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A Look Into the Chinese Hacker Underworld 198

Posted by kdawson
from the fun-and-profit dept.
beachels416 writes "The NY Times gained access to a Chinese hacker-for-profit, referred to as 'Majia,' and observed him during one of his nightly 'sessions.' From the article: 'Oddly, Majia said his parents did not know that he was hacking at night [hacking is illegal in China]. But at one point, he explained the intricacies of computer hacking and stealing data while his mother stood nearby, listening silently, while offering a guest oranges and candy.' At another point Majia spoke about the recent Google attacks, and claimed to have particular knowledge of the exact vector used. Nothing too new, but an interesting read nevertheless."
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A Look Into the Chinese Hacker Underworld

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  • Well now... (Score:2, Funny)

    by ShaunC (203807)

    That article certainly puts a new slant on things.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Indeed. Who knew they had oranges in China?

    • According to the article:

      And with 380 million Web users in China and a sizzling online gaming market, analysts say it is no wonder Chinese youths are so skilled at hacking.

      Umm, I attended a major US university and got degrees in computer engineering and computer science. During my senior year, I lived on a dorm floor that was the home of the "computer science learning community", basically where many of the new freshman CS majors elected to live. All of them, every single one, was a gamer, and many were o

  • A real hacker... (Score:3, Informative)

    by MindPrison (864299) on Tuesday February 02, 2010 @03:00PM (#30999434) Journal

    ...newer brags ...you'll never know - ever.

  • Lots of content (Score:5, Insightful)

    by interkin3tic (1469267) on Tuesday February 02, 2010 @03:03PM (#30999482)

    To sum up the article for those too lazy to read it

    A chinese guy works a day job, works as a hacker at night. Likes to stay anonymous and take money from people's bank accounts.

    I guess the fact that this is a chinese guy is shocking to some new york times readers?

    • by PFactor (135319) on Tuesday February 02, 2010 @03:06PM (#30999530) Journal
      Ooh, you forgot the part where he says he...WRITES CODE! Riveting stuff, really.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by timeOday (582209)
      Actually, even your negative synopsis of the piece flies in the face of conventional wisdom, which is that attacks of Chinese origin are all a carefully orchestrated by the ruthless and scheming Chinese government to displace America from its "rightful" place of world dominance. So, yeah, the idea that a lot of it might just be petty white-collar criminals who live with their moms is quite a different phenomenon.
      • Re:Lots of content (Score:5, Insightful)

        by blitzkrieg3 (995849) on Tuesday February 02, 2010 @03:57PM (#31000250)

        Actually, even your negative synopsis of the piece flies in the face of conventional wisdom, which is that attacks of Chinese origin are all a carefully orchestrated by the ruthless and scheming Chinese government.

        Security researchers have identified the attacks against Google to be largely from the Chinese government [arstechnica.com], as were the politically motivated attacks [slashdot.org] against the Dala Lama and other Tibetan exiles. There is almost no doubt that the majority of the hacking that goes on in China (and elsewhere) is of the sort that TFA reports on, but linking it to the recent attacks on Google and other US government contractors is disingenuous.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        Or this piece is a Chinese govenmet sanctioned bit of propaganda. They WANT you to think that it's some individual...

      • by fishexe (168879)

        Actually, even your negative synopsis of the piece flies in the face of conventional wisdom, which is that attacks of Chinese origin are all a carefully orchestrated by the ruthless and scheming Chinese government...

        "Then there are the intelligence-oriented hackers inside the People’s Liberation Army," which you'd know if you'd bother to RTFA instead of trolling, "as well as more shadowy groups that are believed to work with the state government."

        'When asked whether hackers work for the government, or the military, he says “yes.”'

    • I guess the fact that this is a chinese guy is shocking to some new york times readers?

      The fact that one of the few books on this "hackers" desk is a C# book is the surprising part. I wonder how well hacking with C# is working out for him? Lol. Definitely a staged picture. I'm sure it looks good to people who know nothing about computers though.

  • by arcite (661011) on Tuesday February 02, 2010 @03:09PM (#30999576)
    If you read the following I'll have to kill you (kindly leave your gps coordinates in my inbox).

    Look, its a simple process of elimination. First we coordinate the offender using black-ops satellites circling above the Himalaya. Once the hacker is pin-pointed in his bunker we upload a 'spike' directly to his IP address, which is gained by triangulating his cell phone signature via wi-fi antennas of surrounding Starbucks coffee shops. The 'spike' will immediately disrupt use of his cerebral cortex, thus rendering said malicious and poorly misguided comrade into a defenseless and innocuous teddy bear.

  • Perspective check (Score:5, Insightful)

    by abbynormal brain (1637419) on Tuesday February 02, 2010 @03:12PM (#30999622)

    The article highlights two important facts
    1. Fun
    2. Profitable

    It's been a long time since I broke into my grade school's soda/chips/candy closet from a skylight on the roof. Sitting there drinking soda and enjoying chips, I can clearly remember how exciting (breaking in) and rewarding (chips/soda) it was. Later, I learned to respect other people's property.

    So what now?
    If you park a trailer in an accessible area ... expect the back doors to be open and the cargo gone. It's very exciting - it's very rewarding. Is it wrong - sure. Are the thieves the ones to blame - no. Not exactly. The thieves are not the ones to blame - the thieves are to be expected. It's an ongoing game where we square off with human nature - make it furn for the security side - keep building better mouse traps. Don't like this perspective? Ok - change human nature then. Good luck.

    • Are the thieves the ones to blame - no. Not exactly. The thieves are not the ones to blame - the thieves are to be expected.

      Just because thieves are to be expected and their actions inevitable, by no means does that let them off the hook of responsibility. That would be like some hot chick wearing suggestive clothing while walking down a dark alley and not blame the rapist. No, at the very least she's just dumb.

      No matter the circumstances or inevitability of a situation, we are all *each* held responsible f

  • by tokul (682258) on Tuesday February 02, 2010 @03:14PM (#30999656)
    cracking is illegal in any civilized country. I am pretty sure that if he spends nights hacking, Chinese authorities won't put him in jail unless he tries to hack something in order to circumvent their controls.
  • by A beautiful mind (821714) on Tuesday February 02, 2010 @03:22PM (#30999762)
    ...IRC? Isn't that how hackers talk when they don't want to be overheard? [youtube.com]

    I guess the NYT needs to attach a disclaimer to the story, because whenever a journalist tries to interview a "hacker" I can't decide to laugh or cry. Something like this would do nicely:

    The stories and information posted here are artistic works of fiction and falsehood. Only a fool would take anything posted here as fact.

    • ...he showed how he hacked into the Web site of a Chinese company. Once the Web site popped up on his screen, he created additional pages and typed the word “hacked” onto one of them.

      Perhaps the journalist had no idea how web browsers work...

      Perhaps the "hacker" just pressed Ctrl+T then typed:
      javascript:document.write('<h1>HACKED</H1>');
      into the address bar...(try it)

      Point being: The journalist didn't describe "Majia" doing anything that I would consider cracking... From the description given, Majia could have just been updating his own blog.

      You can add the word "Hacked" to the top of almost any web page (incuding this one) by pasting this into your address bar:
      javascript:

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by mrpiddly (1568401)
        The journalist is only writing to their audience. Just because you do not fit into this audience does not make the article any less valid. The target audience does not want to hear about the technical details of the process, they just want an overview, concentrating on the human side of the issue. (The sense of superiority among some people with technical knowledge is really astounding.)
  • by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Tuesday February 02, 2010 @03:23PM (#30999768)

    For less than $6, one can even purchase the "Hacker's Penetration Manual."

    Sure, please enter your Credit or Debit card info along with Name, Address ... Allow six weeks for delivery.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Pffft, like hackers know anything about "penetration". Fake!

    • by The Archon V2.0 (782634) on Tuesday February 02, 2010 @03:36PM (#30999944)

      For less than $6, one can even purchase the "Hacker's Penetration Manual."

      Sure, please enter your Credit or Debit card info along with Name, Address ... Allow six weeks for delivery.

      I did that. Not a very good book. "Chapter One: Social Engineering." is just six pages of "LOL!" repeated over and over.

      • I did that. Not a very good book. "Chapter One: Social Engineering." is just six pages of "LOL!" repeated over and over.

        Shh. It's a secret code. You have to read the letters 7, 14, 25, and 44 to know what it says.

  • Shocking! (Score:2, Funny)

    by TSIGabe (1735978)
    His C# book on his desk that is.
    • Probably for copying useful code snippets.

      But otherwise if you're a hacker and you can't find out how to write C# from the documentations and from Google, it's kinda duh...
  • Wrong word? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by humphrm (18130)

    I didn't see anything in the article about hacking. It all looked like cracking to me.

    • Well, if you happen to be an open source developer, the "FOSS guy" label is much better than "hacker" anyway. None of the confusion, and people still respect you as much.
    • Re:Wrong word? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Lord Ender (156273) on Tuesday February 02, 2010 @05:21PM (#31001370) Homepage

      Welcome to the English language. When 99% of the population understands a certain word to mean a certain thing, then that word does, in fact, mean that thing.

      What you will find even more confusing is that words sometimes have multiple meanings! For example, the word "hacker" could mean both "a clever programmer", "a golfer", and "a person who circumvents computer system security." All three at the same time! It's amazing.

      • by Ruie (30480)

        Welcome to the English language. When 99% of the population understands a certain word to mean a certain thing, then that word does, in fact, mean that thing.

        And this makes those who use it properly even more 1337.

        • I think you missed the point. To use "hacker" to refer to someone who breaks computer security is using the word properly.

          And in all honesty, nobody outside of slashdot says "cracker" unless they are talking about password-cracking software, delicious snacks, or white people. In the pro IT security world, we say "attacker" or "hacker" these days. You crack a password, but you hack a computer system.

  • by francium de neobie (590783) on Tuesday February 02, 2010 @04:06PM (#31000352)
    I guess plenty of Slashdotters learned a bit about computing from minor cracks - almost everyone has changed a save game file with a text or hex editor. Insecure network shares at your school network. Getting your neighbors' insecure Wifi passwords, someone probably thinks MAC filtering alone is safe. Modifying Flash games to give yourself 2^31 - 1 points on the high score board. Getting root on random poorly secured UNIX terminals in tech expos. Getting into someone else's IIS and read his local files via the canonical path bug many years ago. etc.

    Sure it's not healthy if all you do are these minor thing and you keep doing these stuff for years. But it's a good inlet for kids to learn computing nevertheless.
  • I don't get it (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Xaedalus (1192463)

    Why is this guy living with his mom if he's such a great and skilled hacker? Where's his money? Where's his grandiose lifestyle? What is he doing with all those computers he's woven into a bot-net? If he's making all that money, why isn't he spending it?

    I wonder if we're making the Chinese Dragon out to be far more fearsome than it actually is. Why exactly should I be afraid of him, and all his Chinese brethren? Yes, they can hack, yes they can start and fight a cyber-war. But I am underwhelmed by their

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Stealing bank passwords is one thing, how to transfer the money to your account without being traceable is a much bigger problem.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Xaedalus (1192463)
        But that's just it. That's all they're doing: infecting computer, stealing passwords, etc. If you're telling me that there's hundreds of thousands of guys like this just in China alone doing this, then where are the small armies? Where's the hacker mafias? Why aren't they branching out and taking on organized crime? If they are such deviant evil bastards, then where are the results? I don't think there are any. I think we're making these guys to be more badass than they actually are, and buying their lines
    • O.K., so he was living with his mom.

      But, if he was also living in his mom's basement, then be on par with a good portion of Slashdot minions.

      If he has also never been laid, and no the new rubber dolls do not count, he would be revered here on Slashdot.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      It's not uncommon in Chinese culture (and in many other non-western cultures) to live with your parents until you get married.
    • Computers for them are a luxury. Computers for us are a necessity. You have a kid in a desolate region smacking your system. If the Internet dies, he loses a form of amusement. If the Internet dies, American business collapses. American systems rely on technical infrastructures that are very vulnerable. You think you can get up and leave your computer? Well, I hope you don't need your lights, which hackers can probably shut down. Or that you don't need traffic lights working to drive home. China is mostly a

      • I don't think your analogy is quite right. The man in the story lived in the city, and he's just as vulnerable as I am. Most of his cohorts probably are in cities as well. Those 'desolate' regions that you talk about in China are very desolate. Computers are cheap in the cities, but there's a vast disconnect between the cities and the country. Most country dwellers in China are trying to move to the cities because there's more opportunity there. My point is that this isn't necessarily something to fear.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Someone already said it, but in many places around the world, especially china, families tend to live together.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      In some foreign cultures you're expected to stay with your parents, then take care of them when they get old. If you marry, the bride joins you in the family house. It's a mutually beneficial arrangement: you're taken care of during the first part of your life, they're taken care of during the last part of theirs.

      Not everyone subscribes to the "you're 18? Get the fuck out, good luck with everything" mentality so prevalent in the west.

    • Why is this guy living with his mom if he's such a great and skilled hacker?

      Allow me to present a scenerio:

      Super elite Chinese Hacker 1: Whoa, taking some heat from that Google thing. We need to lay low a bit.

      Super elite Chinese Hacker 2: Or, look at this. The NYT is looking to interview a hacker to do an expose.

      Super elite Chinese Hacker 1: How'd you find that out?

      Super elite Chinese Hacker 2: We _are_ Super Elite Chinese Hackers, you know. It even says so in bold to the left.

      Super elite Chinese Hac

    • Re:I don't get it (Score:4, Insightful)

      by fishexe (168879) on Tuesday February 02, 2010 @07:17PM (#31002598) Homepage

      Why is this guy living with his mom if he's such a great and skilled hacker? Where's his money? Where's his grandiose lifestyle? What is he doing with all those computers he's woven into a bot-net? If he's making all that money, why isn't he spending it?

      Because it's traditional in Chinese society to live with your parents until you're married. It's becoming less common as time goes on, but I have several friends in China in their mid-to-late 20s who have good-paying careers but still live with their parents. It doesn't have the stigma that it has in the west. And he's probably saving his money up because that's prudent. Another thing about Chinese culture, prudence doesn't make you "uncool".

      • No. The problem is that the Chinese parents don't have significant savings - they lived through the times when China was actually a third world country. So when the 20 somethings grow up they have to babysit their parents.

        So, actually, when a young Chinese tells you he's living with his mom, it's because he's taking up his familial responsibilities. The western notion of nerd in a basement has no place in China.
  • [hacking is illegal in China]

    Um, isn't hacking illegal pretty much everywhere?...

    • by daveime (1253762)

      [hacking is illegal in China]

      It only illegal if you do it against the Chinese Government. Hacking anyone else is okay.

  • sockpuppet (Score:3, Informative)

    by xandroid (680978) on Tuesday February 02, 2010 @04:43PM (#31000894) Homepage Journal

    "Majia" can mean "sockpuppet" in Mandarin.

  • Will soon be parting out "Majia" watch your local transplant center for NEW, only slightly used hacker parts coming soon!

  • She's not stupid (Score:5, Insightful)

    by uvajed_ekil (914487) on Tuesday February 02, 2010 @09:30PM (#31003978)
    Oddly, Majia said his parents did not know that he was hacking at night [hacking is illegal in China].

    His parents know. If he hacks for money, is up late at night fiddling with computers all the time, and talks about hacking with unusual guests right in front of his mom, she knows what is going on. This is a mother with traditional, conservative beliefs who does not want to be rude and is reluctant to admit that her son is a criminal, so she ignores the entire situation. Not that unusual, and not indicative of some strange counter cultural underworld that is unique to China. Though I'm sure my folks and my friends' parents all thought our blue boxes, black boxes, and mobile (as in, in a car) collections of computers and cordless phones were all for educational purposes back in the day, and the 2600 meetings were just to hang out and drink coffee, since that's what we told them.
    • This is a mother with traditional, conservative beliefs who does not want to be rude and is reluctant to admit that her son is a criminal, so she ignores the entire situation.

      Maybe, but it's quite conceivable in fact she does not know of her sons illicit activities. Keep in mind the radical changes in lifestyles and availability of technology in China in the past 30 years alone. This boys parents might view or understand computer technology at the same level as your grandmother. As far as they know, he's ju

    • by jma05 (897351)
      What do you think are the chances that a mother in a *developing country* is English literate and understands computer terms - and what hacking means, no less? What's strange about a son spending all his time on computers when working on computers happens to be his educational background and his current job. To her, that's just a good boy who is working hard. Given the level of US outsourcing to China, is an occasional western face so unusual now? He might even be working for a company that might be a subsi
    • by FarHat (96381)

      As the character in American Beauty said, "Never underestimate the power of denial".

Machines certainly can solve problems, store information, correlate, and play games -- but not with pleasure. -- Leo Rosten

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