Hackers on Holiday

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NEW YORK: Better back up your hard drive. Two hacker conferences are convening in New York and Amersterdam this weekend. The gatherings are expected to draw 2,000 fast-fingered geeks and wanna-bes who will keep tabs on each other across the Atlantic via the Net. It's all in good fun, say conference organizers, creating an environment for the all-night keyboard jockeys to exchange tips. Nothing naughty, of course. Yeah, right.

Organizers of the New York conference, a group called Beyond Hope (Hackers on Planet Earth) complain the public has a warped view of hackers. They stress most conference participants worm their way into computer systems to learn how they work so they can make them better, more secure. Beyond HOPE complains that a small number of renegades have ruined the image of the rest of them by doing things like taking down phone systems and swiping credit card numbers. Who could imagine these petty offenses would give the whole group such a bad rep?