'Hackers Day' in Brazil to defend against cyber-security breaches

Brazil’s Science and Technology Minister, Aloizio Mercadante, has called on the nation's most talented hackers to help understand how it was vulnerable to the recent LulzSec attack.

In a country where politicians and public relations professionals have created days to celebrate janitors, stamp collectors, mothers-in-law, and even, er, politicians and public relations professionals, it should come as no surprise to hear that a call has been made to make today Hackers Day.

The announcement, however – coming a week after several government sites were attacked by hackers – comes from an unusual source: the country’s Science and Technology minister.

Of course, Aloizio Mercadante’s invitation was not to celebrate the programming experts but rather co-opt them.

The minister, while condemning the concerted stream of attacks that took down several high-profile sites and stole confidential data, called on “young and talented” programmers to help his ministry solve some of the problems his own ministry’s experts were struggling to solve.

“I want to invite them for a Hackers Day,” Mr. Mercadante said, speaking in his native Portuguese but specifically using the English word hacker rather the cracker, which is what the authors of the mass attack last week call themselves.

The idea, he said, was for the 21st century icons of counterculture to embrace the government and “develop their own solutions” to the ministry’s problems.

Brazil’s computer hackers are highly skilled and Brazil is one of the world’s major sources of computer viruses and spam. One of them even managed to hack into President Dilma Rousseff's email when she was campaigning last year, according to the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper.

Exactly what they might do, how they might do it, and even whether an amnesty would be offered to any of the attackers if they switched
sides, was unclear, however.

The Ministry of Science and Technology didn’t mention Mercadante’s widely reported call on its own web site. That could be out of fear of being hacked. But more likely it’s an oversight.

The boffins in Brasilia might think to master communications 101 before they get mixed up with hackers and crackers.

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