Petty work beef? Asshole ex-boyfriend? Billion-dollar dispute? Why not hire a hacker to smear your enemy by accessing their personal e-mails and potentially posting them all over the Internet. It might only run you about $400, according to a case centering around Kuwaiti billionaire Bassam Alghanim, who says his brother, with whom he’s fighting over a fortune, commissioned some Chinese hackers for the price of a (really) good dinner.
The case has exposed websites like hiretohack.net, which charges a minimum of $150 to “crack” e-mail passwords in less than 48 hours. Or anyone could attempt to do it themselves with a number of “tools online that assist in hacking into someone’s e-mail.”
In the case of the Kuwaiti brothers, dividing up family assets after a fallout got ugly enough for one of them to employ a hacker company in China, home to “the world’s most active and persistent perpetrators of economic espionage,” according to a report by the U.S. Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive. A witness statement from a personal investigator who admitted to hacking Bassam’s message said the company’s process was pretty simple:
It requested the target person’s email address, the names of friends or colleagues, and examples of topics that interest them. The hackers would then send an email to the target that sounded as if it came from an acquaintance, but which actually installed malicious software on the target’s computer. The software would let the hackers capture the target’s email password.
Repeat business allegedly brought the hackers more than $200,000 in thirteen months. And to think, some teens are just giving away their passwords for free.