Hacking Rhetoric

Sandbox Hack: Artist’s Statement

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The person that I was selected to hack was Min Chul.  The process of hacking him began simply enough, as I easily obtained both his WordPress username and password hint.  The clue that he gave was self-explanatory, as it merely asked for the mascot that represented his high school.  After conducting a quick Google search I found out the animal and was elated by how effortless the password was to obtain.  However, when it came time to login using his identity, I kept getting denied, receiving an error message, “You have exceeded the login limit.  Please wait a few minutes and try again.”  Did I do something wrong?  Maybe I just missed something.  I knew that I was bound to get it right if I kept trying.  With this mindset, I continued to type in variations of the password, which revolved around his high school mascot.  I added random sequences of numbers, in many different combinations, but was met to no avail.  This frustrated me, as something so simple was turned into something very complicated.  I thought to myself, “This is what hackers must feel like when they can’t breach into their desired target’s information!”  Eventually, I had to ask Beck to intervene and get my hackee to post another hint.  After he did so I quickly figured out his password and hacked into his account.  Although I got the job done, it did not feel as satisfying as I thought it would be, probably because I required outside assistance.

What I decided to do after I broke into Min Chul’s account was to makeover his personality.  I did this by altering one of his initial blog posts (Min Chul Han – Post 1), making him sound like a totally different person.  Originally, Min Chul’s post was about how he watched a documentary revolving around privacy and how people’s lives were becoming less and less private due to advancing technology.  Before watching this film he was under the impression that he would never get hacked because he did not have anything useful to steal.  After completing the documentary, and seeing how frequently and easily people get hacked, he became more receptive and thought he “could actually be the target [of a hacker] at any time.”

Using Min Chul’s “I could get hacked at any time” mentality as a foundation, I came up with a clever idea.  I transformed Min Chul’s blog post to escalate his apprehensiveness of being hacked.  Instead of not being paranoid pre-documentary, I made it so that he was exceedingly so and that by watching the film, his uneasiness was only magnified.  I distorted his post to make it seem as though he had something substantial to hide from the general pubic.  I even decided to take his character to the extreme in privatizing his identity.  Instead of opting for a smartphone Min Chul would now use payphones.  Also, out with the emails and in with the snail mail.  The most notable of Min Chul’s new adaptations to his lifestyle was wearing a ski mask in public to hide his face from any potential viewers.  I then asked if anyone had any further suggestions to protect Min Chul’s identity and to post them in the comments section if they did.  In addition to these modifications to Min Chul’s work, one could easily spot unusual, bolded and capitalized letters throughout his post.  If one were to read these aberrant characters in order, the message “TRY TO HACK ME NOW” would appear.  This hidden message is a challenge to individuals trying to gain access to Min Chul’s personal information after he went to the extreme to become more private.

In performing this hack, I was aiming to attract a larger amount of outside individuals to read and comment on Min Chul’s blog post.  Min Chul’s delusional rant makes him seem like an interesting, unordinary person and draws in more potential readers.  I even developed his character to go as far as to challenge his readers to hack him.  This was used as a mechanism to spark interest with individuals familiar with the hacking trade.  Would it be possible for them to hack Min Chul now that he has no smartphone, email, or identifiable face?  By portraying Min Chul as a cautious individual, I was trying to convey a message of privacy.  Min Chul being so apprehensive of Internet privacy demonstrates something important.  It shows that individuals should be concerned about their private information possibly being taken from them each and every time they utilize the Internet (whether through their computers or smartphones).  It also encourages them to adopt safer practices when using technology.  Min Chul’s over-the-top nature was created to show his readers that, yes they should be aware of how unsafe the Internet and technology is, but no they should not go to the extreme, as Min Chul did, to protect themselves.  They need to find the perfect balance of the two in order to safely enjoy the Internet and technology.

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