Страницы: - 1
Constitutional freedom of the
press protection. As was seen in the *ъamparts* case, this
is far from an absolute guarantee. Still, as a practical
matter, shutting down *2600* by court-order would create
so much legal hassle that it is simply unfeasible, at least
for the present. Throughout 1990, both Goldstein and his
magazine were peevishly thriving.
Instead, the Crackdown of 1990 would concern itself
with the computerized version of forbidden data. The
crackdown itself, first and foremost, was about *bulletin
board systems.* Bulletin Board Systems, most often
known by the ugly and un-pluralizable acronym "BBS," are
the life-blood of the digital underground. Boards were
also central to law enforcement's tactics and strategy in
the Hacker Crackdown.
A "bulletin board system" can be formally defined as
a computer which serves as an information and message-
passing center for users dialing-up over the phone-lines
through the use of modems. A "modem," or modulator-
demodulator, is a device which translates the digital
impulses of computers into audible analog telephone
signals, and vice versa. Modems connect computers to
phones and thus to each other.
Large-scale mainframe computers have been
connected since the 1960s, but *personal* computers, run
by individuals out of their homes, were first networked in
the late 1970s. The "board" created by Ward Christensen
and ъandy Suess in February 1978, in Chicago, Illinois, is
generally regarded as the first personal-computer bulletin
board system worthy of the name.
Boards run on many different machines, employing
many different kinds of software. Early boards were crude
and buggy, and their managers, known as "system
operators" or "sysops," were hard-working technical
experts who wrote their own software. But like most
everything else in the world of electronics, boards became
faster, cheaper, better-designed, and generally far more
sophisticated throughout the 1980s. They also moved
swiftly out of the hands of pioneers and into those of the
general public. By 1985 there were something in the
neighborhood of 4,000 boards in America. By 1990 it was
calculated, vaguely, that there were about 30,000 boards in
the US, with uncounted thousands overseas.
Computer bulletin boards are unregulated
enterprises. ъunning a board is a rough-and-ready, catch-
as-catch-can proposition. Basically, anybody with a
computer, modem, software and a phone-line can start a
board. With second-hand equipment and public-domain
free software, the price of a board might be quite small --
less than it would take to publish a magazine or even a
decent pamphlet. Entrepreneurs eagerly sell bulletin-
board software, and will coach nontechnical amateur
sysops in its use.
Boards are not "presses." They are not magazines, or
libraries, or phones, or CB radios, or traditional cork
bulletin boards down at the local laundry, though they
have some passing resemblance to those earlier media.
Boards are a new medium -- they may even be a *large
number* of new media.
Consider these unique characteristics: boards are
cheap, yet they can have a national, even global reach.
Boards can be contacted from anywhere in the global
telephone network, at *no cost* to the person running the
board -- the caller pays the phone bill, and if the caller
local, the call is free. Boards do not involve an editorial
elite addressing a mass audience. The "sysop" of a board
is not an exclusive publisher or writer -- he is managing an
electronic salon, where individuals can address the
general public, play the part of the general public, and
also exchange private mail with other individuals. And
the "conversation" on boards, though fluid, rapid, and
highly interactive, is not spoken, but written. It is also
relatively anonymous, sometimes completely so.
And because boards are cheap and ubiquitous,
regulations and licensing requirements would likely be
practically unenforceable. It would almost be easier to
"regulate" "inspect" and "license" the content of private
mail -- probably more so, since the mail system is
operated by the federal government. Boards are run by
individuals, independently, entirely at their own whim.
For the sysop, the cost of operation is not the primary
limiting factor. Once the investment in a computer and
modem has been made, the only steady cost is the charge
for maintaining a phone line (or several phone lines). The
primary limits for sysops are time and energy. Boards
require upkeep. New users are generally "validated" --
they must be issued individual passwords, and called at
home by voice-phone, so that their identity can be
verified. Obnoxious users, who exist in plenty, must be
chided or purged. Proliferating messages must be deleted
when they grow old, so that the capacity of the system is
not overwhelmed. And software programs (if such things
are kept on the board) must be examined for possible
computer viruses. If there is a financial charge to use
board (increasingly common, especially in larger and
fancier systems) then accounts must be kept, and users
must be billed. And if the board crashes -- a very common
occurrence -- then repairs must be made.
Boards can be distinguished by the amount of effort
spent in regulating them. First, we have the completely
open board, whose sysop is off chugging brews and
watching re-runs while his users generally degenerate
over time into peevish anarchy and eventual silence.
Second comes the supervised board, where the sysop
breaks in every once in a while to tidy up, calm brawls,
issue announcements, and rid the community of dolts
and troublemakers. Third is the heavily supervised
board, which sternly urges adult and responsible behavior
and swiftly edits any message considered offensive,
impertinent, illegal or irrelevant. And last comes the
completely edited "electronic publication," which is
presented to a silent audience which is not allowed to
respond directly in any way.
Boards can also be grouped by their degree of
anonymity. There is the completely anonymous board,
where everyone uses pseudonyms -- "handles" -- and even
the sysop is unaware of the user's true identity. The sysop
himself is likely pseudonymous on a board of this type.
Second, and rather more common, is the board where the
sysop knows (or thinks he knows) the true names and
addresses of all users, but the users don't know one
another's names and may not know his. Third is the board
where everyone has to use real names, and roleplaying
and pseudonymous posturing are forbidden.
Boards can be grouped by their immediacy. "Chat-
lines" are boards linking several users together over
several different phone-lines simultaneously, so that
people exchange messages at the very moment that they
type. (Many large boards feature "chat" capabilities along
with other services.) Less immediate boards, perhaps
with a single phoneline, store messages serially, one at a
time. And some boards are only open for business in
daylight hours or on weekends, which greatly slows
response. A *network* of boards, such as "FidoNet," can
carry electronic mail from board to board, continent to
continent, across huge distances -- but at a relative
pace, so that a message can take several days to reach its
target audience and elicit a reply.
Boards can be grouped by their degree of
community. Some boards emphasize the exchange of
private, person-to-person electronic mail. Others
emphasize public postings and may even purge people
who "lurk," merely reading posts but refusing to openly
participate. Some boards are intimate and neighborly.
Others are frosty and highly technical. Some are little
more than storage dumps for software, where users
"download" and "upload" programs, but interact among
themselves little if at all.
Boards can be grouped by their ease of access. Some
boards are entirely public. Others are private and
restricted only to personal friends of the sysop. Some
boards divide users by status. On these boards, some
users, especially beginners, strangers or children, will be
restricted to general topics, and perhaps forbidden to post.
Favored users, though, are granted the ability to post as
they please, and to stay "on-line" as long as they like,
to the disadvantage of other people trying to call in. High-
status users can be given access to hidden areas in the
board, such as off-color topics, private discussions, and/or
valuable software. Favored users may even become
"remote sysops" with the power to take remote control of
the board through their own home computers. Quite
often "remote sysops" end up doing all the work and
taking formal control of the enterprise, despite the fact
that it's physically located in someone else's house.
Sometimes several "co-sysops" share power.
And boards can also be grouped by size. Massive,
nationwide commercial networks, such as CompuServe,
Delphi, GEnie and Prodigy, are run on mainframe
computers and are generally not considered "boards,"
though they share many of their characteristics, such as
electronic mail, discussion topics, libraries of software,
persistent and growing problems with civil-liberties issues.
Some private boards have as many as thirty phone-lines
and quite sophisticated hardware. And then there are
Boards vary in popularity. Some boards are huge and
crowded, where users must claw their way in against a
constant busy-signal. Others are huge and empty -- there
are few things sadder than a formerly flourishing board
where no one posts any longer, and the dead
conversations of vanished users lie about gathering digital
dust. Some boards are tiny and intimate, their telephone
numbers intentionally kept confidential so that only a
small number can log on.
And some boards are *underground.*
Boards can be mysterious entities. The activities of
their users can be hard to differentiate from conspiracy.
Sometimes they *are* conspiracies. Boards have
harbored, or have been accused of harboring, all manner
of fringe groups, and have abetted, or been accused of
abetting, every manner of frowned-upon, sleazy, radical,
and criminal activity. There are Satanist boards. Nazi
boards. Pornographic boards. Pedophile boards. Drug-
dealing boards. Anarchist boards. Communist boards.
Gay and Lesbian boards (these exist in great profusion,
many of them quite lively with well-established histories).
ъeligious cult boards. Evangelical boards. Witchcraft
boards, hippie boards, punk boards, skateboarder boards.
Boards for UFO believers. There may well be boards for
serial killers, airline terrorists and professional
There is simply no way to tell. Boards spring up,
and disappear in large numbers, in most every corner of
the developed world. Even apparently innocuous public
boards can, and sometimes do, harbor secret areas known
only to a few. And even on the vast, public, commercial
services, private mail is very private -- and quite possibly
Boards cover most every topic imaginable and some
that are hard to imagine. They cover a vast spectrum of
social activity. However, all board users do have
something in common: their possession of computers and
phones. Naturally, computers and phones are primary
topics of conversation on almost every board.
And hackers and phone phreaks, those utter
devotees of computers and phones, live by boards. They
swarm by boards. They are bred by boards. By the late
1980s, phone-phreak groups and hacker groups, united by
boards, had proliferated fantastically.
As evidence, here is a list of hacker groups compiled
by the editors of *Phrack* on August 8, 1988.
The Administration. Advanced Telecommunications,
Inc. ALIAS. American Tone Travelers. Anarchy Inc.
Apple Mafia. The Association. Atlantic Pirates Guild.
Bad Ass Mother Fuckers. Bellcore. Bell Shock Force.
Camorra. C&M Productions. Catholics Anonymous.
Chaos Computer Club. Chief Executive Officers. Circle
Of Death. Circle Of Deneb. Club X. Coalition of Hi-Tech
Pirates. Coast-To-Coast. Corrupt Computing. Cult Of The
Dead Cow. Custom ъetaliations.
Damage Inc. D&B Communications. The Dange
Gang. Dec Hunters. Digital Gang. DPAK.
Eastern Alliance. The Elite Hackers Guild. Elite
Phreakers and Hackers Club. The Elite Society Of
America. EPG. Executives Of Crime. Extasyy Elite.
Fargo 4A. Farmers Of Doom. The Federation. Feds
ъ Us. First Class. Five O. Five Star. Force Hackers.
Hack-A-Trip. Hackers Of America. High Mountain
Hackers. High Society. The Hitchhikers.
IBM Syndicate. The Ice Pirates. Imperial Warlords.
Inner Circle. Inner Circle II. Insanity Inc. International
Computer Underground Bandits.
Justice League of America.
Kaos Inc. Knights Of Shadow. Knights Of The
League Of Adepts. Legion Of Doom. Legion Of
Hackers. Lords Of Chaos. Lunatic Labs, Unlimited.
Master Hackers. MAD! The Marauders. MD/PhD.
Metal Communications, Inc. MetalliBashers, Inc. MBI.
Metro Communications. Midwest Pirates Guild.
NASA Elite. The NATO Association. Neon Knights.
Nihilist Order. Order Of The ъose. OSS.
Pacific Pirates Guild. Phantom Access Associates.
PHido PHreaks. The Phirm. Phlash. PhoneLine
Phantoms. Phone Phreakers Of America. Phortune 500.
Phreak Hack Delinquents. Phreak Hack Destroyers.
Phreakers, Hackers, And Laundromat Employees Gang
(PHALSE Gang). Phreaks Against Geeks. Phreaks
Against Phreaks Against Geeks. Phreaks and Hackers of
America. Phreaks Anonymous World Wide. Project
Genesis. The Punk Mafia.
The ъacketeers. ъed Dawn Text Files. ъoscoe Gang.
SABъE. Secret Circle of Pirates. Secret Service. 707
Club. Shadow Brotherhood. Sharp Inc. 65C02 Elite.
Spectral Force. Star League. Stowaways. Strata-Crackers.
Team Hackers '86. Team Hackers '87.
TeleComputist Newsletter Staff. Tribunal Of Knowledge.
Triple Entente. Turn Over And Die Syndrome (TOADS).
300 Club. 1200 Club. 2300 Club. 2600 Club. 2601 Club.
The United Soft WareZ Force. United Technical
Ware Brigade. The Warelords. WASP.
Contemplating this list is an impressive, almost
humbling business. As a cultural artifact, the thing
Underground groups -- subcultures -- can be
distinguished from independent cultures by their habit of
referring constantly to the parent society. Undergrounds
by their nature constantly must maintain a membrane of
differentiation. Funny/distinctive clothes and hair,
specialized jargon, specialized ghettoized areas in cities,
different hours of rising, working, sleeping.... The
underground, which specializes in information, relies very
heavily on language to distinguish itself. As can be seen
from this list, they make heavy use of parody and
mockery. It's revealing to see who they choose to mock.
First, large corporations. We have the Phortune 500,
The Chief Executive Officers, Bellcore, IBM Syndicate,
SABъE (a computerized reservation service maintained
by airlines). The common use of "Inc." is telling -- none
these groups are actual corporations, but take clear
delight in mimicking them.
Second, governments and police. NASA Elite, NATO
Association. "Feds ъ Us" and "Secret Service" are fine bits
of fleering boldness. OSS -- the Office of Strategic
was the forerunner of the CIA.
Third, criminals. Using stigmatizing pejoratives as a
perverse badge of honor is a time-honored tactic for
subcultures: punks, gangs, delinquents, mafias, pirates,
Specialized orthography, especially the use of "ph"
for "f" and "z" for the plural "s," are instant recognition
symbols. So is the use of the numeral "0" for the letter
-- computer-software orthography generally features a
slash through the zero, making the distinction obvious.
Some terms are poetically descriptive of computer
intrusion: the Stowaways, the Hitchhikers, the PhoneLine
Phantoms, Coast-to-Coast. Others are simple bravado
and vainglorious puffery. (Note the insistent use of the
terms "elite" and "master.") Some terms are
blasphemous, some obscene, others merely cryptic --
anything to puzzle, offend, confuse, and keep the straights
Many hacker groups further re-encrypt their names
by the use of acronyms: United Technical Underground
becomes UTU, Farmers of Doom become FoD, the
United SoftWareZ Force becomes, at its own insistence,
"TuSwF," and woe to the ignorant rodent who capitalizes
the wrong letters.
It should be further recognized that the members of
these groups are themselves pseudonymous. If you did, in
fact, run across the "PhoneLine Phantoms," you would find
them to consist of "Carrier Culprit," "The Executioner,"
"Black Majik," "Egyptian Lover," "Solid State," and "Mr
Icom." "Carrier Culprit" will likely be referred to by his
friends as "CC," as in, "I got these dialups from CC of
It's quite possible that this entire list refers to as
as a thousand people. It is not a complete list of
underground groups -- there has never been such a list,
and there never will be. Groups rise, flourish, decline,
share membership, maintain a cloud of wannabes and
casual hangers-on. People pass in and out, are ostracized,
get bored, are busted by police, or are cornered by telco
security and presented with huge bills. Many
"underground groups" are software pirates, "warez d00dz,"
who might break copy protection and pirate programs, but
likely wouldn't dare to intrude on a computer-system.
It is hard to estimate the true population of the
underground. There is constant turnover. Most hackers
start young, come and go, then drop out at age 22 -- the
age of college graduation. And a large majority of
"hackers" access pirate boards, adopt a handle, swipe
software and perhaps abuse a phone-code or two, while
never actually joining the elite.
Some professional informants, who make it their
business to retail knowledge of the underground to
paymasters in private corporate security, have estimated
the hacker population at as high as fifty thousand. This
likely highly inflated, unless one counts every single
teenage software pirate and petty phone-booth thief. My
best guess is about 5,000 people. Of these, I would guess
that as few as a hundred are truly "elite" -- active
computer intruders, skilled enough to penetrate
sophisticated systems and truly to worry corporate security
and law enforcement.
Another interesting speculation is whether this group
is growing or not. Young teenage hackers are often
convinced that hackers exist in vast swarms and will soon
dominate the cybernetic universe. Older and wiser
veterans, perhaps as wizened as 24 or 25 years old, are
convinced that the glory days are long gone, that the cops
have the underground's number now, and that kids these
days are dirt-stupid and just want to play Nintendo.
My own assessment is that computer intrusion, as a
non-profit act of intellectual exploration and mastery, is
slow decline, at least in the United States; but that
electronic fraud, especially telecommunication crime, is
growing by leaps and bounds.