Thursday, November 29, 2012

Why th3j35t3r's Efforts Are Ultimately Useless

I follow th3j35t3r on Twitter and he follows me, though I doubt if he reads anything I post. It is obvious that we disagree on political issues and perhaps others as well.

I read his posts while he was DOSing the Westboro Baptist Church in retaliation for their picketing the funerals or American servicemembers who had been killed in action in Iraq or Afghanistan. However, it was obvious to me that they simply used alternative means to spread their message around. Since they didn't have their websites, they used Twitter, Twitpic and other forms of social media to alert their friends and enemies where their next picket would be. Naturally, the3j35t3r didn't DOS those sites because millions of innocent users would have been denied their use, in addition to the WBC.

So, while DOSing WBC's websites may have made the3j35t3r and his fans very happy, it didn't affect WBC in any way, other than to force them to use other means of communication. While th3j35t3r knew they were doing this, he still counted it as a victory for himself and Good Guys in-general.

the3j35t3r also regularly DOSes websites run by known or suspected jihadist organizations, for which he receives thunderous applause on Twitter as well as a lot of attention in the media. He's got his enemies, like everyone else but, that doesn't slow him down.

Objectively speaking, I have to wonder if his activities do any good, at all. It's impossible to know if any terrorist attacks have been deterred by his DOSings or if he has acquired information on terrorist groups which were then passed to US authorities. Such is the world of covert operations, where the Good Guys don't receive public acclaim for what they have done because we're not supposed to know what they've done, unless somebody is a fucking glory hound out to make a name for himself.

But, the terrorists share a number of things with the Westboro Baptist Church: they know that their websites are being watched and traced. Their websites have been DOSed, DDOSed and hacked in the past, so they can safely assumed that such things will happen again. So, they don't solely rely on these websites and avail themselves of other means of communicated among themselves and the general public.

But, while th3j35t3r strikes at targets which are already in the crosshairs of law enforcement agencies around the world, criminal gangs operate with impunity right here in the USA and around the world, where they victimize ordinary people and businesses on a regular basis.

I'm talking about the textspammers who set-up websites where they attempt to trick people into giving them their home addresses and cellphone numbers while they offer them the false lure of a $1000 Best Buy or Walmart card. I'm talking about the fraudulent websites that scammers set-up impersonating real businesses. I'm talking about scam websites set-up to impersonate banks, so they can acquire people's personal information and commit identity fraud, as well as attempting to launder the money they make defrauding people out of their life savings.

Where is th3j35t3r for the innocent people and businesses affected by these scam websites? He's on Twitter, taking a bow for all the terrorists' websites he's DOSed and proclaiming "TANGO DOWN".

One of the most prolific textspammers out there are the people associated with who are associated with nearly all of the textspammers I have written about on this blog. Just imagine what would happen if th3j35t3r would DOS them for as long as he did WBC - which was about three weeks - while simultaneously DOSing all the sites whose links are being sent out via textspam. Those sites are easy enough to find, if you look through the reports at SMSWatchdog.

The sites whose links are spread-around via textspam ultimately depend on to accumulate the information the scammers are after. Without it, their scam wouldn't work and thousands of people would be safe from having their personal information stolen under the guise of claiming a free gift card. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure-out that the scam does work, since the scammers wouldn't be so busy spamming people via their cellphones, setting-up fake websites and paying Namecheap for domain names and servers. They're not going-through all that trouble for shits and giggles, they're doing it because they make more money than they're spending, which is the goal of any business, legal or not.

Namecheap makes money from selling domain names and providing servers, so while they know what's going-on, they won't do anything about it. Walmart, Best Buy, Target, etc know about the on-going scams and where they're vulnerable (hint: the US-based servers) but the scammers aren't cutting into their bottom line, so they're not going to spend the legal fees needed to take these people down. A hard-to-find warning on their corporate website will suffice. The only people who are being victimized is John/Jane Q. Citizen and nobody gives a fuck about them, right?

So, these scam sites are up for weeks, months and even years without any serious steps to take them down. People fall for these scams and lose their money and/or personal information, with the accompanying risk of becoming the victim of identity theft which can take years to rectify once they become aware of it. Real people are becoming victims of these scammers everyday with no end in-sight.

Terrorists, on the other hand are all hunted men and they know it. Law enforcement agencies around the world are searching for them, they all risk being betrayed by people eager for the substantial reward money being offered for them or abandoned by whatever country may be sponsoring or sheltering them at the time. The US government, not th3j35t3r or anyone like him, found Osama Bin Laden and is actively looking for his confederates, fully intending to capture or kill them at the first opportunity.

So, terrorists are already hunted people and their websites are already being watched, as well as DOSed, DDOSed, and hacked. So, this is territory that is already covered. But, the professional law enforcement agents seldom get a lot of applause from the public. Their agencies might, but seldom the individuals who did the actual work. That's the very nature of covert operations. The world of Special Operations is often thankless, because covert operations are meant to be secretive. That's okay with the agents doing the work, but they often go into that line of work for the challenges it offers, as well as out of a sense of doing their patriotic duty, rather than becoming famous.

But, th3j35t3r seems to crave that acclaim, despite the fact that the field is pretty well covered. He'll get more of this acclaim for taking-down terrorist websites, Westboro Baptist Church and Wikileaks than he would get for knocking-down scam websites. He knows this and his audience probably knows this, too.

After all, proclaiming to the world that you've DOSed a jihadist website will make a lot more people happy and donating money to him (he claims to give a portion of his donations to The Wounded Warrior Project, the same claim that the author of "No Easy Day" does about proceeds from his book sales) than doing the same to a fake bank. But, the actual good being done is, I think, far less.

Imagine that you're a terrorist and you want to plan an attack. You know that your websites are monitored and your discussion forums have been infiltrated. Do you plan your attacks there anyway? Of course not! If you're smart, you'll take your planning off to a safer route, like one of those free messaging systems that you can download to your smartphone or some other private messaging system that would be far more secure. You'll have all of your contacts already aware of these alternative routes, so that there's less risk of being watched when you want to plan something covertly. So, th3j35ter's attacks on these sites nets little in real results beyond the applause from the public. I seriously doubt if any attacks have been thwarted by his efforts.

Compare that to my blog. This is a small blog and I don't write for it on a daily basis. I write whenever something comes up that sparks my interest and I'll admit that I've even made some money from it. I've written a few entries that haven't gotten a lot of views, but that's okay. But, I've written many articles on scams that I've either become aware of by reading Internet forums or I was the intended target of such a scam. Those are my most popularly-read articles - aside from the ones I wrote about Charles Darwin - and they recive the most comments from readers. I've gotten messages from people who had been targeted by scammers, but decided to check it out before committing to anything. They found my blog entry on that topic and it saved them from getting scammed. I've got those comments here on this blog and anyone can read them. Most were posted anonymously, so there's no way for anyone to go and check on their veracity. Still, I get comments like that just from the blogposts here, which is some evidence that I've at least done some good from it. Links to my blog entries can be found in forums around the Internet, such as SMSWatchdog. My posts on a quote falsely attributed to Charles Darwin has even been discussed in 4chan, though I don't know what was said about it. Nobody was saved from getting scammed, just from being misinformed.

I don't do this blog for the glamor, which is nonexistent anyway. I'm unlikely to be interviewed by the media or offered a book deal. No one has ever offered to donate money to support my work. I just do it for the sake of maybe doing some good and hoping that I might just be able to keep someone from getting scammed. I do this knowing with great regret that there is no th3j35t3r out there who will be DOSing these scam sites, as well as the sad fact that the corporations being used as cover for these scammers don't care enough to even try to take these sites down themselves and the companies the scammers buy their server space from are too busy making money to give a shit about the innocent people being victimized.

Don't misunderstand my feelings about th3j35t3r. I like him. I do. But, I think that his talents are being wasted covering ground that is already covered and he could actually being doing some tangible good if he directed his efforts towards those who victimize the innocent on a daily basis.

Duane Browning
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