The hackers' world is one of immense intrigue; betrayal looms large ahead of them at every turn and nasty surprises are what they deal with every day. And then, they cohabit with the strangest partners, the law enforcement machinery.
It's been revealed that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has infiltrated so deeply into the hacking community that hackers walk on thin ice, knowing not who will shop them to the police and when. The case of Bradley Manning is the case in point. Manning, who now sits in jail, accused of passing on sensitive US military information to WikiLeaks, was betrayed by a senior hacker who he had approached for guidance.
Instead, Adrian Lamo, who was in FBI payroll despite earning his name as a frontline hacker, gave him away to the law enforcement machinery.
Lamo is now the most hated person in the hacking community. But for the rising army of hackers, Lamo is not the sole villain. According to a Guardian report, apparently one in four US hackers is an FBI mole.
The FBI infiltrates into the dark world of hacking by threatening hackers longer prison terms lest they worked as moles and passed on information about genuine hackers.
This ploy has worked so well that many of the sites where hackers sell stolen online data, including credit card information, are run by FBI moles, says the report.
According to Barrett Brown, a spokesman for the 'hacktivist' group Anonymous, the FBI is everywhere'. The FBI are always there. They are always watching, always in the chatrooms. You don't know who is an informant and who isn't, and to that extent you are vulnerable,, he told the Guardian.
According to Eric Corley, who runs hacker quarterly 2600, about a quarter of all hackers in the U.S. may have been recruited by authorities as moles.
According to the report, the case of Bradley Manning is just one of many such cases of betrayal. There are dozens and dozens of hackers who have been shopped by people they thought they trusted, said John Young, who runs Cryptome, a website similar to WikiLeaks.
The Wired.com reported in 2007 that FBI had built a sophisticated, point-and-click surveillance system that performs instant wiretaps on almost any communications device.
The FBI uses moles to report about large-scale identity fraud and this practice has helped the agency to put dozens of online criminals in jail.
Although massive penetration into criminal communities may help curtail some unlawful activities, the invasive penetration into communities and the absolute control over whatever happens in the digital space amount to disruption of natural rights, according to some experts.
In the emerging 'homeland security states', technology is being used to spy on people, all internet traffic monitored, phones tapped, cameras recording not only our images, but through biometrics they are categorizing and quantifying our specific individual faces and emotional responses, says a Global Research newsletter.
We are, increasingly, seeing the emergence of a hybrid nightmarish scenario of 'Brave New World' meets '1984.' Technology has largely facilitated the advances in these areas and has, for the first time in all of human history, made possible the notion of a truly global police state.
For some, the governments offer protection against the pirates, hackers and cyber criminals of all hues, while for others, it's the government machinery that is in the dock - for invasive control over every movement, even the thought processes of all people.
The 'hacktivists' groups like the Anonymous and the Lulz Security (LusZec) believe it is their right to stand up against the mammoth corporations and the governments of the world and fight to the last the evil that controls personal freedoms online anonymity.
The battle is sure to rage, what with both sides thinking they are in the right. The FBI was mocked recently by the LulzSec which launched a daring attack on InfraGard, one of FBI's affiliate sites. They have been fighting a pitched battle against the law enforcement authorities for what has been done to Bradley Manning, the dark angel of transparency. The clash will go on.
“And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.”
-- Mathew Arnold, 'Dover Beach'