Here’s another gem of conventional wisdom that made sense until it suddenly didn’t - hackers are all professional criminals now, out to make money. The teen hacker enthusiast and pranksters from the early days of anti-sec were a phenomenon of the past.
Except that the teens and loners that spend all day glued to their monitors are suddenly back, apparently form the dead.
After a slow-build through various lesser-known groups, Anonymous sprang into life on the back of issues close to the heart of the average 25 year old - music copyright, the overbearing personality of gaming companies, life’s general unfairness. LulzSec is only the latest more eccentric incarnation of that movement.
What has driven this hacktivism resurgence if that’s what it is? In truth young hackers are not a new phenomenon. They have always been there. A few things that have revived them, however:
They are now better organised, a natural development if you consider the increasingly social and nature of the Internet in the last half decade.
A flourishing underground economy now exists to exchange information on the sometimes mundane vulnerabilities that give hackers a way in.
They have an audience and a channel to communicate through. Computer security might be a technical domain but enough people are interested in it to create critical mass.
Computing is suddenly not only political but geo-political. Hacking is no longer an act of technical sabotage and can get the attention of a more clued-up generation of politicians born after 1960.
DDoSing the SOCA website is eye-grabbing, and the police are undoubtedly very annoyed. But it would be ironic if a campaign to battle the hacktivists distracted from the far bigger task of stopping the Internet fraud, industrial espionage and woeful security that plagues the world every moment of the day, away from the headlines.
That is the real war and we shouldn’t forget it.
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