Recently there have been a lot of computer security attacks. It’s actually hard to say if they are more frequent now than they have been in the past. What is certain is that they are being publicized more now than before. Even so, the majority of these attacks are lame. I may agree or disagree with the motivations behind some of them, but they are almost all just pathetic. I am disappointed.
Firstly, these attacks are not really all that effective. Defacing web sites? Releasing customer data? That doesn’t make any difference in the grand scheme. Do you remember viruses like the ogre? It erased all drives in a computer. When was the last time someone wrote a virus that actually did serious damage like that? I’m not aware of any in recent memory.
Why don’t we see such harmful attacks anymore? Is it because that sort of attack doesn’t serve the motivations of the hackers? Is it because our modern systems are properly hardened against these kinds of attacks? Are these attacks happening and not being publicized?
Whatever the reason is, it is both disappointing and encouraging. You see, I can respect this sort of attack in the way that I can respect someone like Mike Tyson. His boxing is a sight to behold, but I have no desire to behold a man having his ear bitten off. You can impress me by writing a virus that turns off CPU fans and forces people to buy new PCs, but I don’t actually want to see that to happen. That makes the world a worse place by wasting a bunch of valuable resources for no benefit.
Secondly, these attacks lack technological sophistication. SQL injection and DDoS against soft targets? Please. These techniques aren’t demonstrative of deep technological knowledge. Regardless of my feelings on the motivations or target of an attack, as a technology professional I have a hard time respecting such easy hacks.
Imagine someone who burglarizes an old grandma who left the door unlocked. Even if it was a mean old grandma who needed to be taught a lesson about security, that thief isn’t going to get love from anyone. Because the burglary was so easy, the perpetrator is easily branded as a coward and lowlife scum.
Meanwhile, there are two other kinds of thieves who do get love and respect that makes up for their evil ways. The first is the professional thief or con-man. Their talents are so great that we can romanticize their stories and root for them. Despite acting immorally, their biographies become hit movies. The other kind is the Robin Hood who commits a crime for a good purpose. They do something that is illegal, but is not viewed as wrong given the circumstances.
What I want to see happen are some attacks that are both technologically difficult and have effects that benefit the world in some great way. If you are willing to so blatantly ignore the law, unlike myself, then cut it out with the lame hacks. Do something big and serious that in and of itself will have a huge positive effect for all people on the planet. Don’t be that guy who robs a convenience store at gunpoint. Instead, strive to be like Lupin III or Frank Abagnale.
Since things like this haven’t really been done before, I think I have to give some examples. Here are my top ten ideas of possible hacks that would have a huge positive benefit on society. The perpetrators of these attacks would definitely earn a great deal of respect to go with their time in prison. Post your own ideas in the comments!
- Hack stores like iTunes or Steam to give everyone free games, movies, music, etc. Remove region locking on services like Hulu and Spotify. Allow art and culture to be spread around the world for free.
- Release the source code to important programs like Adobe Creative Suite, Microsoft Windows, iOS, the Google Search algorithm, etc.
- Take control of ISPs to remove filtering, bandwidth limiting, wire tapping, and other nefarious systems.
- Hack into the systems that host and sell academic journal articles, and get the full text of all the articles onto the net somewhere for free.
- Hack into the world’s financial systems and bring down all the evil investment banks like JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, etc.
- Hack into government and corporate back office systems to expose corruption around the world. I’m sure there are plenty of Enrons waiting to be discovered.
- Completely disable industrial facilities that are hazardous to the environment. Even if they come back online, a few days without something like coal burning makes a big difference even at the expense of a power outage.
- Completely bring down the great firewall of China or other Internet censorship systems.
- Attack the television satellites and turn off almost every TV in the world for a significant time period. At the very least replace Fox News with Al-Jazeera English.
- Disable the nuclear arsenals of every country that has them. Let the power plants stay, just disable all the missiles.
I think you get the idea now. LulzSec and others have been thinking too far inside the box. The lack of imagination and lack of technological skill is why nothing like the attacks I’ve describe has happened, or will happen anytime soon. If anything like the items on my list even comes close to happening, I will be more impressed than I have been in my entire life. As of right now, I’m still yawning.
I fully expect to wake up tomorrow to see that my computers will not boot, and they just display laughing skulls all over the screen. I’d be mad that I would have to fix all my computers, but a little bit happy that that can still happen.