In it for 'the lulz'

Stefan Hammond
22 Jun 2011

The English language is a fluid thing interpreted differently by speakers from different lands. Its beauty is its flexibility: bad or broken English can be just as effective a communication tool as fluent English.

The language is flexible enough that slang and loanwords can be incorporated (dictionaries are usually updated annually). But no traditional dictionary can incorporate “Internet/SMS-speak,” where numbers of characters substitute for letters, and words are misspelled on purpose. If u dun no what “l33t speak” is, ask a 15-year old.

One term may make into Oxford and Webster’s though: “lulz.” Its etymology is simple: “LOL” is an acronym for “laughing out loud” many of us have used in digital communication. Change the vowels and plural spelling and you have “the lulz” (laughs). It means doing something purely for amusement: being “in it for the lulz.”

As kids, we all did things for “the lulz” – it might have been something like a practical joke, kidding our friends, and as we grew into teenagers, maybe something more serious like shave our own or someone else’s head (with or without their consent). It might have gotten us into trouble, but no one got hurt.

When net-hacks first started, it was “script-kiddies” in it for fun. But the game changed to organized criminal-gangs like the “Russian Business Network” deploying DDoS attacks to extort money from shady websites (gambling and porn), getting moderate payments and moving on. Now we’ve got a new breed of cybermonster to deal with.

I’m talking about Lulz Security, aka LulzSec, who seem to be a generation of short-attention-span hackers who enjoy making life hell for people. Although it may be painful, crude, and nasty, I encourage everyone involved in computer security to read their “manifesto” at:

No excerpts to justice, but I’ll try: “[This is] what appeals to our internet generation... we want our shot of entertainment or we just go and browse something else, like an unimpressed zombie... we release personal data so that equally evil people can entertain us with what they do with it... this is the internet, where we screw each other over for a jolt of satisfaction.”

For years, people have talked about the “dark alleys” of the internet. With this document, LulzSec turns a spotlight down those alleys so we can see the ugliness. Why? LulzSec writes: “We’ll continue creating things that are exciting and new until we’re brought to justice, which we might well be. But you know, we just don’t give a living f**k at this point - you’ll forget about us in three months’ time when there’s a new scandal to gawk at, or a new shiny thing to click on via your 2D light-filled rectangle.”

Perhaps we’ve reached a new inflection point of nihilism: something the old-school nihilists (Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, Kant) would never understand. A generation of youngsters who grew up with 24-hour TV coverage of terrorist-bombings, now compounded by global economic distress. They watch grisly crime shows and romantic dramas about cute vampires. Yes, these arguments have been made before, but we have never seen anyone TAKE DOWN the Sony PlayStation Network AND hack into secure military sites before. And why do they do it? For “the lulz.”

Regrettably, despite their high-profile, amorphous organizations like LulzSec may be harder to take down than might be expected. As they brag in their manifesto: “People who can make things work better within this [2D light-filled] rectangle have power over others; the whitehats who charge $10,000 for something we could teach you how to do over the course of a weekend, providing you aren’t mentally disabled.”


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