Hackers, Unite


Written by Tshepo Mokoena
Photos and illustrations by Anonymous Group, Various
11 Monday 11th July 2011
Alright, unless you've been nestling under some comfortable and dark rock somewhere, you've no doubt noticed the recent flurry of hack attacks to hit the internet. As a disclaimer, this isn't about the News Of The World filthy phone hack thing. I figure we've all heard enough about that already. We're talking the real life versions of all those plaid-and-glasses-wearing, desk-snack-eating, awkwardly big-nosed stereotype characters written into action films from the 80s and 90s. Except, we have no idea what these ones look like. And now that the internet's a, er, much bigger deal than it was in 1985 they have the potential to totally mess with people's private info online. A little trip down not-so-distant memory lane will put some of the biggest recent net hacks into perspective. And who knows what else will go down by the time this gets published?
All the WikiLeaks and Anonymous Group kerfuffle a few months ago was just the spring board for the high profile hacks to come. One of the main humiliation hacks that hit headlines came from LulzSec. They allegedly targeted Sony and Playstation in April and the you-know-what hit the fan pretty hard. Essentially LulzSec describe themselves as a cheeky yet slightly sinister anonymous network of hackers who just do what they do 'for lulz!'.
For them, hacking into huge databases is done "to spread fun, fun, fun, throughout the entire calendar year". Well, only fun for the more masochistic of the PlayStation Network's 70 million members who learned all their personal information had been grabbed and posted. We're talking full name, PlayStation Network password, billing address and potentially credit card data. Awkward. Especially because Sony took over five days to let anyone know.
At the beginning of June, LulzSec made themselves more enemies by publishing the personal emails and details of several FBI affiliates. One of the men they contacted even offered to pay them off to hack his rivals' sites to further his own business: not wise, since they published that correspondence too. Since then Apple, The X Factor and the Italian and Iranian governments have also had their seams ripped open by unidentified hackers. Some sources point to Anonymous, others to LulzSec but no-one clearly knows where the hell to point the accusatory finger.
People thought they had it down when cops arrested 19-year old Ryan Cleary in Essex at the end of June, for his apparent role in taking down the site for SOCA (Serious Organised Crime Agency) amongst others. Pretty soon his mum came back with the excuse that he's autistic (and LulzSec distanced themselves from him too) so it still remains to be seen what will become of the teen.
Making lions sexy since 2008: the site was hacked by a 'Shrek' virus last month
With Twitter updates coming from LulzSec and a blog maintained by someone clearly obsessed with Anonymous, it wasn't like they shied away from media speculation. The Sony PlayStation debacle led pretty hilariously into a hack that made fewer headlines but devastated its community in its unique way.
Dating site BeautifulPeople had their normally strict hotness rating code hacked by the 'Shrek virus' to allow, gasp, unattractive people onto the site. Yup. Acting like that shallow guy or girl who never dates anyone below a 7, BeautifulPeople uses crowdsourced voting from its own members to rate prospective subscribers before they're allowed to join and start meeting and dating other hot people. But horror of horrors, the site was hacked and leaked 30,000 uggos into the company of hotties out of their league and apparently better than them. Needless to say, their CEO got all the unhot sign-ups booted back out as soon as possible.
On the next level? It’s the Twitter hackers. Fox News in America and Paypal both had their PR teams working overtime when their accounts were hacked this month. Fox apparently claimed that Obama had been shot dead on US Independence Day (although the pic below shows they've made this slip-up once before) and set off a trending topic of #obamadead within minutes. In some sort of blundering flurry they even left the tweet up for about nine hours.
Paypal on the other hand had its entire Twitter profile hacked by a pissed-off customer, redirecting their followers to paypalsucks.com as their homepage. Sweet, sweet revenge. Whether more of the laugh out loud variety, or worryingly close to the private data so many of us store online, net hackers don’t seem to be slowing down any time soon. Perhaps the News Of The World phone guys could learn a thing or two from this anti-profiteering approach, huh? It’s more about the bravado, the bragging rights and brash two fingers up at their targets for these online code-breakers.

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