Fail and You Kids these days. Used to be, when you were mad at your parents or your professors, you'd write an email worm in Visual Basic and spread it around via Outlook clients.
Hacks like that didn't take a lot of talent, but they had some comic value. As a tech person, it's entertaining to watch someone who's not savvy work a machine that they think is "infected with a virus." The more industrious evildoers wrote self-propagating worms that exploited vulnerabilities in common services, like the SQL Slammer worm that slowed internet traffic to a crawl on a Friday night when I was in college. Many of us nerds had to go outside and party instead of playing video games until 4AM. I know of several pregnancies that were a direct result of this vulnerability in Microsoft SQL Server.
Hell, even Hacked by Chinese was funny because it was so prolific.
But this generation's biggest accomplishment thus far is last week's hack on Twitter. After guessing the password to an administrative account with a dictionary attack, one hacker started handing out account credentials. Barack Obama, Britney Spears, Fox News, and several others were compromised, and the evildoers went so far as to post some fake messages to these accounts. Ph33r.
As a result, there's been no shortage of criticism for Twitter. Not having implemented any rate-limiting for login attempts, they kind of had this coming. As a pundit, though, I can tell you that making fun of Twitter's feeble attempt at engineering is pointless. Yes, Twitter failed, but that joke is old. What's far better? The collateral failure of the hackers and the media.
The hero of our story, an anonymous leet haxor, figured out that you could use curl and a text file of words to launch a dictionary attack against a web login form. This technique is far less advanced than the methods of yore: finding improper usage of strcpy and the like, coming up with executable shellcode, and figuring out the function return address memory offset. Back in the day, that shit was hard, so good hacks were generally reserved for people who really knew what they were doing. Incidentally, people who knew what they were doing usually had a plan for what to do after the hack was successful.
What happened to the next iteration of hackers? I blame generational pussification - things like the everybody-is-a-winner attitude and Coldplay are making our children soft. As the Twitter invader proves, it doesn't take much to be a "hacker" these days. Great fuckin' job, Mitnick. Give a kid a good asskicking and make him listen to Frank Zappa. He'll be able to dissect a stack frame.
Perhaps there's some leeway here: Twitter ain't exactly fortified. If you're going to impersonate Twitter users, come up with some better shit than posting “Breaking: Bill O Riley is gay” to the Fox News stream, and at least learn how to spell.
You can impersonate the President-elect of the United States and the best you can do is "get a free gas card"?
You can impersonate Britney Spears, and you tell us how her vagina has razor-sharp teeth? OK, that one was pretty inventive, but overall, fucking fail.