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The Hacking Plague

William Murphy Posted:
Columns Bill Murphy 0

Editor’s Note: This was written prior to the apprehension of one of the potential Lulzsec suspects in Great Britain earlier this week.

When I say “Hacking Plague”, I don’t mean any real disease and I don’t mean the phishing scams out there to get at your WoW gold.  I’m speaking strictly and earnestly about the recent wave of Lulzsec hacks spreading across the connected world.  It’s absolutely all at once riveting, astonishing, disgusting, frightening, and kind of damned funny too.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s appalling: both from a customer’s perspective, and a decent human being’s perspective.  What’s the point of all this for Lulzsec other than to show people they can do it?  Is there some greater goal of holding companies responsible for bad security measures?  If so, there has to be a better way to go about that.  I just can’t believe that the folks behind the hacks, as talented in a creepy way they might be, don’t have a better way of showing the hacked companies where they need to change their policies.  Heck, they could make tons of scratch by merely being consultants to the businesses they’ve brought down.  But instead they seem content to point and laugh at the poor kids who are caught with their pants down.

That’s not to say Lulzsec hasn’t been creative: their fake PBS story about Tupac being alive and well had me chortling at my desk for most of the day.  But where is the line drawn?  These are peoples’ lives their messing with, not just the companies’ stock prices.  At some point someone will be hurt by their actions, and I’m afraid that only then will there be serious action taken by our law enforcement.  But what are the larger ramifications?  What do these strings of attacks really say about our internet security? 

I know I’m not the only guy who pays most everything online anymore.  I’m always telling everyone I know who still uses the stamp & snail-mail method to give up and try online banking.  Now, I’m more and more afraid to offer that suggestion.  I’m not exactly ready to throw out my Android phone and burn my iPad, but I’m definitely a little more hesitant about this widely accepted “fact” that the Intarwebz are safe.  These aren’t just tiny websites and networks being taken down, they’re big banks, big corporations, and they’re starting to affect our 0.0 sec space people!

Heck, hacking like this is actually considered an Act of War in some cases.  Granted, I highly doubt that anyone would consider my SOE account a matter of national security.  But stealing all my personal info tied to that account is indeed a form of cyber-terrorism and it should be punishable by law.  I’m not saying a hacker is anywhere the same level of criminal as say John Wayne Gacy, but he shouldn’t be excused by law because his crimes are less heinous.  Personal info, SSNs, bank accounts… this is all serious stuff, folks.  The sooner we start acting like it’s more than a hot new trend, the sooner we can all start to feel safe about inputting information onto some distant server.

Now, I know these Lulzsecs guys are very likely trying to just show everyone how bad security measures are in this age.  I get it.  Or maybe their message isn’t as good-natured (however wrong).  I don’t know.  But what I do know is that it’s only a matter of time before you, me, or the next guy is affected by it and then I’m pretty sure it’ll cease being merely an interesting news blurb on the TV.  Whether the companies with bad information security protocols are “asking for it” or not, it’s a big issue.  It’s one that’s clearly beginning to affect more and more gamers.  And I think it’s time that something was done to address it.  If steps are already being taken, and I’m just not aware… that’s a problem too.  We live in an increasingly digital world.  Just as police are needed to help keep the peace in the real world, we need someone doing the same on the web. 

There’s one thing I’m worried all this hacking will be used for though: more arbitrary internet laws.  How long will it be before someone in Washington uses Lulzsec as a scapegoat for locking down the web tighter and tighter?  How long before all the mess caused by this hacking group turns around and bites them on the ass?  If people aren’t pissed at them now, they will be when they get our digital freedoms taken away, that’s for sure.


William Murphy

Bill is the former Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.