experience is that most hackers hate feminists. That would be reason enough for me to call myself a feminist. I’m not a big fan of "isms” in general—like hackism J—but the fact is that we are far from having equal rights and opportunities for men and women. The big problem is that we need to be thinking about what strategies would actually work today.

Q: Do you have a vision? What makes you work?
A: I don’t know. At some point you just start to hate the things you love. And sometimes I have visions of taking take down the whole Internet—with the help of my friends of course.

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