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Machine Wars

Cybercrime used to be personal. Today, it's professional and pre-programmed.

Thomas Claburn

January 11, 2005

1 Min Read

Cybercrime used to be personal. Today, it's professional and pre-programmed.Recall computer security expert Tsutomu Shimomura's effort to track hacker Kevin Mitnick in 1994. There was a personal rivalry fit for detective fiction.

But these days, as I discovered researching InformationWeek's upcoming security feature Machine Wars, hacking is automated.

There are many areas where expertise can be automated and made available through software. In medicine, we now have expert systems that automate aspects of the diagnostic process. So perhaps it's no surprise that hackers are releasing tools that automate attacks. But the advent of crime bots also owes something to emergence of organized gangs of cyber criminals. Experts indicate that such groups are increasingly funding the development of worms, viruses, and the like.

The arrest of members of a Russian cyber crime gang last July by the UK's National Hi-Tech Crime Unit and its counterparts in the Russian Federation represents an example of this trend. The gang is believed to have extorted hundreds of thousands of pounds from online bookmakers after crippling their servers with a denial of service attack to demonstrate the dangers of failing to pay protection money.

According to a spokesperson for the UK NHTCU, "The denial of service attacks were launched from compromised machines (ie: zombies) via a botnet."

Like John Henry in his storied race against a steam drill, IT admins are killing themselves trying to keep up.

About the Author(s)

Thomas Claburn

Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful master's degree in film production. He wrote the original treatment for 3DO's Killing Time, a short story that appeared in On Spec, and the screenplay for an independent film called The Hanged Man, which he would later direct. He's the author of a science fiction novel, Reflecting Fires, and a sadly neglected blog, Lot 49. His iPhone game, Blocfall, is available through the iTunes App Store. His wife is a talented jazz singer; he does not sing, which is for the best.

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