Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Hacker Smackers

Hacker Smackers: Generally, I find it despicable when journalists take it upon themselves to spin supposed "news" into judgmental tracts. Such hubris and arrogance is deeply ugly and consummately slap-worthy. That's why I am moderately ashamed of myself for taking such glee in the Smoking Gun's high-handed take down of a group of cyber-vandals known as Pranknet.

Pranknet is a loose affiliation of monumental losers, pinheads, and convicted child molesters, who communicate in some chat room then go off and coerce innocent people into foolish acts by preying on their good and unsuspicious natures. For example, they seem to get a kick out of calling some place of business over the phone and convincing them to set off their fire alarm systems. Sometimes they run into particularly gullible marks and convince them to do especially humiliating or hurtful things. Often they just post fake Craigslist ads and deluge unsuspecting strangers with calls and visitors. Basically, they're a pack of infantile jerk-offs.

Anyway, Smoking Gun did some exhaustive research on this group, eventually unmasking them and turning all the evidence over to the FBI. Then of course, they wrote it up for publication making no attempt to hide their outright derision and loathing of these pathetic clowns. And I was surprised by how satisfying I found the venomous tone of the article. Maybe it's the way the Pranknet types virtually strut around all smug and self-righteous. Maybe it's the way they convince themselves that the people they hurt are really just "sheep". I couldn't help thinking they deserved it.

More standard coverage of a more interesting hacker comes from Rolling Stone. (Who knew Rolling Stone magazine still existed?) This prankster was old school and actually used the telephone. He had to because he was blind. Like the mythology goes, being blind he developed some kind of super hearing. He could control telephones and even switchboard networks by whistling at proper frequencies. He could hear and distinguish the tiniest sounds. He could imitate any sound or voice he heard. It's like something out of a comic book. But sadly, he used his superpowers for evil -- like organizing police raids on the houses of anyone who wouldn't have phone sex with him, a process he called SWAT-ing.

Unlike the Pranknet group, this guy is doing time. He foolishly continued his shenanigans after his 18th birthday and discovered adults get treated very differently than misguided teenaged nerds who play on their disabilities. Despite that, he doesn't seem all that regretful.

In both cases, the word that comes to mind is Comeuppance. I'll allow myself a little sanctimony, just this once.