March 17, 2006:
There are several disquieting trends in Internet crime that spell trouble for military operations. The main problem is that what used to be mischief on the web has become a highly organized criminal activity. Invading other people's computers for profit has attracted organized crime, and more serious technical experts. Recently, for example, two security companies, RSA Security (in the U.S.) and Panda Software (in Spain) joined forces to shut down five web sites that were selling made-to-order hacking software. The criminal programmers would, for a fee, customize Trojan horse, and other malware, for attacks on specific businesses, or industries. But this stuff could also be tweaked to get into military or government networks. That's often easier than getting into many corporate networks. Case in point is the recent invasion of Canadian government servers by criminals who were looking for places to store (for later resale) stolen software and videos. This is not unusual, as software and video pirates need a safe place to stash their booty. Putting it on their own hard drive would simply invite detection and arrest. Better to sneak onto some unsuspecting network and operate from there.
Some of these cybercriminals have been approached by terrorists, but the geeks have refused to deal with anything that could bring even more police down on them. While theft via the Internet is seen as a "white collar" crime, terrorism is pursued more vigorously, and punished more severely. That punishment includes willing accomplices, like hackers providing tools that give terrorists access to government and corporate computers. But the increasing commercialization of computer crime makes it more inevitable that terrorists will get their hands on high grade hacking tools, and use them.