Information Systems Frontiers

, Volume 17, Issue 6, pp 1239–1251 | Cite as

The classification of hackers by knowledge exchange behaviors

  • Xiong ZhangEmail author
  • Alex Tsang
  • Wei T. YueEmail author
  • Michael Chau


This paper examines messages posted in a hacker forum and constructs four user profiles based on the observed behavior patterns. It starts with the development of an automated forum post classification system to understand the knowledge transfer pattern exhibited by each user over time. Two patterns, knowledge acquisition and knowledge provision, are noted to be particularly informative. Based on these two and other user characteristics, user profiles are classified into four types: guru hackers, casual hackers, learning hackers, and novice hackers. Guru hackers are knowledgeable and respectable. They usually share ideas and advice with others. Casual hackers tend to act as observers. They can be skilled hackers who show interest mainly in deriving usable information from the forum. Learning hackers are also expert hackers who utilize the forum basically for learning. They actively seek knowledge and tend to share more of it over time. Novice hackers are new learners who typically join the forum for a short period. Overall, it is found that hacker communities very much represent learning communities where meritocracy is in place.


Hacker Hacker profile Knowledge transfer Online learning Hacker ecosystem 



The work described in this paper was partial supported by a grant from the Research Grants Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China (Project No. CityU 152611)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Information SystemsCity University of Hong KongKowloon TongHong Kong
  2. 2.School of Business, Faculty of Business and EconomicsThe University of Hong KongKowloon TongHong Kong

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