Monday, 27 June 2011

Dissolution of Hacker Group Might Not End Attacks

Dissolution of Hacker Group Might Not End Attacks


Facing increasing pressure from law enforcement agencies over its brazen computer attacks, the small group of hackers known as Lulz Security announced over the weekend that it would disband.

But security experts said on Sunday that the dissolution of the group might not signal an end to the attacks, which have hit dozens of Web sites, including those of prominent targets like the Central Intelligence Agency, the United States Senate, the Arizona state police and Sony.

Indeed, in its farewell message posted on Saturday, the group, also known as LulzSec, urged other hackers to join the “revolution” aimed at governments and corporations that it started recently with Anonymous, a much larger collective of politically minded hackers from which many of the LulzSec members sprung.

“It looks like these sort of ‘hacktivist’ ideas are spreading and gaining popularity,” said Dino A. Dai Zovi, a prominent independent security consultant. He said that LulzSec appeared to be trying to inspire others to join a sprawling, if fragmented, array of local groups, which could feed more attacks.

In recent weeks, LulzSec has become a target itself, as global law enforcement authorities and rival hackers have gone after the group. One man associated with LulzSec, Ryan Cleary, was arrested last week in Britain. Meanwhile, a growing assemblage of rival hackers has been working to unmask the core half-dozen LulzSec members and feed information on them to the authorities.

American officials on Sunday characterized the attacks carried out by LulzSec as “nuisances” rather than real security threats. One government official said that LulzSec had never penetrated government servers or stolen any classified information.

“What we are really worried about is people getting access to our systems, or putting malware on it,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The official said that even though it was possible that LulzSec had disbanded, hackers tended to operate in a world of shifting alliances and it would be easy for a new group copying LulzSec’s techniques to appear in the future.

“All it takes is one guy in his basement to do this, not an organized group,” the official said.

On Monday, the Department of Homeland Security plans to introduce a system to help institutions eliminate common programming errors that allow hackers to easily infiltrate databases and steal user names and passwords. The agency’s hope is that the program, which is voluntary, will make it easier for companies and agencies to better secure their corners of the Internet, thus contributing to a safer global network.

Some security experts and hackers were skeptical of LulzSec’s sudden about-face and said they believed the group intended to continue its activities. The latest announcement could be just another ploy for attention, rival hackers said on Twitter and on private online message boards.

Over the last several weeks, LulzSec had said repeatedly on its Twitter feed that it planned to continue attacking governments and financial institutions indefinitely.

Members of LulzSec did not respond to phone calls and e-mails on Sunday.

Whatever happens to LulzSec, the brash and public brand of hacking that it embraced and defined may be here to stay, some experts say. The group’s attacks on prominent targets, accompanied by raucous bragging on social networks and chat rooms, helped it amass more than 280,000 followers on Twitter. It has used that megaphone, as well as chat rooms, to try to recruit more hackers to its ranks.

Some of LulzSec’s activities had a political tinge. For example, it said its theft and public disclosure of Arizona law enforcement records was in response to the state’s tough laws aimed at illegal immigrants. But the group claimed that its hacking was primarily a celebration of the “lulz,” or laughs, and the members seemed to lap up the media attention they generated.

But if LulzSec had continued, it would have faced an increasing risk that its members would be captured, said Chris Wysopal, the chief technology officer of the security firm Veracode.

“By stopping now and regrouping, I think they will live to hack another day,” he said. “If anything, there will be more people hacking in their footsteps.”

Mr. Wysopal added, “Until they’re arrested — if they ever do get arrested — I don’t think anything will slow down.”

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