Let’s speak about l33tsp341<

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  Leetspeak, or l33tsp431< in it’s pure form, refers to an alternative language generally associated with hackers and the internet. The trend began in the 1980’s as a cult-like language . It’s general purpose was to prevent hackers from being search engine indexed by simple key words. It works through substituting characters from the traditional spelling of a word with others, including numbers. This is done in a way which plays on the structure of the glyphs of those characters to create words which are visually similar. For example, the term ‘leet’ could be spelt either 1337 or l33t. Deliberate misspellings are also used in leetspeak, as is phonetic language, abbreviations and slang (see image below). Or, as urban dictionary suggests, you could just bang your head against the keyboard and hope for the best. There is no formal translation; rather there are multiple ‘spellings’ for different words. This helps to maximise the untraceable attribute of Leetspeak. Messages are designed to be decoded only by those they are targeted at.

The word ‘leet’ is derived from ‘elite’; which was adopted by computer hackers to represent their abundance of skill. The Cult of the Dead Cow, a hacktivist community, was credited with coining the term ‘leet’ and are one of several pioneers of hacker subculture. Hacker subculture is made up of multiple subgroups, including that of the hacktivist. A hacktivist is a hacker who utilises their skills in technology to push a social or political movement. The appeal of leetspeak is that in undertaking hacktivism, the codes are generally able to be decoded by humans, but not by computer systems. This makes it relatively easier for hackers to bypass security systems and content filters.



For example, if one really and truly desired the above username on barbie.com, they could bypass the filter by adopting leetspeak. Try @n@153x, or 4n4ls3><. Go on, I dare you.

Mainstream examples of leetspeak include ‘kewl’, a leet version of ‘cool’, and ‘noob’, which is derived from the slang ‘newbie’ and is often used as a means of segregating new or unintelligent users from the ‘elite’ members of the group or forum. In the early days of the internet, leetspeak was pretty much essential to belonging and operating in the hacking community. Nowadays it is seen as more juvenile and is often used as a means to insult wannabe hackers. It is also used in online gaming communities such as minecraft , in which typing takes ‘too much time’.



P.S. Check out this l33tspeak converter!






13 thoughts on “Let’s speak about l33tsp341<

  1. Awesome post! whether the presence of “hacktivism” is a good or bad thing, it is clear that it causes these ‘Wars’ or conflicts which while seem low key such as the Great Hacker War you went into, the possibilities of what it could cause is endless, especially government related hackings to spark a bigger conflict.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Love the use of examples in your blog. It makes lots of sense as to computers their language is binary. So for example visually 13itch would can be seen as bitch. However a computer may see it as 0110110000101011010101 and within their system that means thirteen I t c h. It’s so innovative how the hacker community can think of these simple ways to help bypass the system undetected. In a way it’s the same kind of system you get when websites ask if you are a robot and and ask you to type out the words in the picture. If you were a robot you would not be able to see the picture as it would appear binary to them. The visual aspect is very important and that adds and extra layer of complexity.

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    1. Thanks for your comment, particularly the bit about binary. Believe it or not, I hadn’t considered it before writing this post but you’re so right. It’s such an interesting area of study, it’s a shame it’s use is declining! xD


  3. Hey Claire,

    I really loved the way you approached this topic! I was fascinated to read about the use of alternative language! It’s amazing how, in this age, a computer can be such a devastating weapon. It’s kinda scary that there people out there, whose hacking skills, could potentially provide access to military equipment or classified/private information on certain individuals! Also really like the club penguin image. Gave me quite a chuckle 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Max :). The use of the computer as a weapon is proving to be extremely interesting, especially given that both sides use it as a weapon. This calls for constant innovation and creation.


  4. That’s a cracker of a meme there m8 (in case u didn’t know that means mate, I know, it’s pretty obscure). Neat explanation of the history of l33tsp431< (that took a sec to type), I hope with the resurgence of retro a e s t h e t i c that we see a painful return to this philosophy.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Amazing post! So informative and well researched and I loved the examples such as banned words being monitored on children sites such as barbie.com and club penguin etc and loopholes to the filters. The meme you provided was really good as well haha. I didn’t really know much about this hacker language but reading your post really helped me out. This article shows examples of alternatives to leetspeak, which is now being less used as you have said- https://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20-TECHS/H86.html

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Really good post! Its good to see something a bit different, you approached this week’s topic really well and provided really good points. You have obviously done a bit of research, the examples you used were great. I love how you provided ways around Barbie’s rules and regulations to create ‘rude’ usernames, it made me laugh. Hacking is a pretty serious issue and I don’t think many people realize the power some people are able to gain if they hack into private systems to gain classified information, scary thought!

    Liked by 1 person

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