Atom Heart Hackers*
Atom Heart Hackers*
Last week, as we all know, the LHC, or Large Hadron Collider experiment kicked off at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva. Although the experiment’s ultimate objective is to split elementary particles in beams of protons to prove the existence of Higgs boson, all it has managed to do so far is split observers around the world into two camps – those who think it’s all rather cool and exciting, and those who think its really dangerous and will end with the planet being sucked cataclysmically into a tiny black hole on the banks of the Rhone. Or something.
This week however, a third, covert camp has emerged – those who weren’t excited or scared enough by any possible remifications to time and space to prevent them thinking that a bit of old fashioned hacking might give such events a bit of extra spice.
The hacking group, going by the name of ‘The Greek Security Team’ broke into networks at CERN last Wednesday, and uploaded a new web page describing the facilities’ IT security staff as “schoolkids”, while also stating they had no intention of disrupting the experiment (once a techie…)
According to The Times, the hackers “targeted the computer system of the Compact Muon Solenoid Experiment, one of the four detectors that will be analysing the progress of the experiment.”
James Gillies, a spokesman for CERN, said: “We don’t know who they were but there seems to be no harm done. It appears to be people who want to make a point that CERN was hackable.”
Now, being opinionated on the subject of hacking is somewhat tricky. I realise that hacking can be disruptive and can cost private business and public organisations millions in lost revenue due to downtime. I also realise that hackers are also just a massive pain in the neck for security teams and developers. But I’m generally also a bit shocked by the severity of censure levied or threatened in the direction of confirmed hackers, especially when they are so often just misguided youths.
My gut reaction to the repurcussions following this latest breach is that CERN staff have proven themselves to be extremely reasonable and lenient in their view of the incident. Maybe they were just pleased to be pointed in the direction of a potentially serious vulnerability? Maybe they just raise chilled techies in Geneva. What I do know for sure is, lackadaisical or not, I certainly prefer CERN’s attitude to that of NASA, which is still pushing for a maximum prison sentence of up to 60 years for Gary McKinnon (or Solo), the self-confessed British hacker who broke into space agency networks and is now appealing for leniency on the basis of alleged Asperger’s syndrome.
*With thanks to Rick Wright, 28th July 1943 – 15th September 2008