SAN FRANCISCO – The camera pans to the silhouette of a man smoking out of an apartment window, staring out onto rows of cinderblock buildings. Just out of sight, but never out of reference, is his laptop, completing the picture of one of the world’s most-wanted hackers.
“I started hacking in 1998 and most passwords were ‘123456,” says Robert Butyka, aka “Iceman.” He doesn’t give the impression that hacking is much more difficult today than it was 15 years ago as he smiles straight into the camera discussing his infamous hack on NASA, where he infiltrated 25 computers at a lab in December 2010, causing more than $500,000 in damages.
The short documentary Most Dangerous Town, which will be released this Thursday, features interviews with several of the world’s most-wanted hackers, many of whom come from the small, central Romanian town of Râmnicu Vâlcea also known as “Hackerville.” Produced by the Norton cybersecurity company, a firm made famous for its anti-virus software, it has a vested interest in making its viewers afraid of the threats lurking online. Still, the hackers do a pretty good job even without the ominous soundtrack.
“I was a black hacker. Now I am white and gray… depending on who hired me,” says Iceman. “I like being powerful. The feeling of I can do it, I did it, ok.”
Iceman appears to think little of the efforts being made to stop hackers. Though most passwords have likely evolved past 123456, the hackers, he says, are still ahead of the game.
“Growing up, the internet was one of my best friends. It’s much more curiosity. To find out the ultimate truth, to find out yes, ‘that’s what I was always looking for,’” says Marcel Lehel-Lazar, more commonly known by his hacker name “Guccifer.”
He speaks to the camera from behind bars, where he is currently serving the second year of a seven-year prison sentence for hacking into the Bush family, (and famously releasing photos of former President George Bush’s self-portraits), as well as the email accounts of Colin L. Powell, the Rockefellers, and a number of accounts linked to the Federal reserve.
He doesn’t however, appear to show much regret.
Many of the other hackers featured in the film, which includes Manole Razvan Cernaianu, aka “Tinkode,” and his business partner Madalin Dumitru, aka “Madalin,” who hacked into websites ranging from the U.S. Army and NASA, to Google, give the impression that hacking is, quite simply fun. They are hacking for hackings sake, to see what sort of systems they can infiltrate.
Kevin Healy, the director of security response at Norton, and one of the cybersecurity experts featured in the film, said there were a range of hackers, from those doing the simplest sort of attacks by following directions downloaded from online forums, to those creating complex attacks on sensitive systems.
“You are going to find people that have incredible tech skills and you will have people who don’t. You’ll find some doing common crime who don’t even have computer skills, as well as those creating complicated malware,” Healy told BuzzFeed News. “I was surprised the hackers were honest on camera. This is an opportunity to brag as well. There is an ego thing going on there.”
The film grants anonymity to several hackers, who speak with altered voices from shadowed rooms about running cybercrime rings to trick people into wiring them money through Ebay and PayPal. Healy admits that part of the film is about scaring people into taking cybersecurity more seriously – not a bad tactic for a company dealing in cyber solutions.
“How do you educate people without scaring them? The right thing to do is we need to educate people,” said Healy. “I hope the documentary does that. These hackers are real people, not something hidden behind the computer.”
The hackers, however, may have the final word, as the film ends with them boasting how “Americans are scared of hacking like they are scared of terrorism.”
Source: BuzzFeed News