II (10). Hacking

Hacking is a long-standing tradition at MIT and a part of its culture. It can be defined as either the curious exploration of MIT’s campus or the design and implementation of harmless pranks, tricks, and creative inventions that demonstrate ingenuity and cleverness. Exemplary hacks have been executed in such a way that the hackers have been safe, no one has been injured, no damage has been done to personal or Institute property, while maintaining the privacy and personal dignity of individuals. 

Ultimately individuals are responsible for their actions and any intentional or unintentional consequences. While the “Hack Etiquette” is a very useful guide, responsible behavior also includes not acting in a manner that makes a police officer or MIT employee feel unsafe in the conduct of their duties (for example, running or hiding when discovered). Labeling something as a hack does not change unlawful behavior into lawful behavior, nor is it an excuse or justification for violations of MIT policy. Notwithstanding that they may occur in connection with a hack, violations of MIT policies may still result in disciplinary action.

Per Mind and Hand Book Section II (26). Unauthorized Access: “MIT prohibits students from being present in any Institute area or property or in any area of Institute-approved housing that is posted to prohibit unauthorized access, that is locked to prohibit unauthorized access, or that a reasonable individual knows or should know is considered a private and/or unauthorized area.

Examples of unauthorized access include, but are not limited to, access to unapproved rooftops, the domes of Building 10 and 7, steam tunnels, closed construction sites, and HVAC ducts. Scaling or climbing the exterior of buildings is also not permitted. Further examples include, but are not limited to, locked offices, labs, or residence hall rooms that you do not have permission to enter.”

Further notable related polices to consider include:

  • II (3). Reckless Endangerment
  • II (15). Improper Use of Institute Property
  • II (21). Property Damage and Destruction

Help Seeking: The health, safety, and general welfare of MIT students are of the utmost concern to the Institute. In a situation where students seek in good faith help or medical attention for a dangerous emergency-situation, MIT will treat the students’ call for help as a significant mitigating factor. This consideration, which is intended to reduce barriers to getting help, will be extended not only to the student in need of help or medical attention, but also to the student(s) who call for help. Failure to seek assistance may be considered an aggravating factor in any disciplinary process.

In many situations where someone calls for help, MIT will consider it a health and safety matter, and not take disciplinary action. Students or student organizations who call for help may be required to complete educational and/or advising program(s) that are meant to support students and their organizations and connect them with other community services and resources that may be beneficial. These programs and services will be tailored to the specific circumstances and needs of those involved.

MIT prohibits hazing. If you feel pressured to engage in hacking behaviors for the purpose of initiation, admission into, affiliation with, or as a condition for continued membership in a group, organization, or living community, you are encouraged to report or seek help by using MIT’s confidential hazing reporting form.

Over many years, the hacking community has developed an expected set of guidelines:

Hack Etiquette

  1. Be Safe – Your safety, the safety of others, and the safety of anyone you hack should never be compromised.
  2. Be Subtle – Leave no evidence that you were ever there.
  3. Leave things as you found them – or better.
  4. If you find something broken call F-IXIT.
  5. Leave no damage.
  6. Do not steal anything.
  7. Brute force is the last resort of the incompetent.
  8. Do not hack while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  9. Do not drop things off (a building) without a ground crew.
  10. Do not hack alone.
  11. Above all exercise some common sense.

-Source: Wall on the student street in Stata; by tradition

Ultimately individuals are responsible for their actions and any intentional or unintentional consequences. While the “Hack Etiquette” is a very useful guide, responsible behavior also includes not acting in a manner that makes a police officer or MIT employee feel unsafe in the conduct of their duties (for example, running or hiding when discovered). Labeling something as a hack does not change unlawful behavior into lawful behavior, nor is it an excuse or justification for violations of MIT policy. Notwithstanding that they may occur in connection with a hack, violations of MIT policies may still result in disciplinary action.