Apparently there is no omerta between hackers. The Guardian says that the FBI has so thoroughly infiltrated the hacker community "that it is now riddle with paranoia and mistrust." Arrested hackers often turn into moles for the FBI, acting on behalf of the agency as informants in underground chat rooms and forums to sniff out other hackers susceptible to arrest. Hackers of the world: how likely are you to become a snitch for the U.S. government if you are arrested?
The most prominent of hacker-turned-snitch is Adrian Lamo, who outed Bradley Manning, the source behind the Wikileaks cables. Our enterprise editor David Strom interviewed Lamo last week (listen to the podcast here).
"The good of the many outweighed the good of the one. There were no winners here. I had two options and I took the one that was less wrong," Lamo said of turning in Manning. He said he was sad to see his friend Manning behind bars but viewed him as "any of his friends that has done something reprehensible."
According to The Guardian, Lamo's attitude is probably not shared by the rest of the hacker community. The Guardian interviewed Eric Corley, publisher of hacker publication 2600 who said that, "owing to the harsh penalties involved and the relative inexperience with the law that many hackers have, they are rather susceptible to intimidation." So, unlike Lamo, they are not acting out of some altruistic sense of obligation but rather for fear of hard time. It is the same tactic that local law enforcement has used with petty drug dealers for years in order to climb the ladder to major traffickers.
Next On The Hit List: Hacker Communities
Individual hackers are one type of problem, infiltrating and picking apart hacker collectives like Anonymous or the newly arisen Lulz Security (if it is indeed a separate group of hackers) is another. To a certain extent, there is safety and anonymity in numbers. The way that hacker groups function is not like some normal type of organized crime group either. Anonymous is a global network of hackers working together, many of which (rightfully so) do not trust each other. The way to break up an amorphous collective is to break it into its constituent parts, isolate them and work up the chain of command. Given the distrust already within the hacker community, that may not be as hard as it seems.