Security Advisor

Good Guy Goes Bad

Plus: Anonymous responds to Megauploads raid, Google saw what you did online last night.

Who better to break into a safe than a safe maker? That was probably the rationality behind one Andrey N. Sabelnikov of Russia after he decided to switch his blue hat for a black one.

Microsoft this week named Sabelnikov as new suspect in the Kelihos ring (which was shut down by Microsoft last October). According to the company, Sabelnikov had a hand in the botnet that, at its height, had infected between 42,000 and 45,000 computers.

While he did not advertise his illegal work on his LinkedIn profile (smart move for evil-doers), Sabelnikov did boast that he worked as a senior system developer and project manager for a Russian antivirus firm. The security company, Agnitum, is known for its antivirus and firewall software.

While there are a ton of examples of reformed digital criminals taking consulting positions with security firms, this is the first time I've heard someone make the reverse move (although he's probably not the first to do it).

Anticipated 'Hacktivism' Storm Fizzles Out
I was surprised that last Wednesday's Internet blackout protests by companies like Reddit and Wikipedia didn't feature an appearance by everyone's favorite Guy Fawkes mask-wearing hacker group Anonymous. It seemed like the Internet censorship bills being rallied against would be just the type of thing it would be leading the charge against.

While Anonymous kept silent that day, it sure made its presence felt the next day after the news of the U.S. seizure of Megauploads and arrests of its operators hit the air.

The group launched into a series of DDoS attacks against government Web sites, Hollywood industry sites and others that supported the SOPA/PIPA bills. In the span of 30 minutes, it had successfully shut down more than a dozen high-profile sites, while boasting that more than 5,000 hackers were taking part in the operation.

Watching the group's Twitter feed change with every new attack, I was bracing for something massive, something big enough that would get both the world and the authorities to squarely focus on the group.

However, after a couple of hours, that was not the case. As with most trouble-makers, after an hour or so the group got bored and stopped attacking Web sites. And the overall damage caused? Some sites were taken offline for a few hours and then returned as if nothing ever happened.

What do you think of the hacker groups like Anonymous that are motivated by activism and social change? Are they just petty thugs or modern-day Internet patriots? Let me know at cpaoli@1105media.com.

Google's Tracking You (Even More Than Before)
While Google hasn't been known for its strong privacy practices when it comes to your information, it's taking the next leap towards ex-girlfriend stalker levels with its new tracking service.

Starting March 1, Google will monitor every move you make in Gmail, YouTube, Calendar, Docs, Google +, search, maps and other online services into a database. According to the company, the purpose of this is to provide more accurate and personal online search results.

And good luck trying to keep this info away from Google -- the only way to avoid having a detailed file in its database is to shut down your Google accounts.

While I'm sure Google won't use the information for any other purpose than providing accurate search results and targeted ad placement, it's still a bit creepy to know that no matter what you do online, this corporation knows it.

And James Steyer, CEO of Common Sense Media, an online group that advocates safe online practices for children and families also agrees with the creep factor: "Google's new privacy announcement is frustrating and a little frightening. Even if the company believes that tracking users across all platforms improves their services, consumers should still have the option to opt out, especially the kids and teens who are avid users of YouTube, Gmail, and Google search."

How do you feel about Google watching your every move? Is it a violation of your privacy or is it just how business has to be done online? Answers welcome at cpaoli@1105media.com.

About the Author

Chris Paoli is the site producer for Redmondmag.com and MCPmag.com.

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