Friday, July 29, 2011

Scotland Yard Joins Hacker Crackdown

Once upon a time you'd read headlines about member of drug cartels or diamond smuggling rings being busted. You still do of course, but in today's headlines conventional crime busts are fighting for column inches with an increasing number of stories about hacker arrests.

Last week the Dutch police, who are the nicest on Earth by the way, arrested four men who were members of a splinter cell of the hack group "Anonymous" known as "AntiSec NL." The men confessed to having infiltrated websites and releasing confidential information.

This week Scotland Yard entered the picture when they arrested a teenage hacker who is thought to be the hacker group "LulzSec's" media liaison. The 18-year old who allegedly goes by the hacker name "Topiary" was picked up from a remote location in the Scottish Shetland Islands.

This followed last month's arrest of a 19-year old Brit, loosely affiliated with LulzSec, who hacked his way into Britain's Serious Organized Crime Agency and a number of UK music sites. Currently members of the Yard are also questioning a 17-year old Lincolnshire resident who is also thought to have been involved in hacking.

These arrest's come as part of a coordinated international effort between authorities in the U.K., the Netherlands and the U.S.A. This international crackdown is a response to a spree of high profile hackings perpetrated by LulzSec, Anonymous and several splinter and copycat groups. Most recently members of LulzSec hacked into Rupert Murdoch's "The Sun" newspaper and posted a fake story that the media mogul had died.

Fake news stories are something of a recurring theme with LulzSec. Previously the group planted a phoney story on the PBS website about rapper Tupac Shakur having been secretly alive and living in New Zealand all these years.

Groups like LulzSec and Anonymous regard themselves as being "hacktivists" who perpetrate their crimes for a noble revolutionary cause. It's true that unlike most cyber-criminals, these kids aren't in it for the money as much as the headlines. While they've certainly been successful at grabbing those, it remains to be seen what kind of impact they're making with they're slightly radical take on free speech and free dissemenation of information on the Internet.

The question remains, are they really the Internet's answer to Che Guevara? Or are they just a bunch of admittedly talented cyber-hooligans out for a laugh?

The Dutch police have already released the four men they arrested last week (See? I told you they were nice.). The investigation is currently ongoing and it remains to be seen just what exactly the four will be charged with.

One message the authorities must surely be reading loudly and clearly, is that if tech savvy teens like these can perpetrate such hacks, the computer networks of our governments, institutions and major corporations are surely very vulnerable indeed.

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