'Online hoodies' are stalking the Internet

A new generation of 'online hoodies' ('cyber hoodies') is wreaking havoc in cyberspace, Internet security experts are warning

by Michael Smith

The hackers (and crackers), some as young as 12 (and younger still), begin by phishing for identities on social network sites before graduating to stealing cash from PayPal accounts. Theoretically, however, those are two separate corridors of activities. Their scams are believed to be raking in thousands of pounds with the possibility of the damages caused by the syndicates going into the millions.

Some even offer step-by-step guides on how to pull off the scams – although these are often just another attempt to get money from gullible copycats.

Many see themselves as stars and want to boast about their exploits, with one of them selling T-shirts bearing his online name and proclaiming himself 'the greatest hacker of all time'.

Web security expert Maksym Schipka, whose wife's professional site was defaced, said: “They know more than we do, they can do more than we can, they understand it better.”

The young hackers are said to be growing increasingly sophisticated, and the hackers and crackers and other cycbercriminals are always, it would appear, a step or four ahead of the security experts charged with defending systems and the Net.

“There is now a whole sub-industry where people will supply these kids with custom made tools to create phishing pages to steal bank details,” said web expert Chris Boyd.

The other problem is that those who supply the tools are also children – children who are cleverer in the computer technology field than are many of the experts. And the other problem with children is that, if and when they are caught, and they happen to be “below the age of criminal responsibility” nothing can really be done against them.

While I know what many who have been hit by those scams and by the viruses and Trojans, and also the security experts, would like to do with those little nasties apparently it is regarded unlawful to suspend them from certain appendages. A shame rather, for I am sure it would set others thinking.

Many of the perpetrators boast about what they do on video sharing sites such as You Tube.

Mr. Boyd, of Internet security firm, Face Time, added: “One 12-year-old kid ran a huge forum with thousands of users sharing tips on stealing credit card details and bank details.”

The government concedes online crime is a growing problem and next Spring a £7million police unit starts work to combat the latest trend. But a Home Office spokesman said the “age of the perpetrators isn't an issue”.

The Home Office, the British Ministry of the Interior, say that the “age of the perpetrators isn't an issue” but everyone can bet their lives that it is going to be an issue as and when – if, more like – they are caught. It can be more or less guaranteed that nothing will happen to them, nothing whatsoever.

The other issue is that most of those kids and other perpetrators do not sit in the UK – they are elsewhere. Or even if they are here and in the USA, they go in via proxy servers and IPs and the forums are hosted, more often than not, in places such as the Russian Federation or other former USSR countries.

The biggest groups of cyberhoodies do sit in countries such as Brazil, where most of the viruses and Trojans and such agents are written, and the former USSR and other Eastern Bloc countries where the details collected are used.

So, again, the advice: “Let's be careful out there.” We must be if we want to be safe on the Net in the same way in the city and especially in hostile territory.

© M Smith (Veshengro), November 2008