Not long ago, I wrote an article arguing that cyber security was similar to national security, so we should consider allowing tax revenue help pay for public-private partnerships to fight cyber attacks. I argued that cyber security is a public good. I have always viewed hackers who seek to infiltrate the computers of unsuspecting Internet users to be terrorists. Yesterday, I accidentally stumbled on a little more proof for that argument.
I was researching unemployment benefits for a post I was working on. In doing so, I did a Google search for "ny state unemployment benefits expire". I looked through the first link (from the NY State Labor Dept website), and didn't find what I was looking for. Then, I went back, and stupidly clicked on the second. DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME! In seconds, the attack began, with windows trying to force me to install binary files, etc.
Luckily, I was not dumb enough to think, "Gee sure, I'd love to install this file from a website that I'm not familiar with." But unable to stop the windows from popping up again and again, I quickly force-shut down my computer. A visit from IT and two full system scans later, it looks like my quick shut down paid off, and I was uninfected.
But think, for a moment, about who this webpage is intended for. It was supposed to explain what you do if your unemployment benefits run out. Not many people these days are worse off then those who are scared their paychecks they rely on from the government may stop, yet that's exactly who the creator of this web site is attempting to attack. Real nice. Now tell me that's not a terrorist of a rather miserable order.
Of course, I should also note that this particular hacker was not the most intelligent. If you want to steal someone's identity, you probably don't want to aim for someone who is pretty much guaranteed to be relatively poor. If you are worried about your unemployment benefits, you probably don't have as much money to steal as, say, someone researching private yachts online.
Finally, I am a little disappointed with Google. For a company who seeks to fight against evil, having the second website listed in a search about unemployment benefits being a malicious site is pretty bad. I'd imagine it would strive to do a better job of weeding out such trash.