During the Cold War, we witnessed how military advances drove private sector – especially in aviation. Today’s robust criminal hacking industry has helped driving hacktivism. Although hacktivism is nothing new, it has undergone a rapid evolution that is driven and inspired by criminal, for-profit hacking.
The recent hacking spree by Lulzsec has helped make hacktivism a household term. The Lulzsec team leveraged the methods and technologies used by private hackers to steal data and sell it on the black market.
To understand how Lulzsec could thrive requires an understanding of how criminal hacking operates. The Digital Age has created a huge, global black market for data. Today, mature online exchanges exist that resemble eBay in structure, only their focus is selling personal and corporate data of all kinds. For example, credit cards are put up for sale in this hacker forum:
Just a few months ago, a hacker offered to sell full administrative rights to several government, military and educational websites for $499. So, for the price of an iPad, you could have purchased the ability to control a US Army web site. Earlier this year, a hacker tried to sell access to dating site eHarmony for $2,000. And on it goes. Cumulatively, McAfee estimate sizes this market at $1 Trillion.
Of course, governments use hacking as a weapon, too. Hacking has enabled a new cold war with data theft as its objective. For instance, North Korea, it is rumored, graduates 100 government-certified hackers a year while China reportedly maintains six “Reconnaissance Bureaus” located across the country that engage in cyber attacks.
How are attacks executed? They’re almost entirely automated. The online collaboration has inspired a cyber crime “industrial revolution” where attacks are automated and massive in scale. Research indicates that automated cyber attacks pollute between 40 and 50% of internet traffic.
The worst news? The good guys will always be behind the curve since hackers, by definition, are early adopters. Hacker forums, for instance, exemplify the spirit of web-based collaboration and education, offering a rich menu of tutorials, advice and technology designed to steal data. Analysis of one forum, with 210,000 registered hackers, showed that approximately 25% of discussions were focused on hacking tutorials and techniques – ensuring a consistent supply of expertise.