A recent report from the U.S. Attorney General shows a real interest in seeing Wikileaks and other groups like them shut down. The report also suggests the U.S. government may be recruiting and using civilian hackers as an aide in catching cyber threats early on.
The U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has recently released a report outlining how to deal with threats against U.S. computer networks. Titled, “Strategy on Mitigating the Theft of U.S. Trade Secrets”, this new report from the Justice Department sees groups such as Anonymous and other hacker groups as a real threat to America’s computer networks. The report even goes as far to mention Wikileaks by name when defining what a ‘hacktivist’ group is.
This new cyber-security outline from Holder came not long after another report from security firm Mandiant was released. Mandiant, which operates as an intelligence and information security company, revealed that the Chinese military was playing a big role in hacking into U.S. computer networks. In addition to the Mandiant report, the one presented by the Attorney General says that Wikileaks and members like that of the group formerly known as "LulzSec" have been defined as a major threat to U.S. intelligence and computer networks inside the U.S.
Oddly enough, while the report sees sites like Wikileaks as a threat to U.S. security it further suggests that the government take the opportunity to recruit civilian hackers and build some form of a relationship from what it calls the ‘cyber underground’.
“This ‘cyber underground’ could, however, become a fruitful recruiting ground for the tools and talents needed to support economic espionage,” reads the report in part. “Following the model used by some intelligence services in exploiting the cyber environment for political or military espionage, a foreign government or corporation could build relationships with hackers for the development of customized malware or remote access exploits for the exfiltration of sensitive US economic or technology information.”
Interestingly, the idea of using civilian hackers to stop hackers is not new by any means. A 2011 article written by The Guardian stated that as many as 1 in 4 hackers were informants for the FBI. Many times the government will use scare tactics of long jail times to recruit or use former hackers as informants to catch a larger group.
On February 13, 2013 President Obama signed an executive order that deals with building up a better defense for computer networks inside the U.S. along with other similar issues. During this year's State of the Union address Obama brought up what he called a serious threat from recent cyber-attacks. In regards to dealing with better cyber-security Obama said,
America must also face the rapidly growing threat from cyber-attacks…we know foreign countries and companies swipe our corporate secrets. Now our enemies are also seeking the ability to sabotage our power grid, our financial institutions. We cannot look back years from now and wonder why we did nothing in the face of real threats to our security and our economy. That’s why, earlier today, I signed a new executive order that will strengthen our cyber defenses by increasing information-sharing and developing standards to protect our national security, our jobs, and our privacy.
In addition to building up a better defense for computer networks, Federal agencies are also being told that they should begin sharing intelligence with private companies concerning any kind future threats to their computer systems. This type of information would include any details gathered from informants or intelligence gathered from monitoring activity on the Internet.