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Hobby Hackers, Part I
As more news agencies and businesses in the region turn to the internet, Saudi Arabia is spawning a generation of hackers and pirate programmers, Part I.
February 25, 2009 1:07 by Alex Malouf
No cinema, no pubs, no clubs and not even a shared classroom. So it should be no real surprise that hacking has found its nirvana in a country where discussion and debate is not encouraged and socializing is still frowned upon.
Recent events, including the defacing of ministerial Web sites, have drawn attention to the country’s community of hackers. In September, they vandalized the Web sites of the Ministry of Labor and the Saudi National Society for Human Rights. (Visitors to the Labor ministry’s home page were greeted by a message in Saudi dialect that read: “We are fed up with unemployment. Maybe you will hear this time.”)
Unable to discuss their grievances in public or through the media, Saudi youth are turning to online forums and discussion groups to talk about issues such as unemployment and frustration with the slow pace of reform. A founder of one such site, Hawaa, saw visitor numbers soar recently as young Saudis have turned to the Internet. “Our worth has gone through the roof as we’ve seen more people using chat room. We’re now in the top three Web sites in the Kingdom, alongside Google and Microsoft,” says Hani al-Ghofaily.
Officially, unemployment stands at 11.2 percent, though private estimates put the number far higher. Saudis between the ages of 20 and 24 account for 44 percent of the country’s jobless population. While the attack on the Ministry of Labor may have been the most high-profile case yet, hackers such as Archangel, S4udi-S3curity-T3rror and DarKMaSTer have also targeted multinationals such as Microsoft. Last year, Saudi hackers who defaced a page on Microsoft’s UK Web site went so far as to record the techniques they used in an online video.
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