Hackers become more and more successful in stealing personal data. The best tool we have to fight off such attacks: Encryption. Get your own encrypted mailbox now! 💪 #Tutanota


@Tutanota no, cybercriminals are.

I'm a , and I resent this kind of equivocation.

Getting such a basic distinction wrong is either unintentional, and thus speaks to a complete lack of understanding of the space; or is in fact intentional, and thus speaks to callous exploitation of the term for clicks, at the cost of branding computer tinkerers as cybercriminals.

I do infosec for a bunch of at-risk folk, moved dozens of people to encrypted mail, and I will never again recommend your service.

· · Web · 2 · 7 · 14

@Tutanota the irony being, of course, that your tech solutions are built by hackers.

Why would you brand your own employees and contributors as someone who steals personal data? :thaenkin:

By your own vernacular, are not people who are capable of being cybercriminals necessarily hackers?

@mike no. Not necessarily.

There are cybercriminals that are not hackers. Making a phishing website hardly requires a "hacker".

And there are plenty more hackers that are not cybercriminals.

Using these terms interchangeably is branding innocent creative techies as criminals. It's unacceptable, especially from anyone who claims to be competent in anything infosec-related.

@mike is soldering hacking?

It's not what tool you use, it's how you use it. Creatively, outside of the box, doing something interesting.

It's similar with research and engineering. The first few times something new is done it's research. When it becomes easily reproducible -- it becomes engineering.

@rysiek If one soldered an intelligent agent that tries to detect and thwart your efforts, then yes, soldering would always be hacking.

@mike your example is exactly what I meant by "it's how you use it".

@rysiek I remain unconvinced by the how-you-use it argument that cybercriminals aren’t hackers due to the difficulty and vigilance (such as it may be) against cybercrimes. Why not just drop the whole “cyber-“ business and call them criminal hackers.

@mike I remain unconvinced that anyone who can use computers to scam people is a hacker. 🤷‍♀️

I also think that using a more specific term ("cybercriminals", "government-supported spies", etc) is more informative and more useful that using a more general term.

@rysiek What, hackers are all nice, well adjusted people who never use their skills for things we would disapprove of?

@mike no. But hardly any of them are criminals.

It's like saying "lockpickers robbed another bank" because *a* lockpicker was involved.

I presume you're human
picture someone's twisting this word into a derogatory meaning, and misleading people into believing that these negative connotations apply to you.
it doesn't really matter if some humans deserve that negative connotation; that's not what "human" has ever meant, and you, as human, are not required to silently accept the attempted disparagement campaign that demeans you

@rysiek ha ha I’m getting way more into this discussion than I mean to, sorry. I don’t actually care and I think you might which makes me a dick.

That was an interesting read, I think about it in mostly the same way as you.
I recall when a "hack" in British English simply meant a hobby, so hacker was just hobbyist.



I like your use of tinker, because in one of my favourite scifi novels, Ken Macleod's The Sky Road, there is a cultural minority called the "tinkers", and they are hackers (in your definition).
It's not quite the same as "tinkerer", and the current connotation of "tinker" is derogatory, but the original term "tinker" derives from the Gaelic word "tinceard" which means tinsmith, a very hacky profession.


I've always wondered about the etymology of "tinker", as it isn't a word much used outside of Scotland. I assumed it had gone out of favour elsewhere, but, persisted in Scotland.

I notice "tinceard" is also given as the Gaelic origin on Wikipedia


However, it isn't a word that is familiar to me.

"Ceàrd" is a Gaelic word, meaning smith, but, unlikely to be used in combination with "tin", which is Germanic in origin:


@rysiek @mike

@fitheach @wim_v12e @rysiek @mike Tinker is also a derogatory term (tho sometimes reclaimed) for the Irish Traveller community

@meena @fitheach @wim_v12e @rysiek @mike Aye it's very commonly used over here either to refer to travellers or, very rarely, by someone literally talking about an actual tinsmith. Usually in the deep-past-tense, or about some experience abroad, where tinsmithing is still a thing.

@seachaint @meena @wim_v12e @rysiek @mike
"Travelling people" has been the standard, and most commonly used, term for this group of people for some time, in Scotland.

It isn't clear to me why "tinker" is considered a derogatory term.

@fitheach @meena @wim_v12e @rysiek @mike Weird, isn't it. As if any other profession traditionally associated with Travellers could have been used as a moniker, like calling them "Horse Breeders", "Drystone Wall Masons", etc..

I don't know that "Tinker" used to be used in a derogatory way at first, but it's generations since it began being used that way.

Over here it's normal and OK to refer to Travellers as Travellers, and to the collective group as the "Travelling Community". But they remain the most marginalised and oppressed group in Ireland.

The Travellers are one of the most marginalised groups in Scotland, too.

Tin smithing hasn't been a major economic activity for hundreds of years. However, it was a trade often conducted by Travellers. The association stuck. In more recent times, many Travellers continued to trade in metals.

This article suggests that "Tink" is a slur, but, Tinker isn't mentioned as offensive:


@meena @wim_v12e @rysiek @mike

Show newer

@fitheach @meena @wim_v12e @rysiek @mike Another intereresting traveller/hacker parallel: they are also derogatorily known as "knackers", but that originally just meant (afaik) that they were "knacky", that they "had the knack for how to do things" - very similar to "tinker".

Of course, a "knacker's yard" is an informal butchery for old horses, too, so not entirely connotations of creativity or construction.

It is also where the word "knackered", meaning exceedingly tired, comes from.

@meena @wim_v12e @rysiek @mike

@seachaint @fitheach @meena @wim_v12e @rysiek @mike
The evidence from traditional song is that "Tinker" was once not only not offensive, but used often by Irish Travellers when singing about themselves in English. But as you said, it's been generations.

It's a common thing in languages for terms to change connotation, isn't it? The dictionary is full of "formerly honorific, now derogatory" terms.
It brings us full circle to @rysiek 's original point about the use of "hacker"

@seachaint @fitheach @meena @rysiek @mike

Show newer
Show newer

@fitheach @wim_v12e @rysiek @mike
My family or area use it quite a lot. But then my maternal grandfather was a McDonald ...

@fitheach I should not have trusted Wikipedia on this. I found a paper which has the following:

"The illustrative material available is rather meagre, but such as it is it seems to show that we are justified in explaining an Old English 'tinecian' or an early ME 'tinekien' 'to cover or plate with tin' etc. either from Old English tin 'tin' or from a hypothetical Old English 'tintan' or Middle English 'tinen' 'to cover with tin' or the like. "

@rysiek @mike


Eilert Ekwall (1936) "The etymology of the word tinker", 18:1-6, 63-67, DOI:

@rysiek @mike

It's not all that common, but other than fairy tales, the word is normally used as a verb - to tinker with something.
@wim_v12e @rysiek @mike

Tinker is the name of a profession in Louis Rhead's Robin Hood; it's less fairy tales than slightly archaic English.

@fitheach @wim_v12e @rysiek

Also, 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy' :-)
Still a verb in my world though.
@rysiek @fitheach @wim_v12e

I wonder which came first, the noun or the verb. My money is on the noun.

@wim_v12e @rysiek @mike

According to that paper I found, the noun was recorded earlier than the verb.

@gemlog @rysiek @mike

@rysiek I also have some left over angst and anger from the moral panic against hackers in the 80s and 90s but I feel like the world has moved on and I don’t need to hold on to those feelings anymore.

@rysiek @mike Your comment is 100% correct... and reading the original tweet twice, there is another wrong statement there. As blog.p2pfoundation.net/hackers disarm the idea that Encryption can solve the real issue, it is a great tool, but as the problem is social the solution also is.

@Tutanota They sell the idea of a magic solution, but that makes them part of the problem, they are actually teaching that they can buy privacy.

@eloyesp @rysiek @mike @Tutanota Well, that might be a bit unfair to the Tutanota folks, because they're also active in addressing the social and legislative questions of privacy and encryption in the EU. But just as it's hard to fight the technical barriers without the social change.. it's hard to fight the social barrier without technology, too.

I do find it pretty annoying to see the word "Hacker" being used instead of "criminal" though, and it works against both problems. When a guy stands up at a political meeting and says we should have backdoor-free privacy, but his website says he's a "Hacker".. people are already too confused by what this means. We should be careful about language.

@rysiek I agree with your larger point of course.

Sign in to participate in the conversation
Mastodon for Tech Folks

This Mastodon instance is for people interested in technology. Discussions aren't limited to technology, because tech folks shouldn't be limited to technology either!