Friday, January 2, 2015


     The SONY Pictures hacking took center stage, but OSINT analysts should be aware of the broad-based, ubiquitous increase in PC hacking. Last year, more than 300 Internet crimes were committed every hour- with a victim hit every ten seconds on average. Three million online crimes were reported... and that's only the number reported. Hackers attack computers every 39 seconds and according to the University of Maryland, they attack computers 2,244 times a day as result of weak user names and passwords. A recent FBI paper on Internet crime complaints topped 300,000 in 2010! These complaints have soared each year since then.
     Note: See "U.S. State of Cybercrime: Rising Risks, Reduced Readiness" report- I found it to be an informative resource on this issue.
     Last year's records of Internet crime totaled 303,809 complaints, the second-highest sum in 10 years. Despite the recent arrest of one of its leading members, the professional hacker group known as ANONYMOUS has law enforcement officials concerned, since they vowed to expand their hacking operations.
     Anonymous is amazing, in actuality. They are a group of loosely assembled hackers scattered throughout the world and conduct a new form of guerrilla warfare, including seizing news media headlines and penetrating the most secretive of government operations. The latter is what eventually led to many of their arrests. 
     In late 2010, thousands of hackers conducted a coordinated strike on the Websites of Visa, MasterCard, and PayPal to protest their treatment of WikiLeaks. They also hacked, defaced and embarrassed the Websites of Sony Entertainment, Fox, the Vatican, and the Church of Scientology. No one felt safe after this coordinated hacking attack. Thousands of user accounts from pornography 
Websites were exposed, leaving government employees and military personnel embarrassed and shamed.

     These attacks were mainly perpetrated by masses of users who rallied through the message boards of 4Chan, but many other attacks were masterminded by a small, tight-knit group of hackers who formed a splinter group of Anonymous called LulzSec. The legend of Anonymous and Lulz Security grew in the wake of each ambitious hack. It was a mystery on how they penetrated intricate corporate security systems.
     LulzSec is the common name for Lulz Security and was a black hat computer hacker group that compromised user accounts from Sony Pictures in 2011 and took the CIA website offline. It's these high profile targets and the sarcastic messages posted after their attacks that put them in the spotlight.
     A leader of LulzSec, code-named Sabu, was arrested and in a plea deal helped police track down four other members in March 2012. British authorities had previously arrested two teenage LulzSec members. The video (below) tells how former hacker Hector "Sabu" got arrested by the FBI. 

     Hackers work as lone wolves. Case in point is Franois Cousteix, better known as "Hacker Croll." Cousteix is a French self-taught cracker and reached notoriety by hacking into Twitter in July 2009. He obtained access to the internet accounts of many of Twitter's high profile executives. Cousteix was in close contact with reporters from TechCrunch, who published numerous articles about the information obtained and the incident itself. Cousteix remained anonymous until his arrest in March 2010.
     "Hacker Croll's" Twitter infiltration was made easy because the target's passwords and usernames were the same for both personal and business accounts. This led to a domino effect whereby all accounts were hacked including their PayPal and iTunes accounts. He obtained over 300 pages of sensitive documents including Twitters financial projections and meeting notes.
     Some described these hackers as terrorists, others as activists. Experts in the Intelligence Community (IC) are trying to answer many questions about them- Do they work in teams or as lone wolves? Are they a cabal of skilled hackers or a disorganized bunch of kids? How vulnerable is the Internet underbelly to their attacks? How capable is this global cyber insurgency movement becoming?

Robert Morton, Ed., Ed.S. is a member of the Association Of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO) and writes the online spy novel series "Corey Pearson- CIA Spymaster in the Caribbean".  The views expressed on this site do not represent those of any organization he is a member of. Contact him on the Secure Contact Form

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