2016 has been a year which saw the rise in people of India getting linked to the internet to manage their money and lives better. As a consequence of this education, a notable number of virtual accounts ended up getting hacked. Hackers. A word we fear and admire at the same time. Fear, because of the immense power they possess over the internet. And admiration because they are inculcated with tremendous skill and power. But as they say, with great power comes great responsibility. Not everyone can resist the temptation to add a few extra zeros to their bank accounts even if it is not in the most ethical way possible. Today, our dependency on virtual communications has increased manifold (Demonetisation!).
Starting with the one which counts the most – bank accounts, emails, twitter, facebook, and almost everything which can be claimed as one’s own requires passwords. It’s not hard to think what would happen if a person would know even one of the passwords of any account that we thrive on. Yes, he or she can single handedly ruin our lives. With the advancement in technological education, a lot of people are capable enough to apply their knowledge base to do something that may or may not be in our best interests. 2016 was a year to mark as the world (especially India) finally understood that not all things can be protected via locks and manpower.
In the 1980’s there was a group of hackers who called themselves “The legion of doom” (LoD). Another hacker community called “Legion” resurfaced a few months ago, when they hacked the twitter accounts of some of the most prominent names and brands in India. This group included Vijay Mallya, Rahul Gandhi, NDTV and more. How many people are involved in this gamble, no one knows. Neither does anyone know where they are based. The group claims to be residing in the US. Their intention of hacking? Mostly for amusement and lulzSec and because they share some common interests like wanting to expose the rats of Indian system. They seem to have no links to any political purposes either.
In an interview with the Washington Post, one of the members of the Legion said that they plan to dump the data of sansad.nic.in and that this includes a “lot of big fish”. It comes without surprise that most of the hackers of the community are computer geeks and drug addicts. It takes some serious guts to tell the Delhi police (who have been trying to find out about the hackers), to start searching for some good passwords for their servers or their fate could be one amongst all the people mentioned above. It might seem to be the coolest thing ever to students like us, but we must not forget that they are much better equipped than most computer geeks are because they know no limits.
But, there is another side to this coin. Imagine a world without hackers. Will we get the best version of internet services that we are enjoying today? Hackers make the service providers better. They show the common public that we can expect nothing less but the best of everything. The greater threat we see, the greater security we can provide. Not all the hackers have to be perceived as the bad guys. In fact, big companies pay huge sums of “bounty” to the hackers or information enthusiasts to find loopholes in their systems. The hackers who are not interested in the money, are mostly individuals who believe in fixing things which will improve the usability for the common public or some believe in a common opinion or idea, therefore forming a legion. A lot of countries like Syria understand the importance and potential of these hackers and therefore have their own group of hackers willing to do anything they like.
Hacktivism can be seen as a problem and as a solution. But what we know for sure is that it’s something that will only go up the roller coaster in the coming years. So, I hope that amongst some of the new year resolutions that we keep, one is to keep better passwords for our servers and accounts!