Anyone who has read Kingpin won’t be much surprised by the estimate recently made by Eric Corley, publisher of 2600: The Hacker Quarterly, who said that some 25 percent of US hackers are likely federal informants.
“Owing to the harsh penalties involved and the relative inexperience with the law that many hackers have, they are rather susceptible to intimidation,” said Corley to the Guardian.
In Kingpin, the author has talked about a number of hackers who had been picked up by the FBI and have agreed to spy on its behalf in return for dropping future charges against them. Even the central character – Max Vision – has been an FBI informant at one time.
Quite recently, we have the example of Adrian Lamo, the hacker trusted by Bradley Manning and the one who delivered him to the secret service. He is currently looked upon as a traitor in the hacking community, although he claims to have followed his conscience when doing what he did.
For those who are familiar with the hacker underground, the notion that many hackers are also federal informants is definitely not surprising. The FBI is actively trying to infiltrate various online forums and hacking groups currently operating and targeting government and private sector systems.
Kevin Poulsen, senior editor at Wired magazine and Kingpin author says that the squabbles we have been witnessing between hacktivist group Anonymous’ members is the “first step towards being susceptible to the FBI.”
And as LulzSec is quickly becoming a big name on the hacking scene and has even targeted an FBI affiliate organization, it will surely receive its share of attention from the federal agency.