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      Bruce Sterling. The hacker crackdown -
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might find a useful parallel to the digital underground in the drug underground. There was a time, now much-obscured by historical revisionism, when Bohemians freely shared joints at concerts, and hip, small- scale marijuana dealers might turn people on just for the sake of enjoying a long stoned conversation about the Doors and Allen Ginsberg. Now drugs are increasingly verboten, except in a high-stakes, highly-criminal world of highly addictive drugs. Over years of disenchantment and police harassment, a vaguely ideological, free-wheeling drug underground has relinquished the business of drug- dealing to a far more savage criminal hard-core. This is not a pleasant prospect to contemplate, but the analogy is fairly compelling. What does an underground board look like? What distinguishes it from a standard board? It isn't necessarily the conversation -- hackers often talk about common board topics, such as hardware, software, sex, science fiction, current events, politics, movies, personal gossip. Underground boards can best be distinguished by their files, or "philes," pre-composed texts which teach the techniques and ethos of the underground. These are prized reservoirs of forbidden knowledge. Some are anonymous, but most proudly bear the handle of the "hacker" who has created them, and his group affiliation, if he has one. Here is a partial table-of-contents of philes from an underground board, somewhere in the heart of middle America, circa 1991. The descriptions are mostly self- explanatory. BANKAME.ZIP 5406 06-11-91 Hacking Bank America CHHACK.ZIP 4481 06-11-91 Chilton Hacking CITIBANK.ZIP 4118 06-11-91 Hacking Citibank CEDIMTC.ZIP 3241 06-11-91 Hacking Mtc Credit Company DIGEST.ZIP 5159 06-11-91 Hackers Digest HACK.ZIP 14031 06-11-91 How To Hack HACKBAS.ZIP 5073 06-11-91 Basics Of Hacking HACKDICT.ZIP 42774 06-11-91 Hackers Dictionary HACKE.ZIP 57938 06-11-91 Hacker Info HACKEME.ZIP 3148 06-11-91 Hackers Manual HACKHAND.ZIP 4814 06-11-91 Hackers Handbook HACKTHES.ZIP 48290 06-11-91 Hackers Thesis HACKVMS.ZIP 4696 06-11-91 Hacking Vms Systems MCDON.ZIP 3830 06-11-91 Hacking Macdonalds (Home Of The Archs) P500UNIX.ZIP 15525 06-11-91 Phortune 500 Guide To Unix ADHACK.ZIP 8411 06-11-91 adio Hacking TAOTASH.DOC 4096 12-25-89 Suggestions For Trashing TECHHACK.ZIP 5063 06-11-91 Technical Hacking The files above are do-it-yourself manuals about computer intrusion. The above is only a small section of a much larger library of hacking and phreaking techniques and history. We now move into a different and perhaps surprising area. +------------+ |Anarchy| +------------+ ANAC.ZIP 3641 06-11-91 Anarchy Files ANACHST.ZIP 63703 06-11-91 Anarchist Book ANACHY.ZIP 2076 06-11-91 Anarchy At Home ANACHY3.ZIP 6982 06-11-91 Anarchy No 3 ANACTOY.ZIP 2361 06-11-91 Anarchy Toys ANTIMODM.ZIP 2877 06-11-91 Anti-modem Weapons ATOM.ZIP 4494 06-11-91 How To Make An Atom Bomb BABITUA.ZIP 3982 06-11-91 Barbiturate Formula BLCKPWD.ZIP 2810 06-11-91 Black Powder Formulas BOMB.ZIP 3765 06-11-91 How To Make Bombs BOOM.ZIP 2036 06-11-91 Things That Go Boom CHLOINE.ZIP 1926 06-11-91 Chlorine Bomb COOKBOOK.ZIP 1500 06-11-91 Anarchy Cook Book DESTOY.ZIP 3947 06-11-91 Destroy Stuff DUSTBOMB.ZIP 2576 06-11-91 Dust Bomb ELECTE.ZIP 3230 06-11-91 Electronic Terror EXPLOS1.ZIP 2598 06-11-91 Explosives 1 EXPLOSIV.ZIP 18051 06-11-91 More Explosives EZSTEAL.ZIP 4521 06-11-91 Ez-stealing FLAME.ZIP 2240 06-11-91 Flame Thrower FLASHLT.ZIP 2533 06-11-91 Flashlight Bomb FMBUG.ZIP 2906 06-11-91 How To Make An Fm Bug OMEEXPL.ZIP 2139 06-11-91 Home Explosives HOW2BK.ZIP 3332 06-11-91 How To Break In LETTE.ZIP 2990 06-11-91 Letter Bomb LOCK.ZIP 2199 06-11-91 How To Pick Locks MSHIN.ZIP 3991 06-11-91 Briefcase Locks NAPALM.ZIP 3563 06-11-91 Napalm At Home NITO.ZIP 3158 06-11-91 Fun With Nitro PAAMIL.ZIP 2962 06-11-91 Paramilitary Info PICKING.ZIP 3398 06-11-91 Picking Locks PIPEBOMB.ZIP 2137 06-11-91 Pipe Bomb POTASS.ZIP 3987 06-11-91 Formulas With Potassium PANK.TXT 11074 08-03-90 More Pranks To Pull On Idiots! EVENGE.ZIP 4447 06-11-91 evenge Tactics OCKET.ZIP 2590 06-11-91 ockets For Fun SMUGGLE.ZIP 3385 06-11-91 How To Smuggle *Holy Cow!* The damned thing is full of stuff about bombs! What are we to make of this? First, it should be acknowledged that spreading knowledge about demolitions to teenagers is a highly and deliberately antisocial act. It is not, however, illegal. Second, it should be recognized that most of these philes were in fact *written* by teenagers. Most adult American males who can remember their teenage years will recognize that the notion of building a flamethrower in your garage is an incredibly neat-o idea. *Actually* building a flamethrower in your garage, however, is fraught with discouraging difficulty. Stuffing gunpowder into a booby-trapped flashlight, so as to blow the arm off your high-school vice-principal, can be a thing of dark beauty to contemplate. Actually committing assault by explosives will earn you the sustained attention of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Some people, however, will actually try these plans. A determinedly murderous American teenager can probably buy or steal a handgun far more easily than he can brew fake "napalm" in the kitchen sink. Nevertheless, if temptation is spread before people a certain number will succumb, and a small minority will actually attempt these stunts. A large minority of that small minority will either fail or, quite likely, maim themselves, since these "philes" have not been checked for accuracy, are not the product of professional experience, and are often highly fanciful. But the gloating menace of these philes is not to be entirely dismissed. Hackers may not be "serious" about bombing; if they were, we would hear far more about exploding flashlights, homemade bazookas, and gym teachers poisoned by chlorine and potassium. However, hackers are *very* serious about forbidden knowledge. They are possessed not merely by curiosity, but by a positive *lust to know.* The desire to know what others don't is scarcely new. But the *intensity* of this desire, as manifested by these young technophilic denizens of the Information Age, may in fact *be* new, and may represent some basic shift in social values -- a harbinger of what the world may come to, as society lays more and more value on the possession, assimilation and retailing of *information* as a basic commodity of daily life. There have always been young men with obsessive interests in these topics. Never before, however, have they been able to network so extensively and easily, and to propagandize their interests with impunity to random passers-by. High-school teachers will recognize that there's always one in a crowd, but when the one in a crowd escapes control by jumping into the phone-lines, and becomes a hundred such kids all together on a board, then trouble is brewing visibly. The urge of authority to *do something,* even something drastic, is hard to resist. And in 1990, authority did something. In fact authority did a great deal. # The process by which boards create hackers goes something like this. A youngster becomes interested in computers -- usually, computer games. He hears from friends that "bulletin boards" exist where games can be obtained for free. (Many computer games are "freeware," not copyrighted -- invented simply for the love of it and given away to the public; some of these games are quite good.) He bugs his parents for a modem, or quite often, uses his parents' modem. The world of boards suddenly opens up. Computer games can be quite expensive, real budget-breakers for a kid, but pirated games, stripped of copy protection, are cheap or free. They are also illegal, but it is very rare, almost unheard of, for a small-scale software pirate to be prosecuted. Once "cracked" of its copy protection, the program, being digital data, becomes infinitely reproducible. Even the instructions to the game, any manuals that accompany it, can be reproduced as text files, or photocopied from legitimate sets. Other users on boards can give many useful hints in game-playing tactics. And a youngster with an infinite supply of free computer games can certainly cut quite a swath among his modem- less friends. And boards are pseudonymous. No one need know that you're fourteen years old -- with a little practice at subterfuge, you can talk to adults about adult things, and be accepted and taken seriously! You can even pretend to be a girl, or an old man, or anybody you can imagine. If you find this kind of deception gratifying, there is ample opportunity to hone your ability on boards. But local boards can grow stale. And almost every board maintains a list of phone-numbers to other boards, some in distant, tempting, exotic locales. Who knows what they're up to, in Oregon or Alaska or Florida or California? It's very easy to find out -- just order the modem to call through its software -- nothing to this, just typing on a keyboard, the same thing you would do for most any computer game. The machine reacts swiftly and in a few seconds you are talking to a bunch of interesting people on another seaboard. And yet the *bills* for this trivial action can be staggering! Just by going tippety-tap with your fingers, you may have saddled your parents with four hundred bucks in long-distance charges, and gotten chewed out but good. That hardly seems fair. How horrifying to have made friends in another state and to be deprived of their company -- and their software - - just because telephone companies demand absurd amounts of money! How painful, to be restricted to boards in one's own *area code* -- what the heck is an "area code" anyway, and what makes it so special? A few grumbles, complaints, and innocent questions of this sort will often elicit a sympathetic reply from another board user -- someone with some stolen codes to hand. You dither a while, knowing this isn't quite right, then you make up your mind to try them anyhow -- *and they work!* Suddenly you're doing something even your parents can't do. Six months ago you were just some kid -- now, you're the Crimson Flash of Area Code 512! You're bad -- you're nationwide! Maybe you'll stop at a few abused codes. Maybe you'll decide that boards aren't all that interesting after all, that it's wrong, not worth the risk -- but maybe you won't. The next step is to pick up your own repeat-dialling program -- to learn to generate your own stolen codes. (This was dead easy five years ago, much harder to get away with nowadays, but not yet impossible.) And these dialling programs are not complex or intimidating -- some are as small as twenty lines of software. Now, you too can share codes. You can trade codes to learn other techniques. If you're smart enough to catch on, and obsessive enough to want to bother, and ruthless enough to start seriously bending rules, then you'll get better, fast. You start to develop a rep. You move up to a heavier class of board -- a board with a bad attitude, the kind of board that naive dopes like your classmates and your former self have never even heard of! You pick up the jargon of phreaking and hacking from the board. You read a few of those anarchy philes -- and man, you never realized you could be a real *outlaw* without ever leaving your bedroom. You still play other computer games, but now you have a new and bigger game. This one will bring you a different kind of status than destroying even eight zillion lousy space invaders. Hacking is perceived by hackers as a "game." This is not an entirely unreasonable or sociopathic perception. You can win or lose at hacking, succeed or fail, but it never feels "real." It's not simply that imaginative youngsters sometimes have a hard time telling "make-believe" from "real life." Cyberspace is *not real!* "eal" things are physical objects like trees and shoes and cars. Hacking takes place on a screen. Words aren't physical, numbers (even telephone numbers and credit card numbers) aren't physical. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but data will never hurt me. Computers *simulate* reality, like computer games that simulate tank battles or dogfights or spaceships. Simulations are just make- believe, and the stuff in computers is *not real.* Consider this: if "hacking" is supposed to be so serious and real-life and dangerous, then how come *nine-year-old kids* have computers and modems? You wouldn't give a nine year old his own car, or his own rifle, or his own chainsaw -- those things are "real." People underground are perfectly aware that the "game" is frowned upon by the powers that be. Word gets around about busts in the underground. Publicizing busts is one of the primary functions of pirate boards, but they also promulgate an attitude about them, and their own idiosyncratic ideas of justice. The users of underground boards won't complain if some guy is busted for crashing systems, spreading viruses, or stealing money by wire- fraud. They may shake their heads with a sneaky grin, but they won't openly defend these practices. But when a kid is charged with some theoretical amount of theft: $233,846.14, for instance, because he sneaked into a computer and copied something, and kept it in his house on a floppy disk -- this is regarded as a sign of near- insanity from prosecutors, a sign that they've drastically mistaken the immaterial game of computing for their real and boring everyday world of fatcat corporate money. It's as if big companies and their suck-up lawyers think that computing belongs to them, and they can retail it with price stickers, as if it were boxes of laundry soap! But pricing "information" is like trying to price air or price dreams. Well, anybody on a pirate board knows that computing can be, and ought to be, *free.* Pirate boards are little independent worlds in cyberspace, and they don't belong to anybody but the underground. Underground boards aren't "brought to you by Procter & Gamble." To log on to an underground board can mean to experience liberation, to enter a world where, for once, money isn't everything and adults don't have all the answers. Let's sample another vivid hacker manifesto. Here are some excerpts from "The Conscience of a Hacker," by "The Mentor," from *Phrack* Volume One, Issue 7, Phile 3. "I made a discovery today. I found a computer. Wait a second, this is cool. It does what I want it to. If it makes a mistake, it's because I screwed it up. Not because it doesn't like me.(...) "And then it happened... a door opened to a world... rushing through the phone line like heroin through an addict's veins, an electronic pulse is sent out, a refuge from day-to-day incompetencies is sought... a board is found. 'This is it... this is where I belong...' "I know everyone here... even if I've never met them, never talked to them, may never hear from them again... I know you all...(...) "This is our world now.... the world of the electron and the switch, the beauty of the baud. We make use of a service already existing without paying for what could be dirt-cheap if it wasn't run by profiteering gluttons, and you call us criminals. We explore... and you call us criminals. We seek after knowledge... and you call us criminals. We exist without skin color, without nationality, without religious bias... and you call us criminals. You build atomic bombs, you wage wars, you murder, cheat and lie to us and try to make us believe that it's for our own good, yet we're the criminals. "Yes, I am a criminal. My crime is that of curiosity. My crime is that of judging people by what they say and think, not what they look like. My crime is that of outsmarting you, something that you will never forgive me for." # There have been underground boards almost as long as there have been boards. One of the first was 8BBS, which became a stronghold of the West Coast phone- phreak elite. After going on-line in March 1980, 8BBS sponsored "Susan Thunder," and "Tuc," and, most notoriously, "the Condor." "The Condor" bore the singular distinction of becoming the most vilified American phreak and hacker ever. Angry underground associates, fed up with Condor's peevish behavior, turned him in to police, along with a heaping double-helping of outrageous hacker legendry. As a result, Condor was kept in solitary confinement for seven months, for fear that he might start World War Three by triggering missile silos from the prison payphone. (Having served his time, Condor is now walking around loose; WWIII has thus far conspicuously failed to occur.) The sysop of 8BBS was an ardent free-speech enthusiast who simply felt that *any* attempt to restrict the expression of his users was unconstitutional and immoral. Swarms of the technically curious entered 8BBS and emerged as phreaks and hackers, until, in 1982, a friendly 8BBS alumnus passed the sysop a new modem which had been purchased by credit-card fraud. Police took this opportunity to seize the entire board and remove what they considered an attractive nuisance. Plovernet was a powerful East Coast pirate board that operated in both New York and Florida. Owned and operated by teenage hacker "Quasi Moto," Plovernet attracted five hundred eager users in 1983. "Emmanuel Goldstein" was one-time co-sysop of Plovernet, along with "Lex Luthor," founder of the "Legion of Doom" group. Plovernet bore the signal honor of being the original home of the "Legion of Doom," about which the reader will be hearing a great deal, soon. "Pirate-80," or "P-80," run by a sysop known as "Scan- Man," got into the game very early in Charleston, and continued steadily for years. P-80 flourished so flagrantly that even its most hardened users became nervous, and some slanderously speculated that "Scan Man" must have ties to corporate security, a charge he vigorously denied. "414 Private" was the home board for the first *group* to attract conspicuous trouble, the teenage "414 Gang," whose intrusions into Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and Los Alamos military computers were to be a nine-days- wonder in 1982. At about this time, the first software piracy boards began to open up, trading cracked games for the Atari 800 and the Commodore C64. Naturally these boards were heavily frequented by teenagers. And with the 1983 release of the hacker-thriller movie *War Games,* the scene exploded. It seemed that every kid in America had demanded and gotten a modem for Christmas. Most of these dabbler wannabes put their modems in the attic after a few weeks, and most of the remainder minded their P's and Q's and stayed well out of hot water. But some stubborn and talented diehards had this hacker kid in *War Games* figured for a happening dude. They simply

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