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Wanna be hackers? Code crackers?
April 29, 2009 7:57 AM   Subscribe

The Happy Hacker offers you the secrets and tools to become an Überhacker and Cyberwarrior, and even how to build a railgun. But who is this Happy Hacker? Though other folks are now involved with the website, Carolyn P. Meinel is the primary face of The Happy Hacker. She is a long-time computer hacker, going back to getting unapproved access to the PLATO system (previously). She started Happy Hacker because "all sorts of guys were begging me, 'teach me how to hack'." Her webpage gained attention, getting mentioned in The Happy Mutant Handbook, and being invited to speak at Defcon. But there are people who doubt her credentials, and others who are a lot more harsh. Regardless of the backlash, and the appearance that the peak of The Happy Hacker has passed, her articles are still being published.
posted by filthy light thief (23 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
Another interesting tidbit about Carolyn: in 1975, she and her husband Keith Hensen were instrumental in the start-up of the L5 Society (wiki page), which later became the National Space Society.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:57 AM on April 29, 2009


Wow, I think I remember that website from when I was thirteen, it was where I found out how to Telnet into mail servers and forge emails- I could never do it convincingly, though.
posted by dunkadunc at 8:01 AM on April 29, 2009


Black text on a professional white background? FAIL!
posted by blue_beetle at 8:05 AM on April 29, 2009


blue_beetle, there is also a distinct lack of animated GIFs.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:07 AM on April 29, 2009


In the description of the "3-day Beginner Hacking Course" she was proposing to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Ms. Meinel roughly portrays one of her services as "...designed to go far enough in these three days to teach serious proficiency at catching email criminals such as mail bombers."


Oh... Oh wow.

That's some hardcore hacking right there. Uh-huh. She must have M4D $K1LLZ, yo.
posted by splice at 8:32 AM on April 29, 2009


Wanna be?
posted by poppo at 8:46 AM on April 29, 2009


I can't speak to Ms. Meinel's credentials, but the criticisms sound petty and vindictive.

Wait a minute...she was married to Keith Henson? That Keith Henson? Wow. Cool.
posted by Xoebe at 8:56 AM on April 29, 2009


I seem to remember it was an article of faith on alt.ph.uk that Meinel was lame. However, jokes about M4D $k1LLZ are misplaced. As Ross Anderson put it in his classic Security Engineering (free download), and Bruce Schneier has been saying for years, it's all about the threat model. And outside of very limited environments, you're not worried about highly-skilled, well-funded hackers willing to risk jail time. You're worried about bored college students, Chinese spammers, the government, your email provider, your current and former employees, your partner (romantic or business), and your boss.

Most people don't need to know about the latest developments in security tech, they just need to stop trusting the wrong people (and companies and governments) and treating technology like magic. In other words, a large percentage of organisations would be improved by getting the first clue about information security. And lots of people, especially young people for whom computers have always been products rather than machines, could do with knowing the bare minimum before they take any form of transport with my data.

She's getting paid for telling people who know nothing, something. Well done her.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 9:45 AM on April 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


Last I heard of Carolyn she was attending a MITRE-sponsored seminar on cyber-terrorism, raving about a secretive cult of hacker-vampires (no, really) who were involved in some sort of plot to help the Antichrist (no, really) do whatever it is that Antichrists are supposed to do. Another attendee called me to get the lowdown on her, I gave them some of the above links to help them evaluate her credibility. That was at least 5 or 6 years ago. Given the Bush administration's record I'm surprised she didn't end up Director of Homeland Security.
posted by scalefree at 10:02 AM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


The issue was that she didn't have much in the way of hard credentials to back up her comments, or that her claimed credentials didn't have any real-world grounding, but she was still invited to the hacker convention DEFCON at least twice. Maybe her knowledge wasn't l33t enough, or maybe she did too much bragging about sharing info the "bad guys don't want you to know."

One amusing thing to note: Se7en is noted as a fraud here, while Carolyn's panel notes aren't clarified or marked up with after-the-fact notes. Maybe her grand-standing wasn't as bad as all the hype around it.

And a note of clarification: L5 Society merged with National Space Institute to form National Space Society. L5 didn't simply become NSS.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:11 AM on April 29, 2009


scalefree, if you can find a link for all that, it sounds hilarious.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:17 AM on April 29, 2009


Here's her current web site.
posted by mrbill at 10:25 AM on April 29, 2009


I saw her speak at Defcon 5 in a low-ceilinged conference room. There were a few folks yelling at her as she spoke. She responded amicably but eventually it just turned into a laundry list of the ways she was persecuted. I had to read the blurb on the link to remember the name of her talk since it didn't contain any content to that effect.

At the time I thought "unfairly persecuted but still total poser." I don't think any of these links is changing my impression much.

On the upside I think she bailed out early, thus requiring someone to re-tell a then-staple filler (but new to my young ears), fuck you clown (via).
posted by abulafa at 10:33 AM on April 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Wanna be hackers? Code crackers? Slackers?

It's all about the Pentiums, babeeee!
posted by straight at 10:41 AM on April 29, 2009


That attrition.org link is quite interesting. It sounds fairly par-for-the-course for folks who are in danger of being exposed. Maybe I've been pre-prepped, but some of her articles and the interviews with her make blips come up on my con-guy radar.
posted by adipocere at 10:55 AM on April 29, 2009


I could be wrong, but reading some of her writing reminds me of the cringe-inducing letters to the editor in the back of 2600. A lot of what passes for 'hacker advice' is bizarre cargo-cult crap. I'm not a cracker/hacker, and my computer expertise is very topic/platform specific, but whenever I've heard people exchanging 'hacking tips' for the stuff I do know inside out, it's been like listening to virgins talking about sex.
posted by verb at 10:58 AM on April 29, 2009 [5 favorites]


Yeah, verb, but that pretty much goes for everything. Ever get togather with a pilot and go to a movie that featured a lot of flying? It isn't fun. Or go see Firewall with computer security expert. Ok, that movie sucked anyway, but the security stuff was awful. At least Swordfish had boobies, a good BJ and some great action to make you forget the awfulness.....
posted by Bovine Love at 12:04 PM on April 29, 2009


One amusing thing to note: Se7en is noted as a fraud here, while Carolyn's panel notes aren't clarified or marked up with after-the-fact notes. Maybe her grand-standing wasn't as bad as all the hype around it.

Se7en was a fraud, claimed to do all sorts of things he didn't do & got a lot of publicity for it. There was a need to set the record straight on his talk. Carolyn was more like a circus geek, brought along for people to laugh at & put funny stickers on her back. What did you want
Jeff to do, add a note saying "Carolyn never finished her talk because people were mean to her & made her cry"?
posted by scalefree at 12:25 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Defcon never fails to bring out the assholes.
posted by Bovine Love at 12:32 PM on April 29, 2009


1337 hax.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 12:45 PM on April 29, 2009


scalefree - wow, I didn't realize she was invited as a joke (or at least, viewed as a joke by so many people). Thanks for the additional info.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:56 PM on April 29, 2009


I remember stumbling across her website a number of years ago, drawn mainly by to the amount of spite it seemed to inspire. At the time, her haxx0r lessons included instructions on how to change your desktop pic. There may have been more to the site, there may be more now, but I don't think I'll ever take her seriously. First impressions and all that.
posted by lekvar at 1:17 PM on April 29, 2009


Most people don't need to know about the latest developments in security tech, they just need to stop trusting the wrong people (and companies and governments) and treating technology like magic.

Most people don't need to know about the latest developments in preventive sorcery, they just need to stop trusting the words of demons (and satanists and evil rulers) and treating magic like technology.
posted by JHarris at 1:29 PM on April 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


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