The New York Times has an interesting story showing how online privacy can be easily violated by hackers.
CHANGSHA, China — With a few quick keystrokes, a computer hacker who goes by the code name Majia calls up a screen displaying his latest victims. […]
As he explains it, an online “trapdoor” he created just over a week ago has already lured 2,000 people from China and overseas — people who clicked on something they should not have, inadvertently spreading a virus that allows him to take control of their computers and steal bank account passwords.
Majia, a soft-spoken college graduate in his early 20s, is a cyberthief.
He operates secretly and illegally, as part of a community of hackers who exploit flaws in computer software to break into Web sites, steal valuable data and sell it for a profit.
Internet security experts say China has legions of hackers just like Majia, and that they are behind an escalating number of global attacks to steal credit card numbers, commit corporate espionage and even wage online warfare on other nations, which in some cases have been traced back to China. […]
In addition to independent criminals like Majia, computer security specialists say there are so-called patriotic hackers who focus their attacks on political targets. Then there are the intelligence-oriented hackers inside the People’s Liberation Army, as well as more shadowy groups that are believed to work with the state government.
Indeed, in China — as in parts of Eastern Europe and Russia — computer hacking has become something of a national sport, and a lucrative one. […]
Financial incentives motivate many young Chinese hackers like Majia, experts say. Scott J. Henderson, author of “The Dark Visitor: Inside the World of Chinese Hackers,” said he had spent years tracking Chinese hackers, sometimes with financial help from the United States government. One Chinese hacker who broke into a United States government site later lectured on hacking at a leading university, Mr. Henderson said, and worked for China’s security ministry.