Hacker kids a growing concern for RCMP

Forget organized crime or well-financed cyber terrorists – the greatest threat to your network is likely a lone pre-teen holed up in a suburban basement, says a report from Canada’s top crime fighters.

The report, entitled Hackers: a Canadian police perspective, was written last May by officials at the criminal intelligence program, part of the RCMP’s criminal analysis branch. The report was only posted to the Web site last Thursday.

Findings reveal the Canadian hacker community is not only getting much savvier, it’s also getting much younger.

“Much to the surprise of most people, the typical network cracker is a 12 to 16-year old boy who found some cracking code on the Internet and decided to try it out,” the report says.

The report says a combination of youth and a high-level of comfort with computing systems make the new breed of hackers a particularly dangerous threat to networks.

“Unsophisticated or novice hackers are often young and they lack a sense of responsibility. They are unaware of the capabilities of the hacker tools they use, unaware of the implications of their hacking or unconcerned about the consequences of their actions,” the report concludes.

Young hackers are also more likely to launch network attacks than their older, wiser counterparts, the RCMP report says. It cites the case of Mafiaboy, the now 17-year-old Montreal teenager, who was convicted of launching distributed DoS (denial of service) attacks that immobilized Internet giants including CNN, eBay, Yahoo Inc., Amazon.com Inc. and ETrade Group Inc. in February 2000, as an example.

The report says these “hackers” use chat rooms or other digital meeting forums to find disturbing forms of inspiration. “There is growing evidence to suggest that novice hackers are being counseled by on-line ‘mentors’ whose motivations are unknown to Canadian police at this time.”

Among the report’s other conclusions:

    From 1997 to 2000, the number of RCMP hacking-related investigations more than doubled. RCMP investigators have observed an increase in the damage to organizations caused by hacking incidents. RCMP statistics report 120 files were opened in 1997 and 269 files were opened in 2000 related to the criminal code offences of “unauthorized use of computer” and “mischief in relation to data.”
    Technological crime resources across Canada are overburdened. As Canada continues to increase its Internet connectivity, the demand for police to investigate hacking and other computer-based criminal activity will also increase.
    Organized criminals are increasing their level of technological sophistication – for example, criminal groups are using the Internet to communicate and to conceal criminal information, to manipulate the stock market, to sell illegal drugs and to conduct illegal gambling activity. RCMP officials says it’s only a “matter of time” before they begin to employ hackers to further their goals.
    Despite a lack of legal motivation, most Internet service providers (ISPs) are eager to assist with hacker investigations. Still RCMP officials say not all ISPs are cooperative.

The full report is online at http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/crim_int/hackers_e.htm.