The hacker underground isn’t exactly known for its transparency, but lately malwebolent circles have descended into paranoia and distrust. The cause? Infiltration by the FBI and secret service has folks like Eric Corley estimating that one in four hackers is now an informing on their peers. Mr. Corley should know, he’s been editor-and-chief of The Hacker Quartley, now at 2600.com, since 1984. Using the threat of long prison sentences, cyber-policing divisions have established ties deep inside the community. Marketplaces for stolen identities and credit card numbers have been run by FBI moles. Undercover agents have also been posing as “carders,” skilled in identity theft, using the intel from the forums they run to put dozens of cyber criminals in jail.
Part of the problem, Corley tells The Guardian, is that, “Owing to the harsh penalties involved and the relative inexperience with the law that many hackers have, they are rather susceptible to intimidation.” Anarchist “hacktivist” collectives like Anonymous have been under particular pressure from the FBI, with raids on 40 addresses in the US in January thanks to a willingness to turn over IP addresses—the first fatal crack in a collective’s facade. Barrett Brown, the group’s spokesman, says:
“The FBI are always there. They are always watching, always in the chatrooms. You don’t know who is an informant and who isn’t, and to that extent you are vulnerable.”
What we want to know is, who will hack the hacker-spies?