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Communications of the Association for Information Systems

Abstract

Underground hacking has evolved from its early countercultural roots to become a complex and varied phenomenon. By combining a historical review of the literature with a content analysis of 30 years of underground hacker communication, we show that hacking has evolved in three waves to embrace learning and creativity, intrusion and crime, as well as politics and cyberwarfare. We uncover a paradoxical relationship between hackers and society at large where underground hacking is considered a digital crime while at the same time inspiring and driving corporate innovation, cybersecurity, and even cyberwarfare. The outcome of our research provides a nuanced picture of the hacker underground by highlighting differences between competing discursive themes across time. Moreover, by translating these themes into a set of six contrasting personas of IS professionals, we discuss how knowledge, technologies, and creative practices of underground hackers are being professionalized. We use this discussion to provide implications and a research agenda for IS studies in cybersecurity, innovation, and cyberwarfare.

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