While Target rallied to address the problems of its recent credit card number theft, security blogger Brian Krebs was at work tracking down the people responsible.
A 14-year veteran reporter of The Washington Post, Krebs now operates as an independent investigative journalist, reporting on security and cyber crime at his personal site. He most recently led the way in reporting the Target incident, in which 40 million credit card numbers were stolen in the holiday shopping season.
Krebs has exposed a number of malicious uses of technology in the past, perhaps most notably his reporting on McColo. It was a web hosting firm responsible for huge amounts of spam email, circa 2005. When the company shut down, there was an 86% drop in the amount of spam emails, globally.
Krebs obviously has the general Internet-using public on his side as he reports on these topics, but the subjects of these reports hate him. This has led to a number of weird “attacks” against Krebs and his family — denial-of-service attacks that are intent upon shutting down his site by bombarding it with volumes of junk traffic, being framed for drug possession via the Silk Road, and being “swatted,” in which someone sends a SWAT team to his house by reporting a fake home invasion at his address.
Weirdest of all, a masked person cut down a tree in Krebs’ front yard last year:
Let’s say that these intimidation techniques make Brian give up journalism. Maybe he becomes too scared to write. Maybe someone pays him enough to stop. Maybe he just decides to retire … The knowledge is still out there and the tips will still come in. If the tips don’t go to Brian, then they will go to other journalists. Stopping one reporter will not stop the story and won’t prevent law enforcement from following the trail.
When I hear about these attacks against Brian, I cannot help but think how stupid these people are. If these people were smart, then they would realise that Brian is just the messenger. Before Brian’s first report, the secret protecting the bad guys is already compromised — and that compromise becomes the first tip.
For Krebs to be such a target, he’s clearly doing something right.