One in four US hackers is secretly working for law enforcement agencies according to a hacker magazine.
Eric Corley of 2600 made the estimate in an interview with the Guardian newspaper. (If 2600 sounds familiar, it’s the magazine of a website that maintains, among other things, a list of words and phrases banned from Google’s Instant Search feature, which has now been updated to include “rosy palm and her 5 sisters” and futanari, the Japanese word for hermaphrodite.)
According to Corley, hackers are a particularly vulnerable target for being persuaded to become government enforcers. That’s a combination of hackers often being people with little other experience of being threatened with criminal charges, and the comparatively hefty sentences that can follow.
The Guardian claims that many online forums dedicated to trading in illicit information such as stolen credit cards are being run by people now working for the FBI, with those posting on such sites being left to incriminate themselves.
It’s even speculated this trend may be the real inspiration for the recent attacks by the LulzSec hacker group on Infragard, an organization that works with the FBI. For its part, LulzSec claimed the attack was motivated by the US government’s recent decision to designate some forms of cyber-attack as an act of war which could entail a military response. That seems an off claim as the designation referred only to cases where the specific involvement of a foreign government could be proven.
To be fair, it’s worth remembering the one in four figure is based on a single claim that isn’t backed by any published detail. It is possible it is exaggerated, which certainly wouldn’t do the cause of law enforcement agencies any harm. In particular, the ratio will depend entirely on how the total number of “hackers” is classified.