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Time for Self Reflection

In case you don’t read any of what I have to say below, read this: I have dual citizenship. Along with my homeland citizenship, I am of the Internet, and see it as my personal duty to try and make the Internet safe.

Atrivo (also known as Intercage), is a network known to host criminal activity for many years, is no more.

Not being sarcastic for once, this is the time for some self reflection.

I wish I was one of those who sleep soundly tonight. Being clear in my conviction that Atrivo should be out of business, and being positive, my decision to help that happen was sound. While I would do it again, I am sad.

I won’t sleep soundly tonight, as that company, criminal and abusive as it clearly and contemptuously was, still sustained quite a few families in several layers of employment, from sysadmins sitting in the US of A all the way to minor low-level fraudsters employed by their clients’ clients.

I will however, be able to look myself in the mirror for my part in the effort to get rid of them—and even gloat some. My conscious is as clear to me as my sadness is crystal. We may not have changed the wall of battle in the long term and whenever one criminal falls, another jumps up to the opportunities of the land of the free—the Internet. But for once, just for a while, we halted the machine. We stopped the wheels of evil, even if only for a fortnight.

While doing so, it also touched some lives in a destructive fashion. The criminals’.

No villain ever sees himself as the bad guy, as the saying goes. A friend recently showed me Russian language comments written on Brian Krebs’ recent Washington Post story. In them, the posters ask: “why do you take our bread away?”

In a lecture during ISOI 5, some folks just didn’t understand the meaning. Their bread. Their bread. We in the Western world, behind the cultural divide speak a different language. Their culture isn’t poorer than ours, it is unequivocally different.

We can not truly comprehend what it means for some folks in Russia to no longer be able to feed their children this month. Nor can we understand that by sending email, we made those children starve. Cheap theatrics on my part, you say? You got that right. It doesn’t make it any less true.

Cyber crime is a war waged against the Western world. At first, no one even noticed and it was a niche… an art. While the artists still exist, they are a minority, the hackers. For the criminals however, motive is as irrelevant as nationality. Whatever actions are taken, be it a political defacement, fraud or spam, the unavoidable secondary impact remains the same: damage to the Western economy and security in an exponential growth which will become ever clearer in the coming years.

Yes, my friends. I would do the same again. I feel sorry for Atrivo, but they were harboring the equivalent for the Internet of active missile launchers firing on Israel from the Gaza strip. They are human beings who hit a curve in the road to their success. Cyber criminals, however, establish such growth as parasites and whatever I may feel for needing to resort to the end game weaponry, these people need to be smacked down like cockroaches.

Ten years ago they were a pride to their parents, today they are a scourge. What will they be in ten years?

If all reasonable and even some unreasonable approaches fail. That does not mean I don’t have to feel sorry for them, and me. But it also doesn’t mean we don’t need to fight back.

Not even a hundred years ago, disastrously, war was business and an acceptable horrifying part of life. A few years later, in 1918, war was unthinkable. In the century since we who live in or are influenced by Western culture made war no longer an option we can publicly stomach, while facing those who would play us like children because of it.

War is horrifying and evil, it is also a last resort in a world not as ascendant as we would like to think. The Internet has its own “liberals” and I am proud to be one of them. However, I am also practical and see that wishing for a world we once had is not. A world where I could host files on my neighbor’s servers openly, where children could happily use pocket calculators and go to libraries for their school work rather than Google and read Wikipedia. You did so, do your children?

This new world has its price, and that price is a complete loss of public privacy, and a culture of ineffective security.

We are reliant on our Auntie Jane’s computer knowledge for our own security, and while not many would follow us to our bathrooms to infringe on our personal privacy, online we have no privacy, however much it helps us to lie to ourselves that something we do publicly (read, on the Internet) is private.

I accepted that, but that is because I am in the trenches for years. Others live better not knowing. But it doesn’t mean I won’t work diligently to make it remain… functional.

Indeed, taking a step back from my niche in security, and seeing how bad things truly are—people can still surf for porn, and argue over who the best Star Trek captain is. Cyber crime, in all its immense activity of billions of incidents an hour, is background noise. But the background noise continually increases. When will it overflow?

All I really want is to maintain the functionality we have, regardless of the abuse. And yet… Going back to Atrivo, they made enough money by now. And regardless once more, their criminal clients are already back online elsewhere—in some places possibly hosted by what seems like Atrivo, only under a different name.

We did not win, but boy does it feel good to have a victory once in a while for morale’s sake. We halted the machine, even if only just for a short time. That, my friends, also has strategic implications as far as our ability is to influence networks running clean on the Internet, although only time will determine if I am right on that.

Enough whining though. Who is next on the target list? :)

More seriously, why do I care so much? I have dual citizenship. Along with my homeland citizenship, I am of the Internet, and see it as my personal duty to try and make the Internet safe.

By Gadi Evron, Security Strategist

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