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Perhaps because of the Mitnick case, government authorities in America and other foreign countries hurried to establish Internet crime division. In 1990, the U.S. Secret Service launched Operation SunDevil [wiki], a crackdown on telephone abuse andcredit card fraud. Only months into its investigations, a task force raided the homes of several suspected hackers and confiscated their equipment.
Such dramatic courses of action may help protect the public, but combating hacker crime can be problematic because there remains so much uncertainty about who is hacking and why.
The term "hacking" is usually considered negative, but many security experts don't classify attempting a cyber break-in as illegal - only the resulting crimes. What's more, there are plenty of hackers devoted to protecting computer systems. A perfect example is the hacker collective "L0pht Heavy Industries [wiki]," which met in Boston throughout the 1990s to discuss security flaws on the Internet. In 1998, the group reported to Congress that it could shut down the entire World Wide Web in 30 minutes. (Note: This is only partially true, because the Internet consists of disparate zones. A hacker could conceivably shut down individual Internet zones, but not all of them at the same time. Nevertheless, it was a major eye-opener for the U.S. government.)
While helpful hacking is possible, there will always be the tech-savvy among us who have bad intentions. New phenomena such as "denial-of-service" [wiki] attacks, which flood a network with traffic to slow down targeted computer systems, and "phishing [wiki]," where hackers con unsuspecting customers into entering personal information on fake Web sites, have replaced phreaking as the big cracking techniques of the day. Also, because wireless hotspots are becoming so common, hackers now are working on programs that can de-encrypt various signals and wreak havoc on corporate networks without leaving a trace.
So, where will it end? No one really knows. But as long as technology continues advancing, you can bet the imagination and skills of hackers will advance right along with it.
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