Beware of the new breed of hackers

Wednesday, 14 May 2003, 12:40 PM EST

Bank robbers rarely choose a target at random when planning a heist. They usually have intimate knowledge of their target, scope it out and plan the attack. We see a similar approach now being used on the Internet.

But the goal for hackers is changing. Five or six years ago, most were mere vandals, attacking vulnerable targets with an experimental, shotgun approach. Malicious hackers concentrated their efforts on destructive viruses and swiftly spreading worms that crawled haphazardly across the Internet, infecting individuals and corporations indiscriminately. The only real payoff these hackers received was a perverse pride--bragging rights and the ability to regale others with the scope of their destruction.

Other hackers were more pure in their motives; they probed defenses to increase their knowledge, publicized vulnerabilities to encourage stronger security, and even fought for social justice using "hacktivism."

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