The news lately been littered with stories of ‘hacktivists’ dispensing their own brand of vigilante justice upon the internet. Science fiction writers have been warning us of cyber terrorism for decades. Make no mistake, LulzSec and and Anonymous are terrorist organizations. If you’re not afraid, you should be.
It’s true that hacking has never directly caused a death. But consider this: LulzSec was able to post a legitimate looking article on NPR’s website that claimed Tupac Shakur was still alive and well in New Zealand. While this particular incident was harmless mischief, it very well could have been a trial run for a much larger assault on legitimate media outlets. Serial killers murder animals before they move on to humans.
Hacking into servers and stealing personal information is usually far too easy of a trick. Professional identity theft is committed in this manner, and it’s usually used as a way to fund email scams, purchase new computer equipment etc. But what happens when the hackers escalate? It’s already become more than just high-tech larceny, but I’m talking about how easy it would be for them begin funding more traditional terrorist networks. It’s also not much of a stretch of the imagination to think they could begin lobbying or bribing (or blackmailing) lawmakers with stolen money.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Many of these hackers have political motives, as evidenced by Anonymous threats to NATO over the capture of one of their members. How did the media react? With amusement. Hackers essentially issued an ultimatum to the second largest military organization in the world, and it’s largely being shrugged off. Just today, LulzSec today released personal information of law enforcement officials personal information in response to the controversial SB1070 immigration law. These are serious threats to people’s safety and security, and the implications of the damage is being grossly underestimated.
So what is being done to stop these cyber terrorists? Not much. Historically, people convicted of computer crimes are out of jail within a few years. I was unable to find a specific case where a hacker served more than five years. In fact, in most of the cases I found, the guilty had used their convictions to jump start careers in security or education, or at the very least they were elevated to celebrity status. With poorly defined laws, completely undefined jurisdiction, and “slap on the wrist” type penalties, it’s easy to see why computer crime is on the rise.
Example? The three hackers from Anonymous who were arrested in Spain for breaching Sony’s Playstation Network. Sony claims that particular attack has cost them $171 million dollars. When the three were arrested, a server was seized with evidence of attacks on bank accounts and government websites. They have since been released in what appears to be Spain’s version of bail, but without charges being filed yet. But the questions remain: Who gets to prosecute them? Japan? Spain? Does Sony get to sue them? Would Japan even bother to extradite them?
A general failing by governments world wide to prosecute, arrest, or even consider cyber terrorism a threat is how the terrorists have won today. This is a much bigger problem than world leaders seem to think, and the attacks are becoming both more frequent and more bold. It’s only a matter of time before misinformation and data theft are used to instigate a war between two countries.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/30/pbs-hacked-tupac-alive_n_868673.html (the actual article on NPR’s website has been taken down, and I was unable to locate a cached version anywhere)