Can Hackers Be Traced?
Computers are a tricky thing. Hacking is the genius behind the nominal IT geek. Recently, I was convinced my computer had been hacked. I took my PC to a local micro tech center, waited an hour and a half to be seen, told the techy exactly what I had said on my written form 1 hour and 1/2 ago, only to have him diddle around for a minute or two and advise me that finding a hack or hacker is virtually impossible. He recommended dumping all my files onto a flashdrive, cleaning my computer, and starting anew.
But this made me wonder about all the accusations being levied at various countries for hacking into the Pentagon, Sony, Credit Card companies, Healthcare companies etc… Do they really have a clue who is doing the hacking?
The simple answer is – not really. They use ‘educated guesses’ more often than not.
Could the educated guesses be disguised as propaganda? Yes.
Example in point. North Korea was accused of hacking into Sony. Of course, they adamantly denied the claim. And we can’t trust anything that comes out of their mouth. But, what if – they didn’t? Then who did?
There are a number of prominent hacking groups in the world:
- Chaos Computer Club
- Lizard Squad
And then there are government backed hackers:
- Tarh Andishan – Iranian
- Syrian Electronic Army – Syria
- Reconnaissance General Bureau – North Korean
- Unit 61398 – China
- Apt28 – Russia
- Hidden Lynx – China
Each group has a target genre. For example, Lizard Squad dedicates itself to random attacks on games and playstations with no real purpose involved other than to create disruption and irritation. Lulzsec attacks social media and media sites, also just for funzies. The Syrian Electronic Army attacks primarily government sites in the Middle East, Europe and US defense contractors, and media sites for propaganda. Hidden Lynx is a hit on demand hacking group that will target whomever for the right price.
Hackers are feverishly working on the ever more aspiring target, Electrical Grids. But the most lucrative hack is to grab identities and sell them to the highest bidder. Companies include Anthem, Home Depot, JP Morgan chase and Ebay to name a few. And the number of hacks per company can be as high as 1000 or more annually. Hacking into airline reservations has really no verifiable benefit to the hacker except maybe some sort of ego prestige as it is only designed to disrupt. Hackers like to play with oil companies, causing outages, spills and disrupting activities. Too often, it is a game of sorts with little that can be done to prevent it and even less to find the source.
It used to be that IP addresses could be traced, but they are forever changing and can be diffused with multiple locations across a variety of countries thereby covering the tracks. While the media might comment that “Chinese Hackers…” or “Russian Hackers…” were the culprit, more often than not they haven’t much to go on except a ‘general location’ that could very well be the US operating in Siberia.
What we do know is that we don’t know much. And cyber security has become so prominent across the globe that threats and hacks are common. A mere yawn. The cost is not though with numbers ranging from $100 billion annually to $1 trillion. And while the Chinese might be doing the hacking, or the Russians, or Syrians, or whoever, that is of no consequence, the consequence is who signed the contract, who ordered the hit…
The more we rely on the internet, the more vulnerable we become. Electronic cars – a hackers delight, electronic kitchen gadgets, easy. But like all theft, the value of the end game is the big pat on the back in their world. Can we prevent a hack? Not really, we are pions in the world, they have no interest in individual computers per se, waste of energy. Hacks into your identity will more often than not be a result of information spinning in the cloud with every company we do business with – schools, healthcare facilities, IRS, credit cards, wherever the most data is stored.
The Happy Hackers world is a shadow, it follows us everywhere, sometimes long, sometimes short, but never truly disappears until the sun goes down.