Trolls, LulzSec & Weev

I hack, I ruin, I make piles of money — Andrew Auernheimer aka Weev

With a rise in technology, sophisticated cyber attacks won’t lag behind. And neither would troll. One of well known is LulzSec, short for laughs and security. They have close ties with Anonymous but as like Anonymous, they are not in hacking for political reason but simply for the laughs. Laughs at the inadequate security.

For the past 50 days (50 days of Lulz), we have been disrupting and exposing corporations, governments and the general population itself and quite possibly everything in between. Just because we could; all to selflessly entertain others.

 

They did an eight-month-long campaign in 2011: began by targeting Fox.com, hacked US broadcaster PBS and planted a fake story saying that Tupac and Biggie Smalls are in fact alive and live in New Zealand. In another attack, they stole personal information of about more than 24.6 million Sony users forcing them to take down their website for several days. Hacking the Infragardpages, they posted:

It has come to our unfortunate attention that NATO and our good friend Barrack Osama-Llama 24th-century Obama [sic] have recently upped the stakes with regard to hacking. They now treat hacking as an act of war. So, we just hacked an FBI affiliated website (Infragard, specifically the Atlanta chapter) and leaked its user base. We also took complete control over the site and defaced it.

Say hello to the insides of the PBS servers — LulzSec

 

After some time, the launched an operation with Anonymous AntiSec to launch attacks on numerous government websites or agencies (Govt. of BrazilArizona Department of Public Safety, Petrobras). But soon, Lulzsec retired and in their last post shared:
Our crew of six wishes you a happy 2011, and a shout out to all our battlefield members and supporters across the globe.

Less than a month later, the group reconvened and announced that it was behind more hacks like the attacks on the British newspaper The Sun and The Times, posting about the death of the publication’s owner Rupert Murdoch.

Fake story created about the death of the media mogul

 

Soon, they found themselves followed by law enforcement authorities as well other hackers. From June 2011, LulzSec members began to be suspected by both the US and UK police and arrests were made— Ryan Cleary, Jake Davis, Mustafa al-Bassam and Ryan Ackroyd. Despite this, there were statements after the arrests suggesting that LulzSec is not a mere group of people but more like an idea that is hard to eradicate.

It’s ridiculous to believe that by arresting members of LulzSec, you have stopped us. You haven’t stopped us. You have merely disrupted the active faction- Anonymous

You cared nothing for the privacy of others but did everything you could through your computer activities to hide your own identities while seeking publicity- Judge Taylor

 

Let’s take a quick turn to another troll — Andrew Auernheimer aka Weev, who is well-known for his dedicated trolls, advocating genocide of non-whites and usual messing with large corporations. He was a leader of the Goatse security, a grey hat group that uncovers security holes for ‘the benefit of the public at large’. He took the disruptions by LulzSec and Anonymous to another level starting something broad against authority. Although he disagrees with LulzSec by saying, ‘ They’re publishing people’s authentication data, which puts the average member of the public at risk.’ and further stating that, ‘ I would never do that. They are the people we have to defend.’

 

He believes that we need to toughen up as we are too pampered and that’s one of the reason that ‘the western society is sick; diseased’. When in an interview he was questioned about his tweet – You’re fat and your kid has autism, he started, ‘ I believe that tweet is pretty fair. I believe that person is fat and that child did have autism…
I think the problem with our society is that everybody is so politically incorrect because they have grown up in a bubble- official price, rounded corners, and bright colors. We are costume animals telling nobody anything that might hurt their feelings. Kids these days, they should be out welding, they should work with caustic chemicals, you know control demolition, like learn to be real people living in a real world and not these insulated morons who can’t ever hear anything that might hurt their feelings.
Get over it, grow up, and learn to deal with people on the internet not liking you. And if you don’t like it, shut down your FB page, make your Twitter private, don’t engage in a public discussion and you’ll never run into a conversation where I can say something that can hurt your feelings.’

He regularly writes for The Daily Stromer that is a ‘ neo-Naziwhite supremacist and Holocaust denial website’. In one of his post on this commentary, he expressed his hate towards Jews and black people revealing giant swastika tattoo on his chest.

Weev with a swastika tattoo on his chest

 

“I unequivocally support the killing of children. I believe that our enemies need such a level of atrocity inflicted upon them and their homes that they are afraid to ever threaten the white race with genocide again. We will not relent until far after their daughters are raped in front of them. We will not relent until far after the eyes of their sons are gouged out before them. We will not relent until the cries of their infants are silenced by boots stomping their brains out onto the pavement.”

“Please, Donald Trump, kill the Jews, down to the last woman and child. Leave nothing left of the Jewish menace. It is all on you, my glorious leader.”
— “Kikes Tried to Frame Me for Synagogue Threats a Second Time,” Daily Stormer, March 2017.

— From a flyer Auernheimer sent to 50,000 computer printers across the country, August 2016.

Even though his mother said that Weev comes from a large-mixed raced family with Jewish relatives on “both sides of his family,” as well as Native American blood. After serving his sentence, he is reported to move to eastern Europe as the Department of Justice is still looking for him. He said that he misses America every day and is living a sort of miserable and despairing life in Transnistria. Still, he consistently uses the Internet to troll and shares his sort racist beliefs.

 

Trolling which now seems an everyday superficial and impulsive action is rather a ‘dark’ psychological phenomenon which has a further strong association with the darkest aspects of personality — including sadism, psychopathy, and manipulativeness. Furtherthe web provides the users the opportunity to shape and develop this aspect of the personality which might otherwise remain hidden from our neighbors and friends. This gives the advantage of remaining anonymous and not suffer from face to face social impacts that such kind of action might bring.

Luke Goode, researcher, and writer about new media technologies summed up this phenomenon:
It is also a symptom of our hyper-individualistic culture. Schools, the media and the self-help industry devote tremendous energy to telling people they are extraordinary individuals whose calling is to make their unique mark on the world. When the rest of humdrum social reality reneges on this promise, internet trolling offers a temptingly simple, though illusory, escape from feelings of powerlessness, insignificance, and boredom.

Quote

Internet’s folk hero

“Think deeply about things. Don’t just go along because that’s the way things are or that’s what your friends say. Consider the effects, consider the alternatives, but most importantly, just think.”

Aaron Swartz, an internet legend, it’s own boy — a tech genius. Dropped out of school at the age of 14, he earned an early success as a programmer. He developed Reddit at the age of nineteen and took a turn toward political activism devoting his short life to the idea of free internet.

He was against the corporate influence. He believed that ideas should be freely available on the Internet favoring the free access of all sources. Academic publications are bound within the notions of copyright. Information published in the scientific and cultural field are digitized and monopolized by few private corporations. These large corporations, he wrote, are ‘blinded by the greed’ and the restricted access is a ‘private theft of public culture’.

Scholarly researched literature which is funded by taxpayers is available to only some well-known universities in the developed world. The general public would have to pay a subscription fee to go through an article. In 2013, Aaron was a research fellow at the Harvard University which provided him an access to the JSTOR account. JSTOR is a digital library that contains full-text research of almost 2,000 journals on various disciplines. He downloaded a close to two-thirds of the JSTORE archive through the MIT computer network (which can be equivalent to the subscription fee of fifty thousand dollars). This lead to his capture and an eventual trial. Federal prosecutors charged him with a ridiculous 35 years sentence in prison and a cumulative maximum penalty of $1 million in fine. However, the plea bargain was offered which Swartz and his attorney denied in the end.

Stealing is stealing whether you use a computer command or a crowbar and whether you take documents, data or dollars- Carmen M. Ortez, U.S. Attorney & Prosecutor of Aaron Swartz

On 11th January, two days later, Swartz hanged himself with his belt in a New-York apartment leaving no suicide note behind. Contrary to the idea that he was depressed, his family members and near ones claimed that he has been indirectly killed by the government. His girlfriend Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman wrote,

“I believe that Aaron’s death was not caused by depression…I say this because, since his suicide, as I’ve tried to grapple with what happened, I’ve been learning. I’ve researched clinical depression and associated disorders. I’ve read their symptoms, and at least until the last 24 hours of his life, Aaron didn’t fit them.

…I believe Aaron’s death was caused by exhaustion, by fear, and by uncertainty. I believe that Aaron’s death was caused by a persecution and a prosecution that had already wound on for 2 years (what happened to our right to a speedy trial?) and had already drained all of his financial resources. I believe that Aaron’s death was caused by a criminal justice system that prioritizes power over mercy, vengeance over justice; a system that punishes innocent people for trying to prove their innocence instead of accepting plea deals that mark them as criminals in perpetuity; a system where incentives and power structures align for prosecutors to destroy the life of an innovator like Aaron in the pursuit of their own ambitions.”

Aaron Swartz was a significant part of the free culture movement. He was fighting furiously to make the information accessible to everyone. Restriction over valuable research in developing countries seemed intolerable to him, “Providing scientific articles to those at elite universities in the First World, but not to children in the Global South? It’s outrageous and unacceptable.”

This meant that researchers and doctors treating patients with cancer or other diseases in remote regions of Africa could not access complete articles that describe the latest results in the treatments even if the research is done locally.

And if you decide to pay, you won’t know the article is relevant as the abstracts don’t always make it clear enough what is contained there. And restricted access journals are also prone to spurious results. You might cover the costs to read a peer-reviewed journal but receive some junk crafted by long technical phrases. Predatory and ‘unacademic’ articles are, overall, building a real obstacle in scientific development. For instance, an analysis done by Gopalkrishan Seethapathy and colleagues from the University of Oslo judged 350 journals (published in the year 2015–2016 alone) as predatory. In brief, prestigious and restricted sites aren’t completely flaw-free.

Coming back to Free-culture movement, it doesn’t concern academic publication exclusively but targets the restriction over music, art, and software industry also. Richard Stallman, founder of the Free Software Foundation shared his opinion by stating,

Works of practical use should be free. Works regarding points of view should be shareable but not changeable and works of art or entertainment should be copyrighted.

Maybe we do need a free access to research done by our predecessors in order to appease our curiosity and as an initial point for our own discovery. Just like they used the knowledge and discoveries of others to build themselves up. Openness helps in the discovery.

Standing on the shoulders of the giants.

Internet Theft

Yesterday as I was going through the latest episode of one of my favorite podcast Reply All, the story shared struck me slightly and I decided to write this piece as I feel this is something that concerns most of us who are members of this strange Internet world.

The story was about a woman named Lizzie who got her Snapchat account hacked and sold further by some OG user using the method of Sim Swapping. She was finally able to get the account back but all her contacts and archived photos had been deleted at the time. In addition, she received several threats from the new account holder that made her stop using the app at once as she experienced so closely this violation of her personal security.

The person who originally stole the account sold it for 100$. The reason he targeted Lizzie specifically was due to her unique username Lizard. The username was without any numbers or characters and as a common English noun with a slight edginess, it was a valuable source to sell.

Lizzie is obviously not a first person to fall prey to this system and neither she will be a last one. This is something that these hackers regularly do without thinking about the person connected to the account whatsoever. Accounts can be cracked quite easily using social engineering techniques. Using these techniques hacking can be done without using any code and with a simple vishing call.

Vishing is a voice solicitation. You use the phone to extract information or data points that can be used in a later attack. — Jessica Clark, Social Engineering Hacker

Accounts get hacked by a fairly simple method of Sim-Swapping. Hackers can seize Instagram handles, card details, and cryptocurrency by controlling the victim’s phone number and resetting the login credentials to get access to their account.

The scam begins with a fraudster gathering details about the victim, either by use of phishing emails, by purchasing them from organized criminals, or by directly socially engineering the victim. Once the fraudster has obtained these details they will then contact the victim’s mobile telephone provider. The fraudster will use social engineering techniques to convince the telephone company to port the victim’s phone number to the fraudster’s SIM. For example, by impersonating the victim and claiming that they have lost their phone. (Wikipedia)

With this sophisticated type of fraud, we are vulnerable enough to get exploited by the attackers who can even compromise the methods like two-factor identification to get their thing done.

We use 2FA thinking that it will keep our accounts secure and prevent attackers to enter our system. But this system can be easily exploited by social engineering techniques and won’t stand up longer against a pro or sophisticated user. But when it comes to nothing or 2FA, go for the latter one. At least, it will add the extra layer of protection to your accounts.