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Anonymous – The Worlds Third Superpower……

22 Apr

‘Throughout the 20th century Russia and America were the two superpowers in the world with the threat of ‘Mutually Assured Destruction’ holding each other at bay. Now there is a third superpower called Anonymous who, without an arsenal of weaponry at their disposal have the power to bring civilisation to its knees……’

 

The History of Hacking and Anonymous……?

 

Way back in the 70s a group of tech-heads, some employed by telephone companies, began ‘Phreakin’, a harmless activity tapping into phone lines and making calls to other Phreakers, or even to themselves via another far off country by hijacking into phone lines through a back door. The process was simple; build a device known as a ‘Bluebox’ with parts from Radio Shack that generated tones. We’re all used to hearing these tones on modern phone equipment but back then numbers were sent as a series of clicks and the tones were used to open and access the lines. Phreakin was a harmless activity and many of the names now associated with modern computing were in on the act from the start such as Steve Wosniac, one of the founders of Apple, and Bill Gates (no introduction needed).

 

It is from this early form of hacking that the next generation of hackers were born. The most well known amongst them being Anonymous……

 

Giving Hackers a Bad Name……Guy_Fawkes_01

 

A lot of hackers hack because they can. They relish the intellectual challenge of deconstructing programmers’ work and that’s as far as most go. Some will even tell the company about the inadequacies in their systems; offering a unique public service. Anonymous are that kind of group. To the best of my knowledge they have not interfered with databases or sought to profit from their activities. They sometimes make their presence known an ‘alternative’ start up screen from the ones the employees are used to seeing. Sadly, there are a few scammers who seek to exploit their access by making money from their victims……

 

Some Interesting Hacks of Recent Times……

 

‘Stuxnet’ is one of the hackers more interesting creations. Stuxnet installed itself on millions of innocent computers over the course of about two years. It was harmless to the average PC and you’d never have known it was even there. As it spread it found its way into the Iranians’ nuclear facilities. Stuxnet didn’t steal passwords or access codes, what it did was pure simplicity and hats off to whom created it, thought by many to be the American Secret Services. So, how did Stuxnet work? Almost all modern factory equipment is fitted with computerised ‘controllers’. They tell the machines when they are about to run out of something or if they are moving too fast for the production line ahead. There are thousands of these control boxes in every factory, in every country and in every industry. Stuxnet took control over one such operation; namely the RPM of the centrifuges used in the purification of Uranium. Nobody knows how long Stuxnet had sat quietly waiting to perform its eventual task, which was to tell the centrifuges they were running too slowly and needed to speed up. Meanwhile, running a sub-routine to tell the operators that all was normal. The eventual outcome of all this subterfuge was to accelerate the centrifuges until they shook themselves to bits, all without anybody noticing what was happening and with no idea that their computers had been compromised. “Neat, ha” is how I had it described to me.

 

The newest kid on the block is ‘Heartbleed’; the extent of its damage to systems is not yet fully known but they made it clear to users of ‘Mumsnet’ that it had been compromised and login data, user name, pass words etc had been accessed. Mumsnet, to the best of my knowledge, doesn’t use card payment systems, so it is pretty safe to say that nothing malicious has come of that intrusion but, people do tend to use the same pass words over and over again. You can hardly blame them, I had a quick tot up all my accounts and I have somewhere around 60 usernames and passwords, so like a lot of people who can’t perform feats of memory akin to remembering the order of a deck of cards, use some more than once and don’t change them nearly enough. Worse still they will often use a child’s name or birthday. My feeling is that the hackers were pointing out a security flaw and not out to raid peoples’ bank accounts; or why make yourself known?

 

Implications……

 

Unless you have a computer connected to a printer that has never been connected to the internet, the chances are you’ll probably have viruses on it. They are unlikely to do any harm, maybe slow you down a little. The big problems lay with the financial institutions, governments and the military. Any system that uses computers and is not completely isolated from the web is vulnerable, no matter how clever the ‘geeks’ that program them. Systems need to access each other to communicate and no system is foolproof. You can guarantee that someone somewhere can find a back door into the system and taken into consideration the computer controlled environment we live in there are ‘geeks’ tapping away at keyboards in basements all over the world, even if their intentions are innocent and they simply relish the challenge.

 

For all we know there could be a ‘Stuxnet’ quietly installing itself onto your PC right now. To what end nobody can say. Fortunately, it is the geeks that play at hacking for fun; it is the secret services, MI5/6, the CIA and Mossad who are most likely to be tampering with the ‘trigger’. Let’s just hope they don’t get caught by Russia or North Korea, who thinking they are under attack, hit the big red button.

 

It is groups like Anonymous who help to demonstrate the vulnerabilities of government systems. However, if a member was traced and arrested, would they be hailed as moderators? No, you can almost guarantee that we would be told that a member of a terrorist cell had been apprehended, saving us all from destruction and I’ll bet everything I have on which ‘terrorist’ outfit they are connected to. Yep, the non-geographical, highly organised hyper terrorists ‘al Qaeda’. Don’t be put off by the mud huts and rusty pick-ups with Kalashnikovs crudely mounted on the back. Somewhere there is a high tech volcano where Mohamed Scaramanga is plotting world domination. Let’s hope The Department of Homeland Security finds that volcano before they use the death ray on us……

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