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Cyber Crooks, Hackers, Criminals on the Web what's Their Motives

A Closer Look at Cyber Crooks

 by: Grace V. Planas

I work from my home, the most peaceful workplace I can think of so far. As a Homemaker and part time Freelance Writer, I submit articles and subscribe to various respectable writing newsletters and do endless research online. But before signing up, I read privacy policies, some brief while others boringly lengthy.

I am just one among millions of unknown but honest Internet users. Why, to my mind, would I worry so much about anyone in the Internet community making me a target for nasty tricks or harassments?

 Nonetheless, I feel safe just knowing that the websites that interest me run a committed sense of policy on security.

But when my computer screen started flashing as if gasping for air and slowly died down months ago, I blamed electric current fluctuations. But when my files disappeared and my computer turned alarmingly uncooperative, I referred the case to the expert, my husband.

For the first time, I was hit by a computer virus.

It was not as simple as unplugging the computer connection, sleeping on it for a few days while a computer surgeon works on the damage so everything could be good as new.

I saw months of hard work on research, completed manuscripts stashed in my hard disk, long hours spent online, time, money, and effort my spouse has invested in setting up the whole system, all go down the drain and turn into nothingness.

Going through the process of repair and reconstruction is painfully tedious, time consuming, and costly.

I was angry. I took it as an attack on my person. The perpetrator has no heart.

A series of disturbing yet quite interesting cyber intrusions that followed prodded me to quench my curiosity and do a personal research on what inspires the behaviour behind the waste of skill, time and resources involved in these damaging cyber pursuits and other electronic petty crimes that make life miserable for honest internet users.

CYBER OFFENDERS

Anyone who enters your home without your consent is committing an offence theoretically. Your computer system is an extension of your boundaries and must not be infringed. When someone gains unauthorized access to your computer in any manner or utilizes the computer technology in performing a felony, he/she commits a cyber crime.

The Hacker is always the first person that comes to mind in relation to cyberspace violations. After all, who else can be as knowledgeable and bold enough to break into someone else’s computer system?

Hackers used to have nobler objectives for their being. In the earlier days of the Computer technology, they were the computer experts/geniuses who tested computer systems, with the owners’ consent, for loopholes and recommended better programs or fixed the errors themselves to frustrate any effort to exploit the defective system by more dangerous ‘creatures.’ They even had the Hackers’ Code of Ethics.

There are two types of Hackers: The Ethical Pros, the highly skilled professionals who hire out their skills to organizations concerned about their own network’s safety. They represent Hackers of earlier generation. The other type is the Cyber Rambos or plain crackers-despised by the Elite Hackers, Crackers crack/break systems for superficial reasons. (UC San Diego Psycho. Dept.: Computer & Network Resources)

But by what many Hackers have become these days, it is difficult to ascribe their destructive behaviors to nobility instead of outright violation.

And by whatever name they are called, these cyber felons have become simply faceless and nameless ‘hackers’ to their victims.

ON MOTIVES

An online article by David Benton entitled: ‘What’s Inside a Cracker?’ from SANS (Sys Admin, Audit, Network, Security) Information Security Reading Room, states seven psychological profiles of malicious hackers as documented by Canadian Psychologist Marc Rogers M.A., Graduate Studies, Dept. of psychology, university of Manitoba and a former Police Computer Crimes Investigator:

Newbie/Tool Kit (NT): new to hacking, have limited computer/programming proficiencies; rely on ready-made pieces of software (tool kits) that are readily available in the Internet;

Internals (IT): disgruntled employees or ex-employees proficient in how the company’s internal systems work;

Coders (CD) and Virus Writers: programmers who’d like to see themselves as elite; they write codes but not for personal use. They have their own networks to experiment with “zoos.” They leave to others to introduce their codes into the “wild” or Internet. (Hacker Psych 101 by Jeremy Quittner);

Cyber-Punks (CP): antisocial geeks, the most visible, socially inept, and burdened with unresolved anger that they take into cyberspace; they relate better to computers than humans and have better computer skills and some programming capabilities; capable of writing their own software, they intentionally engage in malicious acts such as defacing web pages, spamming, credit card number theft, etc.;

Old Guard Hackers (OG): have no criminal intent in its real sense but display an alarming disrespect for personal property with great interest in intellectual endeavour;.

Professional Criminals (PC) and Cyber Terrorists (CT): most dangerous; They are professional criminals and ex-intelligence operatives who are guns for hire. They specialize in corporate espionage, are extremely well trained and have access to state of the art equipments;

Further, Rogers pointed out that not all Hackers are criminals. He has categorized them as follows: (Jeremy Quittner, Hacker Psych 101);

Old School Hackers: akin to the 1960s style computer programmers from Stanford MIT for whom it is an honor to be a hacker; interested in analyzing systems with no criminal intent; they believe the Internet was designed to be an open system;

Script Kiddies/ Cyber – Punks: wannabe hackers and crackers; use other Cracking programs carelessly with the intent to vandalize and corrupt systems; often caught red-handed because they brag their exploits online.

Professional Criminals: breaking into systems and selling information Is their livelihood; they get hire for espionage; often have ties with organized Criminal groups; not interested in disrupting systems but more on stealing intelligence data;

The list of motives is endless: boredom, illicit thrill, addiction, blackmail or low self esteem, and a desperate need for recognition from the hacker peer group, all cowardly performed under the protection of anonymity.

“Underlying the psyche of criminal hackers may be a deep sense of inferiority. The mastery of the computer technology or the shut down of a major site causing millions of dollars of damage is real power trip.” (J. Quittner, Hacker Psych 101, Hackers: Computer Outlaws)

Jarrold M. Post, a George Washington University Psychiatrist says: It’s (Hackers) a population that takes refuge in computers because of their problems sustaining real world relationships.”

The less information you share in the Internet the better. But as computer wizards, Hackers will always find ways to reconstruct your identity even with very little details in their possession.

However, there are varied ways by which you, a legitimate Internet user can be protected. Know the warning signs and get educated on how to thwart any attempt to victimize you. Don’t take the wired blows sitting down.

“Constant awareness and updating of knowledge is the best defense to any attack,” wrote Shayne Gregg, CA (NZ), CISA, CMC, in ‘A Response to Recent Cyber Attacks.’ (Information Systems Audit & Control Association InfoBytes)

I recommend The Complete Idiot’s Guide to: Protecting Yourself Online by Preston Gralla, Executive Editor, ZDNet. It is comprehensive, easy to understand, and a must for every Internet user’s library.

HACKERS, CYBERPUNKS, et al

Cyber Crime is not monopolized by hackers or crackers. The paedophile, thief or drug dealer in your community who hire computer experts to carry out their illegal activities online are as guilty and despicable.

Just like the criminals roaming out in the real world, Cyber felons are a bunch of psychologically imbalanced and misguided citizens who happen to have the dexterity to commit electronic transgressions or hire a computer expert to do the job and will never get enough despite their Cyber Glory and ‘conquests.’

Still the tendency to commit a crime lies hidden in wholesome images, while the unsuspecting is often caught by surprise. What you don’t see is sometimes what you get.

Hackers cannot be strictly stereotyped. Peter Shipley, Chief Security architect for the Big Five firm KPMG avers: “I know a lot of hackers, including one who spends an hour and a half in the gym everyday. He is built. I know of women who are knock-down gorgeous who are hackers.”

No Exceptions

Whenever high tech-crazed folks travel through your wires to make your computer system malfunction, steal your identity or get paid to give you trouble, it’s a sign that you do not take the needed precaution whenever you log in.

When I asked myself quietly back then “Why me?” I guess the reply would be “And why not?” As with most inventions, the Internet is being abused and mishandled. And as always, a helpless victim completes the drama.

Anyone can be a casualty at random regardless if one is honest, educated, high profile, residing at the far end of the globe or a Stay-at-Home- Mom working hard and peacefully from her abode.

Hackers won’t care how his/her prey will feel.

But I am still hoping that such an impressive brainwork will be put to good use by present day hackers, just how their predecessors intended Hacking to be used.

 

About The Author

Grace V. Planas is Filipino Chinese living in the Philippines, a Homemaker and part time Freelance Writer. Formerly a Contributing Writer to Working Woman Magazine-Philippines, she writes poetry, psychology/self help, and informative as well as inspirational pieces based on research, personal and other people’s experiences. She has had articles published in various Writing/Literary websites and continually submits works online. Read more of her other articles at: www.geocities.com/my_hearts_haven/index

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