Back in the day, Matthew Broderick impressed an entire generation of emerging computer users with his Robin Hood-esque hacking skills in War Games. His ability to stick it to the man made him a hero when he changed a girl’s grade in the school’s computer in order to impress her (we’ll ignore the fact that he didn’t “hack” their computer, but rather looked up the password in the school’s office). Later, he was again hailed as a saving boy wonder for breaking into a government computer in order to play a video, only to expose the fact that the entire US military didn’t know how their own computer worked.
These days, hackers are just as likely to be working for the man as sticking it to him. Whether or not they are direct “state sponsored” operatives, as so many new reports claim, only means that they might be on the government’s payroll, or they may be selling their work to the highest bidder. That bidder could be their own government or someone else’s.
A new report on a breach of Arrow Tech Associates shows the effort and outcome involved. Arrow Tech makes ballistic projectile software, and it’s not limited to any single government customer. Iranian hackers broke into the company’s system and stole the software, something that proved useless since a physical key (much like in War Games) is required to operate it.
Last week’s Department of Justice take down of AlphaBay uncovered countless Craig’s List-style listings for ransomware, malware, and other malicious tech tools. Some of those were likely written by the original posters, while others were quite likely stolen tools that were available for a price.
Hacking your own government to correct an injustice is a long-running theme in the world of hacking, and white hat hackers serve a vital purpose in the cybersecurity realm. Now, the real threat is from hackers who have no loyalty to anything other than money, meaning their “for hire” status can be bought by anyone.