In November 2014, a hackers-for-hire site called Hacker’s List starting offering their services to the public. “Need to break the law, but lack the technology chops to do it yourself?” asked tech writer Lisa Vaas. “Now, as they say, there’s an app for that.”
The site matches hackers with clients anonymously. Think Task Rabbit for your more unseemly online activities. It’s Craigslist for private espionage. As you might imagine, it became very popular very fast.
Need to find someone? Want to steal an email password or break into a Facebook account? Need someone to hack into your college’s website to change a grade. Users on Hacker’s List are looking for all these kinds of services.
The owner of the site was also anonymous. Some wondered if the website was a sting operation set up by the authorities. Other wondered if it was joke.
Now, Charles Tendell, who also owns a cybersecurity consulting firm in Denver, has stepped forward as the man behind the screen.
According to the New York Times, Tendell considers himself a “an ethical hacker who helps companies and individuals fight back against the bad guys operating online.”
“I never expected it to turn into what it is,” Tendell told the New York Times. “I was testing the waters and wanted to see if it works.”
The website collects a fee for every completed assignment, but it is unclear if Hacker’s List will work as a business. About 4,000 potential jobs have been posted on the site, but only 250 completed, according to Tendell. The New York Times reporter Matthew Goldstein points out that “the propensity is for people to use it as a way to search for hackers willing to break the law as opposed to doing legitimate online investigations and surveillance.”
The site has been criticized for condoning illegal activity. Twitter suspended its account, which tweeted out new request for jobs. As well, hackers have tried to take down the website itself.
Erik Solomonson, a blogger who played a role in unmasking Tendell, says that Tendell’s claim to be a “white hat hacker” while owning a service that may profit from illegal activity is not appropriate.
Tendell defends Hacker’s List. “No one is going to complete an illegal project through my website,” he told the New York Times.