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

"Due to the enormous growth of IT use in the Middle East region, we need to increase awareness of Internet threats, particularly with the increasing availability of tools to conduct cyber mischief including social networking sites, and we encourage users to protect their systems with the appropriate software to prevent any disruption or loss of data," he added.

Since hacktivists' activities manifest themselves on the web, one might imagine that their recruitment drives originate from their virtual stomping grounds. Virtual communities that are designed to propagate interest in sub-cultures exist all over the Internet.

Some are completely innocent and may serve the interests of, say, the Middle East Butterfly Collectors Club (don't worry, I've checked, there isn't one) or the Dubai Ladies Club.

Meanwhile, others have more dastardly aims, fuelling hatred, politically or nationalistically charged unrest and generally make themselves a nuisance.

Arguably the biggest online Internet community is Second Life; this has its own currency and is used by companies such as IBM to host virtual meetings and press conferences. Interestingly, if you Google the term "Hacktivism in Second Life" - you don't actually get much, so perhaps it is well ‘policed'.

But type in ‘Hacking Second Life', however, and there are plenty of articles, blogs and even YouTube videos.

Making the internet a better place

There are many ways you can make the World Wide Web a better place to surf. If you receive spam emails, report them to your email provider, be it Hotmail, Gmail etc. At work, inform your server administrator of the problem. When it comes to malicious websites, you should also take the time to report them to your security software company.

They will assemble a list and will incorporate that site into their next round of updates to all their subscribers. Download SiteAdvisor and report any suspicious websites to the company. This application is embedded in your browser and ranks all websites in colours, giving you more information.

But it's also worthwhile to inform search engine companies about this, so they can blacklist bad websites. Google is asking people to take a more active role; to report a website to Google, visit: www.google.com/safebrowsing/report_badware/. Alternatively, you can report a spam result here: http://www.google.com/contact/spamreport.html

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