The FBI and US secret service have blackmailed an army of hackers with threats of prison sentences to grass up their mates.
Eric Corley, publisher of the hacker quarterly 2600, claims that the computer hack community in the US is so well infiltrated in the US by the FBI and secret service that it is a nuthouse of paranoia and mistrust.
According to the Guardian, one in four hackers are secretly grassing up their peers, normally because the spooks have got a shopping list of crimes they can be banged up for.
Popular illegal forums used by cyber crims to peddle stolen identities and credit card numbers have been run by hacker grasses acting as FBI moles.
This is in addition to the Untouchables actually posing as hackers specialising in ID theft who have taken over the management of crime forums, using the intelligence gathered to put dozens of people behind bars.
Corley said that due to the harsh penalties involved and the relative inexperience with the law that many hackers have, they are rather susceptible to intimidation.
John Young, who runs Cryptome, a website depository for secret documents along the lines of WikiLeaks, told the Guardian that there were dozens of hackers who have been shopped by people they thought they trusted.
The most obvious case was Adrian Lamo, a convicted hacker who turned informant on Bradley Manning, who is suspected of passing secret documents to WikiLeaks.
The Untouchables are particularly worried about the anarchistic co-operatives of “hacktivists” which have launched several high-profile cyber-attacks in recent months. Lulz Security actually attacked the FBI’s own linked organisation InfraGard.
However, the paranoia is often the best weapon for the spooks.
Barrett Brown, who has acted as a spokesman for the otherwise secretive Anonymous, says everyone knows the FBI is there, watching. The problem is that you don’t know who is an informant and who isn’t, and to that extent you are vulnerable.