According to The Guardian, the hackers’ underground world has been so thoroughly infiltrated by law enforcement that it is now riddled with paranoia and mistrust. It is estimated that one in four hackers are secretly informing on their peers, a Guardian investigation has established. Online policing units have had such success in gaining online criminal cooperation through the threat of long prison sentences that they have managed to create an army of informants deep inside the hacking community.
Popular and illegal identity and credit card number exchange forums used by criminals as marketplaces have been run by FBI moles. Undercover FBI agents pose as “carders”, hackers specialising in ID theft, and take over management of the forums using gathered intelligence, putting dozens of people behind bars. Eric Corley, publisher of the hacker quarterly, 2600, estimates that 25% of hackers in the US may have been recruited by the federal authorities to be their eyes and ears. “Owing to the harsh penalties involved and the relative inexperience with the law that many hackers have, they are rather susceptible to intimidation,” Corley told the Guardian.
Barrett Brown, who has acted as a spokesman for the otherwise secretive Anonymous, says it is fully aware of the FBI’s interest. “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.”
Hackers, beware as the net grows tighter…