Neil Barrett, Ph.D., is a security professional who helps companies better understand their systems’ weaknesses. He spends a good part of his day cracking into computer systems, sneaking into offices, breaking open encrypted files, and cracking computer passwords. A former hacker who worked as a security specialist for Bull Information Systems, Barrett has published a book called Digital Crime: Policing the Cybernation. Barrett says that he started hacking when he was a mathematics student; he maintains that he hacked as a benign intellectual exercise resulting from frustration with his university’s limited communication links with the rest of the computing world.
By age 36, Barrett was one of Britain’s leading computer crime experts, and he has been contracted by such organizations as the police, customs, banks, the Inland Revenue, telecommunications and utilities companies, the military defense, Internet Service Providers, and the National Criminal Intelligence Service. In fact, Dr. Barrett was a witness for the prosecution at the criminal trial of Raphael Gray, a Welsh teenager who worked from his bedroom on a personal computer (PC) to crack e-commerce sites to obtain the credit card particulars of more than 20,000 Internet purchasers. Gray, in fact, obtained the credit card particulars of Microsoft founder Bill Gates, and he consequently had a batch of Viagra sent to Gates’ California home. In the end, Gray did not go to jail but was issued a three-year “rehabilitation sentence” for his cybercrime.
With his many cyber forensic skills, it is little wonder that Barrett once was offered a large sum to steal a file containing a list of high-income customers from a bank. The good news is that he declined the offer.
During his investigative work of cybercriminals, Barrett uses a number of tools. The system audit log, for one, keeps an electronic record of the system’s operations and is a crucial record for cyber sleuths such as Barrett. The DIBS® disk imaging system allows Barrett to make perfect hard-disk copies without affecting the contents. Other tools he uses can detect Internet traffic and collect packets of data for analysis. Profiling tools tell Barrett whether any traffic looks as though it may be coming from a cracker, or if someone is trying to edit an audit trail.
Cole, G. Interview: The Sherlock Holmes of the Computerworld, Neil Barrett, Has Tracked Down Computer Hackers, Fraudsters, Embezzlers, and Virus Spreaders. Personal Computer World, 22, 1999, p. 126–132; Collinson, P. Have the Hackers Got Your Number? [Online, May 18, 2002.] The Guardian Online Website. http://safety.surferbeware.com/ hackers-number.htm; Jones, A. Poacher turned gamekeeper resorts to shock tactics. [Online, April 28, 1997.] The Times Online Website. http://homepage.mac.com/david_allouch/articles/ thetimes/.