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Abstract

Illicit computer intruders, or hackers, are often thought of as pathological individuals rather than as members of a community. However, hackers exist within social groups that provide expertise, support, training, journals and conferences. This article outlines this community to establish the nature of hacking within ‘information societies’. To delineate a ‘sociology of hackers’, an introduction is provided to the nature of computer–mediated communication and the act of computer intrusion, the hack. Following this the hacking community is explored in three sections. First, a profile of the number of hackers and hacks is provided by exploring available demographics. Second, an outline of its culture is provided through a discussion of six different aspects of the hacking community. The six aspects are technology, secrecy, anonymity, membership fluidity, male dominance and motivations. Third, an exploration of the community's construction of a boundary, albeit fluid, between itself and its other, the computer security industry, is provided. This boundary is constructed through metaphors whose central role is to establish the ethical nature of hacking. Finally, a conclusion that rejects any pathologisation of hackers is offered.