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For some hackers that lack of skill is equated with age.

"All of a sudden, the big push is on to distance yourself from the bad guys -- those kids, and they always say 'kids' -- who did the DoS attacks," said Schmoe, a 21-year-old hacker from the Northeast. "All of a sudden, it's good hackers talking about bad hackers and old hackers pointing fingers at young hackers."

Schmoe said the prejudice against younger hackers is becoming more apparent.

"It's like anyone who didn't get online pre-Web is lame," he said. "Like all we are capable of doing is just downloading stuff and walking in other people's footsteps."

Schmoe said "old hackers" could be people in their early 30s. He likens the pace to dog years, but instead of multiplying each year by seven, hackers should multiply each year by 10.

But the real dividing line, insists Schmoe, is whether you went online before or after Mosaic, the first Web browser.

A 47-year-old systems investigator from California, who calls himself Gramps, defined the new generation of hackers as anyone who went online after 1991.

Gramps is among those claiming that many members of the new generation of hackers lack skills and imagination.

When Gramps first got onto the Net at UCLA back in the mid-'70s, he had to cobble together or create applications to get connected. In those days, before the graphical user interface and Internet-in-a-box, just getting online required some level of computer skill, which Gramps said helped to keep the "chump factor" down.

Gramps takes particular umbrage at the fact that DoS attacks were seemingly pointless.

"No one made a political statement. That whole evil e-commerce motivation was extrapolated by the media. So what was the purpose here?" Gramps said.

He also said nothing was learned from the attacks that benefited the hacker community or the Internet world at large.

"We all knew this could be done, so what was gained? The kids who did this are nothing more than mosquitoes -- annoying little ankle biters."

Gramps is also grappling with how the media can report the story using "Beware the Hackers" headline and then admit in the next sentence that there are few clues to the identity of the people who are driving the attacks.

"How you can define criminal actions that require no hacking skill whatsoever as a hack attack is beyond me," he said.

Schmoe said he believes hacking is hard to define and that any activity that takes skill and intelligence and doesn't have a predetermined outcome can be classified as a hack.

Cracking is typically defined as hacking but with a malicious intent.

"Hacking doesn't always require a computer -- it's a way of life," said Schmoe. "If you've made something change, or if you've drilled down far enough to have a true understanding of it, you've hacked it."

Schmoe said that as a general rule people doing research are hackers and people destroying things are criminals, not hackers.

While Schmoe and Gramps readily acknowledged the generational divide, both also expressed a sense of discomfort with the situation as well as the possible ramifications for hackers at large.

Gramps, a former member of a motorcycle club frequently that was infiltrated by federal agents, said he fears a similar divide-and-conquer tactic at work here.

"They'd have us so pissed off at each other that we'd be too weary or stupid to pay attention to our own business," said Gramps. "And the next thing we'd know they'd be kicking down the front door of the clubhouse and we'd all be up on trial for some bullshit."

Schmoe agreed that hackers can be diverted through outside agitation. He called for hackers to be self-policing, since no one outside really understands the ethics involved in what they do.

"Guys who have been around longer need to be willing to school those of us who are just coming up," said Schmoe. "If we give the 10-year-old kids a sense of class and pride, they won't turn into tomorrow's DoS dweebs."

He suggested a Big Brother program for hackers.

Gramps isn't too interested in getting involved in some "Boys Town for nerds" but pointed out that as the world gets more wired, computer savvy people can do a lot of good or a lot of evil.

"I'm afraid that young kids will see the Net as a place to go wild and not understand the consequences of their actions," he said. "When I was growing up kids used to snap radio aerials off of cars or make prank calls, but now they're bringing down networks. The potential for kid-created havoc on the Internet is huge."

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