Tag: Hacking

Hogwarts Should Conduct Background Checks

Evil - HolmesPIWho are the Slytherin anyway?  And why is Hogwarts teaching them the ancient and forbidden magic arts?  My wife is going through the process of re-watching all of the Harry Potter films.  She’s read all of the books ahead of the films, watched the films in the theater and now she has decided to see them all again.  Perhaps this is in preparation of the grand opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter next year at Universal Studios Hollywood.  Besides the first one that had Gary Oldman in it, I always encouraged Wifey to take a niece or nephew to see these movies.  Mission accomplished.  Somehow, though, I have a feeling I’m not going to be able to weasel out of attending the theme park.  To quote a great song of the 1970s “The Things We Do for Love”.  10cc had it right.  But this new homespun film festival has gotten me thinking.

Why would the world’s foremost school in witchcraft and wizardry accept students prone to evil?  It’s not like Harvard, where some of their alumni somehow end up managing hedge funds and bilk the poor.  Hogwarts actually has a major in Evil.  No kidding!  It’s called Slytherin.  The folks who major in this topic learn cunning, ambition and — no I’m not kidding — blood purity.  Yes, blood purity.  Voldemort, the Devil figure of the Harry Potter series, attended Hogwarts years prior and majored in Slytherin.  Throughout the entire series, Voldemart is the Grand Dragon of the purists and demands for “muggles” (non-wizards and mixed-breeds) to be eliminated.  You’d think that, after Voldemort became a problem, the (apparently) prestigious Hogwarts school would phase the Slytherin track out of its curriculum.  But no, they do not.  They continue to teach the most evil of their applicants the secrets of their power and actually sponsor games where they watch them all battle it out.  Did I forget to tell you this is a school for children?  Yeesh yiminy!  This makes me think that the ‘Lord of the Flies’ version of the New Jersey public schools in which I grew up was child’s play.

Let’s turn this around to non-fiction.  I remember reading many years ago after 9/11 that it was revealed that a number of the folks involved had originally met at a martial arts studio in Brooklyn.  This includes one of the alleged ringleaders, Mohamed Atta.  The hijackers, dubbed in intelligence training the ‘Hamburg Cell’, also attended flight schools here in the United States.  After a book was written making these connections, a number of martial arts and flight schools began conducting background checks on their students.  Nothing is absolute, but it does make sense to be sure you’ve done your due diligence to make sure your students do not have an apparent propensity for evil already dripping from their pores.

Now let’s elevate this thought to a more modern and hi-tech level.  Anyone with a credit card and a couple thousand dollars can attend classes to teach them how to hack innocent individuals.  Yes, the classes are presented with the disclaimer that all students must only use their new-found powers for the forces of good.  But it is ludicrous to believe that is the case.  I’ve attended numerous hacking courses, from online to real-life.  There is a general consensus that bad folks need not apply.  But this isn’t enforced.  Some of the best hackers on the planet I know personally.  And (for the most part) they are great folks with impeccable values that want nothing more than to find security flaws in their clients’ infrastructure and report directly to them with a plan to remedy said flaws.  I’m not saying this because they can all hack me right now.  I really mean it.  Seriously.  But it still needs to be noted that creeps and felons attend these courses.  Currently there is no good/evil benchmark for the hacking community.  But perhaps soon there will be.  Whether it’s magic, hacking or karate-chopping, it’s nice to know your student.

Now, I’m going to finish my coffee.

Stain on blog from Rob's coffee cup

Branch Offices for Counterfeit Luxury Goods

During one of my strolls through the dark alleys of the web I came across another interesting black hat search engine optimization technique: branch offices for counterfeit luxury goods installed within legitimate sites.  At first observation, the website I saw selling counterfeits looked like any other.  But, after a closer look, the URL appeared to be much longer than the typical domain-based URL like fakestuffseller.com.  Instead it looked like this: http://legitimatesite.com/includes/ice/ _vti_cnf/lib/ brand/boots/brand-boots.php.  I noticed an extra directory ‘/includes/‘ that looked out of place and perhaps would not be in the normal structure of this particular legitimate website.  My next step was to test my theory and delete the extra crap (/includes/ice/ _vti_cnf/lib/brand/boots/brand-boots.php) from the URL, leaving it to be simply legitimatesite.com.  As I has suspected this led me to a perfectly legitimate university website.

The two questions you are asking right now are “how?” and “why?”.  Allow me to enlighten you.  The “how” is similar to what I explained in another recent article I wrote regarding black hat search engine optimization techniques where hackers find weaknesses (like unlocked doors) in websites whose security software is not up to date.  Once that vulnerability is detected, the hacker can install thousands of his own websites within your website without your knowledge and, perhaps, for years before you even notice anything is strange.  The reason they do it is so that they can create tens of thousands of websites selling counterfeits.  Since this is done on a mass scale, the criminal is only minimally affected when your lawyer takes down poor old legitimatesite.com.  He has an unlimited supply.  Now I’m going to finish my coffee.

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