Rolling Stone “The Biggest Cyber Crime in History – Sex, Drugs, and Hackers Gone Wild”

I wouldn’t normally read Rolling Stone but strolling through the airport I noticed “The Biggest Cyber Crime in History – Sex, Drugs & Hackers Gone Wild” on the cover and like passing a train wreck you can’t help but stare at I had to buy a copy, that and it appears that Russel Brands armpit was positioned ever so strategically against the reference as well – very apropos I might add.

As I cracked the cover I knew my self inflated sense of cyber accomplishment and egocentrism would lead me down a path of feeling incredulous at how poorly the author understood technology, but utterly intrigued at the prospect of mainstream media adding some “hollywood” or “Miami Vice” to the hacking scene I tried to read with an open mind. I wasn’t disappointed in the number of mistakes the article made, mistakes that for the most part make no real difference to the point of the story and are only important to those that already understand their meaning anyway.

I figured the article was about Albert Gonzalez (here), which it was. The story is a familiar one to many of us in infosec, even the details of this specific case do not really seem all that unique or interesting. What is interesting about this case and the article in Rolling Stone is how it paints a picture of the ease at which those wishing to can live the lives of rock stars or drug dealers through hacking, all with the same level of hotel destroying, hip hop pool partying surrounded by trashy women and drug induced escapades we have come to expect from our celebrities.

It is disappointing that the article paints Gonzalez as almost a Robin Hood meets Hunter S. Thompson character or simply as boys being boys. The crimes are made to seem largely victimless and perpetrated against faceless corporations with little impact on most of us, but that isn’t the reality. The reality is that directly or indirectly these types of crimes impact our lives profoundly. From increasing costs to decreasing privacy. We need to recognize that cybercrime is not victimless and Albert Gonzalez is not a celebrity and neither him nor the tens of thousands of others in the world that manipulate, lie, steal, and cheat their way through life should be treated as anything other than criminals.

8 thoughts on “Rolling Stone “The Biggest Cyber Crime in History – Sex, Drugs, and Hackers Gone Wild”

  1. Amrit,
    I felt very much the way you did at the outset of reading the article, but I wanted to offer up another lasting impression I got from reading the article to see if it resonates with you.

    I walked away slack-jawed at the knowledge chasm between those poised to do harm or just simply show people how smart they are versus those who are charged to stop them from doing it.

    When I read the article…and the TJX breach was the known for me but not Albert specifically…I was spooked by the fact that if ego and greed were kept in check (tall order for drug-fueled 23 year olds, for sure) the cash/identity grab would still be under the detection radar. And…who’s out there right now in Albert’s and Watt’s place doing something even more sophisticated?

    Thanks for the forum.

  2. There will always been another Gonzalez. I am not a security expert but I am training for that sort of work. There will always been an opportunist genius in whatever criminal field. Why risk jail time over petty crimes when you can put real money in the bank? Gonzalez only paid back a fraction of what he stole, so I read.

    The flip side is that real opportunities are not made available in the legitimate workplace. I am not suggesting Gonzalez was an appropriate choice for say DoD or Bank of America but why are there no equivalent experts preventing these sort of crimes?

    A similar example of poor prevention is the continuing robbery of armored cars. I live in Australia so it is different here to say the US. Recently, a man working for a major security firm was shot dead and while he was nearing retirement making it more the tragic event. The wages these guys get paid to protect massive bankrolls is hardly enough to pay a mortgage without struggle. Seems all out of order to me.

    Pay people what they deserve and you will see less crime. Less management and more action.

    • Hey tra33icp1mp,

      In regards to your comment ‘Pay people what they deserve and you will see less crime. Less management and more action.” I think you have this partially correct in that we need to recognize the economic imbalance currently experienced in information security and that it favors the bad guys – that is their risk/reward ratio is our of whack, however I don’t think paying people what they deserve which fundamentally change the dynamic of crime – what will is changing the risk/reward ratio and finding other methods to change the economics of crime so it becomes less attractive.


      • Do you believe this is possible?

        I don’t think you are wrong in what you say. What I have suggested is not an action to eliminate crime but lessen the appeal. Make it ‘less attractive’ as you say. The real problem is the fundamentals. Crime is what the law makes of it. Without the fundamentals of the legal system changing there will be no real change. The law would need to be stripped down to its very foundation. The appeal for criminals is more than simple risk/reward. Gonzalez for example, he could have settled for much less reward and got off free of any punishment. Economics at large is founded on moral principles. Citizens at large are charged to the full degree. We are charged according to what will be tolerated, no less, no more. That is the fundamental that needs to change.

  3. Pingback: Rolling Stone “The Biggest Cyber Crime in History – Sex, Drugs, and Hackers Gone Wild” (via Amrit Williams Blog) « Tra33icp1mp

  4. I just read this article and agree with your commentary. As far as tra33’s commentary, I think that the corporate system has certain rules and to live in that matrix requires you to live within those roles. Corporate job. 9-5. (Read 4 hour work week)

    Unfortunately, you have to break out of this system to change the rules. You can start your own company and do your own thing, only instead of stealing and hurting people, you can add value to the social network. As such I found this article fascinating. What a waste of talent for some really smart guys. Also I really enjoyed reading about their friendship – despite the terrible things they did, their loyalty to each other seems genuine.

  5. Pingback: » Albert Gonzalez, Rolling Stone and The Biggest Cyber Crime in History The Privacy Council: Stop unwanted marketing…

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