“The Hacker Wars” Movie Trailer:
What motivates someone to hack? What is a hacker’s life like? These are the questions the documentary “The Hacker Wars” seeks to answer and present to the viewer. In addition to these questions, the documentary seeks to show the viewer the battle over the internet, privacy, and freedom. At one side is the government and large corporations. At the other there are hackers who seek to disrupt their operations.
“The Hacker Wars” (available on Amazon) is a documentary that was released in 2014 that follows several hackers and hacker community leaders. Their crimes, arrests, and outcomes are followed, along with providing details on the background and political beliefs of the hackers. As explained by the documentary, the hackers depicted seek to expose security flaws in governments and large corporations’ information systems. By exposing their flaws, lies and deceits – their ultimate aim is to start social and political movements that will result in a government that better serves the people.
The documentary begins following Andrew “Weev” Auernheimer. Auernheimer headed an organization called “Goatse Security” which exposed an AT&T flaw. This flaw allowed Auernheimer to gather over 100,000 iPad users’ data. The data included high officials in government and celebrities. In short, he was able to gather this data from publicly accessible sources. This means that he did not illegally hack into anything. However, after AT&T refused to fix the problem, he released this data to the public by sending the data to a media outlet called Gawker Media. This ended with him being arrested and sent to prison where he served over a year out of a 41 month sentence. His time was cut short when the conviction was overturned in April 2014 by the Third Circuit.
The documentary allowed a pathway into his political views. Auernheimer is a self-titled internet troll. However, viewers get another viewpoint on what trolling means. In his view, trolling doesn’t mean causing havoc for the sake of causing havoc and anarchy. Rather, trolling meant getting others to show who they really were once the curtain of public niceties went away. By exposing flaws in companies’ securities, he could force people to see organizations as they really were. He felt the government further impeded this by consistently creating laws that limit the constitutional right of free speech.
The film moves out and pushes focus on Barrett Brown. While not a hacker, he is a journalist who focused on facilitating and distributing publications on internet security. He is linked to the Stratfor hack in 2012. Stratfor is an intelligence consulting firm with many ties to the government. Brown was arrested on the charge that he shared a link to the leaked data over the internet. Charges were added after he was accused of threatening a federal officer.
Brown’s political motives were focused on the cyber-military-industrial complex. The film explained how trillions of dollars flow into the complex. He believes that this complex and other related industries help to eat away at human rights, privacy, and democracy. As a result of this, he founded a wiki and collaboration effort called “Project PM” that aimed at collecting data on this complex. By studying the data, he hoped to track how the government used these private corporations to collect data on citizens.
The film also explains that Brown had links to the hacktivists called “Anonymous”. He was even considered by some to be a spokesperson for them. The film also went to explain a portion of his motives were linked to his childhood. His family was brought down by the FBI and forced into a lower standard of living after his father was left broke after fighting charges that were later dropped.
The Stratfor leak was really caused by Jeremy Hammond who the film also profiles. He was convicted in November 2013 for 10 years for hacking and leaking the information to WikiLeaks. The film explains that Brown played his part by disseminating this information. The film presents footage from a 2004 DEF CON where he pushed the idea of electronic civil disobedience and called for action against those who sought to control and manipulate others.
The film really climaxes over the history of Sabu and his link to Anonymous. Hector Xavier Monsegur, also known as Sabu, helped found the group LulzSec. However, it was later found out the Sabu was turned by the FBI into an informant in 2011. Inside, he helped provide information on the groups Anonymous, LulzSec and Antisec. The film goes on to explain and further imply that by controlling Sabu, the FBI was really able to hack into Stratfor. In short, the FBI, in some ways, controlled Anonymous or the hacking community to gain access to the intelligence Stratfor had.
The film also gives insight to a project called TrapWire. This technology, through surveillance, was able to gather information and report incidents to police and law enforcement. The film follows Auernheimer’s group as they simulated suspicious activity in front of cameras that were linked into this system. They later found out that they were actually reported to law enforcement. The film goes on to imply that this system was being used more prominently in the US more than what the government wanted the public to know.
The film goes on to tackle some really tough issues. For one, is it morally wrong to hack into a site? The hacktivists presented were of the opinion that people had the right to hack into these sites. Their actions were justified by the hope and aim of making people more aware of what the government was doing. They were also of the opinion that to really get corporations and governments to really change was to expose these weaknesses. To expose these weaknesses, they had to hack into the site.
Another issue the film sought to address is the idea of free speech. These hackers supported the idea that government no longer wanted to allow the right of free speech. Some of these weaknesses in information security were not accessed by hacking. Rather, the information came from public resources. By charging the hackers with publishing this information, the government was infringing upon their right to free speech. In short, the film implied that today’s hackers fight for free speech and putting government back to where it belongs, which is taking care of us rather than controlling and surveying us.