Czech hacking scene: does the deception artist have a match?

02-10-2003

At a recent presentation of his new book in Prague, the "world's most famous hacker" Kevin Mitnick admitted that he did not know any Czech hackers. Obviously, that does not mean that there aren't any: Web Pirates, Lenin Alive, ExE, binary division, to name just a few.

CzERTCzERT Hacks of Czech websites are not rare, although often go unnoticed by the general public. News in the areas of hacking, exploits and related issues have been more or less confined to specialised servers, such as www.underground.cz, which, besides serious information, features snapshots of some interesting website hacks.

For instance, the website of a Czech IT vendor and internet provider was hacked by group who call themselves "Gagarin and me", after the first Russian cosmonaut. The website features a photo of a man on the moon and a text: "it is a small step for Gagarin but a big kick-out for the admin".

Some hacks have a political undertone, such as that of the Communist party's website just before the 2002 elections. The hackers posted a big photo of Lenin on the main page with an appeal not to vote for the Communists.

Funnily enough, the underground website was also hacked, with the hacker leaving a simple message saying hello to the security experts who run the site.

Only rarely do website hacks make it to the headlines of mainstream press, although in general, media have started paying more attention to IT security over the past few years.

Perhaps the most famous, or the one which received most media attention, including international, was back in 1997 and 1998. A group of hackers who called themselves CzERT - when pronounced as "tchairt" sounds like the word for Devil in Czech - reportedly hacked over 200 websites, including some high profile ones. The pages they hacked always carried an ugly red devilish face as a signature.

They were the websites of the Czech Army and the police, various ministries, a bank, several ISPs, a press agency where they delivered their own news story, UNICEF, schools, and many more.

Hackers in the Czech Republic have little to fear, mainly because the under-funded Czech police still lacks computers for daily use, to say nothing about specialists who could match those hackers.

Some say that CzERT helped make people aware of IT security. However, as one member of the CzERT group said in an on-line interview, the hacks were fun for him rather than anything else. Once he exposed a list of people who downloaded and distributed pirated software, which can be considered as a good deed, but on the other hand, he maliciously deleted data from some machines on the net.

Czech hackers are rather critical and negative about Kevin Mitnick and the launch of his book here in the Czech Republic. Many reject the notion that he is called a hacker - instead, they say, he should be called a cracker and phreaker, or a con artist. Some even describe him as "a man who is trying to sell his failure". And most importantly, they say the greatest hacker of the world, as Mr. Mitnick is sometimes called, would have never get caught.

02-10-2003