[ISN] Hacking for Dollars

From: InfoSec News (isn@private)
Date: Mon Dec 15 2003 - 03:16:42 PST

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    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.
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