How Criminals Steal Passwords, Bank Websites, and the Internet: An Interview with Rod Rasmussen

The Tacoma, WA-based company Internet Identity wasn’t meant to be a security outfit. When Rod Rasmussen started it in 1996, he was providing simple enterprise services like email. And then, in 1997, as tends to happen on the internet, someone did something bad: they set up an account posing as an America Online billing representative, and emailed thousands of people with a simple request: to verify your account, could you send us your credit card information?It was the days of dialup, and on America Online itself, the ruse was already a popular one among wannabe preteen hackers looking for no-cost access to the internet: pose as an AOL employee, ask enough users for their passwords, and rack up accounts you could use, instead of getting your own. It wasn’t victimless — users whose passwords were stolen would often lose their accounts. But there was an ideological component: if you thought the internet should be free, this was your way of sticking it to the man.

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