I’ve been kind of quiet on one of the biggest stories in tech news recently, and I guess I’ll have to get my two cents in and try to explain how this will affect most people. There have recently been a lot of computer hacking “attacks” carried out on business and government entities. The hacker group “Anonymous” hacked Sony’s Playstation Network. Well, they “claim” that they didn’t do it, but unofficially most of us who follow these kind of things are pretty sure they did it. If you aren’t big on tech news, it’s kind of like OJ saying he didn’t do it. Anyway, then “Anonymous” broke into splinter groups, and some of them joined with hacker group LulzSec. Then LulzSec hacked Sony Pictures, PBS, the U.S. Senate, the CIA, video game company Bethesda, basically they went on a tear.
These hacks were mostly carried out in the same manner. LulzSec would tweet a warning to whomever they wanted to hack, give them some time to beef up their e-security, (which almost never happened as no one usually took the warning seriously) and then steal some information from the victim and cause their website to crash. This would be followed by a victory tweet, and sometimes a warning to the victim to do something or face the widespread release of the stolen information. Those demands were either helpful, such as “get some better computer security,” or kind of silly/amusing. After hacking Bethesda and claiming to have stolen the personal information of players of Bethesda’s game “Brink,” LulzSec asked Bethesda to put a top hat in their upcoming release “Skyrim.” This angered some players; partly because their personal information was stolen, but mostly because someone might find out that they were playing on a Brink server. Which is the gaming equivalent of a moped, fun but you wouldn’t want your friends to see you on it. The latest news is that LulzSec itself has been warned and hacked by a couple of hackers calling themselves “Team Poison,” who are threatening to post LulzSec members identities on the web.
And while this all sounds kind of dire, I’m going to tell you what this means to the everyday person.
Go about your business, this won’t affect most people in any way. I’m not saying there isn’t any good or bad involved in this, but they kind of even out. If you’ve been following my blog, you know I hate scammers and identity thieves. But for the most part, even though they are involved in a criminal activity, hackers don’t fall into those categories. All 3 steal your identity, but scammers and id thieves use that information to steal money from the individual. For the hacker, the information is all they steal, usually to show off or make some kind of political statement. I’m not saying that it isn’t bad or shouldn’t be illegal, but more along the lines of civil disobedience than actually destructive criminal activity. It does have its seriously bad consequences. The government authorities do seek to catch and prosecute people who commit these crimes. That costs money, specifically taxpayer money. And every dollar spent proving that “ZeroCool” is actually 15 year old Dade Murphy from Seattle is a dollar that won’t build a road or an airport. (by the way, that last example is a movie reference and not an actual case) And in the case of a minor (which several hackers are) it’s a dollar spent prosecuting someone that the courts can’t try as an adult. But that is balanced out by the fact that in a lot of hacking cases, the crime does in fact prompt the victimized company or government to bolster their own security. That actually helps out the economy by creating the need for more tech jobs as companies need people trained in computer security, and spend more of their money on software and hardware upgrades.
So does the good even out the bad? Well, the real danger lies in the following scenario or one similar to it. “ZC” is a dockworker by day and hacker by night. But then gets laid off at the docks because of the current economic woes. So now he has lots of time on his hands, no income, and a database of stolen personal information…
You see where I’m going with this.
But I can even balance that out. It’s not as if everyone isn’t ALREADY in danger from identity thieves and scammers. It’s already our own responsibility to protect ourselves. It doesn’t even have to cost you money, despite what some of our network hosts might say. (cough… LIMBAUGH HAWKING LIFELOCK errghm) Bad cough there, sorry, where was I? Oh yeah, if you have a financial planner, talk to them about your cyber-security issues. If you don’t have a financial planner, your bank will be happy to help you make sure your money, credit, and identity stays safe. If you aren’t sure, call them and set up an appointment.
So it isn’t so bad out there, if you take some simple steps to protect yourself. But don’t think I’m being “soft” on the hackers. I likened their crimes to civil disobedience. That does still imply that the hackers are breaking the law. If you are a victim of, or have any information on cyber crime being committed, contact your local law enforcement agency. Hackers knowingly break the law; they should be prepared to take their lumps if they get caught.