Hacked off

Hackers and malevolent wrongdoers within the various realms of cyberspace are mutating.

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By  Adrian Bridgwater Published  July 26, 2008

"The correct name is Persian Gulf, which always has been and will always remain, Persian," read a message along the top of the front page. The hacktivists' handiwork was reportedly taken down within an hour. But many say that this kind of web-crime is only going to increase.

"I suppose it was only a matter of time before this kind of technology breach would rear its head," says Saurav Sen, a former head of digital media at the Khaleej Times.

"I'm not saying that Gulf-based business or media organisations are necessarily complacent about their approach to hacking, hacktivism or security in general.

But with so much of the region's installed base of technology still in a comparatively nascent state of development, where the potential exists to exploit gaps in the infrastructure, they are likely to be targeted when they can be identified."

The spread of hacking

Many users take the information presented on web pages as written in stone, when of course quite the opposite is true.

Even collectively assembled wiki resources such as Wikipedia are wildly open to inaccuracy. Equally, social networking sites popular in the Middle East can be used as incubation environments for inaccurate information to be exchanged, shared and passed on to the population at large.

As the growth of misinformation in the form of hacktivism starts to mushroom, it brings into question the purity and validity of the Internet itself as an information resource.

"The emergence of hacktivism in the Middle East has probably been on the cards for some time now. Although its longevity is questionable - due to the region's stringent approach to security and the fact that it is not essentially driven by money - a factor in so much of the malicious hacking that goes on today," says David Hobson, managing director, Global Secure Systems (GSS).

What Arab businesses should think about though are the long term costs of this kind of security breach. By that I mean not just the IT service team time to rectify the problem, but loss of reputation, goodwill among customers and general trust. In the case with the newspaper, there's also the social impact aspect to consider.

As a trusted media resource, the ‘voice' of the paper was - albeit for a short time - misused; and this kind of activity could fuel further unrest among the population," he adds.

Arab hacktivism then, if left to spawn, could also garner interest from the ‘script kiddie' community.

Apple users alert

Just because you use a MacBook, don't think you're safe. According to security vendor SecureMac, Apple Mac OS X users are at risk from a new trojan. It could mean that hackers think Apple users are now plentiful enough to be worthwhile targets, which is bad news to Apple aficionados.

Appearing as an AppleScript called Asthtv05 or an application bundle called Astht_v06, this, if downloaded, can grant the hacker full remote access to your machine, giving them system and user passwords, logging keystrokes, taking screenshots and even taking pictures using the built-in camera.

The Trojan targets OS X 10.4 and 10.5 operating systems, exploiting a vulnerability in the Apple Remote Desktop Agent. SecureMac advises using its 2.5.2 product to detect the spyware. Be even more cautious downloading and opening files from senders/sources you don't know.

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