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Who’s afraid of the LulzSec hackers?

The computer hacker group LulzSec caused a temporary shutdown of the CIA website on Wednesday. The group has broken into a number of other high-security computer sites, including those of Sony and the US Senate.


The American CIA is vaunted for its security. Yet on Wednesday its public web site fell victim to the computer hacker group known as LulzSec.The group explained on their Twitter feed why they hacked the site: “for the lulz”.

The name LulzSec is a derivation of the internet shorthand LOL ("laughing out loud") and the word “security”. LOLs aside, the CIA stunt was a triumph for the organisation’s reputation for irreverence.

Since its formation in May, the group has been unflagging in its projects, which include invading the websites of the US Senate, the Sony Corporation and Infragard, the company that handles security for the FBI. These sites became subject to LulzSec’s trademark “Denial of Service” attacks, in which the hacker group bombards a web server with requests until it overloads and shuts down.

This alarming cluster of high-profile breaches has the computer security industry puzzled, with many questions remaining unanswered.

Who is LulzSec? The group appears to be a loose conglomeration of computer hackers who organise their operations via their Twitter page, called The Lulz Boat (a play on the 1970s TV programme, “The Love Boat”), or via conversations in internet relay chat rooms.

Is LulzSec dangerous? Not very. Its main goal seems to be to play a joke on its victims. When the CIA and US Senate sites were hacked, the media had a field day. This caused embarrassment for those organisations, but not much else. No big secrets were unearthed in these cyberattacks.

The group appears to be a nuisance more than anything else, as evidenced on Thursday, when they tweeted a link leading to a list of 62,000 email addresses and passwords gathered from a number of sites. At the top of the list, LulzSec writes, “These are random assortments from a collection, so don’t ask which site they’re from or how old they are, because we have no idea … Be creative or something.”

Are LulzSec and the Anonymous hackers fighting the same war? Both groups share the common trait of being decentralised networks of hackers targeting high-profile organisations. However, LulzSec says the two organisations are different in at least one regard. One of LulzSec's Tweets states, "If you want ethics, go cry to #Anonymous. True lulz fans stay tuned, as the next day or two bring much entertainment. Sailing has begun."

While LulzSec has always claimed that its aim was "lulz", Anonymous links its actions to certain causes, claiming that its goal is to raise social awareness about issues like freedom of expression on the internet or help those organising on the web in support of the Arab political revolutions.


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