According to a report issued by The Guardian and backed by the publisher of hacker quarterly 2600, a whopping 25% of U.S.-based ‘hackers’ “may have been recruited by the federal authorities to be their eyes and ears.” The reason is as old as crime movies: When a cybercriminal is busted, the feds have a lot of leverage in asking him or her to go turncoat, as the alternative may be a harsh legal sentence.
“Owing to the harsh penalties involved and the relative inexperience with the law that many hackers have, they are rather susceptible to intimidation,” [2600 publisher Eric] Corley told the Guardian.
“It makes for very tense relationships,” said John Young, who runs Cryptome, a website depository for secret documents along the lines of WikiLeaks. “There are dozens and dozens of hackers who have been shopped by people they thought they trusted.”
A quibble with this report, which may well be true with respect to cybercriminals, is the use of the word ‘hacker’ as synonymous with credit card thief or Sony breacher, when the more constructive sort of folks who hang around places like Hacker News who self-identify with the word see it quite differently.
In the words of Eric S. Raymond, “Real hackers mostly think crackers are lazy, irresponsible, and not very bright, and object that being able to break security doesn’t make you a hacker any more than being able to hotwire cars makes you an automotive engineer. Unfortunately, many journalists and writers have been fooled into using the word “hacker” to describe crackers; this irritates real hackers no end.”
(via The Guardian)