In a digital world, cybersecurity is necessary for protection from cybercriminals. The word hacker often conjures a negative image, one correctly associated with cybercriminals, however this isn’t always the case. Oxblood Ruffin is a famous hacker with a rock star name, who is a member of a hacker supergroup called Cult of the Dead Cow. His work, however is geared towards protection of the rights of others. Oxblood represents the moral side of Cult of the Dead Cow and the hacking community.
Cult of the Dead Cow:
Cult of the Dead Cow (cDc) claims to be one of the first hacking group in the world. Indeed cDc has been around since 1984. They were formed in Texas by Grand Master Rattle (1). The cDc website is both comical and serious, reading like a comic book Shakespearean tragedy. Articles and blog, sometimes addressing serious issues such as Oxblood’s article on Tibetan Genocide, and sometimes horrifically whimsical in areas like the members biographies. The cDc are geniuses at pop culture attention grabbing with bizarre claims such as having given president Ronald Regan Alzheimer’s disease with a blow gun (1). Cult of the Dead Cow also claims to have invented the first electronic publication or ezine, which bears their namesake and is still in publication.
Hactivism is a term coined as a minor quip by cDc member Omega (2), but Oxblood would be the cDc member become most associated with it. While Oxblood didn’t technically coin the term, he helped properly define it. Oxblood was inspired by United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights Article 19, which reads “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers” (2). He knew he had found something he could sink his teeth into. He went on to personally define hactivism as ‘using technology to improve human right across electronic media’ (2).
Oxblood quickly formed subgroup of Cult of the Dead Cow called Hacktivismo. This group had a specific purpose. It wanted to create products to help protect the rights of free access to information for people around the world (3). While their first attempt, was ultimately hijacked by a disgruntled employee, they eventually released for Camera/Shy (2). This software would allow people to work around firewalls in nations such as China where they are set up to restrict access of their citizens to outside information. Camera/Shy would allow them to hide information in plain site without detection so they can share it with their friends and family outside of a national firewall.
The group has grown to include well-known hackers around the world including The Mixter from Germany (2). The Mixter worked with Oxblood to create their own licensing agreement for their software. The most common form of licensing at the time, General Public License (GPL) was well respected right, however it was not comprehensive enough to be effective in the areas of the world where democracy does not prevail. Their licensing agreement was called Hacktivismo Enhanced Security Software Agreement (HESSLA). HESSLA allowed Hacktivismo to pursue legal action against any entity that used it maliciously or against oppressive governments who employ it. This was an unheard of step at the time.
Oxblood Ruffin is highly respected throughout the cyber community. He has become a well-known speaker, human rights advocate, blogger, writer, and even has served as a consultant for the United Nations (2). Most of all he is known as a Hacker with the Cult of the Dead Cow. His efforts to define and uphold the principles of Hactivism have left a lasting impact on access to information worldwide. The majority of hackers in the universe do not bring a good name to the cyber world, however Oxblood Ruffin does.
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2. Hactivism From Here to There-By Oxblood Ruffin https://www.arifyildirim.com/ilt510/oxblood.ruffin.pdf