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Busting the Myth of the Superhacker

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By David Perera April 17, 2007

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Everyone knows the legend of the superhacker, the supersmart electronic code breaker tearing through security barriers.

But University of Colorado Law School professor Paul Ohm writes that the incidence and danger of superhackers, or whom he calls "superusers," tend to be exaggerated. Ohm cites a study by two University of Washington professors who found “that sixty percent of reported incidents of the loss of personal records involved organizational mismanagement, while only thirty-one percent involved hackers.”

Unfortunately, Congress has fallen for the superhacker myth, passing laws that Ohm says infringe on civil liberties.

The myth is unlikely to disappear, Ohm says. “Law enforcement officials spin yarns about legions of expert hackers to gain new criminal laws, surveillance powers, and resources. The media enjoy high ratings and ad revenue reporting on online risks. Security vendors will sell more units in a world of unbridled power.”

On a not entirely unrelated note, a sequel to the 1983 hacker flick Wargames is reportedly in production.

Hat tip: Slashdot

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