Stupid hacker tricks: The folly of youth

Tech-savvy delinquents set the Net aflame with boneheaded exploits that earn them the wrong kind of fame

Ah, youth. Ready to take on the world, today's generation of dynamic, tech-immersed youngsters have grown up alongside the Internet. Firsthand, and sometimes single-handedly, they have advanced some of today's hottest technology trends, from peer-to-peer networking, to massively multiplayer online games, to social networks and instant messaging. And along the way, a small, sociopathic number of them have behaved very, very badly.

Even the very definition of poor online behavior has been advanced by these cyberschnooks. Armed with broadband and lots of unsupervised free time in front of the computer, shielded by the relative anonymity of the Web, they've managed to transform themselves from Those Neighborhood Kids Who Set Fires and Torture Small Animals into international menaces who destroy online communities, damage the reputation and utility of online services, and steal anything worth taking from the Net -- all while mangling the English language as thoroughly as possible.

Fortunately for the rest of us, while using the Net's multiplier effect to their nefarious benefit, most are as sloppy and egotistical as we've come to expect from the young and delinquent, leaving a bread-crumb trail a mile wide for authorities to follow. And when they cross the line, as many of these tech-savvy Nelson Muntzes eventually do, it's with more than a little schadenfreude that white-hat vigilantes posse up to take them down.

It is to these ne'er-do-wells that this latest installment of 0 "Stupid hacker tricks" is dedicated. Call it Portrait of the Stupid Hacker as a Young Man.

You got Rbot in Mytob, you Zlob

Perp: Farid "Diab10" Essebar

Status: Currently a guest of the Moroccan prison system. His prison sentence is scheduled to end later this year.

Dossier: In 2005, at the ripe old age of 18, Farid Essebar probably thought he was untouchable. Working with accomplices in his home country of Morocco and in Turkey, the Russian-born Essebar wrote and distributed the Mytob, Rbot, and Zotob botnet Trojans. The malware infected thousands of computers at large corporations, US government departments, and media companies and was built to log keystrokes and steal financial and personal data.

Among the targets reported to have major outbreaks on August 15, 2005, were Daimler Chrysler, ABC News, CNN, The New York Times, the US Senate, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Affected computers typically got into a cycle where they rebooted constantly, spread the malware to other computers on the network, then provided remote access to infected computers to a bot herder. The Zotob variant spread rapidly, taking advantage of unpatched Windows computers using a vulnerability disclosed only days earlier.

Essebar also fell prey to the braggadocio bug, a common ailment. When University of Pennsylvania security researcher David Taylor deliberately infected a computer with Zotob, and stumbled into one of Essebar's botnet IRC channels, he struck up a conversation with him. Surprisingly, Essebar responded, gloating that he earned substantial sums using his bot to install adware on infected computers.

But within seven days, the FBI, working in concert with local law enforcement and Microsoft employees, sent teams of computer experts to Rabat, Morocco, and Ankara, Turkey. On August 25, less than two weeks after the outbreak began, authorities arrested Essebar, as well as then-20-year-old Achraf Bahloul in Rabat. The team in Ankara paid a visit to, and arrested, then-21-year-old Atilla "Coder" Ekici, alleging that he paid Essebar to write the Zotob variant. A bit more than a year after the initial arrest, Moroccan authorities convicted Essebar of illegal access to computer systems, theft, credit card fraud, and conspiracy, and sentenced him to two years in prison.

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Andrew Brandt

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