Secure Communications

Adrian Lamo knows your number

How safe is the Internet today? Do you think your own personal data is safeguarded? If you have a website, do you think it can’t be hacked? Well, if you’re Adrian Lamo, you know the answer is simple: absolutely nothing is safe.

Lamo knows this from deep personal experience. He gained his own measure of fame back in 2001 and 2002 as a computer hacker. He allegedly accessed the databases of the largest companies in the world (Bank of America, Yahoo!, McDonalds, Citigroup) and quickly racked up an impressive track record as someone who would break into a corporate system and then let the “hackee” know about it. All of this came to a screeching halt in September, 2003 when he surrendered to the FBI and was sentenced to 2 years probation for computer crimes involving Microsoft and The New York Times.

Located now in the Bay Area, Lamo is a working journalist who is frequently called upon to give speeches at security conventions and various “cybecrime” gatherings. He likes to open each appearance by giving out to everyone in attendance his own Social Security number. The message here is clear: if we think that one of the “sacred cows” of our personal data is protected on the Web, then we are all just fooling ourselves.

Credit card security? There are underground websites where stolen credit card numbers can be bought and used. Two years ago, the going price for a number was $5 per card. Today, an enterprising hacker can pick up a number for a mere 50 cents. It’s the classic case of supply and demand, and in the rapidly expanding world of Internet crime, there’s a whole lot of supply.

Lamo may soon become an ever bigger celebrity if a movie – Hackers Wanted – is ever released. The film was backed by some big names in Hollywood – Kevin Spacey’s company produced it and Spacey himself is the narrator. There’s a trailer for viewing online courtesy of the Eye Crave Network (scroll down to find the clip) but that’s all you can see. The documentary is tied up in internal squabbles that are common in the movie industry and there is no timeframe for when it will be released for viewing by a mass audience.

The film company missed a huge opportunity. Chances are good that if they released the picture over Halloween, it would be one of the most frightening films available in theaters today.


November 3, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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