http://msnbc.msn.com/Default.aspx?id=3706599&p1=0 By Adam Piore Newsweek International Dec. 22 issue In the high-tech battlefield of cyberspace, the thirtysomething Russian with the jet black goatee and the new denim coat considers himself a freedom fighter - a descendant of those legendary computer geeks whose cyberstunts drove the establishment wild and helped define a unique Internet culture. Like his hacker predecessors, he has his own subversive code, this one tinged with the slogans of anti-globalization. He talks of "freedom," "the unhindered flow of ideas" and the need to break the stranglehold of "monster corporations like Microsoft." (He won't hack into Russian companies.) "I live in the shadows. That is where I want to be," says the hacker - we'll call him Dmitry - over a late-night meal in a Moscow restaurant. "I don't need to prove anything to anyone." Dig a little deeper and you'll find there's something that differentiates this New Age cybersurfer from his high-minded brethren. Last year Dmitry netted $300,000 - stolen from major American corporations. Like a slick businessman, Dmitry arrives for his secret rendezvous with NEWSWEEK accompanied by his lawyer. He works as part of a hacker team, composed of 10 or so experienced criminals, each with his own specialty. His job: to break into networks, opening the way for his confederates to steal and decode company information. He'll work 16-hour days for six months preparing for an assault on a Western corporation that might last just minutes. "It's like a military attack," he says. "At first you do intelligence. You watch their behavior. You get ready for X-Hour. When you're 90 percent sure of success, you attack." The days when the lone hacker was the symbol of all that was good about the Internet seem to be fading fast. Dmitry is part of perhaps the fastest growing criminal enterprise of the 21st century. These hardened pros are well schooled in the arts of extortion, fraud and intellectual-property theft. Sure, many retain some of the rebellious affectations of their predecessors by wrapping themselves in anti-establishment, anti-globo speak. But they're increasingly organized, sophisticated and often ruthless. And they are costing companies and individuals billions of dollars. A growing number of them live far beyond the clutches of U.S., Japanese or European law-enforcement officials, in places like Russia, Brazil, China and South Korea. From distant domains they route their signals through multiple countries to throw the digital cops off their trail, then they hack into the files of large corporations or individuals and steal. "This is increasing at an alarming rate," says Harold M. Hendershot, an official in the FBI's cyberdivision. "It used to be that hackers claimed to want to point out societal vulnerabilities - they actually claimed to be doing it for the benefit of society. But now more and more criminals are realizing that information is power, power is money, and knowledge is easy to get if you break into the right systems." The problem has been germinating for years. Identity fraud, in which hackers glean information from the Internet to get free credit cards and make deals under another's name - displaced run-of-the-mill scams as the U.S. Federal Trade Commission's top problem in 2001. Last year the FTC got 219,000 complaints, and expects a tenfold rise by 2005. Even more alarming is the spike in wire fraud, credit-card theft, stolen trade secrets and extortion. [...] - ISN is currently hosted by Attrition.org To unsubscribe email majordomo@private with 'unsubscribe isn' in the BODY of the mail.
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