by María L. Trigos-Gilbert

These days it seems that we are very worried about our security. Yet I know that you may be asking yourself, “What security is she talking about? Personal security? Spiritual security? Financial security?” Hmmm, let me be a bit more clear. Since the technology has taken over everything including us, we have experienced some source of security problem with our personal and private information, that type of information that you don’t want anyone to look at it because it is yours and only yours.

We have blamed the so-called hackers for breaking and reveling what we want to be our private and personal information. Yet I have asked myself many times if they are really so mean and so unlawful in order for us to blame them for certain computer educated “guesses.” The more you know about something the better chance you have to “manipulate” people and information.

Yet what do we do with those who use their professions as a way of getting things and people for their own and only benefit? It has become so difficult in this last part of our twentieth century to keep track of the many leaks that our so-called technology system. At times it feels that the technology system is not for us, but against us. Instead of helping us, it gives us away, betraying us in all possible forms, ways, and styles.

Hiding From The System
I remember the time I went to my first computer class. It was a basic course. Certainly I learned one very important thing:

“There are no more jungles to hide ourselves from our civilized system because no matter where they find you!”

I have been thinking about it for a long time. A very fair question may be: Why would anyone want to hide? Before I didn’t find any important reason to hide. Today, like yesterday, I think there are many reasons to hide ourselves from this “wonderful” system. On the other hand, I do think there are many reasons of why not to hide. Those reasons may be we are not the ones to hide, IF we are not the ones attracted to wrong doings.

Telemarketing Hacks!
Are hackers the kind of people doing wrong things? Are they really bad by utilizing OUR information? I don’t know why, but when I think of hackers I think of people like telemarketers. Don’t you hate them? Aren’t they intrusive? Don’t they have personal information about you that you didn’t directly provide them? Let me give you even more reasons to hate them. They interrupt you when you are about to eat, about to take a shower, about to say something important to someone else, etc. You are tired of so many details which you have diligently been taking care of during day because your bill payments depend on your good attitude and good knowledge at your work place . . . wherever it may be. Who wants their bit of peace at home interrupted with a sales pitch?

Hey, wait; it gets worse. Because when you get home, you are still having a lot of things to do with/for your family, and with/for yourself like getting ready for the next day, or the next battle in the real jungle. Yet, somehow they are all over you. You hear them, the TELEHACKERS, over the phone, and you get their undesirable e-mails most of the time in the form of SPAM. Have I given you any reasons to hate the TeleSpammers? I hope so.

I changed my listed phone number to an unlisted phone number. I did so with my second line also because I don’t have the time and energy to repeat myself all day long during a holiday at home. It doesn’t matter how sweet and polite I try to be AT TIMES, explaining something so simple as I am not interested in what you are offering, thanks so much and bye-bye. The funny part of this is that privacy costs a lot of money! How do you like that? It is cheaper for us to get all the unsolicited JUNK than to filter it somehow. A stupid question would be the following: Isn’t it sick and sad? Yes, absolutely, of course, surely, definitely. It is very sick and sad that we have to pay a telephone company every month for them to keep the information, OUR information shut down, knocked off, or however you want it to be said.

Who Are The Hackers?
So yes, I am having a real difficult time finding out who is who and even defining who and what is a hacker. At times I have thought that hackers, you know the simple and flat computer educated people, are the ones helping us. In the end what kind of systems are they breaking? Would it be fair if I say they may be breaking into corrupted and “lawful” groups who have culled and saved our most private, personal, information? I leave this question to your imagination and to your creativity.

It is important for me to clarify that I am not supporting any type of hackers, or any other type of person whose activity is to break into some appealing computer systems. We must remember that a coin has two sides, every story has two endings, and which one we want to believe is a matter of choice and convictions.

What If?
Not too long ago, I read a very interesting article in Computer Life; nowadays called Equip. Oh, I am sorry, but I don’t remember which issue. I just remember that it was published this year, 1998. What I have been pondering from it, is the following: Imagine you buying through the Internet a tie for your husband or a dress for your wife. Suddenly the programmed computer, wherever it may be at, tells you, “Sorry to tell you but your wife is sick and tired of you buying the same type of elderly dress every single birthday. She wants some cash!”

Then you, of course, get irritated. You send another query with the same request. Yet the computer tells you, “Well, well, are we having a language barrier or what? Didn’t I tell you to give her some cash and get it over with?” You are about to take a club and hit the computer with all your strength. Yet you reason it over and over and comprehend that it is not your computer that is being stubborn. It is an imaginary “friend.” This imaginary friend knows more about your wife’s feelings and thoughts than you do. Are you about to get frustrated? Please, don’t despair. Certainly there you are thinking so hard about how to find such imaginary friend just to ask him or her a simple thing like, “Who in the heck requested your opinion?”

Defining An Enemy
I know that many articles have been written about hackers. They seem to be so attractive, so amusing, so fascinating, so simple to flay. People wonder so much about them that due to the many worries they, including us, don’t have time to really think it clearly through. We don’t know who is the real enemy, the system that “guides” us, or the so-called hackers who joyride on the coattails of the existing system’s store of information on us.

It is sad to believe or think the people we have trusted have been betraying us. It is hard to believe we are at times so innocent when we believe salesmen/saleswomen really care and understand our needs. By the way, we are all salesmen/saleswomen in one way or another. So don’t be too quick in throwing anyone into a hole, but let’s see the whole picture. You may have noticed that I capitalized the whole word attacker. Did you notice it? I am expecting so from you and thanks so much. Why did I do such thing? I did it because attacker reminds me of HACKER. The sound and spelling of them, hacker and attacker, are different phonemes, but indeed they have certain phonetic similarity. I will go as far as saying that they share a great degree of equality in their meaning, although its phonetic environment, the environment of the word, is quite defined.

I remember that Jesus Christ had a civil talk with the Pharisees and told them in Matthew 12:30 “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.” I am almost writeless, speechless. Jesus Christ was and still IS a man who has known all this time how to define an enemy and a friend.

Let me take Jesus’ thought and state here that those who are not doing us a favor using our private and personal information, are then doing something wrong to us with our most intimate and sacred computer files, telephone lines, email programs, P.O. Box mails, and another big ETC.

Are Hackers Helpers?
Yet there are some questions like these: Are hackers our enemies? Aren’t they like Zorro? Aren’t they like The Lone Ranger? If they are like any of those romantic characters, where are those who get their benefits? This brings me a wonderful, but painful memory. I was watching TV; I was watching Zorro one evening when my mother just passed by, stopped a bit, and said, “Oh me, what a great deed, helping people all around with zero desire of charging people any money.”

So as I was saying, she stopped almost in front of the TV, and told me those words, referring to the good and brave attitude of Zorro. I loved Zorro as much as I loved The Lone Ranger (no matter how old the film was they still showed it over and over which is a very typical situation in the Latin TV, old movies from the USA or somewhere else). Yet I knew deep in my heart and mind that those times where gone. I didn’t see too many people; I didn’t see anyone helping anyone. I must tell you that I come from a big city, Caracas, Venezuela.

In Caracas you will not find too many people stopping to help other people. It is almost unthinkable. Of course, I am not saying that it is impossible. I am not saying that it is Hell. Yet I do know that you may identify pretty easily with it. You may even live in a little town, and somehow you are still a stranger among other stranger human beings. Hmmm, guess what I told my mother, although I was just eight years old?

I said, “Mom, come on, those times are over. There is not more Zorro or The Lone Ranger. Believe me.” Poor woman, bless her heart, was speechless, almost muted. I would be almost muted if my little niece said that to me today.

Yet I wouldn’t be too surprised, I suppose, because nowadays kids live NET-ing, programming, emailing, paging, and so forth. Important point, my dear reader, is the one that I am about to assert. Most of the hackers are pretty young people. Are we talking about too much free time? Yes, it could be a very possible reason, but not the only one. It could be a family problem when you cannot have a normal and loving relation with the ones you live with. Therefore, they, the hackers, opt to do some “little” research about someone else’s business.

I do not have a practical solution to this huge problem of the leaking of private and personal information. Yet I do want you to keep something in mind, YOUR THOUGHTS! Otherwise, you are going to face some difficulties debating all the WHAT IFs. The second and perhaps not so practical a solution for some people is the this one: Be honest. If you know that it is not correct, polite, lawful, nice, or even sweet, then don’t write it or do it. Besides GOD here on earth, hackers, attackers, and slanderers, know you for what you write and buy. You are your words in this new world. The third solution is to, in spite of trying to do our best at all times, COMBAT this polluted situation with our complaints to the ones that are supposed to be helping to maintain our privacy. Now, believe me, they are the ones to be first in line when getting OUR information is “required.”

The fourth thought is the most important, so pay attention. Don’t be paranoid. Nobody is out there to get you! I usually tell a friend of mine this private (now public) joke:

“I am telling you this, so that the whole town may know about it.”

Please take care of yourself and always remember to relax. It is a hard thing to do at times, but it is not impossible.

I do care for you no matter where you are,

María L. Trigos-Gilbert