May 22, 2010

"Hackers Wanted"

Word on the street is that the documentary "Hackers Wanted" has been leaked onto the Pirate Bay and Bit torrent. This documentary features people such as Woz (cofounder Apple Corporation), Kevin Rose (founder of Digg), and Adrian Lamo. More on Adrian later. The documentary is narrated by actor Kevin Spacey.

According to ‘Hackers Wanted’ director Sam Bozzo, the movie was set to explore the differences between true hackers and today’s “computer criminals” and would follow the lives of hackers who found themselves arrested after pointing out security holes in computer systems.
“Commonly thought of as computer criminals and vandals, a true hacker is an innovative thinker able to “hack” himself out of a given problem or situation, whether it be computer related or not,” Bozzo explained.“Historically, hackers have accounted for mankind’s greatest inventions and discoveries and yet have repeatedly been persecuted for their new ideas by the powerful and fearful,” he adds.

The movie is about hacking, throughout history, and uses the story of Adrian Lamo, a hacker best known for breaking into several high-security networks and revealing network flaws in the systems of Fortune 500 companies, to exemplify it. Even though he subsequently told the organizations of his findings he became wanted by the FBI for hacking into systems at The New York Times Co. Microsoft.

The FBI were unable to find him, so Lamo – who always said he’d face any consequences of his actions, negotiated his surrender through the U.S. Attorney’s office, and handed himself over to the FBI.

It sounds like a great story so little wonder it was chosen to become the subject of a movie featuring tech celebrities including Digg’s Kevin Rose, Leo Laporte and Steve Wozniak. Sadly, although it was completed, internal conflict with its producer meant that it was unlikely to see a release, officially at least.

To tell the truth, I had not heard of him before this documentary. This guy used to be a grey hat hacker. He hacked big corporations, identifying security holes for free. They called him the Homeless Hacker because he roamed around. He is most known for hacking into the New York Times, adding himself as an expert source in their database. They prosecuted him for that, and he got 6 months confinement, 2 years probation, and a heft $65k fine. The dude has since gone on to college, and is now a journalist.

I will leave with a funny story about Adrian Lamo. They wanted him on the NBC Nightly News. He was asked to demonstrate his skills. So he proceeded to quickly hack the NBC Network, upon which he was escorted out the building.

As soon as everyone became aware of the leak, TorrentFreak made contact with Adrian Lamo to request a comment. Clearly, as a former hacker, Lamo is acutely aware that the accusatory finger could be pointed at him, but he assured us that he had nothing to do with the leak.

Lamo told that a release of the film was never going to happen, as the producer Dana Brunetti had too many “ego conflicts” with the cast and crew. But the movie is leaked now, so how does Lamo feel about that?

“It’s ironic that a film about overcoming barriers, about new technologies, about thinking differently, had to come to the public eye by being hacked out of the hands of people who, after making a film about the free flow of information, tried to lock away that information forever. The truth tends to itself,” he concludes.

Lamo is, however, pragmatic about sharing. Readers will remember an article we published last year when director Sam Bozzo was persuaded by “some hacker friends” to feel more relaxed about reaching a whole new audience.
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