Monday, January 17, 2011

The KGB Hackers

Author Klaus Schmeh wrote an article for the Heise Telepolis magazine about the German hackers who spied for the KGB at the end of the 1980s. After the hackers surrendered, atsec’s Chief Scientist Helmut Kurth – at the time working for the government contractor IABG - was tasked with reviewing the evidence. He worked his way through the discs, printouts and notes and delivered a report that gave the authorities a clear picture of how the hackers worked and what they were able to do.

Their methods were crude in comparison to those of their modern day counterparts. Helmut Kurth remembers: “They weren’t geniuses, but they had a lot of stamina.” The lack of computer and network security at the time helped them with their activities – e.g. many mainframes computers still had the default passwords in place.

The affair ended after Clifford Stoll, an astrophysicist at Stanford University, found traces of intruders in the logs of the university mainframe and started a meticulous hunt for the perpetrators. Finally his work led the German authorities to the hacker group.

Helmut Kurth remembers the trial that ended with a suspended sentence for the group: “The defendants confirmed the findings of my report and didn’t even try to deny their espionage activities. The prosecution couldn’t demonstrate that the hackers caused great damage and the affected companies reported that nothing of importance had been stolen. I am not so sure that this is the truth – after all, no company likes to admit that they have been a victim of hackers.”

The whole article is available in German at the Heise website.

1 comment:

  1. It seems to me a great story but i have a feeling that the KGB use Russians then Germans.


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