One of the best-established hacking magazines says people are seeking to disassociate themselves from the publication for fear of reprisals from President-elect Donald Trump’s administration.
“Subscribers started asking us to delete their names from any lists,” said Emmanuel Goldstein, co-founder of 2600.
For most of the cybersecurity community, the term “hacker” does not always mean “criminal.” Rather, it means any person, criminal or otherwise, interested in a hands-on understanding of computer security — including those who use that information to help protect networks from attackers and hobbyists merely interested in technology. Many of the people now afraid to be associated with 2600 are not criminal hackers.
Trump’s presidential campaign, in which he called for “law and order,” has left many in the information security community concerned about how the new administration will wield power.
“Our Kindle sales are down for the first time ever. We lost writers in bulk, which was particularly disturbing,” said Goldstein. “People told us they were throwing away clothing that had any connection to security.”
Among the most afraid, said Goldstein, were readers from military and government offices.
Goldstein — who took his pen name from the book “1984” — has overseen the magazine for more than three decades.
On Twitter, some members of the information security community scrubbed their accounts of possibly inflammatory posts.
“The person about to be in control takes a dim view of people who question him. And a big part of the hacker spirit is questioning things,” Goldstein said.
Alison Macrina, director of the Library Freedom Project, said she had seen similar patterns play out with other lists tying many different groups to reading material the administration might see as subversive.
“People are taking seriously Trump’s campaign promises about Muslim registries, increased law enforcement, and the targeting of immigrants, and this means that ordinary folks and activists alike are afraid of their personal information being weaponized to attack them even more than is happening now,” she said via electronic chat.
The flood of people abandoning subscriptions and asking for names to be removed from lists prompted Goldstein to post a letter to readers last week on 2600’s website, urging readers to stay strong in the face of the new administration.
The letter was so popular the response crashed 2600’s server.
“As long as we stand united and are willing to fight back against anything that would threaten us as individuals or as a community, we have what it takes to prevent such threats from taking hold,” he wrote. “If we yield, it’s handing out a blank check.”
The most important message he hopes readers will take from the letter, Goldstein said, is not to be afraid of their identities.
“You are not changing,” he said. “It is the people who are in charge who are changing.”