Foreign "spy masters" could infiltrate hacker groups
Security advisor warns over dangers of ideologists being manipulated by outsiders
Foreign powers could try to infiltrate hacktivist networks in order to manipulate their actions, according to a security expert who advises governments and businesses on internet issues.
The warning comes as governments and corporations - including defence manufacturers - come under widespread attack from hacker groups such as LulzSec and Anonymous, and amid growing fears about cyber espionage from sovereign powers, especially China.
Likening the emergence of the hacktivist movement to the arrival of militant groups such as the Red Brigade during the 1970s, government advisor and chair of the International E-crime Congress, Simon Moores, said that hacker groups could eventually be swayed by outside influences.
You could have the teenaged hacker who thinks they’re doing something for the greater good by revealing information or attacking greedy billionaires, but in fact they are being manipulated for more sinister purposes
“If you have a LulzSec or an Anonymous that is perhaps being manipulated by a foreign actor, it takes us back to the days of the Stasi and the KGB, which were manipulating [anti-nulear campaign group] CND quite easily from Moscow,” he said, referring to reports that the anti-nuclear peace movement was unwittingly compromised and manipulated by Kremlin machinations.
According to Moores, mustering popular support for an issue through online hacktivist groups and forums could be used as a tool to drive policy to perform actions that furthered a country's interests.
And because the hacker groups are distributed, anonymous and at least in part consist of ideologists – as shown with hacks against financial institutions when they blocked payments to WikiLeaks – Moores believed they were especially vulnerable to interference from outside sources.
“So you could have the teenaged hacker who thinks they’re doing something for the greater good by revealing information or attacking greedy billionaires, but in fact they are being manipulated for more sinister purposes by someone who has infiltrated their network,” he said. “If you were a spy master wouldn’t you be doing that?”