Vigilante justice doesn't always work out well, and that's also true for the online world.
As Anonymous and its prankster off-shoot LulzSec, merrily stomping through company networks around the world, a different class of hackers who opposed their activities have also emerged. A group called "Web Ninjas" started posting information of people they suspected of being in LulzSec. A member with the handle "Sabu" was often the most common target because of his activities in the attack against HB Gary Federal, and his leadership role in LulzSec.
Web Ninjas posted online a picture of a 34-year old man living in Portugal and claimed he was Sabu. "Game Over for you Guys!!!" Web Ninjas wrote. The man was a network technician named Hugo Carvalho, and he thought it was a joke. He told Gawker he sent an email to Web Ninjas explaining they had the wrong man.
On July 13, another hacker who opposed Anonymous, going by the name The Jester, had posted Carvalho's full name and links to his YouTube and Facebook accounts claiming the information belonged to Sabu. Carvalho got threatening phone calls despite not being the real Sabu.
The real Sabu didn't help matters any when he posted on Twitter, "OK You found me. I am Hugo. I am in Portugal. Next question is: Can you stop me?"
Users are increasingly using the tools at their fingertips to exercise their own form of vigilantism, Lyle Singular, vice-president of recovery services at Absolute Software, told eWEEK. Singular wasn't referring to Anonymous or its rivals, but rather the end-users, who are increasingly using tracking software on their mobile devices to track down thieves after being robbed.
"There's been a noticeable rise in cases of consumer vigilantism, where victims of laptop theft have used tracking software to identify the location and identity of the suspected thief," Singular said.
Sometimes it works, as when a user managed to remotely control the webcam on his stolen laptop to take a picture of the thief, which he handed over to the police. Other times, it doesn't, as happened to a baseball umpire in New Jersey who assaulted a man who he thought stole his phone (turned out he'd left it elsewhere).
Customers need to select "security software and applications that do not promote vigilantism," Singular said.