The real heroes of our age are pencil-protector geeks. They sit at home, behind their keyboards, determining the rules of the game that you and I live by – and we trust them to do so. They love toys. They love games. They enjoy battle. They are at the forefront of the cyber war that is enveloping the world.
And then there are the wannabees.
Worms. Viruses. They made headline news and were front-page stories. Now come the hackers. Banks, stock exchanges, airlines, private Facebook pages – nothing is sacred and nothing is safe.
Most hackers are just an inconvenience. Yes, some of the damage they do can be serious and they must be found and punished for their actions. But run-of-the-mill computer pranksters are called “script kiddies” by serious hackers.
The reason for the term is that they only follow the directions of hacking. They use tools found online for free. They do not buy, build or create software to hack. They hate to pay for anything. They hack for the fun of it. They often hack for the irritation they give and the glory they get from their friends. They are hacker groupies.
So far, most of the hacking that disables servers – and frightens most people with a credit card – has been nothing more than a minor inconvenience. A self-proclaimed Saudi hacker called OxOmar was said to have stolen 400,000 Israeli credit cards and identification numbers. In the end it was 20,000 and he actually only gathered them from sites that had collected the information from merchants who have very poor security. OxOmar did not hack the Israeli banks. And getting private information on people is equivalent to kindergarten hacking, not post graduate work.
Israel’s Tel Aviv Stock Exchange website was hacked, as was Israel’s national airline, El Al. Once again, a very important distinction must be made. It is the websites that were hit, not the data banks. Yes, they should have been better protected, but websites are full of content, not data.
As one analyst described it, websites are like bulletin boards with lots of post-its. Someone just came and took down your material and put up his own insulting and graphic messages. The really important and valuable material stayed in the safe.
Script-kiddie hacking is a form of vandalism akin to graffiti. There’s no thievery and no other invasion – like viruses and worms – occurs.
There are professional and highly paid hackers who have the backing of industry and governments. They are the IT geeks tasked with the responsibility of developing software to access vaults. The technology they develop costs untold millions of dollars to develop.
They job of these professionals is to make certain the national electric grid is safe and the communication networks are secure.
They work quietly and behind the scenes. They are not headline grabbers like OxOmar, the Saudi hacker whose stated goal is to hurt Israel. OxOmar says he is a hacker and this is what he knows and how he can achieve his goal. He has joined forces with a group of pro-Palestinian hackers called Nightmare and they have begun their attack.
Not a day goes by without an Israeli website being assaulted. Israel’s allies have also been targeted. Azerbaijan has been attacked. The material posted by these hackers on Azerbaijanian websites emphasize that Azerbaijan has chosen to be friendly with Israel and the United States. Azerbaijan has responded by saying that some people are jealous of its success. And that is exactly correct.
It was the level of amateurism displayed by their enemies that so annoyed many Israeli hackers who under normal circumstances would have let things be and considered these hacking episodes as nothing more than children’s games. But Nightmare and OxOmar have announced they are unstoppable and can and will wreak havoc on Israel, making life miserable for Israeli society unless Israel apologizes for a slew of historical events.
Israel has to hit the hackers back. And they will hit back. The Israelis, by virtue of the situation, will take it up a notch. Israeli professionals will have to search for these anti-Israel amateurs and destroy their ability to hack. They will dismantle their systems and unmask them. Anonymity is what hackers need more than anything else.
There is no doubt that warfare is changing. But there is still a need to defend and to intimidate. Countries like the United States and Israel must make it clear that it is not worth the price of breaking into their computer systems.
True hacking is a game for grown-ups. True hacking save lives and saves money, it doesn’t hurt unknowing and uninvolved individuals for the sake of saying “Look at me, see what I can do.”
Micah D. Halpern is a columnist and a social and political commentator. The author, most recently, of “Thugs,” he maintains The Micah Report (www.micahhalpern.com).