The Future of Hacking Sounds Pretty Ridiculous

Since the downfall of LulzSec, hackers have been busy coming up with wild ideas to outdo their many attention-grabbing stunts from 2011.

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Since the downfall of LulzSec, hackers have been busy coming up with wild ideas to outdo their many attention-grabbing stunts from 2011. Then, we wrote about the difference between hacks that simply snatch headlines and hacks that actually affected positive change. But this year, some of the ideas for new modes of disruption are approaching downright insanity -- if not fear-mongering and national security-threatening -- and we doubt most hacking veterans would approve of the approach.

Let's start with the quasi-possible. Tuesday morning, The Wall Street Journal offered up details of a super secret meeting of the National Security Agency. "Gen. Keith Alexander, the director, provided his assessment in meetings at the White House and in other private sessions, according to people familiar with the gatherings," explained The Journal's Siobhan Gorman. "While he hasn't publicly expressed his concerns about the potential for Anonymous to disrupt power supplies, he has warned publicly about an emerging ability by cyberattackers to disable or even damage computer networks." Yikes. A Nor'easter that brings down branches and knocks out the power lines is one thing, but a bunch of geeks crashing your local power company's servers just for fun? That's sorta scary.

Anonymous (or at least people claiming to be affiliates) have raised their black warning flag calling for the beginning of "Operation Global Blackout" on March 31st, however this targets the internet, not power grids. According to Gorman's sources, "Experts consider the likelihood of an Internet blackout to be low, [and] The Internet should be able to absorb the attack the group outlined." Even Anonymous affiliates have been claiming lately that OpGlobalBlackout is nothing but an empty threat.

We're guessing the blackout idea has more to do with frustration for recognition than anything else. How else can you characterize this one: A hacker space mission. "At the Chaos Communication Camp 2011 Jens Ohlig, Lars Weiler, and Nick Farr proposed a daunting task: to land a hacker on the Moon by 2034," Tom Hardy writes on The Powerbase. "The plan calls for three separate phases: 1. Establishing an open, free, and globally accessible satellite communication network, 2. Put a human into orbit, 3. Land on the Moon."

Hackers on the moon? Promoting these crazy-sounding plans may be a way for older school hackers to steal back the spotlight from LulzSec and its sometimes meaningless website takedowns in 2011. Even their fellow hackers made fun of the group at the time of the assaults. "They were rampaging, and clearly not willing to stop,” one hacker who calls himself Asherah told The New York Times last summer. “Despite the rumors, they’re not very accomplished hackers. They’re attention-drunk.”
One would have to be an extremely accomplished hacker to shut down power or fly a man to space, if either task is possible. In the end, all of this talk may just be the veteran hackers bemoaning the current state of their hobby. Kevin Mitnick, the FBI's former most-wanted hacker, for one, probably isn't thrilled about these kinds of shenanigans. "My drivers for hacking were intellectual curiosity, pursuit of knowledge and seduction of adventure," Mitnick said last summer at a book signing in New York. "I did get a huge endorphin rush when I was able to crack a system because it was like a video game," Mitnick continued. Bringing down power grids or landing on the moon aren't the next level of that game: They're crazy ideas that will probably come to nothing.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.