Photo courtesy of Alexandre Dulaunoy via Flickr.
Not all hacks are quite on the scale of cyberwar, and with the Internet at your disposal, you can hire a hacker almost as easily as you can order from your neighborhood Thai restaurant.
Rather than satisfying a craving for local pad thai, these online services remotely match you with a pro that can change public records, spy on an ex, among other nefarious deeds for a price.
The New York Times profiled one such company, called Hacker’s List, on January 15, 2015. Since publication, the company has exploded with a deluge of requests, and though they claim what they do is legal, the lines are blurred at best.
How does it work?
When the everyday person is allowed a service once limited to spy agencies, it can be every bit as compelling as it is problematic.
Hacker’s List works like this: those that need to hire a hacker post a listing, which independent hackers can bid on. Alternatively, hackers can post listings to be contacted by those in need of service.
The site has been compared to Craigslist — though the website actually appears much more advanced in looks and functionality:
Here’s the basic steps:
- Step 1: Register for a Hacker’s List account.
- Step 2: Fill out your basic job needs and post your job requirements.
- Step 3: Hackers from all over the world will post proposals on how to best accomplish your job.
- Step 4: Choose the right Hacker for you based on price, skills and availability.
- Step 5: Agree on pricing and make your first payment. Hacker’s List holds all payments until your project is complete; you control when and to whom your funds are released.
Currently, you can only hire a hacker by credit card, but that data is allegedly not stored or tracked by Hacker’s List, which will also be integrating message encryption soon. Employers are billed discreetly, and after the deed is done, you can rate their hacker on how well they did.
To get an idea of the kind of requests, we signed up to take a look. Here’s a sample of current job listings:
- A father, looking to access his daughter’s Facebook account and view her messages [$500]
- A person cheated by their business partner, looking to track swindled money [$500 – $2000]
- A student looking to alter their allegedly “unfair grades” to those he or she “earned” [$500 – $2000]
- Someone looking to remove a negative article from the first page of Google [$500 – $2000]
- A woman looking to identify the source of a batch of images, and delete them from various websites [$200 – $300]
How can this possibly be legal?[contextly_auto_sidebar id=”2j6R41xkMg6HJHorixkwXwPSifhTydlI”]Hacker’s List, founded by one longtime hacker, a lawyer, and business professional, claims that their website neither endorses nor condones illegal activity. In fact, their terms and conditions section forbids it. The onus for criminal activity, then, falls squarely on perpetrators, and the community is responsible for reporting anything unethical.
Hacker’s List completes thorough background checks on hackers to keep exchanges as risk-free as possible. Most professional hackers adhere to codes of ethics that restrict the exploitation of personal information, among other things.
Because the website is registered in New Zealand (despite being Colorado-based) and hosts listings from all over the world, it would be difficult to crack down on. Even so, the creators have shielded their specific identities for now.
How can I hire a hacker? Should I?
As the Internet grows in terms of size, danger, and unwieldiness, the market for hackers is booming as well. Many people wish they could have better control and oversight over online activity concerning themselves, or those they know.
But not all hacking has to be sinister.
Websites like Neighborhood Hacker offer “ethical hacking” only. These services include cracking personal passwords, investigating cyber stalkers, investigating online fraud, and protecting data by identifying holes in security and offering stronger encryption.
If you’re doing riskier business, however, even hacker for hire services can rarely guarantee complete safety: if you hire a hacker to perform illegal acts and get caught, a federal prison term may be close behind.
It may very well be better to confine borderline-illegal activities to the Deep Web — or better yet, resist the urge, order dinner, and carry on.