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The biggest retail hack in U.S. history wasn’t particularly inventive, nor did it appear destined for success. In the days prior to Thanksgiving 2013, someone installed malware in Target’s (TGT) security and payments system designed to steal every credit card used at the company’s 1,797 U.S. stores.
At the critical moment—when the Christmas gifts had been scanned and bagged and the cashier asked for a swipe—the malware would step in, capture the shopper’s credit card number, and store it on a Target server commandeered by the hackers.
It was one of the biggest heists in history, fleecing half-a-billion dollars from people around the globe, and almost no one—except a small group of thieves, their confederates and the white-hat computer sleuths chasing them through cyberspace—knew it was taking place.
In January, federal investigators announced that Aleksandr Andreevich Panin, a Russian national who was the mastermind behind the crimes, had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud. Panin’s capture was far more than just another tale of a crook who found illicit riches online. His case reveals many alarming details of a lawless underground flourishing in the darkest corners of the Internet, where hackers peddle off-the-shelf software that, for as little as a few thousand dollars, allows even the most unsophisticated computer novice to start emptying the bank accounts of people they’ve never met, or even seen.
No longer does someone bent on Internet crime have to dedicate weeks to writing code and testing programs, or even have the basic knowledge required to do so. Anyone can become an expert thief in a matter of minutes by using programs sold through hacker websites. The illegal programs—known as malware toolkits or crimeware—have their own brand names, like ZeuS, SpyEye and the Butterfly Bot.
Nineteen eighty-four was not like 2014. When Steve Jobs launched the Macintosh, he had to generate excitement about a product — a computer — that was unfamiliar to most people, if not downright scary. His creation would eventually entice them into changing their minds, but first, they had to be intrigued enough to learn about it.
The Macintosh was new, but the media would have to be old. There were no tech blogs, no Facebook, no Twitter, and certainly no Mac rumor websites. There were no websites at all. So Jobs had to generate his own campaign to tell the world about the computer that he would announce on January 24, 1984, 30 years ago today.
How to stop worrying and love the computer - Newsweek, July, 1970
Cutest thing ever. Also: gotta love those NY accents. “What does a compuwtah do?”
One of many amazing quotes in this 3,500-word NEWSWEEK interview with Steve Jobs, which appeared in a 1984 special issue of the magazine. Jobs was 29 at the time.