One in four US hackers is FBI informant, says report

2600 magazine

2600 magazine

Experienced observers with strong links in the American computer hacker community estimate that around 25 percent of its members are working as informants for the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other US government agencies. This according to an investigative report published in British quality broadsheet The Guardian, which claims that the large numbers of government operatives have spread unprecedented “paranoia and mistrust” inside the US computer hacker underground. According to the report, the authorities have made significant inroads, not by training their officers in hacking skills, but by employing the threat of lengthy prison sentences as a means of convincing captured hackers to turn into government informants. This technique is largely responsible for the creation of an “army of informants” operating “deep inside the hacking community” in the US. An example provided in the report is the infiltration of online forums used by the cybercriminal community as marketplaces for credit card, bank account, and other stolen identity information, which are often traded in bulk around the world. The Guardian article says that, in some cases, these online forums are run by government informants, who gather intelligence to convict dozens of hackers. The 25-percent estimate comes from Eric Corley, publisher of the widely revered hacker quarterly publication 2600, who is cited in the report. The article also quotes Cryptome’s John Young, Kevin Poulsen, senior editor at Wired magazine, and Barrett Brown, who often speaks on behalf of the Anonymous hacktivist collective.

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Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

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