The media myth of the hacker uptick

Paul Raven @ 22-07-2011

The Freakonomics people asked a bunch of folk whether they thought there had been a sudden explosion of hacking in recent times. One of the respondents was Bruce Schneier, who bursts the very myth that the question attempts to bolster:

None of this is new. None of this is unprecedented. To a security professional, most of it isn’t even interesting. And while national intelligence organizations and some criminal groups are organized, hacker groups like Anonymous and LulzSec are much more informal. Despite the impression we get from movies, there is no organization. There’s no membership, there are no dues, there is no initiation. It’s just a bunch of guys. You too can join Anonymous—just hack something, and claim you’re a member. That’s probably what the members of Anonymous arrested in Turkey were: 32 people who just decided to use that name.

It’s not that things are getting worse; it’s that things were always this bad. To a lot of security professionals, the value of some of these groups is to graphically illustrate what we’ve been saying for years: organizations need to beef up their security against a wide variety of threats. But the recent news epidemic also illustrates how safe the Internet is. Because news articles are the only contact most of us have had with any of these attacks.

Unmasking one of the many faces of the modern moral panic… I note that the other four respondents all conceded that there has been an increase in hacking, and that – unlike Schneier – they all hold high positions in computer security businesses.

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2 Responses to “The media myth of the hacker uptick”

  1. Chad says:

    This all ties into the inability of people to judge risk. The majority are terrible at it. The obvious, and age old example is the older small town resident thinking the big city resident is in constant danger. Of course, anyone who has lived in any large 1st world city knows they aren’t. It’s just the older small town resident had one newspaper and 3 channels to tell him about world events for most of their life and now he has a firehose blasting him with info 24/7. They see a doubling, tripling, etc. of reported murders and think these are new, but really they just weren’t reported before because the news organization didn’t have the time or space to do it.

    I would have to side with Schneier.

  2. Sarah Ennals says:

    I can’t find much about it, but the Pinkertons went up against telegraph hackers in 1867.