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I'm from Eastern Europe myself, and while I know it's anecdotal only, from living for one year in the same dorm-room with a guy like the ones described in the article all I can say it's that it was not about the money (at least not 14 years ago, when I was still a freshman) but more about "hey, I want to see what this piece of closed-source software is actually all about! How can I crack it?". It also "helped" that we were generally quite poor (we still are, comparetavily) and so it made "economic sense" to spend days and days tweaking with assembly code and what-have-you in order not to pay $4.99 for a crappy music player or something similar, and in the process acquiring quite a bit of knowledge (much more valuable) about how such things work.

And the guy I started talking about now works for a pretty important anti-virus company , he's one of the most gifted hackers I've ever met.

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