If the Internet is the new Wild West, then hackers are the wanted outlaws of our time. And like the gun-slinging bad boys before them, all it takes is one wrong move to land them in jail.
Whether they are out to steal money or merely wreak havoc, the consequences of an exploit gone bad can be harsh. And these days, the margin for error can be measured in bits. After all, thanks to the Internet's international nature, cyber outlaws have an awful lot of sheriffs sniffing out their online footsteps.
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Sometimes, though, the sheriffs don't have to work too hard. Clever as they often are, hackers can turn boneheaded pretty quickly and slip up in silly ways, leaving authorities a virtual road map pointing right to their doorsteps.
Just ask the suspects in these five cases, all of whom have officially earned a spot in InfoWorld's Stupid Hacker Tricks Hall of Shame.
Stupid hacker trick No. 1: Hack, tweet, repeat -- until arrested
The suspect: Scott Arciszewski
The crime: Hacking an FBI-sponsored website
Dossier: Arciszewski is accused of hacking into the website of InfraGard, an FBI-run program focused on cyber crime prevention. Yes, you read that correctly: cyber crime prevention. In other words, if there were an encyclopedia entry for "places you don't want to mess with," InfraGard would top the list.
Common sense be damned, though, someone decided InfraGard needed to be infiltrated. Apparently the company's ties with the government rubbed some folks the wrong way; this past June, the hacking collective known as LulzSec took credit for taking down one of the organization's sites, citing recent computer crime legislation as the cause of its ire.
The incident connected to Arciszewski came just one month later, in July 2011. The FBI alleges that Arciszewski, a 21-year-old computer engineering major at the University of Central Florida, broke into InfraGard's Tampa Bay chapter website. He's accused of uploading a few files -- animated kitty GIFs, one can only hope -- and then posting a link on Twitter showing others how he skirted the website's security.
The tweet reportedly contained just eight words -- "Infraguard [sic] Tampa has one hell of an exploit" -- along with a shortened link. That turned out to be more than enough to send the bloodhounds on Arciszewski's path.
The bust: FBI agents, none too pleased with their public flogging, set out to find the guy who tore a hole in their virtual fence. It didn't take too much work, from the sounds of it: According to reports, Arciszewski retweeted his boast to the attention of the FBI's official press office account. D'oh!