Nate Andersen at Ars Technica published what I call a “rabbit hole” piece Sunday night detailing the secret Internet underbelly of a group of programmers called RATters.It’s a rabbit hole because you can’t ever come back once you’ve read a piece like this. It’s a Matrix-style Red Pill.
Or maybe, more accurately: A RAT hole.
Basically it’s software that tech sections in corporations sometimes use to get remote control of a desktop for troubleshooting purposes. RATers have co-opted this software to hijack women’s systems without their knowledge. RATers refer to these women as slaves.
Slipping past the three pages of pervertedness (which again, I recommend reading at length), one gets to a truly troubling aspect of hacking (or any sort of innovation for that matter): the law of unintended consequences.
Perverts have obviously repurposed this software — meant originally to fix computers — to watch unsuspecting people. Presumably, there’s nothing stopping embattled dictators, say during the Arab spring, from doing the same thing in order to surveil leaders of rebel groups.
This is exactly what Malwarebytes, a computer security company, found after analysing all the things that popular RAT DarkComet was capable of. That analysis also referred to the fact that the Syrian and Egyptian governments used RATs to battle rebels.
From Ars Technica:
The conclusion drawn by the researchers at Malwarebytes was that RAT creators had unwittingly become low-cost arms dealers to repressive regimes that couldn’t afford to develop such tools themselves.
Andersen notes at the end of his piece that the results of these revelations, as well as the use of his technology by RATs, led prominent RAT program author Jean-Pierre Lesueur to “shut down DarkComet with a message blaming his users.”
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