Feeds

Feds turn one in four black-hat hackers into snitches

Cracktivists beware...

Protecting against web application threats using SSL

One in four criminal hackers turn snitches under pressure from US authorities.

The FBI and US Secret Service – the two lead agencies in the fight against cybercrime in the US – have used the threat of prison to create an army of informers, according to an investigation by The Guardian. A climate of mistrust has been sown among criminal hackers as a result of this process.

Hacker turncoats running carder forums – under instructions from FBI handlers – have acted as sources of intelligence for subsequent prosecutions. In other cases, undercover agents have run underground forums as part of sting operations.

Eric Corley, publisher of hacker quarterly 2600, estimates 25 per cent of hackers (crackers) operating in the US might have turned stool pidgin. "Owing to the harsh penalties involved and the relative inexperience with the law that many hackers have, they are rather susceptible to intimidation," Corley told The Guardian.

John Young, who runs whistle-blowing website Cryptome, said mistrust among hackers is growing rife. "There are dozens and dozens of hackers who have been shopped by people they thought they trusted," he said.

Convicted hacker turned security consultant and author Kevin Mitnick, who ought to know a thing or two about such things, argued that if anything the one in four figure is on the low side. "I want hear about *any* hacker cases with multiple defendants where no one snitched. Anyone? I think 25% is a LOW," he said.

The best-known example of a hacker turned informant is Adrian Lamo, who put the authorities on the trail of presumed WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning. Other examples place the tactic of running informants in a far less favourable light. For example, Albert Gonzalez masterminded the hacking of credit card databases maintained by TJ Maxx and Heartland Payment between 2005 and 2007 while simultaneously acting as a Secret Service informant.

The timing of The Guardian investigation could be seen as an attempt to sow distrust among the ranks of Anonymous and other mischief-making hacking groups, such as LulzSec, which has been very busy of late hacking into systems maintained by Sony and (even more provocatively) FBI-affiliated organisations. A number of alleged Anonymous members have already been arrested in the US and UK, providing a potential source of turncoats. Or perhaps that's just what the feds would like cracktivists to believe... ®

Reducing the cost and complexity of web vulnerability management

More from The Register

next story
Early result from Scots indyref vote? NAW, Jimmy - it's a SCAM
Anyone claiming to know before tomorrow is telling porkies
TOR users become FBI's No.1 hacking target after legal power grab
Be afeared, me hearties, these scoundrels be spying our signals
Jihadi terrorists DIDN'T encrypt their comms 'cos of Snowden leaks
Intel bods' analysis concludes 'no significant change' after whistle was blown
Home Depot: 56 million bank cards pwned by malware in our tills
That's about 50 per cent bigger than the Target tills mega-hack
Hackers pop Brazil newspaper to root home routers
Step One: try default passwords. Step Two: Repeat Step One until success
NORKS ban Wi-Fi and satellite internet at embassies
Crackdown on tardy diplomatic sysadmins providing accidental unfiltered internet access
UK.gov lobs another fistful of change at SME infosec nightmares
Senior Lib Dem in 'trying to be relevant' shocker. It's only taxpayers' money, after all
Critical Adobe Reader and Acrobat patches FINALLY make it out
Eight vulns healed, including XSS and DoS paths
Spies would need SUPER POWERS to tap undersea cables
Why mess with armoured 10kV cables when land-based, and legal, snoop tools are easier?
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.