How venture capitalists and script kiddies took over hacking

Some interesting fomentation going on out there. First, Business Week fires the opening salvo by pointing out how running a berserk jihad botnet is point-‘n-click at this stage:

Criminal groups and hackers have infected tens of millions of computers around the world with viruses that allow them to control the machines to launch attacks or send spam. These networks of zombie computers, called “botnets,” are then rented out on a per-machine and per-day basis through Web sites that make executing a denial-of-service (DOS) attack almost as easy as getting a book from Amazon (AMZN). No password cracking or software coding is necessary.

Security experts say the explosive growth of these botnets has led to a price war among underground suppliers. Two years ago, Ollmann says, there were about a half-dozen networks with a million or more hijacked computers, but now there are dozens with that many. The cost of renting out 10,000 machines—enough to cripple a site like Twitter—has tumbled to $200 a day from between $2,000 and $5,000. “We have seen the price points dropping fast,” says Ollmann.

It would take perhaps an hour. A search on Google (GOOG) for “botnet” or “bot rent,” leads to one of dozens of hacking forums, where there are postings to lease botnets. After downloading software that includes a control panel, a would-be attacker enters the name of the target Web site and manages the precise timing of the assault. Transactions are usually paid for with digital money transfers through Western Union.


I told you guys that letting Macintosh users into the club would cause this problem. (Macintosh is an acronym; Machine Always Crashes; If Not, The Operating System Hangs. Macs are to computers what twinkies are to Tiramisu. Macs are what Nintendos would be, if Nintendo gave up trying to be a real computer.)

But there’s another side to the problem of hacking entropy, as shown by this post from Hacker News:

The ideal of the hacker a la early 90’s, Ghost in the Shell, Hacker and Cyberpunk; a cowboy on the electronic frontier typing silently the night away to a CRT monitor but the internals (of man and machine) is intense full of drama. Better yet, a reclusive vampire in the cyberworld, dialing up the BBS where people went by handles and the text file on packet sniffing taught me the hacking techniques and text file called “subverting American lower-education” taught me the hacking ethos and attitude. Hacking was punk-rock (a la the Ramones, pre-Blink182 and Sum41): marginal and subversive, exploiting buffer overflow vulnerabilities on remote servers, warez, BIOS viruses, and automatic credit card number generators in Visual Basic 3.0 to get free Internet access via AOL/Prodigy/Compuserve, pirated Turbo C++ with DJGPP writing a 2D DOS sidescroller. But I do not really do justice to the description of hacker, pre the dot-com boom – but I think you know what I mean.

Fast forward to the 2009, a hacker has become the anti-thesis to the hacker of early 90’s. The new “hacker” go to websites such as YCombinator and have snazzy wordpress blogs with rounded corner designers with full names and locations and snazzy job titles, and geek-chic photo of the said hacker in yuppie dress-shirts smiling, “Software Visionaire/Ruby Ninja; come hit me up on Facebook, let’s meet up and talk about business ideas!” The big ideas of the day is a PHP database CRUD application that displays everyone’s colleges and geographical networks, with full names and whose purpose essentially, is a repository for pictures of inebriated hot chicks. Apparently, the new new thing is now this CRUD forum database application that has a character-limit of 120 words per post, but get this, it’s written in a really cool language called Ruby on Rails, a la AutoTune in Kanye West’s 808s & Heartbreak.


I guess that’s it: the frontier is over. We no longer have many different unknown and radically distinct approaches to the problem. We’re all using variants of UNIX (Linux, MacOS) or VMS (Windows NT) and they’re getting more not less similar. We’re all connected with this giant network that it’s easy to get on, if you have a credit card. Even theft of phone services wouldn’t be a challenge or have any rewards.

So what are the mountains left for us to climb? Help me out, fellow brethren of the core dump, and post your thoughts in the comments section.

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