Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Interview With A Hacktivist

I recently conducted an interview with 'Shai', Liverpool's resident hactivist. He's organising a hactivism evening at the city's social centre, Next To Nowhere, on Wednesday 5th March. I talked to him about his plans for the event, his ideas for improving activists' use of technology, and asked what's so damned exciting about all those zeroes and ones anyway...

What are you planning for your hacktivism event?

On March the 5th members of the BrB are doing a gig at the Liverpool Social Forum, which is located on Bold Street in the city. It will be held in the free space, or Next to Nowhere as it's known. The free space itself is under the Next to Nowhere book store (hence the name). We'll be kicking off at about 7pm and it finishes about 10 ish. At the gig we'll be presenting an introduction to the world of hackers and hacktivism. It's not just two hours of technical babble, as a matter of fact it's easy to understand no matter what your technical knowledge. We'll also be doing some demonstrations. A good defence starts with knowing how your attacker works, hence the demos. We're careful not to break the law here, people don't have to worry about the legality of the event.

What is the biggest mistake that activists make?

Tough one. Not having much experience in activism myself they could show me a million things I don't know! However I would say, not being aware of the risks posed by technical monitoring by third parties. Eavesdropping if you like. We'll be exploring this on the night. It's essential that people understand how and why 3rd party's snoop on things, otherwise you have no hope of protecting yourself and your right to privacy. It also frightens me that there is such an apathy towards it, a kind of "it won't happen to us, we're just a small group not doing anything" attitude. It's nothing new. Individuals often say that their not bothered if, say, their home computer was broken into; perhaps because they think there is no sensitive information there. This is a very naive attitude, there are many reasons why they should be bothered. How would they feel about a knock on the door at 4am because unknown to them their home computer has been taken over by a pirate who is using it to distribute child pornography? Oh right. Sudden change in attitude.

How do activists react when they find out you are a hactivist?

Varies. Some are put off at first as they link hacking with criminal activity, I can't blame them it's a false stereotype the media have churned out for years now. Once your over that people get curious and really very interested, there's always that 'question they've wanted to ask a hacker'.

Were you a hactivist before you were an activist? How did you become interested in hactivism?

I was, yes. I became interested in it after I read about China's national firewall policy.

Why is computer technology so important to you?

In itself it's not. It's important to realise that it's no more than a tool. It's what you do with that tool. You can apply the philosophy of hacking to many different situations. You hack to learn rather than learn to hack. Computer technology is a tool for learning, it's the learning that's important for me.

What potential does communications technology have from an activist point of view?

Huge. And it's going to get bigger and bigger. There's no avoiding it. One of the key elements of activism is communication. But there's the old adage - it's not what you've got, it's how you use it.

email gigs@faze.demon.co.uk for advice.
http://myspacetv.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.individual&videoid=27810532
http://faze.demon.co.uk:90

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