Anyone with more than a passing interest in computers may at one time or another have heard of Kevin Mitnick - by all standards one of the most famous computer hackers in the world. After being hunted down by the F.B.I. he sent to several years in prison for computer fraud. The court that sentenced him ruled he was "dangerous when armed with a keyboard". A slogan he successfully markets today, even though he has reformed his ways.
It was with curiosity that many lined up for Kevin Mitnick last week, in Prague to sign Czech editions of 'The Art of Deception' - the ex-hacker's security manual full of cautionary tales, apparently based on real-life scenarios and experiences. A manual to teach companies how to protect their information and guard against industrial espionage. According to Kevin Mitnick the weakest link in security is almost always the human factor: all too easy to manipulate in industrial sabotage and theft.
"In technical hacking attacks the attacker's goal is to execute what they call arbitrary code, arbitrary instructions, on the targets computer system. 'Social engineering' actually deceives the person that has control over the computer, to execute those instructions. When an industrial spy or a hacker combines technical exploits, being able to find technical vulnerabilities, and also is adept at using influence to manipulate people, it's a very volatile mix."
Mr Mitnick continued by giving an example: a curious individual finds a planted floppy disk he believes contains information about his boss. Once run, though, it reveals nothing instead secretly opening a hidden programme inside - capable of sending information out - undetected from within. In short, a perfect Trojan horse. A relatively simple trick, but one that is potentially very damaging.
Though such tricks are universal Radio Prague was curious whether Mr Mitnick was familiar with any Czech hackers who had left their mark.
"I'm not really familiar here with anyone specifically in the Czech Republic. Uh, I know there are some computer enthusiast who wanted to meet me while I'm here in your country. But, I do know that finding security vulnerabilities - and hacking per sae - is now a world-wide occupation. In fact, I think the new vulnerability that was found in the new Windows operating system was found by a Polish group: 'The Last Age of Delirium'".
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