Pin It

Beware the Hack Police

Security over all – read our simple guide on how to hide from the authorities online

So you hung out with Anonymous in Trafalgar Square, learned how to code and joined forces with a bot network to close down Amazon. But what are the repercussions? As the case of Aaron Swartz displayed so poignantly, governments show no sign of letting up on the strict legislation being used against hackers. To get clued up on the ways authorities are policing all of us online, Dazed spoke to BBC commentator and security expert  Professor Alan Woodward of the University of Surrey.

First up, he explained that hackers fall into one of three categories: black hats (baddies), white hats (goodies) and grey hats (goodies masquerading as baddies). Black hats are the ones that the authorities are after, and consist for the most part of cyber criminals seeking monetary gain, activists complicit in denial-of-service attacks and, less commonly, guys committing interstate cyber espionage. In all three cases, the technology being used to track them down is improving by the day.

The least invasive option is software such as Maltego, which, Woodward explains, “scans the internet to see where you’re mentioned and builds a profile from your date of birth to where you’ve worked, using only information that you have personally volunteered. Which is rather different to looking at what sites you’re clicking on.” Spyware such as FinFisher, meanwhile, can spy on your bank details and emails. “This program tags an individual to see where they are going and what they’re up to,” Woodward says. “Already it’s been found in use across 25 countries.”

Most invasive of all are things like Flame, used by high-security agencies to monitor the activity of potential perpetrators of espionage. Primarily active in Iran and neighbouring territories, it was discovered last year but is believed to have been invented as far back as 2007. Which poses another problem: most hardline spy software is so invisible it will probably remain undetected for many more years to come. 

Text Nathalie Olah