German Hackers May Have Shown the Way for Othersgreenspun.com : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread
German Hackers May Have Shown the Way for Others 12:21 p.m. ET (1721 GMT) February 18, 2000 By Greg Palkot
PARIS If the recent wave of cybercrime aimed at U.S. Web sites like Yahoo! and Amazon has an Osama bin Laden, it might just be a 20-year-old German high school graduate who goes by the code name of Mixter.
Or at least, that's what some in the media are making him out to be.
Like bin Laden, the alleged mastermind of various anti-Western terror attacks, the Hanover, Germany, hacker doesn't actually commit the electronic hacks on his own. But according to experts, he most certainly shows the way.
His denial of service "Tribal Flood Network" program, which has been posted on the Internet, was probably the basis for at least some of the recent info-assaults.
And Mixter is not alone. Another young German hacker who calls himself Randomizer is responsible for a program called "Barbed Wire" also said to be behind some of the e-commerce attacks. He has said he has an even more destructive program in development, which in his words is "hammer-hard" and will act like a "bomb." He calls it "Blitzkrieg."
Mixter and Randomizer spring from a well-developed computer culture in Germany, where young people are perhaps the most computer savvy in Europe and maybe on a par with their compatriots in the United States. According to German hacker and Computer Chaos Club member, Felix von Leitner, "There are a lot of good hackers in this country. There is a tradition of hacking here."
What is there in Germany that feeds this hacker environment? That's the question being asked by the FBI, computer security agencies, and targeted American e-commerce firms. Conversations with numerous German hackers and computer experts raised these possibilities:
Germans have long been renowned for excellence in technical and scientific matters. Germany's high regard for privacy could ironically be pushing hackers to show the different ways that privacy could be violated online. Chat rooms are very popular among German hackers and some cyber-assault programs were developed from techniques used to shut down chat room partners. The German telephone company long had a stranglehold on information and computer access in the country. Beating them became a real sport. There is a more liberal attitude towards hacking in Germany. Unlike in the U.S., where vandalizing a Web site is a criminal offense with a possible jail term, it is not a crime in Germany. In addition, agencies dealing specifically with computer crime are just now being put into place. Young Germans have more time on their hands than their American counterparts. Students can stay in German universities well beyond American students' usual four years, and they often don't have a steady job until their mid-20s. That leaves time for extracurricular activity. For their part, Mixter and his colleagues say they are doing nothing wrong by posting the programs online. They claim, in fact, they are performing a public service by highlighting weaknesses on the Web.
"Why would we keep it a secret?" said von Leitner. "It's something to be proud of."
Likewise, German hackers distance themselves from what malicious hackers do with their programs. (So far, most of the investigative leads indicate the recent spate of attacks originated in North America.) Hackers in Germany often use the "gun maker" analogy, claiming not only that they are just making the weapon and not using it, but that they're also explaining how it could be used in a bad way.
In fact, many German hackers would like to, or already are, working for computer security firms. The young Mixter says he has one good offer he already is considering. It is unclear, however, how much, if any, contact there is currently between the FBI and the young hacker. While some reports about Mixter have implied he is cooperating, in a reply to a question put by Fox News to the German, Mixter had denied he is talking to Washington.
While they might be running a bit scared now, most experts feel this is not the last that will be heard from German computer hackers. Randomizer does say those development plans for more dangerous programs are on hold but that could be temporary. One German hacker dismissed the denial of service programs used in the recent attacks as "Networking 101," implying much more destructive stuff could be possible.
"It will be a never-ending story," Interior Ministry spokesman Rainer Lingenthal warned, "and the hacker will always be a little advanced."
And it could be that the German hackers might be a little more advanced then the rest. It will not surprise some if U.S. high-tech firms start conducting their own talent searches in the cybercafes of Berlin.
-- Martin Thompson (email@example.com), February 19, 2000