Computer hackers gather in Pittsburgh

Monday, 9 June 2003, 11:10 AM EST

The way Louis Trumpbour sees it, most computer hackers aren't criminals, they're more like cowboys -- frontiersmen most at home on the range known as cyberspace.

The 29-year-old tavern owner from Berlin, Germany, is leading SummerCon, a gathering of roughly 200 hackers in Pittsburgh that began Friday and runs through Sunday.

The event has been held every year but one since 1985. This year organizers hope to convince the public -- and federal regulators -- that there are "black hats" and "white hats" in Hackerville.

"Black hats are the people that do the bad stuff," said Mark Trumpbour, Louis' brother, who helped organize the convention. "White hats either use their knowledge to thwart the black hats or use it for good."

"There's a problem with saying you're a hacker, in that it has a negative connotation," Louis Trumpbour said.

Hackers are not always people who use computers to commit crimes or mischief, said FBI Agent Tom Grasso, a computer expert in the Pittsburgh FBI office and the National Cyber Forensics and Training Alliance, an anti-cybercrime group that includes law enforcement agencies, academics and computer industry officials.

Some break computer codes to find "shortcuts" to use a program more efficiently, for example.

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