EUGENE, Ore. -- There was a time when American youth wanted to be "Duck" or NFL football stars; now many young people in the Eugene area would rather hang out in their "computer caves" -- often located in the basements of their parents homes -- and doing something called "hacking."
While most parents in the Eugene area can't seem to give their kids enough technology gadgets, so as to ease their worried minds about Johnny or Suzie doing well in school, the realty is online time spent my many young people today amounts to a hill of beans in terms of real education and improving grades.
"My mom and dad want me out of their face... really. I don't mean it in a bad way, but they're busy and I'm busy and I'm just fine and dandy with my laptop and iPhone, thank you very much," says a very tech savvy Eugene teen nicknamed "Dark Star."
Technology spawning renegade youth hackers bent on disrupting cyberspace
"I pull out a CD with a bootable version of Linux operating system that contains a hacker toolkit and pop it into his CD drive,” writes infamous “hacker” Kevin Mitnick of his exploits; while Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak offers glowing praise for this hacker in the forward of a new book that explains why so many of today’s best and brightest are hacking.
“I met Kevin Mitnick for the first time in 2011, during the filming of a Discovery Channel documentary called ‘The History of Hacking,’ and we continued the contact,” writes Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak in the forward to Mitnick’s new book “Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World’s Most Wanted Hacker.” Wozniak goes on to write that “my life has changed by Kevin. He has become one of my best friends. I love being around him, hearing the stories about his exploits.”
Mitnick shares his “hacking” that’s code for breaking into something
Here in Eugene -- at the University of Oregon and other computer science education facilities -- the textbook view on “hacking” is “it’s a crime and punishable under the full force of the law.” The computer science textbook – that many college students across the nation also study – delivers a strong warning to young people who think “hacking is romantic” in the way “Robin Hood did things,” and “hackers will be punished,” the textbook states.
“Physical entry: slipping into a building of your target company. It’s something I never like to do. Way too risky. Just writing about it makes me practically break out in a cold sweat. But there I was, lurking in the dark parking lot of a billion-dollar company on a warm evening in spring, watching for my opportunity,” writes Mitnick in the prologue to his new book “Ghost in the Wires.”
Mitnick, whose publisher dubbed him “the most elusive computer break-in artists in history,” who “assessed computers and networks at the world’s biggest companies” is not only a hero to Wozniak, it seems, but to a new generation of young hackers who lurk in their parents basements or other “computer caves,” and carry out crimes in cyberspace that the federal government states “cost taxpayers billions,” and is a “terrorist crime.”
In turn, Mitnick – who says he no longer “hacks” criminally – shares in his book how easy it is to gain access to a high security civilian or government computer facility.
Still, Mitnick is not bashful in sharing his methods as a former “hacker.”
“I had gone to Kinko’s and looked up the company’s website, so I could download and copy an image of the company logo. With that and a scanned copy of my own photo, it took me about twenty minutes working in Photoshop to make up and print out a reasonable facsimile of a company ID card, which I sealed into a dime-stores plastic holder. I crafted another phony ID for a friend who had agreed to go along with me in case I needed him,” writes Mitnick in his new book that sings the praises of hacking anything he wanted to get into.
However, Mitnick does share this confession: “My passion for technology and fascination with it have taken me down a bumpy road. My hacking escapades ended up costing me over five years of my life in prison and causing my loved one tremendous heartache.”
Who is Mitnick and what’s happening in the hacking world?
“Kevin Mitnick, the world's most wanted computer hacker, managed to hack into some of the country's most powerful—and seemingly impenetrable—agencies and companies. By conning employees into giving him private information and maneuvering through layers of security, he gained access to data that no one else could,” states a marketing pitch from Publisher’s Weekly.
“It's the piquant human element that really animates this rollicking memoir of high-tech skullduggery. Mitnick (author of “The Art of Deception” and new book “Ghost in the Wires”) recounts his epic illegal computer hacks of Sun Microsystems, Digital Equipment Corporation, and any number of cellphone makers; his exploits triggered a manhunt that made headlines. He insists he did it not for money but for the transgressive thrill of looking at big, secret computer programs--otherwise he apparently lived a threadbare existence on the lam--and the claim rings true; there's something obsessive and pure about his need to hack and brag about it to others, habits which eventually brought about his downfall. Mitnick's hacking narratives are lucid to neophytes and catnip to people who love code, but the book's heart is his "social engineering"--his preternatural ability to schmooze and manipulate. By learning their procedures and mimicking their lingo, he gets cops, technicians, DMV functionaries, and other mandarins--his control over telephone companies is almost godlike--to divulge their secrets and do his bidding. The considerable charm of this nonstop caper saga lies in seeing the giant, faceless bureaucracies that rule and regulate us unmasked as assemblages of hapless people dancing to a plucky con man's tune,” stated a recent Publisher’s Weekly overview of Mitnick’s new book “Ghost in the Wires.”
Teenage hacker outsmarts iPhone security, jail-breaks tech gadgets
Computer Nerds who spend most of their lives in dark rooms hacking computer and iPhones for fun have a hero in 19-yaer-old Nicholas Allegra, states Forbes magazine while spotlighting this “hacker” who lives at home with his parents.
Nicholas Allegra lives with his parents in Chappaqua, N.Y. While most teens who also spend most or all their free time on computers – and also live with their parents -- what’s different about this “tall, shaggy-haired, bespectacled 19-year-old,” is he’s a genius at “hacking,” states the Aug. 22 edition of Forbes magazine.
Allegra who is now on “leave” from Brown University, “spends his days on a hobby that periodically stuns the computer security world: seeking out cracks in the source code of Apple’s iPhone, a device with more software restrictions than practically any computer on the market, and utterly obliterating its defenses against hackers.”
Hackers are now viewed as terrorists and not just “Nerds”
If you enjoy hacking than be prepared to go to jail for a long time as a terrorist, state government fact sheets that point to new efforts at cracking down on “hackers” due to national security threats, and recent hacking that’s involved international spying.
As for the 19-year-old Allegra – who recently talked to Forbes magazine after it noticed the teen on Facebook and Twitter – has “twice released a piece of code called ‘JailbreakMe’ that allows millions of users to strip away in seconds the security measures that Apple has placed on its iPhones and iPads, devices that account for more than half the company’s $100 billion in revenues.”
“The tool isn’t intended for theft or vandalism: It merely lets users install any application they want on their devices. But jailbreaking, as this practice is called, violates Apple’s obsessive control of its gadgets and demonstrates software holes that could be exploited later by less benign hackers,” reports Forbes in its Aug. 22 edition.
Moreover, Forbes said “Apple didn’t respond to requests for comment, but it’s certainly not happy about Allegra’s work. When he released JailbreakMe 3 in July, the company rushed to patch the security opening in just nine days. Nonetheless, close to 2 million people have used the tool to jailbreak their gadgets. Allegra has become a thorn in Apple’s side that is stores now block JailbreakMe.com on in-store Wi-Fi networks.”
Nobody can stop 19-year-old hacker and others who can have their way with your systems
“I don’t think anyone would be able to do what he’s done for years,” says Charlie Miller, a former network exploitation analyst for the National Security Agency who first hacked the iPhone in 2007. Miller also told Forbes that “now it’s been done by some kid we had never even heard of. He’s totally blown me away.”
To appreciate this 19-year-old’s hacking, turn to the recent hacking investigation by McAfee that cyber-attacks have already taken place on key U.S. government systems.
Hacking a crime that’s now creating real fears worldwide
For instance, experts now say that cyber-attacks reveal that Facebook and all systems open to hackers with the smarts of the 19-year-old Allegra who still lives with his parents while walking a fine line between the world of illegal hacking and just being a “kid who plays with computers.”
In turn, what the technology experts once feared has now be realized with hackers in both China and elsewhere being able to “open the door” on Facebook, U.S. government’s websites, and anything and everything online with no means possible for “real Internet security,” state experts.
The Internet security firm McAfee has produced evidence that no computer system now in existence cannot be hacked by what’s been revealed as “experts in China,” who’ve opened the supposed computer security doors to more than 70 governments, corporations and public and private organizations in 14 countries,” stated an Aug. 4 PBS report that “shocked” computer science experts here at the University of Oregon in Eugene. I do know that McAfee has been briefing Congress, the White House, and other executive agencies. And I received a statement from Sen. Feinstein, the head of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, expressing her extreme concern after reading this report,” added the PBS report.
There’s “no real security system that can stop these hackers”
What we have now, says computer science student Mark is “proof that our views of computer security are badly skewed. I believe there is no real security system that can stop these hackers.”
The result, say other computer science experts here in Eugene (who asked not to have their names listed due to access by hackers) is that a cyber-war against the United States “cannot be won” unless “people start taking computer security seriously.”
Cyber War attacks happening more often as rouge states flex muscles
It’s not science fiction, say Cyber War experts who report a recent “string of cyber-attacks” that threaten U.S. security, and why a “cyber-attack” is now viewed as “an act of war.”
According to Cyber War experts, the United States needs a cyber-force of 20,000 to 30,000 skilled experts to help fight the havoc terrorism would wreak on national security if and when major cyber-attacks are launched against America. In addition to Cyber Command, the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security are currently seeking cyber warriors to help fight this new war of the 21st Century. In turn, computer science students here at the University of Oregon and other major universities throughout the country are being recruited by the government to help wage this new Cyber War that’s already a clear and present danger to the homeland.
President signs executive order for Cyber Warfare
It was just recently that “President Barack Obama signed executive orders that lay out how far military commanders around the globe can go in using cyber-attacks and other computer-based operations against enemies and as part of routine espionage in other countries.The orders detail when the military must seek presidential approval for a specific cyber assault on an enemy and weave cyber capabilities into U.S. war fighting strategy,” defense officials and cyber security experts told the Associated Press in a CBS News report June 22.
Also, the orders reflect more than two years of study by the Pentagon to “draft U.S. rules of the road for cyber warfare, and come as the U.S. begins to work with allies on global ground rules.”
The guidelines are much like those that govern the use of other weapons of war, from nuclear bombs to missiles to secret surveillance, the officials told AP.
Eugene experts say a “Cyber War” is a clear and present danger now for U.S.
For example, the University of Oregon here in Eugene specializes -- as do many American universities -- in new computer science courses that are aimed at equipping this new generation of "cyber warriors" with the latest information and skills on how to wage Cyber War.
Moreover, major American universities such as the University of Oregon, Oregon State University and others, are provided students – say computer science experts – with the tools to help the U.S. when and if Cyber War becomes as common as ground war is today in the world.
Iran boasts of having the world’s second-largest cyber army. Thanks to the new Cyber command (Cybercom), the United States now views its “digital infrastructure” to be a “strategic national asset,” and the world’s leader in the ongoing war against criminals, spies, soldiers and hackers who use the Internet and computers in an offensive cyber battles against the homeland.
Also, “hackers” such as the 19-year-old Nicholas Allegra -- and the new super hackers from China, who were caught in the recent sting by McAfee -- are “those kind of Nerds who have nothing happening in their lives but messing about with computers. And, that’s why they’re dangerous,” state computer science experts.
George Hotz is another one of these youth hackers spawned by technology
George Hotz, 21, is now featured on Wikipedia because he’s a famous hacker.
Hotz is known for “unlocking” the iPhone, but there’s little known about any good things he’s done for people.
According to Hotz’s blog, he “traded his unlocked 8 GB iPhone to Terry Daidone, the founder of Certicell, for a Nissan 350Z and three 8 GB iPhones. Hotz said he wanted to give the iPhone to the other members of the team who created the hack with him. Hotz then developed the software unlock for the iPhone’s new Bootloader Version 4.6 that was previously only achievable with a ‘testpoint based hardware unlock.”
In turn, Hotz denied any responsible for an attack on PlayStation Network back in April 2011 when officials said that someone stole “personal information of some 77 million users.”
Hotz then stated: “running homebrew and exploring security on your devises is cool; hacking into someone else’s server and stealing databases of user info is not cool.”