Phrack's closure worries security industry

Summary:The closure of the infamous hacking magazine has sent shockwaves through the security industry

Notorious hacker magazine Phrack  is to close its doors after almost 20 years serving the darker side of the Internet and communications community.

Yet surprising to many will be the fact the antivirus and security industries are actually coming out to say they will be sorry to see the back of the title which was run by, and for the benefit of, those they seek to thwart.

In its earliest days the magazine dealt with issues such as phone phreaking — one of the earliest forms of high-tech hacking, as applied to telephone networks, which came to prominence in the 1960s — but latterly it had become a community space for those writing malicious code and sharing exploit information.

However, its popularity was also a bonus for those involved in the war against cybercrime and its disappearance will remove the most immediate insight into the thinking of the hacker community. It may even force those in the underground world of the hackers and virus writers to scatter far and wide and be pushed further into the shadows.

Pete Simpson, ThreatLab manager at security firm Clearswift, said he is very surprised to see Phrack  disappear and added that a world without the infamous journal is actually less secure.

"Phrack's  visibility was a blessing in disguise, pretty much in the same way as the Full Disclosure community," said Simpson.

Traditionally hackers have brought about their own downfall by feeling the need to brag about what they have done and what they are capable of. The loss of Phrack  will certainly remove a coveted platform.

But Simpson believes something else will inevitably come in to fill the void left behind.

"If Phrack  as an organ does disappear then I would expect new outlets to pop up and fill the information void," said Simpson. "There must be younger hackers able and willing to take up the mantle."

Simon Perry, vice-president security strategy at CA, said: "Phrack  closing its doors does reduce some visibility into the thoughts of the 'dark side'."

While it will always be possible to find anything relating to hacking "if you search long and hard enough" online, said Perry, "Phrack  was great as a one-stop shop".

And as long as both sides of the fight knew what and where that 'shop' was, it created a more level playing field.

But Perry added that a lack of clarity as to exactly why Phrack  has made this decision could still be a cause of some concern.

"I note that even on their Web site they say they might be back in 2006 or 2007," he said adding that could indicate they "have something better to do" in the meantime which may make for a case of 'watch this space' for the security industry.

The sixty-third and final edition of Phrack  will come out as a hardback collectors copy and will be available to attendees at the DefCon hackers conference in Las Vegas between 29 and 31 July as well as the What The Hack conference in the Netherlands on 28 to 31 July.

Topics: Security

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