Information Warfare: February 2, 2005

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Cyberwar experts are becoming alarmed at how organized the criminal computer underground is becoming. There are many sites where useful information is basically sold openly. You have to be something of an insider to get to these password protected chat rooms and web pages. Criminal investigators, and military intelligence agents, have been staking out many of these places for some time. Instead of just discussing how to perform illegal hacks, these places are becoming markets for cyberwar tools. Police are finding exploits (flaws in Internet software that allows systems to be entered illegally) and exploit code (working procedures on how to use exploits) being sold openly. An exploit will get you about $500. Exploit code goes for up to ten times that, or even more, depending on how useful it is. Worse yet, it has been discovered that programmers who regularly come up with exploits, and exploit code, and live in Eastern Europe, have been approached by gangsters and told to work for them, or die. The work pays well, although the programmers can go to jail if the law catches up with them, and die if they try to quit. Russia, and other East European countries, are trying to crack down on the Internet fraud work going on in their countries, but so far are catching mostly small operators, novices and freelancers. The gangs are well protected, not just by firepower, but by lots of bribes, and threats of violence. 

In addition to exploits and exploit codes, the cyberwar flea markets also offer zombies (home computers secretly taken over by hackers), which can be had for less than a dollar each. Credit card numbers, ready for exploitation, are available for a few bucks each. Many services are also available, like DDOS attacks that will shut down most web sites for hours, days, or longer. You can hire a team to get into well protected systems (at banks or government agencies), but that runs into serious money, and references that will be checked. But in most cases, a terrorist can buy what they want, once they get access to these areas. So far, terrorist organizations have not attracted many tech savvy members who can handle this sort of stuff. But in Europe, there are anti-American groups who have the people that can, and are willing to do anything for "the cause." Its bad enough that criminals have easier access to these cyberwar tools, but terrorists can do much more damage. Terrorists arent interested in just stealing money, they want to kill people. While there has yet to be a case of anyone killed with cyberwar weapons, that may soon change because of these cyberwar bazaars.

 


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