Real Life Hackers: Hamza Bendellad

We all watch Mr Robot for different reasons – I love it’s labyrinthine plot and masterful direction, some prefer the freedom-fighting underdog story, the powerful performances from Rami Malek… but for the true computer aficionados and real life hackers among us, the show contains even more meaning: From the hardware to the very act of hacking, so much attention has been paid to keepin’ it real by one man in particular.

In bygone episodes of Star Trek and E.R. the scriptwriters would write:

GEORDI LA FORGE
If I could just {TECH} the dilithium crystals to {TECH}

Or

DR GEORGE CLOONEY
If I could just… separate… his… {MEDICAL}
without ripping off his oversized {MEDICAL}

And the science/medical advisers/Stephen Hawking would fill in the blanks…

Well, similarly Mr Robot has ex-hacker turned-good guy Kor Adana as tech adviser.

Real Life Hackers - Kor Adana

A hacker with the name of a Sith Lord, I wouldn’t like to find my name in his bad-books!

He’s the guy that’s made sure that Elliot and co’s hacking actions (hacktions?) have been legit and while maybe not easily achievable, has kept them within the realms of believability.

From installing that tiny Raspberry Pi at Steel Mountain, disabling honeypots, PWN’ing the FBI’s Android-based phones and the 5/9 Evil Corp hack to Darlene’s hijacking Smart Houses… but it couldn’t really happen, could it?

Could it?

Or could it?

Well…

Real Life Hackers - Smiley Hacker 2

Hamza Bendellad aka “The Smiling Hacker” aka “Bx1”

In January 2013, Hamza Bendellad was arrested while changing flights in Bangkok, Thailand. His crime? Being one half of a duo who had created the SpyEye malware that is believed to have infected more than 50 million computers worldwide.

His SpyEye trojan horse attacked Microsoft Windows users and exploited Google Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer and Opera using keystroke logging and form grabbing to steal credentials.

Between 2010 and 2012, under his online-name of ‘Bx1’, Bendellad and his Russian cohort, Aleksandr Andreevich Panin aka ‘Gribodemon’ and ‘Harderman’ used their software and sold it for up to $10,000 a pop as part of a malware marketplace called Darkode.com.

Real Life Hackers - 2 Haxors

One of these kids is doing the right thing…

In turn, dozens of cybercriminals syphoned money from individuals, institutions and banks while simultaneously creating more zombies and further spreading the virus.

Real Life Hackers - Spyeye

Real Life Hackers create Zombies… Imagine a digital version of The Walking Dead.

Of course, being real news and not unimportant bullshit designed to distract you from the real issues, this event was widely under-reported by Western mainstream media.

The only reports that mention how much cash-money was syphoned range from $3,200,000 to $280,000,000 from 217 international banks.

Chinese whispers and myth-making have apparently turned Bendellad into a hero on the web and in his native Algeria, where reports state he gave away all the money he made to pro-Algerian and Palestinian NGO’s and charities.

Real Life Hackers - Money Burn

Real Life Hackers gotta be better than Scott Knowles burning $5.9M, right?

How much of this can be believed is up for debate – some of those same reports state Bendellad gave away $4000 million (which isn’t even a real number)

While our love of the underdog would delight in this all being true, the BBC reports “When asked what he did with the money, he said he spent it on travelling and a luxurious life, like flying first class and staying in luxury places,” Thai immigration police chief Pharnu Kerdlarpphon told reporters.

No mention of giving the money to charity there, then!

Cybervillain 1 Robin Hood 0.

One fact that most media outlets agree on is that Russian Panin received nine and a half years in jail while Bendellad received fifteen years jail time, not the death sentence when extradited to The States as re-tweeted 4,714 times on Twitter. Worse still; the Internet was also awash with rumours that Bendellad had already been hanged for his crimes.

Real Life Hackers - Eye keyhole

We see you!

The cyber world has changed in the 15 years since Filippino Onel de Guzman’s ILOVEYOU virus – widespread viruses have been usurped by advanced persistent threats (APT’s) but they’re still out there in e-mails, on Facebook, just waiting you to click that link and open that .pdf.

This is only my theory but any hacker worth their salt, ain’t gonna rot in jail, they’ll be turned and recruited by The Dark Side of the Force by Kor Adana!

After their time spent topping the FBI’s most wanted cyber criminals list, I think it far more likely real life hackers Bendellad and Panin were both given jobs within the FBI or NSA.

In fact, Kor Adana, Hamza Bendellad and Elliot Alderson all kinda look similar – as if they are one person at different stages of their hacking life!

You guys seem to have your fingers on the pulse…

What do you reckon? Is Hamza a hero or a villain?

Will he end up working for The Dark Side at the NSA?

Could Elliot pull off a similar feat to become a modern-day Robin Hood?

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