MY SAY: A long and not-so proud history of online hacking

ADAM Segal last month published his much-anticipated book "The Hacked World Order: How Nations Fight, Trade, Manoeuvre, and Manipulate in the Digital Age".

It foreshadows not just future warfare, but current warfare - a warfare that's largely hidden from the masses, but felt by so many.

That's the great irony. How would we ever know whether a disruption to a pre-paid mobile service or a disruption to the power grid were the doing of hackers?

I can tell you it takes a bit of luck and a lot of perseverance.

You may think this topic is far from our sun-kissed beaches and sub-tropical rainforests, but the Sunshine Coast is synonymous around the world with hacking. To those not connected to the global hacking community, we have reputation, and one that has stuck for well over a decade.

Back in 2000 a disgruntled job applicant, Vitek Boden, used computer equipment, two-way radios, and his laptop to hack into the Maroochy Shire Council waste management system. The resultant disruption caused the release of 800,000 litres of raw sewage into the environment.

Boden worked for a Maroochy Shire Council contractor that had installed its radio-controlled sewerage supervisory system. His time came to an end with the contractor and according to court documents, he had expressed interest in working for the council in late 1999.

After a couple of proactive attempts to gauge their interest in employing him, Boden got the message that the council was not interested. He decided to get even with both the council and his former employer. He packed his car with stolen radio equipment attached to a (possibly stolen) computer, where he would drive around the sewerage control station on at least 46 occasions from February to April 2000.

This form of crude "war driving", where hacking activity is enabled via a hacker's vehicle to reach the required penetration proximity, was adopted by Boden where he would issue radio commands to the sewerage control system remotely.

During this period, the council would detect a number of failings of its sewerage control system - pumps weren't running the way they should, alarms were not reporting to the central computer and communication loss between the central command and pump stations observed.

Boden's former employer was called in to investigate. The investigation revealed that the technology was operating fine but human intervention was the likely cause of the problems.

By March, Boden was under suspicion and police surveillance. On April 23, 2000, he was pulled over by police for a "routine traffic stop" and his vehicle searched.

The contents of the vehicle included his former employer's PDS Compact 500 computer and another laptop. On forensic examination by police the devices were shown to have software installed after Boden had left his employer to enable it to communicate remotely with the sewerage system.

Boden was convicted on October 31, 2001 and sentenced to two years in jail for acts relating to unauthorised cyber penetration.

That was back in 2000. Imagine what damage could be done now, 16 years on.

Dr David Lacey is a Senior Research Fellow at the University of the Sunshine Coast, visiting Senior Fellow at the Australian Defence Force Academy, and Director of IDCARE.



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