Daily Archives: 2007-11-30

Hackers get busted

There is an article on BBC News about how yet another hacker running a botnet got busted. When I read the sentence “…he is said to be very bright and very skilled …”, I started thinking. How did they find him? He clearly must have made some serious mistakes, what sort of mistakes? How can isolation influence someone’s behaviour, what is the importance of external opinions on objectivity?

When we write a paper, we very much appreciate when someone is willing to read it, and give back some feedback. It allows to identify loopholes in thinking, flaws in descriptions, and so forth. The feedback does not necessarily have to imply large changes in the text, but it very often clarifies it and makes it much more readable.

Hackers do use various tools – either publicly available, or made by the hacker themself. There may be errors in the tools, but they will be probably fixed very quickly, especially if they are popular. Hackers often allow others to use the tools – if it is for testing or fame. But hacking for profit is a quite creative job, and there is plenty left for actions that cannot be automated.

So what is the danger of these manual tasks? Is it the case that hackers write down descriptions of all the procedures with checklists and stick to them, or do they do the stuff intuitively and become careless after a few months or years? Clearly, the first option is how intelligence agencies would deal with the problem, because they know that human is the weakest link. But what about hackers? “…very bright and very skilled…”, but isolated from the rest of the world?

So I keep thinking, is it worth trying to reconstruct “operational procedures” for running a botnet, analyse them, identify the mistakes most likely to happen, and use such knowledge against the “cyber-crime groups”?