Comment If there's one thing I've learned in the past few years as editor of SecurityFocus, it's that there is absolutely no saving grace in the security world. Everyone is a target, everyone is vulnerable and exposed, and no one is safe from, well... anything.
I had a revelation the other day. I'm sorry it took me this long to figure it out. I took off my technology-is-utopian hat for a moment and was rather shocked at what I saw.
The morals and ethics that govern our real world just do not exist online.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the rapidly growing trend where hackers attack, compromise and steal money (and identities) from individuals. Whether it's the little old lady who lost $50,000 of her life's savings, or the Trojan that finds every parent's online banking account, what's the difference to a hacker?
Sitting behind a computer, any shy or docile human being can become the world's nastiest bastard of a hacker without even the slightest tinge of regret.
Attack, compromise, transfer funds, and then walk away. You might have just stolen the life savings of someone you don't know (and will never meet), so who cares? Or you've stolen the identity of someone who will feel the effects almost daily and for at least ten years down the road. But how does that affect you?
Hackers couldn't be any further detached from the damage, devastation and emotional destruction they cause. Just close the lid to your laptop computer, and move on.
Petty thieves or 2-bit thugs?
There are no morals among hackers anymore, no sense of right-or-wrong, and no appreciation of a greater good. Take the devastation caused by the tsunami last year and the destruction the Americans have faced with Katrina: dozens of phishing sites, phony donation efforts, fraud and rampant online identity theft, millions of pieces of spam and custom viruses purporting to be trojan relief efforts that were all trying to exploit the very individuals who, ironically, were offering up their funds in an effort to do some good. This is the community we work in.There are probably a dozen people trying to hack the Red Cross right now.
Would these same people break into their neighbor's home and rob an old lady at gunpoint? Or smash her head in with a sledgehammer? I'm guessing, probably not. Why? Because there's a clearer link between the crime and the consequences when you're not hiding behind your computer. The meek-human-but-vicious-hacker closes the lid of his laptop again, leaves the anonymous WiFi connection he was borrowing, and he's done.
This disturbing trend to attack individuals (and often for relatively petty amounts, at that), or emergency relief agencies, or even just the lowest hanging fruit around, is nothing short of evil and it must be stopped, exposed or redirected if it's ever going to come to an end.