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.