With apologies to Frank Baum and the Wizard of Oz, it seems like an apt question today. It seems that one of the major evil ones in the cyber-warfare biz was recently hacked themselves and apparently put out of business. According to Matt Mullenweg (a founding developer of WordPress) “The Hacking Team,”
an Italian company that sold hacking tools, often to questionable governments, had all of their internal company data including emails, source code, everything released. . .which was apparently done by a hacker vigilante.
How bad is the Hacking Team? Apparently they sold tools to despotic (and some not so despotic , including the US) countries around the world to spy on or intercept communications of their citizens. It’s biggest customer was Mexico and the US was 9th. Sudan ranked 12th and Saudi Arabia 4th. The US DEA apparently made use of Hacking Team tools to conduct mass surveillance in Columbia, among other things. But to get a more complete picture of what kind of assistance they offered to abuse human rights around the globe, see this link that Mullenweg posted on his brief synopsis to the Intercept site detailing the exploits of the Italian firm (Italy was its second largest customer).
What the vigilante hacker did to the Hacking Team apparently dismantled tools that governments have been using to do very bad things. For the despotic countries, those things are not surprising and universally condemned. For the others, it’s more that people don’t want to know about and if they find out, they may want the governments to stop. Arms dealers don’t discriminate in who they sell weapons too. Neither, apparently, do those who write the software tools to help regimes do the dirty work that one expects them too. What’s troubling is those not so obviously evil countries buying tools from the same supplier to the despots.
So are the vigilantes good or bad? What do you think? Start with Mullenweg’s item and check out additional links on the topic–how the Hacking Team got hacked and what this portends for the future.