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Internet theft and hacking

A View From the Edge

Imagine your competitor is a farmer with tractors. No doubt he has a diesel tank to refill from. Now, if you wanted to steal from him, you could, in the dead of night, go and siphon gallons of diesel fuel from his tank. Straightforward theft. And unless he’s a dunce, he’ll know pretty soon gallons were missing.

Instead, you decide to both cripple his business profitability, use his fuel to increase yours and remain virtually undetected. How? You go over in the dead of night and make a pin hole in his diesel tank, attach a hose and run the hose back to your own barn tank. Drip, drip, drip — 11,000 drips and you get a gallon. Say it takes a day. Meanwhile, he’s using the diesel for his tractors and, at worst, he’ll assume his tractor is using a teeny bit more fuel. Meanwhile, at the end of a year, you’ll have stolen and used 365 gallons and he’ll never know…

In the case of internet hacking and theft, the smartest people do exactly that, they make a teeny intrusion and download a steady — but ever so small as to remain unnoticeable — data stream. Now, what use is this data to the hacker?

First, if they download vital secrets, technologies, they can use them (like using diesel) to prop up their own industries. Sometimes it is something simple like the chemical composition of a new rocket fuel or perhaps test results on the flexibility of a new plastic. Other times such data could be information on plans for defense that they can get ahead of in development. In the time of Reagan, they could have learned that there never was any real “Star Wars Program.” It was a bluff to force the Soviet’s hand.

Second, if they download emails, they can probe individuals to look for vulnerabilities. This is standard spy stuff… an employee is in trouble making mortgage payments… another is having an affair… a third has a sick child… all these can be exploited.

And third, analyzing the downloads, they can look for programs’ vulnerabilities and upload (implant) more vulnerabilities and secret back-doors. That way, if the primary hack is discovered, they will already have — what’s the number here? About 16,000 customers infected? Plenty of backdoors to invade at will. What for? See steps one and two above.

This is a nerve rending saga now. All these companies have lost diesel. And the crook stealing the diesel has even injected bad chemicals into the farmer’s tank that may ruin his business. 

What’s the cure? The farmer, having discovered the pinhole siphon, needs to empty the tank, buys a better one and starts again. 

What is important for the future is to beef up the security on that farm!


Writer Peter Riva, a former resident of Amenia Union, now lives in New Mexico.

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