Should Funeral Directors be Worried About These Hackers?

August 9, 2015
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Australian hacker Chris Rock gave a crash course on how to kill people online by having them declared officially dead.

Article originally appeared on Business Insider

Hackers at an infamous gathering in the US city of Las Vegas have been schooled in how to be online killers.

A rush to go digital with the process of registering deaths has made it simple for maliciously minded people to have someone who is alive declared dead by the authorities.

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“This is a global problem,” Australian computer security specialist Chris Rock said as he launched a presentation titled “I Will Kill You” at the Def Con conference.

The process of having someone officially stamped dead by getting a death certificate issued typically involved a doctor filling out one form and a funeral home filling out another, according to Rock’s research.

Once forms were submitted online, certificates declaring the listed person legally dead were generated.

A fatal flaw in the system was that people can easily pose as real doctors and funeral directors, Rock demonstrated to a rapt audience.

Doctors practising general medicine often don’t bother setting up accounts at online portals for filling out information for death certificates. An aspiring online assassin can step into that void and borrow the identity of a doctor.

Setting up accounts requires a doctor’s name, address and medical licence number. A basic internet search will turn up that information, which is publicly available to let people check that doctors are legitimate before seeking care.

Drop down boxes containing illness categories and online guides were available for filling in “doctor speak” on forms and avoiding medical causes or circumstances that might trigger autopsies or investigations, Rock’s demonstration showed.

Borrowing a funeral director’s identity to establish an online account for death certificate purposes was shown to be simple as well. Required information about legitimate funeral directors is posted on the internet, and one could even claim to work at a funeral home.

In Rock’s case, he made a website for a bogus funeral home and used that to back his application for an account as director. He got an automated call days later saying he was approved.

With both online accounts in place, deaths can be registered in the real world.

“You could kill anyone you want,” Rock said after the presentation. “No one is off-limits.”

Getting birth certificates for virtual babies was demonstrated to be even easier than killing off people in the digital world, because registering births online only involves doctors and parents.

Rock saw this as more tempting to crime gangs who could invest in the future by creating legions of virtual people for shady doings involving loans, stock trading, imports or other activities.

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