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  • I really don't understand how any hacker can be cyber-bullied. Even mediocre hackers can track down an incoming message and manipulate social network information, to the point of bringing down the site so nobody else can use it. Better hackers would have the firemen, police, ambulance, and maybe even clowns visiting the bully's house at all hours of the night. Determined hackers would also 0wn the cams and microphones on the computers around the bully's house. So yeah, it's like diving under the swamp to push around a croc. It makes no sense. Physical bullying though, well, that's a bit tougher for hackers....

    On the physical level, hackers are more about stealth. Generally, they can hide, pick locks, and make something explode or burn that probably shouldn't. Not exactly great skills to get through ninth grade. Plus hackers are unusually cautious about the law since hacking is the new witchcraft. (You know if you crack someone's password and wipe-out their servers you would get significantly more jail time then if you stole someone's keys by knife point, go into their office after hours and trash the servers and the rest of the place with a baseball bat. So, yeah, "caution" is an understatement.)

    One aspect of hacking is social engineering. It's about manipulation and deception in social contexts. It's another area of hacking to master and just because someone can hack mobile phones doesn't mean they can hack everything else, like web servers, microprocessors, RFID, wireless networks, or people. But usually they are a few steps ahead of the pack when it comes to trying. They know that something can be manipulated in multiple ways and on multiple scales to get a change in behavior. So why can't we teach kids to think like hackers and best the bullies they encounter?

    You can tell me that bullying is a social issue. And I'll tell you it's worthless. Our streets are full of other social problems we haven't been able to solve so just labeling something a social issue doesn't make it go away any better than labeling the rain as rain.

    You can tell me the same worthless advice I find from "professionals" on getting detailed information about the incident and telling an authority figure or a parent. And I can promise you that even boxers take less risk of getting punched then victims who tell the teacher or their moms about bullies.

    As you can see, I've been throwing myself into this a bit lately as I do have an odd-placed alacrity to see this to fruition. I am a security researcher and one of my latest tasks is to solve bullying. So me and my team of ragtag researchers are doing meta research across multiple disciplines and we want to fix this problem because the advice that's out there just sucks. So as I dig into it, it appears that social constructs are the root of the problem. We know because all the research about who gets bullied and when pretty much shows that's it's people in unfamiliar social constructs because they're small, big, asthmatic, not asthmatic enough, skinny, fat, too self conscious of their looks or not self conscious enough about them. See?

    Sociability is incredibly hard to master and time and experience don't necessarily make you better at it. Only if you make many mistakes AND learn from those mistakes can you actually get to a level where you're ready to be a politician. Realistically, even most adults suck at performing the right social constructs all the time. The best we can do as we age is get better at certain, familiar environments and around certain types of people. That's it. So we tend to seek out peers who match the social construct we think we are most familiar with because we know what to do with it. It makes us at least feel safer. Still, it's not exactly the answer to safety. In typical, Hollywood imagery, a bunch of some weeny hacker's weeny friends may not be able to offer much protection.

    Social constructs have many interactions at many levels and types, personalities, influences, and constant changes. Not only can we not deal with the same person or same type of situation exactly the same way twice, we can't even handle the same person in the same situation the same way twice. So now what?

    As we work through this though, I thought maybe we might not have to address this on layer 8 (for non hacker people, Layer 8 is basically social interactivity). Because we are all the same, as humans, made up of mostly the same DNA with ticks and responses in our little reptile brain parts that make us all behave mostly the same way. So let's work with that. Let's build a plan for victims where we address the instinctual parts of the people who bully and what to do about it. Let's define what makes these people react and how to abuse that. Manipulate it.

    There's a reason why people fall for fraud, guilt, and other manipulation and marketing tricks. Because they work. They reach into that little, ancient part of the brain that looks like a flexing dolphin, the hippocampus, and jerk your life's rules and experiences that drive you to right and wrong or do and don't and take you where they want to. We need to figure out how to hack bullies, or more precisely, their minds. And once we do, well, there's no patching to save them. Don't feel sorry for them. It's not much different then what some bullies do with emotional terrorizing or mobbing. It's just more subtle, more exact, the scalpel instead of the sword.

    And that's where we are now. We are making new advice for the victims of bullies on how to safely diffuse a situation and end any particular reign of terror. Sure, we could put all kids through sensitivity and discrimination training. We could teach all kids empathy. But nobody will and we surely can't do it in a mass training exercise that will get through them all. And I'm fairly certain if we write a guide on how to stop being a bully we might get a few readers over 40 who have some regrets from their old school days. But we won't be enlightening the bullies of today. So we need to help the victims who are out there looking for help on their own. And we have to do it in a way that bullies aren't going to read it to be better bullies.

    I know society likes to see a victim stand up for him or herself and give the bully a little retribution. But that's not realistic. There's many reasons why people bully and while it's never right, it's certainly something that deserves consideration. Furthermore, there's a lot of things that people call bullying that is just a little competition trash talk by a young person still learning to navigate social contexts themselves with someone being a bit overly sensitive. Then there's the problem of even teachers bullying students through class ridicule or harsh abuse of authority.

    Still, I think we're getting somewhere. I think we have enough manipulation tricks a victim could learn to diffuse a situation and even turn it around into a permanent solution. The ideal situation would assure the bully wouldn't blame the victim for the reversal of the situation and possibly even blames themselves. But unfortunately for all the victims out there, we're still far away from publishing anything. And for that, I'm sorry. But do know that someone out here is actually working on this problem in a scientific way. And it won't be witchcraft; just a little hacking.
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