The development of Chinese hackers is divided into three stages: the Age of Enlightenment, the Golden Age, and the Dark Age. Today, a black, or underground, industrial chain has been formed in China.
The Age of Enlightenment was probably during the 1990s, when the Internet in China was in its infancy and some youth became enthusiastic about the emerging technologies created by foreign hackers and began to study security vulnerabilities. In this period, people became hackers and embarked upon this path mostly by personal preference. It was curiosity and a thirst for knowledge that drove them forward. During this period, Chinese hackers, via the Internet, could access information from all over the world and this is how they developed the hacker spirit. They advocated free reign of the Internet and were keen to share their latest research results.
The Golden Age was marked by the Sino–US hacker war. In this historical era, a particular group of hackers attracted the attention of society, and the unique charm of a hacker’s culture and circles also attracted numerous other young people to embark upon this path. The Chinese hackers that existed at this time were young, energetic, and passionate, but they probably were not very mature technically. Signs of vulnerability, in the form of malicious software phenomenon, began to show up in hacker circles, since the good and the bad hacker communities coexisted; profit-driven attack behavior could be seen and a black industry chain was gradually taking shape. A variety of hacker groups have sprung up since the war.
The Dark Ages stage spans from a few years ago to the present, and perhaps will continue. Hacker organizations in this period also followed the law of social development—survival of the fittest; most hackers did not continue in the profession and have been gradually disappearing . The hacking technology forum, which was very popular in the Golden Age, is also gradually declining. Vulnerability disclosure of the portal-type sites no longer publish the technical details.
Accompanied by the development of the security industry, hackers have become utilitarian, and the black chain began to mature. This underground industry causes billions of dollars of losses to the Internet every year. Amateur hackers from the previous period have grown to be the primary hackers of Internet security of this era. If they persevere, some may contribute their skills to security companies, while others with strong technological knowledge may go into underground activities. Hackers of this period no longer have an open, sharing spirit because of lack of trust between each other—the purest hacker spirit has died.
The entire Internet is shrouded in the shadow of black chains—the annual economic losses are in the billions of dollars and tens of millions of Internet users suffer from it, in addition to the death of the hacker spirit—and we have no reason not to call it the Dark Age. The hacker spirit of being open and sharing is indeed gone!