Information Warfare: November 19, 2002


Honeypots, special Internet servers set up to attract hackers and then examine how they operate, share their discoveries with an organization called Honeynet ( One of the more interesting recent discoveries is of the disproportionately large amount of hacking activity coming from Romania. With only .3 percent of the world's population, a quarter of the attacks on Honeynet sites in the first six months of this year came from Romania. It's long been known that Eastern Europe has been a hotbed of illegal Internet activity. A disproportionate number of computer viruses have been traced back to nearby Bulgaria, and Russian criminal gangs have gotten into Internet crime in a big way. The large amount of hacking activity in Romania appears to come from a highly educated, underemployed, young and angry population. Romania has long been cursed with inept and heavy handed government, and the communists who ran the nation from 1945 to 1989 reached new depths in brutality, corruption and economic mismanagement. Things haven't improved much since 1989. Many of the educated, but unemployed, young Romanians have emigrated. But many of those who don't want to leave the land of their birth have found a solution to boredom, and unemployment, in hacking. These young guys engage in stealing credit card data, running various scams and stealing information to order on the Internet. Less than four percent of the population has access to the Internet, but there are a disproportionate number of university trained, or self-taught, software and Internet engineers around. Nearly half a century of corrupt communist rule instilled a disrespect for ethical and legal behavior, so there is little social disdain for hackers. Internet caf owners have discovered that the local hackers preferred to do their dirty work from a cyber caf. This made it harder for foreign police to track down the hackers, and the local cops really didn't care (as long as the hackers are just ripping off foreigners.) Bribes are paid as needed and life goes on in a hackers paradise. Well, almost a hackers paradise. There are numerous criminal gangs and they all want a cut if some scam is going down in their backyard. Hackers have to pay off the cops and crooks lest they get roughed up, or killed. Apparently, the hackers aren't political, but some are mercenary. So there is some concern that terrorist organizations might make an offer a hacker can't refuse. This is unlikely because of Romanian's dislike of Moslems. Romania fought the Moslem Turkish empire for five centuries and to this day, Islamic people are seen as potentially hostile. But the possibility remains that Romanian hackers, for the right price, would do some Internet dirty work for a terrorist group. However, most of the Romanian hackers are not highly skilled. They are quick to obtain and use the many hacking tools freely available on the Internet. Far fewer Romanian hackers develop high end hacking skills.


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