Vatican kudos for hackers, no dispensation for computer crackers

While a confused public often regards hackers as being responsible for malicious computer break-ins and criminal intent, a Vatican-backed publication has offered a more nuanced distinction in which it draws parallels between hacker philosophy and Christianity's teachings.

Writing about hackers in the publication Civilta Cattolica, which gets a once-over from Vatican authorities prior to publication, the Jesuit priest Father Antonio Spadaro describes hacker identity approvingly, separating them out from the illegal activities of the computer cracker crowd.

He argues that Christians and hackers have much to give each other, adding that hacker ethics embrace a rejection of a profit-oriented approach to work. "It's a vision that is ... of a clear theological origin," Spadaro wrote, alluding to their collaborative vision of sharing - a philosophy he said was embodied by the Wikipedia model.

Spadaro emphasized hackers' ingrained distrust of authority and preference for information sharing over horizontal social networks.

"To create the biggest collaborative encyclopedia of Internet it is estimated that it took around 100 million hours of intellectual work, which is the equivalent of the time the citizens of the United States spend watching advertising on TV in a single weekend," according to Spadaro.