Hacking AOL

Hacking AOL

The Mike Nieves case is taking strange twists and turns. Just to refresh your memory, Nieves is the 17 year old accused of recently hacking AOL. He’s charged with computer tampering, computer trespass, and criminal possession of computer material.

Mike admits he hacked into Merlin (AOL’s CSR management system) to get his suspended account back and told investigators he uploaded screen shots of his work to Photo Bucket, but a story on Wired News throws Mike’s “confession” into doubt. Now another person on the AOL hacking scene, “Smokey,” claims he is the one responsible, not Nieves — now that Nieves has taken the fall for it and been charged with four felonies, one misdemeanor, and must post $40,000 bail to see the light of day again before trial.

From the Wired article:

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Stay unsafe with AOL.

Is she really safe using AOL?

Updated 6-5-2007.

Most people don’t question why I can’t stand AOL but maybe some of you scratch your heads wondering why I think Google sucks, too. Explaining why usually isn’t a topic for this blog, but the safety of Google’s search engine is.

Most search engines show unsafe sites in results, but AOL uses Google to deliver them, and Google is crawling with tons of bad sites for even the most innocent words. Google also places worse sites higher in results than Yahoo! and other search engines do.

People who monitor badware threats know search engines are the number one breeding ground for them. Google is heinous in this respect. They do nothing to filter harmful results out. They even display unsafe results at the top of many popular searches.

I’ll give you a hard-to-forget example. Let’s say your teenage daughter wants to change her screensaver. Here’s the innocent-looking organic search results for “screensavers”, using AOL’s software.

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AOL Hacked

I’m learning this a little late, but according to a complaint filed by AOL in NY City, AOL was repeatedly hacked by 17 year old Mike Nieves between December 24, 2006 and April 7, 2007. According to AOL, he has:

…committed offenses like computer tampering, computer trespass, and criminal possession of computer material. Among his alleged exploits:

  • Accessing systems containing customer billing records, addresses, and credit card information
  • Infecting machines at an AOL customer support call center in New Delhi, India, with a program to funnel information back to his PC
  • Logging in without permission into 49 AIM instant message accounts of AOL customer support employees
  • Attempting to break into an AOL customer support system containing sensitive customer information
  • Engaging in a phishing attack against AOL staffers through which he gained access to more than 60 accounts from AOL employees and subcontractors

(quote courtesy of InfoWorld)

As a former paying customer of AOL (and a current member for research purposes, with a false name/address) my information might have been stolen, too, though I have no idea how many years back the stolen records extend to. I guarantee, though, if there’s a class-action coming out of this, I’m joining it.

How safe can you feel using AOL now? Between this, the subscriber search records released online, and the fact that AOL’s site is being used by phishers, no one should feel safe using AOL at all.

Why You Should Uninstall AOL

Using AOL’s software is like giving your computer cancer. It uses hundreds of program files to change IE’s default settings, reconfigures your modem and dialer, installs Real Player and other unwanted programs, adds up to 1000 registry keys (sometimes more, depending on which version you use) and it sets itself as the default dialer so getting online with other dial-up ISPs is difficult, if not impossible.

AOL 9.0 SE keeps nine processes running at all times – even when you’re signed off. Other versions of AOL keep up to 5 processes running (including AOL 9.0 VR – which uses 4 processes to stay “always-on” and connected). AOL’s constant, intensive use of your computer’s resources slows it down and wears the hardware out before its time.

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