[ISN] Hackers' Dark Side Gets Even Darker

From: mea culpa (jerichot_private)
Date: Wed Apr 29 1998 - 01:12:49 PDT

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    Hackers' Dark Side Gets Even Darker
    By Douglas Hayward
    LONDON -- The hacker community is splitting into a series of distinct
    cultural groups -- some of which are becoming dangerous to businesses and
    a potential threat to national security, an official of Europe's largest
    defense research agency warned Thursday. New types of malicious hackers
    are evolving who use other hackers to do their dirty work, said Alan Hood,
    a research scientist in the information warfare unit of Britain's Defense
    Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA). 
    Two of the most dangerous types of malicious hackers are information
    brokers and meta-hackers, said Hood, whose agency develops security
    systems for the British military.  Information brokers commission and pay
    hackers to steal information, then resell the information to foreign
    governments or business rivals of the target organizations. 
    Meta-hackers are sophisticated hackers who monitor other hackers without
    being noticed, and then exploit the vulnerabilities identified by these
    hackers they are monitoring. A sophisticate meta-hacker effectively uses
    other hackers as tools to attack networks. "Meta-hackers are one of the
    most sinister things I have run into," Hood said. "They scare the hell out
    of me." 
    DERA is also concerned that terrorist and criminal gangs are preparing to
    use hacking techniques to neutralize military, police and security
    services, Hood said. 
    Other cultural groups evolving within the hacker community include gangs
    known as elites, who form closed clubs and look down on those ordinary
    hackers who employ commonly used attack tools, Hood said. "These guys
    [elites] develop their own tools," Hood said. "They get a camaraderie and
    an appreciation of their prowess from their peers." 
    Another group -- known as "darksiders" -- use hacking techniques for
    financial gain or to create malicious destruction. They reject the classic
    motivation for hackers, which is to gain a feeling of achievement and
    authority, Hood said. "Hackers don't see electronic trespass as wrong per
    se, but the important thing about darksiders is that they cross the line
    [drawn by hackers] and start to be bad guys," he said. "That generally
    means they do it for gain or to cause harm." 
    Users should stop believing they can build security systems capable of
    repelling any attack from hackers, Hood added. Instead, organizations
    should concentrate on minimizing the damage caused by attacks, and on
    deterring hackers. 
    "I don't believe you can stop every hacker forever," Hood said. "All they
    need is one new technique you haven't heard about. But what you can do is
    minimize the target, by using knowledge and resources." 
    According to DERA, users should divide their anti-hacker strategies into
    deterrence, protection, detection and reaction. 
    Deterrence means making it so difficult for hackers that most give up and
    try another target, Hood said. Protection means more than installing
    firewalls and security software and procedures; it also means getting to
    know your system and removing all but essential content. "Everything you
    have on your system is at risk -- you should strip out anything you don't
    need," Hood said. 
    "Make sure your system does what you want it to do -- no more and no less
    -- and make sure you have procedural policies to stop social engineering.
    If someone rings up and says they have forgotten their password, the
    person at the other end of the phone shouldn't automatically say OK and
    give them a new one," Hood said. Social engineering is the term used by
    hackers to describe how they obtain passwords, confidential information
    and credit by deception. 
    Users should install monitoring software, preferably with the ability to
    detect attacks in real time, and should react to everything that looks out
    of place. DERA employs 14,00 staff and has a budget of $1.5 billion.
    Hood's division, the command and information systems division, is
    responsible for secure communications and information warfare and employs
    more than 500 scientists and engineers. 
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