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July 15, 1997

Crooks Hook Clueless Hackers

by Joel Deane

Digital criminals and foreign spies are tricking "clueless" hackers into giving away vital security codes that can be used for theft or espionage, warns a network security expert.

Speaking at the Def Con Five hacker convention in Las Vegas over the weekend, Ira Winkler said hacker bulletin boards and chat rooms are riddled with such "clueless" hackers-- and criminals.

Winkler, formerly of the National Security Agency and National Computer Security Association and author of Corporate Espionage, said he knew of at least one occasion when a criminal associated with the Russian Mafia duped a hacker into giving him a bank's security code by calling the hacker a "lamer." To prove he wasn't a lamer, the hacker gave away the security code, which the criminal used in an attempt to electronically rob the bank. "These clueless hackers are the people we really have to worry about," he said.

Winkler estimates there are 50,000 "clueless" hackers "who can't do anything if they don't have a script" in the United States.

More than 1,000 people-- including network security experts, hackers and FBI agents-- attended Def Con Five at the Aladdin Hotel. Def Con organizer Jeff Moss said it was the biggest hacker convention ever.

Missing hacker

In other news, a teenage hacker who planned to attend Def Con Five is missing. John Sieh, 16, of Iowa, has been missing since June 30.

Sieh's mother, Susan, said her husband, Greg, flew to Def Con and handed out fliers in an attempt to locate his son, who spends "24 hours a day almost" on his computer. According to Susan, Sieh, also known as "Symbiont" or "Taligent" has not accessed his computer account since going missing with the family's 1986 Cadillac Seville.

"We don't know what to think," she said.

For more on Def Con Five, log onto The Site Tuesday, July 22 and click on The Spin.

If you have comments, send them to joel_deane@zd.com