Over the weekend I came across a short documentary created by global antivirus company, Norton. The 20-minute video on YouTube tells the story of Râmnicu Vâlcea which is described as The Most Dangerous Town On The Internet or Hackerville.
In the documentary, various notable hackers, including some who have been to prison, speak about the demise of communism and how it opened the flood gates to technology. Romania was thirsty for new technology. According to one hacker, fibre optic cable runs throughout Romania (which puts Britain to shame!) making hacking all the more possible.
Some of the hackers claim they hack for good, they want to prove their are vulnerabilities and demonstrate how they can be fixed. Their morality does not always get them what they want though, with one hacker ending up in a maximum security prison for four years. Others hack for hire. Some even hack for Anonymous, an international network of online activists. The targets are everyone from search engine giant, Google, to social networks and governments.
Of course hacking is not just made possible by fast internet connections but is facilitated by the way in which we increasingly live our lives: online. One hacker summises, cybercrime is the way of the future, as more and more people live their lives on the internet. So many people have access to our data, it’s not as simple as avoiding typing your own bank details into an email. Hacking can hit you at any time, because of your own vulnerabilities or ineptitudes or because of big business or your government.
In a bid to present a balanced picture, Norton attempts to provide a reassuring voice towards the end of the video, saying they’ll take on the challenge. However, as the hackers explain, there’s always someone who is smarter. So I suppose for the likes of Norton, it’s a case of which side they’ll choose to work on: good, bad, or a shade of grey in-between.
For anyone interested in the cultural shifts which take place after the demise of a political regime, this video is compelling watching. Having said that, and to, like Norton, present a balanced view, I would remind viewers this is just one place in Romania and a handful of Romanian people. The country is beautiful and has a lot to offer. Don’t let this put you off visiting.