Computer Crimes: HackersDEFINITION OF HACKERS: “Slang word for a computer enthusiast. One who breaks into the computer system of a company or government.”( Collins English Mini Dictionary. 1993.)PURPOSE: Most hackers break into computers not to wreak havoc, but simply to explore and share information with one another. A small minority however do wish to create mischief. These individuals are the ones who have the public fearing hackers, and the law calling them criminals. These individuals and gangs purposely break into computers for personal financial gain, or worst of all to turn your six thousand dollar state of the art computer into a six thousand dollar paper weight. HOW TO IDENTIFY A HACKER: The stereotype which surrounds the hacker is that they are Geeks, Dweebs and Nerds. They wear pocket protectors, tape around the nose of their glasses and clothes that went out of fashion back in the Stone Age. They have few or no friends and spend the majority of their time in front of their computers.
In actuality a hacker could be a successful business man such as Bill Gates ( the owner and creator of Microsoft ) or the person sitting next to you on the subway heading down town. Obviously there are some things all hackers have in common. All are able to do advanced calculations in math, are well versed in computer languages, and have a good grasp of their Native language. They must have a state of the art computer which they know inside and out. They also hold knowledge on a series of secret codes and computer languages called ‘User Jargon’.METHODS OF BREAKING IN: Hackers have many tools in their inventory for breaking into computers. Examples of this are: Password Sniffers: These are programs which are secretly hidden on a network and are programmed to record, in a secret file, logos and passwords.
In the span of a week these tiny planted programs can record hundreds of user names (code words which trigger entrance into a file) and their associated passwords. In 1994 a warning was issued which stated that as a result of a rash of sniffing attacks, tens of thousands of passwords had been stolen and compromised. Spoofing: This is a technique not a program or device. The hacker must attempt to gain the highest level of access that a particular computer can give. From inside the computer the hacker can place a hidden program which will give him/her a “back door” allowing the hacker free access into the computer whenever heshe desires.The hole in the web: In recent events it has come to light that there is a “hole” in the World Wide Web. The World Web is comprised of many Nets (North Americas’ is the Internet) these Nets are comprised of Web sites, and it is here that the program is flawed.
The programs used to create Web sites have flaws that allow hackers the same access as the owners have. Most Web sites use software that puts them at risk. PREVENTION: One method of prevention which is constantly being improved upon is patching the “holes” in the Net. Some ideas as to how to make the Internet safer is to add minutes onto every application done in the Internet, but in our age who has the time or patients for such things. Other techniques such as the “dongle” have been devised and developed by Bell Labs. The “dongle” is a calculator sized machine which gives a new password to the user every time heshe logs onto the Internet. Personal Encryption devices turn normal text into a series of illegible words and codes. These devices would protect your personal computer from any outside intruder who wouldn’t want to spend their time breaking down your information. Another thought is also encrypting all transmissions from computer to computer. One thing is for sure, all these devices will not keep a determined hacker out of your system, and they won’t be cheap to buy. With the continued advancements made daily by computer engineers, these methods of “hacker” prevention will soon become obsolete. SEMI-FAMOUS HACKERS: Possibly the most famous case is of Kevin Mitnick, quite possibly among the best hackers of our day. Mitnick met his down fall doing what he does best, stealing information. Mitnick allegedly Spoofed (see above SPOOFING) a well guarded computer owned by a computer-security expert by the name of Tsutomu Shimomura. On Christmas Day of 1994 Mitnick had used his “back door” to enter Shimomuras’ database. Mitnick on this day found a set of utility files which in the hands of a hacker could become quite effective lock picking tools. Shimomura was alerted to Mitnicks presence for the first and last time, but not before Mitnick down loaded the utility files.
Shimomura gained his revenge by tracking Mitnick through the Internet, several long distance and local phone companies and at least two cellular phone carriers. Shimomura finally tracked Mitnick to his apartment complex in Raleigh, North Carolina. Shimomura then quickly alerted the proper authorities. Although the authorities and Shimomura acted quickly, it is believed that before his capture Mitnick was able to download all of the utility programs to the hacker underground for distribution. Among other stolen information in Mitnicks computer authorities discovered 20,000 credit-card numbers of sub- scribers to Netcom a Internet access provider based in San Jose, California. Mitnick is now in federal court awaiting sentencing. Another famous hacker is Phiber Optik, 23. In 1993 Optik was arrested for causing trouble along with the M.O.D. gang in the telephone system. M.O.D., other wise known as Masters Of Destruction, is a gang of teenagers from Brooklyn and the Bronx. Optik claims to have never joined M.O.D., but he was apparently willing to share his knowledge with them. He taught them how to break into the telephone company, how to gain access to a telephone account and alter its service at will. Another trick he taught them was how to change an enemies telephone into a pay phone, so whenever someone tried to make a phone call an operator would interrupt to say, “Please deposit 25 cents.” Until 1992 any U.S. telephone network was M.O.D.’s stomping ground. Originally M.O.D. used their skills to play practical jokes on people. Or look up unlisted numbers of celebrities such as Richard Gere and Julia Roberts. Or to look up the numbers of people they hated such as white supremacist Tom Metzgar and former Klansman David Duke. But with absolute power comes absolute corruption, soon M.O.D. was causing trouble. With the help of Optik, M.O.D. began to infiltrate the computer networks of TRW, Martin Marietta, the Bank of America, the National Security Agency and Chiquita Banana. On a Secret Service wiretap two members of M.O.D. can be heard planning to create their own bogus credit bureau. For the right price they would rewrite peoples credit histories. ” We can destroy people’s lives,” they boasted. “Or make them look like saints.”
Optik at trial stated he had no interest in anything so corrupt. He has his own self-styled “hacker ethic,” which states, any computer intrusion as long as the motive is pure, is justifiable. In Optiks mind he was simply studying the phone system, admiring it even. Optik was found by the Secret Service to have broken into AT&T computers in Chicago and Portland, Main over sixty nine time. This was only during the Secret Services six month investigation.
Another hacker caught in recent history, is known by his online buddies as Kimble. In 1992 Kimble was a nineteen year old Munich born computer security consultant business owner. On the side though Kimble was a genius hacker whose forte was cracking and selling PBX access codes to other hackers and more conventional criminals. PBX access codes allow hackers to charged millions of dollars in phone calls to companies that lease the systems from phone companies. In what appeared to be a sting operation setup by MCI (the long distance phone company), 20 police officers raided Kimbles home and arrested him on the charge of stolen calling card numbers. Police also seized eighty thousand dollars worth of computer hardware. When questioned about his hacking business, Kimble claimed to have been working undercover for MCI’s international security chief, Thomas McGuinness. McGuinness denied any dealings with Kimble. McGuinness does admit though that Kimble approached him with information, although McGuinness found it worthless to him he did turn it over to the police.
At the time German police were trying to put together a large case against hackers. They were also trying to find a big hacker bust to boast their efforts against them. Kimble offered them an irresistible bust. After all Kimble was well known by hackers across Europe. Since his arrest police have been able to arrest an additional fifty hackers. SENTENCING: The law has great difficulty charging hackers. Because technology changes at such an awesome rate, the men and women who write the laws simply cannot keep up. Never mind how difficult it is to catch a hacker. In most cases the hacker is using more advanced software and hardware than the authorities. Mainly this is because hackers work as a collective sharing their ideas and inventions with one another.
The authorities choose to remain in constant competition with one another. When the authorities capture a hacker though, sentencing appears to be too lenient. In North America we simply give hackers a slap on the wrist, as was done in the cases of Phiber Optik, MOD and Mitnick and other not so high profile hackers. Phiber Optik was given a sentence of one year in federal prison, of which he served ten months in a minimum security prison- away from his computer. Optik is now looking very healthy and relaxed. Optik is now employed as a computer technician at ECHO, a online salon in New-York. ECHO hardly ever crashes any more. MOD, Optiks associates were given fines that did not total to anything significant. Mitnik was also given a very lenient sentence in a minimum security federal prison. Europe unlike North America seems to be a little harder on its hacker problem. Kimble was given a sentence of five years, which was not to be carried out in a resort like minimum security prison.CONCLUSION: Hackers are an infection in the information age. With government cut backs and out of date equipment provided to law enforcement agencies, hackers are, and will continue to win the battle for control over the worlds most valuable commodity, information. Unless people do not take it into their own hands to protect themselves from prying eyes, we might as well sit back and let the hackers take over.