NPR reports on hackers and online security, and what U.S. law enforcement officials are doing to protect your data:
The FBI is on the case — so much so that 1 in 4 hackers may now be an informant, according to some experts.
Ed Pilkington, who covers hacking for theGuardian, tells Weekend All Things Consideredguest host Rachel Martin that the overriding atmosphere in the hacker community is one of paranoia and fear as more and more of them join the other side to get out of trouble. […]
There are those in the cyber-community who think even more than 1 in 4 hackers are in cahoots with the U.S. government these days. Former hacker and information security consultant Kevin Mitnick says that informants are essential to America’s defenses. […]
Today, the risk — and the stakes — have never been higher. As more and more personal and financial information has wound up on the Web, hackers have increasingly banded together to attack that information.
“The main group are the carders. They specialize in breaking into databases of credit cards, usually held by banks or credit card companies,” Pilkington says. […]
They do this with very sophisticated attacks. But the FBI has managed to fight them, Pilkington says, using an old-fashioned trick.
“It’s the trick they use against drug gangs, it’s the trick they use against mobsters and the mafia: You catch a little guy doing a little thing,” he says.
Pilkington gives the example of Albert Gonzales, who was caught fraudulently taking money out of an ATM, which “in the scheme of this stuff is pretty small beer.” Authorities got him out of prison early and set him up in an FBI office. They paid him $75,000 a year to set up networks to meet other hackers.
“He then became essentially a honey trap for big carders and identity thieves in the hacking community,” Pilkington says.
But last year Gonzales got a 20-year sentence for hacking: While he was working as an informant for the FBI, he was secretly hacking government agencies and back accounts.