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25% of US Hackers Are FBI/CIA Informers 185

Posted by Soulskill
from the trading-hats dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The Guardian reports that the FBI and CIA have 'persuaded' up to 25% of US hackers to 'work' for them. 'In some cases, popular illegal forums used by cyber criminals as marketplaces for stolen identities and credit card numbers have been run by hacker turncoats acting as FBI moles. In others, undercover FBI agents posing as "carders" – hackers specialising in ID theft – have themselves taken over the management of crime forums, using the intelligence gathered to put dozens of people behind bars. ... The best-known example of the phenomenon is Adrian Lamo, a convicted hacker who turned informant on Bradley Manning, who is suspected of passing secret documents to WikiLeaks.' What implications does this hold for privacy? Or is it just good work by the authorities?" As you may have guessed, the estimate appears to be based only on the number of black hats, rather than all hackers.
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25% of US Hackers Are FBI/CIA Informers

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  • In other news (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dyinobal (1427207) on Monday June 06, 2011 @05:43PM (#36356102)
    In other news 47% of all news articles are speculative bullshit with no grounding in reality. See we can all make up numbers.
    • by quenda (644621)

      In other other news, it has been discovered that 100% of remaining members of NAMBLA are moles from various government agencies, reporting on each other.

  • how do they know? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hawguy (1600213) on Monday June 06, 2011 @05:46PM (#36356122)

    They say there are vast, anonymous networks of hackers, yet somehow they know they they've gotten 25% of them to work for the FBI? How do you calculate 25% of an unknown number? Or is there some Hacker registry at 2600 magazine that I'm not aware of (not being a hacker myself, I didn't get an invitation to join).

    • by blueg3 (192743)

      While your complaint is legitimate, there's nothing inherently uncountable in a vast, anonymous group. Consider a group where (a) there are lots of members (b) you don't know the real identities of any of those members (c) you do have a complete listing of the fake identities of all of the members. It's vast, anonymous, and countable.

      • by hawguy (1600213)

        While your complaint is legitimate, there's nothing inherently uncountable in a vast, anonymous group. Consider a group where (a) there are lots of members (b) you don't know the real identities of any of those members (c) you do have a complete listing of the fake identities of all of the members. It's vast, anonymous, and countable.

        I have over a dozen online usernames and I'm not even trying to hide my identity, but these anonymous "superhackers" somehow decided to identify themselves with a single unique identifier?

        There's very tenuous anonymity behind a unique identifier.

        • by blueg3 (192743)

          I didn't say it was likely, I said it was possible. The summary, and perhaps the article, probably discard qualifiers. But, for that matter, I don't think the world of "real hackers" is particularly vast. Even the world of online criminals is often mentioned as being not particularly vast: one website will broker half of stolen credit card trades, three banks process the sales from most spam, one botnet is responsible for 75% of spam, etc.

    • by Yvanhoe (564877)
      I think it means 25% of the hackers they have contacted, which doesn't seem overwhelming. 25% of people ceding to legal blackmailing doesn't seem such a high proportion to me...
    • by tnk1 (899206)

      They probably don't know the actual numbers, but they would have good records on reported ID thefts. Given their investigative capabilities, they can probably determine to a certain amount of error how many hackers would be capable of 'x' amount of ID theft.

      Additionally, they may have some very good individual profiles of many hackers out there, they just may not be able to link an actual identity to that presence yet. I mean, they can generally tell a lot about serial killers by their individual actions,

    • x/4=number of FBI hackers

      Duh.

    • by AHuxley (892839)
      You have known numbers from Eastern Europe in the 1980's http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stasi [wikipedia.org] that gives a feel of the needed occasional informants 'count' of a state under threat.
      Lets try the math: 50 states, 1-4 fusion centers per state, a few 100 trusted workers. ~1-3 0000 real people with ~10-100 useful online user names that get pushed/kept warm/updated online during weekends, holidays, when forums/chatrooms get a hot topic.
      Add in the people who have done deals, enrolled in patriotic cyber defence
  • this article comes almost immediately after a report on chinese hackers and their nefarious actions against google.
  • to stay afloat, full of warez, script kiddies, child pornographers, etc etc etc.

    • It's not the tool, it's the people who use it.

    • by Ziekheid (1427027)

      I'm not entirely sure if you're being serious, if you aren't disregard this post but I feel the need to explain some things anyway.
      The largest IRC network (QuakeNet) is a gaming related network with about 180.000 users online at all times discussing everything game related (Clans, communities, development/mods, etc).

      Then we have networks like Freenode, EFNet, etc filled with channels related to programming, operating systems, designing, etc. I am able to speak to developers from Splashdamage, id Software, Y

      • before the big corporations got involved. i am talking 1995-2000, when i used to hang out on there alot.

        you would have constant server hacks, massive problems with servers going down, networks splitting, etcetera. the whole thing was run by a mysterious group of admins, who would GLine you for making controversial political statements and annoying operators of certain channels, but these admins would freely allow child porn channels and warez channels to stay up for years on end.

        and who was hosting these se

        • by rmstar (114746)

          there is not very much logical reason for a university or business to host a massively bandwidth hogging haven for criminal activity, full of drama and expense that was almost entirely devoted to non-educational activity. I mean how did they ever justify it in their budget?

          Your mistake is assuming there needed to be a thoroughly sound logical reason for the institution to engage in it.

          In reality, these things tend to be rather accidental and chaotic. The people providing the funding for the computers were g

          • there has to be a thoroughly sound and logical reason for the FBI to allow child porn and warez to flow through government owned (universities are government institutions) computer networks, for years on end, meanwhile the FBI goes after countless john does for having child porn and/or warez networks running on their personal computers.

        • by Ziekheid (1427027)

          i am talking 1995-2000

          Not all servers are like this, it all depends on which servers you visit. I still don't see how it is any different from other public chat channel services on the web beside that it might look more obvious to you on certain networks when simply doing a list and seeing all sorts of strange channels pop up. And in my long history of IRC I can honestly say I've never seen any child porn channels on there (at least nothing that rang a bell with me judging from a public channel list), ever, so I'm honestly wonde

          • im not trashing freenet nor even IRC. I had many good times on #linux or #python or #c or #asm. I was mostly on Undernet, some EFnet, a little dalnet. Freenet did not even exist when i started, #linpeople was on undernet (or dalnet?). I remember lilo, god rest his soul.

            However. On undernet, I personally witnessed people on childporn channels. I used to scream at them. Now I realize they were probably cops. I personally witnessed people get glined for silly reasons. I personally witnessed channel operators w

            • by mikael_j (106439)

              However. On undernet, I personally witnessed people on childporn channels. I used to scream at them. Now I realize they were probably cops.

              And back in those days such things were traded a bit more openly (just a bit, as in, you could actually stumble across it without looking for it, this really isn't possible to the same extent these days).

              I personally witnessed people get glined for silly reasons. I personally witnessed channel operators who traded netsex for channel ops. I witnessed a lot of things that were improper and corrupt. Then there was the warez. And bestiality. And other things that are hard to explain in a 1996 context, when not 'just anyone' could set up a server.

              Oh, those things have happened since back then up until today. Although I think in the frenzy of the '90s and the dotcom era when the internet was the cool new thing there was definitely a lot more "buzz" about IRC. Not to mention that as a medium it was a lot less mature.

              Also, as others have pointed out, e

      • by trapnest (1608791)
        Where does google have an IRC channel?
        • by Ziekheid (1427027)

          Well I don't think there is 1 official google channel, check out #google, #chromium, #chromium-os, #android, #googleapps on Freenode, all google related and populated.
          As for talking to actual employees and developers from companies like that, you will run into them every once in a while if you're in the major html, js/jq, css or general webapp development channels on either EFNet or Freenode.

          • by Ziekheid (1427027)

            Actually, the Chromium related channels are official channels from the Chromium Developers.
            And this is just 1 example, there are many official channels for a broad range of applications to be found on Freenode and EFNet.

  • by bistromath007 (1253428) on Monday June 06, 2011 @05:50PM (#36356176)
    You're telling me that indiscriminate thieves have a mercenary attitude which makes them prone to turn on their partners in crime?

    Mind blown.
  • by AliasMarlowe (1042386) on Monday June 06, 2011 @05:51PM (#36356186) Journal
    Well, they do something similar on the pedo circuit, where it's probably 75% cops trying to harvest the few real pedos. Both the "dirty old man" and the "innocent pubescent girl" of urban lore are likely to be law enforcement officers, and possibly even colleagues at neighboring desks.
    • by bughunter (10093) <bughunter&earthlink,net> on Monday June 06, 2011 @05:58PM (#36356276) Journal

      Both the "dirty old man" and the "innocent pubescent girl" of urban lore are likely to be law enforcement officers, and possibly even colleagues at neighboring desks.

      For some reason, this scenario brought to mind the occasions on which, as Dungeon Master, I've caught myself roleplaying both sides of an exchange between two NPCs. I try to avoid that whenever possible because it's seldom entertaining for the players, usually pointless, and more than a little bit disturbing...

      Hm. That's analogy actually holds up.

      • Perhaps the police need a "dirty old man" to lend credibility to the "innocent pubescent girl". I mean, not so much like two characters talking in a role playing game. More like when somebody invites you to a seminar for a money-making scheme and hires a bunch of people to sit in the crowd and act really interested in the product so you'll think maybe you should be interested too.
    • by Hartree (191324)

      Reminds me of "Smith And Jones" by Ray Stevens

      A highly forgettable song about two federal agents going undercover at night in a park to arrest a flasher. They ended up hand cuffed together naked and citizen's arrested by the real flasher.

  • Big surprise (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 06, 2011 @05:56PM (#36356242)

    This is a natural by-product of the of a national gestapo using "useful idiots" as proxies for doing their dirty work. Federal informants are often permitted to break the law and are paid very handsomely, often with provided housing and up to hundreds of thousand dollars a year, for their work.

    Since these informants work for money(what "hacker" works for the fame of being a snitch?!) , they are more likely to embellish or even fabricate evidence to back up their claims. The FBI don't care about that, because if charges are bogus they will entrap of go fishing to find another charge to justify the time and cost.

    The real question is, how much money is being spent on informants("cyber" or otherwise)? Could that money be better spend on schools or infrastructure? Why is it that scumbags with questionable pasts are being paid forty-thousand dollars(or more) a year while we and our families are eating ramen noodles for dinner and wondering how we're gonna pay next month's rent?

    The answer is part of the government's broader plan to turn half the population against the other half. The ones who drink the kool-aid get to feed their families. The rest are radicals and terrorist pedophiles who deserve to be jailed and even used as near-slave labor. The big security complex is the only future in an America with large numbers of returning warriors and no economy other than the unsustainable one of making and busting criminals. Greed eats itself.

    Yes, all of those things are true. No, I will not look them up for you, use your Google Fu - start with "lodi ice cream man terrorist, " level/tier 1 informant," "FBI infiltrate environmental groups," "prison labor builds patriot missiles," and go from there.

    Why are people wasting time whining about exposing foreign informants? What concerns us is the network of domestic informants, aka Stasi 2.0. McGruff the crime dog says - "If you snitch, you get a bullet in your dome for being a coward."

    -- Ethanol-fueled

  • that THAT, FUCKERS! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Thud457 (234763) on Monday June 06, 2011 @05:58PM (#36356274) Homepage Journal
    37% of FBI/CIA informers are double-agents.

    what's good for the goose is good for the gander...
  • Somehow this reminds your humble geezer of the Deutsche Demokratische Republik.
  • Is why FBI/CIA needs so many gifted programmers

    *Yeah i know its 2011 BUT IM STILL FIGHTING FOR THAT JARGON, DAMNIT!*

  • And how many hackers are out there, exactly? Uhm...riiight.

    The underground world of computer hackers has been so thoroughly infiltrated in the US by the FBI and secret service that it is now riddled with paranoia and mistrust, with an estimated one in four hackers secretly informing on their peers, a Guardian investigation has established.

    This sounds more like the voice-over narration to the introduction of a cyberpunk B-movie than a remotely decently written article...

    • by formfeed (703859)

      You don't have to know the absolute number. You just have to have a rough estimate, which you get by counting girls hanging out with their best female friend on Saturday night. Then you just go to a 2600 or lug meeting and drop a giant butterfly net from the ceiling. Next you simply count your sample and check how many wear dark suits. They are either FBI or IBM.

    • by Kalriath (849904)

      Actually, it sounds to me like it should be followed by "and these, are their stories. DUM DUM".

  • Luring ... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MacTO (1161105) on Monday June 06, 2011 @06:07PM (#36356378)

    My biggest problem with this sort of scheme is that they are facilitating the very thing that they are claiming to combat.

    Are they luring people into committing crimes that they would not have committed otherwise? I'm guessing that the answer is yes, even if it is unintentional. After all, a lot of wrong-doings wouldn't be done if there wasn't a social framework (e.g. forums) to reinforce the behaviour.

    • What then? You can't really do anything about it whether it's intentional or unintentional.

      And if a team of informants want to set you up, there are enough laws and enough ways to make it happen.

    • by poity (465672)

      After all, a lot of wrong-doings wouldn't be done if there wasn't a social framework (e.g. forums) to reinforce the behaviour.

      Shutting a site down won't stop people gathering, it's the internet. I think many people have an falsely close-ended view of law-enforcement -- that it's about ending network intrusion or some other beneficent finality. The fact is that the game is open-ended, and maintaining leverage and control is the only way to deal with the issue. The FBI knows and accepts this reality, and so they pursue the smarter strategy of containment and prevention rather than try to win the prize at the infinitely holed whack-a

  • Air America... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by roc97007 (608802) on Monday June 06, 2011 @06:08PM (#36356392) Journal

    I wonder how much of illicit credit card money finds its way back into FBI budgets. To fight crime, you know.

    • by poity (465672)

      Well, US federal law imposes a pretty low limit on credit card fraud liability -- which means banks, and thus the government, bear a fair share of the costs. It would not make much sense for any entity to rob from itself, though I wouldn't discount unscrupulous individuals doing something like you suggest for personal gain.

      • by roc97007 (608802)

        It wouldn't make much sense if you think of the US government as a single entity with a single goal. It might make sense as a way to funnel money from one place to another without the inconvenience of arguing appropriations or raising taxes.

  • by catmistake (814204)
    the FBI didn't "turn" Lamo. His hypocritical moral superiority turned him into a rat. Lamo is lucky he has no friends like himself. I have trouble believing he as any friends.
    • When it's cases like Lamo's and the CIA gets involved they aren't beyond torturing somebody, or killing, or threatening to kill.

      So if Lamo were going to be tortured alongside Manning unless he helped them, that would turn Lamo too.

      • by catmistake (814204) on Monday June 06, 2011 @07:19PM (#36357100) Journal
        ah, that's not what happened. Lamo was not being pressured by the FBI nor tortured by the CIA. He was not being solicited by anyone. He took it upon himself to decide that someone like Manning, who like himself exhibited signs of mental illness, should not have access to state secrets. He believes he's a repatriated hero.
        • by elucido (870205) *

          Why was Lamo involuntarily committed just prior to turning in Manning?

          If he were tortured, being committed to a mental institution would be the perfect place to do it. And unlike you I will not pretend to know what Lamo thinks. Something happened, nobody really knows exactly what happened except for feds. Manning himself being a military fed at the time, we don't know what they were willing to do to interrogate.

          It's certainly possible Lamo could be threatened and if he were it's very unlikely he'd ever admi

        • You left out the possibility that Lamo decided his choices where 1) keep listening to manning and his classified leak plans and not tell anybody and hope his name
          never gets discovered by the Feds or 2) alert the Feds and greatly lower you chances of going to prison for being an accessory for someone else's activity.

          What if Manning had been the informant? If that turns out to be the case, 2 would be the better choice.

        • Excellent. So they'll leave him in peace until everyone has forgotten about him.

  • Dear Guardian,
    Please define "hacker" before I read your article and the associated advertisements. No, no, it's OK, I'll wait.
  • by Shag (3737) on Monday June 06, 2011 @06:24PM (#36356570) Homepage

    ...aren't at liberty to say which agencies of which governments we're working for.

  • The headline is a little misleading, in that the left off the last part. It should read "25% of US Hackers are FBI/CIA Informers After They are Caught". They are informing to get out of the previous shit they got caught for, much like drug informers.
    • The headline is a little misleading, in that the left off the last part. It should read "25% of US Hackers are FBI/CIA Informers After They are Caught". They are informing to get out of the previous shit they got caught for, much like drug informers.

      I wonder.

      Are they pressured, turned, reformed, or "healed"?
      I guess, the motives would greatly depend on the circumstances. Someone, who started breaking into systems for the coolness or bragging factor would find it equally cool to be a secret undercover agent. If it was just technical curiosity, a little agreement lets you keep your toys. And someone who helps to stop criminals that steal credit information from unsuspecting grandmas might even get the feeling that they are making up for their past, much

      • by elucido (870205) *

        Not every hack is something which is clearly wrong.
        And not every hacker got into it to be cool.

        In fact I'd say the majority get into it just because they are curious and it's so easy. It's like leaving a jar of cookies and telling a young kid not to touch it while you go to sleep. You cannot be surprised if the jar is opened,and at least one cookie is missing.

        I think the problem is that not every "hacker" has to get caught to get turned. A hacker could get turned after being set up. They might not necessari

    • Because any informant can say you are the leader. Anybody can commit a crime, you could be in a chatroom, they could say you gave them the order and are the leader when they could be an informant all along setting you up to be "caught". Remember informants can commit crimes to catch criminals and that cops can give them permission to do it. This means they could commit the crime, frame you, and now you're "caught".

  • by siliconincdotnet (525118) on Monday June 06, 2011 @06:34PM (#36356686) Homepage

    I've had my run-in with this before. I'm just a generic every day sysadmin and have no real involvement with the security community, short of idling on IRC with a bunch of more active people. Here are my experiences:

    In 1997 or '98 I was the sysadmin for a mom 'n pop local ISP. We got hit by a massive DOS attack - keep in mind this was in the pre-smurf/DDOS era, so it really did warrant the attention of the feds. The owner contacted them, and they talked to me about getting any logs we might have (which of course I was ready to provide). I asked them where they wanted me to send them, and... "No, why don't you meet us out somewhere? We'll buy you lunch.". Despite the offer of free food, the alarm bells were going off by this point. So, I met them at a local coffee shop, and out of the 30 or so minutes I was there, they spent maybe two minutes discussing the DDOS with me, and the rest of the time attempting to get me to inform on the local 2600 group. I declined repeatedly, and they continued to make more forceful and threatening requests. Every time I disagreed with them, they looked at each other - and this was the creepiest (and obviously rehearsed) behavior I've ever seen. They never did get those logs from me.

    After that I didn't hear anything until around 2005 or so when one of my ex-coworkers from another company called to tell me two men came by looking for me, and that they had government plates on their car. They left a card, but since I'm not under any obligation to call them, I never did. As the years went by, I received more calls from different people with a similar story.

    And my last run-in with them was only a year or two ago - someone called me from a cell phone claiming he was with the FBI, and he had my computer and I needed to come to the local field office to pick it up. I found that to be rather unlikely since I tend to hang onto them until they're dead, I certainly wasn't missing one, and then they (minus the drives - I still have those) go into the bin. After a week of ignoring his calls he stopped bothering me.

    To this day I have no idea what they wanted, but the entire thing reeked of ill-spent tax dollars.

    I really don't care anymore, so the hell with posting as AC...

    • by elucido (870205) *

      If thats all they did then it wasn't as bad as it could have been. You weren't threatened with torture. You weren't entrapped and then threatened with prison as a sex offender. You weren't set up by your "friends".

      Trust me, it could have been a lot fucking worse. If this is how they operate, if they went with the honorable civilized man to man talk approach, this actually makes the FBI or Agency look good. No ones rights were violated and no one was tortured, abused, or tricked.

  • It astounds me that the CIA/FBI are naive enough to believe that leaking this tripe is going to frighten pre-pubescent hackers into leaving Sony alone.

    That's their strategy for stopping LulzSec?

    Actually, it doesn't astound me. It disappoints me.

    /CIA, I am disappoint
  • ... our intelligence services resembled 4chan. Or was that the other way around?

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Okhrana#History [wikipedia.org]
    Prominent and widespread use of agents-provocateurs by Tsar police caused in return police be influenced and used by agents-provocateurs. That situation culminated in assassination of Minister of the Interior Plehve [wikipedia.org] organized by police agents-provocateur Azef [wikipedia.org].Some historians think one of the reason of Plehve assassination was his inquiries into huge police spendings on agents-provocateurs.
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Okhrana#History [wikipedia.org]
    Prominent and widespread use of agents-provocateurs by Tsar police caused in return police be influenced and used by agents-provocateurs. That situation culminated in assassination of Minister of the Interior Plehve [wikipedia.org] organized by police agents-provocateur Azef [wikipedia.org].Some historians think one of the reason of Plehve assassination was his inquiries into huge police spendings on agents-provocateurs.

"Only the hypocrite is really rotten to the core." -- Hannah Arendt.

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