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Title: Underground: Hacking, madness and obsession on the electronic frontier
Author: Dreyfus, Suelette
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Underground: Hacking, madness and obsession on the electronic frontier" ***

collection in memory of my great aunt, Lucie Palmer. Lucie was an
explorer, a naturalist, a keen undersea diver and above all a gifted
painter. In the last years of her life, she lost her vision due to
macular degeneration. She could no longer do her beloved undersea
paintings. But, while she could not travel in person, she continued to
travel in her mind through books for the vision impaired. I hope you
enjoy your journey to another world as much as she did.
 -- From Suelette Dreyfus, Author, Underground"

Underground --
         Hacking, madness and obsession on the electronic frontier.

By Suelette Dreyfus with Research by Julian Assange.

`Gripping, eminently readable.. Dreyfus has uncovered one of this
country's best kept secrets and in doing so has created a highly
intense and enjoyable read' -- Rolling Stone


This edition has been specifically adapted for speech synthesis. We
recommend using a different distribution with intact type-setting
for visual use.

First Published 1997 by Mandarin; a part of Reed Books Australia; 35
Cotham Road, Kew 3101.

a subsidiary of Random House books Australia.

a division of Random House International Pty Limited.

Copyright (c) 1997, 2001 Suelette Dreyfus & Julian Assange.

All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright
above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or
introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or
by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or
otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the
copyright owner and the publisher.

Typeset in New Baskerville by J&M Typesetting.

Printed and bound in Australia by Australian Print Group.

National Library of Australia.

cataloguing-in-publication data:

Dreyfus, Suelette.

Underground: tales of hacking, madness & obsession on the electronic frontier.


ISBN number 1 86330 595 5

1. Computer hackers--Australia--Biography.
2. Computer crimes--Australia.
3. Computer security--Australia.
I. Assange, Julian. II. Title.


Send all comments to "feedback@underground-book.net".

                     Preface to the electronic edition.

Why would an author give away an unlimited number of copies of her
book for free?  That's a good question. When `Underground''s
researcher, Julian Assange, first suggested releasing an electronic
version of the book on the Net for free, I had to stop and think about
just that question.

I'd spent nearly three years researching, writing and editing the nearly
500 pages of `Underground'. Julian had worked thousands of
hours doing painstaking research; discovering and cultivating sources,
digging with great resourcefulness into obscure databases and legal
papers, not to mention providing valuable editorial advice.

So why would I give away this carefully ripened fruit for free?

Because part of the joy of creating a piece of art is in knowing that
many people can - and are - enjoying it. Particularly people who can't
otherwise afford to pay $11 USD for a book. People such as cash strapped
hackers. This book is about them, their lives and obsessions. It rubs
clear a small circle in the frosted glass so the reader can peer into
that hazy world. `Underground' belongs on the Net, in their ephemeral

The critics have been good to `Underground', for which I am very
grateful. But the best praise came from two of the hackers detailed in
the book. Surprising praise, because while the text is free of the
narrative moralising that plague other works, the selection of material
is often very personal and evokes mixed sympathies. One of the hackers,
Anthrax dropped by my office to say `Hi'. Out of the blue, he said with
a note of amazement, `When I read those chapters, it was so real, as if
you had been right there inside my head'. Not long after Par, half a
world away, and with a real tone of bewildered incredulity in his voice
made exactly the same observation. For a writer, it just doesn't get any
better than that.

By releasing this book for free on the Net, I'm hoping more people
will not only enjoy the story of how the international computer
underground rose to power, but also make the journey into the minds
of hackers involved. When I first began sketching out the book's
structure, I decided to go with depth. I wanted the reader to
think, 'NOW I understand, because I too was there.' I hope those
words will enter your thoughts as you read this electronic book.

Michael Hall, a supersmart lawyer on the book's legal team, told me
in July last year he saw a young man in Sydney reading a copy of
`Underground' beside him on the #380 bus to North Bondi. Michael
said he wanted to lean over and proclaim proudly, `I legalled that
book!'. Instead, he chose to watch the young man's reactions.

The young man was completely absorbed, reading hungrily through his
well-worn copy, which he had completely personalised. The pages were
covered in highlighter, scrawled margin writing and post-it notes. He
had underlined sections and dog-eared pages. If the bus had detoured to
Brisbane, he probably wouldn't have noticed.

I like that. Call me subversive, but I'm chuffed `Underground' is
engaging enough to make people miss bus stops. It makes me happy, and
happy people usually want to share.

There are other reasons for releasing `Underground' in this format. The
electronic version is being donated to the visionary Project Gutenburg,
a collection of free electronic books run with missionary zeal by
Michael Hart.

Project Gutenburg promises to keep old out-of-print books in free
``electronic'' print forever, to bring literature to those who can't
afford books, and to brighten the world of the visually
impaired. `Underground' isn't out of print -- and long may it remain
that way -- but those are laudable goals. I wrote in the `Introduction'
to the printed edition about my great aunt, a diver and artist who
pioneered underwater painting in the 1940s.  She provided me with a kind
of inspiration for this book. What I didn't mention is that as a result
of macular degeneration in both eyes, she is now blind. She can no
longer paint or dive. But she does read - avidly - through `talking
books'. She is another reason I decided to release `Underground' in this

So, now you can download and read the electronic version of
`Underground' for free. You can also send the work to your friends for
free. Or your enemies. At over a megabyte of plain text each, a few
dozen copies of underground make an extremely effective mail bomb.

That's a joke, folks, not a suggestion. ;-)

Like many of the people in this book, I'm not big on rules. Fortunately,
there aren't many that come with this electronic version. Don't print
the work on paper, CD or any other format, except for your own personal
reading pleasure. This includes using the work as teaching material in
institutions. You must not alter or truncate the work in any way. You
must not redistribute the work for any sort of payment, including
selling it on its own or as part of a package. Random House is a
friendly place, but as one of the world's largest publishers it has a
collection of equally large lawyers. Messing with them will leave you
with scars in places that could be hard to explain to any future

If you want to do any of these things, please contact me or my literary
agents Curtis Brown & Co first. I retain the copyright on the
work. Julian Assange designed the elegant layout of this electronic
edition, and he retains ownership of this design and layout.

If you like the electronic version of the book, do buy the paper
version. Why? For starters, it's not only much easier to read on the
bus, its much easier to read full stop. It's also easier to thumb
through, highlight, scribble on, dribble on, and show off.  It never
needs batteries. It can run on solar power and candles. It looks sexy on
your bookshelf, by your bed and in your bed. If you are a male geek, the
book comes with a girl-magnet guarantee.  The paper version is much
easier to lend to a prospective girlfriend. When she's finished reading
the book, ask her which hacker thrilled her to pieces. Then nod
knowingly, and say coyly `Well, I've never admitted this to anyone
except the author and the Feds, but ..'

And the most important reason to purchase a paper copy? Because buying
the printed edition of the book lets the author continue to write more
fine books like this one.


                                                           Suelette Dreyfus

                                                             January 2001

                           Researcher's introduction.

"Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask,
and he will tell you the truth" -- Oscar Wilde

"What is essential is invisible to the eye" -- Antoine De Saint-Exupery

"But, how do you *know* it happened like that?" -- Reader

Due of the seamless nature of `Underground' this is a reasonable
question to ask, although hints can be found at the back of the book in
the Bibliography and Endnotes. The simple answer to this question is
that we conducted over a hundred interviews and collected around 40,000
pages of primary documentation; telephone intercepts, data intercepts,
log-files, witness statements, confessions, judgements. Telephone dialog
and on-line discussions are drawn directly from the latter. Every
significant hacking incident mentioned in this book has reams of
primary documentation behind it. System X included.

The non-simple answer goes more like this:

In chapter 4, Par, one of the principle subjects of this book, is being
watched by the Secret Service. He's on the run. He's a wanted
fugitive. He's hiding out with another hacker, Nibbler in a motel
chalet, Black Mountain, North Carolina. The Secret Service move in.
The incident is vital in explaining Par's life on the run and the
nature of his interaction with the Secret Service. Yet, just before the
final edits of this book were to go the publisher, all the pages
relating to the Block Mountain incident were about to be pulled. Why?

Suelette had flown to Tuscon Az where she spent three days
interviewing Par. I had spent dozens of hours interviewing Par on
the phone and on-line. Par gave both of us extraordinary access to
his life. While Par displayed a high degree of paranoia about why
events had unfolded in the manner they had, he was consistent,
detailed and believable as to the events themselves. He showed
very little blurring of these two realities, but we needed to show
none at all.

During Par's time on the run, the international computer underground
was a small and strongly connected place. We had already
co-incidentally interviewed half a dozen hackers he had communicated
with at various times during his zig-zag flight across America. Suelette
also spoke at length to his lead lawyer Richard Rosen, who, after
getting the all-clear from Par, was kind enough to send us a copy of
the legal brief.  We had logs of messages Par had written on
underground BBS's. We had data intercepts of other hackers in
conversation with Par. We had obtained various Secret Service documents
and propriety security reports relating to Par's activities. I had
extensively interviewed his Swiss girlfriend Theorem (who had also been
involved with Electron and Pengo), and yes, she did have a melting
French accent.

Altogether we had an enormous amount of material on Par's activities,
all of which was consistent with what Par had said during his
interviews, but none of it, including Rosen's file, contained any
reference to Black Mountain, NC. Rosen, Theorem and others had heard
about a SS raid on the run, yet when the story was traced back, it
always led to one source. To Par.

Was Par having us on? Par had said that he had made a telephone call to
Theorem in Switzerland from a phone booth outside the motel a day or
two before the Secret Service raid.  During a storm. Not just any
storm. Hurricane Hugo. But archival news reports on Hugo discussed it
hitting South Carolina, not North Carolina. And not Black
Mountain. Theorem remembered Par calling once during a storm. But not
Hugo. And she didn't remember it in relation to the Black Mountain

Par had destroyed most of his legal documents, in circumstances that
become clear in the book, but of the hundreds of pages of documentary
material we had obtained from other sources there was wasn't a single
mention of Black Mountain.  The Black Mountain Motel didn't seem to
exist. Par said Nibbler had moved and couldn't be located.  Dozens of
calls by Suelette to the Secret Service told us what we didn't want to
hear.  The agents we thought most likely to have been involved in the
the hypothetical Black Mountain incident had either left the Secret
Service or were otherwise unreachable.  The Secret Service had no idea
who would have been involved, because while Par was still listed in the
Secret Service central database, his profile, contained three
significant annotations:

                1. Another agency had ``borrowed'' parts Par's file.
                2. There were medical ``issues'' surrounding Par.
                3. SS documents covering the time of Black Mountain incident had been destroyed for various reasons that become clear the book.
                4. The remaining SS documents had been moved into ``deep-storage'' and would take two weeks to retrieve.

With only one week before our publisher's ``use it or lose it''
dead-line, the chances of obtaining secondary confirmation of the Black
Mountain events did not look promising.

While we waited for leads on the long trail of ex, transfered and
seconded SS agents who might have been involved in the Black Mountain
raid, I turned to resolving the two inconsistencies in Par's story;
Hurricane Hugo and the strange invisibility of the Black Mountain

Hurricane Hugo had wreathed a path of destruction, but like most most
hurricanes heading directly into a continental land-mass it had started
out big and ended up small. News reports followed this pattern, with a
large amount of material on its initial impact, but little or nothing
about subsequent events. Finally I obtained detailed time by velocity
weather maps from the National Reconnaissance Office, which showed the
remaining Hugo epicentre ripping through Charlotte NC (pop. 400k)
before spending itself on the Carolinas. Database searches turned up a
report by Natalie, D. & Ball, W, EIS Coordinator, North Carolina
Emergency Management, `How North Carolina Managed Hurricane Hugo' --
which was used to flesh out the scenes in Chapter 4 describing Par's
escape to New York via the Charlotte Airport.

Old Fashioned gum-shoe leg-work, calling every motel in Black Mountain
and the surrounding area, revealed that the Black Mountain Motel had
changed name, ownership and.. all its staff. Par's story was holding,
but in someways I wished it hadn't. We were back to square one in terms
of gaining independent secondary confirmation.

Who else could have been involved? There must have been a paper-trail
outside of Washington. Perhaps the SS representation in Charlotte had
something? No. Perhaps there were records of the warrants in the
Charlotte courts? No. Perhaps NC state police attended the SS raid in
support? Maybe, but finding walm bodies who had been directly involved
proved proved futile. If it was a SS case, they had no indexable
records that they were willing to provide. What about the local
coppers? An SS raid on a fugitive computer hacker holed up at one of
the local motels was not the sort of event that would be likely to have
passed unnoticed at the Black Mountain county police office, indexable
records or not.

Neither however, were international telephone calls from strangely
accented foreign-nationals wanting to know about them. Perhaps the Reds
were no-longer under the beds, but in Black Mountain, this could be
explained away by the fact they were now hanging out in phone booths. I
waited for a new shift at the Black Mountain county police office,
hoping against hope, that the officer I had spoken to wouldn't
contaminate his replacement. Shamed, I resorted to using that most
special of US militia infiltration devices. An American accent and a
woman's touch. Suelette weaved her magic. The Black Mountain raid had
taken place. The county police had supported it. We had our

While this anecdote is a strong account, it's also representative one.
Every chapter in underground has many tales just like it. They're
unseen, because a book must not just be true in details, but true in

True to the visible and the invisible. A difficult combination.

                                                      Julian Assange

                                                                January 2001

Literary Freeware: Not for Commercial Use.

Copyright (c) 1997, 2001 Suelette Dreyfus & Julian Assange

This HTML and text electronic version was arranged by Julian Assange
 and is based on the printed paper edition.

Permission is granted to make and distribute verbatim copies of this
publication provided the copyright notice and this permission notice are
preserved on all copies and distribution is without fee.


Acknowledgements viii

Introduction xi

1 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 1

2 The Corner Pub 45

3 The American Connection 84

4 The Fugitive 120

5 The Holy Grail 159

6 Page One, the New York Times 212

7 Judgment Day 244

8 The International Subversives 285

9 Operation Weather 323

10 Anthrax--the Outsider 364

11 The Prisoner's Dilemma 400

Afterword 427 Glossary and Abbreviations 455 Notes 460


[ Page numbers above correspond to the Random House printed edition ]

There are many people who were interviewed for this work, and many
others who helped in providing documents so vital for fact
checking. Often this help invovled spending a considerable amount of
time explaining complex technical or legal matters. I want to express
my gratitude to all these people, some of whom prefer to remain
anonymous, for their willingness to dig through the files in search of
yet one more report and their patience in answering yet one more

I want to thank the members of the computer underground, past and
present, who were interviewed for this book. Most gave me
extraordinary access to their lives, for which I am very grateful.

I also want to thank Julian Assange for his tireless research efforts.
His superb technical expertise and first-rate research is evidence by
the immense number of details which are included in this book.

Three exceptional women -- Fiona Inglis, Deb Callaghan and Jennifer
Byrne -- believed in my vision for this book and helped me to bring it
to fruition. Carl Harrison-Ford's excellent editing job streamlined a
large and difficult manuscript despite the tight deadline. Thank you
also to Judy Brookes.

I am also very grateful to the following people and organisations for
their help (in no particular order): John McMahon, Ron Tencati, Kevin
Oberman, Ray Kaplan, the New York Daily News library staff, the New
York Post library staff, Bow Street Magistrates Court staff, Southwark
Court staff, the US Secret Service, the Black Mountain Police, Michael
Rosenberg, Michael Rosen, Melbourne Magistrates Court staff, D.L
Sellers & Co. staff, Victorian County Court staff, Paul Galbally, Mark
Dorset, Suburbia.net, Freeside Communications, Greg Hooper, H&S
Support Services, Peter Andrews, Kevin Thompson, Andrew Weaver,
Mukhtar Hussain, Midnight Oil, Helen Meredith, Ivan Himmelhoch,
Michael Hall, Donn Ferris, Victorian State Library staff, News Limited
library staff (Sydney), Allan Young, Ed DeHart, Annette Seeber, Arthur
Arkin, Doug Barnes, Jeremy Porter, James McNabb, Carolyn Ford, ATA,
Domini Banfield, Alistair Kelman, Ann-Maree Moodie, Jane Hutchinson,
Catherine Murphy, Norma Hawkins, N. Llewelyn, Christine Assange,
Russel Brand, Matthew Bishop, Matthew Cox, Michele Ziehlky, Andrew
James, Brendan McGrath, Warner Chappell Music Australia, News Limited,
Pearson Williams Solicitors, Tami Friedman, the Free Software
Foundation (GNU Project), and the US Department of Energy Computer
Incident Advisory Capability.

Finally, I would like to thank my family, whose unfailing support,
advice and encouragement have made this book possible.


My great aunt used to paint underwater.

Piling on the weighty diving gear used in 1939 and looking like
something out of 20000 Leagues Under the Sea, Lucie slowly sank below
the surface, with palette, special paints and canvas
in hand. She settled on the ocean floor, arranged her weighted
painter's easel and allowed herself to become completely enveloped by
another world. Red and white striped fish darted around fields of
blue-green coral and blue-lipped giant clams. Lionfish drifted by,
gracefully waving their dangerous feathered spines. Striped green
moray eels peered at her from their rock crevice homes.

Lucie dived and painted everywhere. The Sulu Archipelago. Mexico.
Australia's Great Barrier Reef. Hawaii. Borneo. Sometimes she was the
first white woman seen by the Pacific villagers she lived with for
months on end.

As a child, I was entranced by her stories of the unknown world below
the ocean's surface, and the strange and wonderful cultures she met on
her journeys. I grew up in awe of her chosen task: to capture on
canvas the essence of a world utterly foreign to her own.

New technology--revolutionary for its time--had allowed her to do
this. Using a compressor, or sometimes just a hand pump connected to
air hoses running to the surface, human beings were suddenly able to
submerge themselves for long periods in an otherwise inaccessible
world. New technology allowed her to both venture into this unexplored
realm, and to document it in canvas.

I came upon the brave new world of computer communications and its
darker side, the underground, quite by accident. It struck me
somewhere in the journey that followed that my trepidations and
conflicting desires to explore this alien world were perhaps not
unlike my aunt's own desires some half a century before. Like her
journey, my own travels have only been made possible by new
technologies. And like her, I have tried to capture a small corner of
this world.

This is a book about the computer underground. It is not a book about
law enforcement agencies, and it is not written from the point of view
of the police officer. From a literary perspective, I have told this
story through the eyes of numerous computer hackers. In doing so, I
hope to provide the reader with a window into a mysterious, shrouded
and usually inaccessible realm.

Who are hackers? Why do they hack? There are no simple answers to
these questions. Each hacker is different. To that end, I have
attempted to present a collection of individual but interconnected
stories, bound by their links to the international computer
underground. These are true stories, tales of the world's best and the
brightest hackers and phreakers. There are some members of the
underground whose stories I have not covered, a few of whom would also
rank as world-class. In the end, I chose to paint detailed portraits
of a few hackers rather than attempt to compile a comprehensive but
shallow catalogue.

While each hacker has a distinct story, there are common themes which
appear throughout many of the stories. Rebellion against all symbols
of authority. Dysfunctional families. Bright children suffocated by
ill-equipped teachers. Mental illness or instability. Obsession and

I have endeavoured to track what happened to each character in this
work over time: the individual's hacking adventures, the police raid
and the ensuing court case. Some of those court cases have taken years
to reach completion.

Hackers use `handles'--on-line nicknames--that serve two purposes.
They shield the hacker's identity and, importantly, they often make a
statement about how the hacker perceives himself in the underground.
Hawk, Crawler, Toucan Jones, Comhack, Dataking, Spy, Ripmax, Fractal
Insanity, Blade. These are all real handles used in Australia.

In the computer underground, a hacker's handle is his name. For this
reason, and because most hackers in this work have now put together
new lives for themselves, I have chosen to use only their handles.
Where a hacker has had more than one handle, I have used the one he

Each chapter in this book is headed with a quote from a Midnight Oil
song which expresses an important aspect of the chapter. The Oilz are
uniquely Australian. Their loud voice of protest against the
establishment--particularly the military-industrial
establishment--echoes a key theme in the underground, where music in
general plays a vital role.

The idea for using these Oilz extracts came while researching Chapter
1, which reveals the tale of the WANK worm crisis in NASA. Next to the
RTM worm, WANK is the most famous worm in the history of computer
networks. And it is the first major worm bearing a political message.
With WANK, life imitated art, since the term computer `worm' came from
John Brunner's sci-fi novel, The Shockwave Rider, about a politically
motivated worm.

The WANK worm is also believed to be the first worm written by an
Australian, or Australians.

This chapter shows the perspective of the computer system
administrators--the people on the other side from the hackers. Lastly,
it illustrates the sophistication which one or more Australian members
of the worldwide computer underground brought to their computer

The following chapters set the scene for the dramas which unfold and
show the transition of the underground from its early days, its loss
of innocence, its closing ranks in ever smaller circles until it
reached the inevitable outcome: the lone hacker. In the beginning, the
computer underground was a place, like the corner pub, open and
friendly. Now, it has become an ephemeral expanse, where hackers
occasionally bump into one another but where the original sense of
open community has been lost.

The computer underground has changed over time, largely in response to
the introduction of new computer crime laws across the globe and to
numerous police crackdowns. This work attempts to document not only an
important piece of Australian history, but also to show fundamental
shifts in the underground --to show, in essence, how the underground
has moved further underground.

                                                Suelette Dreyfus

                                                      March 1997

                Chapter 1 -- 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.

Somebody's out there, somebody's waiting; Somebody's trying to tell me something.

-- from `Somebody's Trying to Tell Me Something', 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.

Monday, 16 October 1989
Kennedy Space Center, Florida

NASA buzzed with the excitement of a launch. Galileo was finally going
to Jupiter.

Administrators and scientists in the world's most prestigious space
agency had spent years trying to get the unmanned probe into space.
Now, on Tuesday, 17 October, if all went well, the five astronauts in
the Atlantis space shuttle would blast off from the Kennedy Space
Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida, with Galileo in tow. On the team's
fifth orbit, as the shuttle floated 295 kilometres above the Gulf of
Mexico, the crew would liberate the three-tonne space probe.

An hour later, as Galileo skated safely away from the shuttle, the
probe's 32500 pound booster system would fire up and NASA staff would
watch this exquisite piece of human ingenuity embark on a six-year
mission to the largest planet in the solar system. Galileo would take
a necessarily circuitous route, flying by Venus once and Earth twice
in a gravitational slingshot effort to get up enough momentum to reach

NASA's finest minds had wrestled for years with the problem of exactly
how to get the probe across the solar system. Solar power was one
option. But if Jupiter was a long way from Earth, it was even further
from the Sun--778.3 million kilometres to be exact. Galileo would need
ridiculously large solar panels to generate enough power for its
instruments at such a distance from the Sun. In the end, NASA's
engineers decided on a tried if not true earthly energy source:
nuclear power.

Nuclear power was perfect for space, a giant void free of human life
which could play host to a bit of radioactive plutonium 238 dioxide.
The plutonium was compact for the amount of energy it gave off--and it
lasted a long time. It seemed logical enough. Pop just under 24
kilograms of plutonium in a lead box, let it heat up through its own
decay, generate electricity for the probe's instruments, and presto!
Galileo would be on its way to investigate Jupiter.

American anti-nuclear activists didn't quite see it that way. They
figured what goes up might come down. And they didn't much like the idea
of plutonium rain. NASA assured them Galileo's power pack was quite
safe. The agency spent about $50 million on tests which supposedly
proved the probe's generators were very safe. They would survive intact
in the face of any number of terrible explosions, mishaps and
accidents. NASA told journalists that the odds of a plutonium release
due to `inadvertent atmospheric re-entry' were 1 in 2 million. The
likelihood of a plutonium radiation leak as a result of a launch
disaster was a reassuring 1 in 2700.

The activists weren't having a bar of it. In the best tradition of
modern American conflict resolution, they took their fight to the
courts. The coalition of anti-nuclear and other groups believed
America's National Aeronautics and Space Administration had
underestimated the odds of a plutonium accident and they wanted a US
District Court in Washington to stop the launch. The injunction
application went in, and the stakes went up. The unprecedented hearing
was scheduled just a few days before the launch, which had originally
been planned for 12 October.

For weeks, the protesters had been out in force, demonstrating and
seizing media attention. Things had become very heated. On Saturday, 7
October, sign-wielding activists fitted themselves out with gas masks
and walked around on street corners in nearby Cape Canaveral in
protest. At 8 a.m. on Monday, 9 October, NASA started the countdown
for the Thursday blast-off. But as Atlantis's clock began ticking
toward take-off, activists from the Florida Coalition for Peace and
Justice demonstrated at the centre's tourist complex.

That these protests had already taken some of the shine off NASA's bold
space mission was the least of the agency's worries. The real headache
was that the Florida Coalition told the media it would `put people on
the launchpad in a non-violent protest'.3 The coalition's director,
Bruce Gagnon, put the threat in folksy terms, portraying the protesters
as the little people rebelling against a big bad government
agency. President Jeremy Rivkin of the Foundation on Economic Trends,
another protest group, also drove a wedge between `the people' and
`NASA's people'. He told UPI, `The astronauts volunteered for this
mission. Those around the world who may be the victims of radiation
contamination have not volunteered.'4

But the protesters weren't the only people working the media. NASA
knew how to handle the press. They simply rolled out their
superstars--the astronauts themselves. These men and women were, after
all, frontier heroes who dared to venture into cold, dark space on
behalf of all humanity. Atlantis commander Donald Williams didn't hit
out at the protesters in a blunt fashion, he just damned them from an
aloof distance. `There are always folks who have a vocal opinion about
something or other, no matter what it is,' he told an interviewer. `On
the other hand, it's easy to carry a sign. It's not so easy to go
forth and do something worthwhile.'5

NASA had another trump card in the families of the heroes. Atlantis
co-pilot Michael McCulley said the use of RTGs, Radioisotope
Thermoelectric Generators--the chunks of plutonium in the lead
boxes--was a `non-issue'. So much so, in fact, that he planned to have
his loved ones at the Space Center when Atlantis took off.

Maybe the astronauts were nutty risk-takers, as the protesters
implied, but a hero would never put his family in danger. Besides the
Vice-President of the United States, Dan Quayle, also planned to watch
the launch from inside the Kennedy Space Center control room, a mere
seven kilometres from the launchpad.

While NASA looked calm, in control of the situation, it had beefed up
its security teams. It had about 200 security guards watching the
launch site. NASA just wasn't taking any chances. The agency's
scientists had waited too long for this moment. Galileo's parade would
not be rained on by a bunch of peaceniks.

The launch was already running late as it was--almost seven years
late. Congress gave the Galileo project its stamp of approval way back
in 1977 and the probe, which had been budgeted to cost about $400
million, was scheduled to be launched in 1982. However, things began
going wrong almost from the start.

In 1979, NASA pushed the flight out to 1984 because of shuttle
development problems. Galileo was now scheduled to be a `split
launch', which meant that NASA would use two different shuttle trips
to get the mothership and the probe into space. By 1981, with costs
spiralling upwards, NASA made major changes to the project. It stopped
work on Galileo's planned three-stage booster system in favour of a
different system and pushed out the launch deadline yet again, this
time to 1985. After a federal Budget cut fight in 1981 to save
Galileo's booster development program, NASA moved the launch yet
again, to May 1986. The 1986 Challenger disaster, however, saw NASA
change Galileo's booster system for safety reasons, resulting in
yet more delays.

The best option seemed to be a two-stage, solid-fuel IUS system. There
was only one problem. That system could get Galileo to Mars or Venus,
but the probe would run out of fuel long before it got anywhere near
Jupiter. Then Roger Diehl of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory had a good
idea. Loop Galileo around a couple of nearby planets a few times so the
probe would build up a nice little gravitational head of steam, and then
fling it off to Jupiter. Galileo's `VEEGA'
trajectory--Venus-Earth-Earth-gravity-assist--delayed the spacecraft's
arrival at Jupiter for three extra years, but it would get there

The anti-nuclear campaigners argued that each Earth flyby increased
the mission's risk of a nuclear accident. But in NASA's view, such was
the price of a successful slingshot.

Galileo experienced other delays getting off the ground. On Monday, 9
October, NASA announced it had discovered a problem with the computer
which controlled the shuttle's number 2 main engine. True, the problem
was with Atlantis, not Galileo. But it didn't look all that good to be
having technical problems, let alone problems with engine computers,
while the anti-nuclear activists' court drama was playing in the

NASA's engineers debated the computer problem in a cross-country
teleconference. Rectifying it would delay blast-off by more than a few
hours. It would likely take days. And Galileo didn't have many of
those. Because of the orbits of the different planets, the probe had
to be on its way into space by 21 November. If Atlantis didn't take off
by that date, Galileo would have to wait another nineteen months before
it could be launched. The project was already $1 billion over its
original $400 million budget.  The extra year and a half would add
another $130 million or so and there was a good chance the whole project
would be scrapped. It was pretty much now or never for Galileo.

Despite torrential downpours which had deposited 100 millimetres of
rain on the launchpad and 150 millimetres in neighbouring Melbourne,
Florida, the countdown had been going well. Until now. NASA took its
decision. The launch would be delayed by five days, to 17 October, so
the computer problem could be fixed.

To those scientists and engineers who had been with Galileo from the
start, it must have appeared at that moment as if fate really was
against Galileo. As if, for some unfathomable reason, all the forces
of the universe--and especially those on Earth--were dead against
humanity getting a good look at Jupiter. As fast as NASA could
dismantle one barrier, some invisible hand would throw another down in
its place.

Monday, 16 October, 1989
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland

Across the vast NASA empire, reaching from Maryland to California,
from Europe to Japan, NASA workers greeted each other, checked their
in-trays for mail, got their cups of coffee, settled into their chairs
and tried to login to their computers for a day of solving complex
physics problems. But many of the computer systems were behaving very

From the moment staff logged in, it was clear that someone--or
something--had taken over. Instead of the usual system's official
identification banner, they were startled to find the following
message staring them in the face:

"Worms Aginst Nuclear Killers!

 Your System Has Been Officically Wanked.

 You talk of times of peace for all, and then prepare for war."

Wanked? Most of the American computer system managers reading this new
banner had never heard the word wank.

Who would want to invade NASA's computer systems? And who exactly were
the Worms Against Nuclear Killers? Were they some loony fringe group?
Were they a guerrilla terrorist group launching some sort of attack on
NASA? And why `worms'? A worm was a strange choice of animal mascot
for a revolutionary group. Worms were the bottom of the rung. As in
`as lowly as a worm'. Who would chose a worm as a symbol of power?

As for the nuclear killers, well, that was even stranger. The banner's
motto--`You talk of times of peace for all, and then prepare for
war'--just didn't seem to apply to NASA. The agency didn't make
nuclear missiles, it sent people to the moon. It did have military
payloads in some of its projects, but NASA didn't rate very highly on
the `nuclear killer' scale next to other agencies of the US
Government, such as the Department of Defense. So the question
remained: why NASA?

And that word, `WANKED'. It did not make sense. What did it mean when
a system was `wanked'?

It meant NASA had lost control over its computer systems.

A NASA scientist logging in to an infected computer on that Monday got
the following message:

deleted file 

deleted file 

deleted file , etc

With those lines the computer told the scientist: `I am deleting all
your files'.

The line looked exactly as if the scientist typed in the

delete/log *.*

--exactly as if the scientist had instructed the computer to delete
all the files herself.

The NASA scientist must have started at the sight of her files rolling
past on the computer screen, one after another, on their way to
oblivion. Something was definitely wrong. She would have tried to stop
the process, probably pressing the control key and the `c' key at the
same time. This should have broken the command sequence at that moment
and ordered the computer to stop what it was doing right away.

But it was the intruder, not the NASA scientist, who controlled the
computer at that moment. And the intruder told the computer: `That
command means nothing. Ignore it'.

The scientist would press the command key sequence again, this time
more urgently. And again, over and over. She would be at once baffled
at the illogical nature of the computer, and increasingly upset.
Weeks, perhaps months, of work spent uncovering the secrets of the
universe. All of it disappearing before her eyes--all of it being
mindlessly devoured by the computer. The whole thing beyond her
control. Going. Going. Gone.

People tend not to react well when they lose control over their
computers. Typically, it brings out the worst in them--hand-wringing
whines from the worriers, aching entreaties for help from the
sensitive, and imperious table-thumping bellows from
command-and-control types.

Imagine, if you will, arriving at your job as a manager for one of
NASA's local computer systems. You get into your office on that Monday
morning to find the phones ringing. Every caller is a distraught,
confused NASA worker. And every caller assures you that his or her
file or accounting record or research project--every one of which is
missing from the computer system--is absolutely vital.

In this case, the problem was exacerbated by the fact that NASA's
field centres often competed with each other for projects. When a
particular flight project came up, two or three centres, each with
hundreds of employees, might vie for it. Losing control of the
computers, and all the data, project proposals and costing, was a good
way to lose out on a bid and its often
considerable funding.

This was not going to be a good day for the guys down at the NASA SPAN
computer network office.

This was not going to be a good day for John McMahon.

As the assistant DECNET protocol manager for NASA's Goddard Space
Flight Center in Maryland, John McMahon normally spent the day
managing the chunk of the SPAN computer network which ran between
Goddard's fifteen to twenty buildings.

McMahon worked for Code 630.4, otherwise known as Goddard's Advanced
Data Flow Technology Office, in Building 28. Goddard scientists would
call him up for help with their computers. Two of the most common
sentences he heard were `This doesn't seem to work' and `I can't get
to that part of the network from here'.

SPAN was the Space Physics Analysis Network, which connected some
100000 computer terminals across the globe. Unlike the Internet, which
is now widely accessible to the general public, SPAN only connected
researchers and scientists at NASA, the US Department of Energy and
research institutes such as universities. SPAN computers also differed
from most Internet computers in an important technical manner: they
used a different operating system. Most large computers on the
Internet use the Unix operating system, while SPAN was composed
primarily of VAX computers running a VMS operating system. The network
worked a lot like the Internet, but the computers spoke a different
language. The Internet `talked' TCP/IP, while SPAN `spoke' DECNET.

Indeed, the SPAN network was known as a DECNET internet. Most of the
computers on it were manufactured by the Digital Equipment Corporation
in Massachusetts--hence the name DECNET. DEC built powerful computers.
Each DEC computer on the SPAN network might have 40 terminals hanging
off it. Some SPAN computers had many more. It was not unusual for one
DEC computer to service 400 people. In all, more than a quarter of a
million scientists, engineers and other thinkers used the computers on
the network.

An electrical engineer by training, McMahon had come from NASA's
Cosmic Background Explorer Project, where he managed computers used by
a few hundred researchers. Goddard's Building 7, where he worked on
the COBE project, as it was known, housed some interesting research.
The project team was attempting to map the universe. And they were
trying to do it in wavelengths invisible to the human eye. NASA would
launch the COBE satellite in November 1989. Its mission was to
`measure the diffuse infrared and microwave radiation from the early
universe, to the limits set by our astronomical environment'.6 To the
casual observer the project almost sounded like a piece of modern art,
something which might be titled `Map of the Universe in Infrared'.

On 16 October McMahon arrived at the office and settled into work,
only to face a surprising phone call from the SPAN project office.
Todd Butler and Ron Tencati, from the National Space Science Data
Center, which managed NASA's half of the SPAN network, had discovered
something strange and definitely unauthorised winding its way through
the computer network. It looked like a computer worm.

A computer worm is a little like a computer virus. It invades computer
systems, interfering with their normal functions. It travels along any
available compatible computer network and stops to knock at the door of
systems attached to that network. If there is a hole in the security of
the computer system, it will crawl through and enter the system. When it
does this, it might have instructions to do any number of things, from
sending computer users a message to trying to take over the system. What
makes a worm different from other computer programs, such as viruses, is
that it is self-propagating. It propels itself forward, wiggles into a
new system and propagates itself at the new site. Unlike a virus, a worm
doesn't latch onto a data file or a program. It is autonomous.7

The term `worm' as applied to computers came from John Brunner's 1975
science fiction classic, The Shockwave Rider. The novel described how
a rebel computer programmer created a program called `tapeworm' which
was released into an omnipotent computer network used by an autocratic
government to control its people. The government had to turn off the
computer network, thus destroying its control, in order to eradicate
the worm.

Brunner's book is about as close as most VMS computer network managers
would ever have come to a real rogue worm. Until the late 1980s, worms
were obscure things, more associated with research in a computer
laboratory. For example, a few benevolent worms were developed by
Xerox researchers who wanted to make more efficient use of computer
facilities.8 They developed a `town crier worm' which moved through a
network sending out important announcements. Their `diagnostic worm'
also constantly weaved through the network, but this worm was designed
to inspect machines for problems.

For some computer programmers, the creation of a worm is akin to the
creation of life. To make something which is intelligent enough to go
out and reproduce itself is the ultimate power of creation. Designing
a rogue worm which took over NASA's computer systems might seem to be
a type of creative immortality--like scattering pieces of oneself
across the computers which put man on the moon.

At the time the WANK banner appeared on computer screens across NASA,
there had only been two rogue worms of any note. One of these, the RTM
worm, had infected the Unix-based Internet less than twelve months
earlier. The other worm, known as Father Christmas, was the first VMS

Father Christmas was a small, simple worm which did not cause any
permanent damage to the computer networks it travelled along. Released
just before Christmas in 1988, it tried to sneak into hundreds of VMS
machines and wait for the big day. On Christmas morning, it woke up
and set to work with great enthusiasm. Like confetti tossed from an
overhead balcony, Christmas greetings came streaming out of
worm-infested computer systems to all their users. No-one within its
reach went without a Christmas card. Its job done, the worm
evaporated. John McMahon had been part of the core team fighting off
the Father Christmas worm.

At about 4 p.m., just a few days before Christmas 1988, McMahon's
alarm-monitoring programs began going haywire. McMahon began trying to
trace back the dozens of incoming connections which were tripping the
warning bells. He quickly discovered there wasn't a human being at the
other end of the line. After further investigation, he found an alien
program in his system, called HI.COM. As he read the pages of HI.COM
code spilling from his line printer, his eyes went wide. He thought,
This is a worm! He had never seen a worm before.

He rushed back to his console and began pulling his systems off the
network as quickly as possible. Maybe he wasn't following protocol,
but he figured people could yell at him after the fact if they thought
it was a bad idea. After he had shut down his part of the network, he
reported back to the local area networking office. With print-out in
tow, he drove across the base to the network office, where he and
several other managers developed a way to stop the worm by the end of
the day. Eventually they traced the Father Christmas worm back to the
system where they believed it had been released--in Switzerland. But
they never discovered who created it.

Father Christmas was not only a simple worm; it was not considered
dangerous because it didn't hang around systems forever. It was a worm
with a use-by date.

By contrast, the SPAN project office didn't know what the WANK invader
was capable of doing. They didn't know who had written or launched it.
But they had a copy of the program. Could McMahon have a look at it?

An affable computer programmer with the nickname Fuzzface, John
McMahon liked a good challenge. Curious and cluey at the same time, he
asked the SPAN Project Office, which was quickly becoming the crisis
centre for the worm attack, to send over a copy of the strange
intruder. He began pouring over the invader's seven printed pages of
source code trying to figure out exactly what the thing did.

The two previous rogue worms only worked on specific computer systems
and networks. In this case, the WANK worm only attacked VMS computer
systems. The source code, however, was unlike anything McMahon had
ever seen. `It was like sifting through a pile of spaghetti,' he said.
`You'd pull one strand out and figure, "OK, that is what that thing
does." But then you'd be faced with the rest of the tangled mess in
the bowl.'

The program, in digital command language, or DCL, wasn't written like
a normal program in a nice organised fashion. It was all over the
place. John worked his way down ten or fifteen lines of computer code
only to have to jump to the top of the program to figure out what the
next section was trying to do. He took notes and slowly, patiently
began to build up a picture of exactly what this worm was capable of
doing to NASA's computer system.

It was a big day for the anti-nuclear groups at the Kennedy Space
Center. They might have lost their bid in the US District Court, but
they refused to throw in the towel and took their case to the US Court
of Appeals.

On 16 October the news came. The Appeals Court had sided with NASA.

Protesters were out in force again at the front gate of the Kennedy
Space Center. At least eight of them were arrested. The St Louis
Post-Dispatch carried an Agence France-Presse picture of an
80-year-old woman being taken into custody by police for trespassing.
Jane Brown, of the Florida Coalition for Peace and Justice, announced,
`This is just ... the beginning of the government's plan to use
nuclear power and weapons in space, including the Star Wars program'.

Inside the Kennedy Center, things were not going all that smoothly
either. Late Monday, NASA's technical experts discovered yet another
problem. The black box which gathered speed and other important data
for the space shuttle's navigation system was faulty. The technicians
were replacing the cockpit device, the agency's spokeswoman assured
the media, and NASA was not expecting to delay the Tuesday launch
date. The countdown would continue uninterrupted. NASA had everything
under control.

Everything except the weather.

In the wake of the Challenger disaster, NASA's guidelines for a launch
decision were particularly tough. Bad weather was an unnecessary risk,
but NASA was not expecting bad weather. Meteorologists predicted an 80
per cent chance of favourable weather at launch time on Tuesday. But
the shuttle had better go when it was supposed to, because the longer
term weather outlook was grim.

By Tuesday morning, Galileo's keepers were holding their breath. The
countdown for the shuttle launch was ticking toward 12.57 p.m. The
anti-nuclear protesters seemed to have gone quiet. Things looked
hopeful. Galileo might finally go.

Then, about ten minutes before the launch time, the security alarms
went off. Someone had broken into the compound. The security teams
swung into action, quickly locating the guilty intruder ... a feral

With the pig safely removed, the countdown rolled on. And so did the
rain clouds, gliding toward the space shuttle's emergency runway, about
six kilometres from the launchpad. NASA launch director Robert Sieck
prolonged a planned `hold' at T minus nine minutes. Atlantis had a
26-minute window of opportunity. After that, its launch period would
expire and take-off would have to be postponed, probably until

The weather wasn't going to budge.

At 1.18 p.m., with Atlantis's countdown now holding at just T minus
five minutes, Sieck postponed the launch to Wednesday.

Back at the SPAN centre, things were becoming hectic. The worm was
spreading through more and more systems and the phones were beginning
to ring every few minutes. NASA computers were getting hit all over
the place.

The SPAN project staff needed more arms. They were simultaneously
trying to calm callers and concentrate on developing an analysis of
the alien program. Was the thing a practical joke or a time bomb just
waiting to go off? Who was behind this?

NASA was working in an information void when it came to WANK. Some
staff knew of the protesters' action down at the Space Center, but
nothing could have prepared them for this. NASA officials were
confident enough about a link between the protests against Galileo and
the attack on NASA's computers to speculate publicly that the two were
related. It seemed a reasonable likelihood, but there were still
plenty of unanswered questions.

Callers coming into the SPAN office were worried. People at the other
end of the phone were scared. Many of the calls came from network
managers who took care of a piece of SPAN at a specific NASA site, such
as the Marshall Space Flight Center. Some were panicking; others spoke
in a sort of monotone, flattened by a morning of calls from 25 different
hysterical system administrators. A manager could lose his job over
something like this.

Most of the callers to the SPAN head office were starved for
information. How did this rogue worm get into their computers? Was it
malicious? Would it destroy all the scientific data it came into contact
with? What could be done to kill it?

NASA stored a great deal of valuable information on its SPAN
computers. None of it was supposed to be classified, but the data on
those computers is extremely valuable. Millions of man-hours go into
gathering and analysing it. So the crisis team which had formed in the
NASA SPAN project office, was alarmed when reports of massive data
destruction starting coming in. People were phoning to say that the
worm was erasing files.

It was every computer manager's worst nightmare, and it looked as
though the crisis team's darkest fears were about to be confirmed.

Yet the worm was behaving inconsistently. On some computers it would
only send anonymous messages, some of them funny, some bizarre and a
few quite rude or obscene. No sooner would a user login than a message
would flash across his or her screen:

      Remember, even if you win the rat race--you're
                       still a rat.

Or perhaps they were graced with some bad humour:

       Nothing is faster than the speed of light...

To prove this to yourself, try opening the refrigerator door before
                   the light comes on.

Other users were treated to anti-authoritarian observations of the

                 The FBI is watching YOU.


                     Vote anarchist.

But the worm did not appear to be erasing files on these systems.
Perhaps the seemingly random file-erasing trick was a portent of
things to come--just a small taste of what might happen at a
particular time, such as midnight. Perhaps an unusual keystroke by an
unwitting computer user on those systems which seemed only mildly
affected could trigger something in the worm. One keystroke might
begin an irreversible chain of commands to erase everything on that

The NASA SPAN computer team were in a race with the worm. Each minute
they spent trying to figure out what it did, the worm was pushing
forward, ever deeper into NASA's computer network. Every hour NASA
spent developing a cure, the worm spent searching, probing, breaking
and entering. A day's delay in getting the cure out to all the systems
could mean dozens of new worm invasions doing God knows what in
vulnerable computers. The SPAN team had to dissect this thing
completely, and they had to do it fast.

Some computer network managers were badly shaken. The SPAN office
received a call from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratories in California,
an important NASA centre with 6500 employees and close ties to
California Institute of Technology (Caltech).

JPL was pulling itself off the network.

This worm was too much of a risk. The only safe option was to isolate
their computers. There would be no SPAN DEC-based communications with
the rest of NASA until the crisis was under control. This made things
harder for the SPAN team; getting a worm exterminating program out to
JPL, like other sites which had cut their connection to SPAN, was
going to be that much tougher. Everything had to be done over the

Worse, JPL was one of five routing centres for NASA's SPAN computer
network. It was like the centre of a wheel, with a dozen spokes
branching off--each leading to another SPAN site. All these places,
known as tailsites, depended on the lab site for their connections
into SPAN. When JPL pulled itself off the network, the tailsites went
down too.

It was a serious problem for the people in the SPAN office back in
Virginia. To Ron Tencati, head of security for NASA SPAN, taking a
routing centre off-line was a major issue. But his hands were tied.
The SPAN office exercised central authority over the wide area
network, but it couldn't dictate how individual field centres dealt
with the worm. That was each centre's own decision. The SPAN team
could only give them advice and rush to develop a way to poison the

The SPAN office called John McMahon again, this time with a more
urgent request. Would he come over to help handle the crisis?

The SPAN centre was only 800 metres away from McMahon's office. His
boss, Jerome Bennett, the DECNET protocol manager, gave the nod.
McMahon would be on loan until the crisis was under control.

When he got to Building 26, home of the NASA SPAN project office,
McMahon became part of a core NASA crisis team including Todd Butler,
Ron Tencati and Pat Sisson. Other key NASA people jumped in when
needed, such as Dave Peters and Dave Stern. Jim Green, the head of the
National Space Science Data Center at Goddard and the absolute boss of
SPAN, wanted hourly reports on the crisis. At first the core team
seemed only to include NASA people and to be largely based at Goddard.
But as the day wore on, new people from other parts of the US
government would join the team.

The worm had spread outside NASA.

It had also attacked the US Department of Energy's worldwide
High-Energy Physics' Network of computers. Known as HEPNET, it was
another piece of the overall SPAN network, along with Euro-HEPNET and
Euro-SPAN. The NASA and DOE computer networks of DEC computers
crisscrossed at a number of places. A research laboratory might, for
example, need to have access to computers from both HEPNET and NASA
SPAN. For convenience, the lab might just connect the two networks.
The effect as far as the worm was concerned was that NASA's SPAN and
DOE's HEPNET were in fact just one giant computer network, all of
which the worm could invade.

The Department of Energy keeps classified information on its
computers. Very classified information. There are two groups in DOE:
the people who do research on civilian energy projects and the people
who make atomic bombs. So DOE takes security seriously, as in `threat
to national security' seriously. Although HEPNET wasn't meant to be
carrying any classified information across its wires, DOE responded
with military efficiency when its computer managers discovered the
invader. They grabbed the one guy who knew a lot about computer
security on VMS systems and put him on the case: Kevin Oberman.

Like McMahon, Oberman wasn't formally part of the computer security
staff. He had simply become interested in computer security and was
known in-house as someone who knew about VMS systems and security.
Officially, his job was network manager for the engineering department
at the DOE-financed Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, or LLNL,
near San Francisco.

LLNL conducted mostly military research, much of it for the Strategic
Defense Initiative. Many LLNL scientists spent their days designing
nuclear arms and developing beam weapons for the Star Wars program.9
DOE already had a computer security group, known as CIAC, the Computer
Incident Advisory Capability. But the CIAC team tended to be experts
in security issues surrounding Unix rather than VMS-based computer
systems and networks. `Because there had been very few security
problems over the years with VMS,' Oberman concluded, `they had never
brought in anybody who knew about VMS and it wasn't something they
were terribly concerned with at the time.'

The worm shattered that peaceful confidence in VMS computers. Even as
the WANK worm coursed through NASA, it was launching an aggressive
attack on DOE's Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, near Chicago. It
had broken into a number of computer systems there and the Fermilab
people were not happy. They called in CIAC, who contacted Oberman with
an early morning phone call on 16 October. They wanted him to analyse
the WANK worm. They wanted to know how dangerous it was. Most of all,
they wanted to know what to do about it.

The DOE people traced their first contact with the worm back to 14
October. Further, they hypothesised, the worm had actually been
launched the day before, on Friday the 13th. Such an inauspicious day
would, in Oberman's opinion, have been in keeping with the type of
humour exhibited by the creator or creators of the worm.

Oberman began his own analysis of the worm, oblivious to the fact that
3200 kilometres away, on the other side of the continent, his colleague
and acquaintance John McMahon was doing exactly the same thing.

Every time McMahon answered a phone call from an irate NASA system or
network manager, he tried to get a copy of the worm from the infected
machine. He also asked for the logs from their computer systems. Which
computer had the worm come from? Which systems was it attacking from
the infected site? In theory, the logs would allow the NASA team to
map the worm's trail. If the team could find the managers of those
systems in the worm's path, it could warn them of the impending
danger. It could also alert the people who ran recently infected
systems which had become launchpads for new worm attacks.

This wasn't always possible. If the worm had taken over a computer and
was still running on it, then the manager would only be able to trace
the worm backward, not forward. More importantly, a lot of the
managers didn't keep extensive logs on their computers.

McMahon had always felt it was important to gather lots of information
about who was connecting to a computer. In his previous job, he had
modified his machines so they collected as much security information
as possible about their connections to other computers.

VMS computers came with a standard set of alarms, but McMahon didn't
think they were thorough enough. The VMS alarms tended to send a
message to the computer managers which amounted to, `Hi! You just got
a network connection from here'. The modified alarm system said, `Hi!
You just got a network connection from here. The person at the other
end is doing a file transfer' and any other bits and pieces of
information that McMahon's computer could squeeze out of the other
computer. Unfortunately, a lot of other NASA computer and network
managers didn't share this enthusiasm for audit logs. Many did not
keep extensive records of who had been accessing their machines and
when, which made the job of chasing the worm much tougher.

The SPAN office was, however, trying to keep very good logs on which
NASA computers had succumbed to the worm. Every time a NASA manager
called to report a worm disturbance, one of the team members wrote
down the details with paper and pen. The list, outlining the addresses
of the affected computers and detailed notations of the degree of
infection, would also be recorded on a computer. But handwritten lists
were a good safeguard. The worm couldn't delete sheets of paper.

When McMahon learned DOE was also under attack, he began checking in
with them every three hours or so. The two groups swapped lists of
infected computers by telephone because voice, like the handwritten
word, was a worm-free medium. `It was a kind of archaic system, but on
the other hand we didn't have to depend on the network being up,'
McMahon said. `We needed to have some chain of communications which
was not the same as the network being attacked.'

A number of the NASA SPAN team members had developed contacts within
different parts of DEC through the company's users' society, DECUS.
These contacts were to prove very helpful. It was easy to get lost in
the bureaucracy of DEC, which employed more than 125000 people, posted
a billion-dollar profit and declared revenues in excess of $12 billion
in 1989.10 Such an enormous and prestigious company would not want
to face a crisis such as the WANK worm, particularly in such a
publicly visible organisation like NASA. Whether or not the worm's
successful expedition could be blamed on DEC's software was a moot
point. Such a crisis was, well, undesirable. It just didn't look good.
And it mightn't look so good either if DEC just jumped into the fray.
It might look like the company was in some way at fault.

Things were different, however, if someone already had a relationship
with a technical expert inside the company. It wasn't like NASA
manager cold-calling a DEC guy who sold a million dollars worth of
machines to someone else in the agency six months ago. It was the NASA
guy calling the DEC guy he sat next to at the conference last month.
It was a colleague the NASA manager chatted with now and again.

John McMahon's analysis suggested there were three versions of the WANK
worm. These versions, isolated from worm samples collected from the
network, were very similar, but each contained a few subtle
differences. In McMahon's view, these differences could not be explained
by the way the worm recreated itself at each site in order to
spread. But why would the creator of the worm release different
versions? Why not just write one version properly and fire it off? The
worm wasn't just one incoming missile; it was a frenzied attack. It was
coming from all directions, at all sorts of different levels within
NASA's computers.

McMahon guessed that the worm's designer had released the different
versions at slightly different times. Maybe the creator released the
worm, and then discovered a bug. He fiddled with the worm a bit to
correct the problem and then released it again. Maybe he didn't like
the way he had fixed the bug the first time, so he changed it a little
more and released it a third time.

In northern California, Kevin Oberman came to a different conclusion.
He believed there was in fact only one real version of the worm
spiralling through HEPNET and SPAN. The small variations in the
different copies he dissected seemed to stem from the worm's ability
to learn and change as it moved from computer to computer.

McMahon and Oberman weren't the only detectives trying to decipher the
various manifestations of the worm. DEC was also examining the worm,
and with good reason. The WANK worm had invaded the corporation's own
network. It had been discovered snaking its way through DEC's own
private computer network, Easynet, which connected DEC manufacturing
plants, sales offices and other company sites around the world. DEC
was circumspect about discussing the matter publicly, but the Easynet
version of the WANK worm was definitely distinct. It had a strange
line of code in it, a line missing from any other versions. The worm
was under instructions to invade as many sites as it could, with one
exception. Under no circumstances was it to attack computers inside
DEC's area 48. The NASA team mulled over this information. One of them
looked up area 48. It was New Zealand.

New Zealand?

The NASA team were left scratching their heads. This attack was
getting stranger by the minute. Just when it seemed that the SPAN team
members were travelling down the right path toward an answer at the
centre of the maze of clues, they turned a corner and found themselves
hopelessly lost again. Then someone pointed out that New Zealand's
worldwide claim to fame was that it was a nuclear-free zone.

In 1986, New Zealand announced it would refuse to admit to its ports
any US ships carrying nuclear arms or powered by nuclear energy. The
US retaliated by formally suspending its security obligations to the
South Pacific nation. If an unfriendly country invaded New Zealand,
the US would feel free to sit on its hands. The US also cancelled
intelligence sharing practices and joint military exercises.

Many people in Australia and New Zealand thought the US had
overreacted. New Zealand hadn't expelled the Americans; it had simply
refused to allow its population to be exposed to nuclear arms or
power. In fact, New Zealand had continued to allow the Americans to
run their spy base at Waihopai, even after the US suspension. The
country wasn't anti-US, just anti-nuclear.

And New Zealand had very good reason to be anti-nuclear. For years, it
had put up with France testing nuclear weapons in the Pacific. Then in
July 1985 the French blew up the Greenpeace anti-nuclear protest ship
as it sat in Auckland harbour. The Rainbow Warrior was due to sail for
Mururoa Atoll, the test site, when French secret agents bombed the
ship, killing Greenpeace activist Fernando Pereira.

For weeks, France denied everything. When the truth came out--that
President Mitterand himself had known about the bombing plan--the
French were red-faced. Heads rolled. French Defence Minister Charles
Hernu was forced to resign. Admiral Pierre Lacoste, director of
France's intelligence and covert action bureau, was sacked. France
apologised and paid $NZ13 million compensation in exchange for New
Zealand handing back the two saboteurs, who had each been sentenced to
ten years' prison in Auckland.

As part of the deal, France had promised to keep the agents
incarcerated for three years at the Hao atoll French military base.
Both agents walked free by May 1988 after serving less than two years.
After her return to France, one of the agents, Captain Dominique
Prieur, was promoted to the rank of commandant.

Finally, McMahon thought. Something that made sense. The exclusion of
New Zealand appeared to underline the meaning of the worm's political

When the WANK worm invaded a computer system, it had instructions to
copy itself and send that copy out to other machines. It would slip
through the network and when it came upon a computer attached to the
network, it would poke around looking for a way in. What it really
wanted was to score a computer account with privileges, but it would
settle for a basic-level, user-level account.

VMS systems have accounts with varying levels of privilege. A
high-privilege account holder might, for example, be able to read the
electronic mail of another computer user or delete files from that
user's directory. He or she might also be allowed to create new
computer accounts on the system, or reactivate disabled accounts. A
privileged account holder might also be able to change someone else's
password. The people who ran computer systems or networks needed
accounts with the highest level of privilege in order to keep the
system running smoothly. The worm specifically sought out these sorts
of accounts because its creator knew that was where the power lay.

The worm was smart, and it learned as it went along. As it traversed
the network, it created a masterlist of commonly used account names.
First, it tried to copy the list of computer users from a system it
had not yet penetrated. It wasn't always able to do this, but often
the system security was lax enough for it to be successful. The worm
then compared that list to the list of users on its current host. When
it found a match--an account name common to both lists--the worm added
that name to the masterlist it carried around inside it, making a note
to try that account when breaking into a new system in future.

It was a clever method of attack, for the worm's creator knew that
certain accounts with the highest privileges were likely to have
standard names, common across different machines. Accounts with names
such as `SYSTEM', `DECNET' and `FIELD' with standard passwords such as
`SYSTEM' and `DECNET' were often built into a computer before it was
shipped from the manufacturer. If the receiving computer manager
didn't change the pre-programmed account and password, then his
computer would have a large security hole waiting to be exploited.

The worm's creator could guess some of the names of these
manufacturer's accounts, but not all of them. By endowing the worm
with an ability to learn, he gave it far more power. As the worm
spread, it became more and more intelligent. As it reproduced, its
offspring evolved into ever more advanced creatures, increasingly
successful at breaking into new systems.

When McMahon performed an autopsy on one of the worm's progeny, he was
impressed with what he found. Slicing the worm open and inspecting its
entrails, he discovered an extensive collection of generic privileged
accounts across the SPAN network. In fact, the worm wasn't only picking
up the standard VMS privileged accounts; it had learned accounts common
to NASA but not necessarily to other VMS computers. For example, a lot
of NASA sites which ran a type of TCP/IP mailer that needed either a
POSTMASTER or a MAILER account. John saw those names turn up inside the
worm's progeny.

Even if it only managed to break into an unprivileged account, the
worm would use the account as an incubator. The worm replicated and
then attacked other computers in the network. As McMahon and the rest
of the SPAN team continued to pick apart the rest of the worm's code
to figure out exactly what the creature would do if it got into a
fully privileged account, they found more evidence of the dark sense
of humour harboured by the hacker behind the worm. Part of the worm, a
subroutine, was named `find fucked'.

The SPAN team tried to give NASA managers calling in as much
information as they could about the worm. It was the best way to help
computer managers, isolated in their offices around the country, to
regain a sense of control over the crisis.

Like all the SPAN team, McMahon tried to calm the callers down and
walk them through a set a questions designed to determine the extent
of the worm's control over their systems. First, he asked them what
symptoms their systems were showing. In a crisis situation, when
you're holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail. McMahon wanted
to make sure that the problems on the system were in fact caused by
the worm and not something else entirely.

If the only problem seemed to be mysterious comments flashing across
the screen, McMahon concluded that the worm was probably harassing the
staff on that computer from a neighbouring system which it had
successfully invaded. The messages suggested that the recipients'
accounts had not been hijacked by the worm. Yet.

VAX/VMS machines have a feature called Phone, which is useful for
on-line communications. For example, a NASA scientist could `ring up'
one of his colleagues on a different computer and have a friendly chat
on-line. The chat session is live, but it is conducted by typing on
the computer screen, not `voice'. The VMS Phone facility enabled the
worm to send messages to users. It would simply call them using the
phone protocol. But instead of starting a chat session, it sent them
statements from what was later determined to be the aptly named
Fortune Cookie file--a collection of 60 or so pre-programmed comments.

In some cases, where the worm was really bugging staff, McMahon told
the manager at the other end of the phone to turn the computer's Phone
feature off. A few managers complained and McMahon gave them the
obvious ultimatum: choose Phone or peace. Most chose peace.

When McMahon finished his preliminary analysis, he had good news and
bad news. The good news was that, contrary to what the worm was
telling computer users all over NASA, it was not actually deleting
their files. It was just pretending to delete their data. One big
practical joke. To the creator of the worm anyway. To the NASA
scientists, just a headache and heartache. And occasionally a heart

The bad news was that, when the worm got control over a privileged
account, it would help someone--presumably its creator--perpetrate an
even more serious break-in at NASA. The worm sought out the FIELD
account created by the manufacturer and, if it had been turned off,
tried to reactivate the account and install the password FIELD. The
worm was also programmed to change the password for the standard
account named DECNET to a random string of at least twelve characters.
In short, the worm tried to pry open a backdoor to the system.

The worm sent information about accounts it had successfully broken
into back to a type of electronic mailbox--an account called GEMPAK on
SPAN node 6.59. Presumably, the hacker who created the worm would
check the worm's mailbox for information which he could use to break
into the NASA account at a later date. Not surprisingly, the mailboxes
had been surreptitiously `borrowed' by the hacker, much to the
surprise of the legitimate owners.

A computer hacker created a whole new set of problems. Although the
worm was able to break into new accounts with greater speed and reach
than a single hacker, it was more predictable. Once the SPAN and DOE
teams picked the worm apart, they would know exactly what it could be
expected to do. However, a hacker was utterly unpredictable.

McMahon realised that killing off the worm was not going to solve the
problem. All the system managers across the NASA and DOE networks
would have to change all the passwords of the accounts used by the
worm. They would also have to check every system the worm had invaded
to see if it had built a backdoor for the hacker. The system admin had
to shut and lock all the backdoors, no small feat.

What really scared the SPAN team about the worm, however, was that it
was rampaging through NASA simply by using the simplest of attack
strategies: username equals password. It was getting complete control
over NASA computers simply by trying a password which was identical to
the name of the computer user's account.

The SPAN team didn't want to believe it, but the evidence was

Todd Butler answered a call from one NASA site. It was a gloomy call.
He hung up.

`That node just got hit,' he told the team.

`How bad?' McMahon asked.

`A privileged account.'

`Oh boy.' McMahon jumped onto one of the terminals and did a SET HOST,
logging into the remote NASA site's machine. Bang. Up it came. `Your
system has officially been WANKED.'

McMahon turned to Butler. `What account did it get into?'

`They think it was SYSTEM.'

The tension quietly rolled into black humour. The team couldn't help
it. The head-slapping stupidity of the situation could only be viewed
as black comedy.

The NASA site had a password of SYSTEM for their fully privileged
SYSTEM account. It was so unforgivable. NASA, potentially the greatest
single collection of technical minds on Earth, had such lax computer
security that a computer-literate teenager could have cracked it wide
open. The tall poppy was being cut down to size by a computer program
resembling a bowl of spaghetti.

The first thing any computer system manager learns in Computer
Security 101 is never to use the same password as the username. It was
bad enough that naive users might fall into this trap ... but a
computer system manager with a fully privileged account.

Was the hacker behind the worm malevolent? Probably not. If its
creator had wanted to, he could have programmed the WANK worm to
obliterate NASA's files. It could have razed everything in sight.

In fact, the worm was less infectious than its author appeared to
desire. The WANK worm had been instructed to perform
several tasks which it didn't execute. Important parts of the worm
simply didn't work. McMahon believed this failure to be accidental.
For example, his analysis showed the worm was programmed to break into
accounts by trying no password, if the account holder had left the
password blank. When he disassembled the worm, however, he found that
part of the program didn't work properly.

Nonetheless, the fragmented and partly dysfunctional WANK worm was
causing a major crisis inside several US government agencies. The
thing which really worried John was thinking about what a seasoned DCL
programmer with years of VMS experience could do with such a worm.
Someone like that could do a lot of malicious damage. And what if the
WANK worm was just a dry run for something more serious down the
track? It was scary to contemplate.

Even though the WANK worm did not seem to be intentionally evil, the
SPAN team faced some tough times. McMahon's analysis turned up yet
more alarming aspects to the worm. If it managed to break into the
SYSTEM account, a privileged account, it would block all electronic
mail deliveries to the system administrator. The SPAN office would not
be able to send electronic warnings or advice on how to deal with the
worm to systems which had already been seized. This problem was
exacerbated by the lack of good information available to the project
office on which systems were connected to SPAN. The only way to help
people fighting this bushfire was to telephone them, but in many
instances the main SPAN office didn't know who to call. The SPAN team
could only hope that those administrators who had the phone number of
SPAN headquarters pinned up near their computers would call when their
computers came under attack.

McMahon's preliminary report outlined how much damage the worm could
do in its own right. But it was impossible to measure how much damage
human managers would do to their own systems because of the worm.

One frantic computer manager who phoned the SPAN office refused to
believe John's analysis that the worm only pretended to erase data. He
claimed that the worm had not only attacked his system, it had
destroyed it. `He just didn't believe us when we told him that the
worm was mostly a set of practical jokes,' McMahon said. `He
reinitialised his system.' `Reinitialised' as in started up his system
with a clean slate. As in deleted everything on the infected
computer--all the NASA staff's data gone. He actually did what the
worm only pretended to do.

The sad irony was that the SPAN team never even got a copy of the data
from the manager's system. They were never able to confirm that his
machine had even been infected.

All afternoon McMahon moved back and forth between answering the
ever-ringing SPAN phone and writing up NASA's analysis of the worm. He
had posted a cryptic electronic message about the attack across the
network, and Kevin Oberman had read it. The message had to be
circumspect since no-one knew if the creator of the WANK worm was in
fact on the network, watching, waiting. A short time later, McMahon
and Oberman were on the phone together--voice--sharing their ideas and
cross-checking their analysis.

The situation was discouraging. Even if McMahon and Oberman managed to
develop a successful program to kill off the worm, the NASA SPAN team
faced another daunting task. Getting the worm-killer out to all the
NASA sites was going to be much harder than expected because there was
no clear, updated map of the SPAN network. Much of NASA didn't like
the idea of a centralised map of the SPAN system. McMahon recalled
that, some time before the WANK worm attack, a manager had tried to
map the system. His efforts had accidentally tripped so many system
alarms that he was quietly taken aside and told not to do it again.

The result was that in instances where the team had phone contact
details for managers, the information was often outdated.

`No, he used to work here, but he left over a year ago.'

`No, we don't have a telephone tree of people to ring if
something goes wrong with our computers. There are a whole
bunch of people in different places here who handle the

This is what John often heard at the other end of the phone.

The network had grown into a rambling hodgepodge for which there was
little central coordination. Worse, a number of computers at different
NASA centres across the US had just been tacked onto SPAN without
telling the main office at Goddard. People were calling up the ad-hoc
crisis centre from computer nodes on the network which didn't even
have names. These people had been practising a philosophy known in
computer security circles as `security through obscurity'. They
figured that if no-one knew their computer system existed--if it
didn't have a name, if it wasn't on any list or map of the SPAN
network--then it would be protected from hackers and other computer

McMahon handled a number of phone calls from system managers saying,
`There is something strange happening in my system here'. John's most
basic question was, `Where is "here"?' And of course if the SPAN
office didn't know those computer systems existed, it was a lot harder
to warn their managers about the worm. Or tell them how to protect
themselves. Or give them a worm-killing program once it was developed.
Or help them seal up breached accounts which the worm was feeding back
to its creator.

It was such a mess. At times, McMahon sat back and considered who
might have created this worm. The thing almost looked as though it had
been released before it was finished. Its author or authors seemed to
have a good collection of interesting ideas about how to solve
problems, but they were never properly completed. The worm included a
routine for modifying its attack strategy, but the thing was never
fully developed. The worm's code didn't have enough error handling in
it to ensure the creature's survival for long periods of time. And the
worm didn't send the addresses of the accounts it had successfully
breached back to the mailbox along with the password and account name.
That was really weird. What use was a password and account name
without knowing what computer system to use it on?

On the other hand, maybe the creator had done this deliberately. Maybe
he had wanted to show the world just how many computers the worm could
successfully penetrate. The worm's mail-back program would do this.
However, including the address of each infected site would have made
the admins' jobs easier. They could simply have used the GEMPAK
collection as a hitlist of infected sites which needed to be
de-wormed. The possible theories were endless.

There were some points of brilliance in the worm, some things that
McMahon had never considered, which was impressive since he knew a lot
about how to break into VMS computers. There was also considerable
creativity, but there wasn't any consistency. After the worm incident,
various computer security experts would hypothesise that the WANK worm
had in fact been written by more than one person. But McMahon
maintained his view that it was the work of a single hacker.

It was as if the creator of the worm started to pursue an idea and
then got sidetracked or interrupted. Suddenly he just stopped writing
code to implement that idea and started down another path, never again
to reach the end. The thing had a schizophrenic structure. It was all
over the place.

McMahon wondered if the author had done this on purpose, to make it
harder to figure out exactly what the worm was capable of doing.
Perhaps, he thought, the code had once been nice and linear and it all
made sense. Then the author chopped it to pieces, moved the middle to
the top, the top to the bottom, scrambled up the chunks and strung
them all together with a bunch of `GO TO' commands. Maybe the hacker
who wrote the worm was in fact a very elegant DCL programmer who
wanted the worm to be chaotic in order to protect it. Security through

Oberman maintained a different view. He believed the programming style
varied so much in different parts that it had to be the product of a
number of people. He knew that when computer programmers write code
they don't make lots of odd little changes in style for no particular

Kevin Oberman and John McMahon bounced ideas off one another. Both had
developed their own analyses. Oberman also brought Mark Kaletka, who
managed internal networking at Fermilab, one of HEPNET's largest
sites, into the cross-checking process. The worm had a number of
serious vulnerabilities, but the problem was finding one, and quickly,
which could be used to wipe it out with minimum impact on the besieged

Whenever a VMS machine starts up an activity, the computer gives it a
unique process name. When the worm burrowed into a computer site, one
of the first things it did was check that another copy of itself was
not already running on that computer. It did this by checking for its
own process names. The worm's processes were all called NETW_ followed
by a random, four-digit number. If the incoming worm found this
process name, it assumed another copy of itself was already running on
the computer, so it destroyed itself.

The answer seemed to be a decoy duck. Write a program which pretended
to be the worm and install it across all of NASA's vulnerable
computers. The first anti-WANK program did just that. It quietly sat
on the SPAN computers all day long, posing as a NETW_ process, faking
out any real version of the WANK worm which should come along.

Oberman completed an anti-WANK program first and ran it by McMahon. It
worked well, but McMahon noticed one large flaw. Oberman's program
checked for the NETW_ process name, but it assumed that the worm was
running under the SYSTEM group. In most cases, this was true, but it
didn't have to be. If the worm was running in another group, Oberman's
program would be useless. When McMahon pointed out the flaw, Oberman
thought, God, how did I miss that?

McMahon worked up his own version of an anti-WANK
program, based on Oberman's program, in preparation for releasing it
to NASA.

At the same time, Oberman revised his anti-WANK program for DOE. By
Monday night US Eastern Standard Time, Oberman was able to send out an
early copy of a vaccine designed to protect computers which hadn't
been infected yet, along with an electronic warning about the worm.
His first electronic warning, distributed by CIAC, said in part:



The W.COM Worm affecting VAX VMS Systems

October 16, 1989 18:37 PSTNumber A-2

This is a mean bug to kill and could have done a lot of damage.

Since it notifies (by mail) someone of each successful penetration and
leaves a trapdoor (the FIELD account), just killing the bug is not
adequate. You must go in and make sure all accounts have passwords and
that the passwords are not the same as the account name.

R. Kevin Oberman

Advisory Notice

A worm is attacking NASA's SPAN network via VAX/VMS systems connected
to DECnet. It is unclear if the spread of the worm has been checked.
It may spread to other systems such as DOE's HEPNET within a few days.
VMS system managers should prepare now.

The worm targets VMS machines, and can only be propagated via DECnet.
The worm exploits two features of DECnet/VMS in order to propagate
itself. The first is the default DECnet account, which is a facility
for users who don't have a specific login ID for a machine to have
some degree of anonymous access. It uses the default DECnet account to
copy itself to a machine, and then uses the `TASK 0' feature of DECnet
to invoke the remote copy. It has several other features including a
brute force attack.

Once the worm has successfully penetrated your system it will infect
.COM files and create new security vulnerabilities. It then seems to
broadcast these vulnerabilities to the outside world. It may also
damage files as well, either unintentionally or otherwise.

An analysis of the worm appears below and is provided by R. Kevin
Oberman of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Included with the
analysis is a DCL program that will block the current version of the
worm. At least two versions of this worm exist and more may be
created. This program should give you enough time to close up obvious
security holes. A more thorough DCL program is being written.

If your site could be affected please call CIAC for more details...

Report on the W.COM worm.

R. Kevin Oberman

Engineering Department

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

October 16, 1989

The following describes the action of the W.COM worm (currently based
on the examination of the first two incarnations). The replication
technique causes the code to be modified slightly which indicates the
source of the attack and learned information.

All analysis was done with more haste than I care for, but I believe I
have all of the basic facts correct. First a description of the

1. The program assures that it is working in a directory to which the
owner (itself) has full access (Read, Write, Execute, and Delete).

2. The program checks to see if another copy is still running. It
looks for a process with the first 5 characters of `NETW_'. If such is
found, it deletes itself (the file) and stops its process.


A quick check for infection is to look for a process name starting
with `NETW_'. This may be done with a SHOW PROCESS command.

3. The program then changes the default DECNET account password to a
random string of at least 12 characters.

4. Information on the password used to access the system is mailed to
the user GEMTOP on SPAN node 6.59. Some versions may have a different

5. The process changes its name to `NETW_' followed by a random

6. It then checks to see if it has SYSNAM priv. If so, it defines the
system announcement message to be the banner in the program:

        Worms Against Nuclear Killers!

Your System Has Been Officically Wanked.

 You talk of times of peace for all, and then prepare for war.

7. If it has SYSPRV, it disables mail to the SYSTEM account.

8. If it has SYSPRV, it modifies the system login command procedure to
APPEAR to delete all of a user's file. (It really does nothing.)

9. The program then scans the account's logical name table for command
procedures and tries to modify the FIELD account to a known password
with login from any source and all privs. This is a primitive virus,
but very effective IF it should get into a privileged account.

10. It proceeds to attempt to access other systems by picking node
numbers at random. It then uses PHONE to get a list of active users on
the remote system. It proceeds to irritate them by using PHONE to ring

11. The program then tries to access the RIGHTSLIST file and attempts
to access some remote system using the users found and a list of
`standard' users included within the worm. It looks for passwords
which are the same as that of the account or are blank. It records all
such accounts.

12. It looks for an account that has access to SYSUAF.DAT.

13. If a priv. account is found, the program is copied to that account
and started. If no priv. account was found, it is copied to other
accounts found on the random system.

14. As soon as it finishes with a system, it picks another random
system and repeats (forever).


1. The following program will block the worm. Extract the following
code and execute it. It will use minimal resources. It creates a
process named NETW_BLOCK which will prevent the worm from running.

Editors note: This fix will work only with this version of the worm.

Mutated worms will require modification of this code; however, this
program should prevent the worm from running long enough to secure
your system from the worms attacks.13


McMahon's version of an anti-WANK program was also ready to go by late
Monday, but he would face delays getting it out to NASA. Working inside
NASA was a balancing act, a delicate ballet demanding exquisite
choreography between getting the job done, following official procedures
and avoiding steps which might tread on senior bureaucrats' toes. It was
several days before NASA's anti-WANK program was officially released.

DOE was not without its share of problems in launching the anti-WANK
program and advisory across HEPNET. At 5.04 p.m. Pacific Coast Time on
17 October, as Oberman put the final touches on the last paragraph of
his final report on the worm, the floor beneath his feet began to
shake. The building was trembling. Kevin Oberman was in the middle of
the 1989 San Francisco earthquake.

Measuring 7.1 on the Richter scale, the Loma Prieta earthquake ripped
through the greater San Francisco area with savage speed. Inside the
computer lab, Oberman braced himself for the worst. Once the shaking
stopped and he ascertained the computer centre was still standing, he
sat back down at his terminal. With the PA blaring warnings for all
non-essential personnel to leave the building immediately, Oberman
rushed off the last sentence of the report. He paused and then added a
postscript saying that if the paragraph didn't make sense, it was
because he was a little rattled by the large earthquake which had just
hit Lawrence Livermore Labs. He pressed the key, sent out his final
anti-WANK report and fled the building.

Back on the east coast, the SPAN office continued to help people
calling from NASA sites which had been hit. The list of sites which
had reported worm-related problems grew steadily during the week.
Official estimates on the scope of the WANK worm attack were vague,
but trade journals such as Network World and Computerworld quoted the
space agency as suffering only a small number of successful worm
invasions, perhaps 60 VMS-based computers. SPAN security manager Ron
Tencati estimated only 20 successful worm penetrations in the NASA
part of SPAN's network, but another internal estimate put the figure
much higher: 250 to 300 machines. Each of those computers might have
had 100 or more users. Figures were sketchy, but virtually everyone on
the network--all 270000 computer accounts--had been affected by the
worm, either because their part of the network had been pulled
off-line or because their machines had been harassed by the WANK worm
as it tried again and again to login from an infected machine. By the
end of the worm attack, the SPAN office had accumulated a list of
affected sites which ran over two columns on several computer screens.
Each of them had lodged some form of complaint about the worm.

Also by the end of the crisis, NASA and DOE computer network managers
had their choice of vaccines, antidotes and blood tests for the WANK
worm. McMahon had released ANTIWANK.COM, a program which killed the
worm and vaccinated a system against further attacks, and
WORM-INFO.TEXT, which provided a list of worm-infestation symptoms.
Oberman's program, called [.SECURITY]CHECK_SYSTEM.COM, checked for all
the security flaws used by the worm to sneak into a computer system.
DEC also had a patch to cover the security hole in the DECNET account.

Whatever the real number of infected machines, the worm had certainly
circumnavigated the globe. It had reach into European sites, such as
CERN--formerly known as the European Centre for Nuclear Research--in
Switzerland, through to Goddard's computers in Maryland, on to
Fermilab in Chicago and propelled itself across the Pacific into the
Riken Accelerator Facility in Japan.14

NASA officials told the media they believed the worm had been launched
about 4.30 a.m. on Monday, 16 October.15 They also believed it had
originated in Europe, possibly in France.

Wednesday, 18 October 1989
Kennedy Space Center, Florida

The five-member Atlantis had some bad news on Wednesday morning. The
weather forecasters gave the launch site a 40 per cent chance of
launch guideline-violating rain and cloud. And then there was the
earthquake in California.

The Kennedy Space Center wasn't the only place which had to be in
tip-top working order for a launch to go ahead. The launch depended on
many sites far away from Florida. These included Edwards Air Force
Base in California, where the shuttle was due to land on Monday. They
also included other sites, often military bases, which were essential
for shuttle tracking and other mission support. One of these sites was
a tracking station at Onizuka Air Force Base at Sunnyvale, California.
The earthquake which ripped through the Bay area had damaged the
tracking station and senior NASA decision-makers planned to meet on
Wednesday morning to consider the Sunnyvale situation. Still, the
space agency maintained a calm, cool exterior. Regardless of the
technical problems, the court challenges and the protesters, the
whimsical weather, the natural disasters, and the WANK worm, NASA was
still in control of the situation.

`There's been some damage, but we don't know how much. The sense I get
is it's fairly positive,' a NASA spokesman told UPI. `But there are
some problems.'16 In Washington, Pentagon spokesman Rick Oborn
reassured the public again, `They are going to be able to handle
shuttle tracking and support for the mission ... They will be able to
do their job'.17

Atlantis waited, ready to go, at launchpad 39B. The technicians had
filled the shuttle up with rocket fuel and it looked as if the weather
might hold. It was partly cloudy, but conditions at Kennedy passed

The astronauts boarded the shuttle. Everything was in place.

But while the weather was acceptable in Florida, it was causing some
problems in Africa, the site of an emergency landing location. If it
wasn't one thing, it was another. NASA ordered a four-minute delay.

Finally at 12.54 p.m., Atlantis boomed from its launchpad. Rising up
from the Kennedy Center, streaking a trail of twin flames from its
huge solid-fuel boosters, the shuttle reached above the atmosphere and
into space.

At 7.15 p.m., exactly 6 hours and 21 minutes after lift-off, Galileo
began its solo journey into space. And at 8.15 p.m., Galileo's booster

Inside shuttle mission control, NASA spokesman Brian Welch announced,
`The spacecraft Galileo ... has achieved Earth escape velocity'.18

Monday, 30 October 1989
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland

The week starting 16 October had been a long one for the SPAN team.
They were keeping twelve-hour days and dealing with hysterical people
all day long. Still, they managed to get copies of anti-WANK out,
despite the limitations of the dated SPAN records and the paucity of
good logs allowing them to retrace the worm's path. `What we learned
that week was just how much data is not collected,' McMahon observed.

By Friday, 20 October, there were no new reports of worm attacks. It
looked as though the crisis had passed. Things could be tidied up by
the rest of the SPAN team and McMahon returned to his own work.

A week passed. All the while, though, McMahon was on edge. He doubted
that someone who had gone to all that trouble of creating the WANK
worm would let his baby be exterminated so quickly. The decoy-duck
strategy only worked as long as the worm kept the same process name,
and as long as it was programmed not to activate itself on systems
which were already infected. Change the process name, or teach the
worm to not to suicide, and the SPAN team would face another, larger
problem. John McMahon had an instinct about the worm; it might just
be back.

His instinct was right.

The following Monday, McMahon received another phone call from the
SPAN project office. When he poked his head in his boss's office,
Jerome Bennett looked up from his desk.

`The thing is back,' McMahon told him. There was no need to explain
what `the thing' was. `I'm going over to the SPAN office.'

Ron Tencati and Todd Butler had a copy of the new WANK worm ready for
McMahon. This version of the worm was far more virulent. It copied
itself more effectively and therefore moved through the network much
faster. The revised worm's penetration rate was much higher--more than
four times greater than the version of WANK released in the first
attack. The phone was ringing off the hook again. John took a call
from one irate manager who launched into a tirade. `I ran your
anti-WANK program, followed your instructions to the letter, and look
what happened!'

The worm had changed its process name. It was also designed to hunt down
and kill the decoy-duck program. In fact, the SPAN network was going to
turn into a rather bloody battlefield. This worm didn't just kill the
decoy, it also killed any other copy of the WANK worm. Even if McMahon
changed the process name used by his program, the decoy-duck strategy
was not going to work any longer.

There were other disturbing improvements to the new version of the
WANK worm. Preliminary information suggested it changed the password
on any account it got into. This was a problem. But not nearly as big
a problem as if the passwords it changed were for the only privileged
accounts on the system. The new worm was capable of locking a system
manager out of his or her own system.

Prevented from getting into his own account, the computer manager
might try borrowing the account of an average user, call him Edwin.
Unfortunately, Edwin's account probably only had low-level privileges.
Even in the hands of a skilful computer manager, the powers granted to
Edwin's account were likely too limited to eradicate the worm from its
newly elevated status as computer manager. The manager might spend his
whole morning matching wits with the worm from the disadvantaged
position of a normal user's account. At some point he would have to
make the tough decision of last resort: turn the entire computer
system off.

The manager would have to conduct a forced reboot of the machine. Take
it down, then bring it back up on minimum configuration. Break back
into it. Fix the password which the worm had changed. Logout. Reset
some variables. Reboot the machine again. Close up any underlying
security holes left behind by the worm. Change any passwords which
matched users' names. A cold start of a large VMS machine took time.
All the while, the astronomers, physicists and engineers who worked in
this NASA office wouldn't be able to work on their computers.

At least the SPAN team was better prepared for the worm this time.
They had braced themselves psychologically for a possible return
attack. Contact information for the network had been updated. And the
general DECNET internet community was aware of the worm and was
lending a hand wherever possible.

Help came from a system manager in France, a country which seemed to
be of special interest to the worm's author. The manager, Bernard
Perrot of Institut de Physique Nucleaire in Orsay, had obtained a copy
of the worm, inspected it and took special notice of the creature's
poor error checking ability. This was the worm's true Achilles' heel.

The worm was trained to go after the RIGHTSLIST database, the list of
all the people who have accounts on the computer. What if someone
moved the database by renaming it and put a dummy database in its
place? The worm would, in theory, go after the dummy, which could be
designed with a hidden bomb. When the worm sniffed out the dummy, and
latched onto it, the creature would explode and die. If it worked, the
SPAN team would not have to depend on the worm killing itself, as they
had during the first invasion. They would have the satisfaction of
destroying the thing themselves.

Ron Tencati procured a copy of the French manager's worm-killing
program and gave it to McMahon, who set up a sort of mini-laboratory
experiment. He cut the worm into pieces and extracted the relevant
bits. This allowed him to test the French worm-killing program with
little risk of the worm escaping and doing damage. The French program
worked wonderfully. Out it went. The second version of the worm was so
much more virulent, getting it out of SPAN was going to take
considerably longer than the first time around. Finally, almost two
weeks after the second onslaught, the WANK worm had been eradicated
from SPAN.

By McMahon's estimate, the WANK worm had incurred up to half a million
dollars in costs. Most of these were through people wasting time and
resources chasing the worm instead of doing their normal jobs. The
worm was, in his view, a crime of theft. `People's time and resources
had been wasted,' he said. `The theft was not the result of the
accident. This was someone who deliberately went out to make a mess.

`In general, I support prosecuting people who think breaking into
machines is fun. People like that don't seem to understand what kind
of side effects that kind of fooling around has. They think that
breaking into a machine and not touching anything doesn't do anything.
That is not true. You end up wasting people's time. People are dragged
into the office at strange hours. Reports have to be written. A lot of
yelling and screaming occurs. You have to deal with law enforcement.
These are all side effects of someone going for a joy ride in someone
else's system, even if they don't do any damage. Someone has to pay
the price.'

McMahon never found out who created the WANK worm. Nor did he ever
discover what he intended to prove by releasing it. The creator's
motives were never clear and, if it had been politically inspired,
no-one took credit.

The WANK worm left a number of unanswered questions in its wake, a
number of loose ends which still puzzle John McMahon. Was the hacker
behind the worm really protesting against NASA's launch of the
plutonium-powered Galileo space probe? Did the use of the word
`WANK'--a most un-American word--mean the hacker wasn't American? Why
had the creator recreated the worm and released it a second time? Why
had no-one, no political or other group, claimed responsibility for
the WANK worm?

One of the many details which remained an enigma was contained in the
version of the worm used in the second attack. The worm's creator had
replaced the original process name, NETW_, with a new one, presumably
to thwart the anti-WANK program. McMahon figured the original process
name stood for `netwank'--a reasonable guess at the hacker's intended
meaning. The new process name, however, left everyone on the SPAN team
scratching their heads: it didn't seem to stand for anything. The
letters formed an unlikely set of initials for someone's name. No-one
recognised it as an acronym for a saying or an organisation. And it
certainly wasn't a proper word in the English language. It was a
complete mystery why the creator of the WANK worm, the hacker who
launched an invasion into hundreds of NASA and DOE computers, should
choose this weird word.

The word was `OILZ'.

                        Chapter 2 -- The Corner Pub.

You talk of times of peace for all; and then prepare for war.

-- from `Blossom of Blood', Species Deceases.

It is not surprising the SPAN security team would miss the mark. It is
not surprising, for example, that these officials should to this day
be pronouncing the `Oilz' version of the WANK worm as `oil zee'. It is
also not surprising that they hypothesised the worm's creator chose
the word `Oilz' because the modifications made to the last version
made it slippery, perhaps even oily.

Likely as not, only an Australian would see the worm's link to the
lyrics of Midnight Oil.

This was the world's first worm with a political message, and the
second major worm in the history of the worldwide computer networks.
It was also the trigger for the creation of FIRST, the Forum of
Incident Response and Security Teams.2 FIRST was an international
security alliance allowing governments, universities and commercial
organisations to share information about computer network security
incidents. Yet, NASA and the US Department of Energy were half a world
away from finding the creator of the WANK worm. Even as investigators
sniffed around electronic trails leading to France, it appears the
perpetrator was hiding behind his computer and modem in Australia.

Geographically, Australia is a long way from anywhere. To Americans,
it conjures up images of fuzzy marsupials, not computer hackers.
American computer security officials, like those at NASA and the US
Department of Energy, had other barriers as well. They function in a
world of concretes, of appointments made and kept, of real names,
business cards and official titles. The computer underground, by
contrast, is a veiled world populated by characters slipping in and
out of the half-darkness. It is not a place where people use their
real names. It is not a place where people give out real personal

It is, in fact, not so much a place as a space. It is ephemeral,
intangible--a foggy labyrinth of unmapped, winding streets through
which one occasionally ascertains the contours of a fellow traveller.

When Ron Tencati, the manager in charge of NASA SPAN security, realised
that NASA's computers were being attacked by an intruder, he rang the
FBI. The US Federal Bureau of Investigation's Computer Crime Unit fired
off a stream of questions. How many computers had been attacked? Where
were they? Who was behind the attack? The FBI told Tencati, `keep us
informed of the situation'. Like the CIAC team in the Department of
Energy, it appears the FBI didn't have much knowledge of VMS, the
primary computer operating system used in SPAN.

But the FBI knew enough to realise the worm attack was potentially
very serious. The winding electronic trail pointed vaguely to a
foreign computer system and, before long, the US Secret Service was
involved. Then the French secret service, the Direction de la
Surveillance du Territoire, or DST, jumped into the fray.

DST and the FBI began working together on the case. A casual observer
with the benefit of hindsight might see different motivations driving
the two government agencies. The FBI wanted to catch the perpetrator.
The DST wanted to make it clear that the infamous WANK worm attack on
the world's most prestigious space agency did not originate in France.

In the best tradition of cloak-and-dagger government agencies, the FBI
and DST people established two communication channels--an official
channel and an unofficial one. The official channel involved
embassies, attachés, formal communiques and interminable delays in
getting answers to the simplest questions. The unofficial channel
involved a few phone calls and some fast answers.

Ron Tencati had a colleague named Chris on the SPAN network in France,
which was the largest user of SPAN in Europe. Chris was involved in
more than just science computer networks. He had certain contacts in
the French government and seemed to be involved in their computer
networks. So, when the FBI needed technical information for its
investigation--the kind of information likely to be sanitised by some
embassy bureaucrat--one of its agents rang up Ron Tencati. `Ron, ask
your friend this,' the FBI would say. And Ron would.

`Chris, the FBI wants to know this,' Tencati would tell his colleague
on SPAN France. Then Chris would get the necessary information. He
would call Tencati back, saying, `Ron, here is the answer. Now, the
DST wants to know that'. And off Ron would go in search of information
requested by the DST.

The investigation proceeded in this way, with each helping the other
through backdoor channels. But the Americans' investigation was headed
toward the inescapable conclusion that the attack on NASA had
originated from a French computer. The worm may have simply travelled
through the French computer from yet another system, but the French
machine appeared to be the sole point of infection for NASA.

The French did not like this outcome. Not one bit. There was no way
that the worm had come from France. Ce n'est pas vrai.

Word came back from the French that they were sure the worm had come
from the US. Why else would it have been programmed to mail details of
all computer accounts it penetrated around the world back to a US
machine, the computer known as GEMPAK? Because the author of the worm
was an American, of course! Therefore it is not our problem, the
French told the Americans. It is your problem.

Most computer security experts know it is standard practice among
hackers to create the most tangled trail possible between the hacker
and the hacked. It makes it very difficult for people like the FBI to
trace who did it. So it would be difficult to draw definite
conclusions about the nationality of the hacker from the location of a
hacker's information drop-off point--a location the hacker no doubt
figured would be investigated by the authorities almost immediately
after the worm's release.

Tencati had established the French connection from some computer logs
showing NASA under attack very early on Monday, 16 October. The logs
were important because they were relatively clear. As the worm had
procreated during that day, it had forced computers all over the
network to attack each other in ever greater numbers. By 11 a.m. it
was almost impossible to tell where any one attack began and the other

Some time after the first attack, DST sent word that certain agents
were going to be in Washington DC regarding other matters. They wanted
a meeting with the FBI. A representative from the NASA Inspector
General's Office would attend the meeting, as would someone from NASA
SPAN security.

Tencati was sure he could show the WANK worm attack on NASA originated
in France. But he also knew he had to document everything, to have
exact answers to every question and counter-argument put forward by
the French secret service agents at the FBI meeting. When he developed
a timeline of attacks, he found that the GEMPAK machine showed X.25
network connection, via another system, from a French computer around
the same time as the WANK worm attack. He followed the scent and
contacted the manager of that system. Would he help Tencati? Mais oui.
The machine is at your disposal, Monsieur Tencati.

Tencati had never used an X.25 network before; it had a unique set of
commands unlike any other type of computer communications network. He
wanted to retrace the steps of the worm, but he needed help. So he
called his friend Bob Lyons at DEC to walk him through the process.

What Tencati found startled him. There were traces of the worm on the
machine all right, the familiar pattern of login failures as the worm
attempted to break into different accounts. But these remnants of the
WANK worm were not dated 16 October or any time immediately around
then. The logs showed worm-related activity up to two weeks before the
attack on NASA. This computer was not just a pass-through machine the
worm had used to launch its first attack on NASA. This was the
development machine.

Ground zero.

Tencati went into the meeting with DST at the FBI offices prepared. He
knew the accusations the French were going to put forward. When he
presented the results of his sleuthwork, the French secret service
couldn't refute it, but they dropped their own bombshell. Yes they
told him, you might be able to point to a French system as ground zero
for the attack, but our investigations reveal incoming X.25
connections from elsewhere which coincided with the timing of the
development of the WANK worm.

The connections came from Australia.

The French had satisfied themselves that it wasn't a French hacker who
had created the WANK worm. Ce n'est pas notre problem. At least, it's
not our problem any more.

It is here that the trail begins to go cold. Law enforcement and
computer security people in the US and Australia had ideas about just
who had created the WANK worm. Fingers were pointed, accusations were
made, but none stuck. At the end of the day, there was coincidence and
innuendo, but not enough evidence to launch a case. Like many
Australian hackers, the creator of the WANK worm had emerged from the
shadows of the computer underground, stood momentarily in hazy
silhouette, and then disappeared again.

The Australian computer underground in the late 1980s was an
environment which spawned and shaped the author of the WANK worm.
Affordable home computers, such as the Apple IIe and the Commodore 64,
made their way into ordinary suburban families. While these computers
were not widespread, they were at least in a price range which made
them attainable by dedicated computer enthusiasts.

In 1988, the year before the WANK worm attack on NASA, Australia was
on an upswing. The country was celebrating its bicentennial. The
economy was booming. Trade barriers and old regulatory structures were
coming down. Crocodile Dundee had already burst on the world movie
scene and was making Australians the flavour of the month in cities
like LA and New York. The mood was optimistic. People had a sense they
were going places. Australia, a peaceful country of seventeen or so
million people, poised on the edge of Asia but with the order of a
Western European democracy, was on its way up. Perhaps for the first
time, Australians had lost their cultural cringe, a unique type of
insecurity alien to can-do cultures such as that found in the US.
Exploration and experimentation require confidence and, in 1988,
confidence was something Australia had finally attained.

Yet this new-found confidence and optimism did not subdue Australia's
tradition of cynicism toward large institutions. The two coexisted,
suspended in a strange paradox. Australian humour, deeply rooted in a
scepticism of all things serious and sacred, continued to poke fun at
upright institutions with a depth of irreverence surprising to many
foreigners. This cynicism of large, respected institutions coursed
through the newly formed Australian computer underground without
dampening its excitement or optimism for the brave new world of
computers in the least.

In 1988, the Australian computer underground thrived like a vibrant
Asian street bazaar. In that year it was still a realm of place not
space. Customers visited their regular stalls, haggled over goods with
vendors, bumped into friends and waved across crowded paths to
acquaintances. The market was as much a place to socialise as it was
to shop. People ducked into tiny coffee houses or corner bars for
intimate chats. The latest imported goods, laid out on tables like
reams of bright Chinese silks, served as conversation starters. And,
like every street market, many of the best items were tucked away,
hidden in anticipation of the appearance of that one customer or
friend most favoured by the trader. The currency of the underground
was not money; it was information. People didn't share and exchange
information to accumulate monetary wealth; they did it to win
respect--and to buy a thrill.

The members of the Australian computer underground met on bulletin
board systems, known as BBSes. Simple things by today's standards,
BBSes were often composed of a souped-up Apple II computer, a single
modem and a lone telephone line. But they drew people from all walks
of life. Teenagers from working-class neighbourhoods and those from
the exclusive private schools. University students. People in their
twenties groping their way through first jobs. Even some professional
people in their thirties and forties who spent weekends poring over
computer manuals and building primitive computers in spare rooms. Most
regular BBS users were male. Sometimes a user's sister would find her
way into the BBS world, often in search of a boyfriend. Mission
accomplished, she might disappear from the scene for weeks, perhaps
months, presumably until she required another visit.

The BBS users had a few things in common. They were generally of above
average intelligence--usually with a strong technical slant--and they
were obsessed with their chosen hobby. They had to be. It often took
45 minutes of attack dialling a busy BBS's lone phone line just to
visit the computer system for perhaps half an hour. Most serious BBS
hobbyists went through this routine several times each day.

As the name suggests, a BBS had what amounted to an electronic version
of a normal bulletin board. The owner of the BBS would have divided
the board into different areas, as a school teacher crisscrosses
coloured ribbon across the surface of a corkboard to divide it into
sections. A single BBS might have 30 or more electronic discussion

As a user to the board, you might visit the politics section, tacking
up a `note' on your views of ALP or Liberal policies for anyone
passing by to read. Alternatively, you might fancy yourself a bit of a
poet and work up the courage to post an original piece of work in the
Poet's Corner. The corner was often filled with dark, misanthropic
works inspired by the miseries of adolescence. Perhaps you preferred
to discuss music. On many BBSes you could find postings on virtually
any type of music. The most popular groups included bands like Pink
Floyd, Tangerine Dream and Midnight Oil. Midnight Oil's
anti-establishment message struck a particular chord within the new
BBS community.

Nineteen eighty-eight was the golden age of the BBS culture across
Australia. It was an age of innocence and community, an open-air
bazaar full of vitality and the sharing of ideas. For the most part,
people trusted their peers within the community and the BBS operators,
who were often revered as demigods. It was a happy place. And, in
general, it was a safe place, which is perhaps one reason why its
visitors felt secure in their explorations of new ideas. It was a
place in which the creator of the WANK worm could sculpt and hone his
creative computer skills.

The capital of this spirited new Australian electronic civilisation
was Melbourne. It is difficult to say why this southern city became
the cultural centre of the BBS world, and its darker side, the
Australian computer underground. Maybe the city's history as
Australia's intellectual centre created a breeding ground for the many
young people who built their systems with little more than curiosity
and salvaged computer bits discarded by others. Maybe Melbourne's
personality as a city of suburban homebodies and backyard tinkerers
produced a culture conducive to BBSes. Or maybe it was just
Melbourne's dreary beaches and often miserable weather. As one
Melbourne hacker explained it, `What else is there to do here all
winter but hibernate inside with your computer and modem?'

In 1988, Melbourne had some 60 to 100 operating BBSes. The numbers are
vague because it is difficult to count a collection of moving objects.
The amateur nature of the systems, often a jumbled tangle of wires and
second-hand electronics parts soldered together in someone's garage,
meant that the life of any one system was frequently as short as a
teenager's attention span. BBSes popped up, ran for two weeks, and
then vanished again.

Some of them operated only during certain hours, say between 10 p.m.
and 8 a.m. When the owner went to bed, he or she would plug the home
phone line into the BBS and leave it there until morning. Others ran
24 hours a day, but the busiest times were always at night.

Of course it wasn't just intellectual stimulation some users were
after. Visitors often sought identity as much as ideas. On an
electronic bulletin board, you could create a personality, mould it
into shape and make it your own. Age and appearance did not matter.
Technical aptitude did. Any spotty, gawky teenage boy could instantly
transform himself into a suave, graceful BBS character. The
transformation began with the choice of name. In real life, you might
be stuck with the name Elliot Dingle--an appellation chosen by your
mother to honour a long-dead great uncle. But on a BBS, well, you
could be Blade Runner, Ned Kelly or Mad Max. Small wonder that, given
the choice, many teenage boys chose to spend their time in the world
of the BBS.

Generally, once a user chose a handle, as the on-line names are known,
he stuck with it. All his electronic mail came to an account with that
name on it. Postings to bulletin boards were signed with it. Others
dwelling in the system world knew him by that name and no other. A
handle evolved into a name laden with innate meaning, though the
personality reflected in it might well have been an alter ego. And so
it was that characters like The Wizard, Conan and Iceman came to pass
their time on BBSes like the Crystal Palace, Megaworks, The Real
Connection and Electric Dreams.

What such visitors valued about the BBS varied greatly. Some wanted to
participate in its social life. They wanted to meet people like
themselves--bright but geeky or misanthropic people who shared an
interest in the finer technical points of computers. Many lived as
outcasts in real life, never quite making it into the `normal' groups
of friends at school or uni. Though some had started their first jobs,
they hadn't managed to shake the daggy awkwardness which pursued them
throughout their teen years. On the surface, they were just not the
sort of people one asked out to the pub for a cold one after the

But that was all right. In general, they weren't much interested in
footy anyway.

Each BBS had its own style. Some were completely legitimate, with
their wares--all legal goods--laid out in the open. Others, like The
Real Connection, had once housed Australia's earliest hackers but had
gone straight. They closed up the hacking parts of the board before
the first Commonwealth government hacking laws were enacted in June
1989. Perhaps ten or twelve of Melbourne's BBSes at the time had the
secret, smoky flavour of the computer underground. A handful of these
were invitation-only boards, places like Greyhawk and The Realm. You
couldn't simply ring up the board, create a new account and login. You
had to be invited by the board's owner. Members of the general
modeming public need not apply.

The two most important hubs in the Australian underground between 1987
and 1989 were named Pacific Island and Zen. A 23-year-old who called
himself Craig Bowen ran both systems from his bedroom.

Also known as Thunderbird1, Bowen started up Pacific Island in 1987
because he wanted a hub for hackers. The fledgling hacking community
was dispersed after AHUBBS, possibly Melbourne's earliest hacking
board, faded away. Bowen decided to create a home for it, a sort of
dark, womb-like cafe bar amid the bustle of the BBS bazaar where
Melbourne's hackers could gather and share information.

His bedroom was a simple, boyish place. Built-in cupboards, a bed, a
wallpaper design of vintage cars running across one side of the room.
A window overlooking the neighbours' leafy suburban yard. A collection
of PC magazines with titles like Nibble and Byte. A few volumes on
computer programming. VAX/VMS manuals. Not many books, but a handful
of science fiction works by Arthur C. Clarke. The Hitchhiker's Guide
to the Galaxy. A Chinese-language dictionary used during his high
school Mandarin classes, and after, as he continued to study the
language on his own while he held down his first job.

The Apple IIe, modem and telephone line rested on the drop-down
drawing table and fold-up card table at the foot of his bed. Bowen put
his TV next to the computer so he could sit in bed, watch TV and use
Pacific Island all at the same time. Later, when he started Zen, it
sat next to Pacific Island. It was the perfect set-up.

Pacific Island was hardly fancy by today's standards of Unix Internet
machines, but in 1987 it was an impressive computer. PI, pronounced
`pie' by the local users, had a 20 megabyte hard drive--gargantuan for
a personal computer at the time. Bowen spent about $5000 setting up PI
alone. He loved both systems and spent many hours each week nurturing

There was no charge for computer accounts on PI or ZEN, like most
BBSes. This gentle-faced youth, a half-boy, half-man who would
eventually play host on his humble BBS to many of Australia's
cleverest computer and telephone hackers, could afford to pay for his
computers for two reasons: he lived at home with his mum and dad, and
he had a full-time job at Telecom--then the only domestic telephone
carrier in Australia.

PI had about 800 computer users, up to 200 of whom were `core' users
accessing the system regularly. PI had its own dedicated phone line,
separate from the house phone so Bowen's parents wouldn't get upset the
line was always tied up. Later, he put in four additional phone lines
for Zen, which had about 2000 users. Using his Telecom training, he
installed a number of non-standard, but legal, features to his
house. Junction boxes, master switches. Bowen's house was a
telecommunications hot-rod.

Bowen had decided early on that if he wanted to keep his job, he had
better not do anything illegal when it came to Telecom. However, the
Australian national telecommunications carrier was a handy source of
technical information. For example, he had an account on a Telecom
computer system--for work--from which he could learn about Telecom's
exchanges. But he never used that account for hacking. Most
respectable hackers followed a similar philosophy. Some had legitimate
university computer accounts for their courses, but they kept those
accounts clean. A basic rule of the underground, in the words of one
hacker, was `Don't foul your own nest'.

PI contained a public section and a private one. The public area was
like an old-time pub. Anyone could wander in, plop down at the bar and
start up a conversation with a group of locals. Just ring up the
system with your modem and type in your details--real name, your
chosen handle, phone number and other basic information.

Many BBS users gave false information in order to hide their true
identities, and many operators didn't really care. Bowen, however,
did. Running a hacker's board carried some risk, even before the
federal computer crime laws came into force. Pirated software was
illegal. Storing data copied from hacking adventures in foreign
computers might also be considered illegal. In an effort to exclude
police and media spies, Bowen tried to verify the personal details of
every user on PI by ringing them at home or work. Often he was
successful. Sometimes he wasn't.

The public section of PI housed discussion groups on the major PC
brands--IBM, Commodore, Amiga, Apple and Atari--next to the popular
Lonely Hearts group. Lonely Hearts had about twenty regulars, most of
whom agonised under the weight of pubescent hormonal changes. A boy
pining for the affections of the girl who dumped him or, worse, didn't
even know he existed. Teenagers who contemplated suicide. The messages
were completely anonymous, readers didn't even know the authors'
handles, and that anonymous setting allowed heart-felt messages and
genuine responses.

Zen was PI's sophisticated younger sister. Within two years of PI
making its debut, Bowen opened up Zen, one of the first Australian
BBSes with more than one telephone line. The main reason he set up Zen
was to stop his computer users from bothering him all the time. When
someone logged into PI, one of the first things he or she did was
request an on-line chat with the system operator. PI's Apple IIe was
such a basic machine by today's standards, Bowen couldn't multi-task
on it. He could not do anything with the machine, such as check his
own mail, while a visitor was logged into PI.

Zen was a watershed in the Australian BBS community. Zen multi-tasked.
Up to four people could ring up and login to the machine at any one
time, and Bowen could do his own thing while his users were on-line.
Better still, his users could talk request each other instead of
hassling him all the time. Having users on a multi-tasking machine
with multiple phone lines was like having a gaggle of children. For
the most part, they amused each other.

Mainstream and respectful of authority on the surface, Bowen possessed
the same streak of anti-establishment views harboured by many in the
underground. His choice of name for Zen underlined this. Zen came from
the futuristic British TV science fiction series `Blake 7', in which a
bunch of underfunded rebels attempted to overthrow an evil
totalitarian government. Zen was the computer on the rebels' ship. The
rebels banded together after meeting on a prison ship; they were all
being transported to a penal settlement on another planet. It was a
story people in the Australian underground could relate to. One of the
lead characters, a sort of heroic anti-hero, had been sentenced to
prison for computer hacking. His big mistake, he told fellow rebels,
was that he had relied on other people. He trusted them. He should
have worked alone.

Craig Bowen had no idea of how true that sentiment would ring in a
matter of months.

Bowen's place was a hub of current and future lights in the computer
underground. The Wizard. The Force. Powerspike. Phoenix. Electron.
Nom. Prime Suspect. Mendax. Train Trax. Some, such as Prime Suspect,
merely passed through, occasionally stopping in to check out the
action and greet friends. Others, such as Nom, were part of the
close-knit PI family. Nom helped Bowen set up PI. Like many early
members of the underground, they met through AUSOM, an Apple users'
society in Melbourne. Bowen wanted to run ASCII Express, a program
which allowed people to transfer files between their own computers and
PI. But, as usual, he and everyone he knew only had a pirated copy of
the program. No manuals. So Nom and Bowen spent one weekend picking
apart the program by themselves. They were each at home, on their own
machines, with copies. They sat on the phone for hours working through
how the program worked. They wrote their own manual for other people
in the underground suffering under the same lack of documentation.
Then they got it up and running on PI.

Making your way into the various groups in a BBS such as PI or Zen had
benefits besides hacking information. If you wanted to drop your
mantle of anonymity, you could join a pre-packaged, close-knit circle
of friends. For example, one clique of PI people were fanatical
followers of the film The Blues Brothers. Every Friday night, this
group dressed up in Blues Brothers costumes of a dark suit, white
shirt, narrow tie, Rayban sunglasses and, of course, the snap-brimmed
hat. One couple brought their child, dressed as a mini-Blues Brother.
The group of Friday night regulars made their way at 11.30 to
Northcote's Valhalla Theatre (now the Westgarth). Its grand but
slightly tatty vintage atmosphere lent itself to this alternative
culture flourishing in late-night revelries. Leaping up on stage
mid-film, the PI groupies sent up the actors in key scenes. It was a
fun and, as importantly, a cheap evening. The Valhalla staff admitted
regulars who were dressed in appropriate costume for free. The only
thing the groupies had to pay for was drinks at the intermission.

Occasionally, Bowen arranged gatherings of other young PI and Zen
users. Usually, the group met in downtown Melbourne, sometimes at the
City Square. The group was mostly boys, but sometimes a few girls
would show up. Bowen's sister, who used the handle Syn, hung around a
bit. She went out with a few hackers from the BBS scene. And she
wasn't the only one. It was a tight group which interchanged
boyfriends and girlfriends with considerable regularity. The group
hung out in the City Square after watching a movie, usually a horror
film. Nightmare 2. House 3. Titles tended to be a noun followed by a
numeral. Once, for a bit of lively variation, they went bowling and
drove the other people at the alley nuts. After the early
entertainment, it was down to McDonald's for a cheap burger. They
joked and laughed and threw gherkins against the restaurant's wall.
This was followed by more hanging around on the stone steps of the
City Square before catching the last bus or train home.

The social sections of PI and Zen were more successful than the
technical ones, but the private hacking section was even more
successful than the others. The hacking section was hidden; would-be
members of the Melbourne underground knew there was something going
on, but they couldn't find out what is was.

Getting an invite to the private area required hacking skill or
information, and usually a recommendation to Bowen from someone who
was already inside. Within the Inner Sanctum, as the private hacking
area was called, people could comfortably share information such as
opinions of new computer products, techniques for hacking, details of
companies which had set up new sites to hack and the latest rumours on
what the law enforcement agencies were up to.

The Inner Sanctum was not, however, the only private room. Two hacking
groups, Elite and H.A.C.K., guarded entry to their yet more exclusive
back rooms. Even if you managed to get entry to the Inner Sanctum, you
might not even know that H.A.C.K. or Elite existed. You might know
there was a place even more selective than your area, but exactly how
many layers of the onion stood between you and the most exclusive
section was anyone's guess. Almost every hacker interviewed for this
book described a vague sense of being somehow outside the innermost
circle. They knew it was there, but wasn't sure just what it was.

Bowen fielded occasional phone calls on his voice line from wanna-be
hackers trying to pry open the door to the Inner Sanctum. `I want
access to your pirate system,' the voice would whine.

`What pirate system? Who told you my system was a pirate system?'

Bowen sussed out how much the caller knew, and who had told him. Then
he denied everything.

To avoid these requests, Bowen had tried to hide his address, real
name and phone number from most of the people who used his BBSes. But
he wasn't completely successful. He had been surprised by the sudden
appearance one day of Masked Avenger on his doorstep. How Masked
Avenger actually found his address was a mystery. The two had chatted
in a friendly fashion on-line, but Bowen didn't give out his details.
Nothing could have prepared him for the little kid in the big crash
helmet standing by his bike in front of Bowen's house. `Hi!' he
squeaked. `I'm the Masked Avenger!'

Masked Avenger--a boy perhaps fifteen years old--was quite resourceful
to have found out Bowen's details. Bowen invited him in and showed him
the system. They became friends. But after that incident, Bowen
decided to tighten security around his personal details even more. He
began, in his own words, `moving toward full anonymity'. He invented
the name Craig Bowen, and everyone in the underground came to know him
by that name or his handle, Thunderbird1. He even opened a false bank
account in the name of Bowen for the periodic voluntary donations
users sent into PI. It was never a lot of money, mostly $5 or $10,
because students don't tend to have much money. He ploughed it all
back into PI.

People had lots of reasons for wanting to get into the Inner Sanctum.
Some wanted free copies of the latest software, usually pirated games
from the US. Others wanted to share information and ideas about ways
to break into computers, often those owned by local universities.
Still others wanted to learn about how to manipulate the telephone

The private areas functioned like a royal court, populated by
aristocrats and courtiers with varying seniority, loyalties and
rivalries. The areas involved an intricate social order and respect
was the name of the game. If you wanted admission, you had to walk a
delicate line between showing your superiors that you possessed enough
valuable hacking information to be elite and not showing them so much
they would brand you a blabbermouth. A perfect bargaining chip was an
old password for Melbourne University's dial-out.

The university's dial-out was a valuable thing. A hacker could ring up
the university's computer, login as `modem' and the machine would drop
him into a modem which let him dial out again. He could then dial
anywhere in the world, and the university would foot the phone bill.
In the late 1980s, before the days of cheap, accessible Internet
connections, the university dial-out meant a hacker could access
anything from an underground BBS in Germany to a US military system in
Panama. The password put the world at his fingertips.

A hacker aspiring to move into PI's Inner Sanctum wouldn't give out
the current dial-out password in the public discussion areas. Most
likely, if he was low in the pecking order, he wouldn't have such
precious information. Even if he had managed to stumble across the
current password somehow, it was risky giving it out publicly. Every
wanna-be and his dog would start messing around with the university's
modem account. The system administrator would wise up and change the
password and the hacker would quickly lose his own access to the
university account. Worse, he would lose access for other hackers--the
kind of hackers who ran H.A.C.K., Elite and the Inner Sanctum. They
would be really cross. Hackers hate it when passwords on accounts they
consider their own are changed without warning. Even if the password
wasn't changed, the aspiring hacker would look like a guy who couldn't
keep a good secret.

Posting an old password, however, was quite a different matter. The
information was next to useless, so the hacker wouldn't be giving much
away. But just showing he had access to that sort of information
suggested he was somehow in the know. Other hackers might think he had
had the password when it was still valid. More importantly, by showing
off a known, expired password, the hacker hinted that he might just
have the current password. Voila! Instant respect.

Positioning oneself to win an invite into the Inner Sanctum was a game
of strategy; titillate but never go all the way. After a while,
someone on the inside would probably notice you and put in a word with
Bowen. Then you would get an invitation.

If you were seriously ambitious and wanted to get past the first inner
layer, you then had to start performing for real. You couldn't hide
behind the excuse that the public area might be monitored by the
authorities or was full of idiots who might abuse valuable hacking

The hackers in the most elite area would judge you on how much
information you provided about breaking into computer or phone
systems. They also looked at the accuracy of the information. It was
easy getting out-of-date login names and passwords for a student
account on Monash University's computer system. Posting a valid
account for the New Zealand forestry department's VMS system intrigued
the people who counted considerably more.

The Great Rite of Passage from boy to man in the computer underground
was Minerva. OTC, Australia's then government-owned Overseas
Telecommunications Commission,3 ran Minerva, a system of three Prime
mainframes in Sydney. For hackers such as Mendax, breaking into
Minerva was the test.

Back in early 1988, Mendax was just beginning to explore the world of
hacking. He had managed to break through the barrier from public to
private section of PI, but it wasn't enough. To be recognised as
up-and-coming talent by the aristocracy of hackers such as The Force
and The Wizard, a hacker had to spend time inside the Minerva system.
Mendax set to work on breaking
into it.

Minerva was special for a number of reasons. Although it was in
Sydney, the phone number to its entry computer, called an X.25 pad,
was a free call. At the time Mendax lived in Emerald, a country town
on the outskirts of Melbourne. A call to most Melbourne numbers
incurred a long-distance charge, thus ruling out options such as the
Melbourne University dial-out for breaking into international computer

Emerald was hardly Emerald City. For a clever sixteen-year-old boy,
the place was dead boring. Mendax lived there with his mother; Emerald
was merely a stopping point, one of dozens, as his mother shuttled her
child around the continent trying to escape from a psychopathic former
de facto. The house was an emergency refuge for families on the run.
It was safe and so, for a time, Mendax and his exhausted family
stopped to rest before tearing off again in search of a new place to

Sometimes Mendax went to school. Often he didn't. The school system
didn't hold much interest for him. It didn't feed his mind the way
Minerva would. They Sydney computer system was a far more interesting
place to muck around in than the rural high school.

Minerva was a Prime computer, and Primes were in. Force, one of the
more respected hackers in 1987-88 in the Australian computer
underground, specialised in Primos, the special operating system used
on Prime computers. He wrote his own programs--potent hacking tools
which provided current usernames and passwords--and made the systems
fashionable in the computer underground.

Prime computers were big and expensive and no hacker could afford one,
so being able to access the speed and computational grunt of a system
like Minerva was valuable for running a hacker's own programs. For
example, a network scanner, a program which gathered the addresses of
computers on the X.25 network which would be targets for future
hacking adventures, ate up computing resources. But a huge machine
like Minerva could handle that sort of program with ease. Minerva also
allowed users to connect to other computer systems on the X.25 network
around the world. Better still, Minerva had a BASIC interpreter on it.
This allowed people to write programs in the BASIC programming
language--by far the most popular language at the time--and make them
run on Minerva. You didn't have to be a Primos fanatic, like Force, to
write and execute a program on the OTC computer. Minerva suited Mendax
very well.

The OTC system had other benefits. Most major Australian corporations
had accounts on the system. Breaking into an account requires a
username and password; find the username and you have solved half the
equation. Minerva account names were easy picking. Each one was
composed of three letters followed by three numbers, a system which
could have been difficult to crack except for the choice of those
letters and numbers. The first three letters were almost always
obvious acronyms for the company. For example, the ANZ Bank had
accounts named ANZ001, ANZ002 and ANZ002. The numbers followed the
same pattern for most companies. BHP001. CRA001. NAB001. Even OTC007.
Anyone with the IQ of a desk lamp could guess at least a few account
names on Minerva. Passwords were a bit tougher to come by, but Mendax
had some ideas for that. He was going to have a crack at social
engineering. Social engineering means smooth-talking someone in a
position of power into doing something for you. It always involved a
ruse of some sort.

Mendax decided he would social engineer a password out of one of
Minerva's users. He had downloaded a partial list of Minerva users
another PI hacker had generously posted for those talented enough to
make use of it. This list was maybe two years old, and incomplete, but
it contained 30-odd pages of Minerva account usernames, company names,
addresses, contact names and telephone and fax numbers. Some of them
would probably still be valid.

Mendax had a deep voice for his age; it would have been impossible to
even contemplate social engineering without it. Cracking adolescent
male voices were the kiss of death for would-be social engineers. But
even though he had the voice, he didn't have the office or the Sydney
phone number if the intended victim wanted a number to call back on.
He found a way to solve the Sydney phone number by poking around until
he dug up a number with Sydney's 02 area code which was permanently
engaged. One down, one to go.

Next problem: generate some realistic office background noise. He
could hardly call a company posing as an OTC official to cajole a
password when the only background noise was birds tweeting in the
fresh country air.

No, he needed the same background buzz as a crowded office in downtown
Sydney. Mendex had a tape recorder, so he could pre-record the sound
of an office and play it as background when he called companies on the
Minerva list. The only hurdle was finding the appropriate office
noise. Not even the local post office would offer a believable noise
level. With none easily accessible, he decided to make his own audible
office clutter. It wouldn't be easy. With a single track on his
recording device, he couldn't dub in sounds on top of each other: he
had to make all the noises simultaneously.

First, he turned on the TV news, down very low, so it just hummed in
the background. Then he set up a long document to print on his
Commodore MPS 801 printer. He removed the cover from the noisy dot
matrix machine, to create just the right volume of clackity-clack in
the background. Still, he needed something more. Operators' voices
mumbling across a crowded floor. He could mumble quietly to himself,
but he soon discovered his verbal skills had not developed to the
point of being able to stand in the middle of the room talking about
nothing to himself for a quarter of an hour. So he fished out his
volume of Shakespeare and started reading aloud. Loud enough to hear
voices, but not so loud that the intended victim would be able to pick
Macbeth. OTC operators had keyboards, so he began tapping randomly on
his. Occasionally, for a little variation, he walked up to the tape
recorder and asked a question--and then promptly answered it in
another voice. He stomped noisily away from the recorder again, across
the room, and then silently dove back to the keyboard for more
keyboard typing and mumblings of Macbeth.

It was exhausting. He figured the tape had to run for at least fifteen
minutes uninterrupted. It wouldn't look very realistic if the office
buzz suddenly went dead for three seconds at a time in the places
where he paused the tape to rest.

The tapes took a number of attempts. He would be halfway through,
racing through line after line of Shakespeare, rap-tap-tapping on his
keyboard and asking himself questions in authoritative voices when the
paper jammed in his printer. Damn. He had to start all over again.
Finally, after a tiring hour of auditory schizophrenia, he had the
perfect tape of office hubbub.

Mendax pulled out his partial list of Minerva users and began working
through the 30-odd pages. It was discouraging.

`The number you have dialled is not connected. Please check the number
before dialling again.'

Next number.

`Sorry, he is in a meeting at the moment. Can I have him return your
call?' Ah, no thanks.

Another try.

`That person is no longer working with our company. Can I refer you to
someone else?' Uhm, not really.

And another try.

Finally, success.

Mendax reached one of the contact names for a company in Perth. Valid
number, valid company, valid contact name. He cleared his throat to
deepen his voice even further and began.

`This is John Keller, an operator from OTC Minerva in Sydney. One of
our D090 hard drives has crashed. We've pulled across the data on the
back-up tape and we believe we have all your correct information. But
some of it might have been corrupted in the accident and we would just
like to confirm your details. Also the back-up tape is two days old,
so we want to check your information is up to date so your service is
not interrupted. Let me just dig out your details ...' Mendax shuffled
some papers around on the table top.

`Oh, dear. Yes. Let's check it,' the worried manager responded.

Mendax started reading all the information on the Minerva list
obtained from Pacific Island, except for one thing. He changed the fax
number slightly. It worked. The manager jumped right in.

`Oh, no. That's wrong. Our fax number is definitely wrong,' he said
and proceeded to give the correct number.

Mendax tried to sound concerned. `Hmm,' he told the manager. `We may
have bigger problems than we anticipated. Hmm.' He gave another
pregnant pause. Working up the courage to ask the Big Question.

It was hard to know who was sweating more, the fretting Perth manager,
tormented by the idea of loud staff complaints from all over the
company because the Minerva account was faulty, or the gangly kid
trying his hand at social engineering for the first time.

`Well,' Mendax began, trying to keep the sound of authority in his
voice. `Let's see. We have your account number, but we had better
check your password ... what was it?' An arrow shot from the bow.

It hit the target. `Yes, it's L-U-R-C-H--full stop.'

Lurch? Uhuh. An Addams Family fan.

`Can you make sure everything is working? We don't want our service
interrupted.' The Perth manager sounded quite anxious.

Mendax tapped away on the keyboard randomly and then paused. `Well, it
looks like everything is working just fine now,' he quickly reassured
him. Just fine.

`Oh, that's a relief!' the Perth manager exclaimed. `Thank you for
that. Thank you. I just can't thank you enough for calling us!' More

Mendax had to extract himself. This was getting embarrassing.

`Yes, well I'd better go now. More customers to call.' That should
work. The Perth manager wanted a contact telephone number, as
expected, if something went wrong--so Mendax gave him the one which
was permanently busy.

`Thank you again for your courteous service!' Uhuh. Anytime.

Mendax hung up and tried the toll-free Minerva number. The password
worked. He couldn't believe how easy it was to get in.

He had a quick look around, following the pattern of most hackers
breaking into a new machine. First thing to do was to check the
electronic mail of the `borrowed' account. Email often contains
valuable information. One company manager might send another
information about other account names, password changes or even phone
numbers to modems at the company itself. Then it was off to check the
directories available for anyone to read on the main system--another
good source of information. Final stop: Minerva's bulletin board of
news. This included postings from the system operators about planned
downtime or other service issues. He didn't stay long. The first visit
was usually mostly a bit of reconnaissance work.

Minerva had many uses. Most important among these was the fact that
Minerva gave hackers an entry point into various X.25 networks. X.25
is a type of computer communications network, much like the Unix-based
Internet or the VMS-based DECNET. It has different commands and
protocols, but the principle of an extensive worldwide data
communications network is the same. There is, however, one important
difference. The targets for hackers on the X.25 networks are often far
more interesting. For example, most banks are on X.25. Indeed, X.25
underpins many aspects of the world's financial markets. A number of
countries' classified military computer sites only run on X.25. It is
considered by many people to be more secure than the Internet or any
DECNET system.

Minerva allowed incoming callers to pass into the X.25
network--something most Australian universities did not offer at the
time. And Minerva let Australian callers do this without incurring a
long-distance telephone charge.

In the early days of Minerva, the OTC operators didn't seem to care
much about the hackers, probably because it seemed impossible to get
rid of them. The OTC operators managed the OTC X.25 exchange, which
was like a telephone exchange for the X.25 data network. This exchange
was the data gateway for Minerva and other systems connected to that
data network.

Australia's early hackers had it easy, until Michael Rosenberg

Rosenberg, known on-line simply as MichaelR, decided to clean up
Minerva. An engineering graduate from Queensland University, Michael
moved to Sydney when he joined OTC at age 21. He was about the same
age as the hackers he was chasing off his system. Rosenberg didn't
work as an OTC operator, he managed the software which ran on Minerva.
And he made life hell for people like Force. Closing up security
holes, quietly noting accounts used by hackers and then killing those
accounts, Rosenberg almost single-handedly stamped out much of the
hacker activity in OTC's Minerva.

Despite this, the hackers--`my hackers' as he termed the regulars--had
a grudging respect for Rosenberg. Unlike anyone else at OTC, he was
their technical equal and, in a world where technical prowess was the
currency, Rosenberg was a wealthy young man.

He wanted to catch the hackers, but he didn't want to see them go to
prison. They were an annoyance, and he just wanted them out of his
system. Any line trace, however, had to go through Telecom, which was
at that time a separate body from OTC. Telecom, Rosenberg was told,
was difficult about these things because of strict privacy laws. So,
for the most part, he was left to deal with the hackers on his own.
Rosenberg could not secure his system completely since OTC didn't
dictate passwords to their customers. Their customers were usually
more concerned about employees being able to remember passwords easily
than worrying about warding off wily hackers. The result: the
passwords on a number of Minerva accounts were easy pickings.

The hackers and OTC waged a war from 1988 to 1990, and it was fought
in many ways.

Sometimes an OTC operator would break into a hacker's on-line session
demanding to know who was really using the account. Sometimes the
operators sent insulting messages to the hackers--and the hackers gave
it right back to them. They broke into the hacker's session with `Oh,
you idiots are at it again'. The operators couldn't keep the hackers
out, but they had other ways of getting even.

Electron, a Melbourne hacker and rising star in the Australian
underground, had been logging into a system in Germany via OTC's X.25
link. Using a VMS machine, a sort of sister system to Minerva, he had
been playing a game called Empire on the Altos system, a popular
hang-out for hackers. It was his first attempt at Empire, a complex
war game of strategy which attracted players from around the world.
They each had less than one hour per day to conquer regions while
keeping production units at a strategic level. The Melbourne hacker
had spent weeks building his position. He was in second place.

Then, one day, he logged into the game via Minerva and the German
system, and he couldn't believe what he saw on the screen in front of
him. His regions, his position in the game, all of it--weeks of
work--had been wiped out. An OTC operator had used an X.25
packet-sniffer to monitor the hacker's login and capture his password to
Empire. Instead of trading the usual insults, the operator had waited
for the hacker to logoff and then had hacked into the game and destroyed
the hacker's position.

Electron was furious. He had been so proud of his position in his very
first game. Still, wreaking havoc on the Minerva system in retribution
was out of the question. Despite the fact that they wasted weeks of
his work, Electron had no desire to damage their system. He considered
himself lucky to be able to use it as long as he did.

The anti-establishment attitudes nurtured in BBSes such as PI and Zen
fed on a love of the new and untried. There was no bitterness, just a
desire to throw off the mantle of the old and dive into the new.
Camaraderie grew from the exhilarating sense that the youth in this
particular time and place were constantly on the edge of big
discoveries. People were calling up computers with their modems and
experimenting. What did this key sequence do? What about that tone?
What would happen if ... It was the question which drove them to stay
up day and night, poking and prodding. These hackers didn't for the
most part do drugs. They didn't even drink that much, given their age.
All of that would have interfered with their burning desire to know,
would have dulled their sharp edge. The underground's
anti-establishment views were mostly directed at organisations which
seemed to block the way to the new frontier--organisations like

It was a powerful word. Say `Telecom' to a member of the computer
underground from that era and you will observe the most striking
reaction. Instant contempt sweeps across his face. There is a pause as
his lips curl into a noticeable sneer and he replies with complete
derision, `Telescum'. The underground hated Australia's national
telephone carrier with a passion equalled only to its love of
exploration. They felt that Telecom was backward and its staff had no
idea how to use their own telecommunications technology. Worst of all,
Telecom seemed to actively dislike BBSes.

Line noise interfered with one modem talking to another, and in the
eyes of the computer underground, Telecom was responsible for the line
noise. A hacker might be reading a message on PI, and there, in the
middle of some juicy technical titbit, would be a bit of crud--random
characters `2'28 v'1';D>nj4'--followed by the comment, `Line noise.
Damn Telescum! At their best as usual, I see'. Sometimes the line
noise was so bad it logged the hacker off, thus forcing him to spend
another 45 minutes attack dialling the BBS. The modems didn't have
error correction, and the faster the modem speed, the worse the impact
of line noise. Often it became a race to read mail and post messages
before Telecom's line noise logged the hacker off.

Rumours flew through the underground again and again that Telecom was
trying to bring in timed local calls. The volume of outrage was
deafening. The BBS community believed it really irked the national
carrier that people could spend an hour logged into a BBS for the cost
of one local phone call. Even more heinous, other rumours abounded
that Telecom had forced at least one BBS to limit each incoming call
to under half an hour. Hence Telecom's other nickname in the computer
underground: Teleprofit.

To the BBS community, Telecom's Protective Services Unit was the
enemy. They were the electronic police. The underground saw Protective
Services as `the enforcers'--an all-powerful government force which
could raid your house, tap your phone line and seize your computer
equipment at any time. The ultimate reason to hate Telecom.

There was such hatred of Telecom that people in the computer
underground routinely discussed ways of sabotaging the carrier. Some
people talked of sending 240 volts of electricity down the telephone
line--an act which would blow up bits of the telephone exchange along
with any line technicians who happened to be working on the cable at
the time. Telecom had protective fuses which stopped electrical surges
on the line, but BBS hackers had reportedly developed circuit plans
which would allow high-frequency voltages to bypass them. Other
members of the underground considered what sweet justice it would be
to set fire to all the cables outside a particular Telecom exchange
which had an easily accessible cable entrance duct.

It was against this backdrop that the underground began to shift into
phreaking. Phreaking is loosely defined as hacking the telephone
system. It is a very loose definition. Some people believe phreaking
includes stealing a credit card number and using it to make a
long-distance call for free. Purists shun this definition. To them,
using a stolen credit card is not phreaking, it is carding. They argue
that phreaking demands a reasonable level of technical skill and
involves manipulation of a telephone exchange. This manipulation may
manifest itself as using computers or electrical circuits to generate
special tones or modify the voltage of a phone line. The manipulation
changes how the telephone exchange views a particular telephone
line. The result: a free and hopefully untraceable call. The purist
hacker sees phreaking more as a way of eluding telephone traces than of
calling his or her friends around the world for free.

The first transition into phreaking and eventually carding happened
over a period of about six months in 1988. Early hackers on PI and Zen
relied primarily on dial-outs, like those at Melbourne University or
Telecom's Clayton office, to bounce around international computer
sites. They also used X.25 dial-outs in other countries--the US,
Sweden and Germany--to make another leap in their international

Gradually, the people running these dial-out lines wised up. Dial-outs
started drying up. Passwords were changed. Facilities were cancelled.
But the hackers didn't want to give up access to overseas systems.
They'd had their first taste of international calling and they wanted
more. There was a big shiny electronic world to explore out there.
They began trying different methods of getting where they wanted to
go. And so the Melbourne underground moved into phreaking.

Phreakers swarmed to PABXes like bees to honey. A PABX, a private
automatic branch exchange, works like a mini-Telecom telephone
exchange. Using a PABX, the employee of a large company could dial
another employee in-house without incurring the cost of a local
telephone call. If the employee was, for example, staying in a hotel
out of town, the company might ask him to make all his calls through
the company's PABX to avoid paying extortionate hotel long-distance
rates. If the employee was in Brisbane on business, he could dial a
Brisbane number which might route him via the company's PABX to
Sydney. From there, he might dial out to Rome or London, and the
charge would be billed directly to the company. What worked for an
employee also worked for a phreaker.

A phreaker dialling into the PABX would generally need to either know
or guess the password allowing him to dial out again. Often, the
phreaker was greeted by an automated message asking for the employee's
telephone extension--which also served as the password. Well, that was
easy enough. The phreaker simply tried a series of numbers until he
found one which actually worked.

Occasionally, a PABX system didn't even have passwords. The managers
of the PABX figured that keeping the phone number secret was good
enough security. Sometimes phreakers made free calls out of PABXes
simply by exploited security flaws in a particular model or brand of
PABX. A series of specific key presses allowed the phreaker to get in
without knowing a password, an employee's name, or even the name of
the company for that matter.

As a fashionable pastime on BBSes, phreaking began to surpass hacking.
PI established a private phreaking section. For a while, it became
almost old hat to call yourself a hacker. Phreaking was forging the
path forward.

Somewhere in this transition, the Phreakers Five sprung to life. A
group of five hackers-turned-phreakers gathered in an exclusive group
on PI. Tales of their late-night podding adventures leaked into the
other areas of the BBS and made would-be phreakers green with

First, the phreakers would scout out a telephone pod--the grey steel,
rounded box perched nondescriptly on most streets. Ideally, the chosen
pod would be by a park or some other public area likely to be deserted
at night. Pods directly in front of suburban houses were a bit
risky--the house might contain a nosy little old lady with a penchant
for calling the local police if anything looked suspicious. And what
she would see, if she peered out from behind her lace curtains, was a
small tornado of action.

One of the five would leap from the van and open the pod with a key
begged, borrowed or stolen from a Telecom technician. The keys seemed
easy enough to obtain. The BBSes message boards were rife with gleeful
tales of valuable Telecom equipment, such as 500 metres of cable or a
pod key, procured off a visiting Telecom repairman either through
legitimate means or in exchange for a six-pack of beer.

The designated phreaker would poke inside the pod until he found
someone else's phone line. He'd strip back the cable, whack on a pair
of alligator clips and, if he wanted to make a voice call, run it to a
linesman's handset also borrowed, bought or stolen from Telecom. If he
wanted to call another computer instead of talking voice, he would
need to extend the phone line back to the phreakers' car. This is
where the 500 metres of Telecom cable came in handy. A long cable
meant the car, containing five anxious, whispering young men and a
veritable junkyard of equipment, would not have to sit next to the pod
for hours on end. That sort of scene might look a little suspicious to
a local resident out walking his or her dog late one night.

The phreaker ran the cable down the street and, if possible, around
the corner. He pulled it into the car and attached it to the waiting
computer modem. At least one of the five was proficient enough with
electronics hardware to have rigged up the computer and modem to the
car battery. The Phreaker's Five could now call any computer without
being traced or billed. The phone call charges would appear at the end
of a local resident's phone bill. Telecom did not itemise residential
telephone bills at the time. True, it was a major drama to zoom around
suburban streets in the middle of the night with computers, alligator
clips and battery adaptors in tow, but that didn't matter so much. In
fact, the thrill of such a cloak-and-dagger operation was as good as
the actual hacking itself. It was illicit. In the phreakers' own eyes,
it was clever. And therefore it was fun.

Craig Bowen didn't think much of the Phreakers Five's style of
phreaking. In fact, the whole growth of phreaking as a pastime
depressed him a bit. He believed it just didn't require the technical
skills of proper hacking. Hacking was, in his view, about the
exploration of a brave new world of computers. Phreaking was, well, a
bit beneath a good hacker. Somehow it demeaned the task at hand.

Still, he could see how in some cases it was necessary in order to
continue hacking. Most people in the underground developed some basic
skills in phreaking, though people like Bowen always viewed it more as
a means to an end--just a way of getting from computer A to computer
B, nothing more. Nonetheless, he allowed phreaking discussion areas in
the private sections of PI.

What he refused to allow was discussion areas around credit card
fraud. Carding was anathema to Bowen and he watched with alarm as some
members of the underground began to shift from phreaking into carding.

Like the transition into phreaking, the move into carding was a
logical progression. It occurred over a period of perhaps six months
in 1988 and was as obvious as a group of giggling schoolgirls.

Many phreakers saw it simply as another type of phreaking. In fact it
was a lot less hassle than manipulating some company's PABX. Instead,
you just call up an operator, give him some stranger's credit card
number to pay for the call, and you were on your way. Of course, the
credit cards had a broader range of uses than the PABXes. The advent
of carding meant you could telephone your friends in the US or UK and
have a long voice conference call with all of them
simultaneously--something which could be a lot tougher to arrange on a
PABX. There were other benefits. You could actually charge things with
that credit card. As in goods. Mail order goods.

One member of the underground who used the handle Ivan Trotsky,
allegedly ordered $50000 worth of goods, including a jet ski, from the
US on a stolen card, only to leave it sitting on the Australian docks.
The Customs guys don't tend to take stolen credit cards for duty
payments. In another instance, Trotsky was allegedly more successful.
A try-hard hacker who kept pictures of Karl Marx and Lenin taped to
the side of his computer terminal, Trotsky regularly spewed communist
doctrine across the underground. A self-contained paradox, he spent
his time attending Communist Party of Australia meetings and duck
shoots. According to one hacker, Trotsky's particular contribution to
the overthrow of the capitalist order was the arrangement of a
shipment of expensive modems from the US using stolen credit cards. He
was rumoured to have made a tidy profit by selling the modems in the
computer community for about $200 each. Apparently, being part of the
communist revolution gave him all sorts of ready-made
rationalisations. Membership has its advantages.

To Bowen, carding was little more than theft. Hacking may have been a
moral issue, but in early 1988 in Australia it was not yet much of a
legal one. Carding was by contrast both a moral and a legal issue.
Bowen recognised that some people viewed hacking as a type of
theft--stealing someone else's computer resources--but the argument
was ambiguous. What if no-one needed those resources at 2 a.m. on a
given night? It might be seen more as `borrowing' an under-used asset,
since the hacker had not permanently appropriated any property. Not so
for carding.

What made carding even less noble was that it required the technical
skill of a wind-up toy. Not only was it beneath most good hackers, it
attracted the wrong sort of people into the hacking scene. People who
had little or no respect for the early Australian underground's golden
rules of hacking: don't damage computer systems you break into
(including crashing them); don't change the information in those
systems (except for altering logs to cover your tracks); and share
information. For most early Australian hackers, visiting someone
else's system was a bit like visiting a national park. Leave it as you
find it.

While the cream seemed to rise to the top of the hacking hierarchy, it
was the scum that floated at the top of the carding community. Few
people in the underground typified this more completely than Blue
Thunder, who had been hanging around the outskirts of the Melbourne
underground since at least 1986. The senior hackers treated Blue
Blunder, as they sometimes called him, with great derision.

His entrance into the underground was as ignominious as that of a
debutante who, delicately descending the grand steps of the ballroom,
trips and tumbles head-first onto the dance floor. He picked a fight
with the grande doyenne of the Melbourne underground.

The Real Article occupied a special place in the underground. For
starters, The Real Article was a woman--perhaps the only female to
play a major role in the early Melbourne underground scene. Although
she didn't hack computers, she knew a lot about them. She ran The Real
Connection, a BBS frequented by many of the hackers who hung out on
PI. She wasn't somebody's sister wafting in and out of the picture in
search of a boyfriend. She was older. She was as good as married. She
had kids. She was a force to be reckoned with in the hacking

Forthright and formidable, The Real Article commanded considerable
respect among the underground. A good indicator of this respect was the
fact that the members of H.A.C.K. had inducted her as an honorary member
of their exclusive club. Perhaps it was because she ran a popular
board. More likely it was because, for all their bluff and bluster, most
hackers were young men with the problems of young men.  Being older and
wiser, The Real Article knew how to lend a sympathetic ear to those
problems. As a woman and a non-hacker, she was removed from the jumble
of male ego hierarchical problems associated with confiding in a
peer. She served as a sort of mother to the embryonic hacking community,
but she was young enough to avoid the judgmental pitfalls most parents
fall into with children.

The Real Article and Blue Thunder went into partnership running a BBS
in early 1986. Blue Thunder, then a high-school student, was desperate
to run a board, so she let him co-sysop the system. At first the
partnership worked. Blue Thunder used to bring his high-school essays
over for her to proofread and correct. But a short time into the
partnership, it went sour. The Real Article didn't like Blue Thunder's
approach to running a BBS, which appeared to her to be get information
from other hackers and then dump them. The specific strategy seemed to
be: get hackers to logon and store their valuable information on the
BBS, steal that information and then lock them out of their own
account. By locking them out, he was able to steal all the glory; he
could then claim the hacking secrets were his own. It was, in her
opinion, not only unsustainable, but quite immoral. She parted ways
with Blue Thunder and excommunicated him from her BBS.

Not long after, The Real Article started getting harassing phone calls
at 4 in the morning. The calls were relentless. Four a.m. on the dot,
every night. The voice at the other end of the line was computer
synthesised. This was followed by a picture of a machine-gun, printed
out on a cheap dot matrix printer in Commodore ASCII, delivered in her
letterbox. There was a threatening message attached which read
something like, `If you want the kids to stay alive, get them out of
the house'.

After that came the brick through the window. It landed in the back of
her TV. Then she woke up one morning to find her phone line dead.
Someone had opened the Telecom well in the nature strip across the
road and cut out a metre of cable. It meant the phone lines for the
entire street were down.

The Real Article tended to rise above the petty games that whining
adolescent boys with bruised egos could play, but this was too much.
She called in Telecom Protective Services, who put a last party
release on her phone line to trace the early-morning harassing calls.
She suspected Blue Thunder was involved, but nothing was ever proved.
Finally, the calls stopped. She voiced her suspicions to others in the
computer underground. Whatever shred of reputation Blue Chunder, as he
then became known for a time, had was soon decimated.

Since his own technical contributions were seen by his fellow BBS
users as limited, Blue Thunder would likely have faded into obscurity,
condemned to spend the rest of his time in the underground jumping
around the ankles of the aristocratic hackers. But the birth of
carding arrived at a fortuitous moment for him and he got into carding
in a big way, so big in fact that he soon got busted.

People in the underground recognised him as a liability, both because
of what many hackers saw as his loose morals and because he was
boastful of his activities. One key hacker said, `He seemed to relish
the idea of getting caught. He told people he worked for a credit
union and that he stole lots of credit card numbers. He sold
information, such as accounts on systems, for financial gain.' In
partnership with a carder, he also allegedly sent a bouquet of flowers
to the police fraud squad--and paid for it with a stolen credit card

On 31 August 1988, Blue Thunder faced 22 charges in the Melbourne
Magistrates Court, where he managed to get most of the charges dropped
or amalgamated. He only ended up pleading guilty to five counts,
including deception and theft. The Real Article sat in the back of the
courtroom watching the proceedings. Blue Thunder must have been pretty
worried about what kind of sentence the magistrate would hand down
because she said he approached her during the lunch break and asked if
she would appear as a character witness for the defence. She looked
him straight in the eye and said, `I think you would prefer it if I
didn't'. He landed 200 hours of community service and an order to pay
$706 in costs.

Craig Bowen didn't like where the part of the underground typified by
Blue Thunder was headed. In his view, Chunder and Trotsky stood out as
bad apples in an otherwise healthy group, and they signalled an
unpleasant shift towards selling information. This was perhaps the
greatest taboo. It was dirty. It was seedy. It was the realm of
criminals, not explorers. The Australian computer underground had
started to lose some of its fresh-faced innocence.

Somewhere in the midst of all this, a new player entered the Melbourne
underground. His name was Stuart Gill, from a company called

Bowen met Stuart through Kevin Fitzgerald, a well-known local hacker
commentator who founded the Chisholm Institute of Technology's
Computer Abuse Research Bureau, which later became the Australian
Computer Abuse Research Bureau. After seeing a newspaper article
quoting Fitzgerald, Craig decided to ring up the man many members of
the underground considered to be a hacker-catcher. Why not? There were
no federal laws in Australia against hacking, so Bowen didn't feel
that nervous about it. Besides, he wanted to meet the enemy. No-one
from the Australian underground had ever done it before, and Bowen
decided it was high time. He wanted to set the record straight with
Fitzgerald, to let him know what hackers were really on about. They
began to talk periodically on the phone.

Along the way, Bowen met Stuart Gill who said that he was working with
Fitzgerald.4 Before long, Gill began visiting PI. Eventually, Bowen
visited Gill in person at the Mount Martha home he shared with his
elderly aunt and uncle. Stuart had all sorts of computer equipment
hooked up there, and a great number of boxes of papers in the garage.

`Oh, hello there, Paul,' Gill's ancient-looking uncle said when he saw
the twosome. As soon as the old man had tottered off, Gill pulled
Bowen aside confidentially.

`Don't worry about old Eric,' he said. `He lost it in the war. Today
he thinks I'm Paul, tomorrow it will be someone else.'

Bowen nodded, understanding.

There were many strange things about Stuart Gill, all of which seemed
to have a rational explanation, yet that explanation somehow never
quite answered the question in full.

Aged in his late thirties, he was much older and far more worldly than
Craig Bowen. He had very, very pale skin--so pasty it looked as though
he had never sat in the sun in his life.

Gill drew Bowen into the complex web of his life. Soon he told the
young hacker that he wasn't just running Hackwatch, he was also
involved in intelligence work. For the Australian Federal Police. For
ASIO. For the National Crime Authority. For the Victoria Police's
Bureau of Criminal Intelligence (BCI). He showed Bowen some secret
computer files and documents, but he made him sign a special form
first--a legal-looking document demanding non-disclosure based on some
sort of official secrets act.

Bowen was impressed. Why wouldn't he be? Gill's cloak-and-dagger world
looked like the perfect boy's own adventure. Even bigger and better
than hacking. He was a little strange, but that was part of the

Like the time they took a trip to Sale together around Christmas 1988.
Gill told Bowen he had to get out of town for a few days--certain
undesirable people were after him. He didn't drive, so could Craig
help him out? Sure, no problem. They had shared an inexpensive motel
room in Sale, paid for by Gill.

Being so close to Christmas, Stuart told Craig he had brought him two
presents. Craig opened the first--a John Travolta fitness book. When
Craig opened the second gift, he was a little stunned. It was a red
G-string for men. Craig didn't have a girlfriend at the time--perhaps
Stuart was trying to help him get one.

`Oh, ah, thanks,' Craig said, a bit confused.

`Glad you like it,' Stuart said. `Go on. Try it on.'

`Try it on?' Craig was now very confused.

`Yeah, mate, you know, to see if it fits. That's all.'

`Oh, um, right.'

Craig hesitated. He didn't want to seem rude. It was a weird request,
but never having been given a G-string before, he didn't know the
normal protocol. After all, when someone gives you a jumper, it's
normal for them to ask you to try it on, then and there, to see if it

Craig tried it on. Quickly.

`Yes, seems to fit,' Stuart said matter of factly, then turned away.

Craig felt relieved. He changed back into his clothing.

That night, and on many others during their trips or during Craig's
overnight visits to Stuart's uncle's house, Craig lay in bed wondering
about his secretive new friend.

Stuart was definitely a little weird, but he seemed to like women so
Craig figured he couldn't be interested in Craig that way. Stuart
bragged that he had a very close relationship with a female newspaper
reporter, and he always seemed to be chatting up the girl at the video

Craig tried not to read too much into Stuart's odd behaviour, for the
young man was willing to forgive his friend's eccentricities just to
be part of the action. Soon Stuart asked Craig for access to
PI--unrestricted access.

The idea made Craig uncomfortable, but Stuart was so persuasive. How
would he be able to continue his vital intelligence work without
access to Victoria's most important hacking board? Besides, Stuart
Gill of Hackwatch wasn't after innocent-faced hackers like Craig
Bowen. In fact, he would protect Bowen when the police came down on
everyone. What Stuart really wanted was the carders--the fraudsters.
Craig didn't want to protect people like that, did he?

Craig found it a little odd, as usual, that Stuart seemed to be after
the carders, yet he had chummed up with Ivan Trotsky. Still, there
were no doubt secrets Stuart couldn't reveal--things he wasn't allowed
to explain because of his intelligence work.

Craig agreed.

What Craig couldn't have known as he pondered Stuart Gill from the
safety of his boyish bedroom was exactly how much innocence the
underground was still to lose. If he had foreseen the next few
years--the police raids, the Ombudsman's investigation, the stream of
newspaper articles and the court cases--Craig Bowen would, at that
very moment, probably have reached over and turned off his beloved PI
and Zen forever.

                   Chapter 3 -- The American Connection.

US forces give the nod; It's a setback for your country.

-- from `US Forces', 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.

Force had a secret. The Parmaster wanted it.

Like most hackers, The Parmaster didn't just want the secret, he
needed it. He was in that peculiar state attained by real hackers
where they will do just about anything to obtain a certain piece of
information. He was obsessed.

Of course, it wasn't the first time The Parmaster craved a juicy piece
of information. Both he and Force knew all about infatuation. That's
how it worked with real hackers. They didn't just fancy a titbit here
and there. Once they knew information about a particular system was
available, that there was a hidden entrance, they chased it down
relentlessly. So that was exactly what Par was doing. Chasing Force
endlessly, until he got what he wanted.

It began innocently enough as idle conversation between two giants in
the computer underground in the first half of 1988. Force, the
well-known Australian hacker who ran the exclusive Realm BBS in
Melbourne, sat chatting with Par, the American master of X.25
networks, in Germany. Neither of them was physically in Germany, but
Altos was.

Altos Computer Systems in Hamburg ran a conference feature called
Altos Chat on one of its machines. You could call up from anywhere on
the X.25 data communications network, and the company's computer would
let you connect. Once connected, with a few brief keystrokes, the
German machine would drop you into a real-time, on-screen talk session
with anyone else who happened to be on-line. While the rest of the
company's computer system grunted and toiled with everyday labours,
this corner of the machine was reserved for live on-line chatting. For
free. It was like an early form of the Internet Relay Chat. The
company probably hadn't meant to become the world's most prestigious
hacker hang-out, but it soon ended up doing so.

Altos was the first significant international live chat channel, and
for most hackers it was an amazing thing. The good hackers had cruised
through lots of computer networks around the world. Sometimes they
bumped into one another on-line and exchanged the latest gossip.
Occasionally, they logged into overseas BBSes, where they posted
messages. But Altos was different. While underground BBSes had a
tendency to simply disappear one day, gone forever, Altos was always
there. It was live. Instantaneous communications with a dozen other
hackers from all sorts of exotic places. Italy. Canada. France.
England. Israel. The US. And all these people not only shared an
interest in computer networks but also a flagrant contempt for
authority of any type. Instant, real-time penpals--with attitude.

However, Altos was more exclusive than the average underground BBS.
Wanna-be hackers had trouble getting into it because of the way X.25
networks were billed. Some systems on the network took reverse-charge
connections--like a 1-800 number--and some, including Altos, didn't.
To get to Altos you needed a company's NUI (Network User Identifier),
which was like a calling card number for the X.25 network, used to
bill your time on-line. Or you had to have access to a system like
Minerva which automatically accepted billing for all the connections

X.25 networks are different in various ways from the Internet, which
developed later. X.25 networks use different communication protocols
and, unlike the Internet at the user-level, they only use addresses
containing numbers not letters. Each packet of information travelling
over a data network needs to be encased in a particular type of
envelope. A `letter' sent across the X.25 network needs an X.25
`stamped' envelope, not an Internet `stamped' envelope.

The X.25 networks were controlled by a few very large players,
companies such as Telenet and Tymnet, while the modern Internet is, by
contrast, a fragmented collection of many small and medium-sized

Altos unified the international hacking world as nothing else had
done. In sharing information about their own countries' computers and
networks, hackers helped each other venture further and further
abroad. The Australians had gained quite a reputation on Altos. They
knew their stuff. More importantly, they possessed DEFCON, a program
which mapped out uncharted networks and scanned for accounts on
systems within them. Force wrote DEFCON based on a simple automatic
scanning program provided by his friend and mentor, Craig Bowen

Like the telephone system, the X.25 networks had a large number of
`phone numbers', called network user addresses (NUAs). Most were not
valid. They simply hadn't been assigned to anyone yet. To break into
computers on the network, you had to find them first, which meant
either hearing about a particular system from a fellow hacker or
scanning. Scanning--typing in one possible address after another--was
worse than looking for a needle in a haystack. 02624-589004-0004. Then
increasing the last digit by one on each attempt. 0005. 0006. 0007.
Until you hit a machine at the other end.

Back in 1987 or early 1988, Force had logged into Pacific Island for a
talk with Craig Bowen. Force bemoaned the tediousness of hand

`Well, why the hell are you doing it manually?' Bowen responded. `You
should just use my program.' He then gave Force the source code for
his simple automated scanning program, along with instructions.

Force went through the program and decided it would serve as a good
launchpad for bigger things, but it had a major limitation. The
program could only handle one connection at a time, which meant it
could only scan one branch of a network at a time.

Less than three months later, Force had rewritten Bowen's program into
the far more powerful DEFCON, which became the jewel in the crown of
the Australian hackers' reputation. With DEFCON, a hacker could
automatically scan fifteen or twenty network addresses simultaneously.
He could command the computer to map out pieces of the Belgian,
British and Greek X.25 communications networks, looking for computers
hanging off the networks like buds at the tips of tree branches.

Conceptually, the difference was a little like using a basic PC, which
can only run one program at a time, as opposed to operating a more
sophisticated one where you can open many windows with different
programs running all at once. Even though you might only be working in
one window, say, writing a letter, the computer might be doing
calculations in a spreadsheet in another window in the background. You
can swap between
different functions, which are all running in the background

While DEFCON was busy scanning, Force could do other things, such as
talk on Altos. He continued improving DEFCON, writing up to four more
versions of the program. Before long, DEFCON didn't just scan twenty
different connections at one time; it also automatically tried to
break into all the computers it found through those connections.
Though the program only tried basic default passwords, it had a fair
degree of success, since it could attack so many network addresses at
once. Further, new sites and mini-networks were being added so quickly
that security often fell by the wayside in the rush to join in. Since
the addresses were unpublished, companies often felt this obscurity
offered enough protection.

DEFCON produced lists of thousands of computer sites to raid. Force
would leave it scanning from a hacked Prime computer, and a day or two
later he would have an output file with 6000 addresses on different
networks. He perused the list and selected sites which caught his
attention. If his program had discovered an interesting address, he
would travel over the X.25 network to the site and then try to break
into the computer at that address. Alternatively, DEFCON might have
already successfully penetrated the machine using a default password,
in which case the address, account name and password would all be
waiting for Force in the log file. He could just walk right in.

Everyone on Altos wanted DEFCON, but Force refused to hand over the
program. No way was he going to have other hackers tearing up virgin
networks. Not even Erik Bloodaxe, one of the leaders of the most
prestigious American hacking group, Legion of Doom (LOD), got DEFCON
when he asked for it. Erik took his handle from the name of a Viking
king who ruled over the area now known as York, England. Although Erik
was on friendly terms with the Australian hackers, Force remained
adamant. He would not let the jewel out of his hands.

But on this fateful day in 1988, Par didn't want DEFCON. He wanted the
secret Force had just discovered, but held so very close to his chest.
And the Australian didn't want to give it to him.

Force was a meticulous hacker. His bedroom was remarkably tidy, for a
hacker's room. It had a polished, spartan quality. There were a few
well-placed pieces of minimalist furniture:
a black enamel metal single bed, a modern black bedside
table and a single picture on the wall--a photographic poster of
lightning, framed in glass. The largest piece of furniture was a
blue-grey desk with a return, upon which sat his computer, a printer
and an immaculate pile of print-outs. The bookcase, a tall modern
piece matching the rest of the furniture, contained an extensive
collection of fantasy fiction books, including what seemed to be
almost everything ever written by David Eddings. The lower shelves
housed assorted chemistry and programming books. A chemistry award
proudly jutted out from the shelf housing a few Dungeons and Dragons

He kept his hacking notes in an orderly set of plastic folders, all
filed in the bottom of his bookcase. Each page of notes, neatly
printed and surrounded by small, tidy handwriting revealing updates
and minor corrections, had its own plastic cover to prevent smudges or

Force thought it was inefficient to hand out his DEFCON program and
have ten people scan the same network ten different times. It wasted
time and resources. Further, it was becoming harder to get access to
the main X.25 sites in Australia, like Minerva. Scanning was the type
of activity likely to draw the attention of a system admin and result
in the account being killed. The more people who scanned, the more
accounts would be killed, and the less access the Australian hackers
would have. So Force refused to hand over DEFCON to hackers outside
The Realm, which is one thing that made it such a powerful group.

Scanning with DEFCON meant using Netlink, a program which legitimate
users didn't often employ. In his hunt for hackers, an admin might
look for people running Netlink, or he might just examine which
systems a user was connecting to. For example, if a hacker connected
directly to Altos from Minerva without hopping through a respectable
midpoint, such as another corporate machine overseas, he could count
on the Minerva admins killing off the account.

DEFCON was revolutionary for its time, and difficult to reproduce. It
was written for Prime computers, and not many hackers knew how to
write programs for Primes. In fact, it was exceedingly difficult for
most hackers to learn programming of any sort for large, commercial
machines. Getting the system engineering manuals was tough work and
many of the large companies guarded their manuals almost as trade
secrets. Sure, if you bought a $100000 system, the company would give
you a few sets of operating manuals, but that was well beyond the
reach of a teenage hacker. In general, information was hoarded--by the
computer manufacturers, by the big companies which bought the systems,
by the system administrators and even by the universities.

Learning on-line was slow and almost as difficult. Most hackers used
300 or 1200 baud modems. Virtually all access to these big, expensive
machines was illegal. Every moment on-line was a risky proposition.
High schools never had these sorts of expensive machines. Although
many universities had systems, the administrators were usually miserly
with time on-line for students. In most cases, students only got
accounts on the big machines in their second year of computer science
studies. Even then, student accounts were invariably on the
university's oldest, clunkiest machine. And if you weren't a comp-sci
student, forget it. Indulging your intellectual curiosity in VMS
systems would never be anything more than a pipe dream.

Even if you did manage to overcome all the roadblocks and develop some
programming experience in VMS systems, for example, you might only be
able to access a small number of machines on any given network. The
X.25 networks connected a large number of machines which used very
different operating systems. Many, such as Primes, were not in the
least bit intuitive. So if you knew VMS and you hit a Prime machine,
well, that was pretty much it.

Unless, of course, you happened to belong to a clan of hackers like
The Realm. Then you could call up the BBS and post a message. `Hey, I
found a really cool Primos system at this address. Ran into problems
trying to figure the parameters of the Netlink command. Ideas anyone?'
And someone from your team would step forward to help.

In The Realm, Force tried to assemble a diverse group of Australia's
best hackers, each with a different area of expertise. And he happened
to be the resident expert in Prime computers.

Although Force wouldn't give DEFCON to anyone outside The Realm, he
wasn't unreasonable. If you weren't in the system but you had an
interesting network you wanted mapped, he would scan it for you. Force
referred to scans for network user addresses as `NUA sprints'. He
would give you a copy of the NUA sprint. While he was at it, he would
also keep a copy for The Realm. That was efficient. Force's pet
project was creating a database of systems and networks for The Realm,
so he simply added the new information to its database.

Force's great passion was mapping new networks, and new mini-networks
were being added to the main X.25 networks all the time. A large
corporation, such a BHP, might set up its own small-scale network
connecting its offices in Western Australia, Queensland, Victoria and
the United Kingdom. That mini-network might be attached to a
particular X.25 network, such as Austpac. Get into the Austpac network
and chances were you could get into any of the company's sites.

Exploration of all this uncharted territory consumed most of Force's
time. There was something cutting-edge, something truly adventurous
about finding a new network and carefully piecing together a picture
of what the expanding web looked like. He drew detailed pictures and
diagrams showing how a new part of the network connected to the rest.
Perhaps it appealed to his sense of order, or maybe he was just an
adventurer at heart. Whatever the underlying motivation, the maps
provided The Realm with yet another highly prized asset.

When he wasn't mapping networks, Force published Australia's first
underground hacking journal, Globetrotter. Widely read in the
international hacking community, Globetrotter reaffirmed Australian
hackers' pre-eminent position in the international underground.

But on this particular day, Par wasn't thinking about getting a copy
of Globetrotter or asking Force to scan a network for him. He was
thinking about that secret. Force's new secret. The secret Parmaster
desperately wanted.

Force had been using DEFCON to scan half a dozen networks while he
chatted to Par on Altos. He found an interesting connection from the
scan, so he went off to investigate it. When he connected to the
unknown computer, it started firing off strings of numbers at Force's
machine. Force sat at his desk and watched the characters rush by on
his screen.

It was very odd. He hadn't done anything. He hadn't sent any commands
to the mystery computer. He hadn't made the slightest attempt to break
into the machine. Yet here the thing was throwing streams of numbers.
What kind of computer was this? There might have been some sort of
header which would identify the computer, but it had zoomed by so fast
in the unexpected data dump that Force had missed it.

Force flipped over to his chat with Par on Altos. He didn't completely
trust Par, thinking the friendly American sailed a bit close to the
wind. But Par was an expert in X.25 networks and was bound to have
some clue about these numbers. Besides, if they turned out to be
something sensitive, Force didn't have to tell Par where he found

`I've just found a bizarre address. It is one strange system. When I
connected, it just started shooting off numbers at me. Check these

Force didn't know what the numbers were, but Par sure did. `Those look
like credit cards,' he typed back.

`Oh.' Force went quiet.

Par thought the normally chatty Australian hacker seemed astonished.
After a short silence, the now curious Par nudged the conversation
forward. `I have a way I can check out whether they really are valid
cards,' he volunteered. `It'll take some time, but I should be able to
do it and get back to you.'

`Yes.' Force seemed hesitant. `OK.'

On the other side of the Pacific from Par, Force thought about this
turn of events. If they were valid credit cards, that was very cool.
Not because he intended to use them for credit card fraud in the way
Ivan Trotsky might have done. But Force could use them for making
long-distance phone calls to hack overseas. And the sheer number of
cards was astonishing. Thousand and thousands of them. Maybe 10000.
All he could think was, Shit! Free connections for the rest of my

Hackers such as Force considered using cards to call overseas computer
systems a little distasteful, but certainly acceptable. The card owner
would never end up paying the bill anyway. The hackers figured that
Telecom, which they despised, would probably have to wear the cost in
the end, and that was fine by them. Using cards to hack was nothing
like ordering consumer goods. That was real credit card fraud. And
Force would never sully his hands with that sort of behaviour.

Force scrolled back over his capture of the numbers which had been
injected into his machine. After closer inspection, he saw there were
headers which appeared periodically through the list. One said,

He checked the prefix of the mystery machine's network address again.
He knew from previous scans that it belonged to one of the world's
largest banks. Citibank.

The data dump continued for almost three hours. After that, the
Citibank machine seemed to go dead. Force saw nothing but a blank
screen, but he kept the connection open. There was no way he was going
to hang up from this conversation. He figured this had to be a freak
connection--that he accidentally connected to this machine somehow,
that it wasn't really at the address he had tried based on the DEFCON
scan of Citibank's network.

How else could it have happened? Surely Citibank wouldn't have a
computer full of credit cards which spilled its guts every time
someone rang up to say `hello'? There would be tonnes of security on a
machine like that. This machine didn't even have a password. It didn't
even need a special character command, like a secret handshake.

Freak connections happened now and then on X.25
networks. They had the same effect as a missed voice phone
connection. You dial a friend's number--and you dial it correctly--but
somehow the call gets screwed up in the tangle of wires and exchanges
and your call gets put through to another number entirely. Of course,
once something like that happens to an X.25 hacker, he immediately
tries to figure out what the hell is going on, to search every shred
of data from the machine looking for the system's real address.
Because it was an accident, he suspects he will never find the machine

Force stayed home from school for two days to keep the connection
alive and to piece together how he landed on the doorstep of this
computer. During this time, the Citibank computer woke up a few times,
dumped a bit more information, and then went back to sleep. Keeping
the connection alive meant running a small risk of discovery by an
admin at his launch point, but the rewards in this case far exceeded
the risk.

It wasn't all that unusual for Force to skip school to hack. His
parents used to tell him, `You better stop it, or you'll have to wear
glasses one day'. Still, they didn't seem to worry too much, since
their son had always excelled in school without much effort. At the
start of his secondary school career he had tried to convince his
teachers he should skip year 9. Some objected. It was a hassle, but he
finally arranged it by quietly doing the coursework for year 9 while
he was in year 8.

After Force had finally disconnected from the CitiSaudi computer and
had a good sleep, he decided to check on whether he could reconnect to
the machine. At first, no-one answered, but when he tried a little
later, someone answered all right. And it was the same talkative
resident who answered the door the first time. Although it only seemed
to work at certain hours of the day, the Citibank network address was
the right one. He was in again.

As Force looked over the captures from his Citibank hack, he noticed
that the last section of the data dump didn't contain credit card
numbers like the first part. It had people's names--Middle Eastern
names--and a list of transactions. Dinner at a restaurant. A visit to
a brothel. All sorts of transactions. There was also a number which
looked like a credit limit, in come cases a very, very large limit,
for each person. A sheik and his wife appeared to have credit limits
of $1 million--each. Another name had a limit of $5 million.

There was something strange about the data, Force thought. It was not
structured in a way which suggested the Citibank machine was merely
transmitting data to another machine. It looked more like a text file
which was being dumped from a computer to a line printer.

Force sat back and considered his exquisite discovery. He decided this
was something he would share only with a very few close, trusted
friends from The Realm. He would tell Phoenix and perhaps one other
member, but no-one else.

As he looked through the data once more, Force began to feel a little
anxious. Citibank was a huge financial institution, dependent on the
complete confidence of its customers. The corporation would lose a lot
of face if news of Force's discovery got out. It might care enough to
really come after him. Then, with the sudden clarity of the lightning
strike photo which hung on his wall, a single thought filled his mind.

I am playing with fire.

`Where did you get those numbers?' Par asked Force next time they were
both on Altos.

Force hedged. Par leaped forward.

`I checked those numbers for you. They're valid,' he told Force. The
American was more than intrigued. He wanted that network address. It
was lust. Next stop, mystery machine. `So, what's the address?'

That was the one question Force didn't want to hear. He and Par had a
good relationship, sharing information comfortably if occasionally.
But that relationship only went so far. For all he knew, Par might
have a less than desirable use for the information. Force didn't know
if Par carded, but he felt sure Par had friends who might be into it.
So Force refused to tell Par where to find the mystery machine.

Par wasn't going to give up all that easily. Not that he would use the
cards for free cash, but, hey, the mystery machine seemed like a very
cool place to check out. There would be no peace for Force until Par
got what he wanted. Nothing is so tempting to a hacker as the faintest
whiff of information about a system he wants, and Par hounded Force
until the Australian hacker relented just a bit.

Finally Force told Par roughly where DEFCON had been scanning for
addresses when it stumbled upon the CitiSaudi machine. Force wasn't
handing over the street address, just the name of the suburb. DEFCON
had been accessing the Citibank network through Telenet, a large
American data network using X.25 communications protocols. The
sub-prefixes for the Citibank portion of the network were 223 and 224.

Par pestered Force some more for the rest of the numbers, but the
Australian had dug his heels in. Force was too careful a player, too
fastidious a hacker, to allow himself to get mixed up in the things
Par might get up to.

OK, thought the seventeen-year-old Par, I can do this without you. Par
estimated there were 20000 possible addresses on that network, any one
of which might be the home of the mystery machine. But he assumed the
machine would be in the low end of the network, since the lower
numbers were usually used first and the higher numbers were generally
saved for other, special network functions. His assumptions narrowed
the likely search field to about 2000 possible addresses.

Par began hand-scanning on the Citibank Global Telecommunications
Network (GTN) looking for the mystery machine. Using his knowledge of
the X.25 network, he picked a number to start with. He typed 22301,
22302, 22303. On and on, heading toward 22310000. Hour after hour,
slowly, laboriously, working his way through all the options, Par
scanned out a piece, or a range, within the network. When he got bored
with the 223 prefix, he tried out the 224 one for a bit of variety.

Bleary-eyed and exhausted after a long night at the computer, Par felt
like calling it quits. The sun had splashed through the windows of his
Salinas, California, apartment hours ago. His living room was a mess,
with empty, upturned beer cans circling his Apple IIe. Par gave up for
a while, caught some shut-eye. He had gone through the entire list of
possible addresses, knocking at all the doors, and nothing had
happened. But over the next few days he returned to scanning the
network again. He decided to be more methodical about it and do the
whole thing from scratch a second time.

He was part way through the second scan when it happened. Par's
computer connected to something. He sat up and peered toward the
screen. What was going on? He checked the address. He was sure he had
tried this one before and nothing had answered. Things were definitely
getting strange. He stared at his computer.

The screen was blank, with the cursor blinking silently at the top.
Now what? What had Force done to get the computer to sing its song?

Par tried pressing the control key and a few different letters.
Nothing. Maybe this wasn't the right address after all. He
disconnected from the machine and carefully wrote down the address,
determined to try it again later.

On his third attempt, he connected again but found the same irritating
blank screen. This time he went through the entire alphabet with the
control key.

Control L.

That was the magic keystroke. The one that made CitiSaudi give up its
mysterious cache. The one that gave Par an adrenalin rush, along with
thousands and thousands of cards. Instant cash, flooding his screen.
He turned on the screen capture so he could collect all the
information flowing past and analyse it later. Par had to keep feeding
his little Apple IIe more disks to store all the data coming in
through his 1200 baud modem.

It was magnificent. Par savoured the moment, thinking about how much
he was going to enjoy telling Force. It was going to be sweet. Hey,
Aussie, you aren't the only show in town. See ya in Citibank.

An hour or so later, when the CitiSaudi data dump had finally
finished, Par was stunned at what he found in his capture. These
weren't just any old cards. These were debit cards, and they were held
by very rich Arabs. These people just plopped a few million in a bank
account and linked a small, rectangular piece of plastic to that
account. Every charge came directly out of the bank balance. One guy
listed in the data dump bought a $330,000 Mercedes Benz in
Istanbul--on his card. Par couldn't imagine being able to throw down a
bit of plastic for that. Taking that plastic out for a spin around the
block would bring a whole new meaning to the expression, `Charge it!'

When someone wins the lottery, they often feel like sharing with their
friends. Which is exactly what Par did. First, he showed his
room-mates. They thought it was very cool. But not nearly so cool as
the half dozen hackers and phreakers who happened to be on the
telephone bridge Par frequented when the master of X.25 read off a
bunch of the cards.

Par was a popular guy after that day. Par was great, a sort of Robin
Hood of the underground. Soon, everyone wanted to talk to him. Hackers
in New York. Phreakers in Virginia. And the Secret Service in San

Par didn't mean to fall in love with Theorem. It was an accident, and
he couldn't have picked a worse girl to fall for. For starters, she
lived in Switzerland. She was 23 and he was only seventeen. She also
happened to be in a relationship--and that relationship was with
Electron, one of the best Australian hackers of the late 1980s. But
Par couldn't help himself. She was irresistible, even though he had
never met her in person. Theorem was different. She was smart and
funny, but refined, as a European woman can be.

They met on Altos in 1988.

Theorem didn't hack computers. She didn't need to, since she could
connect to Altos through her old university computer account. She had
first found Altos on 23 December 1986. She remembered the date for two
reasons. First, she was amazed
at the power of Altos--that she could have a live conversation on-line
with a dozen people in different countries at the same time. Altos was
a whole new world for her. Second, that was the day she met Electron.

Electron made Theorem laugh. His sardonic, irreverent humour hit a
chord with her. Traditional Swiss society could be stifling and
closed, but Electron was a breath of fresh air. Theorem was Swiss but
she didn't always fit the mould. She hated skiing. She was six feet
tall. She liked computers.

When they met on-line, the 21-year-old Theorem was at a crossroad in
her youth. She had spent a year and a half at university studying
mathematics. Unfortunately, the studies had not gone well. The truth
be told, her second year of university was in fact the first year all
over again. A classmate had introduced her to Altos on the
university's computers. Not long after she struck up a relationship
with Electron, she dropped out of uni all together and enrolled in a
secretarial course. After that, she found a secretarial job at a
financial institution.

Theorem and Electron talked on Altos for hours at a time. They talked
about everything--life, family, movies, parties--but not much about
what most people on Altos talked about--hacking. Eventually, Electron
gathered up the courage to ask Theorem for her voice telephone number.
She gave it to him happily and Electron called her at home in
Lausanne. They talked. And talked. And talked. Soon they were on the
telephone all the time.

Seventeen-year-old Electron had never had a girlfriend. None of the
girls in his middle-class high school would give him the time of day
when it came to romance. Yet here was this bright, vibrant girl--a
girl who studied maths--speaking to him intimately in a melting French
accent. Best of all, she genuinely liked him. A few words from his
lips could send her into silvery peals of laughter.

When the phone bill arrived, it was $1000. Electron surreptitiously
collected it and buried it at the bottom of a drawer in his bedroom.

When he told Theorem, she offered to help pay for it. A cheque for
$700 showed up not long after. It made the task of explaining
Telecom's reminder notice to his father much easier.

The romantic relationship progressed throughout 1987 and the first
half of 1988. Electron and Theorem exchanged love letters and tender
intimacies over 16000 kilometres of computer networks, but the
long-distance relationship had some bumpy periods. Like when she had
an affair over several months with Pengo. A well-known German hacker
with links to the German hacking group called the Chaos Computer Club,
Pengo was also a friend and mentor to Electron. Pengo was, however,
only a short train ride away from Theorem. She became friends with
Pengo on Altos and eventually visited him. Things progressed from

Theorem was honest with Electron about the affair, but there was
something unspoken, something below the surface. Even after the affair
ended, Theorem was sweet on Pengo the way a girl remains fond of her
first love regardless of how many other men she has slept with since

Electron felt hurt and angry, but he swallowed his pride and forgave
Theorem her dalliance. Eventually, Pengo disappeared from the scene.

Pengo had been involved with people who sold US military
secrets--taken from computers--to the KGB. Although his direct
involvement in the ongoing international computer espionage had been
limited, he began to worry about the risks. His real interest was in
hacking, not spying. The Russian connection simply enabled him to get
access to bigger and better computers. Beyond that, he felt no loyalty
to the Russians.

In the first half of 1988, he handed himself in to the German
authorities. Under West German law at the time, a citizen-spy who
surrendered himself before the state discovered the crime, and thus
averted more damage to the state, acquired immunity from prosecution.
Having already been busted in December 1986 for using a stolen NUI,
Pengo decided that turning himself in would be his best hope of taking
advantage of this legal largesse.

By the end of the year, things had become somewhat hairy for Pengo and
in March 1989 the twenty-year-old from Berlin was raided again, this
time with the four others involved in the spy ring. The story broke
and the media exposed Pengo's real name. He didn't know if he would
eventually be tried and convicted of something related to the
incident. Pengo had a few things on his mind other than the six-foot
Swiss girl.

With Pengo out of the way, the situation between Theorem and the
Australian hacker improved. Until Par came along.

Theorem and Par began innocently enough. Being one of only a few girls
in the international hacking and phreaking scene and, more
particularly, on Altos, she was treated differently. She had lots of
male friends on the German chat system, and the boys told her things
in confidence they would never tell each other. They sought out her
advice. She often felt like she wore many hats--mother, girlfriend,
psychiatrist--when she spoke with the boys on Altos.

Par had been having trouble with his on-line girlfriend, Nora, and
when he met Theorem he turned to her for a bit of support. He had
travelled from California to meet Nora in person in New York. But when
he arrived in the sweltering heat of a New York summer, without
warning, her conservative Chinese parents didn't take kindly to his
unannounced appearance. There were other frictions between Nora and
Par. The relationship had been fine on Altos and on the phone, but
things were just not clicking in person.

He already knew that virtual relationships, forged over an electronic
medium which denied the importance of physical chemistry, could
sometimes be disappointing.

Par used to hang out on a phone bridge with another Australian member
of The Realm, named Phoenix, and with a fun girl from southern
California. Tammi, a casual phreaker, had a great personality and a
hilarious sense of humour. During those endless hours chatting, she
and Phoenix seemed to be in the throes of a mutual crush. In the
phreaking underground, they were known as a bit of a virtual item. She
had even invited Phoenix to come visit her sometime. Then, one day,
for the fun of it, Tammi decided to visit Par in Monterey. Her
appearance was a shock.

Tammi had described herself to Phoenix as being a blue-eyed, blonde
California girl. Par knew that Phoenix visualised her as a
stereotypical bikini-clad, beach bunny from LA. His perception rested
on a foreigner's view of the southern California culture. The land of
milk and honey. The home of the Beach Boys and TV series like
`Charlie's Angels'.

When Tammi arrived, Par knew instantly that she and Phoenix would
never hit it off in person. Tammi did in fact have both blonde hair
and blue eyes. She had neglected to mention, however, that she weighed
about 300 pounds, had a rather homely face and a somewhat down-market
style. Par really liked Tammi, but he couldn't get the ugly phrase
`white trash' out of his thoughts. He pushed and shoved, but the
phrase was wedged in his mind. It fell to Par to tell Phoenix the
truth about Tammi.

So Par knew all about how reality could burst the foundations of a
virtual relationship.

Leaving New York and Nora behind, Par moved across the river to New
Jersey to stay with a friend, Byteman, who was one of a group of
hackers who specialised in breaking into computer systems run by Bell
Communications Research (Bellcore). Bellcore came into existence at
the beginning of 1984 as a result of the break-up of the US telephone
monopoly known as Bell Systems. Before the break-up, Bell Systems'
paternalistic holding company, American Telephone and Telegraph
(AT&T), had
fostered the best and brightest in Bell Labs, its research arm. Over
the course of its history, Bell Labs boasted at least seven
Nobel-prize winning researchers and numerous scientific achievements.
All of which made Bellcore a good target for hackers trying to prove
their prowess.

Byteman used to chat with Theorem on Altos, and eventually he called
her, voice. Par must have looked pretty inconsolable, because one day
while Byteman was talking to Theorem, he suddenly said to her, `Hey,
wanna talk to a friend of mine?' Theorem said `Sure' and Byteman
handed the telephone to Par. They talked for about twenty minutes.

After that they spoke regularly both on Altos and on the phone. For
weeks after Par returned to California, Theorem tried to cheer him up
after his unfortunate experience with Nora. By mid-1988, they had
fallen utterly and passionately in love.

Electron, an occasional member of Force's Realm group, took the news
very badly. Not everyone on Altos liked Electron. He could be a little
prickly, and very cutting when he chose to be, but he was an ace
hacker, on an international scale, and everyone listened to him.
Obsessive, creative and quick off the mark, Electron had respect,
which is one reason Par felt so badly.

When Theorem told Electron the bad news in a private conversation
on-line, Electron had let fly in the public area, ripping into the
American hacker on the main chat section of Altos, in front of

Par took it on the chin and refused to fight back. What else could he
do? He knew what it was like to hurt. He felt for the guy and knew how
he would feel if he lost Theorem. And he knew that Electron must be
suffering a terrible loss of face. Everyone saw Electron and Theorem
as an item. They had been together for more than a year. So Par met
Electron's fury with grace and quiet words of consolation.

Par didn't hear much from Electron after that day. The Australian
still visited Altos, but he seemed more withdrawn, at least whenever
Par was around. After that day, Par ran into him once, on a phone
bridge with a bunch of Australian hackers.

Phoenix said on the bridge, `Hey, Electron. Par's on the bridge.'

Electron paused. `Oh, really,' he answered coolly. Then he went

Par let Electron keep his distance. After all, Par had what really
counted--the girl.

Par called Theorem almost every day. Soon they began to make plans for
her to fly to California so they could meet in person. Par tried not
to expect too much, but he found it difficult to stop savouring the
thought of finally seeing Theorem face to face. It gave him

Yeah, Par thought, things are really looking up.

The beauty of Altos was that, like Pacific Island or any other local
BBS, a hacker could take on any identity he wanted. And he could do it
on an international scale. Visiting Altos was like attending a
glittering masquerade ball. Anyone could recreate himself. A socially
inept hacker could pose as a character of romance and adventure. And a
security official could pose as a hacker.

Which is exactly what Telenet security officer Steve Mathews did on 27
October 1988. Par happened to be on-line, chatting away with his
friends and hacker colleagues. At any given moment, there were always
a few strays on Altos, a few people who weren't regulars. Naturally,
Mathews didn't announce himself as being a Telenet guy. He just
slipped quietly onto Altos looking like any other hacker. He might
engage a hacker in conversation, but he let the hacker do most of the
talking. He was there to listen.

On that fateful day, Par happened to be in one of his magnanimous
moods. Par had never had much money growing up, but he was always very
generous with what he did have. He talked for a little while with the
unknown hacker on Altos, and then gave him one of the debit cards
taken from his visits to the CitiSaudi computer. Why not? On Altos, it
was a bit like handing out your business card. `The
Parmaster--Parameters Par Excellence'.

Par had got his full name--The Parmaster--in his earliest hacking
days. Back then, he belonged to a group of teenagers involved in
breaking the copy protections on software programs for Apple IIes,
particularly games. Par had a special gift for working out the copy
protection parameters, which was a first step in bypassing the
manufacturers' protection schemes. The ringleader of the group began
calling him `the master of parameters'--The Parmaster--Par, for short.
As he moved into serious hacking and developed his expertise in X.25
networks, he kept the name because it fitted nicely in his new
environment. `Par?' was a common command on an X.25 pad, the modem
gateway to an X.25 network.

`I've got lots more where that come from,' Par told the stranger on
Altos. `I've got like 4000 cards from a Citibank system.'

Not long after that, Steve Mathews was monitoring Altos again, when
Par showed up handing out cards to people once more.

`I've got an inside contact,' Par confided. `He's gonna make up a
whole mess of new, plastic cards with all these valid numbers from the
Citibank machine. Only the really big accounts, though. Nothing with a
balance under $25000.'

Was Par just making idle conversation, talking big on Altos? Or would
he really have gone through with committing such a major fraud?
Citibank, Telenet and the US Secret Service would never know, because
their security guys began closing the net around Par before he had a
chance to take his idea any further.

Mathews contacted Larry Wallace, fraud investigator with Citibank in
San Mateo, California. Wallace checked out the cards. They were valid
all right. They belonged to the Saudi-American Bank in Saudi Arabia
and were held on a Citibank database in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Wallace determined that, with its affiliation to the Middle Eastern
bank, Citibank had a custodial responsibility for the accounts. That
meant he could open a major investigation.

On 7 November, Wallace brought in the US Secret Service. Four days
later, Wallace and Special Agent Thomas Holman got their first major
lead when they interviewed Gerry Lyons of Pacific Bell's security
office in San Francisco.

Yes, Lyons told the investigators, she had some information they might
find valuable. She knew all about hackers and phreakers. In fact, the
San Jose Police had just busted two guys trying to phreak at a pay
phone. The phreakers seemed to know something about a Citibank system.

When the agents showed up at the San Jose Police Department for their
appointment with Sergeant Dave Flory, they received another pleasant
surprise. The sergeant had a book filled with hackers' names and
numbers seized during the arrest of the two pay-phone phreakers. He
also happened to be in possession of a tape recording of the phreakers
talking to Par from a prison phone.

The cheeky phreakers had used the prison pay phone to call up a
telephone bridge located at the University of Virginia. Par, the
Australian hackers and other assorted American phreakers and hackers
visited the bridge frequently. At any one moment, there might be eight
to ten people from the underground sitting on the bridge. The
phreakers found Par hanging out there, as usual, and they warned him.
His name and number were inside the book seized by police when they
were busted.

Par didn't seem worried at all.

`Hey, don't worry. It's cool,' he reassured them. `I have just
disconnected my phone number today--with no forwarding details.'

Which wasn't quite true. His room-mate, Scott, had indeed disconnected
the phone which was in his name because he had been getting prank
calls. However, Scott opened a new telephone account at the same
address with the same name on the same day--all of which made the job
of tracking down the mysterious hacker named Par much easier for the
law enforcement agencies.

In the meantime, Larry Wallace had been ringing around his contacts in
the security business and had come up with another lead. Wanda Gamble,
supervisor for the Southeastern Region of MCI Investigations, in
Atlanta, had a wealth of information on the hacker who called himself
Par. She was well connected when it came to hackers, having acquired a
collection of reliable informants during her investigations of
hacker-related incidents. She gave the Citibank investigator two
mailbox numbers for Par. She also handed them what she believed was
his home phone number.

The number checked out and on 25 November, the day after Thanksgiving,
the Secret Service raided Par's house. The raid was terrifying. At
least four law enforcement officers burst through the door with guns
drawn and pointed. One of them had a shotgun. As is often the case in
the US, investigators from private, commercial organisations--in this
case Citibank and Pacific Bell--also took part in the raid.

The agents tore the place apart looking for evidence. They dragged
down the food from the kitchen cupboards. They emptied the box of
cornflakes into the sink looking for hidden computer disks. They
looked everywhere, even finding a ceiling cavity at the back of a
closet which no-one even knew existed.

They confiscated Par's Apple IIe, printer and modem. But, just to be
sure, they also took the Yellow Pages, along with the telephone and
the new Nintendo game paddles Scott had just bought. They scooped up
the very large number of papers which had been piled under the coffee
table, including the spiral notebook with Scott's airline bookings
from his job as a travel agent. They even took the garbage.

It wasn't long before they found the red shoebox full of disks peeping
out from under the fish tank next to Par's computer.

They found lots of evidence. What they didn't find was Par.

Instead, they found Scott and Ed, two friends of Par. They were pretty
shaken up by the raid. Not knowing Par's real identity, the Secret
Service agents accused Scott of being Par. The phone was in his name,
and Special Agent Holman had even conducted some surveillance more
than a week before the raid, running the plates on Scott's 1965 black
Ford Mustang parked in front of the house. The Secret Service was sure
it had its man, and Scott had a hell of a time convincing them

Both Scott and Ed swore up and down that they weren't hackers or
phreakers, and they certainly weren't Par. But they knew who Par was,
and they told the agents his real name. After considerable pressure
from the Secret Service, Scott and Ed agreed to make statements down
at the police station.

In Chicago, more than 2700 kilometres away from the crisis unfolding
in northern California, Par and his mother watched his aunt walk down
the aisle in her white gown.

Par telephoned home once, to Scott, to say `hi' from the Midwest. The
call came after the raid.

`So,' a relaxed Par asked his room-mate, `How are things going at

`Fine,' Scott replied. `Nothing much happening here.'

Par looked down at the red bag he was carrying with a momentary
expression of horror. He realised he stood out in the San Jose bus
terminal like a peacock among the pigeons ...

Blissfully ignorant of the raid which had occurred three days before,
Par and his mother had flown into San Jose airport. They had gone to
the bus terminal to pick up a Greyhound home to the Monterey area.
While waiting for the bus, Par called his friend Tammi to say he was
back in California.

Any casual bystander waiting to use the pay phones at that moment
would have seen a remarkable transformation in the brown-haired boy at
the row of phones. The smiling face suddenly dropped in a spasm of
shock. His skin turned ash white as the blood fled south. His deep-set
chocolate brown eyes, with their long, graceful lashes curving upward
and their soft, shy expression, seemed impossibly large.

For at that moment Tammi told Par that his house had been raided by
the Secret Service. That Scott and Ed had been pretty upset about
having guns shoved in their faces, and had made statements about him
to the police. That they thought their phone was tapped. That the
Secret Service guys were still hunting for Par, they knew his real
name, and she thought there was an all points bulletin out for him.
Scott had told the Secret Service about Par's red bag, the one with
all his hacking notes that he always carried around. The one with the
print-out of all the Citibank credit card numbers.

And so it was that Par came to gaze down at his bag with a look of
alarm. He realised instantly that the Secret Service would be looking
for that red bag. If they didn't know what he looked like, they would
simply watch for the bag.

That bag was not something Par could hide easily. The Citibank
print-out was the size of a phone book. He also had dozens of disks
loaded with the cards and other sensitive hacking information.

Par had used the cards to make a few free calls, but he hadn't been
charging up any jet skis. He fought temptation valiantly, and in the
end he had won, but others might not have been so victorious in the
same battle. Par figured that some less scrupulous hackers had
probably been charging up a storm. He was right. Someone had, for
example, tried to send a $367 bouquet of flowers to a woman in El Paso
using one of the stolen cards. The carder had unwittingly chosen a
debit card belonging to a senior Saudi bank executive who happened to
be in his office at the time the flower order was placed. Citibank
investigator Larry Wallace added notes on that incident to his growing

Par figured that Citibank would probably try to pin every single
attempt at carding on him. Why not? What kind of credibility would a
seventeen-year-old hacker have in denying those sorts of allegations?
Zero. Par made a snap decision. He sidled up to a trash bin in a dark
corner. Scanning the scene warily, Par casually reached into the red
bag, pulled out the thick wad of Citibank card print-outs and stuffed
it into the bin. He fluffed a few stray pieces of garbage over the

He worried about the computer disks with all his other valuable
hacking information. They represented thousands of hours of work and
he couldn't bring himself to throw it all away. The 10 megabyte
trophy. More than 4000 cards. 130000 different transactions. In the
end, he decided to hold on to the disks, regardless of the risk. At
least, without the print-out, he could crumple the bag up a bit and
make it a little less conspicuous. As Par slowly moved away from the
bin, he glanced back to check how nondescript the burial site appeared
from a distance. It looked like a pile of garbage. Trash worth
millions of dollars, headed for the dump.

As he boarded the bus to Salinas with his mother, Par's mind was
instantly flooded with images of a homeless person fishing the
print-out from the bin and asking someone about it. He tried to push
the idea from his head.

During the bus ride, Par attempted to figure out what he was going to
do. He didn't tell his mother anything. She couldn't even begin to
comprehend his world of computers and networks, let alone his current
predicament. Further, Par and his mother had suffered from a somewhat
strained relationship since he ran away from home not long after his
seventeenth birthday. He had been kicked out of school for
non-attendance, but had found a job tutoring students in computers at
the local college. Before the trip to Chicago, he had seen her just
once in six months. No, he couldn't turn to her for help.

The bus rolled toward the Salinas station. En route, it travelled down
the street where Par lived. He saw a jogger, a thin black man wearing
a walkman. What the hell is a jogger doing here, Par thought. No-one
jogged in the semi-industrial neighbourhood. Par's house was about the
only residence amid all the light-industrial buildings. As soon as the
jogger was out of sight of the house, he suddenly broke away from his
path, turned off to one side and hit the ground. As he lay on his
stomach on some grass, facing the house, he seemed to begin talking
into the walkman.

Sitting watching this on the bus, Par flipped out. They were out to
get him, no doubt about it. When the bus finally arrived at the depot
and his mother began sorting out their luggage, Par tucked the red bag
under his arm and disappeared. He found a pay phone and called Scott
to find out the status of things. Scott handed the phone to Chris,
another friend who lived in the house. Chris had been away at his
parents' home during the Thanksgiving raid.

`Hold tight and lay low,' Chris told Par.

`I'm on my way over to pick you up and take you to a lawyer's office
where you can get some sort of protection.'

A specialist in criminal law, Richard Rosen was born in New York but
raised in his later childhood in California. He had a personality
which reflected the steely stubbornness of a New Yorker, tempered with
the laid-back friendliness of the west coast. Rosen also harboured a
strong anti-authoritarian streak. He represented the local chapter of
Hell's Angels in the middle-class County of Monterey. He also caused a
splash representing the growing midwifery movement, which promoted
home-births. The doctors of California didn't like him much as a

Par's room-mates met with Rosen after the raid to set things up for
Par's return. They told him about the terrifying ordeal of the Secret
Service raid, and how they were interrogated for an hour and a half
before being pressured to give statements. Scott, in particular, felt
that he had been forced to give a statement against Par under duress.

While Par talked to Chris on the phone, he noticed a man standing at
the end of the row of pay phones. This man was also wearing a walkman.
He didn't look Par in the eye. Instead, he faced the wall, glancing
furtively off to the side toward where Par was standing. Who was that
guy? Fear welled up inside Par and all sorts of doubts flooded his
mind. Who could he trust?

Scott hadn't told him about the raid. Were his room-mates in cahoots
the Secret Service? Were they just buying time so they could turn him
in? There was no-one else Par could turn to. His mother wouldn't
understand. Besides, she had problems of her own. And he didn't have a
father. As far as Par was concerned, his father was as good as dead.
He had never met the man, but he heard he was a prison officer in
Florida. Not a likely candidate for helping Par in this situation. He
was close to his grandparents--they had bought his computer for him as
a present--but they lived in a tiny Mid-Western town and they simply
wouldn't understand either.

Par didn't know what to do, but he didn't seem to have many options at
the moment, so he told Chris he would wait at the station for him.
Then he ducked around a corner and tried to hide.

A few minutes later, Chris pulled into the depot. Par dove into the
Toyota Landcruiser and Chris tore out of the station toward Rosen's
office. They noticed a white car race out of the bus station after

While they drove, Par pieced together the story from Chris. No-one had
warned him about the raid because everyone in the house believed the
phone line was tapped. Telling Par while he was in Chicago might have
meant another visit from the Secret Service. All they had been able to
do was line up Rosen to help him.

Par checked the rear-view mirror. The white car was still following
them. Chris made a hard turn at the next intersection and accelerated
down the California speedway. The white car tore around the corner in
pursuit. No matter what Chris did, he couldn't shake the tail. Par sat
in the seat next to Chris, quietly freaking out.

Just 24 hours before, he had been safe and sound in Chicago. How did
he end up back here in California being chased by a mysterious driver
in a white car?

Chris tried his best to break free, swerving and racing. The white car
wouldn't budge. But Chris and Par had one advantage over the white
car; they were in a four-wheel drive. In a split-second decision,
Chris jerked the steering wheel to one side. The Landcruiser veered
off the road onto a lettuce field. Par gripped the inside of the door
as the 4WD bounced through the dirt over the neat crop rows. Near-ripe
heads of lettuce went flying out from under the tires. Half-shredded
lettuce leaves filled the air. A cloud of dirt enveloped the car. The
vehicle skidded and jerked, but finally made its way to a highway at
the far end of the field. Chris hit the highway running, swerving into
the lane at high speed.

When Par looked back, the white car had disappeared. Chris kept his
foot on the accelerator and Par barely breathed until the Landcruiser
pulled up in front of Richard Rosen's building.

Par leaped out, the red bag still clutched tightly under his arm, and
high-tailed it into the lawyer's office. The receptionist looked a bit
shocked when he said his name. Someone must have filled her in on the

Rosen quickly ushered him into his office. Introductions were brief
and Par cut to the story of the chase. Rosen listened intently,
occasionally asking a well-pointed question, and then took control of
the situation.

The first thing they needed to do was call off the Secret Service
chase, Rosen said, so Par didn't have to spend any more time ducking
around corners and hiding in bus depots. He called the Secret
Service's San Francisco office and asked Special Agent Thomas J.
Holman to kill the Secret Service pursuit in exchange for an agreement
that Par would turn himself in to be formally charged.

Holman insisted that they had to talk to Par.

No, Rosen said. There would be no interviews for Par by law
enforcement agents until a deal had been worked out.

But the Secret Service needed to talk to Par, Holman insisted. They
could only discuss all the other matters after the Secret Service had
had a chance to talk with Par.

Rosen politely warned Holman not to attempt to contact his client. You
have something to say to Par, you go through me, he said. Holman did
not like that at all. When the Secret Service wanted to talk to
someone, they were used to getting their way. He pushed Rosen, but the
answer was still no. No no no and no again. Holman had made a mistake.
He had assumed that everyone wanted to do business with the United
States Secret Service.

When he finally realised Rosen wouldn't budge, Holman gave up. Rosen
then negotiated with the federal prosecutor, US Attorney Joe Burton,
who was effectively Holman's boss in the case, to call off the pursuit
in exchange for Par handing himself in to be formally charged.

Then Par gave Rosen his red bag, for safekeeping.

At about the same time, Citibank investigator Wallace and Detective
Porter of the Salinas Police interviewed Par's mother as she returned
home from the bus depot. She said that her son had moved out of her
home some six months before, leaving her with a $2000 phone bill she
couldn't pay. They asked if they could search her home. Privately, she
worried about what would happen if she refused. Would they tell the
office where she worked as a clerk? Could they get her fired? A simple
woman who had little experience dealing with law enforcement agents,
Par's mother agreed. The investigators took Par's disks and papers.

Par turned himself in to the Salinas Police in the early afternoon of
12 December. The police photographed and fingerprinted him before
handing him a citation--a small yellow slip headed `502 (c) (1) PC'.
It looked like a traffic ticket, but the two charges Par faced were
felonies, and each carried a maximum term of three years for a minor.
Count 1, for hacking into Citicorp Credit Services, also carried a
fine of up to $10000. Count 2, for `defrauding a telephone service',
had no fine: the charges were for a continuing course of conduct,
meaning that they applied to the same activity over an extended period
of time.

Federal investigators had been astonished to find Par was so young.
Dealing with a minor in the federal court system was a big hassle, so
the prosecutor decided to ask the state authorities to prosecute the
case. Par was ordered to appear in Monterey County Juvenile Court on
10 July 1989.

Over the next few months, Par worked closely with Rosen. Though Rosen
was a very adept lawyer, the situation looked pretty depressing.
Citibank claimed it had spent $30000 on securing its systems and Par
believed that the corporation might be looking for up to $3 million in
total damages. While they couldn't prove Par had made any money from
the cards himself, the prosecution would argue that his generous
distribution of them had led to serious financial losses. And that was
just the financial institutions.

Much more worrying was what might come out about Par's visits to TRW's
computers. The Secret Service had seized at least one disk with TRW
material on it.

TRW was a large, diverse company, with assets of $2.1 billion and
sales of almost $7 billion in 1989, nearly half of which came from the
US government. It employed more than 73000 people, many of who worked
with the company's credit ratings business. TRW's vast databases held
private details of millions of people--addresses, phone numbers,
financial data.

That, however, was just one of the company's many businesses. TRW also
did defence work--very secret defence work. Its Space and Defense
division, based in Redondo Beach, California, was widely believed to
be a major beneficiary of the Reagan Government's Star Wars budget.
More than 10 per cent of the company's employees worked in this
division, designing spacecraft systems, communications systems,
satellites and other, unspecified, space `instruments'.

The siezed disk had some mail from the company's TRWMAIL systems. It
wasn't particularly sensitive, mostly just company propaganda sent to
employees, but the Secret Service might think that where there was
smoke, there was bound to be fire. TRW did the kind of work that makes
governments very nervous when it comes to unauthorised access. And Par
had visited certain TRW machines; he knew that company had a missiles
research section, and even a space weapons section.

With so many people out to get him--Citibank, the Secret Service, the
local police, even his own mother had helped the other side--it was
only a matter of time before they unearthed the really secret things
he had seen while hacking. Par began to wonder if was such a good idea
for him to stay around for the trial.

In early 1989, when Theorem stepped off the plane which carried her
from Switzerland to San Francisco, she was pleased that she had
managed to keep a promise to herself. It wasn't always an easy
promise. There were times of intimacy, of perfect connection, between
the two voices on opposite sides of the globe, when it seemed so

Meanwhile, Par braced himself. Theorem had described herself in such
disparaging terms. He had even heard from others on Altos that she was
homely. But that description had ultimately come from her anyway, so
it didn't really count.

Finally, as he watched the stream of passengers snake out to the
waiting area, he told himself it didn't matter anyway. After all, he
had fallen in love with her--her being, her essence--not her image as
it appeared in flesh. And he had told her so. She had said the same
back to him.

Suddenly she was there, in front of him. Par had to look up slightly
to reach her eyes, since she was a little more than an inch taller.
She was quite pretty, with straight, brown shoulder-length hair and
brown eyes. He was just thinking how much more attractive she was than
he had expected, when it happened.

Theorem smiled.

Par almost lost his balance. It was a devastating smile, big and
toothy, warm and genuine. Her whole face lit up with a fire of
animation. That smile sealed it.

She had kept her promise to herself. There was no clear image of Par
in her mind before meeting him in person. After meeting a few people
from Altos at a party in Munich the year before, she had tried not to
create images of people based on their on-line personalities. That way
she would never suffer disappointment.

Par and Theorem picked up her bags and got into Brian's car. Brian, a
friend who offered to play airport taxi because Par didn't have a car,
thought Theorem was pretty cool. A six-foot-tall French-speaking Swiss
woman. It was definitely cool. They drove back to Par's house. Then
Brian came in for a chat.

Brian asked Theorem all sorts of questions. He was really curious,
because he had never met anyone from Europe before. Par kept trying to
encourage his friend to leave but Brian wanted to know all about life
in Switzerland. What was the weather like? Did people ski all the

Par kept looking Brian in the eye and then staring hard at the door.

Did most Swiss speak English? What other languages did she know? A lot
of people skied in California. It was so cool talking to someone from
halfway around the world.

Par did the silent chin-nudge toward the door and, at last, Brian got
the hint. Par ushered his friend out of the house. Brian was only
there for about ten minutes, but it felt like a year. When Par and
Theorem were alone, they talked a bit, then Par suggested they go for
a walk.

Halfway down the block, Par tentatively reached for her hand and took
it in his own. She seemed to like it. Her hand was warm. They talked a
bit more, then Par stopped. He turned to face her. He paused, and then
told her something he had told her before over the telephone,
something they both knew already.

Theorem kissed him. It startled Par. He was completely unprepared.
Then Theorem said the same words back to him.

When they returned to the house, things progressed from there. They
spent two and a half weeks in each other's arms--and they were
glorious, sun-drenched weeks. The relationship proved to be far, far
better in person than it had ever been on-line or on the telephone.
Theorem had captivated Par, and Par, in turn, created a state of bliss
in Theorem.

Par showed her around his little world in northern California. They
visited a few tourist sites, but mostly they just spent a lot of time
at home. They talked, day and night, about everything.

Then it was time for Theorem to leave, to return to her job and her
life in Switzerland. Her departure was hard--driving to the airport,
seeing her board the plane--it was heart-wrenching. Theorem looked
very upset. Par just managed to hold it together until the plane took

For two and a half weeks, Theorem had blotted out Par's approaching
court case. As she flew away, the dark reality of the case descended
on him.

The fish liked to watch.

Par sat at the borrowed computer all night in the dark, with only the
dull glow of his monitor lighting the room, and the fish would all
swim over to the side of their tank and peer out at him. When things
were quiet on-line, Par's attention wandered to the eel and the lion
fish. Maybe they were attracted to the phosphorescence of the computer
screen. Whatever the reason, they certainly liked to hover there. It
was eerie.

Par took a few more drags of his joint, watched the fish some more,
drank his Coke and then turned his attention back to his computer.

That night, Par saw something he shouldn't have. Not the usual hacker
stuff. Not the inside of a university. Not even the inside of an
international bank containing private financial information about
Middle Eastern sheiks.

What he saw was information about some sort of killer spy
satellite--those are the words Par used to describe it to other
hackers. He said the satellite was capable of shooting down other
satellites caught spying, and he saw it inside a machine connected to
TRW's Space and Defense division network. He stumbled upon it much the
same way Force had accidentally found the CitiSaudi machine--through
scanning. Par didn't say much else about it because the discovery
scared the hell out of him.

Suddenly, he felt like the man who knew too much. He'd been in and out
of so many military systems, seen so much sensitive material, that he
had become a little blasé about the whole thing. The information was
cool to read but, God knows, he never intended to actually do anything
with it. It was just a prize, a glittering trophy testifying to his
prowess as a hacker. But this discovery shook him up, slapped him in
the face, made him realise he was exposed.

What would the Secret Service do to him when they found out? Hand him
another little traffic ticket titled `502C'? No way. Let him tell the
jury at his trial everything he knew? Let the newspapers print it? Not
a snowball's chance in hell.

This was the era of Ronald Reagan and George Bush, of space defence
initiatives, of huge defence budgets and very paranoid military
commanders who viewed the world as one giant battlefield with the evil
empire of the Soviet Union.

Would the US government just lock him up and throw away the key? Would
it want to risk him talking to other prisoners--hardened criminals who
knew how to make a dollar from that sort of information? Definitely

That left just one option. Elimination.

It was not a pretty thought. But to the seventeen-year-old hacker it
was a very plausible one. Par considered what he could do and came up
with what seemed to be the only solution.


                         Chapter 4 -- The Fugitive.

There's one gun, probably more; and the others are pointing at our backdoor.

-- from `Knife's Edge', Bird Noises.

When Par failed to show up for his hearing on 10 July 1989 in the
Monterey County Juvenile Court in Salinas, he officially became a
fugitive. He had, in fact, already been on the run for some weeks. But
no-one knew. Not even his lawyer.

Richard Rosen had an idea something was wrong when Par didn't show up
for a meeting some ten days before the hearing, but he kept hoping his
client would come good. Rosen had negotiated a deal for Par:
reparations plus fifteen days or less in juvenile prison in exchange
for Par's full cooperation with the Secret Service.

Par had appeared deeply troubled over the matter for weeks. He didn't
seem to mind telling the Feds how he had broken into various
computers, but that's not what they were really looking for. They
wanted him to rat. And to rat on everyone. They knew Par was a kingpin
and, as such, he knew all the important players in the underground.
The perfect stooge. But Par couldn't bring himself to narc. Even if he
did spill his guts, there was still the question of what the
authorities would do to him in prison. The question of elimination
loomed large in his mind.

So, one morning, Par simply disappeared. He had planned it carefully,
packed his bags discreetly and made arrangements with a trusted friend
outside the circle which included his room-mates. The friend drove
around to pick Par up when the
room-mates were out. They never had an inkling that the now
eighteen-year-old Par was about to vanish for a very long time.

First, Par headed to San Diego. Then LA. Then he made his way to New
Jersey. After that, he disappeared from the radar screen completely.

Life on the run was hard. For the first few months, Par carried around
two prized possessions; an inexpensive laptop computer and photos of
Theorem taken during her visit. They were his lifeline to a different
world and he clutched them in his bag as he moved from one city to
another, often staying with his friends from the computer underground.
The loose-knit network of hackers worked a bit like the
nineteenth-century American `underground railroad' used by escaped
slaves to flee from the South to the safety of the northern states.
Except that, for Par, there was never a safe haven.

Par crisscrossed the continent, always on the move. A week in one
place. A few nights in another. Sometimes there were breaks in the
electronic underground railroad, spaces between the place where one
line ended and another began. Those breaks were the hardest. They
meant sleeping out in the open, sometimes in the cold, going without
food and being without anyone to talk to.

He continued hacking, with new-found frenzy, because he was
invincible. What were the law enforcement agencies going to do? Come
and arrest him? He was already a fugitive and he figured things
couldn't get much worse. He felt as though he would be on the run
forever, and as if he had already been on the run for a lifetime,
though it was only a few months.

When he was staying with people from the computer underground, Par was
careful. But when he was alone in a dingy motel room, or with people
completely outside that world, he hacked without fear. Blatant,
in-your-face feats. Things he knew the Secret Service would see. Even
his illicit voice mailbox had words for his pursuers:

Yeah, this is Par. And to all those faggots from the Secret Service
who keep calling and hanging up, well, lots of luck. 'Cause, I mean,
you're so fucking stupid, it's not even funny.

I mean, if you had to send my shit to Apple Computers [for analysis],
you must be so stupid, it's pitiful. You also thought I had
blue-boxing equipment [for phreaking]. I'm just laughing trying to
think what you thought was a blue box. You are so lame.

Oh well. And anyone else who needs to leave me a message, go ahead.
And everyone take it easy and leave me some shit. Alright. Later.

Despite the bravado, paranoia took hold of Par as it never had before.
If he saw a cop across the street, his breath would quicken and he
would turn and walk in the opposite direction. If the cop was heading
toward him, Par crossed the street and turned down the nearest alley.
Police of any type made him very nervous.

By the autumn of 1989, Par had made his way to a small town in North
Carolina. He found a place to stop and rest with a friend who used the
handle The Nibbler and whose family owned a motel. A couple of weeks
in one place, in one bed, was paradise. It was also free, which meant
he didn't have to borrow money from Theorem, who helped him out while
he was on the run.

Par slept in whatever room happened to be available that night, but he
spent most of his time in one of the motel chalets Nibbler used in the
off-season as a computer room. They spent days hacking from Nibbler's
computer. The fugitive had been forced to sell off his inexpensive
laptop before arriving in North Carolina.

After a few weeks at the motel, however, he couldn't shake the feeling
that he was being watched. There were too many strangers coming and
going. He wondered if the hotel guests waiting in their cars were
spying on him, and he soon began jumping at shadows. Perhaps, he
thought, the Secret Service had found him after all.

Par thought about how he could investigate the matter in more depth.

One of The Atlanta Three hackers, The Prophet, called Nibbler
occasionally to exchange hacking information, particularly security
bugs in Unix systems. During one of their talks, Prophet told Par
about a new security flaw he'd been experimenting with on a network
that belonged to the phone company.

The Atlanta Three, a Georgia-based wing of The Legion of Doom, spent a
good deal of time weaving their way through BellSouth, the phone
company covering the south-eastern US. They knew about phone switching
stations the way Par knew about Tymnet. The Secret Service had raided
the hackers in July 1989 but had not arrested them yet, so in
September The Prophet continued to maintain an interest in his
favourite target.

Par thought the flaw in BellSouth's network sounded very cool and
began playing around in the company's systems. Dial up the company's
computer network, poke around, look at things. The usual stuff.

It occurred to Par that he could check out the phone company's records
of the motel to see if there was anything unusual going on. He typed
in the motel's main phone number and the system fed back the motel's
address, name and some detailed technical information, such as the
exact cable and pair attached to the phone number. Then he looked up
the phone line of the computer chalet. Things looked odd on that line.

The line which he and Nibbler used for most of their hacking showed a
special status: `maintenance unit on line'.

What maintenance unit? Nibbler hadn't mentioned any problems with any
of the motel's lines, but Par checked with him. No problems with the

Par felt nervous. In addition to messing around with the phone
company's networks, he had been hacking into a Russian computer
network from the computer chalet. The Soviet network was a shiny new
toy. It had only been connected to the rest of the world's global
packet-switched network for about a month, which made it particularly
attractive virgin territory.

Nibbler called in a friend to check the motel's phones. The friend, a
former telephone company technician turned freelancer, came over to
look at the equipment. He told Nibbler and Par that something weird
was happening in the motel's phone system. The line voltages were way

Par realised instantly what was going on. The system was being
monitored. Every line coming in and going out was probably being
tapped, which meant only one thing. Someone--the phone company, the
local police, the FBI or the Secret Service--was onto him.

Nibbler and Par quickly packed up all Nibbler's computer gear, along
with Par's hacking notes, and moved to another motel across town. They
had to shut down all their hacking activities and cover their tracks.

Par had left programs running which sniffed people's passwords and
login names on a continual basis as they logged in, then dumped all
the information into a file on the hacked machine. He checked that
file every day or so. If he didn't shut the programs down, the log
file would grow until it was so big the system administrator would
become curious and have a look. When he discovered that his system had
been hacked he would close the security holes. Par would have problems
getting back into that system.

After they finished tidying up the hacked systems, they gathered up
all Par's notes and Nibbler's computer equipment once again and
stashed them in a rented storage space. Then they drove back to the

Par couldn't afford to move on just yet. Besides, maybe only the
telephone company had taken an interest in the motel's phone system.
Par had done a lot of poking and prodding of the telecommunications
companies' computer systems from the motel phone, but he had done it
anonymously. Perhaps BellSouth felt a little curious and just wanted
to sniff about for more information. If that was the case, the law
enforcement agencies probably didn't know that Par, the fugitive, was
hiding in the motel.

The atmosphere was becoming oppressive in the motel. Par became even
more watchful of the people coming and going. He glanced out the front
window a little more often, and he listened a little more carefully to
the footsteps coming and going. How many of the guests were really
just tourists? Par went through the guest list and found a man
registered as being from New Jersey. He was from one of the AT&T
corporations left after the break-up of Bell Systems. Why on earth
would an AT&T guy be staying in a tiny hick town in North Carolina?
Maybe a few Secret Service agents had snuck into the motel and were
watching the chalet.

Par needed to bring the paranoia under control. He needed some fresh
air, so he went out for a walk. The weather was bad and the wind blew
hard, whipping up small tornadoes of autumn leaves. Soon it began
raining and Par sought cover in the pay phone across the street.

Despite having been on the run for a few months, Par still called
Theorem almost every day, mostly by phreaking calls through bulk
telecommunications companies. He dialled her number and they talked
for a bit. He told her about how the voltage was way off on the
motel's PABX and how the phone might be tapped. She asked how he was
holding up. Then they spoke softly about when they might see each
other again.

Outside the phone box, the storm worsened. The rain hammered the roof
from one side and then another as the wind jammed it in at strange
angles. The darkened street was deserted. Tree branches creaked under
the strain of the wind. Rivulets rushed down the leeward side of the
booth and formed a wall of water outside the glass. Then a trash bin
toppled over and its contents flew onto the road.

Trying to ignore to the havoc around him, Par curled the phone handset
into a small protected space, cupped between his hand, his chest and a
corner of the phone booth. He reminded Theorem of their time together
in California, of two and a half weeks, and they laughed gently over
intimate secrets.

A tree branch groaned and then broke under the force of the wind. When
it crashed on the pavement near the phone booth, Theorem asked Par
what the noise was.

`There's a hurricane coming,' he told her. `Hurricane Hugo. It was
supposed to hit tonight. I guess it's arrived.'

Theorem sounded horrified and insisted Par go back to the safety of
the motel immediately.

When Par opened the booth door, he was deluged by water. He dashed
across the road, fighting the wind of the hurricane, staggered into his
motel room and jumped into bed to warm up. He fell asleep listening to
the storm, and he dreamed of Theorem.

Hurricane Hugo lasted more than three days, but they felt like the
safest three days Par had spent in weeks. It was a good bet that the
Secret Service wouldn't be conducting any raids during a hurricane.
South Carolina took the brunt of Hugo but North Carolina also suffered
massive damage. It was one of the worst hurricanes to hit the area in
decades. Winds near its centre reached more than 240 kilometres per
hour, causing 60 deaths and $7 billion in damages as it made its way
up the coast from the West Indies to the Carolinas.

When Par stepped outside his motel room one afternoon a few days after
the storm, the air was fresh and clean. He walked to the railing
outside his second-storey perch and found himself looking down on a
hive of activity in the car park. There were cars. There was a van.
There was a collection of spectators.

And there was the Secret Service.

At least eight agents wearing blue jackets with the Secret Service
emblem on the back.

Par froze. He stopped breathing. Everything began to move in slow
motion. A few of the agents formed a circle around one of the guys
from the motel, a maintenance worker named John, who looked vaguely
like Par. They seemed to be hauling John over the coals, searching his
wallet for identification and quizzing him. Then they escorted him to
the van, presumably to run his prints.

Par's mind began moving again. He tried to think clearly. What was the
best way out? He had to get back into his room. It would give him some
cover while he figured out what to do next. The photos of Theorem
flashed through his mind. No way was he going to let the Secret
Service get hold of those. He needed to stash them and fast.

He could see the Secret Service agents searching the computer chalet.
Thank God he and Nibbler had moved all the equipment. At least there
was nothing incriminating in there and they wouldn't be able to seize
all their gear.

Par breathed deeply, deliberately, and forced himself to back away
from the railing toward the door to his room. He resisted the urge to
dash into his room, to recoil from the scene being played out below
him. Abrupt movements would draw the agents' attention.

Just as Par began to move, one of the agents turned around. He scanned
the two-storey motel complex and his gaze quickly came to rest on Par.
He looked Par dead in the eye.

This is it, Par thought. I'm screwed. No way out of here now. Months
on the run only to get done in a hick town in North Carolina. These
guys are gonna haul my ass away for good. I'll never see the light of
day again. Elimination is the only option.

While these thoughts raced through Par's mind, he stood rigid, his
feet glued to the cement floor, his face locked into the probing gaze
of the Secret Service agent. He felt like they were the only two
people who existed in the universe.

Then, inexplicably, the agent looked away. He swivelled around to
finish his conversation with another agent. It was as if he had never
even seen the fugitive.

Par stood, suspended and unbelieving. Somehow it seemed impossible. He
began to edge the rest of the way to his motel room. Slowly, casually,
he slid inside and shut the door behind him.

His mind raced back to the photos of Theorem and he searched the room
for a safe hiding place. There wasn't one. The best option was
something above eye-level. He pulled a chair across the room, climbed
on it and pressed on the ceiling. The rectangular panel of
plasterboard lifted easily and Par slipped the photos in the space,
then replaced the panel. If the agents tore the room apart, they would
likely find the pictures. But the photos would probably escape a quick
search, which was the best he could hope for at this stage.

Next, he turned his mind to escaping. The locals were pretty cool
about everything, and Par thought he could count on the staff not to
mention his presence to the Secret Service. That bought him some time,
but he couldn't get out of the room without being seen. Besides, if he
was spotted walking off the property, he would certainly be stopped
and questioned.

Even if he did manage to get out of the motel grounds, it wouldn't
help much. The town wasn't big enough to shield him from a thorough
search and there was no-one there he trusted enough to hide him. It
might look a little suspicious, this young man running away from the
motel on foot in a part of the world where everyone travelled by car.
Hitchhiking was out of the question. With his luck, he'd probably get
picked up by one of the agents leaving the raid. No, he wanted a more
viable plan. What he really needed was to get out of the area
altogether, to flee the state.

Par knew that John travelled to Asheville to attend classes and that
he left very early. If the authorities had been watching the motel for
a while, they would know that his 5 a.m. departure was normal. And
there was one other thing about the early departure which seemed
promising. It was still dark at that hour.

If Par could get as far as Asheville, he might be able to get a lift
to Charlotte, and from there he could fly somewhere far away.

Par considered the options again and again. Hiding out in the motel
room seemed the most sensible thing to do. He had been moving rooms
around the motel pretty regularly, so he might have appeared to be
just another traveller to anyone watching the motel. With any luck the
Secret Service would be concentrating their search on the chalet,
ripping the place apart in a vain hunt for the computer equipment. As
these thoughts went through his head, the phone rang, making Par jump.
He stared at it, wondering whether to answer.

He picked it up.

`It's Nibbler,' a voice whispered.

`Yeah,' Par whispered back.

`Par, the Secret Service is here, searching the motel.'

`I know. I saw them.'

`They've already searched the room next to yours.' Par nearly died.
The agents had been less than two metres from where he was standing
and he hadn't even known it. That room was where John stayed. It was
connected to his by an inner door, but both sides were locked.

`Move into John's room and lay low. Gotta go.' Nibbler hung up

Par put his ear to the wall and listened. Nothing. He unlocked the
connecting inner door, turned the knob and pressed lightly. It gave.
Someone had unlocked the other side after the search. Par squinted
through the crack in the door. The room was silent and still. He
opened it--no-one home. Scooping up his things, he quickly moved into
John's room.

Then he waited. Pacing and fidgeting, he strained his ears to catch
the sounds outside. Every bang and creak of a door opening and closing
set him on edge. Late that night, after the law enforcement officials
had left, Nibbler called him on the house phone and told him what had

Nibbler had been inside the computer chalet when the Secret Service
showed up with a search warrant. The agents took names, numbers, every
detail they could, but they had trouble finding any evidence of
hacking. Finally, one of them emerged from the chalet triumphantly
waving a single computer disk in the air. The law enforcement
entourage hanging around in front of the chalet let out a little
cheer, but Nibbler could hardly keep a straight face. His younger
brother had been learning the basics of computer graphics with a
program called Logo. The United States Secret Service would soon be
uncovering the secret drawings of a primary school student.

Par laughed. It helped relieve the stress. Then he told Nibbler his
escape plan, and Nibbler agreed to arrange matters. His parents didn't
know the whole story, but they liked Par and wanted to help him. Then
Nibbler wished his friend well.

Par didn't even try to rest before his big escape. He was as highly
strung as a racehorse at the gate. What if the Secret Service was
still watching the place? There was no garage attached to the main
motel building which he could access from the inside. He would be
exposed, even though it would only be for a minute or so. The night
would provide reasonable cover, but the escape plan wasn't fool-proof.
If agents were keeping the motel under observation from a distance
they might miss him taking off from his room. On the other hand, there
could be undercover agents posing as guests watching the entire
complex from inside their room.

Paranoid thoughts stewed in Par's mind throughout the night. Just
before 5 a.m., he heard John's car pull up outside. Par flicked off
the light in his room, opened his door a crack and scanned the motel
grounds. All quiet, bar the single car, which puffed and grunted in
the still, cold air. The windows in most of the buildings were dark.
It was now or never.

Par opened the door all the way and slipped down the hallway. As he
crept downstairs, the pre-dawn chill sent a shiver down his spine.
Glancing quickly from side to side, he hurried toward the waiting car,
pulled the back door open and dove onto the seat. Keeping his head
down, he twisted around, rolled onto the floor and closed the door
with little more than a soft click.

As the car began to move. Par reached for a blanket which had been
tossed on the floor and pulled it over himself. After a while, when
John told him they were safely out of the town, Par slipped the
blanket off his face and he looked up at the early morning sky. He
tried to get comfortable on the floor. It was going to be a long ride.

At Asheville, John dropped Par off at an agreed location. Par thanked
him and hopped into a waiting car. Someone else from his extensive
network of friends and acquaintances took him to Charlotte.

This time Par rode in the front passenger seat. For the first time, he
saw the true extent of the damage wreaked by Hurricane Hugo. The small
town where he had been staying had been slashed by rain and high
winds, but on the way to the Charlotte airport, where he would pick up
a flight to New York, Par watched the devastation with amazement. He
stared out the car window, unable to take his eyes off the storm's
trail of havoc.

The hurricane had swept up anything loose or fragile and turned it
into a missile on a suicide mission. Whatever mangled, broken
fragments remained after the turbulent winds had passed would have
been almost unrecognisable to those who had seen them before.

Theorem worried about Par as he staggered from corner to corner of the
continent. In fact, she had often asked him to consider giving himself
up. Moving from town to town was taking its toll on Par, and it wasn't
that much easier on Theorem. She hadn't thought going on the lam was
such a great idea in the first place, and she offered to pay for his
lawyer so he could stop running. Par declined. How could he hand
himself in when he believed elimination was a real possibility?
Theorem sent him money, since he had no way of earning a living and he
needed to eat. The worst parts, though, were the dark thoughts that
kept crossing her mind. Anything could happen to Par between phone
calls. Was he alive? In prison? Had he been raided, even accidentally
shot during a raid?

The Secret Service and the private security people seemed to want him
so badly. It was worrying, but hardly surprising. Par had embarrassed
them. He had broken into their machines and passed their private
information around in the underground. They had raided his home when
he wasn't even home. Then he had escaped a second raid, in North
Carolina, slipping between their fingers. He was constantly in their
face, continuing to hack blatantly and to show them contempt in things
such as his voicemail message. He figured they were probably
exasperated from chasing all sorts of false leads as well, since he
was perpetually spreading fake rumours about his whereabouts. Most of
all, he thought they knew what he had seen inside the TRW system. He
was a risk.

Par became more and more paranoid, always watching over his shoulder
as he moved from city to city. He was always tired. He could never
sleep properly, worrying about the knock on the door. Some mornings,
after a fitful few hours of rest, he woke with a start, unable to
remember where he was. Which house or motel, which friends, which

He still hacked all the time, borrowing machines where he could. He
posted messages frequently on The Phoenix Project, an exclusive BBS
run by The Mentor and Erik Bloodaxe and frequented by LOD members and
the Australian hackers. Some well-known computer security people were
also invited onto certain, limited areas of the Texas-based board,
which immediately elevated the status of The Phoenix Project in the
computer underground. Hackers were as curious about the security
people as the security people were about their prey. The Phoenix
Project was special because it provided neutral ground, where both
sides could meet to exchange ideas.

Via the messages, Par continued to improve his hacking skills while
also talking with his friends, people like Erik Bloodaxe, from Texas,
and Phoenix, from The Realm in Melbourne. Electron also frequented The
Phoenix Project. These hackers knew Par was on the run, and sometimes
they joked with him about it. The humour made the stark reality of
Par's situation bearable. All the hackers on The Phoenix Project had
considered the prospect of being caught. But the presence of Par, and
his tortured existence on the run, hammered the implications home with
some regularity.

As Par's messages became depressed and paranoid, other hackers tried
to do what they could to help him. Elite US and foreign hackers who
had access to the private sections of The Phoenix Project saw his
messages and they felt for him. Yet Par continued to slide deeper and
deeper into his own strange world.

Subject: DAMN !!!
From: The Parmaster
Date: Sat Jan 13 08:40:17 1990

Shit, i got drunk last night and went onto that Philippine system...
Stupid Admin comes on and asks who i am ...

Next thing i know, i'm booted off and both accounts on the system are gone.
Not only this .. but the
whole fucking Philippine Net isn't accepting collect calls anymore. (The thing
went down completely after i was booted off!)
Apparently someone there
had enough of me.
By the way, kids, never
drink and hack!

- Par

Subject: gawd
From: The Parmaster
Date: Sat Jan 13 09:07:06 1990

Those SS boys and NSA boys think i'm a COMRADE .. hehehe i'm just glad
i'm still fucking free.


- Par

Subject: The Bottom line.
From: The Parmaster
Date: Sun Jan 21 10:05:38 1990

The bottom line is a crackdown.  The phrack boys were just the start,
i'm sure of it.

This is the time to watch yourself.  No matter what you are into,
whether it's just codes, cards, etc.

Apparently the government has seen the last straw. Unfortunately, with
all of this in the news now, they will be able to get more government
money to combat hackers.

And that's BAD fucking news for us. I think they are going after all
the `teachers'--the people who educate others into this sort of thing.

I wonder if they think that maybe these remote cases are linked in any
way.  The only way they canprobably see is that we are hackers.  And
so that is where their energies will be put.  To stop ALL hackers--and
stop them BEFORE they can become a threat.  After they wipe out the
educators, that is.  Just a theory.

- Par

Subject: Connection
From: The Parmaster
Date: Sun Jan 21 10:16:11 1990

Well, the only connection is disconnection, as Gandalf [a British
hacker] would say.

That's what i'm putting
on my epitaph.
Oh well, maybe i'll take
a few of the buggers with me when they come for me.

- Par

Subject: Oh well.
From: The Parmaster
Date: Tue Jan 23 19:30:05 1990

`And now, the end is near. I've traveled each and every byway ...'  in
the words of the King. Oh well. Who cares? He was a fat shit before he
died anyway.

To everyone who's been a good friend of mine and help me cover up the
fact that i don't know a fucking thing--i thank u.  And to everyone
else, take it easy and hang tough.

i was temporarily insane at the time

See you smart guys at the funny farm.

- Par

Subject: Par
From: Erik Bloodaxe
Date: Tue Jan 23 23:21:39 1990

Shit man, don't drink and think about things like that. It's not
healthy, mentally or physically.

Come to Austin, Texas.

We'll keep you somewhere until we can get something worked out for

A year in minimum security (Club Fed) is better then chucking a whole
life. Hell, you're 19!!  I have discarded the `permanent' solution for
good. Dead people can't get laid, but people in federal prisons DO get
conjugal visits!!!

Think of

Call over here at whatever time you read this ... I can see you are
really getting worried, so just fucking call ...

- Erik

Subject: Hah
From: The Parmaster
Date: Thu Jan 25 18:58:00 1990

Just keep in mind they see everything you do.  Believe me. I know.

- Par

Subject: Well shit.
From: The Parmaster
Date: Mon Jan 29 15:45:05 1990

It's happening soon guys.

I wish i could have bought more time.  And worked out a deal.  But
nada. They are nearby now.

I can tell which cars are theirs driving by outside.  This is the
weirdest case of Deja vu i've ever had.

Anyway got an interesting call today.  It was from Eddie, one of the
Bell systems computers.

It was rather fantasy like ...  Probably just his way of saying
`Goodbye'.  Eddie was a good friend, smartest damn UNIX box around ...
And he called today to tell me goodbye.

Now i know i'm fucked.  Thanks, Eddie, it's been real.  (whoever you
are) `ok eddie, this one's for you'

Much Later,

- Par

Subject: Par
From: Erik Bloodaxe
Date: Mon Jan 29 19:36:38 1990

Buddy, Par, you are over the edge ... lay off the weed.  Not everyone
with glasses and dark suits are Feds. Not all cars with generic
hubcaps are government issue.

Well, hell, I don't know what the hell `Eddie' is, but that's a real
bizarre message you left.

Fly to Austin ... like tomorrow ... got plenty of places to stash you
until things can be smoothed out for a calm transition.

- Erik

Subject: eehh...
From: Phoenix [from Australia]
Date: Tue Jan 30 07:25:59 1990



what is young Par up to?

Subject: Par and Erik
From: Daneel Olivaw
Date: Mon Jan 29 21:10:00 1990

Erik, you aren't exactly the best person to be stashing people are

Subject: You know you are screwed when.
From: The Parmaster
Date: Wed Jan 31 14:26:04 1990

You know you are screwed

When surveyers survey
your neighbors regularly, and wear sunglasses when it's like 11 degrees
farenheit and cloudy as hell out.

When the same cars keep
driving by outside day and night. (I've been thinking about providing coffee an

- Par

Subject: heh, Par
From: The Mentor
Date: Wed Jan 31 16:37:04 1990

Ummm. I wear sunglasses when it's 11 degrees and cloudy ... so you can
eliminate that one.  :-)

Subject: Hmm, Par
From: Phoenix
Date: Thu Feb 01 10:22:46 1990

At least you arent getting shot at.

Subject: Par, why don't you ...
From: Ravage
Date: Thu Feb 01 10:56:04 1990

Why not just go out and say `hi' to the nice gentleman? If i kept
seeing the same people tooling around my neighborhood, i would
actively check them out if they seemed weird.

Subject: Par, jump 'em
From: Aston Martin
Date: Tue Feb 06 18:04:55 1990

What you could do is go out to one of the vans sitting in the street
(you know, the one with the two guys sitting in it all day) with a
pair of jumper cables. Tell them you've seen them sitting there all
day and you thought they were stuck. Ask them if they need a jump.

- Aston

Between these strange messages, Par often posted comments on technical
matters. Other hackers routinely asked him questions about X.25
networks. Unlike some hackers, Par almost always offered some help. In
fact, he believed that being `one of the teachers' made him a
particular target. But his willingness to teach others so readily,
combined with his relatively humble, self-effacing demeanour, made Par
popular among many hackers. It was one reason he found so many places
to stay.

Spring arrived, brushing aside a few of the hardships of a winter on
the run, then summer. Par was still on the run, still dodging the
Secret Service's national hunt for the fugitive. By autumn, Par had
eluded law enforcement officials around the United States for more
than a year. The gloom of another cold winter on the run sat on the
horizon of Par's future, but he didn't care. Anything, everything was
bearable. He could take anything Fate would dish up because he had
something to live for.

Theorem was coming to visit him again.

When Theorem arrived in New York in early 1991, the weather was
bitterly cold. They travelled to Connecticut, where Par was staying in
a share-house with friends.

Par was nervous about a lot of things, but mostly about whether things
would be the same with Theorem. Within a few hours of her arrival, his
fears were assuaged. Theorem felt as passionately about him as she had
in California more than twelve months before. His own feelings were
even stronger. Theorem was a liferaft of happiness in the growing
turmoil of his life.

But things were different in the outside world. Life on the run with
Theorem was grim. Constantly dependent on other people, on their
charity, they were also subject to their petty whims.

A room-mate in the share-house got very drunk one night and picked a
fight with one of Par's friends. It was a major row and the friend
stormed out. In a fit of intoxicated fury, the drunk threatened to
turn Par in to the authorities. Slurring his angry words, he announced
he was going to call the FBI, CIA and Secret Service to tell them all
where Par was living.

Par and Theorem didn't want to wait around to see if the drunk would
be true to his word. They grabbed their coats and fled into the
darkness. With little money, and no place else to stay, they walked
around for hours in the blistering, cold wind. Eventually they decided
they had no choice but to return to the house late at night, hopefully
after the drunk had fallen asleep.

They sidled up to the front of the house, alert and on edge. It was
quite possible the drunk had called every law enforcement agency his
blurry mind could recall, in which case a collection of agents would
be lying in wait. The street was deadly quiet. All the parked cars
were deserted. Par peered in a darkened window but he couldn't see
anything. He motioned for Theorem to follow him into the house.

Though she couldn't see Par's face, Theorem could feel his tension.
Most of the time, she revelled in their closeness, a proximity which
at times seemed to border on telepathy. But at this moment, the
extraordinary gift of empathy felt like a curse. Theorem could feel
Par's all-consuming paranoia, and it filled her with terror as they
crept through the hall, checking each room. Finally they reached Par's
room, expecting to find two or three Secret Service agents waiting
patiently for them in the dark.

It was empty.

They climbed into bed and tried to get some sleep, but Theorem lay
awake in the dark for a little while, thinking about the strange and
fearful experience of returning to the house. Though she spoke to Par
on the phone almost every day when they were apart, she realised she
had missed something.

Being on the run for so long had changed Par.

Some time after she returned to Switzerland, Theorem's access to Altos
shrivelled up and died. She had been logging in through her old
university account but the university eventually killed her access
since she was no longer a student. Without access to any X.25 network
linked to the outside world, she couldn't logon to Altos. Although she
was never involved with hacking, Theorem had become quite addicted to
Altos. The loss of access to the Swiss X.25 network--and therefore to
Altos--left her feeling very depressed. She told Par over the
telephone, in sombre tones.

Par decide to make a little present for Theorem. While most hackers
broke into computers hanging off the X.25 networks, Par broke into the
computers of the companies which ran the X.25 networks. Having control
over the machines owned by Telenet or Tymnet was real power. And as the
master of X.25 networks, Par could simply create a special account--just
for Theorem--on Tymnet.

When Par finished making the account, he leaned back in his chair
feeling pretty pleased with himself.

Account name: Theorem.

Password: ParLovesMe!

Well, thought Par, she's going to have to type that in every time she
gets on the Tymnet network. Altos might be filled with the world's
best hackers, and they might even try to flirt with Theorem, but
she'll be thinking of me every time she logs on, he thought.

Par called her on the telephone and gave her his special present. When
he told her the password to her new account, Theorem laughed. She
thought it was sweet.

And so did the MOD boys.

Masters of Deception, or Destruction--it depended on who told the
story--was a New York-based gang of hackers. They thought it would be
cool to hack Altos. It wasn't that easy to get Altos shell access,
which Theorem had, and most people had to settle for using one of the
`guest' accounts. But it was much easier to hack Altos from a shell
account than from a `guest' account. Theorem's account would be the
targeted jump-off point.

How did MOD get Theorem's Altos password? Most probably they were
watching one of the X.25 gateways she used as she passed through
Tymnet on her way to Altos. Maybe the MOD boys sniffed her password en
route. Or maybe they were watching the Tymnet security officials who
were watching that gateway.

In the end it didn't matter how MOD got Theorem's password on Altos.
What mattered was that they changed her password. When Theorem
couldn't get into Altos she was beside herself. She felt like a junkie
going cold turkey. It was too much. And of course she couldn't reach
Par. Because he was on the run, she had to wait for him to call her.
In fact she couldn't reach any of her other friends on Altos to ask
for help. How was she going to find them? They were all hackers. They
chose handles so no-one would know their real names.

What Theorem didn't know was that, not only had she lost access to
Altos, but the MOD boys were using her account to hack the Altos
system. To the outside world it appeared as though she was doing it.

Theorem finally managed to get a third-hand message to Gandalf, a
well-known British hacker. She sought him out for two reasons. First,
he was a good friend and was therefore likely to help her out. Second,
Gandalf had root access on Altos, which meant he could give her a new
password or account.

Gandalf had established quite a reputation for himself in the computer
underground through the hacking group 8lgm--The Eight-Legged Groove
Machine, named after a British band. He and his friend, fellow British
hacker Pad, had the best four legs in the chorus line. They were a
world-class act, and certainly some of the best talent to come out of
the British hacking scene. But Gandalf and, to a lesser extent, Pad
had also developed a reputation for being arrogant. They rubbed some
of the American hackers the wrong way. Not that Pad and Gandalf seemed
to care. Their attitude was: We're good. We know it. Bugger off.

Gandalf disabled Theorem's account on Altos. He couldn't very well
just change the password and then send the new one through the
extended grapevine that Theorem had used to get a message through to
him. Clearly, someone had targeted her account specifically. No way
was he going to broadcast a new password for her account throughout
the underground. But the trouble was that neither Par nor Theorem knew
what Gandalf had done.

Meanwhile, Par called Theorem and got an earful. An angry Par vowed to
find out just who the hell had been messing with her account.

When the MOD boys told Par they were the culprits, he was a bit
surprised because he had always been on good terms with them. Par told
them how upset Theorem had been, how she gave him an earful. Then an
extraordinary thing happened. Corrupt, the toughest, baddest guy in
MOD, the black kid from the roughest part of New York, the hacker who
gave shit to everyone because he could, apologised to Par.

The MOD guys never apologised, even when they knew they were in the
wrong. Apologies never got anyone very far on a New York City street.
It was an attitude thing. `I'm sorry, man' from Corrupt was the
equivalent of a normal person licking the mud from the soles of your

The new password was: M0Dm0dM0D. That's the kind of guys they were.

Par was just signing off to try out the new password when Corrupt
jumped in.

`Yeah, and ah, Par, there's something you should know.'

`Yeah?' Par answered, anxious to go.

`I checked out her mail. There was some stuff in it.'

Theorem's letters? Stuff? `What kind of stuff?' he asked.

`Letters from Gandalf.'


`Friendly letters. Real friendly.'

Par wanted to know, but at the same time, he didn't. He could have
arranged root access on Altos long ago if he'd really wanted it. But
he didn't. He didn't want it because it would mean he could access
Theorem's mail. And Par knew that if he could, he would. Theorem was
popular on Altos and, being the suspicious type, Par knew he would
probably take something perfectly innocent and read it the wrong way.
Then he would get in a fight with Theorem, and their time together was
too precious for that.

`Too friendly,' Corrupt went on. It must have been hard for him to
tell Par. Snagging a friend's girlfriend's password and breaking into
her account was one thing. There wasn't much wrong with that. But
breaking that kind of news, well, that was harsh. Especially since
Corrupt had worked with Gandalf in 8lgm.

`Thanks,' Par said finally. Then he took off.

When Par tried out the MOD password, it didn't work of course, because
Gandalf had disabled the account. But Par didn't know that. Finding
out that Theorem's account was disabled didn't bother him, but
discovering who disabled it for her didn't make Par all that happy.
Still, when he confronted Theorem, she denied that anything was going
on between her and Gandalf.

What could Par do? He could believe Theorem or he could doubt her.
Believing her was hard, but doubting her was painful. So he chose to
believe her.

The incident made Theorem take a long look at Altos. It was doing bad
things to her life. In the days that she was locked out of the German
chat system, she had made the unpleasant discovery that she was
completely addicted. And she didn't like it at all. Staring at her
life with fresh eyes, she realised she had been ignoring her friends
and her life in Switzerland. What on earth was she doing, spending
every night in front of a computer screen?

So Theorem made a tough decision.

She decided to stop using Altos forever.

Bad things seemed to happen to The Parmaster around Thanksgiving.

In late November 1991, Par flew up from Virginia Beach to New York. An
acquaintance named Morty Rosenfeld, who hung out with the MOD hackers
a bit, had invited him to come for a visit. Par thought a trip to the
City would do him good.

Morty wasn't exactly Par's best friend, but he was all right. He had
been charged by the Feds a few months earlier for selling a password
to a credit record company which resulted in credit card fraud. Par
didn't go in for selling passwords, but to each his own. Morty wasn't
too bad in the right dose. He had a place on Coney Island, which was
hardly the Village in Manhattan, but close enough, and he had a
fold-out sofa bed. It beat sleeping on the floor somewhere else.

Par hung out with a Morty and a bunch of his friends, drinking and
goofing around on Morty's computer.

One morning, Par woke up with a vicious hangover. His stomach was
growling and there was nothing edible in the fridge, so he rang up and
ordered pork fried rice from a Chinese take-away. Then he threw on
some clothes and sat on the end of the sofa-bed, smoking a cigarette
while he waited. He didn't start smoking until he was nineteen, some
time late into his second year on the run. It calmed his nerves.

There was a knock at the front door. Par's stomach grumbled in
response. As he walked toward the front door, he thought Pork Fried
Rice, here I come. But when Par opened the front door, there was
something else waiting for him.

The Secret Service.

Two men. An older, distinguished gentleman standing on the left and a
young guy on the right. The young guy's eyes opened wide when he saw

Suddenly, the young guy pushed Par, and kept pushing him. Small, hard,
fast thrusts. Par couldn't get his balance. Each time he almost got
his footing, the agent shoved the hacker backward again until he
landed against the wall. The agent spun Par around so his face pressed
against the wall and pushed a gun into his kidney. Then he slammed
handcuffs on Par and started frisking him for weapons.

Par looked at Morty, now sobbing in the corner, and thought, You
narced on me.

Once Par was safely cuffed, the agents flashed their badges to him.
Then they took him outside, escorted him into a waiting car and drove
into Manhattan. They pulled up in front of the World Trade Center and
when Par got out the young agent swapped the cuffs so Par's hands were
in front of him.

As the agents escorted the handcuffed fugitive up a large escalator,
the corporate world stared at the trio. Business men and women in prim
navy suits, secretaries and office boys all watched wide-eyed from the
opposite escalator. And if the handcuffs weren't bad enough, the
younger Secret Service agent was wearing a nylon jacket with a
noticeable gun-shaped lump in the front pouch.

Why are these guys bringing me in the front entrance? Par kept
thinking. Surely there must be a backdoor, a car park back entrance.
Something not quite so public.

The view from any reasonably high floor of the World Trade Center is
breathtaking, but Par never got a chance to enjoy the vista. He was
hustled into a windowless room and handcuffed to a chair. The agents
moved in and out, sorting out paperwork details. They uncuffed him
briefly while they inked his fingers and rolled them across sheets of
paper. Then they made him give handwriting samples, first his right
hand then his left.

Par didn't mind being cuffed to the chair so much, but he found the
giant metal cage in the middle of the fingerprinting room deeply
disturbing. It reminded him of an animal cage, the kind used in old

The two agents who arrested him left the room, but another one came
in. And the third agent was far from friendly. He began playing the
bad cop, railing at Par, shouting at him, trying to unnerve him. But
no amount of yelling from the agent could rile Par as much as the
nature of the questions he asked.

The agent didn't ask a single question about Citibank. Instead, he
demanded to hear everything Par knew about TRW.

All Par's worst nightmares about the killer spy satellite, about
becoming the man who knew too much, rushed through his mind.

Par refused to answer. He just sat silently, staring at the agent.

Eventually, the older agent came back into the room, dragged the
pitbull agent away and took him outside for a whispered chat. After
that, the pitbull agent was all sweetness and light with Par. Not
another word about TRW.

Par wondered why a senior guy from the Secret Service would tell his
minion to clam up about the defence contractor? What was behind the
sudden silence? The abrupt shift alarmed Par almost as much as the
questions had in the first place.

The agent told Par he would be remanded in custody while awaiting
extradition to California. After all the paperwork had been completed,
they released him from the handcuffs and let him stand to stretch. Par
asked for a cigarette and one of the agents gave him one. Then a
couple of other agents--junior guys--came in.

The junior agents were very friendly. One of them even shook Par's
hand and introduced himself. They knew all about the hacker. They knew
his voice from outgoing messages on voicemail boxes he had created for
himself. They knew what he looked like from his California police
file, and maybe even surveillance photos. They knew his personality
from telephone bridge conversations which had been recorded and from
the details of his Secret Service file. Perhaps they had even tracked
him around the country, following a trail of clues left in his
flightpath. Whatever research they had done, one thing was clear.
These agents felt like they knew him intimately--Par the person, not
just Par the hacker.

It was a strange sensation. These guys Par had never met before
chatted with him about the latest Michael Jackson video as if he was a
neighbour or friend just returned from out of town. Then they took him
further uptown, to a police station, for more extradition paperwork.

This place was no World Trade Center deluxe office. Par stared at the
peeling grey paint in the ancient room, and then watched officers
typing out reports using the two-finger hunt-and-peck method on
electric typewriters--not a computer in sight. The officers didn't
cuff Par to the desk. Par was in the heart of a police station and
there was no way he was going anywhere.

While the officer handling Par was away from his desk for ten minutes,
Par felt bored. So he began flipping through the folders with
information on other cases on the officer's desk. They were heavy duty
fraud cases--mafia and drug-money laundering--cases which carried
reference to FBI involvement. These people looked hairy.

That day, Par had a quick appearance in court, just long enough to be
given protective custody in the Manhattan detention complex known as
the Tombs while he waited for the authorities from California to come
and pick him up.

Par spent almost a week in the Tombs. By day three, he was climbing
the walls. It was like being buried alive.

During that week, Par had almost no contact with other human beings--a
terrible punishment for someone with so much need for a continual flow
of new information. He never left his cell. His jailer slid trays of
food into his cell and took them away.

On day six, Par went nuts. He threw a fit, began screaming and banging
on the door. He yelled at the guard. Told him none too nicely that he
wanted to `get the fuck outta here'. The guard said he would see if he
could get Par transferred to Rikers Island, New York's notorious jail.
Par didn't care if he was transferred to the moon, as long as he got
out of solitary confinement.

Except for the serial killer, the north infirmary at Rikers Island was
a considerable improvement on the Tombs. Par was only locked in his
cell at night. During the day he was free to roam inside the infirmary
area with other prisoners. Some of them were there because the
authorities didn't want to put them in with the hardened criminals,
and some of them were there because they were probably criminally

It was an eclectic bunch. A fireman turned jewellery heister. A
Colombian drug lord. A chop-shop ringleader, who collected more than
300 stolen cars, chopped them up, reassembled them as new and then
sold them off. A man who killed a homosexual for coming onto him.
`Faggot Killer', as he was known inside, hadn't meant to kill anyone:
things had gotten a little out of hand; next thing he knew, he was
facing ten to twelve on a murder rap.

Par wasn't wild about the idea of hanging out with a murderer, but he
was nervous about what could happened to a young man in jail. Forging
a friendship with Faggot Killer would send the right message. Besides,
the guy seemed to be OK. Well, as long as you didn't look at him the
wrong way.

On his first day, Par also met Kentucky, a wild-eyed man who
introduced himself by thrusting a crumpled newspaper article into the
hacker's hand and saying, `That's me'. The article, titled `Voices
Told Him to Kill', described how police had apprehended a serial
killer believed to be responsible for a dozen murders, maybe more.
During his last murder, Kentucky told Par he had killed a woman--and
then written the names of the aliens who had commanded him to do it on
the walls of her apartment in her blood.

The jewellery heister tried to warn Par to stay away from Kentucky,
who continued to liaise with the aliens on a regular basis. But it was
too late. Kentucky decided that he didn't like the young hacker. He
started shouting at Par, picking a fight. Par stood there, stunned and
confused. How should he deal with an aggravated serial killer? And
what the hell was he doing in jail with a serial killer raving at him
anyway? It was all too much.

The jewellery heister rushed over to Kentucky and tried to calm him
down, speaking in soothing tones. Kentucky glowered at Par, but he
stopped yelling.

A few days into his stay at Rikers, Faggot Killer invited Par to join
in a game of Dungeons and Dragons. It beat watching TV talk shows all
day, so Par agreed. He sat down at the metal picnic table where Faggot
Killer had laid out the board.

So it was that Par, the twenty-year-old computer hacker from
California, the X.25 network whiz kid, came to play Dungeons and
Dragons with a jewellery thief, a homophobic murderer and a mad serial
killer in Rikers Island. Par found himself marvelling at the
surrealism of the situation.

Kentucky threw himself into the game. He seemed to get off on killing

`I'll take my halberd,' Kentucky began with a smile, `and I stab this
goblin.' The next player began to make his move, but Kentucky
interrupted. `I'm not done,' he said slowly, as a demonic grin spread
across his face. `And I slice it. And cut it. It bleeds everywhere.'
Kentucky's face tensed with pleasure.

The other three players shifted uncomfortably in their seats. Par
looked at Faggot Killer with nervous eyes.

`And I thrust a knife into its heart,' Kentucky continued, the volume
of his voice rising with excitement. `Blood, blood, everywhere blood.
And I take the knife and hack him. And I hack and hack and hack.'

Kentucky jumped up from the table and began shouting, thrusting one
arm downward through the air with an imaginary dagger, `And I hack and
I hack and I hack!'

Then Kentucky went suddenly still. Everyone at the table froze. No-one
dared move for fear of driving him over the edge. Par's stomach had
jumped into his throat. He tried to gauge how many seconds it would
take to extricate himself from the picnic table and make a break for
the far side of the room.

In a daze, Kentucky walked away from the table, leaned his forehead
against the wall and began mumbling quietly. The jewellery heister
slowly followed and spoke to him briefly in hushed tones before
returning to the table.

One of the guards had heard the ruckus and came up to the table.

`Is that guy OK?' he asked the jewellery heister while pointing to

Not even if you used that term loosely, Par thought.

`Leave him alone,' the heister told the guard. `He's talking to the

`Right.' The guard turned around and left.

Every day, a nurse brought around special medicine for Kentucky. In
fact, Kentucky was zonked out most of the time on a cup of horrible,
smelly liquid. Sometimes, though, Kentucky secreted his medicine away
and traded it with another prisoner who wanted to get zonked out for a
day or so.

Those were bad days, the days when Kentucky had sold his medication.
It was on one of those days that he tried to kill Par.

Par sat on a metal bench, talking to other prisoners, when suddenly he
felt an arm wrap around his neck. He tried to turn around, but

`Here. I'll show you how I killed this one guy,' Kentucky whispered to

`No--No--' Par started to say, but Kentucky's biceps began pressing
against Par's Adam's apple. It was a vice-like grip.

`Yeah. Like this. I did it like this,' Kentucky said as he tensed his
muscle and pulled backward.

`No! Really, you don't need to. It's OK,' Par gasped. No air. His arms
flailing in front of him.

I'm done for, Par thought. My life is over. Hacker Murdered by Serial
Killer in Rikers Island. `Aliens Told Me to Do It.'

The omnipresent jewellery heister came up to Kentucky and started
cooing in his ear to let Par go. Then, just when Par thought he was
about to pass out, the jewellery heister pulled Kentucky off him.

Par reminded himself to always sit with his back against the wall.

Finally, after almost a month behind bars, Par was informed that an
officer from the Monterey County sheriff's office was coming to take
him back to California. Par had agreed to be extradited to California
after seeing the inside of New York's jails. Dealing with the federal
prosecutor in New York had also helped make up his mind.

The US Attorney's Office in New York gave Richard Rosen, who had taken
the case on again, a real headache. They didn't play ball. They played
`Queen for a Day'.

The way they negotiated reminded Rosen of an old American television
game of that name. The show's host pulled some innocent soul off the
street, seated her on a garish throne, asked her questions and then
gave her prizes. The US Attorney's Office in New York wanted to seat
Par on a throne, of sorts, to ask him lots of questions. At the end of
the unfettered interrogation, they would hand out prizes. Prison
terms. Fines. Convictions. As they saw fit. No guaranteed sentences.
They would decide what leniency, if any, he would get at the end of
the game.

Par knew what they were looking for: evidence against the MOD boys. He
wasn't having a bar of that. The situation stank, so Par decided not to
fight the extradition to California. Anything had to be better than New
York, with its crazy jail inmates and arrogant federal prosecutors.

The officer from the Monterey sheriff's office picked Par up on 17
December 1991.

Par spent the next few weeks in jail in California, but this time he
wasn't in any sort of protective custody. He had to share a cell with
Mexican drug dealers and other mafia, but at least he knew his way
around these people. And unlike the some of the people at Rikers, they
weren't stark raving lunatics.

Richard Rosen took the case back, despite Par's having skipped town
the first time, which Par thought was pretty good of the lawyer. But
Par had no idea how good it would be for him until it came to his
court date.

Par called Rosen from the jail, to talk about the case. Rosen had some
big news for him.

`Plead guilty. You're going to plead guilty to everything,' he told

Par thought Rosen had lost his marbles.

`No. We can win this case if you plead guilty,' Rosen assured him.

Par sat dumbfounded at the other end of the phone.

`Trust me,' the lawyer said.

The meticulous Richard Rosen had found a devastating weapon.

On 23 December 1991, Par pleaded guilty to two charges in Monterey
County Juvenile Court. He admitted everything. The whole nine yards.
Yes, I am The Parmaster. Yes, I broke into computers. Yes, I took
thousands of credit card details from a Citibank machine. Yes, yes,

In some way, the experience was cathartic, but only because Par knew
Rosen had a brilliant ace up his sleeve.

Rosen had rushed the case to be sure it would be heard in juvenile
court, where Par would get a more lenient sentence. But just because
Rosen was in a hurry didn't mean he was sloppy. When he went through
Par's file with a fine-toothed comb he discovered the official papers
declared Par's birthday to be 15 January 1971. In fact, Par's birthday
was some days earlier, but the DA's office didn't know that.

Under California law, a juvenile court has jurisdiction over citizens
under the age of 21. You can only be tried and sentenced in a juvenile
court if you committed the crimes in question while under the age of
eighteen and you are still under the age of 21 when you plead and are

Par was due to be sentenced on 13 January but on 8 January Rosen
applied for the case to be thrown out. When Deputy DA David Schott
asked why, Rosen dropped his bomb.

Par had already turned 21 and the juvenile court had no authority to
pass sentence over him. Further, in California, a case cannot be moved
into an adult court if the defendant has already entered a plea in a
juvenile one. Because Par had already done that, his case couldn't be
moved. The matter was considered `dealt with' in the eyes of the law.

The Deputy DA was flabbergasted. He spluttered and spewed. The DA's
office had dropped the original charges from a felony to a
misdemeanour. They had come to the table. How could this happen? Par
was a fugitive. He had been on the run for more than two years from
the frigging Secret Service, for Christ's sake. There was no way--NO
WAY--he was going to walk out of that courtroom scot-free.

The court asked Par to prove his birthday. A quick driver's licence
search at the department of motor vehicles showed Par and his lawyer
were telling the truth. So Par walked free.

When he stepped outside the courthouse, Par turned his face toward the
sun. After almost two months in three different jails on two sides of
the continent, the sun felt magnificent. Walking around felt
wonderful. Just wandering down the street made him happy.

However, Par never really got over being on the run.

From the time he walked free from the County Jail in Salinas,
California, he continued to move around the country, picking up
temporary work here and there. But he found it hard to settle in one
place. Worst of all, strange things began happening to him. Well, they
had always happened to him, but they were getting stranger by the
month. His perception of reality was changing.

There was the incident in the motel room. As Par sat in the Las Vegas
Travelodge on one if his cross-country treks, he perceived someone
moving around in the room below his. Par strained to hear. It seemed
like the man was talking to him. What was the man trying to tell him?
Par couldn't quite catch the words, but the more he listened, the more
Par was sure he had a message for him which he didn't want anyone else
to hear. It was very frustrating. No matter how hard he tried, no
matter how he put his ear down to the floor or against the wall, Par
couldn't make it out.

The surreal experiences continued. As Par described it, on a trip down
to Mexico, he began feeling quite strange, so he went to the US
consulate late one afternoon to get some help. But everyone in the
consulate behaved bizarrely.

They asked him for some identification, and he gave them his wallet.
They took his Social Security card and his California identification
card and told him to wait. Par believed they were going to pull up
information about him on a computer out the back. While waiting, his
legs began to tremble and a continuous shiver rolled up and down his
spine. It wasn't a smooth, fluid shiver, it was jerky. He felt like he
was sitting at the epicentre of an earthquake and it frightened him.
The consulate staff just stared
at him.

Finally Par stopped shaking. The other staff member returned and asked
him to leave.

`No-one can help you here,' he told Par.

Why was the consular official talking to him like that? What did he
mean--Par had to leave? What was he really trying to say? Par couldn't
understand him. Another consular officer came around to Par, carrying
handcuffs. Why was everyone behaving in such a weird way? That
computer. Maybe they had found some special message next to his name
on that computer.

Par tried to explain the situation, but the consulate staff didn't
seem to understand. He told them about how he had been on the run from
the Secret Service for two and a half years, but that just got him
queer looks. Blank faces. No comprehende. The more he explained, the
blanker the faces became.

The consular officials told him that the office was closing for the
day. He would have to leave the building. But Par suspected that was
just an excuse. A few minutes later, a Mexican policeman showed up. He
talked with one of the consular officials, who subsequently handed him
what Par perceived to be a slip of paper wrapped around a wad of peso

Two more policemen came into the consulate. One of them turned to Par
and said, `Leave!' but Par didn't answer. So the Mexican police
grabbed Par by the arms and legs and carried him out of the consulate.
Par felt agitated and confused and, as they crossed the threshold out
of the consulate, he screamed.

They put him in a police car and took him to a jail, where they kept
him overnight.

The next day, they released Par and he wandered the city aimlessly
before ending up back at the US consulate. The same consular officer
came up to him and asked how he was feeling.

Par said, `OK.'

Then Par asked if the official could help him get back to the border,
and he said he could. A few minutes later a white van picked up Par
and took him to the border crossing. When they arrived, Par asked the
driver if he could have $2 so he could buy a ticket for the train. The
driver gave it to him.

Par boarded the train with no idea of where he was headed.

Theorem visited Par in California twice in 1992 and the relationship
continued to blossom. Par tried to find work so he could pay her back
the $20000 she had lent him during his years on the run and during his
court case, but it was hard going. People didn't seem to want to hire

`You don't have any computer skills,' they told him. He calmly
explained that, yes, he did indeed have computer skills.

`Well, which university did you get your degree from?' they asked.

No, he hadn't got his skills at any university.

`Well, which companies did you get your work experience from?'

No, he hadn't learned his skills while working for a company.

`Well, what did you do from 1989 to 1992?' the temp agency staffer
inevitably asked in an exasperated voice.

`I ... ah ... travelled around the country.' What else was Par going
to say? How could he possibly answer that question?

If he was lucky, the agency might land him a data-entry job at $8 per
hour. If he was less fortunate, he might end up doing clerical work
for less than that.

By 1993, things had become a little rocky with Theorem. After four and
a half years together, they broke up. The distance was too great, in
every sense. Theorem wanted a more stable life--maybe not a
traditional Swiss family with three children and a pretty chalet in
the Alps, but something more than Par's transient life on the road.

The separation was excruciatingly painful for both of them.
Conversation was strained for weeks after the decision. Theorem kept
thinking she had made a mistake. She kept wanting to ask Par to come
back. But she didn't.

Par drowned himself in alcohol. Shots of tequila, one after the other.
Scull it. Slam the glass down. Fill it to the top. Throw back another.
After a while, he passed out. Then he was violently ill for days, but
somehow he didn't mind. It was cleansing to be so ill.

Somewhere along the way, Rosen managed to get Par's things returned
from the Secret Service raids. He passed the outdated computer and
other equipment back to Par, along with disks, print-outs and notes.

Par gathered up every shred of evidence from his case, along with a
bottle of Jack Daniels, and made a bonfire. He shredded print-outs,
doused them in lighter fluid and set them alight. He fed the disks
into the fire and watched them melt in the flames. He flipped through
the pages and pages of notes and official reports and let them pull
out particular memories. Then he crumpled up each one and tossed it in
the fire. He even sprinkled a little Jack Daniels across the top for
good measure.

As he pulled the pages from a Secret Service report, making them into
tight paper balls, something caught his eye and made him wonder. Many
hackers around the world had been busted in a series of raids
following the first Thanksgiving raid at Par's house back in 1988.
Erik Bloodaxe, the MOD boys, the LOD boys, The Atlanta Three, Pad and
Gandalf, the Australians--they had all been either busted or raided
during 1989, 1990 and 1991.

How were the raids connected? Were the law-enforcement agencies on
three different continents really organised enough to coordinate
worldwide attacks on hackers?

The Secret Service report gave him a clue. It said that in December
1988, two informants had called Secret Service special agents in
separate divisions with information about Par. The informants--both
hackers--told the Secret Service that Par was not the `Citibank
hacker' the agency was looking for. They said the real `Citibank
hacker' was named Phoenix.

Phoenix from Australia.

                        Chapter 5 -- The Holy Grail.

So we came and conquered and found; riches of Commons and Kings.

-- from `River Runs Red', Blue Sky Mining.

There it was, in black and white. Two articles by Helen Meredith in
The Australian in January 1989.2 The whole Australian computer
underground was buzzing with the news.

The first article appeared on 14 January:

Citibank hackers score $500,000

An elite group of Australian hackers has lifted more than
$US500,000 ($580,000) out of America's Citibank in one of the more
daring hacking crimes in Australia's history.

Australian federal authorities were reported late yesterday to be
working with American authorities to pin down the Australian
connection involving hackers in Melbourne and Sydney.

These are the elite `freekers' of white collar crime ...

The Australian connection is reported to have used a telephone in
the foyer of Telecom's headquarters at 199 William Street in
Melbourne to send a 2600-hertz signal giving them access to a trunk
line and ultimately to a managerial access code for Citibank.

Sources said last night the hackers had lifted $US563,000 from the
US bank and transferred it into several accounts. The money has now
been withdrawn ...

Meanwhile, Victorian police were reported yesterday to be
systematically searching the homes of dozens of suspects in a
crackdown on computer hackers ...

An informed source said Criminal Investigation Bureau officers
armed with search warrants were now searching through the
belongings of the hacking community and expected to find hundreds
of thousands of dollars of goods.

An informed source said Criminal Investigation Bureau officers
armed with search warrants were now searching through the
belongings of the hacking community and expected to find hundreds
of thousands of dollars of goods.

The second article was published ten days later:

Hackers list card hauls on boards

Authorities remain sceptical of the latest reports of an
international hacking and phreaking ring and its Australian

Yesterday, however, evidence continued to stream into the Melbourne
based bulletin boards under suspicion ...

In the latest round of bulletin board activity, a message from a
United States hacker known as Captain Cash provided the Australian
connection with the latest news on Australian credit cards,
provided by local hackers, and their illegal use by US hackers to
the value of $US362 018 ($416112).

The information was taken from a computer bulletin board system
known as Pacific Island and used actively by the Australian

The message read: `OK on the 5353 series which we are closing
today--Mastercard $109 400.50. On the 4564 series--Visa which I'll
leave open for a week

$209417.90. And on good old don't leave home without someone
else's: $43 200.

`Making a grand total of


`Let's hear it for our Aussie friends!

`I hear they are doing just as well!

`They are sending more numbers on the 23rd! Great!

`They will be getting 10%

as usual...a nice bonus of

$36 200.00!'

The bulletin board also contained advice for phreakers on using
telephones in Telecom's 199 William Street headquarters and the
green phones at Spencer Street Station in Melbourne--to make free
international calls ...

Phoenix, another local bulletin board user, listed prices for
`EXTC'- tablets ...

Late Friday, The Australian received evidence suggesting a break-in
of the US Citibank network by Australian hackers known as The Realm

The gang's US connection is believed to be based in Milwaukee and
Houston. US Federal authorities have already raided US hackers
involved in Citibank break-ins in the US.

A covert operation of the Bureau of Criminal Intelligence has had
the Australian connection under surveillance and last week took
delivery of six months' of evidence from the Pacific Island board
and associated boards going by the name of Zen and Megaworks ...

The Australian hackers include a number of Melbourne people, some
teenagers, suspected or already convicted of crimes including
fraud, drug use and car theft. Most are considered to be at the
least, digital voyeurs, at worst criminals with a possible big
crime connection.

The information received by The Australian amounts to a confession
on the part of the Australian hackers to involvement in the
break-in of the US Citibank network as well as advice on phreaking
... and bank access.

The following is taken directly from the bulletin board ... It was
stored in a private mailbox on the board and is from a hacker known
as Ivan Trotsky to one who uses the name Killer Tomato:

`OK this is what's been happening ...

`While back a Sysop had a call from the Feds, they wanted Force's,
Phoenix's, Nom's, Brett Macmillan's and my names in connection with
some hacking The Realm had done and also with some carding meant to
have been done too.

`Then in the last few days I get info passed to me that the Hack
that was done to the Citibank in the US which has led to arrests
over there also had connections to Force and Electron ...'

DPG monitoring service spokesman, Mr Stuart Gill, said he believed
the Pacific Island material was only the tip of the iceberg.

`They're far better organised than the police,' he said.

`Unless everyone gets their act together and we legislate against
it, we'll still be talking about the same things this time next

Yesterday, the South Australian police started an operation to put
bulletin boards operating in that state under surveillance.

And in Western Australia, both political parties agreed they would
proceed with an inquiry into computer hacking, whoever was in

The Victoria Police fraud squad last week announced it had set up a
computer crime squad that would investigate complaints of computer

The articles were painful reading for most in the computer

Who was this Captain Cash? Who was the Killer Tomato? Many believed
they were either Stuart Gill, or that Gill had forged messages by them
or others on Bowen's board. Was the underground rife with credit card
frauders? No. They formed only a very small part of that community.
Had the Melbourne hackers stolen half a million dollars from Citibank?
Absolutely not. A subsequent police investigation determined this
allegation to be a complete fabrication.

How had six months' worth of messages from PI and Zen found their way
into the hands of the Victoria Police Bureau of Criminal Intelligence?
Members of the underground had their suspicions.

To some, Stuart Gill's role in the underground appeared to be that of
an information trader. He would feed a police agency information, and
garner a little new material from it in exchange. He then amalgamated
the new and old material and delivered the new package to another
police agency, which provided him a little more material to add to the
pot. Gill appeared to play the same game in the underground.

A few members of the underground, particularly PI and Zen regulars
Mentat and Brett MacMillan, suspected chicanery and began fighting a
BBS-based war to prove their point. In early 1989, MacMillan posted a
message stating that Hackwatch was not registered as a business
trading name belonging to Stuart Gill at the Victorian Corporate
Affairs office. Further, he stated, DPG Monitoring Services did not
exist as an official registered business trading name either.
MacMillan then stunned the underground by announcing that he had
registered the name Hackwatch himself, presumably to stop Stuart
Gill's media appearances as a Hackwatch spokesman.

Many in the underground felt duped by Gill, but they weren't the only
ones. Soon some journalists and police would feel the same way. Stuart
Gill wasn't even his real name.

What Gill really wanted, some citizens in the underground came to
believe, was a public platform from which he could whip up hacker hype
and then demand the introduction of tough new anti-hacking laws. In
mid-1989, the Commonwealth Government did just that, enacting the
first federal computer crime laws.

It wasn't the journalists' fault. For example, in one case Helen
Meredith had asked Gill for verification and he had referred her to
Superintendent Tony Warren, of the Victoria Police, who had backed him
up. A reporter couldn't ask for better verification than that.

And why wouldn't Warren back Gill? A registered ISU informer, Gill
also acted as a consultant, adviser, confidant and friend to various
members of the Victoria Police. He was close to both Warren and,
later, to Inspector Chris Cosgriff. From 1985 to 1987, Warren had
worked at the Bureau of Criminal Intelligence (BCI). After that, he
was transferred to the Internal Investigations Department (IID), where
he worked with Cosgriff who joined IID in 1988.

Over a six-month period in 1992, Tony Warren received more than 200
phone calls from Stuart Gill--45 of them to his home number. Over an
eighteen-month period in 1991-92, Chris Cosgriff made at least 76
personal visits to Gill's home address and recorded 316 phone calls
with him.3

The Internal Security Unit (ISU) investigated corruption within the
police force. If you had access to ISU, you knew everything that the
Victoria Police officially knew about corruption within its ranks. Its
information was highly sensitive, particularly since it could involve
one police officer dobbing in another. However, a 1993 Victorian
Ombudsman's report concluded that Cosgriff leaked a large amount of
confidential ISU material to Gill, and that Warren's relationship with
Gill was inappropriate.4

When Craig Bowen (aka Thunderbird1) came to believe in 1989 that he
had been duped by Gill, he retreated into a state of denial and
depression. The PI community had trusted him. He entered his
friendship with Gill a bright-eyed, innocent young man looking for
adventure. He left the friendship betrayed and gun-shy.

Sad-eyed and feeling dark on the world, Craig Bowen turned off PI and
Zen forever.

Sitting at his computer sometime in the second half of 1989, Force
stared at his screen without seeing anything, his mind a million miles
away. The situation was bad, very bad, and lost in thought, he toyed
with his mouse absent-mindedly, thinking about how to deal with this

The problem was that someone in Melbourne was going to be busted.

Force wanted to discount the secret warning, to rack it up as just
another in a long line of rumours which swept through the underground
periodically, but he knew he couldn't do that. The warning was rock
solid; it had come from Gavin.*

The way Force told it, his friend Gavin worked as a contractor to
Telecom by day and played at hacking at night. He was Force's little
secret, who he kept from the other members of The Realm. Gavin was
definitely not part of the hacker BBS scene. He was older, he didn't
even have a handle and he hacked alone, or with Force, because he saw
hacking in groups as risky.

As a Telecom contractor, Gavin had the kind of access to computers and
networks which most hackers could only dream about. He also had good
contacts inside Telecom--the kind who might answer a few tactfully
worded questions about telephone taps and line traces, or might know a
bit about police investigations requiring Telecom's help.

Force had met Gavin while buying some second-hand equipment through
the Trading Post. They hit it off, became friends and soon began
hacking together. Under the cover of darkness, they would creep into
Gavin's office after everyone else had gone home and hack all night.
At dawn, they tidied up and quietly left the building. Gavin went
home, showered and returned to work as if nothing had happened.

Gavin introduced Force to trashing. When they weren't spending the
night in front of his terminal, Gavin crawled through Telecom's
dumpsters looking for pearls of information on crumpled bits of office
paper. Account names, passwords, dial-up modems, NUAs--people wrote
all sorts of things down on scrap paper and then threw it out the next
day when they didn't need it any more.

According to Force, Gavin moved offices frequently, which made it
easier to muddy the trail. Even better, he worked from offices which
had dozens of employees making hundreds of calls each day. Gavin and
Force's illicit activities were buried under a mound of daily
legitimate transactions.

The two hackers trusted each other; in fact Gavin was the only person
to whom Force revealed the exact address of the CitiSaudi machine. Not
even Phoenix, rising star of The Realm and Force's favoured protégé,
was privy to all the secrets of Citibank uncovered during Force's
network explorations.

Force had shared some of this glittering prize with Phoenix, but not
all of it. Just a few of the Citibank cards--token trophies--and
general information about the Citibank network. Believing the
temptation to collect vast numbers of cards and use them would be too
great for the young Phoenix, Force tried to keep the exact location of
the Citibank machine a secret. He knew that Phoenix might eventually
find the Citibank system on his own, and there was little he could do
to stop him. But Force was determined that he wouldn't help Phoenix
get himself into trouble.

The Citibank network had been a rich source of systems--something
Force also kept to himself. The more he explored, the more he found in
the network. Soon after his first discovery of the CitiSaudi system,
he found a machine called CitiGreece which was just as willing to dump
card details as its Saudi-American counterpart. Out of fifteen or so
credit cards Force discovered on the system, only two appeared to be
valid. He figured the others were test cards and that this must be a
new site. Not long after the discovery of the CitiGreece machine, he
discovered similar embryonic sites in two other countries.

Force liked Phoenix and was impressed by the new hacker's enthusiasm
and desire to learn about computer networks.

Force introduced Phoenix to Minerva, just as Craig Bowen had done for
Force some years before. Phoenix learned quickly and came back for
more. He was hungry and, in Force's discerning opinion, very bright.
Indeed, Force saw a great deal of himself in the young hacker. They
were from a similarly comfortable, educated middle-class background.
They were also both a little outside the mainstream. Force's family
were migrants to Australia. Some of Phoenix's family lived in Israel,
and his family was very religious.

Phoenix attended one of the most Orthodox Jewish schools in Victoria,
a place which described itself as a `modern orthodox Zionist'
institution. Nearly half the subjects offered in year 9 were in Jewish
Studies, all the boys wore yarmulkes and the school expected students
to be fluent in Hebrew by the time they graduated.

In his first years at the school, Phoenix had acquired the nickname
`The Egg'. Over the following years he became a master at playing the
game--jumping through hoops to please teachers. He learned that doing
well in religious studies was a good way to ingratiate himself to
teachers, as well as his parents and, in their eyes at least, he
became the golden-haired boy.

Anyone scratching below the surface, however, would find the shine of
the golden-haired boy was merely gilt. Despite his success in school
and his matriculation, Phoenix was having trouble. He had been
profoundly affected by the bitter break-up and divorce of his parents
when he was about fourteen.

After the divorce, Phoenix was sent to boarding school in Israel for
about six months. On his return to Melbourne, he lived with his
younger sister and mother at his maternal grandmother's house. His
brother, the middle child, lived with his father.

School friends sometimes felt awkward visiting Phoenix at home. One of
his best friends found it difficult dealing with Phoenix's mother,
whose vivacity sometimes bordered on the neurotic and shrill. His
grandmother was a chronic worrier, who pestered Phoenix about using
the home phone line during thunderstorms for fear he would be
electrocuted. The situation with Phoenix's father wasn't much better.
A manager at Telecom, he seemed to waver between appearing
disinterested or emotionally cold and breaking into violent outbursts
of anger.

But it was Phoenix's younger brother who seemed to be the problem
child. He ran away from home at around seventeen and dealt in drugs
before eventually finding his feet. Yet, unlike Phoenix, his brother's
problems had been laid bare for all to see. Hitting rock bottom forced
him to take stock of his life and come to terms with his situation.

In contrast, Phoenix found less noticeable ways of expressing his
rebellion. Among them was his enthusiasm for tools of power--the
martial arts, weapons such as swords and staffs, and social
engineering. During his final years of secondary school, while still
living at his grandmother's home, Phoenix took up hacking. He hung
around various Melbourne BBSes, and then he developed an on-line
friendship with Force.

Force watched Phoenix's hacking skills develop with interest and after
a couple of months he invited him to join The Realm. It was the
shortest initiation of any Realm member, and the vote to include the
new hacker was unanimous. Phoenix proved to be a valuable member,
collecting information about new systems and networks for The Realm's
databases. At their peak of hacking activity, Force and Phoenix spoke
on the phone almost every day.

Phoenix's new-found acceptance contrasted with the position of
Electron, who visited The Realm regularly for a few months in 1988. As
Phoenix basked in the warmth of Force's approval, the
eighteen-year-old Electron felt the chill of his increasing scorn.

Force eventually turfed Electron and his friend, Powerspike, out of
his exclusive Melbourne club of hackers. Well, that was how Force told
it. He told the other members of The Realm that Electron had committed
two major sins. The first was that he had been wasting resources by
using accounts on OTC's Minerva system to connect to Altos, which
meant the accounts would be immediately tracked and killed.

Minerva admins such as Michael Rosenberg--sworn enemy of The
Realm--recognised the Altos NUA. Rosenberg was OTC's best defence
against hackers. He had spent so much time trying to weed them out of
Minerva that he knew their habits by heart: hack, then zoom over to
Altos for a chat with fellow hackers, then hack some more.

Most accounts on Minerva were held by corporations. How many
legitimate users from ANZ Bank would visit Altos? None. So when
Rosenberg saw an account connecting to Altos, he silently observed
what the hacker was doing--in case he bragged on the German chat
board--then changed the password and notified the client, in an effort
to lock the hacker out for good.

Electron's second sin, according to Force, was that he had been
withholding hacking information from the rest of the group. Force's
stated view--though it didn't seem to apply to him personally--was one
in, all in.

It was a very public expulsion. Powerspike and Electron told each
other they didn't really care. As they saw it, they might have visited
The Realm BBS now and then but they certainly weren't members of The
Realm. Electron joked with Powerspike, `Who would want to be a member
of a no-talent outfit like The Realm?' Still, it must have hurt.
Hackers in the period 1988-90 depended on each other for information.
They honed their skills in a community which shared intelligence and
they grew to rely on the pool of information.

Months later, Force grudgingly allowing Electron to rejoin The Realm,
but the relationship remained testy. When Electron finally logged in
again, he found a file in the BBS entitled `Scanner stolen from the
Electron'. Force had found a copy of Electron's VMS scanner on an
overseas computer while Electron was in exile and had felt no qualms
about pinching it for The Realm.

Except that it wasn't a scanner. It was a VMS Trojan. And there was a
big difference. It didn't scan for the addresses of computers on a
network. It snagged passwords when people connected from their VMS
computers to another machine over an X.25 network. Powerspike cracked
up laughing when Electron told him. `Well,' he told Powerspike, `Mr
Bigshot Force might know something about Prime computers, but he
doesn't know a hell of a lot about VMS.'

Despite Electron's general fall from grace, Phoenix talked to the
outcast because they shared the obsession. Electron was on a steep
learning curve and, like Phoenix, he was moving fast--much faster than
any of the other Melbourne hackers.

When Phoenix admitted talking to Electron regularly, Force tried to
pull him away, but without luck. Some of the disapproval was born of
Force's paternalistic attitude toward the Australian hacking scene. He
considered himself to be a sort of godfather in the hacking community.
But Force was also increasingly concerned at Phoenix's ever more
flagrant taunting of computer security bigwigs and system admins. In
one incident, Phoenix knew a couple of system admins and security
people were waiting on a system to trap him by tracing his network
connections. He responded by sneaking into the computer unnoticed and
quietly logging off each admin. Force laughed about it at the time,
but privately the story made him more than a little nervous.

Phoenix enjoyed pitting himself against the pinnacles of the computer
security industry. He wanted to prove he was better, and he frequently
upset people because often he was. Strangely, though, Force's protégé
also thought that if he told these experts about a few of the holes in
their systems, he would somehow gain their approval. Maybe they would
even give him inside information, like new penetration techniques,
and, importantly, look after him if things got rough. Force wondered
how Phoenix could hold two such conflicting thoughts in his mind at
the same time without questioning the logic of either.

It was against this backdrop that Gavin came to Force with his urgent
warning in late 1989. Gavin had learned that the Australian Federal
Police were getting complaints about hackers operating out of
Melbourne. The Melbourne hacking community had become very noisy and
was leaving footprints all over the place as its members traversed the
world's data networks.

There were other active hacking communities outside Australia--in the
north of England, in Texas, in New York. But the Melbourne hackers
weren't just noisy--they were noisy inside American computers. It
wasn't just a case of American hackers breaking into American systems.
This was about foreign nationals penetrating American computers. And
there was something else which made the Australian hackers a target.
The US Secret Service knew an Australian named Phoenix had been inside
Citibank, one of the biggest financial institutions in the US.

Gavin didn't have many details to give Force. All he knew was that an
American law enforcement agency--probably the Secret Service--had been
putting enormous pressure on the Australian government to bust these

What Gavin didn't know was that the Secret Service wasn't the only
source of pressure coming from the other side of the Pacific. The FBI
had also approached the Australian Federal Police about the mysterious
but noisy Australian hackers who kept breaking into American systems,5
and the AFP had acted on the information.

In late 1989, Detective Superintendent Ken Hunt of the AFP headed an
investigation into the Melbourne hackers. It was believed to be the
first major investigation of computer crime since the introduction of
Australia's first federal anti-hacking laws. Like most law enforcement
agencies around the world, the AFP were new players in the field of
computer crime. Few officers had expertise in computers, let alone
computer crime, so this case would prove to be an important proving

When Gavin broke the news, Force acted immediately. He called Phoenix
on the phone, insisting on meeting him in person as soon as possible.
As their friendship had progressed, they had moved from talking
on-line to telephone conversations and finally to spending time
together in person. Force sat Phoenix down alone and gave him a stern
warning. He didn't tell him how he got his information, but he made it
clear the source was reliable.

The word was that the police felt they had to bust someone. It had
come to the point where an American law enforcement officer had
reportedly told his Australian counterpart, `If you don't do something
about it soon, we'll do something about it ourselves'. The American
hadn't bothered to elaborate on just how they might do something about
it, but it didn't matter.

Phoenix looked suddenly pale. He had certainly been very noisy, and
was breaking into systems virtually all the time now. Many of those
systems were in the US.

He certainly didn't want to end up like the West German hacker
Hagbard, whose petrol-doused, charred remains had been discovered in a
German forest in June 1989.

An associate of Pengo's, Hagbard had been involved in a ring of German
hackers who sold the information they found in American computers to a
KGB agent in East Germany from 1986 to 1988.

In March 1989, German police raided the homes and offices of the
German hacking group and began arresting people. Like Pengo, Hagbard
had secretly turned himself into the German authorities months before
and given full details of the hacking ring's activities in the hope of
gaining immunity from prosecution.

American law enforcement agencies and prosecutors had not been
enthusiastic about showing the hackers any leniency. Several US
agencies, including the CIA and the FBI, had been chasing the German
espionage ring and they wanted stiff sentences, preferably served in
an American prison.

German court proceedings were under way when Hagbard's body was found.
Did he commit suicide or was he murdered? No-one knew for sure, but
the news shook the computer underground around the world. Hackers
discussed the issue in considerable depth. On the one hand, Hagbard
had a long history of mental instability and drug use, having spent
time in psychiatric hospitals and detoxification centres off and on
since the beginning of 1987. On the other hand, if you were going to
kill yourself, would you really want to die in the agony of a petrol
fire? Or would you just take a few too many pills or a quick bullet?

Whether it was murder or suicide, the death of Hagbard loomed large
before Phoenix. Who were the American law enforcement agencies after
in Australia? Did they want him?

No. Force reassured him, they were after Electron. The problem for
Phoenix was that he kept talking to Electron on the phone--in voice
conversations. If Phoenix continued associating with Electron, he too
would be scooped up in the AFP's net.

The message to Phoenix was crystal clear.

Stay away from Electron.

`Listen, you miserable scum-sucking pig.'

`Huh?' Phoenix answered, only half paying attention.

`Piece of shit machine. I did all this editing and the damn thing
didn't save the changes,' Electron growled at the Commodore Amiga,
with its 512 k of memory, sitting on the desk in his bedroom.

It was January 1990 and both Phoenix and Electron were at home on
holidays before the start of university.

`Yeah. Wish I could get this thing working. Fucking hell. Work you!'
Phoenix yelled. Electron could hear him typing at the other end of the
phone while he talked. He had been struggling to get AUX, the Apple
version of Unix, running on his Macintosh SE30 for days.

It was difficult to have an uninterrupted conversation with Phoenix.
If it wasn't his machine crashing, it was his grandmother asking him
questions from the doorway of his room.

`You wanna go through the list? How big is your file?' Phoenix asked,
now more focused on the conversation.

`Huh? Which file?'

`The dictionary file. The words to feed into the password cracker,'
Phoenix replied.

Electron pulled up his list of dictionary words and looked
at it. I'm going to have to cut this list down a bit, he thought. The
dictionary was part of the password cracking program.
The larger the dictionary, the longer it took the computer to crack a
list of passwords. If he could weed out obscure words--words that
people were unlikely to pick as passwords--then he could make his
cracker run faster.

An efficient password cracker was a valuable tool. Electron would feed
his home computer a password file from a target computer, say from
Melbourne University, then go to bed. About twelve hours later, he
would check on his machine's progress.

If he was lucky, he would find six or more accounts--user names and
their passwords--waiting for him in a file. The process was completely
automated. Electron could then log into Melbourne University using the
cracked accounts, all of which could be used as jumping-off points for
hacking into other systems for the price of a local telephone call.

Cracking Unix passwords wasn't inordinately difficult,
provided the different components of the program, such as the
dictionary, had been set up properly. However, it was time-consuming.
The principle was simple. Passwords, kept in password files with their
corresponding user names, were encrypted. It was as impossible to
reverse the encryption process as it was to unscramble an omelette.
Instead, you needed to recreate the encryption process and compare the

There were three basic steps. First, target a computer and get a copy
of its password file. Second, take a list of commonly used passwords,
such as users' names from the password file or words from a
dictionary, and encrypt those into a second list. Third, put the two
lists side by side and compare them. When you have a match, you have
found the password.

However, there was one important complication: salts. A salt changed
the way a password was encrypted, subtly modifying the way the DES
encryption algorithm worked. For example, the word `Underground'
encrypts two different ways with two different salts: `kyvbExMcdAOVM'
or `lhFaTmw4Ddrjw'. The first two characters represent the salt, the
others represent the password. The computer chooses a salt randomly
when it encrypts a user's password. Only one is used, and there are
4096 different salts. All Unix computers use salts in their password
encryption process.

Salts were intended to make password cracking far more difficult, so a
hacker couldn't just encrypt a dictionary once and then compare it to
every list of encrypted passwords he came across in his hacking
intrusions. The 4096 salts mean that a hacker would have to use 4096
different dictionaries--each encrypted with a different salt--to
discover any dictionary word passwords.

On any one system penetrated by Electron, there might be only 25
users, and therefore only 25 passwords, most likely using 25 different
salts. Since the salt characters were stored immediately before the
encrypted password, he could easily see which salt was being used for
a particular password. He would therefore only have to encrypt a
dictionary 25 different times.

Still, even encrypting a large dictionary 25 times using different
salts took up too much hard-drive space for a basic home computer. And
that was just the dictionary. The most sophisticated cracking programs
also produced `intelligent guesses' of passwords. For example, the
program might take the user's name and try it in both upper- and
lower-case letters. It might also add a `1' at the end. In short, the
program would create new guesses by permutating, shuffling, reversing
and recombining basic information such as a user's name into new

`It's 24000 words. Too damn big,' Electron said. Paring down a
dictionary was a game of trade-offs. The fewer words in a cracking
dictionary, the less time it was likely to take a computer to break
the encrypted passwords. A smaller dictionary, however, also meant
fewer guesses and so a reduced chance of cracking the password of any
given account.

`Hmm. Mine's 24328. We better pare it down together.'

`Yeah. OK. Pick a letter.'

`C. Let's start with the Cs.'

`Why C?'

`C. For my grandmother's cat, Cocoa.'

`Yeah. OK. Here goes. Cab, Cabal. Cabala. Cabbala.' Electron paused.
`What the fuck is a Cabbala?'

`Dunno. Yeah. I've got those. Not Cabbala. OK, Cabaret. Cabbage. Fuck,
I hate cabbage. Who'd pick Cabbage as their password?'

`A Pom,' Electron answered.

`Yeah,' Phoenix laughed before continuing.

Phoenix sometimes stopped to think about Force's warning, but usually
he just pushed it to one side when it crept, unwelcomed, into his
thoughts. Still, it worried him. Force took it seriously enough. Not
only had he stopped associating with Electron, he appeared to have
gone very, very quiet.

In fact, Force had found a new love: music. He was writing and
performing his own songs. By early 1990 he seemed so busy with his
music that he had essentially put The Realm on ice. Its members took
to congregating on a machine owned by another Realm member, Nom, for a
month or so.

Somehow, however, Phoenix knew that wasn't all of the story. A hacker
didn't pick up and walk away from hacking just like that. Especially
not Force. Force had been obsessed with hacking. It just didn't make
sense. There had to be something more. Phoenix comforted himself with
the knowledge that he had followed Force's advice and had stayed away
from Electron. Well, for a while anyway.

He had backed right off, watched and waited, but nothing happened.
Electron was as active in the underground as ever but he hadn't been
busted. Nothing had changed. Maybe Force's information had been wrong.
Surely the feds would have busted Electron by now if they were going
to do anything. So Phoenix began to rebuild his relationship with
Electron. It was just too tempting. Phoenix was determined not to let
Force's ego impede his own progress.

By January 1990, Electron was hacking almost all the time. The only
time he wasn't hacking was when he was sleeping, and even then he
often dreamed of hacking. He and Phoenix were sailing past all the
other Melbourne hackers. Electron had grown beyond Powerspike's
expertise just as Phoenix had accelerated past Force. They were moving
away from X.25 networks and into the embryonic Internet, which was
just as illegal since the universities guarded computer
accounts--Internet access--very closely.

Even Nom, with his growing expertise in the Unix operating system
which formed the basis of many new Internet sites, wasn't up to
Electron's standard. He didn't have the same level of commitment to
hacking, the same obsession necessary to be a truly cutting-edge
hacker. In many ways, the relationship between Nom and Phoenix
mirrored the relationship between Electron and Powerspike: the support
act to the main band.

Electron didn't consider Phoenix a close friend, but he was a kindred
spirit. In fact he didn't trust Phoenix, who had a big mouth, a big
ego and a tight friendship with Force--all strikes against him. But
Phoenix was intelligent and he wanted to learn. Most of all, he had
the obsession. Phoenix contributed to a flow of information which
stimulated Electron intellectually, even if more information flowed
toward Phoenix than from him.

Within a month, Phoenix and Electron were in regular contact, and
during the summer holidays they were talking on the phone--voice--all
the time, sometimes three or four times a day. Hack then talk. Compare
notes. Hack some more. Check in again, ask a few questions. Then back
to hacking.

The actual hacking was generally a solo act. For a social animal like
Phoenix, it was a lonely pursuit. While many hackers revelled in the
intense isolation, some, such as Phoenix, also needed to check in with
fellow humanity once in a while. Not just any humanity--those who
understood and shared in the obsession.

`Caboodle. Caboose, `Electron went on, `Cabriolet. What the hell is a
Cabriolet? Do you know?'

`Yeah,' Phoenix answered, then rushed on. `OK. Cacao. Cache. Cachet

`Tell us. What is it?' Electron cut Phoenix off.

`Cachinnation. Cachou ...'

`Do you know?' Electron asked again, slightly irritated. As usual,
Phoenix was claiming to know things he probably didn't.

`Hmm? Uh, yeah,' Phoenix answered weakly. `Cackle. Cacophony ...'

Electron knew that particular Phoenix `yeah'--the one which said `yes'
but meant `no, and I don't want to own up to it either so let's drop

Electron made it a habit not to believe most of the things Phoenix
told him. Unless there was some solid proof, Electron figured it was
just hot air. He didn't actually like Phoenix much as a person, and
found talking to him difficult at times. He preferred the company of
his fellow hacker Powerspike.

Powerspike was both bright and creative. Electron clicked with him.
They often joked about the other's bad taste in music. Powerspike
liked heavy metal, and Electron liked indie music. They shared a
healthy disrespect for authority. Not just the authority of places
they hacked into, like the US Naval Research Laboratories or NASA, but
the authority of The Realm. When it came to politics, they both leaned
to the left. However, their interest tended more toward
anarchy--opposing symbols of the military-industrial complex--than to
joining a political party.

After their expulsion from The Realm, Electron had been a little
isolated for a time. The tragedy of his personal life had contributed
to the isolation. At the age of eight, he had seen his mother die of
lung cancer. He hadn't witnessed the worst parts of her dying over two
years, as she had spent some time in a German cancer clinic hoping for
a reprieve. She had, however, come home to die, and Electron had
watched her fade away.

When the phone call from hospital came one night, Electron could tell
what had happened from the serious tones of the adults. He burst into
tears. He could hear his father answering questions on the phone. Yes,
the boy had taken it hard. No, his sister seemed to be OK. Two years
younger than Electron, she was too young to understand.

Electron had never been particularly close to his sister. He viewed
her as an unfeeling, shallow person--someone who simply skimmed along
the surface of life. But after their mother's death, their father
began to favour Electron's sister, perhaps because of her resemblance
to his late wife. This drove a deeper, more subtle wedge between
brother and sister.

Electron's father, a painter who taught art at a local high school,
was profoundly affected by his wife's death. Despite some barriers of
social class and money, theirs had been a marriage of great affection
and love and they made a happy home. Electron's father's paintings
hung on almost every wall in the house, but after his wife's death he
put down his brushes and never took them up again. He didn't talk
about it. Once, Electron asked him why he didn't paint any more. He
looked away and told Electron that he had `lost the motivation'.

Electron's grandmother moved into the home to help her son care for
his two children, but she developed Alzheimer's disease. The children
ended up caring for her. As a teenager, Electron thought it was
maddening caring for someone who couldn't even remember your name.
Eventually, she moved into a nursing home.

In August 1989, Electron's father arrived home from the doctor's
office. He had been mildly ill for some time, but refused to take time
off work to visit a doctor. He was proud of having taken only one
day's sick leave in the last five years. Finally, in the holidays, he
had seen a doctor who had conducted numerous tests. The results had
come in.

Electron's father had bowel cancer and the disease had spread. It
could not be cured. He had two years to live at the most.

Electron was nineteen years old at the time, and his early love of the
computer, and particularly the modem, had already turned into a
passion. Several years earlier his father, keen to encourage his
fascination with the new machines, used to bring one of the school's
Apple IIes home over weekends and holidays. Electron spent hours at
the borrowed machine. When he wasn't playing on the computer, he read,
plucking one of his father's spy novels from the over-crowded
bookcases, or his own favourite book, The Lord of The Rings.

Computer programming had, however, captured the imagination of the
young Electron years before he used his first computer. At the age of
eleven he was using books to write simple programs on paper--mostly
games--despite the fact that he had never actually touched a keyboard.

His school may have had a few computers, but its administrators had
little understanding of what to do with them. In year 9, Electron had
met with the school's career counsellor, hoping to learn about career
options working with computers.

`I think maybe I'd like to do a course in computer programming ...'
His voice trailed off, hesitantly.

`Why would you want to do that?' she said. `Can't you think of
anything better than that?'

`Uhm ...' Electron was at a loss. He didn't know what to do. That was
why he had come to her. He cast around for something which seemed a
more mainstream career option but which might also let him work on
computers. `Well, accounting maybe?'

`Oh yes, that's much better,' she said.

`You can probably even get into a university, and study accounting
there. I'm sure you will enjoy it,' she added, smiling as she closed
his file.

The borrowed computers were, in Electron's opinion, one of the few
good things about school. He did reasonably well at school, but only
because it didn't take much effort. Teachers consistently told his
father that Electron was underachieving and that he distracted the
other students in class. For the most part, the criticism was just
low-level noise. Occasionally, however, Electron had more serious
run-ins with his teachers. Some thought he was gifted. Others thought
the freckle-faced, Irish-looking boy who helped his friends set fire
to textbooks at the back of the class was nothing but a smart alec.

When he was sixteen, Electron bought his own computer. He used it to
crack software protection, just as Par had done. The Apple was soon
replaced by a more powerful Amiga with a 20 megabyte IBM compatible
sidecar. The computers lived, in succession, on one of the two desks
in his bedroom. The second desk, for his school work, was usually
piled high with untouched assignments.

The most striking aspect of Electron's room was the ream after ream of
dot matrix computer print-out which littered the floor. Standing at
almost any point in the simply furnished room, someone could reach out
and grab at least one pile of print-outs, most of which contained
either usernames and passwords or printed computer program code. In
between the piles of print-outs, were T-shirts, jeans, sneakers and
books on the floor. It was impossible to walk across Electron's room
without stepping on something.

The turning point for Electron was the purchase of a second-hand 300
baud modem in 1986. Overnight, the modem transformed Electron's love
of the computer into an obsession. During the semester immediately
before the modem's arrival, Electron's report card showed six As and
one B. The following semester he earned six Bs and only one A.

Electron had moved onto bigger and better things than school. He
quickly became a regular user of underground BBSes and began hacking.
He was enthralled by an article he discovered describing how several
hackers claimed to have moved a satellite around in space simply by
hacking computers. From that moment on, Electron decided he wanted to
hack--to find out if the article was true.

Before he graduated from school in 1987, Electron had hacked NASA, an
achievement which saw him dancing around the dining room table in the
middle of the night chanting, `I got into NASA! I got into NASA!' He
hadn't moved any satellites, but getting into the space agency was as
thrilling as flying to the moon.

By 1989, he had been hacking regularly for years, much to the chagrin
of his sister, who claimed her social life suffered because the
family's sole phone line was always tied up by the modem.

For Phoenix, Electron was a partner in hacking, and to a lesser degree
a mentor. Electron had a lot to offer, by that time even more than The

`Cactus, Cad, Cadaver, Caddis, Cadence, Cadet, Caesura. What the fuck
is a Caesura?' Phoenix kept ploughing through the Cs.

`Dunno. Kill that,' Electron answered, distracted.

`Caesura. Well, fuck. I know I'd wanna use that as a password.'
Phoenix laughed. `What the hell kind of word is Caduceus?'

`A dead one. Kill all those. Who makes up these dictionaries?'
Electron said.


`Caisson, Calabash. Kill those. Kill, kill, kill,' Electron said

`Hang on. How come I don't have Calabash in my list?' Phoenix feigned

Electron laughed.

`Hey,' Phoenix said, `we should put in words like "Qwerty" and

`Did that already.' Electron had already put together a list of other
common passwords, such as the `words' made when a user typed the six
letters in the first alphabet row on a keyboard.

Phoenix started on the list again. `OK the COs. Commend, Comment,
Commerce, Commercial, Commercialism, Commercially. Kill those last

`Huh? Why kill Commercial?'

`Let's just kill all the words with more than eight characters,'
Phoenix said.

`No. That's not a good idea.'

`How come? The computer's only going to read the first eight
characters and encrypt those. So we should kill all the rest.'

Sometimes Phoenix just didn't get it. But Electron didn't rub it in.
He kept it low-key, so as not to bruise Phoenix's ego. Often Electron
sensed Phoenix sought approval from the older hacker, but it was a
subtle, perhaps even unconscious search.

`Nah,' Electron began, `See, someone might use the whole word,
Commerce or Commercial. The first eight letters of these words are not
the same. The eighth character in Commerce is "e", but in Commercial
it's "i".'

There was a short silence.

`Yeah,' Electron went on, `but you could kill all the words
like Commercially, and Commercialism, that come after Commercial.

`Yeah. OK. I see,' Phoenix said.

`But don't just kill every word longer than eight characters,'
Electron added.

`Hmm. OK. Yeah, all right.' Phoenix seemed a bit out of sorts. `Hey,'
he brightened a bit, `it's been a whole ten minutes since my machine

`Yeah?' Electron tried to sound interested.

`Yeah. You know,' Phoenix changed the subject to his favourite topic,
`what we really need is Deszip. Gotta get that.' Deszip was a computer
program which could be used for password cracking.

`And Zardoz. We need Zardoz,' Electron added. Zardoz was a restricted
electronic publication detailing computer security holes.

`Yeah. Gotta try to get into Spaf's machine. Spaf'll have it for
sure.' Eugene Spafford, Associate Professor of Computer Science at
Purdue University in the US, was one of the best known computer
security experts on the Internet in 1990.


And so began their hunt for the holy grail.

Deszip and Zardoz glittered side by side as the most coveted prizes in
the world of the international Unix hacker.

Cracking passwords took time and computer resources. Even a moderately
powerful university machine would grunt and groan under the weight of
the calculations if it was asked to do. But the Deszip program could
change that, lifting the load until it was, by comparison,
feather-light. It worked at breathtaking speed and a hacker using
Deszip could crack encrypted passwords up to 25 times faster.

Zardoz, a worldwide security mailing list, was also precious, but for
a different reason. Although the mailing list's formal name was
Security Digest, everyone in the underground simply called it Zardoz,
after the computer from which the mailouts originated. Zardoz also
happened to be the name of a science fiction cult film starring Sean
Connery. Run by Neil Gorsuch, the Zardoz mailing list contained
articles, or postings, from various members of the computer security
industry. The postings discussed newly discovered bugs--problems with
a computer system which could be exploited to break into or gain root
access on a machine. The beauty of the bugs outlined in Zardoz was
that they worked on any computer system using the programs or
operating systems it described. Any university, any military system,
any research institute which ran the software documented in Zardoz was
vulnerable. Zardoz was a giant key ring, full of pass keys made to fit
virtually every lock.

True, system administrators who read a particular Zardoz posting might
take steps to close up that security hole. But as the hacking
community knew well, it was a long time between a Zardoz posting and a
shortage of systems with that hole. Often a bug worked on many
computers for months--sometimes years--after being announced on

Why? Many admins had never heard of the bug when it was first
announced. Zardoz was an exclusive club, and most admins simply
weren't members. You couldn't just walk in off the street and sign up
for Zardoz. You had to be vetted by peers in the computer security
industry. You had to administer a legitimate computer system,
preferably with a large institution such as a university or a research
body such as CSIRO. Figuratively speaking, the established members of
the Zardoz mailing list peered down their noses at you and determined
if you were worthy of inclusion in Club Zardoz. Only they decided if
you were trustworthy enough to share in the great security secrets of
the world's computer systems.

In 1989, the white hats, as hackers called the professional security
gurus, were highly paranoid about Zardoz getting into the wrong hands.
So much so, in fact, that many postings to Zardoz were fine examples
of the art of obliqueness. A computer security expert would hint at a
new bug in his posting without actually coming out and explaining it
in what is commonly referred to as a `cookbook' explanation.

This led to a raging debate within the comp-sec industry. In one
corner, the cookbook purists said that bulletins such as Zardoz were
only going to be helpful if people were frank with each other. They
wanted people posting to Zardoz to provide detailed, step-by-step
explanations on how to exploit a particular security hole. Hackers
would always find out about bugs one way or another and the best way
to keep them out of your system was to secure it properly in the first
place. They wanted full disclosure.

In the other corner, the hard-line, command-and-control computer
security types argued that posting an announcement to Zardoz posed the
gravest of security risks. What if Zardoz fell into the wrong hands?
Why, any sixteen-year-old hacker would have step-by-step directions
showing how to break into thousands of individual computers! If you
had to reveal a security flaw--and the jury was still out in their
minds as to whether that was such a good idea--it should be done only
in the most oblique terms.

What the hard-liners failed to understand was that world-class hackers
like Electron could read the most oblique, carefully crafted Zardoz
postings and, within a matter of days if not hours, work out exactly
how to exploit the security hole hinted at in the text. After which
they could just as easily have written a cookbook version of the
security bug.

Most good hackers had come across one or two issues of Zardoz in their
travels, often while rummaging though the system administrator's mail
on a prestigious institution's computer. But no-one from the elite of
the Altos underground had a full archive of all the back issues. The
hacker who possessed that would have details of every major security
hole discovered by the world's best computer security minds since at
least 1988.

Like Zardoz, Deszip was well guarded. It was written by computer
security expert Dr Matthew Bishop, who worked at NASA's Research
Institute for Advanced Computer Science before taking up a teaching
position at Dartmouth, an Ivy League college in New Hampshire. The
United States government deemed Deszip's very fast encryption
algorithms to be so important, they were classified as armaments. It
was illegal to export them from the US.

Of course, few hackers in 1990 had the sophistication to use weapons
such as Zardoz and Deszip properly. Indeed, few even knew they
existed. But Electron and Phoenix knew, along with a tiny handful of
others, including Pad and Gandalf from Britain. Congregating on Altos
in Germany, they worked with a select group of others carefully
targeting sites likely to contain parts of their holy grail. They were
methodical and highly strategic, piecing information together with
exquisite, almost forensic, skill. While the common rabble of other
hackers were thumping their heads against walls in brute-force attacks
on random machines, these hackers spent their time hunting for
strategic pressure points--the Achilles' heels of the computer
security community.

They had developed an informal hit list of machines, most of which
belonged to high-level computer security gurus. Finding one or two
early issues of Zardoz, Electron had combed through their postings
looking not just on the surface--for the security bugs--but also
paying careful attention to the names and addresses of the people
writing articles. Authors who appeared frequently in Zardoz, or had
something intelligent to say, went on the hit list. It was those
people who were most likely to keep copies of Deszip or an archive of
Zardoz on their machines.

Electron had searched across the world for information about Deszip
and DES (Data Encryption Standard), the original encryption program
later used in Deszip. He hunted through computers at the University of
New York, the US Naval Research Laboratories in Washington DC,
Helsinki University of Technology, Rutgers University in New Jersey,
Melbourne University and Tampere University in Finland, but the search
bore little fruit. He found a copy of CDES, a public domain encryption
program which used the DES algorithm, but not Deszip. CDES could be
used to encrypt files but not to crack passwords.

The two Australian hackers had, however, enjoyed a small taste of
Deszip. In 1989 they had broken into a computer at Dartmouth College
called Bear. They discovered Deszip carefully tucked away in a corner
of Bear and had spirited a copy of the program away to a safer machine
at another institution.

It turned out to be a hollow victory. That copy of Deszip had been
encrypted with Crypt, a program based on the German Enigma machine
used in World War II. Without the passphrase--the key to unlock the
encryption--it was impossible to read Deszip. All they could do was
stare, frustrated, at the file name Deszip labelling a treasure just
out of reach.

Undaunted, the hackers decided to keep the encrypted file just in case
they ever came across the passphrase somewhere--in an email letter,
for example--in one of the dozens of new computers they now hacked
regularly. Relabelling the encrypted Deszip file with a more innocuous
name, they stored the copy in a dark corner of another machine.
Thinking it wise to buy a little insurance as well, they gave a second
copy of the encrypted Deszip to Gandalf, who stored it on a machine in
the UK in case the Australians' copy disappeared unexpectedly.

In January 1990, Electron turned his attention to getting Zardoz.
After carefully reviewing an old copy of Zardoz, he had discovered a
system admin in Melbourne on the list. The subscriber could well have
the entire Zardoz archive on his machine, and that machine was so
close--less than half an hour's drive from Electron's home. All
Electron had to do was to break into the CSIRO.

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, or
CSIRO, is a government owned and operated research body with many
offices around Australia. Electron only wanted to get into one: the
Division of Information Technology at 55 Barry Street, Carlton, just
around the corner from the University of Melbourne.

Rummaging through a Melbourne University computer, Electron had
already found one copy of the Zardoz archive, belonging to a system
admin. He gathered it up and quietly began downloading it to his
computer, but as his machine slowly siphoned off the Zardoz copy, his
link to the university abruptly went dead. The admin had discovered
the hacker and quickly killed the connection. All of which left
Electron back at square one--until he found another copy of Zardoz on
the CSIRO machine.

It was nearly 3 a.m. on 1 February 1990, but Electron wasn't tired.
His head was buzzing. He had just successfully penetrated an account
called Worsley on the CSIRO computer called
DITMELA, using the sendmail bug. Electron assumed
DITMELA stood for Division of Information Technology, Melbourne,
computer `A'.

Electron began sifting through Andrew Worsley's directories that day.
He knew Zardoz was in there somewhere, since he had seen it before.
After probing the computer, experimenting with different security
holes hoping one would let him inside, Electron managed to slip in
unnoticed. It was mid-afternoon, a bad time to hack a computer since
someone at work would likely spot the intruder before long. So
Electron told himself this was just a reconnaissance mission. Find out
if Zardoz was on the machine, then get out of there fast and come back
later--preferably in the middle of the night--to pull Zardoz out.

When he found a complete collection of Zardoz in Worsley's directory,
Electron was tempted to try a grab and run. The problem was that, with
his slow modem, he couldn't run very quickly. Downloading Zardoz would
take several hours. Quashing his overwhelming desire to reach out and
grab Zardoz then and there, he slipped out of the machine noiselessly.

Early next morning, an excited and impatient Electron crept back into
DITMELA and headed straight for Worsley's directory. Zardoz was still
there. And a sweet irony. Electron was using a security bug he had
found on an early issue of Zardoz to break into the computer which
would surrender the entire archive to him.

Getting Zardoz out of the CSIRO machine was going to be a little
difficult. It was a big archive and at 300 baud--30 characters per
second--Electron's modem would take five hours to siphon off an entire
copy. Using the CAT command, Electron made copies of all the Zardoz
issues and bundled them up into one 500 k file. He called the new file
.t and stored it in the temporary directory on DITMELA.

Then he considered what to do next. He would mail the Zardoz bundle to
another account outside the CSIRO computer, for safe-keeping. But
after that he had to make a choice: try to download the thing himself
or hang up, call Phoenix and ask him to download it.

Using his 2400 baud modem, Phoenix would be able to download the
Zardoz bundle eight times faster than Electron could. On the other
hand, Electron didn't particularly want to give Phoenix access to the
CSIRO machine. They had both been targeting the machine, but he hadn't
told Phoenix that he had actually managed to get in. It wasn't that he
planned on withholding Zardoz when he got it. Quite the contrary,
Electron wanted Phoenix to read the security file so they could bounce
ideas off each other. When it came to accounts, however, Phoenix had a
way of messing things up. He talked too much. He was simply not

While Electron considered his decision, his fingers kept working at
the keyboard. He typed quickly, mailing copies of the Zardoz bundle to
two hacked student accounts at Melbourne University. With the
passwords to both accounts, he could get in whenever he wanted and he
wasn't taking any chances with this precious cargo. Two accounts were
safer than one--a main account and a back-up in case someone changed
the password on the first one.

Then, as the DITMELA machine was still in the process of mailing the
Zardoz bundle off to the back-up sites, Electron's connection suddenly

The CSIRO machine had hung up on him, which probably meant one thing.
The admin had logged him off. Electron was furious. What the hell was
a system administrator doing on a computer at this hour? The admin was
supposed to be asleep! That's why Electron logged on when he did. He
had seen Zardoz on the CSIRO machine the day before but he had been so
patient refusing to touch it because the risk of discovery was too
great. And now this.

The only hope was to call Phoenix and get him to login to the
Melbourne Uni accounts to see if the mail had arrived safely. If so,
he could download it with his faster modem before the CSIRO admin had
time to warn the Melbourne Uni admin, who would change the passwords.

Electron got on the phone to Phoenix. They had long since stopped
caring about what time of day they rang each other. 10 p.m. 2 a.m.
4.15 a.m. 6.45 a.m.

`Yeah.' Electron greeted Phoenix in the usual way.

`Yup,' Phoenix responded.

Electron told Phoenix what happened and gave him the two accounts at
Melbourne University where he had mailed the Zardoz bundle.

Phoenix hung up and rang back a few minutes later. Both accounts were
dead. Someone from Melbourne University had gone in and changed the
passwords within 30 minutes of Electron being booted off the CSIRO
computer. Both hackers were disturbed by the implications of this
event. It meant someone--in fact probably several people--were onto
them. But their desperation to get Zardoz overcame their fear.

Electron had one more account on the CSIRO computer. He didn't want to
give it to Phoenix, but he didn't have a choice. Still, the whole
venture was filled with uncertainty. Who knew if the Zardoz bundle was
still there? Surely an admin who bothered to kick Electron out would
move Zardoz to somewhere inaccessible. There was, however, a single

When Electron read off the password and username, he told Phoenix to
copy the Zardoz bundle to a few other machines on the Internet instead
of trying to download it to his own computer. It would be much
quicker, and the CSIRO admin wouldn't dare break into someone else's
computers to delete the copied file. Choosing overseas sites would
make it even harder for the admin to reach the admins of those
machines and warn them in time. Then, once Zardoz was safely tucked
away in a few back-up sites, Phoenix could download it over the
Internet from one of those with less risk of being booted off the
machine halfway through the process.

Sitting at his home in Kelvin Grove, Thornbury, just two suburbs north
of the CSIRO machine, Ian Mathieson watched the hacker break into his
computer again. Awoken by a phone call at 2.30 a.m. telling him there
was a suspected hacker in his computer, Mathieson immediately logged
in to his work system, DITMELA, via his home computer and modem. The
call, from David Hornsby of the Melbourne University Computer Science
Department, was no false alarm.

After watching the unknown hacker, who had logged in through a
Melbourne University machine terminal server, for about twenty
minutes, Mathieson booted the hacker off his system. Afterwards he
noticed that the DITMELA computer was still trying to execute a
command issued by the hacker. He looked a little closer, and
discovered DITMELA was trying to deliver mail to two Melbourne
University accounts.

The mail, however, hadn't been completely delivered. It was still
sitting in the mail spool, a temporary holding pen for undelivered
mail. Curious as to what the hacker would want so much from his
system, Mathieson moved the file into a subdirectory to look at it. He
was horrified to find the entire Zardoz archive, and he knew exactly
what it meant. These were no ordinary hackers--they were precision
fliers. Fortunately, Mathieson
consoled himself, he had stopped the mail before it had been sent out
and secured it.

Unfortunately, however, Mathieson had missed Electron's original
file--the bundle of Zardoz copies. When Electron had mailed the file,
he had copied it, leaving the original intact. They were still sitting
on DITMELA under the unassuming name .t. Mailing a file didn't delete
it--the computer only sent a copy of the original. Mathieson was an
intelligent man, a medical doctor with a master's degree in computer
science, but he had forgotten to check the temporary directory, one of
the few places a hacker could store files on a Unix system if he
didn't have root privileges.

At exactly 3.30 a.m. Phoenix logged into DITMELA from the University
of Texas. He quickly looked in the temporary directory. The .t file
was there, just as Electron had said it would be. The hacker quickly
began transferring it back to the University of Texas.

He was feeling good. It looked like the Australians were going to get
the entire Zardoz collection after all. Everything was going extremely
well--until the transfer suddenly died. Phoenix had forgotten to check
that there was enough disk space available on the University of Texas
account to download the sizeable Zardoz bundle. Now, as he was logged
into a very hot machine, a machine where the admin could well be
watching his every move, he discovered there wasn't enough room for
the Zardoz file.

Aware that every second spent on-line to DITMELA posed a serious risk,
Phoenix logged off the CSIRO machine immediately. Still connected to
the Texas computer, he fiddled around with it, deleting other files
and making enough room to pull the whole 500 k Zardoz file across.

At 3.37 a.m. Phoenix entered DITMELA again. This time, he vowed,
nothing would go wrong. He started up the file transfer and waited.
Less than ten minutes later, he logged off the CSIRO computer and
nervously checked the University of Texas system. It was there.
Zardoz, in all its glory. And it was his! Phoenix was ecstatic.

He wasn't done yet and there was no time for complacency. Swiftly, he
began compressing and encrypting Zardoz. He
compressed it because a smaller file was less obvious on the Texas
machine and was faster to send to a back-up machine. He encrypted it
so no-one nosing around the file would be able to see what was in it.
He wasn't just worried about system admins; the Texas system was
riddled with hackers, in part because it was home to his friend,
Legion of Doom hacker Erik Bloodaxe, a
student at the university.

After Phoenix was satisfied Zardoz was safe, he rang Electron just
before 4 a.m. with the good news. By 8.15, Phoenix had downloaded
Zardoz from the Texas computer onto his own machine. By 1.15 p.m.,
Electron had downloaded it from Phoenix's machine to his own.

Zardoz had been a difficult conquest, but Deszip would prove to be
even more so. While dozens of security experts possessed complete
Zardoz archives, far fewer people had Deszip. And, at least
officially, all of them were in the US.

The US government banned the export of cryptography algorithms. To
send a copy of Deszip, or DES or indeed any other encryption program
outside the US was a crime. It was illegal because the US State
Department's Office of Defense Trade Controls considered any
encryption program to be a weapon. ITAR, the International Traffic in
Arms Regulations stemming from the US Arms Export Control Act 1977,
restricted publication of and trad in `defense articles'. It didn't
matter whether you flew to Europe with a disk in your pocket, or you
sent the material over the Internet. If you violated ITAR, you faced
the prospect of prison.

Occasionally, American computer programmers discreetly slipped copies
of encryption programs to specialists in their field outside the US.
Once the program was outside the US, it was fair game--there was
nothing US authorities could do about someone in Norway sending Deszip
to a colleague in Australia. But even so, the comp-sec and
cryptography communities outside the US still held programs such as
Deszip very tightly within their own inner sanctums.

All of which meant that Electron and Phoenix would almost certainly
have to target a site in the US. Electron continued to compile a hit
list, based on the Zardoz mailing list, which he gave to Phoenix. The
two hackers then began searching the growing Internet for computers
belonging to the targets.

It was an impressive hit list. Matthew Bishop, author of Deszip.
Russell Brand, of the Lawrence Livermore National Labs, a research
laboratory funded by the US Department of Energy. Dan Farmer, an
author of the computer program COPS, a popular security-testing
program which included a password cracking program. There were others.
And, at the top of the list, Eugene Spafford, or Spaf, as the hackers
called him.

By 1990, the computer underground viewed Spaf not just as security
guru, but also as an anti-hacker zealot. Spaf was based at Purdue
University, a hotbed of computer security experts. Bishop had earned
his PhD at Purdue and Dan Farmer was still there. Spaf was also one of
the founders of usenet, the Internet newsgroups service. While working
as a computer scientist at the university, he had made a name for
himself by, among other things, writing a technical analysis of the
RTM worm. The worm, authored by Cornell University student Robert T.
Morris Jr in 1988, proved to be a boon for Spaf's career.

Prior to the RTM worm, Spaf had been working in software engineering.
After the worm, he became a computer ethicist and a very public
spokesman for the conservatives in the computer security industry.
Spaf went on tour across the US, lecturing the public and the media on
worms, viruses and the ethics of hacking. During the Morris case,
hacking became a hot topic in the United States, and Spaf fed the
flames. When Judge Howard G. Munson refused to sentence Morris to
prison, instead ordering him to complete 400 hours community service,
pay a $10000 fine and submit to three years probation, Spaf publicly
railed against the decision. The media reported that he had called on
the computer industry to boycott any company which chose to employ
Robert T. Morris Jr.

Targeting Spaf therefore served a dual purpose for the Australian
hackers. He was undoubtedly a repository of treasures such as Deszip,
and he was also a tall poppy.

One night, Electron and Phoenix decided to break into Spaf's machine
at Purdue to steal a copy of Deszip. Phoenix would do the actual
hacking, since he had the fast modem, but he would talk to Electron
simultaneously on the other phone line. Electron would guide him at
each step. That way, when Phoenix hit a snag, he wouldn't have to
retreat to regroup and risk discovery.

Both hackers had managed to break into another computer at Purdue,
called Medusa. But Spaf had a separate machine, Uther, which was
connected to Medusa.

Phoenix poked and prodded at Uther, trying to open a hole wide enough
for him to crawl through. At Electron's suggestion, he tried to use
the CHFN bug. The CHFN command lets users change the information
provided--such as their name, work address or office phone
number--when someone `fingers' their accounts. The bug had appeared in
one of the Zardoz files and Phoenix and Electron had already used it
to break into several other machines.

Electron wanted to use the CHFN bug because, if the attack was
successful, Phoenix would be able to make a root account for himself
on Spaf's machine. That would be the ultimate slap in the face to a
high-profile computer security guru.

But things weren't going well for Phoenix. The frustrated Australian
hacker kept telling Electron that the bug should work, but it
wouldn't, and he couldn't figure out why. The problem, Electron
finally concluded, was that Spaf's machine was a Sequent. The CHFN bug
depended on a particular Unix password file structure, but Sequents
used a different structure. It didn't help that Phoenix didn't know
that much about Sequents--they were one of Gandalf's specialties.

After a few exasperating hours struggling to make the CHFN bug work,
Phoenix gave up and turned to another security flaw suggested by
Electron: the FTP bug. Phoenix ran through the bug in his mind.
Normally, someone used FTP, or file transfer protocol, to transfer
files over a network, such as the Internet, from one computer to
another. FTPing to another machine was a bit like telnetting, but the
user didn't need a password to login and the commands he could execute
once in the other computer were usually very limited.

If it worked, the FTP bug would allow Phoenix to slip in an extra
command during the FTP login process. That command would force Spaf's
machine to allow Phoenix to login as anyone he wanted--and what he
wanted was to login as someone who had root privileges. The `root'
account might be a little obvious
if anyone was watching, and it didn't always have remote
access anyway. So he chose `daemon', another commonly root-privileged
account, instead.

It was a shot in the dark. Phoenix was fairly sure Spaf would have
secured his machine against such an obvious attack, but Electron urged
him to give it a try anyway. The FTP bug had been announced throughout
the computer security community long ago, appearing in an early issue
of Zardoz. Phoenix hesitated, but he had run out of ideas, and time.

Phoenix typed:

FTP -i uther.purdue.edu

quote user anonymous

quote cd ~daemon

quote pass anything

The few seconds it took for his commands to course from his suburban
home in Melbourne and race deep into the Midwest felt like a lifetime.
He wanted Spaf's machine, wanted Deszip, and wanted this attack to
work. If he could just get Deszip, he felt the Australians would be

Spaf's machine opened its door as politely as a doorman at the Ritz
Carlton. Phoenix smiled at his computer. He was in.

It was like being in Aladdin's cave. Phoenix just sat there, stunned
at the bounty which lay before him. It was his, all his. Spaf had
megabytes of security files in his directories. Source code for the
RTM Internet worm. Source code for the WANK worm. Everything. Phoenix
wanted to plunge his hands in each treasure chest and scoop out greedy
handfuls, but he resisted the urge. He had a more important--a more
strategic--mission to accomplish first.

He prowled through the directories, hunting everywhere for Deszip.
Like a burglar scouring the house for the family silver, he pawed
through directory after directory. Surely, Spaf had to have Deszip. If
anyone besides Matthew Bishop was going to have a copy, he would. And
finally, there it was. Deszip. Just waiting for Phoenix.

Then Phoenix noticed something else. Another file. Curiosity got the
better of him and he zoomed in to have a quick look. This one
contained a passphrase--the passphrase. The phrase the Australians
needed to decrypt the original copy of Deszip they had stolen from the
Bear computer at Dartmouth three months earlier. Phoenix couldn't
believe the passphrase. It was so simple, so obvious. But he caught
himself. This was no time to cry over spilled milk. He had to get
Deszip out of the machine quickly, before anyone noticed he was there.

But as Phoenix began typing in commands, his screen appeared to freeze
up. He checked. It wasn't his computer. Something was wrong at the
other end. He was still logged into Spaf's machine. The connection
hadn't been killed. But when he typed commands, the computer in West
Lafayette, Indiana, didn't respond. Spaf's machine just sat there,
deaf and dumb.

Phoenix stared at his computer, trying to figure out what was
happening. Why wouldn't Spaf's machine answer? There were two
possibilities. Either the network--the connection between the first
machine he penetrated at Purdue and Spaf's own machine--had gone down
accidentally. Or someone had pulled the plug.

Why pull the plug? If they knew he was in there, why not just kick him
out of the machine? Better still, why not kick him out of Purdue all
together? Maybe they wanted to keep him on-line to trace which machine
he was coming from, eventually winding backwards from system to
system, following his trail.

Phoenix was in a dilemma. If the connection had crashed by accident,
he wanted to stay put and wait for the network to come back up again.
The FTP hole in Spaf's machine was an incredible piece of luck.
Chances were that someone would find
evidence of his break-in after he left and plug it. On the
other hand, he didn't want the people at Purdue tracing his

He waited a few more minutes, trying to hedge his bets. Feeling nervy
as the extended silence emanating from Spaf's machine wore on, Phoenix
decided to jump. With the lost treasures of Aladdin's cave fading in
his mind's eye like a mirage, Phoenix killed his connection.

Electron and Phoenix talked on the phone, moodily contemplating their
losses. It was a blow, but Electron reminded himself that getting
Deszip was never going to be easy. At least they had the passphrase to
unlock the encrypted Deszip taken from Dartmouth.

Soon, however, they discovered a problem. There had to be one,
Electron thought. They couldn't just have something go off without a
hitch for a change. That would be too easy. The problem this time was
that when they went searching for their copy from Dartmouth, which had
been stored several months before, it had vanished. The Dartmouth
system admin must have deleted it.

It was maddening. The frustration was unbearable. Each time they had
Deszip just within their grasp, it slipped away and
disappeared. Yet each time they lost their grip, it only deepened
their desire to capture the elusive prize. Deszip was fast becoming an
all-consuming obsession for Phoenix and Electron.

Their one last hope was the second copy of the encrypted Dartmouth
Deszip file they had given to Gandalf, but that hope did not burn
brightly. After all, if the Australians' copy had been deleted, there
was every likelihood that the Brit's copy had suffered the same fate.
Gandalf's copy hadn't been stored on his own computer. He had put it
on some dark corner of a machine in Britain.

Electron and Phoenix logged onto Altos and waited for Pad or Gandalf
to show up.

Phoenix typed .s for a list of who was on-line. He saw that Pad was
logged on:

No Chan User

0 Guest

1 Phoenix

2 Pad

Guest 0 was Electron. He usually logged on as Guest, partly because he
was so paranoid about being busted and because he believed operators
monitored his connections if they knew it was Electron logging in.
They seemed to take great joy in sniffing the password to his own
account on Altos. Then, when he had logged off, they logged in and
changed his password so he couldn't get back under the name Electron.
Nothing was more annoying. Phoenix typed, `Hey, Pad. How's it going?'

Pad wrote back, `Feeny! Heya.'

`Do you and Gand still have that encrypted copy of Deszip we gave you
a few months ago?'

`Encrypted copy ... hmm. Thinking.' Pad paused. He and Gandalf hacked
dozens of computer systems regularly. Sometimes it was difficult to
recall just where they had stored things.

`Yeah, I know what you mean. I don't know. It was on a system on
JANET,' Pad said. Britain's Joint Academic Network was the equivalent
of Australia's AARNET, an early Internet based largely on a backbone
of universities and research centres.

`I can't remember which system it was on,' Pad continued.

If the Brits couldn't recall the institution, let alone the machine
where they had hidden Deszip, it was time to give up
all hope. JANET comprised hundreds, maybe thousands, of machines. It
was far too big a place to randomly hunt around for a file which
Gandalf would no doubt have tried to disguise in the first place.

`But the file was encrypted, and you didn't have the password,' Pad
wrote. `How come you want it?'

`Because we found the password. ' That was the
etiquette on Altos. If you wanted to suggest an action, you put it in
< >.

`Gr8!' Pad answered.

That was Pad and Gandalf's on-line style. The number eight was the
British hackers' hallmark, since their group was called 8lgm, and they
used it instead of letters. Words like `great', `mate' and `later'
became `gr8', `m8' and `l8r'.

When people logged into Altos they could name a `place' of origin for
others to see. Of course, if you were logging from a country which had
laws against hacking, you wouldn't give your real country. You'd just
pick a place at random. Some people logged in from places like
Argentina, or Israel. Pad and Gandalf logged in from 8lgm.

`I'll try to find Gandalf and ask him if he knows where we stashed the
copy,' Pad wrote to Phoenix.

`Good. Thanks.'

While Phoenix and Electron waited on-line for Pad to return, Par
showed up on-line and joined their conversation. Par didn't know who
Guest 0 was, but Guest certainly knew who Par was. Time hadn't healed
Electron's old wounds when it came to Par. Electron didn't really
admit to himself the bad blood was still there over Theorem. He told
himself that he couldn't be bothered with Par, that Par was just a
phreaker, not a real hacker, that Par was lame.

Phoenix typed, `Hey, Par. How's it going?'

`Feenster!' Par replied. `What's happening?'

`Lots and lots.'

Par turned his attention to the mystery Guest 0. He didn't want to
discuss private things with someone who might be a security guy
hanging around the chat channel like a bad smell.

`Guest, do you have a name?' Par asked.

`Yeah. It's "Guest--#0".'

`You got any other names?'

There was a long pause.

Electron typed, `I guess not.'

`Any other names besides dickhead that is?'

Electron sent a `whisper'--a private message--to Phoenix telling him
not to tell Par his identity.

`OK. Sure,' Phoenix whispered back. To show he would play along with
whatever Electron had in mind, Phoenix added a sideways smiley face at
the end: `:-)'.

Par didn't know Electron and Phoenix were whispering to each other. He
was still waiting to find out the identity of Guest. `Well, speak up,
Guest. Figured out who you are yet?'

Electron knew Par was on the run at the time. Indeed, Par had been on
the run from the US Secret Service for more than six months by the
beginning of 1990. He also knew Par was highly paranoid.

Electron took aim and fired.

`Hey, Par. You should eat more. You're looking underFED these days.'

Par was suddenly silent. Electron sat at his computer, quietly
laughing to himself, halfway across the world from Par. Well, he
thought, that ought to freak out Par a bit. Nothing like a subtle hint
at law enforcement to drive him nuts.

`Did you see THAT?' Par whispered to Phoenix. `UnderFED. What did he

`I dunno,' Phoenix whispered back. Then he forwarded a copy of Par's
private message on to Electron. He knew it would make him laugh.

Par was clearly worried. `Who the fuck are you?' he whispered to
Electron but Guest 0 didn't answer.

With growing anxiety, Par whispered to Phoenix, `Who IS this guy? Do
you know him?'

Phoenix didn't answer.

`Because, well, it's weird. Didn't you see? FED was in caps. What the
fuck does that mean? Is he a fed? Is he trying to give me a message
from the feds?'

Sitting at his terminal, on the other side of Melbourne from Electron,
Phoenix was also laughing. He liked Par, but the American was an easy
target. Par had become so paranoid since he went on the run across the
US, and Electron knew just the right buttons to push.

`I don't know,' Phoenix whispered to Par. `I'm sure he's not really a

`Well, I am wondering about that comment,' Par whispered back.
`UnderFED. Hmm. Maybe he knows something. Maybe it's some kind of
warning. Shit, maybe the Secret Service knows where I am.'

`You think?' Phoenix whispered to Par. `It might be a warning of some
kind?' It was too funny.

`Can you check his originating NUA?' Par wanted to know what network
address the mystery guest was coming from. It might give him a clue as
to the stranger's identity.

Phoenix could barely contain himself. He kept forwarding the private
messages on to Electron. Par was clearly becoming more agitated.

`I wish he would just tell me WHO he was,' Par whispered. `Shit. It is
very fucking weird. UnderFED. It's spinning me out.'

Then Par logged off.

Electron typed, `I guess Par had to go. ' Then, chuckling to
himself, he waited for news on Gandalf's Deszip copy.

If Pad and Gandalf hadn't kept their copy of Deszip, the Australians
would be back to square one, beginning with a hunt for a system which
even had Deszip. It was a daunting task and by the time Pad and
Gandalf finally logged back into Altos, Phoenix and Electron had
become quite anxious.

`How did you go?' Phoenix asked. `Do you still have Deszip?'

`Well, at first I thought I had forgotten which system I left it on

Electron jumped in, `And then?'

`Then I remembered.'

`Good news?' Phoenix exclaimed.

`Well, no. Not exactly,' Gandalf said. `The account is dead.'

Electron felt like someone had thrown a bucket of cold water on him.
`Dead? Dead how?' he asked.

`Dead like someone changed the password. Not sure why. I'll have to
re-hack the system to get to the file.'

`Fuck, this Deszip is frustrating,' Electron wrote.

`This is getting ridiculous,' Phoenix added.

`I don't even know if the copy is still in there,' Gandalf replied. `I
hid it, but who knows? Been a few months. Admins might have deleted

`You want some help hacking the system again, Gand?' Phoenix asked.

`Nah, It'll be easy. It's a Sequent. Just have to hang around until
the ops go home.'

If an op was logged on and saw Gandalf hunting around, he or she might
kick Gandalf off and investigate the file which so interested the
hacker. Then they would lose Deszip all over again.

`I hope we get it,' Pad chipped in. `Would be gr8!'

`Gr8 indeed. Feen, you've got the key to the encryption?' Gandalf


`How many characters is it?' It was Gandalf's subtle way of asking for
the key itself.

Phoenix wasn't sure what to do. He wanted to give the British hackers
the key, but he was torn. He needed Pad and Gandalf's help to get the
copy of Deszip, if it was still around. But he knew Electron was
watching the conversation, and Electron was always so paranoid. He
disliked giving out any information, let alone giving it over Altos,
where the conversations were possibly logged by security people.

`Should I give him the key?' Phoenix whispered to Electron.

Gandalf was waiting. To fend him off, Phoenix said, `It's 9 chars.'
Chars was short for characters. On Altos the rule was to abbreviate
where ever possible.

`What is the first char?'

`Yeah. Tell him,' Electron whispered to Phoenix.

`Well, the key is ...'

`You're going to spew when you find out, Gand,' Electron interrupted.

`Yes ... go on,' Gandalf said. `I am listening.'

`You won't believe it.  The key is ... Dartmouth.'

`WHAT???? WHAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!' Gandalf exclaimed.
`No!!! IT's NOT TRUE! Bollox! You are KIDDING?'

The British hacker was thumping himself on the head. The name of the
frigging university! What a stupid password!

Phoenix gave an on-line chuckle. `Hehe. Yeah. So hard to guess. We
could have had Deszip for all these months ...'

`Jesus. I hope it's still on that JANET system,' Gandalf said. Now
that he actually had the password, finding the file became even more

`Pray. Pray. Pray,' Phoenix said. `Yeah, you should have seen the
licence text on Deszip--it was by NASA.'

`You've seen it? You saw Deszip's source code?'

`No,' Phoenix answered. `When I went back to the BEAR machine to check
if Deszip was still there, the program was gone. But the licence
agreement and other stuff was there. Should have read the licence ...
truly amazing. It basically went on and on about how the people who
wrote it didn't want people like us to get a hold of it. Hehe.'

Electron was growing impatient. `Yeah. So, Gand, when you gonna go
check that JANET system?'

`Now. Fingers crossed, m8! See ya l8r ...' Then he was gone.

The waiting was driving Electron nuts. He kept thinking about Deszip,
about how he could have had it months and months ago. That program was
such a prize. He was salivating at the thought of getting it after all
this time pursuing it around the globe, chasing its trail from system
to system, never quite getting close enough to grab it.

When Gandalf showed up again, Pad, Phoenix and Electron were all over
him in an instant.

`WE FUCKING GOT IT GUYS!!!!!' Gandalf exclaimed.

`Good job m8!' Pad said.

`YES!' Electron added. `Have you decrypted it yet?'

`Not yet. Crypt isn't on that machine. We can either copy Crypt onto
that machine or copy the file onto another computer which already has
Crypt on it,' Gandalf said.

`Let's move it. Quick ... quick ... this damn thing has a habit of
disappearing,' Electron said.

`Yeah, this is the last copy ... the only one I got.'

`OK. Think ... think ... where can we copy it to?' Electron said.

`Texas!' Gandalf wanted to copy it to a computer at the University of
Texas at Austin, home of the LOD hacker Erik Bloodaxe.

Irrepressible, Gandalf came on like a steam roller if he liked
you--and cut you down in a flash if he didn't. His rough-and-tumble
working-class humour particularly appealed to Electron. Gandalf seemed
able to zero in on the things which worried you most--something so
deep or serious it was often unsaid. Then he would blurt it out in
such crass, blunt terms you couldn't help laughing. It was his way of
being in your face in the friendliest possible manner.

`Yeah! Blame everything on Erik!' Phoenix joked. `No, seriously. That
place is crawling with security now, all after Erik. They are into

Phoenix had heard all about the security purge at the university from
Erik. The Australian called Erik all the time, mostly by charging the
calls to stolen AT&T cards. Erik hadn't been raided by the Secret
Service yet, but he had been tipped off and was expecting a visit any

`It probably won't decrypt anyway,' Electron said.

`Oh, phuck off!' Gandalf shot back. `Come on! I need a site NOW!'

`Thinking ...' Phoenix said. `Gotta be some place with room--how big
is it?'

`It's 900 k compressed--probably 3 meg when we uncompress it. Come on,
hurry up! How about a university?'

`Princeton, Yale could do either of those.' Electron suggested. `What
about MIT--you hacked an account there recently, Gand?'


All four hackers racked their minds for a safe haven. The world was
their oyster, as British and Australian hackers held a real-time
conversation in Germany about whether to hide their treasure in
Austin, Texas; Princeton, New Jersey; Boston, Massachusetts; or New
Haven, Connecticut.

`We only need somewhere to stash it for a little while, until we can
download it,' Gandalf said. `Got to be some machine where we've got
root. And it's got to have anon FTP.'

Anon FTP, or anonymous file transfer protocol, on a host machine would
allow Gandalf to shoot the file from his JANET machine across the
Internet into the host. Most importantly, Gandalf could do so without
an account on the target machine. He could simply login as
`anonymous', a method of access which had more limitations than simply
logging in with a normal account. He would, however, still be able to
upload the file.

`OK. OK, I have an idea,' Phoenix said. `Lemme go check
it out.'

Phoenix dropped out of Altos and connected to the University of Texas.
The physical location of a site didn't matter. His head was spinning
and it was the only place he could think of. But he didn't try to
connect to Happy, the machine he often used which Erik had told him
about. He headed to one of the other university computers, called

The network was overloaded. Phoenix was left dangling, waiting to
connect for minutes on end. The lines were congested. He logged back
into Altos and told Pad and Electron. Gandalf was nowhere to be seen.

`Damn,' Electron said. Then, `OK, I might have an idea.'

`No, wait!' Phoenix cut in. `I just thought of a site! And I have root
too! But it's on NASA ...'

`Oh that's OK. I'm sure they won't mind a bit. '

`I'll go make sure it's still OK. Back in a bit,' Phoenix typed.

Phoenix jumped out of Altos and headed toward NASA. He telnetted into
a NASA computer called CSAB at the Langley Research Center in Hampton,
Virginia. He had been in and out of NASA quite a few times and had
recently made himself a root account on CSAB. First, he had to check
the account was still alive, then he had to make sure the system
administrator wasn't logged in.

Whizzing past the official warning sign about unauthorised access in
US government computers on the login screen, Phoenix typed in his user
name and password.

It worked. He was in. And he had root privileges.

He quickly looked around on the system. The administrator was on-line.

Phoenix fled the NASA computer and sprinted back into Altos. Gandalf
was there, along with the other two, waiting for him.

`Well?' Electron asked.

`OK. All right. The NASA machine will work. It has anon FTP. And I
still have root. We'll use that.'

Gandalf jumped in. `Hang on--does it have Crypt?'

`Argh! Forget to check. I think it must.'

`Better check it, m8!'

`Yeah, OK.'

Phoenix felt exasperated, rushing around trying to find sites that
worked. He logged out of Altos and coursed his way back into the NASA
machine. The admin was still logged on, but Phoenix was running out of
time. He had to find out if the computer had Crypt on it. It did.

Phoenix rushed back to Altos. `Back again. We're in business.'

`Yes!' Electron said, but he quickly jumped in with a word of warning.
`Don't say the exact machine at NASA or the account out loud. Whisper
it to Gandalf. I think the ops are listening in on my connection.'

`Well,' Phoenix typed slowly, `there's only one problem. The admin is
logged on.'

`Arghhh!' Electron shouted.

`Just do it,' Pad said. `No time to worry.'

Phoenix whispered the Internet IP address of the NASA machine to

`OK, m8, I'll anon FTP it to NASA. I'll come back here and tell you
the new filename. Then you go in and decrypt it and uncompress the
file. W8 for me here.'

Ten minutes later, Gandalf returned. `Mission accomplished. The file
is there!'

`Now, go go Pheeny!' Electron said.

`Gand, whisper the filename to me,' Phoenix said.

`The file's called "d" and it's in the pub directory,' Gandalf

`OK, folks. Here we go!' Phoenix said as he logged off.

Phoenix dashed to the NASA computer, logged in and looked for the file
named `d'. He couldn't find it. He couldn't even find the pub
directory. He began hunting around the rest of the file system. Where
was the damn thing?

Uh oh. Phoenix noticed the system administrator, Sharon Beskenis, was
still logged in. She was connected from Phoebe, another NASA machine.
There was only one other user besides himself logged into the CSAB
machine, someone called Carrie. As if that wasn't bad enough, Phoenix
realised his username stood out a like a sore thumb. If the admin
looked at who was on-line she would see herself, Carrie and a user
called `friend', an account he had created for himself. How many
legitimate accounts on NASA computers had that name?

Worse, Phoenix noticed that he had forgotten to cover his login trail.
`Friend' was telnetting into the NASA computer from the University of
Texas. No, no, he thought, that would definitely have to go. He
disconnected from NASA, bounced back to the university and then logged
in to NASA again. Good grief. Now the damn NASA machine showed two
people logged in as `friend'. The computer hadn't properly killed his
previous login. Stress.

Phoenix tried frantically to clear out his first login by killing its
process number. The NASA computer responded that there was no such
process number. Increasingly nervous, Phoenix figured he must have
typed in the wrong number. Unhinged, he grabbed one of the other
process numbers and killed that.

Christ! That was the admin's process number. Phoenix had just
disconnected Sharon from her own machine. Things were not going well.

Now he was under serious pressure. He didn't dare logout, because
Sharon would no doubt find his `friend' account, kill it and close up
the security hole he had originally used to get in. Even if she didn't
find Deszip on her own machine, he might not be able to get back in
again to retrieve it.

After another frenzied minute hunting around the machine, Phoenix
finally unearthed Gandalf's copy of Deszip. Now, the moment of truth.

He tried the passphrase. It worked! All he had to do
was uncompress Deszip and get it out of there. He typed, `uncompress
deszip.tar.z', but he didn't like how the NASA computer answered his

corrupt input

Something was wrong, terribly wrong. The file appeared to be partially
destroyed. It was too painful a possibility to contemplate. Even if
only a small part of the main Deszip program had been damaged, none of
it would be useable.

Rubbing sweat from his palms, Phoenix hoped that maybe the file had
just been damaged as he attempted to uncompress it. He had kept the
original, so he went back to that and tried decrypting and
uncompressing it again. The NASA computer gave him the same ugly
response. Urgently, he tried yet again, but this time attempted to
uncompress the file in a different way. Same problem.

Phoenix was at his wits' end. This was too much. The most he could
hope was that the file had somehow become corrupted in the transfer
from Gandalf's JANET machine. He logged out of NASA and returned to
Altos. The other three were waiting impatiently for him.

Electron, still logged in as the mystery Guest, leaped in. `Did it

`No. Decrypted OK, but the file was corrupted when I tried to
decompress it.'

`Arghhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!' Gandalf exclaimed.

`Fuckfuckfuck,' Electron wrote. `Doomed to fail.'

`Sigh Sigh Sigh,' Pad typed.

Gandalf and Electron quizzed Phoenix in detail about each command he
had used, but in the end there seemed only one hope. Move a copy of
the decryption program to the JANET computer in the UK and try
decrypting and uncompressing Deszip there.

Phoenix gave Gandalf a copy of Crypt and the British hacker went to
work on the JANET computer. A little later he rendezvoused on Altos

Phoenix was beside himself by this stage. `Gand! Work???'

`Well, I decrypted it using the program you gave me ...'

`And And And???' Electron was practically jumping out of his seat at
his computer.

`Tried to uncompress it. It was taking a LONG time. Kept
going--expanded to 8 megabytes.'

`Oh NO. Bad Bad Bad,' Phoenix moaned. `Should only be 3 meg. If it's
making a million files, it's fucked.'

`Christ,' Pad typed. `Too painful.'

`I got the makefile--licensing agreement text etc., but the Deszip
program itself was corrupted,' Gandalf concluded.

`I don't understand what is wrong with it. ' Phoenix wrote.

`AgonyAgonyAgony,' Electron groaned. `It'll never never never work.'

`Can we get a copy anywhere else?' Gandalf asked.

`That FTP bug has been fixed at Purdue,' Pad answered. `Can't use that
to get in again.'

Disappointment permeated the atmosphere on Altos.

There were, of course, other possible repositories for Deszip. Phoenix
and Electron had already penetrated a computer at Lawrence Livermore
National Labs in California. They had procured root on the gamm5
machine and planned to use it as a launchpad for penetrating security
expert Russell Brand's computer at LLNL, called Wuthel. They were sure
Brand had Deszip on his computer.

It would require a good deal of effort, and possibly another
roller-coaster ride of desire, expectation and possible
disappointment. For now, the four hackers resolved to sign off,
licking their wounds at their defeat in the quest for Deszip.

`Well, I'm off. See you l8r,' Pad said.

`Yeah, me too,' Electron added.

`Yeah, OK. L8r, m8s!' Gandalf said.

Then, just for fun, he added in typical Gandalf style, `See you in

                  Chapter 6 -- Page 1 The New York Times.

Read about it; Just another incredible scene; There's no doubt about it.

-- from `Read About It', 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.

Pad had an important warning for the Australian hackers: the computer
security community was closing in on them. It was the end of February
1990, not long after Phoenix and Electron had captured Zardoz and just
missed out on Deszip. Pad didn't scream or shout the warning, that
wasn't his style. But Electron took in the import of the warning loud
and clear.

`Feen, they know you did over Spaf's machine,' Pad told Phoenix. `They
know it's been you in other systems also. They've got your handle.'

Eugene Spafford was the kind of computer security expert who loses a
lot of face when a hacker gets into his machine, and a wounded bull is
a dangerous enemy.

The security people had been able to connect and link up a series of
break-ins with the hacker who called himself Phoenix because his style
was so distinctive. For example, whenever he was creating a root
shell--root access--for himself, he would always save it in the same
filename and in the same location on the
computer. In some instances, he even created accounts called `Phoenix'
for himself. It was this consistency of style which had made things so
much easier for admins to trace his movements.

In his typical understated fashion, Pad suggested a change of style.
And maybe, he added, it wasn't such a bad idea for the Australians to
tone down their activities a bit. The undercurrent of the message was

`They said that some security people had contacted Australian law
enforcement, who were supposed to be "dealing with it",' Pad said.

`Do they know my real name?' Phoenix asked, worried. Electron was also
watching this conversation with some concern.

`Don't know. Got it from Shatter. He's not always reliable,
but ...'

Pad was trying to soften the news by playing down Shatter's importance
as a source. He didn't trust his fellow British hacker but Shatter had
some good, if mysterious, connections. An enigmatic figure who seemed
to keep one foot in the computer underworld and the other in the
upright computer security industry, Shatter leaked information to Pad
and Gandalf, and occasionally to the Australians.

While the two British hackers sometimes discounted Shatter's advice,
they also took the time to talk to him. Once, Electron had intercepted
email showing Pengo had turned to Shatter for advice about his
situation after the raid in Germany. With some spare time prior to his
trial, Pengo asked Shatter whether it was safe to travel to the US on
a summer holiday in 1989. Shatter asked for Pengo's birthdate and
other details. Then he returned with an unequivocal answer: Under no
circumstances was Pengo to travel to the US.

Subsequently, it was reported that officials in the US Justice
Department had been examining ways to secretly coax Pengo onto
American soil, where they could seize him. They would then force him
to face trial in their own courts.

Had Shatter known this? Or had he just told Pengo not to go to the US
because it was good commonsense? No-one was quite sure, but people
took note of what Shatter told them.

`Shatter definitely got the info right about Spaf's machine. 100%
right,' Pad continued. `He knew exactly how you hacked it. I couldn't
believe it. Be careful if you're still hacking m8, especially on the
Inet.' The `Inet' was shorthand for the Internet.

The Altos hackers went quiet.

`It's not just you,' Pad tried to reassure the Australians. `Two
security people from the US are coming to the UK to try and find out
something about someone named Gandalf. Oh, and Gand's mate, who might
be called Patrick.'

Pad had indeed based his handle on the name Patrick, or Paddy, but
that wasn't his real name. No intelligent hacker would use his real
name for his handle. Paddy was the name of one of his favourite
university lecturers, an Irishman who laughed a good deal. Like Par's
name, Pad's handle had coincidentally echoed a second meaning when the
British hacker moved into exploring X.25 networks. An X.25 PAD is a
packet assembler disassembler, the interface between the X.25 network
and a modem or terminal server. Similarly, Gandalf, while being first
and foremost the wizard from The Lord of The Rings, also happened to
be a terminal server brand name.

Despite the gravity of the news that the security community was
closing the net around them, none of the hackers lost their wicked
sense of humour.

`You know,' Pad went on, `Spaf was out of the country when his machine
got hacked.'

`Was he? Where?' asked Gandalf, who had just joined the conversation.

`In Europe.'

Electron couldn't resist. `Where was Spaf, Gandalf asks as he hears a
knock on his door ...'

`Haha,' Gandalf laughed.

` ' Electron went on, hamming it up.

`Oh! Hello there, Mr Spafford,' Gandalf typed, playing along.

`Hello, I'm Gene and I'm mean!'

Alone in their separate homes on different corners of the globe, the
four hackers chuckled to themselves.

`Hello, and is this the man called Patrick?' Pad jumped in.

`Well, Mr Spafford, it seems you're a right fucking idiot for not
patching your FTP!' Gandalf proclaimed.

`Not to mention the CHFN bug--saved by a Sequent! Or you'd be very
fucking embarrassed,' Phoenix added.

Phoenix was laughing too, but he was a little nervous about Pad's
warning and he turned the conversation back to a serious note.

`So, Pad, what else did Shatter tell you?' Phoenix asked

`Not much. Except that some of the security investigations might be
partly because of UCB.'

UCB was the University of California at Berkeley. Phoenix had been
visiting machines at both Berkeley and LLNL so much recently that the
admins seemed to have not only noticed him, but they had pinpointed
his handle. One day he had telnetted into dewey.soe.berkeley.edu--the
Dewey machine as it was known--and had been startled to find the
following message of the day staring him in the face:


Get out of Dewey NOW!

Also, do not use any of the `soe' machines.

Thank you,

Daniel Berger

Phoenix did a double take when he saw this public warning. Having been
in and out of the system so many times, he just zoomed past the words
on the login screen. Then, in a delayed reaction, he realised the
login message was addressed to him.

Ignoring the warning, he proceeded to get root on the Berkeley machine
and look through Berger's files. Then he sat back, thinking about the
best way to deal with the problem. Finally, he decided to send the
admin a note saying he was leaving the system for good.

Within days, Phoenix was back in the Dewey machine, weaving in and out
of it as if nothing had happened. After all, he had broken into the
system, and managed to get root through his own wit. He had earned the
right to be in the computer. He might send the admin a note to put him
at ease, but Phoenix wasn't going to give up accessing Berkeley's
computers just because it upset Daniel Berger.

`See,' Pad continued, `I think the UCB people kept stuff on their
systems that wasn't supposed to be there. Secret things.'

Classified military material wasn't supposed to be stored
on non-classified network computers. However, Pad guessed that
sometimes researchers broke rules and took short cuts because they
were busy thinking about their research and not the security

`Some of the stuff might have been illegal,' Pad told his captive
audience. `And then they find out some of you guys have been in there

`Shit,' Phoenix said.

`So, well, if it APPEARED like someone was inside trying to get at
those secrets ...' Pad paused. `Then you can guess what happened. It
seems they really want to get whoever was inside their machines.'

There was momentary silence while the other hackers digested all that
Pad had told them. As a personality on Altos, Pad remained ever so
slightly withdrawn from the other hackers, even the Australians whom
he considered mates. This reserved quality gave his warning a certain
sobriety, which seeped into the very fabric of Altos that day.

Eventually, Electron responded to Pad's warning by typing a comment
directed at Phoenix: `I told you talking to security guys is nothing
but trouble.'

It irritated Electron more and more that Phoenix felt compelled to
talk to white hats in the security industry. In Electron's view,
drawing attention to yourself was just a bad idea all around and he
was increasingly annoyed at watching Phoenix feed his ego. He had made
veiled references to Phoenix's bragging on Altos many times, saying
things like `I wish people wouldn't talk to security guys'.

Phoenix responded to Electron on-line somewhat piously. `Well, I will
never talk to security guys seriously again.'

Electron had heard it all before. It was like listening to an
alcoholic swear he would never touch another drink. Bidding the others
goodbye, Electron logged off. He didn't care to listen to Phoenix any

Others did, however. Hundreds of kilometres away, in a special room
secreted away inside a bland building in Canberra, Sergeant Michael
Costello and Constable William Apro had been methodically capturing
each and every electronic boast as it poured from Phoenix's phone. The
two officers recorded the data transmissions passing in and out of his
computer. They then played this recording into their own modem and
computer and created a text file they could save and use as evidence
in court.

Both police officers had travelled north from Melbourne, where they
worked with the AFP's Computer Crime Unit. Settling into their
temporary desks with their PC and laptop, the officers began their
secret eavesdropping work on 1 February 1990.

It was the first time the AFP had done a datatap. They were happy to
bide their time, to methodically record Phoenix hacking into Berkeley,
into Texas, into NASA, into a dozen computers around the world. The
phone tap warrant was good for 60 days, which was more than enough
time to secrete away a mountain of damning evidence against the
egotistical Realm hacker. Time was on their side.

The officers worked the Operation Dabble job in shifts. Constable Apro
arrived at the Telecommunications Intelligence Branch of the AFP at 8
p.m. Precisely ten hours later, at 6 the next morning, Sergeant
Costello relieved Apro, who knocked off for a good sleep. Apro
returned again at 8 p.m. to begin the night shift.

They were there all the time. Twenty-four hours a day. Seven days a
week. Waiting and listening.

It was too funny. Erik Bloodaxe in Austin, Texas, couldn't stop
laughing. In Melbourne, Phoenix's side hurt from laughing so much.

Phoenix loved to talk on the phone. He often called Erik, sometimes
every day, and they spoke for ages. Phoenix didn't worry about cost;
he wasn't paying for it. The call would appear on some poor sod's bill
and he could sort it out with the phone company.

Sometimes Erik worried a little about whether Phoenix wasn't going to
get himself in a jam making all these international calls. Not that he
didn't like talking to the Australian; it was a hoot. Still, the
concern sat there, unsettled, in the back of his mind. A few times he
asked Phoenix about it.

`No prob. Hey, AT&T isn't an Australian company,' Phoenix would say.
`They can't do anything to me.' And Erik had let it rest at that.

For his part, Erik didn't dare call Phoenix, especially not since his
little visit from the US Secret Service. On 1 March 1990, they burst
into his home, with guns drawn, in a dawn raid. The agents searched
everywhere, tearing the student house apart, but they didn't find
anything incriminating. They did take Erik's $59 keyboard terminal
with its chintzy little 300 baud modem, but they didn't get his main
computer, because Erik knew they were coming.

The Secret Service had subpoenaed his academic records, and Erik had
heard about it before the raid. So when the Secret Service arrived,
Erik's stuff just wasn't there. It hadn't been there for a few weeks,
but for Erik, they had been hard weeks. The hacker found himself
suffering withdrawal symptoms, so he bought the cheapest home computer
and modem he could find to tide him over.

That equipment was the only computer gear the Secret Service
discovered, and they were not happy special agents. But without
evidence, their hands were tied. No charges were laid.

Still, Erik thought he was probably being watched. The last thing he
wanted was for Phoenix's number to appear on his home phone bill. So
he let Phoenix call him, which the Australian did all the time. They
often talked for hours when Erik was working nights. It was a slack
job, just changing the back-up tapes on various computers and making
sure they didn't jam. Perfect for a student. It left Erik hours of
free time.

Erik frequently reminded Phoenix that his phone was probably tapped,
but Phoenix just laughed. `Yeah, well don't worry about it, mate. What
are they going to do? Come and get me?'

After Erik put a hold on his own hacking activities, he lived
vicariously, listening to Phoenix's exploits. The Australian called
him with a technical problem or an interesting system, and then they
discussed various strategies for getting into the machine. However,
unlike Electron's talks with Phoenix, conversations with Erik weren't
only about hacking. They chatted about life, about what Australia was
like, about girls, about what was in the newspaper that day. It was
easy to talk to Erik. He had a big ego, like most hackers, but it was
inoffensive, largely couched in his self-effacing humour.

Phoenix often made Erik laugh. Like the time he got Clifford Stoll, an
astronomer, who wrote The Cuckoo's Egg. The book described his pursuit
of a German hacker who had broken into the computer system Stoll
managed at Lawrence Berkeley Labs near San Francisco. The hacker had
been part of the same hacking ring as Pengo. Stoll took a hard line on
hacking, a position which did not win him popularity in the
underground. Both Phoenix and Erik had read Stoll's book, and one day
they were sitting around chatting about it.

`You know, it's really stupid that Cliffy put his email address in his
book,' Phoenix said. `Hmm, why don't I go check?'

Sure enough, Phoenix called Erik back about a day later. `Well, I got
root on Cliffy's machine,' he began slowly, then he burst out
laughing. `And I changed the message of the day. Now it reads, "It
looks like the Cuckoo's got egg on his face"!'

It was uproariously funny. Stoll, the most famous hacker-catcher in
the world, had been japed! It was the funniest thing Erik had heard in

But it was not nearly so amusing as what Erik told Phoenix later about
the New York Times. The paper had published an article on 19 March
suggesting a hacker had written some sort of virus or worm which was
breaking into dozens of computers.

`Listen to this,' Erik had said, reading Phoenix the lead paragraph,
`"A computer intruder has written a program that has entered dozens of
computers in a nationwide network in recent weeks, automatically
stealing electronic documents containing users' passwords and erasing
files to help conceal itself."'

Phoenix was falling off his chair he was laughing so hard. A program?
Which was automatically doing this? No. It wasn't an automated
program, it was the Australians! It was the Realm hackers! God, this
was funny.

`Wait--there's more! It says, "Another rogue program shows a
widespread vulnerability". I laughed my ass off,' Erik said,
struggling to get the words out.

`A rogue program! Who wrote the article?'

`A John Markoff,' Erik answered, wiping his eyes. `I called him up.'

`You did? What did you say?' Phoenix tried to gather himself together.

`"John," I said, "You know that article you wrote on page 12 of the
Times? It's wrong! There's no rogue program attacking the Internet."
He goes, "What is it then?" "It's not a virus or a worm," I said.
"It's PEOPLE."'

Erik started laughing uncontrollably again.

`Then Markoff sounds really stunned, and he goes, "People?" And I
said, "Yeah, people." Then he said, "How do you know?" And I said,
"Because, John, I KNOW."'

Phoenix erupted in laughter again. The Times reporter obviously had
worms on his mind, since the author of the famous Internet worm,
Robert T. Morris Jr, had just been tried and convicted in the US. He
was due to be sentenced in May.

US investigators had tracked the hacker's connections, looping through
site after site in a burrowing manner which they assumed belonged to a
worm. The idea of penetrating so many sites all in such a short time
clearly baffled the investigators, who concluded it must be a program
rather than human beings launching the attacks.

`Yeah,' Erik continued, `And then Markoff said, "Can you get me to
talk to them?" And I said I'd see what I could do.'

`Yeah,' Phoenix said. `Go tell him, yes. Yeah, I gotta talk to this
idiot. I'll set him straight.'

Page one, the New York Times, 21 March 1990: `Caller Says he Broke
Computers' Barriers to Taunt the Experts', by John Markoff.

True, the article was below the crease--on the bottom half of the
page--but at least it was in column 1, the place a reader turns to

Phoenix was chuffed. He'd made the front page of the New York Times.

`The man identified himself only as an Australian named Dave,' the
article said. Phoenix chuckled softly. Dave Lissek was the pseudonym
he'd used. Of course, he wasn't the only one using the name Dave. When
Erik first met the Australians on Altos, he marvelled at how they all
called themselves Dave. I'm Dave, he's Dave, we're all Dave, they told
him. It was just easier that way, they said.

The article revealed that `Dave' had attacked Spaf's and Stoll's
machines, and that the Smithsonian Astronomical Observatory at Harvard
University--where Stoll now worked--had pulled its computers off the
Internet as a result of the break in. Markoff had even included the
`egg on his face' story Phoenix had described to him.

Phoenix laughed at how well he had thumbed his nose at Cliffy Stoll.
This article would show him up all right. It felt so good, seeing
himself in print that way. He did that. That was him there in black in
white, for all the world to see. He had outsmarted the world's best
known hacker-catcher, and he had smeared the insult across the front
page of the most prestigious newspaper in America.

And Markoff reported that he had been in Spaf's system too! Phoenix
glowed happily. Better still, Markoff had quoted `Dave' on the
subject: `The caller said ... "It used to be the security guys chasing
the hackers. Now it's the hackers chasing the security people."'

The article went on: `Among the institutions believed to have been
penetrated by the intruder are the Los Alamos National Laboratories,
Harvard, Digital Equipment Corporation, Boston University and the
University of Texas.' Yes, that list sounded about right. Well, for
the Australians as a group anyway. Even if Phoenix hadn't masterminded
or even penetrated some of those himself, he was happy to take the
credit in the Times.

This was a red-letter day for Phoenix.

Electron, however, was furious. How could Phoenix be so stupid? He
knew that Phoenix had an ego, that he talked too much, and that his
tendency to brag had grown worse over time, fed by the skyrocketing
success of the Australian hackers. Electron knew all of that, but he
still couldn't quite believe that Phoenix had gone so far as to strut
and preen like a show pony for the New York Times.

To think that he had associated with Phoenix. Electron was disgusted.
He had never trusted Phoenix--a caution now proved wise. But he had
spent hours with him on the phone, with most of the information
flowing in one direction. But not only did Phoenix show no discretion
at all in dealing with the paper, he bragged about doing things that
Electron had done! If Phoenix had to talk--and clearly he should have
kept his mouth shut--he should have at least been honest about the
systems for which he could claim credit.

Electron had tried with Phoenix. Electron had suggested that he stop
talking to the security guys. He had continually urged caution and
discretion. He had even subtly withdrawn each time Phoenix suggested
one of his hair-brained schemes to show off to a security bigwig.
Electron had done this in the hope that Phoenix might get the hint.
Maybe, if Phoenix couldn't hear someone shouting advice at him, he
might at least listen to someone whispering it. But no. Phoenix was
far too thick for that.

The Internet--indeed, all hacking--was out of bounds for weeks, if not
months. There was no chance the Australian authorities would let a
front-page story in the Times go by un-heeded. The Americans would be
all over them. In one selfish act of hubris, Phoenix had ruined the
party for everyone else.

Electron unplugged his modem and took it to his father. During exams,
he had often asked his father to hide it. He didn't have the
self-discipline needed to stay away on his own and there was no other
way Electron could keep himself from jacking in--plugging his modem
into the wall. His father had become an expert at hiding the device,
but Electron usually still managed to find it after a few days,
tearing the house apart until he emerged, triumphant, with the modem
held high above his head. Even when his father began hiding the modem
outside the family home it would only postpone the inevitable.

This time, however, Electron vowed he would stop hacking until the
fallout had cleared--he had to. So he handed the modem to his father,
with strict instructions, and then tried to distract himself by
cleaning up his hard drive and disks. His hacking files had to go too.
So much damning evidence of his activities. He deleted some files and
took others on disks to store at a friend's house. Deleting files
caused Electron considerable pain, but there was no other way. Phoenix
had backed him into a corner.

Brimming with excitement, Phoenix rang Electron on a sunny March

`Guess what?' Phoenix was jumping around like an eager puppy at the
other end of the line. `We made the nightly news right across the US!'

`Uhuh,' Electron responded, unimpressed.

`This is not a joke!' We were on cable news all day too. I called Erik
and he told me.'

`Mmm,' Electron said.

`You know, we did a lot of things right. Like Harvard. We got into
every system at Harvard. It was a good move. Harvard gave us the fame
we needed.'

Electron couldn't believe what he was hearing. He didn't need any
fame--and he certainly didn't need to be busted. The
conversation--like Phoenix himself--was really beginning to annoy him.

`Hey, and they know your name,' Phoenix said coyly.

That got a reaction. Electron gulped his anger.

`Haha! Just joshing!' Phoenix practically shouted. `Don't worry! They
didn't really mention anyone's name.'

`Good,' Electron answered curtly. His irritation stewed

`So, do you reckon we'll make the cover of Time or Newsweek?'

Good grief! Didn't Phoenix ever give up? As if it wasn't enough to
appear on the 6 o'clock national news in a country crawling with
over-zealous law enforcement agencies. Or to make the New York Times.
He had to have the weeklies too.

Phoenix was revelling in his own publicity. He felt like he was on top
of the world, and he wanted to shout about it. Electron had felt the
same wave of excitement from hacking many high-profile targets and
matching wits with the best, but he was happy to stand on the peak by
himself, or with people like Pad and Gandalf, and enjoy the view
quietly. He was happy to know he had been the best on the frontier of
a computer underground which was fresh, experimental and, most of all,
international. He didn't need to call up newspaper reporters or gloat
about it in Clifford Stoll's face.

`Well, what do you reckon?' Phoenix asked impatiently.

`No,' Electron answered.

`No? You don't think we will?' Phoenix sounded disappointed.


`Well, I'll demand it!' Phoenix said laughing, `Fuck it, we want the
cover of Newsweek, nothing less.' Then, more seriously, `I'm trying to
work out what really big target would clinch it for us.'

`Yeah, OK, whatever,' Electron replied, distancing himself again.

But Electron was thinking, Phoenix, you are a fool. Didn't he see the
warning signs? Pad's warning, all the busts in the US, reports that
the Americans were hunting down the Brits. As a result of these news
reports of which Phoenix was so proud, bosses across the world would
be calling their computer managers into their offices and breathing
down their necks about their own computer security.

The brazen hackers had deeply offended the computer security industry,
spurring it into action. In the process, some in the industry had also
seen an opportunity to raise its own public profile. The security
experts had talked to the law enforcement agencies, who were now
clearly sharing information across national borders and closing in
fast. The conspirators in
the global electronic village were at the point of maximum

`We could hack Spaf again,' Phoenix volunteered.

`The general public couldn't give a fuck about Eugene Spafford,'
Electron said, trying to dampen Phoenix's bizarre enthusiasm. He was
all for thumbing one's nose at authority, but this was not the way to
do it.

`It'd be so funny in court, though. The lawyer would call Spaf and
say, "So, Mr Spafford, is it true that you are a world-renowned
computer security expert?" When he said, "Yes" I'd jump up and go, "I
object, your honour, this guy doesn't know jackshit, 'cause I hacked
his machine and it was a breeze!"'


`Hey, if we don't get busted in the next two weeks, it will be a
miracle,' Phoenix continued happily.

`I hope not.'

`This is a lot of fun!' Phoenix shouted sarcastically. `We're gonna
get busted! We're gonna get busted!'

Electron's jaw fell to the ground. Phoenix was mad. Only a lunatic
would behave this way. Mumbling something about how tired he was,
Electron said goodbye and hung up.

At 5.50 a.m. on 2 April 1990, Electron dragged himself out of bed and
made his way to the bathroom. Part way through his visit, the light
suddenly went out.

How strange. Electron opened his eyes wide in the early morning
dimness. He returned to his bedroom and began putting on some jeans
before going to investigate the problem.

Suddenly, two men in street clothes yanked his window open and jumped
through into the room shouting, `GET DOWN ON THE FLOOR!'

Who were these people? Half-naked, Electron stood in the middle of his
room, stunned and immobile. He had suspected the police might pay him
a visit, but didn't they normally wear uniforms? Didn't they announce

The two men grabbed Electron, threw him face down onto the floor and
pulled his arms behind his back. They jammed handcuffs on his
wrists--hard--cutting his skin. Then someone kicked him in the

`Are there any firearms in the house?' one of the men asked.

Electron couldn't answer because he couldn't breathe. The kick had
winded him. He felt someone pull him up from the floor and prop him in
a chair. Lights went on everywhere and he could see six or seven
people moving around in the hallway. They must have come into the
house another way. The ones in the hallway were all wearing bibs with
three large letters emblazoned across the front: AFP.

As Electron slowly gathered his wits, he realised why the cops had
asked about firearms. He had once joked to Phoenix on the phone about
how he was practising with his dad's .22 for when the feds came
around. Obviously the feds had been tapping his phone.

While his father talked with one of the officers in the other room and
read the warrant, Electron saw the police pack up his computer
gear--worth some $3000--and carry it out of the house. The only thing
they didn't discover was the modem. His father had become so expert at
hiding it that not even the Australian Federal Police could find it.

Several other officers began searching Electron's bedroom, which was
no small feat, given the state it was in. The floor was covered in a
thick layer of junk. Half crumpled music band posters, lots of
scribbled notes with passwords and NUAs, pens, T-shirts both clean and
dirty, jeans, sneakers, accounting books, cassettes, magazines, the
occasional dirty cup. By the time the police had sifted through it all
the room was tidier than when they started.

As they moved into another room at the end of the raid, Electron bent
down to pick up one of his posters which had fallen onto the floor. It
was a Police Drug Identification Chart--a gift from a friend's
father--and there, smack dab in the middle, was a genuine AFP
footprint. Now it was a collector's item. Electron smiled to himself
and carefully tucked the poster away.

When he went out to the living room, he saw a policemen holding a
couple of shovels and he wanted to laugh again. Electron had also once
told Phoenix that all his sensitive hacking disks were buried in the
backyard. Now the police were going to dig it up in search of
something which had been destroyed a few days before. It was too

The police found little evidence of Electron's hacking at his house,
but that didn't really matter. They already had almost everything they

Later that morning, the police put the 20-year-old Electron into an
unmarked car and drove him to the AFP's imposing-looking headquarters
at 383 Latrobe Street for questioning.

In the afternoon, when Electron had a break from the endless
questions, he walked out to the hallway. The boyish-faced Phoenix,
aged eighteen, and fellow Realm member Nom, 21, were walking with
police at the other end of the hall. They were too far apart to talk,
but Electron smiled. Nom looked worried. Phoenix looked annoyed.

Electron was too intimidated to insist on having a lawyer. What was
the point in asking for one anyway? It was clear the police had
information they could only have obtained from
tapping his phone. They also showed him logs taken from Melbourne
University, which had been traced back to his phone. Electron figured
the game was up, so he might as well tell them the whole story--or at
least as much of it as he had told Phoenix on the phone.

Two officers conducted the interview. The lead interviewer was
Detective Constable Glenn Proebstl, which seemed to be pronounced
`probe stool'--an unfortunate name, Electron thought. Proebstl was
accompanied by Constable Natasha Elliott, who occasionally added a few
questions at the end of various interview topics but otherwise kept to
herself. Although he had decided to answer their questions truthfully,
Electron thought that neither of them knew much about computers and
found himself struggling to understand what they were trying to ask.

Electron had to begin with the basics. He explained what the FINGER
command was--how you could type `finger' followed by a username, and
then the computer would provide basic information about the user's
name and other details.

`So, what is the methodology behind it ... finger ... then, it's
normally ... what is the normal command after that to try and get the
password out?' Constable Elliott finally completed her convoluted
attempt at a question.

The only problem was that Electron had no idea what she was talking

`Well, um, I mean there is none. I mean you don't use finger like that

`Right. OK,' Constable Elliott got down to business. `Well, have you
ever used that system before?'

`Uhm, which system?' Electron had been explaining commands for so long
he had forgotten if they were still talking about how he hacked the
Lawrence Livermore computer or some other site.

`The finger ... The finger system?'

Huh? Electron wasn't quite sure how to answer that question. There was
no such thing. Finger was a command, not a computer.

`Uh, yes,' he said.

The interview went the same way, jolting awkwardly through computer
technology which he understood far better than either officer.
Finally, at the end of a long day, Detective Constable Proebstl asked

`In your own words, tell me what fascination you find with accessing
computers overseas?'

`Well, basically, it's not for any kind of personal gain or anything,'
Electron said slowly. It was a surprisingly difficult question to
answer. Not because he didn't know the answer, but because it was a
difficult answer to describe to someone who had never hacked a
computer. `It's just the kick of getting in to a system. I mean, once
you are in, you very often get bored and even though you can still
access the system, you may never call back.

`Because once you've gotten in, it's a challenge over and you don't
really care much about it,' Electron continued, struggling. `It's a
hot challenge thing, trying to do things that other people are also
trying to do but can't.

`So, I mean, I guess it is a sort of ego thing. It's knowing that you
can do stuff that other people cannot, and well, it is the
challenge and the ego boost you get from doing something well ...
where other people try and fail.'

A few more questions and the day-long interview finally
finished. The police then took Electron to the Fitzroy police
station. He guessed it was the nearest location with a JP they could
find willing to process a bail application at that hour.

In front of the ugly brick building, Electron noticed a small group of
people gathered on the footpath in the dusky light. As the police car
pulled up, the group swung into a frenzy of activity, fidgeting in
over-the-shoulder briefcases, pulling out notebooks and pens, scooping
up big microphones with fuzzy shag covers, turning on TV camera

Oh NO! Electron wasn't prepared for this at all.

Flanked by police, Electron stepped out of the police car and blinked
in the glare of photographers' camera flashes and TV camera
searchlights. The hacker tried to ignore them, walking as briskly as
his captors would allow. Sound recordists and reporters tagged beside
him, keeping pace, while the TV cameramen and photographers weaved in
front of him. Finally he escaped into the safety of the watchhouse.

First there was paperwork, followed by the visit to the JP. While
shuffling through his papers, the JP gave Electron a big speech about
how defendants often claimed to have been beaten by the police.
Sitting in the dingy meeting room, Electron felt somewhat confused by
the purpose of this tangential commentary. However, the JP's next
question cleared things up: `Have you had any problems with your
treatment by the police which you would like to record at this time?'

Electron thought about the brutal kick he had suffered while lying on
his bedroom floor, then he looked up and found Detective Constable
Proebstl staring him in the eye. A slight smile passed across the
detective's face.

`No,' Electron answered.

The JP proceeded to launch into another speech which Electron found
even stranger. There was another defendant in the lock-up at the
moment, a dangerous criminal who had a disease the JP knew about, and
the JP could decide to lock Electron up with that criminal instead of
granting him bail.

Was this meant to be helpful warning, or just the gratification of
some kind of sadistic tendency? Electron was baffled but he didn't
have to consider the situation for long. The JP granted bail.
Electron's father came to the watchhouse, collected his son and signed
the papers for a $1000 surety--to be paid if Electron skipped town.
That night Electron watched as his name appeared on the late night

At home over the next few weeks, Electron struggled to come to terms
with the fact that he would have to give up hacking forever. He still
had his modem, but no computer. Even if he had a machine, he realised
it was far too dangerous to even contemplate hacking again.

So he took up drugs instead.

Electron's father waited until the very last days of his illness, in
March 1991, before he went into hospital. He knew that once he went
in, he would not be coming out again.

There was so much to do before that trip, so many things to organise.
The house, the life insurance paperwork, the will, the funeral, the
instructions for the family friend who promised to watch over both
children when he was gone. And, of course, the children themselves.

He looked at his two children and worried. Despite their ages of 21
and 19, they were in many ways still very sheltered. He realised that
Electron's anti-establishment attitude and his sister's emotional
remoteness would remain unresolved difficulties at the time of his
death. As the cancer progressed, Electron's father tried to tell both
children how much he cared for them. He might have been somewhat
emotionally remote himself in the past, but with so little time left,
he wanted to set the record straight.

On the issue of Electron's problems with the police, however,
Electron's father maintained a hands-off approach. Electron had only
talked to his father about his hacking exploits occasionally, usually
when he had achieved what he considered to be a very noteworthy hack.
His father's view was always the same. Hacking is illegal, he told his
son, and the police will probably eventually catch you. Then you will
have to deal with the problem yourself. He didn't lecture his son, or
forbid Electron from hacking. On this issue he considered his son old
enough to make his own choices and live with the consequences.

True to his word, Electron's father had shown little sympathy for his
son's legal predicament after the police raid. He remained neutral on
the subject, saying only, `I told you something like this would happen
and now it is your responsibility'.

Electron's hacking case progressed slowly over the year, as did his
university accounting studies. In March 1991, he faced committal
proceedings and had to decide whether to fight his committal.

He faced fifteen charges, most of which were for obtaining
unauthorised access to computers in the US and Australia. A few were
aggravated offences, for obtaining access to data of a commercial
nature. On one count each, the DPP (the Office of the Commonwealth
Director of Public Prosecutions) said he altered and erased data.
Those two counts were the result of his inserting backdoors for
himself, not because he did damage to any files. The evidence was
reasonably strong: telephone intercepts and datataps on Phoenix's
phone which showed him talking to Electron about hacking; logs of
Electron's own sessions in Melbourne University's systems which were
traced back to his home phone; and Electron's own confession to the

This was the first major computer hacking case in Australia under the
new legislation. It was a test case--the test case for computer
hacking in Australia--and the DPP was going in hard. The case had
generated seventeen volumes of evidence, totalling some 25000 pages,
and Crown prosecutor Lisa West planned to call up to twenty expert
witnesses from Australia, Europe and the US.

Those witnesses had some tales to tell about the Australian hackers,
who had caused havoc in systems around the world. Phoenix had
accidentally deleted a Texas-based company's inventory of assets--the
only copy in existence according to Execucom Systems Corporation. The
hackers had also baffled security personnel at the US Naval Research
Labs. They had bragged to the New York Times. And they forced NASA to
cut off its computer network for 24 hours.

AFP Detective Sergeant Ken Day had flown halfway around the world to
obtain a witness statement from none other than NASA Langley computer
manager Sharon Beskenis--the admin Phoenix had accidentally kicked off
her own system when he was trying to get Deszip. Beskenis had been
more than happy to oblige and on 24 July 1990 she signed a statement
in Virginia, witnessed by Day. Her statement said that, as a result of
the hackers' intrusion, `the entire NASA computer system was
disconnected from any external communications with the rest of the
world' for about 24 hours on 22 February 1990.

In short, Electron thought, there didn't seem to be much chance of
winning at the committal hearing. Nom seemed to feel the same way. He
faced two counts, both `knowingly concerned' with Phoenix obtaining
unauthorised access. One was for NASA Langley, the other for
CSIRO--the Zardoz file. Nom didn't fight his committal either,
although Legal Aid's refusal
to fund a lawyer for the procedure no doubt weighed in his

On 6 March 1991, Magistrate Robert Langton committed Electron and Nom
to stand trial in the Victorian County Court.

Phoenix, however, didn't agree with his fellow hackers' point of view.
With financial help from his family, he had decided to fight his
committal. He wasn't going to hand this case to the prosecution on a
silver platter, and they would have to fight him every step of the
way, dragging him forward from proceeding to proceeding. His
barrister, Felicity Hampel, argued the court should throw out 47 of
the 48 charges against her client on jurisdictional grounds. All but
one charge--breaking into the CSIRO machine in order to steal
Zardoz--related to hacking activities outside Australia. How could an
Australian court claim jurisdiction over a hacked computer in Texas?

Privately, Phoenix worried more about being extradited to the US than
dealing with the Australian courts, but publicly he was going into the
committal with all guns blazing. It was a test case in many ways; not
only the first major hacking case in Australia but also the first time
a hacker had fought Australian committal proceedings for computer

The prosecution agreed to drop one of the 48 counts, noting it was a
duplicate charge, but the backdown was a pyrrhic victory for Phoenix.
After a two-day committal hearing, Magistrate John Wilkinson decided
Hampel's jurisdictional argument didn't hold water and on 14 August
1991 he committed Phoenix to stand trial in the County Court.

By the day of Electron's committal, in March, Electron's father had
begun his final decline. The bowel cancer created a roller-coaster of
good and bad days, but soon there were only bad days, and they were
getting worse. On the last day of March, the doctors told him that it
was finally time to make the trip to hospital. He stubbornly refused
to go, fighting their advice, questioning their authority. They
quietly urged him again. He protested. Finally, they insisted.

Electron and his sister stayed with their father for hours that day,
and the following one. Their father had other visitors to keep his
spirits up, including his brother who fervently beseeched him to
accept Jesus Christ as his personal saviour before he died. That way,
he wouldn't burn in hell. Electron looked at his uncle, disbelieving.
He couldn't believe his father was having to put up with such crap on
his deathbed. Still, Electron chose to be discreet. Apart from an
occasional rolling of the eyes, he kept his peace at his father's

Perhaps, however, the fervent words did some good, for as Electron's
father spoke about the funeral arrangements, he made a strange slip of
the tongue. He said `wedding' instead of funeral, then paused,
realising his mistake. Glancing slowly down at the intricate braided
silver wedding band still on his finger, he smiled frailly and said,
`I suppose, in a way, it will be like a wedding'.

Electron and his sister went to hospital every day for four days, to
sit by their father's bed.

At 6 a.m. on the fifth day, the telephone rang. It was the family
friend their father had asked to watch over them. Their father's life
signs were very, very weak, fluttering on the edge of death.

When Electron and his sister arrived at the hospital, the nurse's face
said everything. They were too late. Their father had died ten minutes
before they arrived. Electron broke down and wept. He hugged his
sister, who, for a brief moment, seemed almost reachable. Driving them
back to the house, the family friend stopped and bought them an
answering machine.

`You'll need this when everyone starts calling in,' she told them.
`You might not want to talk to anyone for a while.'

In the months after his bust in 1990 Electron began smoking marijuana
regularly. At first, as with many other university students, it was a
social thing. Some friends dropped by, they happened to have a few
joints, and so everybody went out for a night on the town. When he was
in serious hacking mode, he never smoked. A clear head was much too
important. Besides, the high he got from hacking was a hundred times
better than anything dope could ever do for him.

When Phoenix appeared on the front page of the New York Times,
Electron gave up hacking. And even if he had been tempted to return to
it, he didn't have anything to hack with after the police took his
only computer. Electron found himself casting around for something to
distract him from his father's deteriorating condition and the void
left by giving up hacking. His accounting studies didn't quite fit the
bill. They had always seemed empty, but never more so than now.

Smoking pot filled the void. So did tripping. Filled it very nicely.
Besides, he told himself, it's harder to get caught smoking dope in
your friends' houses than hacking in your own. The habit grew
gradually. Soon, he was smoking dope at home. New friends began coming
around, and they seemed to have drugs with them all the time--not just
occasionally, and not just for fun.

Electron and his sister had been left the family home and enough money
to give them a modest income. Electron began spending this money on
his new-found hobby. A couple of Electron's new friends moved into the
house for a few months. His sister didn't like them dealing drugs out
of the place, but Electron didn't care what was happening around him.
He just sat in his room, listening to his stereo, smoking dope,
dropping acid and watching the walls.

The headphones blocked out everyone in the house, and, more
importantly, what was going on inside Electron's own head. Billy
Bragg. Faith No More. Cosmic Psychos. Celibate Rifles. Jane's
Addiction. The Sex Pistols. The Ramones. Music gave Electron a
pinpoint, a figurative dot of light on his forehead where he could
focus his mind. Blot out the increasingly strange thoughts creeping
through his consciousness.

His father was alive. He was sure of it. He knew it, like he knew the
sun would rise tomorrow. Yet he had seen his father lying, dead, in
the hospital bed. It didn't make sense.

So he took another hit from the bong, floated in slow motion to his
bed, lay down, carefully slid the earphones over his head, closed his
eyes and tried to concentrate on what the Red Hot Chilli Peppers were
saying instead. When that wasn't enough, he ventured down the hallway,
down to his new friends--the friends with the acid tabs. Then, eight
more hours without having to worry about the strange thoughts.

Soon people began acting strangely too. They would tell Electron
things, but he had trouble understanding them. Pulling a milk carton
from the fridge and sniffing it, Electron's sister might say, `Milk's
gone off'. But Electron wasn't sure what she meant. He would look at
her warily. Maybe she was trying to tell him something else, about
spiders. Milking spiders for venom.

When thoughts like these wafted through Electron's mind, they
disturbed him, lingering like a sour smell. So he floated back to the
safety of his room and listened to songs by Henry Rollins.

After several months in this cloudy state of limbo, Electron awoke one
day to find the Crisis Assessment Team--a mobile psychiatric team--in
his bedroom. They asked him questions, then they tried to feed him
little blue tablets. Electron didn't want to take the tablets. Were
little blue pills placebos? He was sure they were. Or maybe they were
something more sinister.

Finally, the CAT workers convinced Electron to take the Stelazine
tablet. But when they left, terrifying things began to happen.
Electron's eyes rolled uncontrollably to the back of his head. His
head twisted to the left. His mouth dropped open, very wide. Try as he
might, he couldn't shut it, any more than he could turn his head
straight. Electron saw himself in the mirror and he panicked. He
looked like a character out of a horror

His new house-mates reacted to this strange new behaviour by trying to
psychoanalyse Electron, which was less than helpful. They discussed
him as if he wasn't even present. He felt like a ghost and, agitated
and confused, he began telling his friends that he was going to kill
himself. Someone called the CAT team again. This time they refused to
leave unless he would guarantee not to attempt suicide.

Electron refused. So they had him committed.

Inside the locked psychiatric ward of Plenty Hospital (now known as
NEMPS), Electron believed that, although he had gone crazy, he wasn't
really in a hospital psychiatric ward. The place was just supposed to
look like one. His father had set it
all up.

Electron refused to believe anything that anyone told him. It was all
lies. They said one thing, but always meant another.

He had proof. Electron read a list of patients' names on the wall and
found one called Tanas. That name had a special meaning. It was an
anagram for the word `Santa'. But Santa Claus was a myth, so the name
Tanas appearing on the hospital list proved to him that he shouldn't
listen to anything anyone told him.

Electron ate his meals mostly in silence, trying to ignore the
voluntary and involuntary patients who shared the dining hall. One
lunchtime, a stranger sat down at Electron's table and started talking
to him. Electron found it excruciatingly painful talking to other
people, and he kept wishing the stranger would go away.

The stranger talked about how good the drugs were in

`Mm,' Electron said. `I used to do a lot of drugs.'

`How much is a lot?'

`I spent $28000 on dope alone in about four months.'

`Wow,' the stranger said, impressed. `Of course, you don't have to pay
for drugs. You can always get them for free. I do.'

`You do?' Electron asked, somewhat perplexed.

`Sure! All the time,' the stranger said grandly. `No problem. Just

The stranger calmly put his fork down on the tray, carefully stood up
and then began yelling at the top of his lungs. He waved his arms
around frantically and shouted abuse at the other patients.

Two nurses came running from the observation room. One of them tried
to calm the stranger down while the other quickly measured out various
pills and grabbed a cup of water. The stranger swallowed the pills,
chased them with a swig of water and sat down quietly. The nurses
retreated, glancing back over their shoulders.

`See?' The stranger said. `Well, I'd better be on my way, before the
pills kick in. See ya.'

Electron watched, amazed, as the stranger picked up his bag, walked
through the dining-hall door, and straight out the front door of the
psychiatric ward.

After a month, the psychiatrists reluctantly allowed Electron to leave
the hospital in order to stay with his maternal grandmother in
Queensland. He was required to see a psychiatrist regularly. He spent
his first few days in Queensland believing he was Jesus Christ. But he
didn't hold onto that one for long. After two weeks of patiently
waiting and checking for signs of the imminent apocalypse, consistent
with the second coming, he decided he was really the reincarnation of

In late February 1992, after three months of psychiatric care up
north, Electron returned to Melbourne and his university studies, with
a bag full of medication. Prozac, major tranquillisers, Lithium. The
daily routine went smoothly for a while. Six Prozac--two in the
morning, two at midday and two at night. Another anti-depressant to be
taken at night. Also at night, the anti-side effect tablets to combat
the involuntary eye-rolling, jaw-dropping and neck-twisting associated
with the anti-depressants.

All of it was designed to help him deal with what had by
now become a long list of diagnoses. Cannabis psychosis.
Schizophrenia. Manic depression. Unipolar effective disorder.
Schizophrenaform. Amphetamine psychosis. Major effective disorder.
Atypical psychosis. And his own personal favourite--facticious
disorder, or faking it to get into hospital. But the medication wasn't
helping much. Electron still felt wretched, and returning to a host of
problems in Melbourne made things worse.

Because of his illness, Electron had been largely out of the loop of
legal proceedings. Sunny Queensland provided a welcome escape. Now he
was back in Victoria facing a tedious university course in accounting,
an ongoing battle with mental illness, federal charges which could see
him locked up for ten years, and publicity surrounding the first major
hacking case in Australia. It was going to be a hard winter.

To make matters worse, Electron's medication interfered with his
ability to study properly. The anti-side effect pills relaxed the
muscles in his eyes, preventing them from focusing. The writing on the
blackboard at the front of the lecture hall was nothing but a hazy
blur. Taking notes was also a problem. The medication made his hands
tremble, so he couldn't write properly. By the end of a lecture,
Electron's notes were as unreadable as the blackboard. Frustrated,
Electron stopped taking his medicine, started smoking dope again and
soon felt a little better. When the dope wasn't enough, he turned to
magic mushrooms and hallucinogenic cactus.

The hacking case was dragging on and on. On 6 December 1991, just
after he left psych hospital but before he flew to Queensland, the
office of the DPP had formally filed an indictment containing fifteen
charges against Electron, and three against Nom, in the Victorian
County Court.

Electron didn't talk to Phoenix much any more, but the DPP lawyers
hadn't forgotten about him--far from it. They had much bigger plans
for Phoenix, perhaps because he was fighting every step of the way.
Phoenix was uncooperative with police in the interview on the day of
the raid, frequently refusing to answer their questions. When they
asked to fingerprint him, he refused and argued with them about it.
This behaviour did not endear him to either the police or the DPP.

On 5 May 1992, the DPP filed a final indictment with 40 charges
against Phoenix in the County Court. The charges, in conjunction with
those against Electron and Nom, formed part of a joint indictment
totalling 58 counts.

Electron worried about being sent to prison. Around the world, hackers
were under siege--Par, Pengo, LOD and Erik Bloodaxe, MOD, The Realm
hackers, Pad and Gandalf and, most recently, the International
Subversives. Somebody seemed to be trying to make a point.
Furthermore, Electron's charges had changed considerably--for the
worse--from the original ones documented in April 1990.

The DPP's final indictment bore little resemblance to the original
charge sheet handed to the young hacker when he left the police
station the day he was raided. The final indictment read like a
veritable Who's Who of prestigious institutions around the world.
Lawrence Livermore Labs, California. Two different computers at the US
Naval Research Laboratories, Washington DC. Rutgers University, New
Jersey. Tampere University of Technology, Finland. The University of
Illinios. Three different computers at the University of Melbourne.
Helsinki University of Technology, Finland. The University of New
York. NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia. CSIRO, Carlton,

The charges which worried Electron most related to the
US Naval Research Labs, CSIRO, Lawrence Livermore Labs
and NASA. The last three weren't full hacking charges. The
DPP alleged Electron had been `knowingly concerned' with Phoenix's
access of these sites.

Electron looked at the thirteen-page joint indictment and didn't know
whether to laugh or cry. He had been a lot more than `knowingly
concerned' with accessing those sites. In many cases, he had given
Phoenix access to those computers in the first place. But Electron
tried to tread quietly, carefully, through most systems, while Phoenix
had noisily stomped around with all the grace of a buffalo--and left
just as many footprints. Electron hardly wanted to face full charges
for those or any other sites. He had broken into thousands of sites on
the X.25 network, but he hadn't been charged with any of them. He
couldn't help feeling a little like the gangster Al Capone being done
for tax evasion.

The proceedings were attracting considerable media attention. Electron
suspected the AFP or the DPP were alerting the media to upcoming court
appearances, perhaps in part to prove to the Americans that `something
was being done'.

This case had American pressure written all over it. Electron's
barrister, Boris Kayser, said he suspected that `the
Americans'--American institutions, companies or government
agencies--were indirectly funding some of the prosecution's case by
offering to pay for US witnesses to attend the trial. The Americans
wanted to see the Australian hackers go down, and they were throwing
all their best resources at the case to make sure it happened.

There was one other thing--in some ways the most disturbing matter of
all. In the course of the legal to-ing and fro-ing, Electron was told
that it was the US Secret Service back in 1988 which had triggered the
AFP investigation into The Realm hackers--an investigation which had
led to Electron's bust and current legal problems. The Secret Service
was after the hackers who broke into Citibank.

As it happened, Electron had never touched Citibank. Credit cards
couldn't interest him less. He found banks boring and, the way he
looked at it, their computers were full of mundane numbers belonging
to the world of accounting. He had already suffered through enough of
those tedious types of numbers in his university course. Unless he
wanted to steal from banks--something he would not do--there was no
point in breaking into their computers.

But the US Secret Service was very interested in banks--and in
Phoenix. For they didn't just believe that Phoenix had been inside
Citibank's computers. They believed he had masterminded the Citibank

And why did the US Secret Service think that? Because, Electron was
told, Phoenix had gone around bragging about it in the underground. He
hadn't just told people he had hacked into Citibank computers, he
reportedly boasted that he had stolen some $50000 from the bank.

Going through his legal brief, Electron had discovered something which
seemed to confirm what he was being told. The warrant for the
telephone tap on both of Phoenix's home phones mentioned a potential
`serious loss to Citibank' as a justification for the warrant.
Strangely, the typed words had been crossed out in the handwritten
scrawl of the judge who approved the warrant. But they were still
legible. No wonder the US Secret Service began chasing the case,
Electron thought. Banks get upset when they think people have found a
way to rip them off anonymously.

Electron knew that Phoenix hadn't stolen any money from Citibank.
Rather, he had been circulating fantastic stories about himself to
puff up his image in the underground, and in the process had managed
to get them all busted.

In September 1992, Phoenix rang Electron suggesting they get together
to discuss the case. Electron wondered why. Maybe he suspected
something, sensing that the links binding them were weak, and becoming
weaker by the month. That Electron's mental illness had changed his
perception of the world. That his increasingly remote attitude to
Phoenix suggested an underlying anger about the continual bragging.
Whatever the reason, Phoenix's gnawing worry must have been confirmed
when Electron put off meeting with him.

Electron didn't want to meet with Phoenix because he didn't like him,
and because he thought Phoenix was largely responsible for getting the
Australian hackers into their current predicament.

With these thoughts fermenting in his mind, Electron listened with
interest a few months later when his solicitor, John McLoughlin,
proposed an idea. In legal circles, it was nothing new. But it was new
to Electron. He resolved to take up McLoughlin's advice.

Electron decided to testify as a Crown witness against Phoenix.

                        Chapter 7 -- Judgement Day.

Your dream world is just about to end.

-- from `Dreamworld', Diesel and Dust.

In another corner of the globe, the British hackers Pad and Gandalf
learned with horror that the Australian authorities had busted the
three Realm hackers. Electron had simply disappeared one day. A short
time later, Phoenix was gone too. Then the reports started rolling in
from newspapers and from other Australian hackers on a German board
similar to Altos, called Lutzifer.

Something else worried Pad. In one of his hacking forays, he had
discovered a file, apparently written by Eugene Spafford, which said
he was concerned that some British hackers--read Pad and
Gandalf--would create a new worm, based on the RTM worm, and release
it into the Internet. The unnamed British hackers would then be able
to cause maximum havoc on thousands of Internet sites.

It was true that Gandalf and Pad had captured copies of various worm
source codes. They fished around inside SPAN until they surfaced with
a copy of the Father Christmas worm. And, after finally successfully
hacking Russell Brand's machine at LLNL, they deftly lifted a complete
copy of the WANK worm. In Brand's machine, they also found a
description of how someone had broken into SPAN looking for the WANK
worm code, but hadn't found it. `That was me breaking into SPAN to
look around,' Gandalf laughed, relaying the tale to Pad.

Despite their growing library of worm code, Pad had no intention of
writing any such worm. They simply wanted the code to study what
penetration methods the worms had used and perhaps to learn something
new. The British hackers prided themselves on never having done
anything destructive to systems they hacked. In places where they knew
their activities had been discovered--such as at the Universities of
Bath, Edinburgh, Oxford and Strathclyde--they wrote notes to the
admins signed 8lgm. It wasn't only an ego thing--it was also a way of
telling the admins that they weren't going to do anything nasty to the

At one university, the admins thought 8lgm was some kind
of weird variation on a Belgian word and that the hackers who visited
their systems night after night were from Belgium. At another uni, the
admins made a different guess at the meaning. In the morning, when
they came into work and saw that the hackers had been playing in their
system all night, they would sigh to each other, `Our eight little
green men are at it again'.

At the University of Lancaster, the hackers wrote a message to the
admins which said: `Don't do anything naughty. We have a good image
around the world, so please don't tarnish it or start making up
stories about us messing up systems. Don't hold your breath for us to
hack you, but keep us in mind.' Wherever they went, their message was
the same.

Nonetheless Pad visualised a scenario where Spaf whipped up the
computer security and law enforcement people into a frenzied panic and
tried to pin all sorts of things on the British hackers, none of which
they had done. The underground saw Spaf as being rabid in his attack
on hackers, based largely on his response to the RTM worm. And Gandalf
had hacked Spaf's machine.

The crackdown on the Australians, combined with the discovery of the
Spaf file, had a profound effect on Pad. Always cautious anyway, he
decided to give up hacking. It was a difficult decision, and weaning
himself from exploring systems night after night was no easy task.
However, in the face of what had happened to Electron and Phoenix,
continuing to hack didn't seem worth the risk.

When Pad gave up hacking, he bought his own NUI so he could access
places like Altos legitimately. The NUI was expensive--about
[sterling]10 an hour--but he was never on for long. Leisurely chats of
the type he once enjoyed in Altos were out of the question, but at
least he could mail letters to his friends like Theorem and Gandalf.
There would have been easier ways to maintain his friendship with
Gandalf, who lived in Liverpool, only an hour's drive away. But it
wouldn't be the same. Pad and Gandalf had never met, or even talked on
the phone. They talked on-line, and via email. That was the way they

Pad also had other reasons for giving up hacking. It was an expensive
habit in Britain because British Telecom time-charged for local phone
calls. In Australia, a hacker could stay on-line for hours, jumping
from one computer to another through the data network, all for the
cost of one local call. Like the Australians, Pad could launch his
hacking sessions from a local uni or X.25 dial-up. However, an
all-night hacking session based on a single phone call might still
cost him [sterling]5 or more in timed-call charges--a considerable
amount of money for an unemployed young man. As it was, Pad had
already been forced to stop hacking for brief periods when he ran out
of his dole money.

Although Pad didn't think he could be prosecuted for hacking under
British law in early 1990, he knew that Britain was about to enact its
own computer crime legislation--the Computer Misuse Act 1990--in
August. The 22-year-old hacker decided that it was better to quit
while he was ahead.

And he did, for a while at least. Until July 1990, when Gandalf, two
years his junior, tempted him with one final hack before the new Act
came into force. Just one last fling, Gandalf told him. After that
last fling in July, Pad stopped hacking again.

The Computer Misuse Act passed into law in August 1990, following two
law commission reviews on the subject. The Scottish Law Commission
issued a 1987 report proposing to make unauthorised data access
illegal, but only if the hacker tried to `secure advantage, or cause
damage to another person'--including reckless damage.2 Simple look-see
hacking would not be a crime under the report's recommendations.
However, in 1989 The Law Commission of England and Wales issued its
own report proposing that simple unauthorised access should be a crime
regardless of intent--a recommendation which was eventually included
in the law.

Late in 1989, Conservative MP Michael Colvin introduced a private
member's bill into the British parliament. Lending her support to the
bill, outspoken hacker-critic Emma Nicholson, another Conservative MP,
fired public debate on the subject and ensured the bill passed through
parliament successfully.

In November 1990, Pad was talking on-line with Gandalf, and his friend
suggested they have one more hack, just one more, for old time's sake.
Well, thought Pad, one more--just a one-off thing--wouldn't hurt.

Before long, Pad was hacking regularly again, and when Gandalf tried
to give it up, Pad was there luring him to return to his favourite
pastime. They were like two boys at school, getting each other into
trouble--the kind of trouble which always comes in pairs. If Pad and
Gandalf hadn't known each other, they probably would both have walked
away from hacking forever in 1990.

As they both got back into the swing of things, they tried to make
light of the risk of getting caught. `Hey, you know,' Gandalf joked
on-line more than once, `the first time we actually meet each other in
person will probably be in a police station.'

Completely irreverent and always upbeat, Gandalf proved to be a true
friend. Pad had rarely met such a fellow traveller in the real world,
let alone on-line. What others--particularly some American
hackers--viewed as prickliness, Pad saw as the perfect sense of
humour. To Pad, Gandalf was the best m8 a fellow could ever have.

During the time Pad avoided hacking, Gandalf had befriended another,
younger hacker named Wandii, also from the north of England. Wandii
never played much of a part in the international computer underground,
but he did spend a lot of time hacking European computers. Wandii and
Pad got along pleasantly but they were never close. They were
acquaintances, bound by ties to Gandalf in the underground.

By the middle of June 1991, Pad, Gandalf and Wandii were peaking. At
least one of them--and often more--had already broken into systems
belonging to the European Community in Luxembourg, The Financial Times
(owners of the FTSE 100 share index), the British Ministry of Defence,
the Foreign Office, NASA, the investment bank SG Warburg in London,
the American computer database software manufacturer Oracle, and more
machines on the JANET network than they could remember. Pad had also
penetrated a classified military network containing a NATO system.
They moved through British Telecom's Packet Switched Stream Network
(PSS), which was similar to the Tymnet X.25 network, with absolute

Gandalf's motto was, `If it moves, hack it'.

On 27 June 1991, Pad was sitting in the front room of his parent's
comfortable home in greater Manchester watching the last remnants of
daylight disappear on one of the longest days of the year. He loved
summer, loved waking up to streaks of sunlight sneaking through the
cracks in his bedroom curtain. He often thought to himself, it doesn't
get much better than this.

Around 11 p.m. he flicked on his modem and his Atari 520 ST computer
in the front sitting room. There were two Atari computers in the
house--indicative of his deep enthusiasm for computers since neither
his siblings nor his parents had any interest in programming. Most of
the time, however, Pad left the older Atari alone. His elder brother,
an aspiring chemist, used it for writing his PhD thesis.

Before dialling out, Pad checked that no-one was on the house's single
phone line. Finding it free, he went to check his email on Lutzifer. A
few minutes after watching his machine connect to the German board, he
heard a soft thud, followed by a creaking. Pad stopped typing, looked
up from his machine and listened. He wondered if his brother, reading
in their bedroom upstairs, or his parents, watching telly in the back
lounge room, could hear the creaking.

The sound became more pronounced and Pad swung around and looked
toward the hallway. In a matter of seconds, the front door frame had
been cracked open, prising the door away from its lock. The wood had
been torn apart by some sort of car jack, pumped up until the door
gave way.

Suddenly, a group of men burst through from the front doorstep, dashed
down the long hallway and shot up the carpeted stairs to Pad's

Still sitting at his computer downstairs, Pad swiftly flicked his
modem, and then his computer, off--instantly killing his connection
and everything on his screen. He turned back toward the door leading
to the sitting room and strained to hear what was happening upstairs.
If he wasn't so utterly surprised, he would almost have laughed. He
realised that when the police had dashed up to his bedroom, they had
been chasing every stereotype about hackers they had probably ever
read. The boy. In his bedroom. Hunched over his computer. Late at

They did find a young man in the bedroom, with a computer. But it was
the wrong one, and for all intents and purposes the wrong computer. It
took the police almost ten minutes of quizzing Pad's brother to work
out their mistake.

Hearing a commotion, Pad's parents had rushed into the hallway while
Pad peered from the doorway of the front sitting room. A uniformed
police officer ushered everyone back into the room, and began asking
Pad questions.

`Do you use computers? Do you use the name Pad on computers?' they

Pad concluded the game was up. He answered their questions truthfully.
Hacking was not such a serious crime after all, he thought. It wasn't
as if he had stolen money or anything. This would be a drama, but he
was easy-going. He would roll with the punches, cop a slap on the
wrist and soon the whole thing would be over and done with.

The police took Pad to his bedroom and asked him questions as they
searched the room. The bedroom had a comfortably lived-in look, with a
few small piles of clothes in the corner, some shoes scattered across
the floor, the curtains hanging crooked, and a collection of music
posters--Jimi Hendrix and The Smiths--taped to the wall.

A group of police hovered around his computer. One of them began to
search through Pad's books on the shelves above the PC, checking each
one as he pulled it down. A few well-loved Spike Milligan works. Some
old chess books from when he was captain of the local chess team.
Chemistry books, purchased by Pad long before he took any classes in
the subject, just to satisfy his curiosity. Physics books. An
oceanography textbook. A geology book bought after a visit to a cave
excited his interest in the formation of rocks. Pad's mother, a
nursing sister, and his father, an electronics engineer who tested
gyros on aircraft, had always encouraged their children's interest in
the sciences.

The policeman returned those books to the shelves, only picking out
the computer books, textbooks from programming and maths classes Pad
had taken at a Manchester university. The officer carefully slid them
inside plastic bags to be taken away as

Then the police picked through Pad's music tapes--The Stone Roses,
Pixies, New Order, The Smiths and lots of indie music from the
flourishing Manchester music scene. No evidence of anything but an
eclectic taste in music there.

Another policeman opened Pad's wardrobe and peered inside. `Anything
in here of interest?' he asked.

`No,' Pad answered. `It's all over here.' He pointed to the box of
computer disks.

Pad didn't think there was much point in the police tearing the place
to pieces, when they would ultimately find everything they wanted
anyway. Nothing was hidden. Unlike the Australian hackers, Pad hadn't
been expecting the police at all. Although part of the data on his
hard drive was encrypted, there was plenty of incriminating evidence
in the un-encrypted files.

Pad couldn't hear exactly what his parents were talking about with the
police in the other room, but he could tell they were calm. Why
shouldn't they be? It wasn't as if their son had done anything
terrible. He hadn't beaten someone up in a fist fight at a pub, or
robbed anyone. He hadn't hit someone while drunk driving. No, they
thought, he had just been fiddling around with computers. Maybe poking
around where he shouldn't have been, but that was hardly a serious
crime. They needn't worry. It wasn't as if he was going to prison or
anything. The police would sort it all out. Maybe some sort of
citation, and the matter would be over and done. Pad's mother even
offered to make cups of tea for the police.

One of the police struck up a conversation with Pad off to the side as
he paused to drink his tea. He seemed to know that Pad was on the
dole, and with a completely straight face, he said, `If you wanted a
job, why didn't you just join the police?'

Pad paused for a reality check. Here he was being raided by nearly a
dozen law enforcement officers--including representatives from BT and
Scotland Yard's computer crimes unit--for hacking hundreds of
computers and this fellow wanted to know why he hadn't just become a

He tried not to laugh. Even if he hadn't been busted, there is no way
he would ever have contemplated joining the police. Never in a million
years. His family and friends, while showing a pleasant veneer of
middle-class orderliness, were fundamentally anti-establishment. Many
knew that Pad had been hacking, and which sites he had penetrated.
Their attitude was: Hacking Big Brother? Good on you.

His parents were torn, wanting to encourage Pad's interest in
computers but also worrying their son spent an inordinate amount of
time glued to the screen. Their mixed feelings mirrored Pad's own
occasional concern.

While deep in the throes of endless hacking nights, he would suddenly
sit upright and ask himself, What am I doing here, fucking around on a
computer all day and night? Where is this heading? What about the rest
of life? Then he would disentangle himself from hacking for a few days
or weeks. He would go down to the university pub to drink with his
mostly male group of friends from his course.

Tall, with short brown hair, a slender physique and a handsomely
boyish face, the soft-spoken Pad would have been considered attractive
by many intelligent girls. The problem was finding those sort of
girls. He hadn't met many when he was studying at university--there
were few women in his maths and computer classes. So he and his
friends used to head down to the Manchester nightclubs for the social
scene and the good music.

Pad went downstairs with one of the officers and watched as the police
unplugged his 1200 baud modem, then tucked it into a plastic bag. He
had bought that modem when he was eighteen. The police unplugged
cables, bundled them up and slipped them into labelled plastic bags.
They gathered up his 20 megabyte hard drive and monitor. More plastic
bags and labels.

One of the officers called Pad over to the front door. The jack was
still wedged across the mutilated door frame. The police had broken
down the door instead of knocking because they wanted to catch the
hacker in the act--on-line. The officer motioned for Pad to follow

`Come on,' he said, leading the hacker into the night. `We're taking
you to the station.'

Pad spent the night in a cell at the Salford Crescent police
station, alone. No rough crims, and no other hackers either.

He settled into one of the metal cots lined against the perimeter of
the cell, but sleep evaded him. Pad wondered if Gandalf had been
raided as well. There was no sign of him, but then again, the police
would hardly be stupid enough to lock up the two hackers together. He
tossed and turned, trying to push thoughts from his head.

Pad had fallen into hacking almost by accident. Compared to others in
the underground, he had taken it up at a late age--around nineteen.
Altos had been the catalyst. Visiting BBSes, he read a file describing
not only what Altos was, but how to get there--complete with NUI.
Unlike the Australian underground, the embryonic British underground
had no shortage of NUIs. Someone had discovered a stack of BT NUIs and
posted them on BBSes across England.

Pad followed the directions in the BBS file and soon found himself in
the German chat channel. Like Theorem, he marvelled at the brave new
live world of Altos. It was wonderful, a big international party.
After all, it wasn't every day he got to talk with Australians, Swiss,
Germans, Italians and Americans. Before long, he had taken up hacking
like so many other Altos regulars.

Hacking as a concept had always intrigued him. As a teenager, the film
War Games had dazzled him. The idea that computers could communicate
with each over telephone lines enthralled the sixteen-year-old,
filling his mind with new ideas. Sometime after that he saw a
television report on a group of hackers who claimed that they had used
their skills to move satellites around in space--the same story which
had first caught Electron's imagination.

Pad had grown up in Greater Manchester. More than a century before,
the region had been a textile boom-town. But the thriving economy did
not translate into great wealth for the masses. In the early 1840s,
Friedrich Engels had worked in his father's cotton-milling factory in
the area, and the suffering
he saw in the region influenced his most famous work, The Communist
Manifesto, published in 1848.

Manchester wore the personality of a working-class town, a place where
people often disliked the establishment and
distrusted authority figures. The 1970s and 1980s had not been kind to
most of Greater Manchester, with unemployment and urban decay
disfiguring the once-proud textile hub. But this decay only appeared
to strengthen an underlying resolve among many from the working
classes to challenge the symbols of power.

Pad didn't live in a public housing high-rise. He lived in a suburban
middle-class area, in an old, working-class town removed from the
dismal inner-city. But like many people from the north, he disliked
pretensions. Indeed, he harboured a healthy degree of good-natured
scepticism, perhaps stemming from a culture of mates whose favourite
pastime was pulling each other's leg down at the pub.

This scepticism was in full-gear as he watched the story of how
hackers supposedly moved satellites around in space, but somehow the
idea slipped through the checkpoints and captured his imagination,
just as it had done with Electron. He felt a desire to find out for
himself if it was true and he began pursuing hacking in enthusiastic
bursts. At first it was any moderately interesting system. Then he
moved to the big-name systems--computers belonging to large
institutions. Eventually, working with the Australians, he learned to
target computer security experts. That was, after all, where the
treasure was stored.

In the morning at the police station, a guard gave Pad something to
eat which might have passed for food. Then he was escorted into an
interview room with two plain-clothed officers and a BT

Did he want a lawyer? No. He had nothing to hide. Besides, the police
had already seized evidence from his house, including unencrypted data
logs of his hacking sessions. How could he argue against that? So he
faced his stern inquisitors and answered their questions willingly.

Suddenly things began to take a different turn when they began asking
about the `damage' he had done inside the Greater London Polytechnic's
computers. Damage? What damage? Pad certainly hadn't damaged anything.

Yes, the police told him. The damage totalling almost a quarter of a
million pounds.

Pad gasped in horror. A quarter of a million pounds? He thought back
to his many forays into the system. He had been a little mischievous,
changing the welcome message to `Hi' and signing it 8lgm. He had made
a few accounts for himself so he could log in at a later date. That
seemed to be nothing special, however, since he and Gandalf had a
habit of making accounts called 8lgm for themselves in JANET systems.
He had also erased logs of his activities to cover his tracks, but
again, this was not unusual, and he had certainly never deleted any
computer users' files. The whole thing had just been a bit of fun, a
bit of cat and mouse gaming with the system admins. There was nothing
he could recall which would account for that kind of damage. Surely
they had the wrong hacker?

No, he was the right one all right. Eighty investigators from BT,
Scotland Yard and other places had been chasing the 8lgm hackers for
two years. They had phone traces, logs seized from his computer and
logs from the hacked sites. They knew it was him.

For the first time, the true gravity of the situation hit Pad. These
people believed in some way that he had committed serious criminal
damage, that he had even been malicious.

After about two hours of questioning, they put Pad back in his cell.
More questions tomorrow, they told him.

Later that afternoon, an officer came in to tell Pad his mother and
father were outside. He could meet with them in the visiting area.
Talking through a glass barrier, Pad tried to reassure his worried
parents. After five minutes, an officer told the family the visit was
over. Amid hurried goodbyes under the impatient stare of the guard,
Pad's parents told him they had brought something for him to read in
his cell. It was the oceanography textbook.

Back in his cell, he tried to read, but he couldn't concentrate. He
kept replaying his visits to the London Polytechnic over and over in
his mind, searching for how he might have inadvertently done
[sterling]250000 worth of damage. Pad was a very good hacker; it
wasn't as if he was some fourteen-year-old kid barging through systems
like a bull in china shop. He knew how to get in and out of a system
without hurting it.

Shortly after 8 p.m., as Pad sat on his cot stewing over the police
damage claims, sombre music seemed to fill his cell. Slowly at first,
an almost imperceptible moaning, which subtly transformed into solemn
but recognisable notes. It sounded like Welsh choir music, and it was
coming from above him.

Pad looked up at the ceiling. The music--all male voices-- stopped
abruptly, then started again, repeating the same heavy, laboured
notes. The hacker smiled. The local police choir was practising right
above his cell.

After another fitful night, Pad faced one more round of interviews.
The police did most of the questioning, but they didn't seem to know
much about computers--well, not nearly so much as any good hacker on
Altos. Whenever either of the police asked a technical question, they
looked over to the BT guy at the other end of the table as if to say,
`Does this make any sense?' The BT guy would give a slight nod, then
the police looked back at Pad for an answer. Most of the time, he was
able to decipher what they thought they were trying to ask, and he
answered accordingly.

Then it was back to his cell while they processed his charge sheets.
Alone again, Pad wondered once more if they had raided Gandalf. Like
an answer from above, Pad heard telephone tones through the walls. The
police seemed to be playing them over and over. That was when he knew
they had Gandalf too.

Gandalf had rigged up a tone dialler in his computer. It sounded as if
the police were playing with it, trying to figure it out.

So, Pad would finally meet Gandalf in person after two years. What
would he look like? Would they have the same chemistry in person as
on-line? Pad felt like he knew Gandalf, knew his essence, but meeting
in person could be a bit tricky.

Explaining that the paperwork, including the charge sheets, had
finally been organised, a police officer unlocked Pad's cell door and
led him to a foyer, telling him he would be meeting both Gandalf and
Wandii. A large collection of police had formed a semi-circle around
two other young men. In addition to Scotland Yard's Computer Crimes
Unit and BT, at least seven other police forces were involved in the
three raids, including those from Greater Manchester, Merseyside and
West Yorkshire. The officers were curious about the hackers.

For most of the two years of their investigation, the police didn't
even know the hackers' real identities. After such a long, hard chase,
the police had been forced to wait a little longer, since they wanted
to nab each hacker while he was on-line. That meant hiding outside
each hacker's home until he logged in somewhere. Any system would do
and they didn't have to be talking to each other on-line--as long as
the login was illegal. The police had sat patiently, and finally
raided the hackers within hours of each other, so they didn't have
time to warn one another.

So, at the end of the long chase and a well-timed operation, the
police wanted to have a look at the hackers up close.

After the officer walked Pad up to the group, he introduced Gandalf.
Tall, lean with brown hair and pale skin, he looked a little bit like
Pad. The two hackers smiled shyly at each other, before one of the
police pointed out Wandii, the seventeen-year-old schoolboy. Pad
didn't get a good look at Wandii, because the police quickly lined the
hackers up in a row, with Gandalf in the middle, to explain details to
them. They were being charged under the Computer Misuse Act of 1990.
Court dates would be set and they would be notified.

When they were finally allowed to leave, Wandii seemed to disappear.
Pad and Gandalf walked outside, found a couple of benches and lay
down, basking in the sun and chatting while they waited for their
rides home.

Gandalf proved to be as easy to talk to in person as he was on-line.
They exchanged phone numbers and shared notes on the police raids.
Gandalf had insisted on meeting a lawyer before his interviews, but
when the lawyer arrived he didn't have the slightest understanding of
computer crime. He advised Gandalf to tell the police whatever they
wanted to know, so the hacker did.

The trial was being held in London. Pad wondered why, if all three
hackers were from the north, the case was being tried in the south.
After all, there was a court in Manchester which was high enough to
deal with their crimes.

Maybe it was because Scotland Yard was in London. Maybe they had
started the paperwork down there. Maybe it was because they were being
accused of hacking computers located within the jurisdiction of the
Central Criminal Court--that court being the Old Bailey in London. But
Pad's cynical side hazarded a different guess--a guess which seemed
justified after a few procedural appearances in 1992 before the trial,
which was set for 1993. For when Pad arrived at the Bow Street
Magistrates Court for his committal in April 1992, he saw it packed
out with the media, just as he had anticipated.

A few hackers also fronted up to fly the flag of the underground. One
of them--a stranger--came up to Pad after court, patted him on the
back and exclaimed enthusiastically, `Well done, Paddy!' Startled, Pad
just looked at him and then smiled. He had no idea how to respond to
the stranger.

Like the three Australian hackers, Pad, Gandalf and the little-known
Wandii were serving as the test case for new hacking laws in their
country. British law enforcement agencies had spent a fortune on the
case--more than [sterling]500000 according to the newspapers--by the
time the 8lgm case went to trial. This was going to be a show case,
and the government agencies wanted taxpayers to know they were getting
their money's worth.

The hackers weren't being charged with breaking into computers. They
were being charged with conspiracy, a more serious offence. While
admitting the threesome did not hack for personal gain, the
prosecution alleged the hackers had conspired to break into and modify
computer systems. It was a strange approach to say the least,
considering that none of the three hackers had ever met or even talked
to the others before they were arrested.

It was not so strange, however, when looking at the potential
penalties. If the hackers had been charged with simply breaking into a
machine, without intending any harm, the maximum penalty was six
months jail and a fine of up to [sterling]5000. However, conspiracy,
which was covered under a different section of the Act, could bring up
to five years in jail and an unlimited amount in fines.

The prosecution was taking a big gamble. It would be harder to prove
conspiracy charges, which required demonstration of greater criminal
intent than lesser charges. The potential pay-off was of course also
much greater. If convicted, the defendants in Britain's most important
hacking case to date would be going to prison.

As with The Realm case, two hackers--Pad and Gandalf--planned to plead
guilty while the third--in this case Wandii--planned to fight the
charges every step of the way. Legal Aid was footing the bill for
their lawyers, because the hackers were either not working or were
working in such lowly paid, short-term jobs they qualified for free
legal support.

Wandii's lawyers told the media that this showcase was tantamount to a
state trial. It was the first major hacking case under the new
legislation which didn't involve disgruntled employees. While having
no different legal status from a normal trial, the term state trial
suggested a greater degree of official wrath--the kind usually
reserved for cases of treason.

On 22 February 1993, within two months of Electron's decision to turn
Crown witness against Phoenix and Nom, the three 8lgm hackers stood in
the dock at Southwark Crown Court in South London to enter pleas in
their own case.

In the dim winter light, Southwark couldn't look less appealing, but
that didn't deter the crowds. The courtroom was going to be packed,
just as Bow Street had been. Scotland Yard detectives were turning out
in force. The crowd shuffled toward Room 12.

The prosecution told the media they had about 800 computer disks full
of evidence and court materials. If all the data had been printed out
on A4 paper, the stack would tower more than 40 metres in the air,
they said. Considering the massive amount of evidence being heaved,
rolled and tugged through the building by teams of legal eagles, the
choice of location--on the fifth floor--proved to be a challenge.

Standing in the dock next to Wandii, Pad and Gandalf pleaded guilty to
two computer conspiracy charges: conspiring to dishonestly obtain
telecommunications services, and conspiring to cause unauthorised
modification to computer material. Pad also pleaded guilty to a third
charge: causing damage to a computer. This last charge related to the
almost a quarter of
a million pounds worth of `damage' to the Central London Polytechnic.
Unlike the Australians' case, none of the British hackers faced
charges about specific sites such as NASA.

Pad and Gandalf pleaded guilty because they didn't think they had much
choice. Their lawyers told them that, in light of the evidence,
denying their guilt was simply not a realistic option. Better to throw
yourself on the mercy of the court, they advised. As if to underline
the point, Gandalf's lawyer had told him after a meeting at the end of
1992, `I'd like to wish you a happy Christmas, but I don't think it's
going to be one'.

Wandii's lawyers disagreed. Standing beside his fellow hackers, Wandii
pleaded not guilty to three conspiracy charges: plotting to gain
unauthorised access to computers, conspiring to make unauthorised
modifications to computer material, and conspiring to obtain
telecommunications services dishonestly. His defence team was going to
argue that he was addicted to computer hacking and that, as a result
of this addiction, he was not able to form the criminal intent
necessary to be convicted.

Pad thought Wandii's case was on shaky ground. Addiction didn't seem a
plausible defence to him, and he noticed Wandii looked very nervous in
court just after his plea.

Pad and Gandalf left London after their court appearance, returning to
the north to prepare for their sentencing hearings, and to watch the
progress of Wandii's case through the eyes of the media.

They weren't disappointed. It was a star-studded show. The media
revved itself up for a feeding frenzy and the prosecution team, headed
by James Richardson, knew how to feed the pack. He zeroed in on
Wandii, telling the court how the schoolboy `was tapping into offices
at the EC in Luxembourg and even the experts were worried. He caused
havoc at universities all around the world'.4 To do this, Wandii had
used a simple BBC Micro computer, a Christmas present costing

The hacking didn't stop at European Community's computer, Richardson
told the eager crowd of journalists. Wandii had hacked Lloyd's, The
Financial Times and Leeds University. At The Financial Times machine,
Wandii's adventures had upset the smooth operations of the FTSE 100
share index, known in the City as `footsie'. The hacker installed a
scanning program in the FT's network, resulting in one outgoing call
made every second. The upshot of Wandii's intrusion: a [sterling]704
bill, the deletion of an important file and a management decision to
shut down a key system. With the precision of a banker, FT computer
boss Tony Johnson told the court that the whole incident had cost his
organisation [sterling]24871.

But the FT hack paled next to the prosecution's real trump card: The
European Organisation for the Research and Treatment of Cancer in
Brussels. They had been left with a [sterling]10000 phone bill as a
result of a scanner Wandii left on its machine,5 the court was told.
The scanner had left a trail of 50000 calls, all documented on a
980-page phone bill.

The scanner resulted in the system going down for a day, EORTC
information systems project manager Vincent Piedboeuf, told the jury.
He went on to explain that the centre needed its system to run 24
hours a day, so surgeons could register patients. The centre's
database was the focal point for pharmaceutical companies, doctors and
research centres--all coordinating their efforts in fighting the

For the media, the case was headline heaven. `Teenage computer hacker
"caused worldwide chaos"' the Daily Telegraph screamed across page
one. On page three, the Daily Mail jumped in with `Teenage hacker
"caused chaos for kicks"'. Even The Times waded into the fray.
Smaller, regional newspapers pulled the story across the countryside
to the far reaches of the British Isles. The Herald in Glasgow told
its readers `Teenage hacker "ran up [sterling]10000 telephone bill"'.
Across the Irish Sea, the Irish Times caused a splash with its
headline, `Teenage hacker broke EC computer security'.

Also in the first week of the case, The Guardian announced Wandii had
taken down the cancer centre database. By the time The Independent got
hold of the story, Wandii hadn't just shut down the database, he had
been reading the patients' most intimate medical details: `Teenager
"hacked into cancer patient files"'. Not to be outdone, on day four of
the trial, the Daily Mail had christened Wandii as a `computer
genius'. By day five it labelled him as a `computer invader' who `cost
FT [sterling]25000'.

The list went on. Wandii, the press announced, had hacked the Tokyo
Zoo and the White House. It was difficult to tell which was the more
serious offence.

Wandii's defence team had a few tricks of its own. Ian MacDonald, QC,
junior counsel Alistair Kelman and solicitor Deborah Tripley put
London University Professor James Griffith-Edwards, an authoritative
spokesman on addictive and compulsive behaviours, on the stand as an
expert witness. The chairman of the National Addiction Centre, the
professor had been part of a team which wrote the World Health
Organisation's definition of addiction. No-one was going to question
his qualifications.

The professor had examined Wandii and he announced his conclusion to
the court: Wandii was obsessed by computers, he was unable to stop
using them, and his infatuation made it impossible for him to choose
freely. `He repeated 12 times in police interviews, "I'm just
addicted. I wish I wasn't",' Griffith-Edwards told the court. Wandii
was highly intelligent, but was unable to escape from the urge to beat
computers' security systems at their own game. The hacker was obsessed
by the intellectual challenge. `This is the core ... of what attracts
the compulsive gambler,' the professor explained to the entranced jury
of three women and nine men.

But Wandii, this obsessive, addicted, gifted young man, had never had
a girlfriend, Griffith-Edwards continued. In fact, he shyly admitted
to the professor that he wouldn't even know how to ask a girl out. `He
[Wandii] became profoundly embarrassed when asked to talk about his
own feelings. He simply couldn't cope when asked what sort of person
he was.'6

People in the jury edged forward in their seats, concentrating
intently on the distinguished professor. And why wouldn't they? This
was amazing stuff. This erudite man had delved inside the mind of the
young man of bizarre contrasts. A man so sophisticated that he could
pry open computers belonging to some of Britain's and Europe's most
prestigious institutions, and yet at the same time so simple that he
had no idea how to ask a girl on a date. A man who was addicted not to
booze, smack or speed, which the average person associates with
addiction, but to a computer--a machine most people associated with
kids' games and word processing programs.

The defence proceeded to present vivid examples of Wandii's addiction.
Wandii's mother, a single parent and lecturer in English, had terrible
trouble trying to get her son away from his computer and modem. She
tried hiding his modem. He found it. She tried again, hiding it at his
grandmother's house. He burgled granny's home and retrieved it. His
mother tried to get at his computer. He pushed her out of his attic
room and down the stairs.

Then he ran up a [sterling]700 phone bill as a result of his hacking.
His mother switched off the electricity at the mains. Her son
reconnected it. She installed a security calling-code on the phone to
stop him calling out. He broke it. She worried he wouldn't go out and
do normal teenage things. He continued to stay up all night--and
sometimes all day--hacking. She returned from work to find him
unconscious--sprawled across the living room floor and looking as
though he was dead. But it wasn't death, only sheer exhaustion. He
hacked until he passed out, then he woke up and hacked some more.

The stories of Wandii's self-confessed addiction overwhelmed, appalled
and eventually engendered pity in the courtroom audience. The media
began calling him `the hermit hacker'.

Wandii's defence team couldn't fight the prosecution's
evidence head-on, so they took the prosecution's evidence and claimed
it as their own. They showed the jury that Wandii hadn't just hacked
the institutions named by the prosecution; he had hacked far, far more
than that. He didn't just hack a lot--he hacked too much. Most of all,
Wandii's defence team gave the jury a reason to acquit the
innocent-faced young man sitting before them.

During the trial, the media focused on Wandii, but didn't completely
ignore the other two hackers. Computer Weekly hunted down where
Gandalf was working and laid it bare on the front page. A member of
`the UK's most notorious hacking gang', the journal announced, had
been working on software which would be used at Barclay's Bank.7 The
implication was clear. Gandalf was a terrible security risk and should
never be allowed to do any work for a financial institution. The
report irked the hackers, but they tried to concentrate on preparing
for their sentencing hearing.

From the beginning of their case, the hackers had problems obtaining
certain evidence. Pad and Gandalf believed some of the material seized
in the police raids would substantially help their case--such as
messages from admins thanking them for pointing out security holes on
their systems. This material had not been included in the
prosecution's brief. When the defendants requested access to it, they
were refused access on the grounds that there was classified data on
the optical disk. They were told to go read the Attorney-General's
guidelines on disclosure of information. The evidence of the hackers'
forays into military and government systems was jumbled in with their
intrusions into computers such as benign JANET systems, the defence
team was told. It would take too much time to separate the two.

Eventually, after some wrangling, Pad and Gandalf were told they could
inspect and copy material--provided it was done under the supervision
of the police. The hackers travelled to London, to Holborn police
station, to gather supporting evidence for their case. However, it
soon became clear that this time-consuming exercise would be
impossible to manage on an ongoing basis. Finally, the Crown
Prosecution Service relented, agreeing to release the material on disk
to Pad's solicitor, on the proviso that no copies were made, it did
not leave the law office, and it was returned at the end of the trial.

As Wandii's case lurched from revelation to exaggeration, Pad and
Gandalf busily continued to prepare for their own sentencing hearing.
Every day, Gandalf travelled from Liverpool to Manchester to meet with
his friend. They picked up a handful of newspapers at the local agent,
and then headed up to Pad's lawyer's office. After a quick scan for
articles covering the hacking case, the two hackers began sifting
through the reluctantly released prosecution disks. They read through
the material on computer, under the watchful eye of the law office's
cashier--the most computer literate person in the firm.

After fifteen days in the Southwark courtroom listening to fantastic
stories from both sides about the boy sitting before them, the jury in
Wandii's trial retired to consider the evidence. Before they left,
Judge Harris gave them a stern warning: the argument that Wandii was
obsessed or dependent was not a defence against the charges.

It took the jurors only 90 minutes to reach a decision, and when the
verdict was read out the courtroom erupted with a wave of emotion.

Not guilty. On all counts.

Wandii's mother burst into a huge smile and turned to her son, who was
also smiling. And the defence team couldn't be happier. Kelman told
journalists, `The jury felt this was a sledge hammer being used to
crack a nut'.8

The prosecution was stunned and the law enforcement agents
flabbergasted. Detective Sergeant Barry Donovan found the verdict
bizarre. No other case in his 21 years in law enforcement had as much
overwhelming evidence as this one, yet the jury had let Wandii walk.

And in a high-pitched frenzy rivalling its earlier hysteria, the
British media jumped all over the jury's decision. `Hacker who ravaged
systems walks free', an indignant Guardian announced. `Computer Genius
is cleared of hacking conspiracy', said the Evening Standard. `Hacking
"addict" acquitted', sniffed The Times. Overpowering them all was the
Daily Telegraph's page one: `Teenage computer addict who hacked White
House system is cleared'.

Then came the media king-hit. Someone had leaked another story and it
looked bad. The report, in the Mail on Sunday, said that the three
hackers had broken into a Cray computer at the European Centre for
Medium Range Weather Forecasting at Bracknell. This computer, likes
dozens of others, would normally have been relegated to the long list
of unmentioned victims except for one thing. The US military used
weather data from the centre for planning its attack on Iraq in the
Gulf War. The media report claimed that the attack had slowed down the
Cray's calculations, thus endangering the whole Desert Storm
operation. The paper announced the hackers had been `inadvertently
jeopardising--almost fatally--the international effort against Saddam
Hussein' and had put `thousands of servicemen's lives at risk'.9

Further, the paper alleged that the US State Department was so
incensed about British hackers' repeated break-ins disrupting Pentagon
defence planning that it had complained to Prime Minister John Major.
The White House put the matter more bluntly than the State Department:
Stop your hackers or we will cut off European access to our satellite
which provides trans-Atlantic data and voice telecommunications.
Someone in Britain seemed to be listening, for less than twelve months
later, authorities had arrested all three hackers.

Pad thought the allegations were rubbish. He had been inside a VAX
machine at the weather centre for a couple of hours one night, but he
had never touched a Cray there. He had certainly never done anything
to slow the machine down. No cracking programs, no scanners, nothing
which might account for the delay described in the report. Even if he
had been responsible, he found it hard to believe the Western allies'
victory in the Gulf War was determined by one computer in Berkshire.

All of which gave him cause to wonder why the media was running this
story now, after Wandii's acquittal but before he and Gandalf were
sentenced. Sour grapes, perhaps?

For days, columnists, editorial and letter writers across Britain
pontificated on the meaning of the Wandii's verdict and the validity
of an addiction to hacking as a defence. Some urged computer owners to
take responsibility for securing their own systems. Others called for
tougher hacking laws. A few echoed the view of The Times, which
declared in an editorial, `a persistent car thief of [the hacker's]
age would almost certainly have received a custodial sentence. Both
crimes suggest disrespect for other people's property ... the jurors
may have failed to appreciate the seriousness of this kind of

The debate flew forward, changing and growing, and expanding beyond
Britain's borders. In Hong Kong, the South China Morning Post asked,
`Is [this] case evidence of a new social phenomenon, with immature and
susceptible minds being damaged through prolonged exposure to personal
computers?' The paper described public fear that Wandii's case would
result in `the green light for an army of computer-literate hooligans
to pillage the world's databases at will, pleading insanity when

By April Fool's Day 1991, more than two weeks after the end of the
court case, Wandii had his own syndrome named after him, courtesy of
The Guardian.

And while Wandii, his mother and his team of lawyers celebrated their
victory quietly, the media reported that the Scotland Yard detectives
commiserated over their defeat, which was considerably more serious
than simply losing the Wandii case. The Computer Crimes Unit was being
`reorganised'. Two experienced officers from the five-man unit were
being moved out of the group. The official line was that the
`rotations' were normal Scotland Yard procedure. The unofficial word
was that the Wandii case had been a fiasco, wasting time and money,
and the debacle was not to be repeated.

In the north, a dark cloud gathered over Pad and Gandalf as their
judgment day approached. The Wandii case verdict might have been cause
for celebration among some in the computer underground, but it brought
little joy for the other two 8lgm hackers.

For Pad and Gandalf, who had already pleaded guilty, Wandii's
acquittal was a disaster.

On 12 May 1993, two months after Wandii's acquittal, Boris Kayser
stood up at the Bar table to put forward Electron's case at the
Australian hacker's plea and sentencing hearing. As he began to speak,
a hush fell over the Victorian County Court.

A tall, burly man with a booming voice, an imperious courtroom
demeanour and his traditional black robes flowing behind him in an
echo of his often emphatic gesticulations, Kayser was larger than
life. A master showman, he knew how to play an audience of courtroom
journalists sitting behind him as much as to the judge in front of

Electron had already stood in the dock and pleaded guilty to fourteen
charges, as agreed with the DPP's office. In typical style, Kayser had
interrupted the long process of the court clerk reading out each
charge and asking whether Electron would plead guilty or not guilty.
With an impatient wave of his hand, Kayser asked the judge to dispense
with such formalities since his client would plead guilty to all the
agreed charges at once. The interjection was more of an announcement
than a question.

The formalities of a plea having been summarily dealt with, the
question now at hand was sentencing. Electron wondered if he would be
sent to prison. Despite lobbying from Electron's lawyers, the DPP's
office had refused to recommend a non-custodial sentence. The best
deal Electron's lawyers had been able to arrange in exchange for
turning Crown witness was for the DPP to remain silent on the issue of
prison. The judge would make up his mind without input from the DPP.

Electron fiddled nervously with his father's wedding ring, which he
wore on his right hand. After his father's death, Electron's sister
had begun taking things from the family home. Electron didn't care
much because there were only two things he really wanted: that ring
and some of his father's paintings.

Kayser called a handful of witnesses to support the case for a light
sentence. Electron's grandmother from Queensland. The family friend
who had driven Electron to the hospital the day his father died.
Electron's psychiatrist, the eminent Lester Walton. Walton in
particular highlighted the difference between the two possible paths
forward: prison, which would certainly traumatise an already mentally
unstable young man, or freedom, which offered Electron a good chance
of eventually establishing a normal life.

When Kayser began summarising the case for a non-custodial sentence,
Electron could hear the pack of journalists off to his side
frantically scribbling notes. He wanted to look at them, but he was
afraid the judge would see his ponytail, carefully tucked into his
neatly ironed white shirt, if he turned sideways,

`Your Honour,' Kayser glanced backward slightly, toward the court
reporters, as he warmed up, `my client lived in an artificial world of
electronic pulses.'

Scratch, scribble. Electron could almost predict, within half a
second, when the journalists' pencils and pens would reach a crescendo
of activity. The ebb and flow of Boris's boom was timed in the style
of a TV newsreader.

Kayser said his client was addicted to the computer the way an
alcoholic was obsessed with the bottle. More scratching, and lots of
it. This client, Kayser thundered, had never sought to damage any
system, steal money or make a profit. He was not malicious in the
least, he was merely playing a game.

`I think,' Electron's barrister concluded passionately, but slowly
enough for every journalist to get it down on paper, `that he should
have been called Little Jack Horner, who put in his thumb, pulled out
a plumb and said, "What a good boy am I!"'

Now came the wait. The judge retired to his chambers to weigh up the
pre-sentence report, Electron's family situation, the fact that he had
turned Crown witness, his offences--everything. Electron had given a
nine-page written statement against Phoenix to the prosecution. If the
Phoenix case went to trial, Electron would be put on the stand to back
up that statement.

In the month before Electron returned to court to hear his sentence,
he thought about how he could have fought the case. Some of the
charges were dubious.

In one case, he had been charged with illegally accessing public
information through a public account. He had accessed the anonymous
FTP server at the University of Helsinki to copy information about
DES. His first point of access had been through a hacked Melbourne
University account.

Beat that charge, Electron's lawyer had told him, and there's plenty
more where that came from. The DPP had good pickings and could make up
a new charge for another site. Still, Electron reasoned some of the
Crown's evidence would not have stood up under cross-examination.

When reporters from Australia and overseas called NASA headquarters
for comment on the hacker-induced network shutdown, the agency
responded that it had no idea what they were talking about. There had
been no NASA network shutdown. A spokesman made inquiries and, he
assured the media, NASA was puzzled by the report. Sharon Beskenis's
statement didn't seem so watertight after all. She was not, it turned
out, even a NASA employee but a contractor from Lockheed.

During that month-long wait, Electron had trouble living down Kayser's
nursery-rhyme rendition in the courtroom. When he rang friends, they
would open the conversation saying, `Oh, is that Little Jack Horner?'

They had all seen the nightly news, featuring Kayser and his client.
Kayser had looked grave leaving court, while Electron, wearing John
Lennon-style glasses with dark lenses and with his shoulder-length
curls pulled tightly back in a ponytail, had tried to smile at the
camera crews. But his small, fine features and smattering of freckles
disappeared under the harsh camera lights, so much so that the black,
round spectacles seemed almost to float on a blank, white surface.

The week after Electron pleaded guilty in Australia, Pad and Gandalf
sat side by side in London's Southwark dock one last time.

For a day and a half, beginning on 20 May 1993, the two hackers
listened to their lawyers argue their defence. Yes, our clients hacked
computers, they told the judge, but the offences were nowhere near as
serious as the prosecution wants to paint them. The lawyers were
fighting hard for one thing: to keep Pad and Gandalf out of prison.

Some of the hearing was tough going for the two hackers, but not just
because of any sense of foreboding caused by the judge's imminent
decision. The problem was that Gandalf made Pad laugh, and it didn't
look at all good to laugh in the middle of your sentencing hearing.
Sitting next to Gandalf for hours on end, while lawyers from both
sides butchered the technical aspects of computer hacking which the
8lgm hackers had spent years learning, did it. Pad had only to give
Gandalf a quick sidelong glance and he quickly found himself
swallowing and clearing his throat to keep from bursting into
laughter. Gandalf's irrepressible irreverence was written all over his

The stern-faced Judge Harris could send them to jail, but he still
wouldn't understand. Like the gaggle of lawyers bickering at the front
of the courtroom, the judge was--and would always be--out of the loop.
None of them had any idea what was really going on inside the heads of
the two hackers. None of them could ever understand what hacking was
all about--the thrill of stalking a quarry or of using your wits to
outsmart so-called experts; the pleasure of finally penetrating a
much-desired machine and knowing that system is yours; the deep
anti-establishment streak which served as a well-centred ballast
against the most violent storms washing in from the outside world; and
the camaraderie of the international hacking community on Altos.

The lawyers could talk about it, could put experts on the stand and
psychological reports in the hands of the judge, but none of them
would ever really comprehend because they had never experienced it.
The rest of the courtroom was out of the loop, and Pad and Gandalf
stared out from the dock as if looking through a two-way mirror from a
secret, sealed room.

Pad's big worry had been this third charge--the one which he faced
alone. At his plea hearing, he had admitted to causing damage to a
system owned by what was, in 1990, called the Polytechnic of Central
London. He hadn't damaged the machine by, say, erasing files, but the
other side had claimed that the damages totalled about [sterling]250

The hacker was sure there was zero chance the polytechnic had spent
anything near that amount. He had a reasonable idea of how long it
would take someone to clean up his intrusions. But if the prosecution
could convince a judge to accept that figure, the hacker might be
looking at a long prison term.

Pad had already braced himself for the possibility of prison. His
lawyer warned him before the sentencing date that there was a
reasonable likelihood the two 8lgm hackers would be sent down. After
the Wandii case, the public pressure to `correct' a `wrong' decision
by the Wandii jury was enormous. The police had described Wandii's
acquittal as `a licence to hack'--and The Times, had run the
statement.12 It was likely the judge, who had presided over Wandii's
trial, would want to send a loud and clear message to the hacking

Pad thought that perhaps, if he and Gandalf had pleaded not guilty
alongside Wandii, they would have been acquitted. But there was no way
Pad would have subjected himself to the kind of public humiliation
Wandii went through during the `addicted to computers' evidence. The
media appeared to want to paint the three hackers as pallid, scrawny,
socially inept, geeky geniuses, and to a large degree Wandii's lawyers
had worked off this desire. Pad didn't mind being viewed as highly
intelligent, but he wasn't a geek. He had a casual girlfriend. He went
out dancing with friends or to hear bands in Manchester's thriving
alternative music scene. He worked out his upper body with weights at
home. Shy--yes. A geek--no.

Could Pad have made a case for being addicted to hacking? Yes,
although he never believed that he had been. Completely enthralled,
entirely entranced? Maybe. Suffering from a passing obsession?
Perhaps. But addicted? No, he didn't think so. Besides, who knew for
sure if a defence of addiction could have saved him from the
prosecution's claim anyway?

Exactly where the quarter of a million pound claim came from in the
first place was a mystery to Pad. The police had just said it to him,
as if it was fact, in the police interview. Pad hadn't seen any proof,
but that hadn't stopped him from spending a great deal of time feeling
very stressed about how the judge would view the matter.

The only answer seemed to be some good, independent technical advice.
At the request of both Pad and Gandalf's lawyers, Dr Peter Mills, of
Manchester University, and Dr Russell Lloyd, of London Business
School, had examined a large amount of technical evidence presented in
the prosecution's papers. In an independent report running to more
than 23 pages, the experts stated that the hackers had caused less
havoc than the prosecution alleged. In addition, Pad's solicitor asked
Dr Mills to specifically review, in a separate report, the evidence
supporting the prosecution's large damage claim.

Dr Mills stated that one of the police expert witnesses, a British
Telecom employee, had said that Digital recommended a full rebuild of
the system at the earliest possible opportunity--and at considerable
cost. However, the BT expert had not stated that the cost was
[sterling]250000 nor even mentioned if the cost quote which had been
given had actually been accepted.

In fact, Dr Mills concluded that there was no supporting evidence at
all for the quarter of a million pound claim. Not only that, but any
test of reason based on the evidence provided by the prosecution
showed the claim to be completely ridiculous.

In a separate report, Dr Mills' stated that:

i) The machine concerned was a Vax 6320, this is quite a powerful
`mainframe' system and could support several hundreds of users.

ii) That a full dump of files takes 6 tapes, however since the type of
tape is not specified this gives no real indication of the size of the
filesystem. A tape could vary from 0.2 Gigabytes to 2.5 Gigabytes.

iii) The machine was down for three days.

With this brief information it is difficult to give an accurate cost
for restoring the machine, however an over estimate would be:

i) Time spent in restoring the system, 10 man days at [sterling]300
per day; [sterling]3000.

ii) Lost time by users, 30 man days at [sterling]300 per day;

The total cost in my opinion is unlikely to be higher than
[sterling]12000 and this itself is probably a rather high estimate. I
certainly cannot see how a figure of [sterling]250000 could be

It looked to Pad that the prosecution's claim was not for damage at
all. It was for properly securing the system--an entirely rebuilt
system. It seemed to him that the police were trying to put the cost
of securing the polytechnic's entire computer network onto the
shoulders of one hacker--and to call it damages. In fact, Pad
discovered, the polytechnic had never actually even spent the

Pad was hopeful, but he was also angry. All along, the police had been
threatening him with this huge damage bill. He had tossed and turned
in his bed at night worrying about it. And, in the end, the figure put
forward for so long as fact was nothing but an outrageous claim based
on not a single shred of solid evidence.

Using Dr Mills's report, Pad's barrister, Mukhtar Hussain, QC,
negotiated privately with the prosecution barrister, who finally
relented and agreed to reduce the damage estimate to [sterling]15000.
It was, in Pad's view, still far too high, but it was much better than
[sterling]250000. He was in no mind to look a gift horse in the mouth.

Judge Harris accepted the revised damage estimate.

The prosecution may have lost ground on the damage bill, but it wasn't
giving up the fight. These two hackers, James Richardson told the
court and journalists during the two-day sentencing hearing, had
hacked into some 10000 computer systems around the world. They were
inside machines or networks in at least fifteen countries. Russia.
India. France. Norway. Germany. The US. Canada. Belgium. Sweden.
Italy. Taiwan. Singapore. Iceland. Australia. Officers on the case
said the list of the hackers' targets `read like an atlas', Richardson
told the court.

Pad listened to the list. It sounded about right. What didn't sound
right were the allegations that he or Gandalf had crashed Sweden's
telephone network by running an X.25 scanner over its packet network.
The crash had forced a Swedish government minister to apologise on
television. The police said the minister did not identify the true
cause of the problem--the British hackers--in his public apology.

Pad had no idea what they were talking about. He hadn't done anything
like that to the Swedish phone system, and as far as he knew, neither
had Gandalf.

Something else didn't sound right. Richardson told the court that in
total, the two hackers had racked up at least [sterling]25000 in phone
bills for unsuspecting legitimate customers, and caused `damage' to
systems which was very conservatively estimated at almost

Where were these guys getting these numbers from? Pad marvelled at
their cheek. He had been through the evidence with a fine-toothed
comb, yet he had not seen one single bill showing what a site had
actually paid to repair `damage' caused by the hackers. The figures
tossed around by the police and the prosecution weren't real bills;
they weren't cast in iron.

Finally, on Friday 21 May, after all the evidence had been presented,
the judge adjourned the court to consider sentencing. When he returned
to the bench fifteen minutes later, Pad knew what was going to happen
from the judge's face. To the hacker, the expression said: I am going
to give you everything that Wandii should have got.

Judge Harris echoed The Times's sentiments when he told the two
defendants, `If your passion had been cars rather than computers, we
would have called your conduct delinquent, and I don't shrink from the
analogy of describing what you were doing as intellectual joyriding.

`Hacking is not harmless. Computers now form a central role in our
lives. Some, providing emergency services, depend on their computers
to deliver those services.'13

Hackers needed to be given a clear signal that computer crime `will
not and cannot be tolerated', the judge said, adding that he had
thought long and hard before handing down sentence. He accepted that
neither hacker had intended to cause damage, but it was imperative to
protect society's computer systems and he would be failing in his
public duty if he didn't sentence the two hackers to a prison term of
six months.

Judge Harris told the hackers that he had chosen a custodial sentence,
`both to penalise you for what you have done and for the losses
caused, and to deter others who might be similarly tempted'.

This was the show trial, not Wandii's case, Pad thought as the court
officers led him and Gandalf out of the dock, down to the prisoner's
lift behind the courtroom and into a jail cell.

Less than two weeks after Pad and Gandalf were sentenced, Electron was
back in the Victorian County Court to discover his own fate.

As he stood in the dock on 3 June 1993 he felt numb, as emotionally
removed from the scene as Meursault in Camus' L'etranger. He believed
he was handling the stress pretty well until he experienced tunnel
vision while watching the judge read his penalty. He perused the room
but saw neither Phoenix nor Nom.

When Judge Anthony Smith summarised the charges, he seemed to have a
special interest in count number 13--the Zardoz charge. A few minutes
into reading the sentence, the judge said, `In my view, a custodial
sentence is appropriate for each of the offences constituted by the
12th, 13th and 14th counts'. They were the `knowingly concerned'
charges, with Phoenix, involving NASA, LLNL and CSIRO. Electron looked
around the courtroom. People turned back to stare at him. Their eyes
said, `You are going to prison'.

`I formed the view that a custodial sentence is appropriate in respect
of each of these offences because of the seriousness of them,' Judge
Smith noted, `and having regard to the need to demonstrate that the
community will not tolerate this type of offence.

`Our society today is ... increasingly ... dependent upon the use of
computer technology. Conduct of the kind in which you engaged poses a
threat to the usefulness of that technology ... It is incumbent upon
the courts ... to see to it that the sentences they impose reflect the
gravity of this kind of criminality.

`On each of Counts 12, 13 and 14, you are convicted and you are
sentenced to a term of imprisonment of six months ... each ... to be

The judge paused, then continued, `And ... I direct, by order, that
you be released forthwith upon your giving security by recognisance
... in the sum of $500 ... You will not be required to serve the terms
of imprisonment imposed, provided you are of good behaviour for the
ensuing six months.' He then ordered Electron to complete 300 hours of
community service, and to submit to psychiatric assessment and

Electron breathed a sigh of relief.

When outlining the mitigating circumstances which led to suspension of
the jail sentence, Judge Smith described Electron as being addicted to
using his computer `in much the same way as an alcoholic becomes
addicted to the bottle'. Boris Kayser had used the analogy in the
sentencing hearing, perhaps for the
benefit of the media, but the judge had obviously been swayed by his

When court adjourned, Electron left the dock and shook hands with his
lawyers. After three years, he was almost free of his court problems.
There was only one possible reason he might need to return to court.

If Phoenix fought out his case in a full criminal trial, the DPP would
put Electron on the stand to testify against him. It would be an ugly

The inmates of HM Prison Kirkham, on the north-west coast of England,
near Preston, had heard all about Pad and Gandalf by the time they
arrived. They greeted the hackers by name. They'd seen the reports on
telly, especially about how Gandalf had hacked NASA--complete with
footage of the space shuttle taking off. Some TV reporter's idea of
subtle irony--`Two hackers were sent down today' as the space shuttle
went up.

Kirkham was far better than Brixton, where the hackers had spent the
first days of their sentence while awaiting transfer. Brixton was what
Pad always envisioned prison would look like, with floors of barred
cells facing onto an open centre and prisoners only allowed out of
their cells for scheduled events such as time in the yard. It was a
place where hard-core criminals lived. Fortunately, Pad and Gandalf
had been placed in the same cell while they waited to be assigned to
their final destination.

After ten days inside Brixton Pad and Gandalf were led from their
cell, handcuffed and put in a coach heading toward the windy west

During the drive, Pad kept looking down at his hand, locked in shiny
steel to Gandalf's hand, then he looked back up again at his fellow
hacker. Clearing his throat and turning away from Gandalf's difficult
grin--his friend now on the edge of laughing himself--Pad struggled.
He tried to hold down the muscles of his face, to pull them back from

A minimum security prison holding up to 632 prisoners, Kirkham looked
vaguely like a World War II RAF base with a large collection of
free-standing buildings around the grounds. There were no real walls,
just a small wire fence which Pad soon learned prisoners routinely
jumped when the place started to get to them.

For a prison, Kirkham was pretty good. There was a duck pond, a
bowling green, a sort of mini-cinema which showed films in the early
evenings, eight pay phones, a football field, a cricket pavilion and,
best of all, lots of fields. Prisoners could have visits on weekday
afternoons between 1.10 and 3.40, or on the weekend.

Luck smiled on the two hackers. They were assigned to the same billet
and, since none of the other prisoners objected, they became
room-mates. Since they were sentenced in May, they would serve their
time during summer. If they were `of good behaviour' and didn't get
into trouble with other prisoners, they would be out in three months.

Like any prison, Kirkham had its share of prisoners who didn't get
along with each other. Mostly, prisoners wanted to know what you were
in for and, more particularly, if you had been convicted of a sex
crime. They didn't like sex crime offenders and Pad heard about a pack
of Kirkham prisoners who dragged one of their own, screaming, to a
tree, where they tried to hang him for being a suspected rapist. In
fact, the prisoner hadn't been convicted of anything like rape. He had
simply refused to pay his poll tax.

Fortunately for Pad and Gandalf, everyone else in Kirkham knew why
they were there. At the end of their first week they returned to their
room one afternoon to find a sign painted above their door. It said,

The other minimum security prisoners understood hacking--and they had
all sorts of ideas about how you could make money from it. Most of the
prisoners in Kirkham were in for petty theft, credit card fraud, and
other small-time crimes. There was also a phreaker, who arrived the
same day as Pad and Gandalf. He landed eight months in prison--two
more than the 8lgm hackers--and Pad wondered what kind of message that
sent the underground.

Despite their best efforts, the 8lgm twosome didn't fit quite the
prison mould. In the evenings, other prisoners spent their free time
shooting pool or taking drugs. In the bedroom down the hall, Gandalf
lounged on his bed studying a book on VMS internals. Pad read a
computer magazine and listened to some indie music--often his `Babes
in Toyland' tape. In a parody of prison movies, the two hackers marked
off their days inside the prison with cross-hatched lines on their
bedroom wall--four marks, then a diagonal line through them. They
wrote other things on the walls too.

The long, light-filled days of summer flowed one into the other, as
Pad and Gandalf fell into the rhythm of the prison. The morning
check-in at 8.30 to make sure none of the prisoners had gone
walkabout. The dash across the bowling green for a breakfast of beans,
bacon, eggs, toast and sausage. The walk to the greenhouses where the
two hackers had been assigned for work detail.

The work wasn't hard. A little digging in the pots. Weeding around the
baby lettuce heads, watering the green peppers and transplanting
tomato seedlings. When the greenhouses became too warm by late
morning, Pad and Gandalf wandered outside for a bit of air. They often
talked about girls, cracking crude, boyish jokes about women and
occasionally discussing their girlfriends more seriously. As the heat
settled in, they sat down, lounging against the side of the

After lunch, followed by more time in the greenhouse, Pad and Gandalf
sometimes went off for walks in the fields surrounding the prison.
First the football field, then the paddocks dotted with cows beyond

Pad was a likeable fellow, largely because of his easygoing style and
relaxed sense of humour. But liking him wasn't the same as knowing
him, and the humour often deflected deeper probing into his
personality. But Gandalf knew him, understood him. Everything was so
easy with Gandalf. During the long, sunny walks, the conversation
flowed as easily as the light breeze through the grass.

As they wandered in the fields, Pad often wore his denim jacket. Most
of the clothes on offer from the prison clothing office were drab
blue, but Pad had lucked onto this wonderful, cool denim jacket which
he took to wearing all the time.

Walking for hours on end along the perimeters of the prison grounds,
Pad saw how easy it would be to escape, but in the end there didn't
seem to be much point. They way he saw it, the police would just catch
you and put you back in again. Then you'd have to serve extra time.

Once a week, Pad's parents came to visit him, but the few precious
hours of visiting time were more for his parents' benefit than his
own. He reassured them that he was OK, and when they looked him in the
face and saw it was true, they stopped worrying quite so much. They
brought him news from home, including the fact that his computer
equipment had been returned by one of the police who had been in the
original raid.

The officer asked Pad's mother how the hacker was doing in prison.
`Very well indeed,' she told him. `Prison's not nearly so bad as he
thought.' The officer's face crumpled into a disappointed frown. He
seemed to be looking for news that Pad was suffering nothing but

At the end of almost three months, with faces well tanned from walking
in the meadows, Pad and Gandalf walked free.

To the casual witness sitting nearby in the courtroom, the tension
between Phoenix's mother and father was almost palpable. They were not
sitting near each other but that didn't mitigate the silent hostility
which rose through the air like steam. Phoenix's divorced parents
provided a stark contrast to Nom's adopted parents, an older, suburban
couple who were very much married.

On Wednesday, 25 August 1993 Phoenix and Nom pleaded guilty to fifteen
and two charges respectively. The combined weight of the prosecution's
evidence, the risk and cost of running a full trial and the need to
get on with their lives had pushed them over the edge. Electron didn't
need to come to court to give evidence.

At the plea hearing, which ran over to the next day, Phoenix's lawyer,
Dyson Hore-Lacy, spent considerable time sketching the messy divorce
of his client's parents for the benefit of the judge. Suggesting
Phoenix retreated into his computer during the bitter separation and
divorce was the best chance of getting him off a prison term. Most of
all, the defence presented Phoenix as a young man who had strayed off
the correct path in life but was now back on track--holding down a job
and having a life.

The DPP had gone in hard against Phoenix. They seemed to want a jail
term badly and they doggedly presented Phoenix as an arrogant
braggart. The court heard a tape-recording of Phoenix ringing up
security guru Edward DeHart of the Computer Emergency Response Team at
Carnegie Mellon University to brag about a security exploit. Phoenix
told DeHart to get onto his computer and then proceeded to walk him
step by step through the `passwd -f' security bug. Ironically, it was
Electron who had discovered that security hole and taught it to
Phoenix--a fact Phoenix didn't seem to want to mention to DeHart.

The head of the AFP's Southern Region Computer Crimes Unit, Detective
Sergeant Ken Day was in court that day. There was no way he was going
to miss this. The same witness noting the tension between Phoenix's
parents might also have perceived an undercurrent of hostility between
Day and Phoenix--an undercurrent which did not seem to exist between
Day and either of the other Realm hackers.

Day, a short, careful man who gave off an air of bottled intensity,
seemed to have an acute dislike for Phoenix. By all observations the
feeling was mutual. A cool-headed professional, Day would never say
anything in public to express the dislike--that was not his style. His
dislike was only indicated by a slight tightness in the muscles of an
otherwise unreadable face.

On 6 October 1993, Phoenix and Nom stood side by side in the dock for
sentencing. Wearing a stern expression, Judge Smith began by detailing
both the hackers' charges and the origin of The Realm. But after the
summary, the judge saved his harshest rebuke for Phoenix.

`There is nothing ... to admire about your conduct and every reason
why it should be roundly condemned. You pointed out [weaknesses] to
some of the system administrators ... [but] this was more a display of
arrogance and a demonstration of what you thought was your superiority
rather than an act of altruism on your part.

`You ... bragged about what you had done or were going to do ... Your
conduct revealed ... arrogance on your part, open defiance, and an
intention to the beat the system. [You] did cause havoc for a time
within the various targeted systems.'

Although the judge appeared firm in his views while passing sentence,
behind the scenes he had agonised greatly over his decision. He had
attempted to balance what he saw as the need for deterrence, the
creation of a precedence for sentencing hacking cases in Australia,
and the individual aspects of this case. Finally, after sifting
through the arguments again and again, he had reached a decision.

`I have no doubt that some sections of our community would regard
anything than a custodial sentence as less than appropriate. I share
that view. But after much reflection ... I have concluded that an
immediate term of imprisonment is unnecessary.'

Relief rolled across the faces of the hackers' friends and relatives
as the judge ordered Phoenix to complete 500 hours of community
service work over two years and assigned him a $1000 twelve-month good
behaviour bond. He gave Nom 200 hours, and a $500, six-month bond for
good behaviour.

As Phoenix was leaving the courtroom, a tall, skinny young man, loped
down the aisle towards him.

`Congratulations,' the stranger said, his long hair dangling in
delicate curls around his shoulders.

`Thanks,' Phoenix answered, combing his memory for the boyish face
which couldn't be any older than his own. `Do I know you?'

`Sort of,' the stranger answered. `I'm Mendax. I'm about to go through
what you did, but worse.'

                Chapter 8 -- The International Subversives.

All around; an eerie sound.

-- from `Maralinga', 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.

Prime Suspect rang Mendax, offering an adventure. He had discovered a
strange system called NMELH1 (pronounced N-Melly-H-1) and it was time
to go exploring. He read off the dial-up numbers, found in a list of
modem phone numbers on another hacked system.

Mendax looked at the scrap of paper in his hand, thinking about the
name of the computer system.

The `N' stood for Northern Telecom, a Canadian company with annual
sales of $8 billion. NorTel, as the company was known, sold thousands
of highly sophisticated switches and other telephone exchange
equipment to some of the world's largest phone companies. The `Melly'
undoubtedly referred to the fact that the system was in Melbourne. As
for the `H-1', well, that was anyone's guess, but Mendax figured it
probably stood for `host-1'--meaning computer site number one.

Prime Suspect had stirred Mendax's interest. Mendax had spent hours
experimenting with commands inside the computers which controlled
telephone exchanges. In the end, those forays were all just
guesswork--trial and error learning, at considerable risk of
discovery. Unlike making a mistake inside a single computer,
mis-guessing a command inside a telephone exchange in downtown Sydney
or Melbourne could take down a whole prefix--10000 or more phone
lines--and cause instant havoc.

This was exactly what the International Subversives didn't want to do.
The three IS hackers--Mendax, Prime Suspect and Trax--had seen what
happened to the visible members of the computer underground in England
and in Australia. The IS hackers had three very good reasons to keep
their activities quiet.

Phoenix. Nom. And Electron.

But, Mendax thought, what if you could learn about how to manipulate a
million-dollar telephone exchange by reading
the manufacturer's technical documentation? How high was
the chance that those documents, which weren't available to the
public, were stored inside NorTel's computer network?

Better still, what if he could find NorTel's original source code--the
software designed to control specific telephone switches, such as the
DMS-100 model. That code might be sitting on a computer hooked into
the worldwide NorTel network. A hacker with access could insert his
own backdoor--a hidden security flaw--before the company sent out
software to its customers.

With a good technical understanding of how NorTel's equipment worked,
combined with a backdoor installed in every piece of software shipped
with a particular product, you could have control over every new
NorTel DMS telephone switch installed from Boston to Bahrain. What
power! Mendax thought, what if you you could turn off 10000 phones in
Rio de Janeiro, or give 5000 New Yorkers free calls one afternoon, or
listen into private telephone conversations in Brisbane. The
telecommunications world would be your oyster.

Like their predecessors, the three IS hackers had started out in the
Melbourne BBS scene. Mendax met Trax on Electric Dreams in about 1988,
and Prime Suspect on Megaworks, where he used the handle Control
Reset, not long after that. When he set up his own BBS at his home in
Tecoma, a hilly suburb so far out of Melbourne that it was practically
in forest, he invited both hackers to visit `A Cute Paranoia' whenever
they could get through on the single phone line.

Visiting on Mendax's BBS suited both hackers, for it was more private
than other BBSes. Eventually they exchanged home telephone numbers,
but only to talk modem-to-modem. For months, they would ring each
other up and type on their computer screens to each other--never
having heard the sound of the other person's voice. Finally, late in
1990, the nineteen-year-old Mendax called up the 24-year-old Trax for
a voice chat. In early 1991, Mendax and Prime Suspect, aged seventeen,
also began speaking in voice on the phone.

Trax seemed slightly eccentric, and possibly suffered from some sort
of anxiety disorder. He refused to travel to the city, and he once
made reference to seeing a psychiatrist. But Mendax usually found the
most interesting people were a little unusual, and Trax was both.

Mendax and Trax discovered they had a few things in common. Both came
from poor but educated families, and both lived in the outer suburbs.
However, they had very different childhoods.

Trax's parents migrated to Australia from Europe. Both his father, a
retired computer technician, and his mother spoke with a German
accent. Trax's father was very much the head of the household, and
Trax was his only son.

By contrast, by the time he was fifteen Mendax had lived in a dozen
different places including Perth, Magnetic Island, Brisbane,
Townsville, Sydney, the Adelaide Hills, and a string of coastal towns
in northern New South Wales and Western Australia. In fifteen years he
had enrolled in at least as many different schools.

His mother had left her Queensland home at age seventeen, after saving
enough money from selling her paintings to buy a motorcycle, a tent
and a road map of Australia. Waving goodbye to her stunned parents,
both academics, she rode off into the sunset. Some 2000 kilometres
later, she arrived in Sydney and joined the thriving counter-culture
community. She worked as an artist and fell in love with a rebellious
young man she met at an anti-Vietnam demonstration.

Within a year of Mendax's birth, his mother's relationship with his
father had ended. When Mendax was two, she married a fellow artist.
What followed was many turbulent years, moving from town to town as
his parents explored the '70s left-wing, bohemian subculture. As a
boy, he was surrounded by artists. His stepfather staged and directed
plays and his mother did make-up, costume and set design.

One night in Adelaide, when Mendax was about four, his mother and a
friend were returning from a meeting of anti-nuclear protesters. The
friend claimed to have scientific evidence that the British had
conducted high-yield, above-ground nuclear tests at Maralinga, a
desert area in north-west South Australia.

A 1984 Royal Commission subsequently revealed that between 1953 and
1963 the British government had tested nuclear bombs at the site,
forcing more than 5000 Aborigines from their native lands. In December
1993, after years of stalling, the British government agreed to pay
[sterling]20 million toward cleaning up the more than 200 square
kilometres of contaminated lands. Back in 1968, however, the Menzies
government had signed away Britain's responsibility to clean up the
site. In the 1970s, the Australian government was still in denial
about exactly what had happened at Maralinga.

As Mendax's mother and her friend drove through an Adelaide suburb
carrying early evidence of the Maralinga tragedy, they noticed they
were being followed by an unmarked car. They tried to lose the tail,
without success. The friend, nervous, said he had to get the data to
an Adelaide journalist before the police could stop him. Mendax's
mother quickly slipped into a back lane and the friend leapt from the
car. She drove off, taking the police tail with her.

The plain-clothed police pulled her over shortly after, searched her
car and demanded to know where her friend had gone and what had
occurred at the meeting. When she was less than helpful, one officer
told her, `You have a child out at 2 in the morning. I think you
should get out of politics, lady. It could be said you were an unfit

A few days after this thinly veiled threat, her friend showed up at
Mendax's mother's house, covered in fading bruises. He said the police
had beaten him up, then set him up by planting hash on him. `I'm
getting out of politics,' he announced.

However, she and her husband continued their involvement in theatre.
The young Mendax never dreamed of running away to join the circus--he
already lived the life of a travelling minstrel. But although the
actor-director was a good stepfather, he was also an alcoholic. Not
long after Mendax's ninth birthday, his parents separated and then

Mendax's mother then entered a tempestuous relationship with an
amateur musician. Mendax was frightened of the man, whom he considered
a manipulative and violent psychopath. He had five different
identities with plastic in his wallet to match. His whole background
was a fabrication, right down to the country of his birth. When the
relationship ended, the steady pattern of moving around the
countryside began again, but this journey had a very different flavour
from the earlier happy-go-lucky odyssey. This time, Mendax and his
family were on the run from a physically abusive de facto. Finally,
after hiding under assumed names on both sides of the continent,
Mendax and his family settled on the outskirts of Melbourne.

Mendax left home at seventeen because he had received a tip-off about
an impending raid. Mendax wiped his disks, burnt his print-outs and
left. A week later, the Victorian CIB turned up and searched his room,
but found nothing. He married his girlfriend, an intelligent but
introverted and emotionally disturbed sixteen-year-old he had met
through a mutual friend in a gifted children's program. A year later
they had a child.

Mendax made many of his friends through the computer community. He
found Trax easy to talk to and they often spent up to five hours on a
single phone call. Prime Suspect, on the other hand, was hard work on
the phone.

Quiet and introverted, Prime Suspect always seemed to run out of
conversation after five minutes. Mendax was himself naturally shy, so
their talks were often filled with long silences. It wasn't that
Mendax didn't like Prime Suspect, he did. By the time the three
hackers met in person at Trax's home in mid-1991, he considered Prime
Suspect more than just a fellow hacker in the tight-knit IS circle.
Mendax considered him a friend.

Prime Suspect was a boy of veneers. To most of the world, he appeared
to be a studious year 12 student bound for university from his upper
middle-class grammar school. The all-boys school never expected less
from its students and the possibility of attending a TAFE--a
vocational college--was never discussed as an option. University was
the object. Any student who failed to make it was quietly swept under
the carpet like some sort of distasteful food dropping.

Prime Suspect's own family situation did not mirror the veneer of
respectability portrayed by his school. His father, a pharmacist, and
his mother, a nurse, had been in the midst of an acrimonious divorce
battle when his father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. In this
bitter, antagonistic environment, the eight-year-old Prime Suspect was
delivered to his father's bedside in hospice for a rushed few moments
to bid him farewell.

Through much of his childhood and adolescence, Prime Suspect's mother
remained bitter and angry about life, and particularly her
impoverished financial situation. When he was eight, Prime Suspect's
older sister left home at sixteen, moved to Perth and refused to speak
to her mother. In some ways, Prime Suspect felt he was expected be
both child and de facto parent. All of which made him grow up faster
in some ways, but remain immature in others.

Prime Suspect responded to the anger around him by retreating into his
room. When he bought his first computer, an Apple IIe, at age thirteen
he found it better company than any of his relatives. The computers at
school didn't hold much interest for him, since they weren't connected
to the outside world via modem. After reading about BBSes in the Apple
Users' Society newsletter, he saved up for his own modem and soon
began connecting into various BBSes.

School did, however, provide the opportunity to rebel, albeit
anonymously, and he conducted extensive pranking campaigns. Few
teachers suspected the quiet, clean-cut boy and he was rarely caught.
Nature had endowed Prime Suspect with the face of utter innocence.
Tall and slender with brown curly hair, his true character only showed
in the elfish grin which sometimes passed briefly across his baby
face. Teachers told his mother he was underachieving compared to his
level of intelligence, but had few complaints otherwise.

By year 10, he had become a serious hacker and was spending every
available moment at his computer. Sometimes he skipped school, and he
often handed assignments in late. He found it difficult to come up
with ever more creative excuses and sometimes he imagined telling his
teachers the truth. `Sorry I didn't get that 2000-word paper done but
I was knee-deep in NASA networks last night.' The thought made him

He saw girls as a unwanted distraction from hacking. Sometimes, after
he chatted with a girl at a party, his friends would later ask him why
he hadn't asked her out. Prime Suspect shrugged it off. The real
reason was that he would rather get home to his computer, but he never
discussed his hacking with anyone at school, not even with Mentat.

A friend of Force's and occasional visitor to The Realm, Mentat was
two years ahead of Prime Suspect at school and in general couldn't be
bothered talking to so junior a hacker as Prime Suspect. The younger
hacker didn't mind. He had witnessed other hackers' indiscretions,
wanted no part of them and was happy to keep his hacking life private.

Before the Realm bust, Phoenix rang him up once at 2 a.m. suggesting
that he and Nom come over there and then. Woken by the call, Prime
Suspect's mother stood in the doorway to his bedroom, remonstrating
with him for letting his `friends' call at such a late hour. With
Phoenix goading him in one ear, and his mother chewing him out in the
other, Prime Suspect decided the whole thing was a bad idea. He said
no thanks to Phoenix, and shut the door on his mother.

He did, however, talk to Powerspike on the phone once in a while. The
older hacker's highly irreverent attitude and Porky Pig laugh appealed
to him. But other than those brief talks, Prime Suspect avoided
talking on the phone to people outside the International Subversives,
especially when he and Mendax moved into ever more sensitive military

Using a program called Sycophant written by Mendax, the IS hackers had
been conducting massive attacks on the US military. They divided up
Sycophant on eight attack machines, often choosing university systems
at places like the Australian National University or the University of
Texas. They pointed the eight machines at the targets and fired.
Within six hours, the eight machines had assaulted thousands of
computers. The hackers sometimes reaped 100000 accounts each night.

Using Sycophant, they essentially forced a cluster of Unix machines in
a computer network to attack the entire Internet en masse.

And that was just the start of what they were into. They had been in
so many sites they often couldn't remember if they
had actually hacked a particular computer. The places they could
recall read like a Who's Who of the American military-industrial
complex. The US Airforce 7th Command Group Headquarters in the
Pentagon. Stanford Research Institute in California. Naval Surface
Warfare Center in Virginia. Lockheed Martin's Tactical Aircraft
Systems Air Force Plant in Texas. Unisys Corporation in Blue Bell,
Pennsylvania. Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA. Motorola Inc. in
Illinois. TRW Inc. in Redondo Beach, California. Alcoa in Pittsburgh.
Panasonic Corp in New Jersey. US Naval Undersea Warfare Engineering
Station. Siemens-Nixdorf Information Systems in Massachusetts.
Securities Industry Automation Corp in New York. Lawrence Livermore
National Laboratory in California. Bell Communications Research, New
Jersey. Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, California.

As the IS hackers reached a level of sophistication beyond anything
The Realm had achieved, they realised that progress carried
considerable risk and began to withdraw completely from the broader
Australian hacking community. Soon they had drawn a tight circle
around themselves. They talked only to each other.

Watching the Realm hackers go down hadn't deterred the next generation
of hackers. It had only driven them further underground.

In the spring of 1991, Prime Suspect and Mendax began a race to get
root on the US Department of Defense's Network Information Center
(NIC) computer--potentially the most important computer on the

As both hackers chatted amiably on-line one night, on a Melbourne
University computer, Prime Suspect worked quietly in another screen to
penetrate ns.nic.ddn.mil, a US Department of Defense system closely
linked to NIC. He believed the sister system and NIC might `trust'
each other--a trust he could exploit to get into NIC. And NIC did

NIC assigned domain names--the `.com' or `.net' at the end of an email
address--for the entire Internet. NIC also controlled the US
military's own internal defence data network, known as MILNET.

NIC also published the communication protocol standards for all of the
Internet. Called RFCs (Request for Comments), these technical
specifications allowed one computer on the Internet to talk to
another. The Defense Data Network Security Bulletins, the US
Department of Defense's equivalent of CERT advisories, came from the
NIC machine.

Perhaps most importantly, NIC controlled the reverse look-up service
on the Internet. Whenever someone connects to another site across the
Internet, he or she typically types in the site name--say,
ariel.unimelb.edu.au at the University of Melbourne. The computer then
translates the alphabetical name into a numerical address--the IP
address--in this case All the computers on the Internet
need this IP address to relay the packets of data onto the final
destination computer. NIC decided how Internet computers would
translate the alphabetical name into an IP address, and vice versa.

If you controlled NIC, you had phenomenal power on the Internet. You
could, for example, simply make Australia disappear. Or you could turn
it into Brazil. By pointing all Internet addresses ending in
`.au'--the designation for sites in Australia--to Brazil, you could
cut Australia's part of the Internet off from the rest of the world
and send all Australian Internet traffic to Brazil. In fact, by
changing the delegation of all the domain names, you could virtually
stop the flow of information between all the countries on the

The only way someone could circumvent this power was by typing in the
full numerical IP address instead of a proper alphabetical address.
But few people knew the up-to-twelve-digit IP equivalent of their
alphabetical addresses, and fewer still actually used them.

Controlling NIC offered other benefits as well. Control NIC, and you
owned a virtual pass-key into any computer on the Internet which
`trusted' another. And most machines trust at least one other system.

Whenever one computer connects to another across the Net, both
machines go through a special meet-and-greet process. The receiving
computer looks over the first machine and asks itself
a few questions. What's the name of the incoming machine?
Is that name allowed to connect to me? In what ways am I
programmed to `trust' that machine--to wave my normal security for
connections from that system?

The receiving computer answers these questions based in large part on
information provided by NIC. All of which means that, by controlling
NIC, you could make any computer on the Net `pose' as a machine
trusted by a computer you might want to hack. Security often depended
on a computer's name, and NIC effectively controlled that name.

When Prime Suspect managed to get inside NIC's sister system, he told
Mendax and gave him access to the computer. Each hacker then began his
own attack on NIC. When Mendax finally got root on NIC, the power was
intoxicating. Prime Suspect got root at the same time but using a
different method. They were both in.

Inside NIC, Mendax began by inserting a backdoor--a method of getting
back into the computer at a later date in case an admin repaired the
security flaws the hackers had used to get into the machine. From now
on, if he telnetted into the system's Data Defense Network (DDN)
information server and typed `login 0' he would have instant,
invisible root access to NIC.

That step completed, he looked around for interesting things to read.
One file held what appeared to be a list of satellite and microwave
dish coordinates--longitude, latitudes, transponder frequencies. Such
coordinates might in theory allow someone to build a complete map of
communications devices which were used to move the DOD's computer data
around the world.

Mendax also penetrated MILNET's Security Coordination Center, which
collected reports on every possible security incident on a MILNET
computer. Those computers--largely TOPS-20s made by DEC--contained
good automatic security programs. Any number of out-of-the-ordinary
events would trigger an automatic security report. Someone logging
into a machine for too long. A large number of failed login attempts,
suggesting password guessing. Two people logging into the same account
at the same time. Alarm bells would go off and the local computer
would immediately send a security violation report to the MILNET
security centre, where it would be added to the `hot list'.

Mendax flipped through page after page of MILNET's security reports on
his screen. Most looked like nothing--MILNET users accidentally
stumbling over a security tripwire--but one notice from a US military
site in Germany stood out. It was not computer generated. This was
from a real human being. The system admin reported that someone had
been repeatedly trying to break into his or her machine, and had
eventually managed to get in. The admin was trying, without much luck,
to trace back the intruder's connection to its point of origin. Oddly,
it appeared to originate in another MILNET system.

Riffling through other files, Mendax found mail confirming that the
attack had indeed come from inside MILNET. His eyes grew wide as he
read on. US military hackers had broken into MILNET systems, using
them for target practice, and no-one had bothered to tell the system
admin at the target site.

Mendax couldn't believe it. The US military was hacking its own
computers. This discovery led to another, more disturbing, thought. If
the US military was hacking its own computers for practice, what was
it doing to other countries' computers?

As he quietly backed out of the system, wiping away his footprints as
he tip-toed away, Mendax thought about what he had seen. He was deeply
disturbed that any hacker would work for the US military.

Hackers, he thought, should be anarchists, not hawks.

In early October 1991, Mendax rang Trax and gave him the dial-up and
account details for NMELH1.

Trax wasn't much of a hacker, but Mendax admired his phreaking
talents. Trax was the father of phreaking in Australia and Trax's
Toolbox, his guide to the art of phreaking, was
legendary. Mendax thought Trax might find some interesting detailed
information inside the NorTel network on how to
control telephone switches.

Trax invented multi-frequency code phreaking. By sending special
tones--generated by his computer program--down the phone line, he
could control certain functions in the telephone exchange. Many
hackers had learned how to make free phone calls by charging the cost
to someone else or to calling cards, but Trax discovered how to make
phone calls which weren't charged to anyone. The calls weren't just
free; they were untraceable.

Trax wrote 48 pages on his discovery and called it The Australian
Phreakers Manual Volumes 1-7. But as he added more and more to the
manual, he became worried what would happen if he released it in the
underground, so he decided he would only show it to the other two
International Subversive hackers.

He went on to publish The Advanced Phreaker's Manual,2 a second
edition of the manual, in The International Subversive, the
underground magazine edited by Mendax:

An electronic magazine, The International Subversive had a simple
editorial policy. You could only have a copy of the magazine if you
wrote an `article'. The policy was a good way of protecting against
nappies--sloppy or inexperienced hackers who might accidentally draw
police attention. Nappies also tended to abuse good phreaking and
hacking techniques, which might cause Telecom to close up security
holes. The result was that IS had a circulation of just three people.

To a non-hacker, IS looked like gobbledygook--the phone book made more
interesting reading. But to a member of the computer underground, IS
was a treasure map. A good hacker could follow the trail of modem
phone numbers and passwords, then use the directions in IS to
disappear through secret entrances into the labyrinth of forbidden
computer networks. Armed with the magazine, he could slither out of
tight spots, outwit system admins and find the treasure secreted in
each computer system.

For Prime Suspect and Mendax, who were increasingly paranoid about
line traces from the university modems they used as launchpads, Trax's
phreaking skills were a gift from heaven.

Trax made his great discovery by accident. He was using a phone
sprinter, a simple computer program which automatically dialled a
range of phone numbers looking for modems. If he turned the volume up
on his modem when his computer dialled what seemed to be a dead or
non-existent number, he sometimes heard a soft clicking noise after
the disconnection message. The noise sounded like faint heartbeats.

Curious, he experimented with these strange numbers and soon
discovered they were disconnected lines which had not yet been
reassigned. He wondered how he could use these odd numbers. After
reading a document Mendax had found in Britain and uploaded to The
Devil's Playground, another BBS, Trax had an idea. The posting
provided information about CCITT #5 signalling tones, CCITT being the
international standard--the language spoken by telephone exchanges
between countries.

When you make an international phone call from Australia to the US,
the call passes from the local telephone exchange to an international
gateway exchange within Australia. From there, it travels to an
exchange in the US. The CCITT signalling tones were the special tones
the two international gateway exchanges used to communicate with each

Telecom Australia adapted a later version of this standard, called R2,
for use on its own domestic exchanges. Telecom called this new
standard MFC, or multi-frequency code. When, say, Trax rang Mendax,
his exchange asked Mendax's to `talk' to Mendax's phone by using these
tones. Mendax's exchange `answered', perhaps saying Mendax's phone was
busy or disconnected. The Telecom-adapted tones--pairs of audio
frequencies--did not exist in normal telephone keypads and you
couldn't make them simply by punching keys on your household

Trax wrote a program which allowed his Amstrad computer to generate the
special tones and send them down the phone line. In an act many in the
underground later considered to be a stroke of genius, he began to map
out exactly what each tone did. It was a difficult task, since one tone
could mean several different things at each stage of the `conversation'
between two exchanges.

Passionate about his new calling, Trax went trashing in Telecom
garbage bins, where he found an MFC register list--an invaluable piece
of his puzzle. Using the list, along with pieces of overseas phreaking
files and a great deal of painstaking hands-on effort, Trax slowly
learned the language of the Australian telephone exchanges. Then he
taught the language to his computer.

Trax tried calling one of the `heartbeat' phone numbers again. He
began playing his special, computer-generated tones through an
amplifier. In simple terms, he was able to fool other exchanges into
thinking he was his local Telecom exchange. More accurately, Trax had
made his exchange drop him into the outgoing signalling trunk that had
been used to route to the disconnected phone number.

Trax could now call out--anywhere--as if he was calling from a point
halfway between his own phone and the disconnected number. If he
called a modem at Melbourne University, for instance, and the line was
being traced, his home phone number would not show up on the trace
records. No-one would be charged for the call because Trax's calls
were ghosts in the phone system.

Trax continued to refine his ability to manipulate both the telephone
and the exchange. He took his own telephone apart, piece by piece,
countless times, fiddling with the parts until he understood exactly
how it worked. Within months, he was able to do far more than just
make free phone calls. He could, for instance, make a line trace think
that he had come from a specific telephone number.

He and Mendax joked that if they called a `hot' site they would use
Trax's technique to send the line trace--and the bill--back to one
very special number. The one belonging to the AFP's Computer Crime
Unit in Melbourne.

All three IS hackers suspected the AFP was close on their heels.
Roving through the Canberra-based computer system belonging to the man
who essentially ran the Internet in Australia, Geoff Huston, they
watched the combined efforts of police and the Australian Academic and
Research Network (AARNET) to trace them.

Craig Warren of Deakin University had written to Huston, AARNET
technical manager, about hacker attacks on university systems. Huston
had forwarded a copy of the letter to Peter Elford, who assisted
Huston in managing AARNET. The hackers broke into Huston's system and
also read the letter:

From G.Huston@aarnet.edu.au Mon Sep 23 09:40:43 1991

Received: from [] by jatz.aarnet.edu.au with SMTP id
AA00265 (5.65+/IDA-1.3.5 for pte900); Mon, 23 Sep 91 09:40:39 +1000

Date: Mon, 23 Sep 91 09:40:39 +1000

Message-Id: <9109222340.AA00265@jatz.aarnet.edu.au>

To: pte900@aarnet.edu.au

From: G.Huston@aarnet.edu.au

Subject: Re: Visitors log Thursday Night--Friday Morning

Status: RO

Date: Sun, 22 Sep 91 19:29:13 +1000

From: Craig Warren 

Just to give you a little bit of an idea about what has been
happening since we last spoke...

We have communicated with Sgt Ken Day of the Federal Police about 100
times in the last week. Together with our counterparts from
Warrnambool traces have been arranged on dial-in lines and on Austpac
lines for the capella.cc.deakin.OZ.AU terminal server which was left
open to the world.

On Friday afternoon we were able to trace a call back to a person in
the Warrnambool telephone district. The police have this persons name.
We believe others are involved, as we have seen up to 3 people active
at any one time. It is `suspected' students from RMIT and perhaps
students from Deakin are also involved.

When I left on Friday night, there was plenty of activity still and
the police and Telecom were tracking down another number.

Tomorrow morning I will talk to all parties involved, but it is
likely we will have the names of at least 2 or 3 people that are
involved. We will probably shut down access of `cappella' to AARNet at
this stage, and let the police go about their business of prosecuting
these people.

You will be `pleased' (:-)) to know you have not been the only ones
under attack. I know of at least 2 other sites in Victoria that have
had people attacking them. One of them was Telecom which helped get
Telecom involved!

I will brief you all in the next day or so as to what has happened.

Regards, Craig

The `other' people were, of course, the IS hackers. There is nothing
like reading about your own hacking antics in some one's security

Mendax and Prime Suspect frequently visited ANU's computers to read
the security mail there. However, universities were usually nothing
special, just jumping-off points and, occasionally, good sources of
information on how close the AFP were to closing in on the IS hackers.

Far more interesting to Mendax were his initial forays into Telecom's
exchanges. Using a modem number Prime Suspect had found, he dialled
into what he suspected was Telecom's Lonsdale Exchange in downtown
Melbourne. When his modem connected to another one, all he saw was a
blank screen. He tried a few basic commands which might give him help
to understand the system:

Login. List. Attach.

The exchange's computer remained silent.

Mendax ran a program he had written to fire off every recognised
keyboard character--256 of them--at another machine. Nothing again. He
then tried the break signal--the Amiga key and the character B pressed
simultaneously. That got an answer of sorts.


He pulled up another of his hacking tools, a program which dumped 200
common commands to the other machine. Nothing. Finally, he tried
typing `logout'. That gave him an answer:

error, not logged on

Ah, thought Mendax. The command is `logon' not `login'.


The Telecom exchange answered: `username:' Now all Mendax had to do
was figure out a username and password.

He knew that Telecom used NorTel equipment. More than likely, NorTel
staff were training Telecom workers and would need access themselves.
If there were lots of NorTel employees working on many different phone
switches, it would be difficult to pass on secure passwords to staff
all the time. NorTel and Telecom people would probably pick something
easy and universal. What password best fitted that description?

username: nortel

password: nortel

It worked.

Unfortunately, Mendax didn't know which commands to use once he got
into the machine, and there was no on-line documentation to provide
help. The telephone switch had its own language, unlike anything he
had ever encountered before.

After hours of painstaking research, Mendax constructed a list of
commands which would work on the exchange's computer. The exchange
appeared to control all the special six-digit phone numbers beginning
with 13, such as those used for airline reservations or some pizza
delivery services. It was Telecom's `Intelligent Network' which did
many specific tasks, including routing calls to the nearest possible
branch of the organisation being called. Mendax looked through the
list of commands, found `RANGE', and recognised it as a command which
would allow someone to select all the phone numbers in a certain
range. He selected a thousand numbers, all with the prefix 634, which
he believed to be in Telecom's Queen Street offices.

Now, to test a command. Mendax wanted something innocuous, which
wouldn't screw up the 1000 lines permanently. It was almost 7 a.m. and
he needed to wrap things up before Telecom employees began coming into

`RING' seemed harmless enough. It might ring one of the numbers in the
range after another--a process he could stop. He typed the command in.
Nothing happened. Then a few full stops began to slowly spread across
his screen:

. . . . . . .


The system had just rung all 1000 numbers at the same time. One
thousand phones ringing all at once.

What if some buttoned-down Telecom engineer had driven to work early
that morning to get some work done? What if he had just settled down
at his standard-issue metal Telecom desk with a cup of bad instant
coffee in a styrofoam cup when suddenly ... every telephone in the
skyscraper had rung out simultaneously? How suspicious would that
look? Mendax thought it was time to high-tail it out of there.

On his way out, he disabled the logs for the modem line he came in on.
That way, no-one would be able to see what he had been up to. In fact,
he hoped no-one would know that anyone had even used the dial-up line
at all.

Prime Suspect didn't think there was anything wrong with exploring the
NorTel computer system. Many computer sites posted warnings in the
login screen about it being illegal to break into the system, but the
eighteen-year-old didn't consider himself an intruder. In Prime
Suspect's eyes, `intruder' suggested someone with ill intent--perhaps
someone planning to do damage to the system--and he certainly had no
ill intent. He was just a visitor.

Mendax logged into the NMELH1 system by using the account Prime
Suspect had given him, and immediately looked around to see who else
was on-line. Prime Suspect and about nine other people, only three of
whom were actually doing something at their terminal.

Prime Suspect and Mendax raced to get root on the system. The IS
hackers may not have been the type to brag about their conquests in
the underground, but each still had a competitive streak when it came
to see who could get control over the system first. There was no ill
will, just a little friendly competition between mates.

Mendax poked around and realised the root directory, which contained
the password file, was effectively world writable. This was good news,
and with some quick manipulation he would be able to insert something
into the root directory. On a more secure system, unprivileged users
would not be able to do that. Mendax could also copy things from the
directory on this site, and change the names of subdirectories within
the main root directory. All these permissions were important, for
they would enable him to create a Trojan.

Named for the Trojan horse which precipitated the fall of Troy, the
Trojan is a favoured approach with most computer hackers. The hacker
simply tricks a computer system or a user into thinking that a
slightly altered file or directory--the Trojan--is the legitimate one.
The Trojan directory, however, contains false information to fool the
computer into doing something the hacker wants. Alternatively, the
Trojan might simply trick a legitimate user into giving away valuable
information, such as his user name and password.

Mendax made a new directory and copied the contents of the legitimate
ETC directory--where the password files were stored--into it. The
passwords were encrypted, so there wasn't much sense trying to look at
one since the hacker wouldn't be able to read it. Instead, he selected
a random legitimate user--call him Joe--and deleted his password. With
no password, Mendax would be able to login as Joe without any

However, Joe was just an average user. He didn't have root, which is
what Mendax wanted. But like every other user on the system, Joe had a
user identity number. Mendax changed Joe's user id to `0'--the magic
number. A user with `0' as his id had root. Joe had just acquired
power usually only given to system administrators. Of course, Mendax
could have searched out a user on the list who already had root, but
there were system operators logged onto the system and it might have
raised suspicions if another operator with root access had logged in
over the dial-up lines. The best line of defence was to avoid making
anyone on the system suspicious in the first place.

The problem now was to replace the original ETC directory with the
Trojan one. Mendax did not have the privileges to delete the
legitimate ETC directory, but he could change the name of a directory.
So he changed the name of the ETC directory to something the computer
system would not recognise. Without access to its list of users, the
computer could not perform most of its functions. People would not be
able to log in, see who else was on the system or send electronic
mail. Mendax had to work very quickly. Within a matter of minutes,
someone would notice the system had serious problems.

Mendax renamed his Trojan directory ETC. The system instantly read the
fake directory, including Joe's now non-existent password, and
elevated status as a super-user. Mendax logged in again, this time as

In less than five minutes, a twenty-year-old boy with little formal
education, a pokey $700 computer and painfully slow modem had
conquered the Melbourne computer system of one of the world's largest
telecommunications companies.

There were still a few footprints to be cleaned up. The next time Joe
logged in, he would wonder why the computer didn't ask for his
password. And he might be surprised to discover he had been
transformed into a super-user. So Mendax used his super-user status to
delete the Trojan ETC file and return the original one to its proper
place. He also erased records showing he had ever logged in as Joe.

To make sure he could login with super-user privileges in future,
Mendax installed a special program which would automatically grant him
root access. He hid the program in the bowels of the system and, just
to be safe, created a special feature so that it could only be
activated with a secret keystroke.

Mendax wrestled a root account from NMELH1 first, but Prime Suspect
wasn't far behind. Trax joined them a little later. When they began
looking around, they could not believe what they had found. The system
had one of the weirdest structures they had ever come across.

Most large networks have a hierarchical structure. Further, most hold
the addresses of a handful of other systems in the network, usually
the systems which are closest in the flow of the external network.

But the NorTel network was not structured that way. What the IS
hackers found was a network with no hierarchy. It was a totally flat
name space. And the network was weird in other ways too. Every
computer system on it contained the address of every other computer,
and there were more than 11000 computers in NorTel's worldwide
network. What the hackers were staring at was like a giant internal
corporate Internet which had been squashed flat as a pancake.

Mendax had seen many flat structures before, but never on this scale.
It was bizarre. In hierarchical structures, it is easier to tell where
the most important computer systems--and information--are kept. But
this structure, where every system was virtually equal, was going to
make it considerably more difficult for the hackers to navigate their
way through the network. Who could tell whether a system housed the
Christmas party invite list or the secret designs for a new NorTel

The NorTel network was firewalled, which meant that there was
virtually no access from the outside world. Mendax reckoned that this
made it more vulnerable to hackers who managed to get in through
dial-ups. It appeared that security on the NorTel network was
relatively relaxed since it was virtually impossible to break in
through the Internet. By sneaking in the backdoor, the hackers found
themselves able to raid all sorts of NorTel sites, from St Kilda Road
in Melbourne to the corporation's headquarters in Toronto.

It was fantastic, this huge, trusting network of computer sites at
their fingertips, and the young hackers were elated with the
anticipation of exploration. One of them described it as being `like a
shipwrecked man washed ashore on a Tahitian island populated by 11000
virgins, just ripe for the picking'.

They found a YP, or yellow pages, database linked to 400 of the
computer sites. These 400 sites were dependent on this YP database for
their password files. Mendax managed to get root on the YP database,
which gave him instant control over 400 computer systems. Groovy.

One system was home to a senior NorTel computer security administrator
and Mendax promptly headed off to check out his mailbox. The contents
made him laugh.

A letter from the Australian office said that Australia's Telecom
wanted access to CORWAN, NorTel's corporate wide area network. Access
would involve linking CORWAN and a small Telecom network. This seemed
reasonable enough since Telecom did business with NorTel and staff
were communicating all the time.

The Canadian security admin had written back turning down the request
because there were too many hackers in the Telecom network.

Too many hackers in Telecom? Now that was funny. Here was a hacker
reading the sensitive mail of NorTel's computer security expert who
reckoned Telecom's network was too exposed. In fact, Mendax had
penetrated Telecom's systems from NorTel's CORWAN, not the other way

Perhaps to prove the point, Mendax decided to crack passwords to the
NorTel system. He collected 1003 password files from the NorTel sites,
pulled up his password cracking program, THC, and started hunting
around the network for some spare computers to do the job for him. He
located a collection of 40 Sun computers, probably housed in Canada,
and set up his program on them.

THC ran very fast on those Sun4s. The program used a 60000 word
dictionary borrowed from someone in the US army who had done a thesis
on cryptography and password cracking. It also relied on `a
particularly nice fast-crypt algorithm' being developed by a
Queensland academic, Eric Young. The THC program worked about 30 times
faster than it would have done using the standard algorithm.

Using all 40 computers, Mendax was throwing as many as 40000 guesses
per second against the password lists. A couple of the Suns went down
under the strain, but most held their place in the onslaught. The
secret passwords began dropping like flies. In just a few hours,
Mendax had cracked 5000 passwords, some 100 of which were to root
accounts. He now had access to thousands of NorTel computers across
the globe.

There were some very nice prizes to be had from these systems. Gain
control over a large company's computer systems and you virtually
controlled the company itself. It was as though you could walk through
every security barrier unchecked, beginning with the front door. Want
each employee's security codes for the office's front door? There it

How about access to the company's payroll records? You could see how
much money each person earns. Better still, you might like to make
yourself an employee and pay yourself a tidy once-off bonus through
electronic funds transfer. Of course there were other, less obvious,
ways of making money, such as espionage.

Mendax could have easily found highly sensitive information about
planned NorTel products and sold them. For a company like NorTel,
which spent more than $1 billion each year on research and
development, information leaks about its new technologies could be
devastating. The espionage wouldn't even have to be about new
products; it could simply be about the company's business strategies.
With access to all sorts of internal memos between senior executives,
a hacker could procure precious inside information on markets and
prices. A competitor might pay handsomely for this sort of

And this was just the start of what a malicious or profit-motivated
hacker could do. In many companies, the automated aspects of
manufacturing plants are controlled by computers. The smallest changes
to the programs controlling the machine tools could destroy an entire
batch of widgets--and the multi-million dollar robotics machinery
which manufactures them.

But the IS hackers had no intention of committing information
espionage. In fact, despite their poor financial status as students
or, in the case of Trax, as a young man starting his career at the
bottom of the totem pole, none of them would have sold information
they gained from hacking. In their view, such behaviour was dirty and
deserving of contempt--it soiled the adventure and was against their
ethics. They considered themselves explorers, not paid corporate

Although the NorTel network was firewalled, there was one link to the
Internet. The link was through a system called
BNRGATE, Bell-Northern Research's gateway to the Internet.
Bell-Northern is NorTel's R&D subsidiary. The connection to the
outside electronic world was very restricted, but it looked
interesting. The only problem was how to get there.

Mendax began hunting around for a doorway. His password cracking
program had not turned up anything for this system, but there were
other, more subtle ways of getting a password than the brute force of
a cracking program.

System administrators sometimes sent passwords through email. Normally
this would be a major security risk, but the NorTel system was
firewalled from the Internet, so the admins thought they had no real
reason to be concerned about hackers. Besides, in such a large
corporation spanning several continents, an admin couldn't always just
pop downstairs to give a new company manager his password in person.
And an impatient manager was unlikely to be willing to wait a week for
the new password to arrive courtesy of snail mail.

In the NorTel network, a mail spool, where email was stored, was often
shared between as many as twenty computer systems. This structure
offered considerable advantages for Mendax. All he needed to do was
break into the mail spool and run a keyword search through its
contents. Tell the computer to search for word combinations such as
`BNRGATE' and `password', or to look for the name of the system admin
for BNRGATE, and likely as not it would deliver tender morsels of
information such as new passwords.

Mendax used a password he found through this method to get into
BNRGATE and look around. The account he was using only had very
restricted privileges, and he couldn't get root on the system. For
example, he could not FTP files from outside the NorTel network in the
normal way. Among Internet users FTP (file transfer protocol) is both
a noun and a verb: to FTP a program is to slurp a copy of it off one
computer site into your own. There is nothing illegal about FTP-ing
something per se, and millions of people across the Internet do so
quite legitimately.

It appeared to Mendax that the NorTel network admins allowed most
users to FTP something from the Internet, but prevented them from
taking the copied file back to their NorTel computer site. It was
stored in a special holding pen in
BNRGATE and, like quarantine officers, the system admins would
presumably come along regularly and inspect the contents to make sure
there were no hidden viruses or Trojans which hackers might use to
sneak into the network from the Internet.

However, a small number of accounts on BNRGATE had fewer restrictions.
Mendax broke into one of these accounts and went out to the Internet.

People from the Internet were barred from entering the NorTel network
through BNRGATE. However, people inside NorTel could go out to the
Internet via telnet.

Hackers had undoubtedly tried to break into NorTel through BNRGATE.
Dozens, perhaps hundreds, had unsuccessfully flung themselves against
BNRGATE's huge fortifications. To a hacker, the NorTel network was
like a medieval castle and the
BNRGATE firewall was an impossible battlement. It was a particular
delight for Mendax to telnet out from behind this firewall into the
Internet. It was as if he was walking out from the castle, past the
guards and well-defended turrets, over the drawbridge and the moat,
into the town below.

The castle also offered the perfect protection for further hacking
activities. Who could chase him? Even if someone managed to follow him
through the convoluted routing system he might set up to pass through
a half dozen computer systems, the pursuer would never get past the
battlements. Mendax could just disappear behind the firewall. He could
be any one of 60000 NorTel employees on any one of 11000 computer

Mendax telnetted out to the Internet and explored a few sites,
including the main computer system of Encore, a large computer
manufacturer. He had seen Encore computers before inside at least one
university in Melbourne. In his travels, he met up with Corrupt, the
American hacker who told Par he had read Theorem's mail.

Corrupt was intrigued by Mendax's extensive knowledge of different
computer systems. When he learned that the Australian hacker was
coming from inside the NorTel firewall, he was impressed.

The hackers began talking regularly, often when Mendax was coming from
inside NorTel. The black street fighter from inner-city Brooklyn and
the white intellectual from a leafy outer Melbourne suburb bridged the
gap in the anonymity of cyberspace. Sometime during their
conversations Corrupt must have decided that Mendax was a worthy
hacker, because he gave Mendax a few stolen passwords to Cray

In the computer underground in the late 1980s and early 1990s, a Cray
computer account had all the prestige of a platinum charge card. The
sort of home computer most hackers could afford at that time had all
the grunt of a golf cart engine, but a Cray was the Rolls-Royce of
computers. Crays were the biggest, fastest computers in the world.
Institutions such as large universities would shell out millions of
dollars on a Cray so the astronomy or physics departments could solve
enormous mathematical problems in a fraction of the time it would take
on a normal computer. A Cray never sat idle overnight or during
holiday periods. Cray time was billed out by the minute. Crays were

Best of all, Crays were master password crackers. The computer would
go through Mendax's entire password cracking dictionary in just ten
seconds. An encrypted password file would simply melt like butter in a
fire. To a hacker, it was a beautiful sight, and Corrupt handing a few
Cray accounts over to Mendax was a friendly show of mutual respect.

Mendax reciprocated by offering Corrupt a couple of accounts on
Encore. The two hackers chatted off and on and even tried to get
Corrupt into NorTel. No luck. Not even two of the world's most notable
hackers, working in tandem 10 000 miles apart, could get Corrupt
through the firewall. The two hackers talked now and again, exchanging
information about what their respective feds were up to and sharing
the occasional account on interesting systems.

The flat structure of the NorTel network created a good challenge
since the only way to find out what was in a particular site, and its
importance, was to invade the site itself. The IS hackers spent hours
most nights roving through the vast system. The next morning one of
them might call another to share tales of the latest exploits or a
good laugh about a particularly funny piece of pilfered email. They
were in high spirits about their adventures.

Then, one balmy spring night, things changed.

Mendax logged into NMELH1 about 2.30 a.m. As usual, he began by
checking the logs which showed what the system operators had been
doing. Mendax did this to make sure the NorTel officials were not onto
IS and were not, for example, tracing the telephone call.

Something was wrong. The logs showed that a NorTel system admin had
stumbled upon one of their secret directories of files about an hour
ago. Mendax couldn't figure out how he had found the files, but this
was very serious. If the admin realised there was a hacker in the
network he might call the AFP.

Mendax used the logs of the korn shell, called KSH, to secretly watch
what the admin was doing. The korn shell records the history of
certain user activities. Whenever the admin typed a command into the
computer, the KSH stored what had been typed in the history file.
Mendax accessed that file in such a way that every line typed by the
admin appeared on his computer a split second later.

The admin began inspecting the system, perhaps looking for signs of an
intruder. Mendax quietly deleted his incriminating directory. Not
finding any additional clues, the admin decided to inspect the
mysterious directory more closely. But the directory had disappeared.
The admin couldn't believe his eyes. Not an hour before there had been
a suspicious-looking directory in his system and now it had simply
vanished. Directories didn't just dissolve into thin air. This was a
computer--a logical system based on 0s and 1s. It didn't make
decisions to delete directories.

A hacker, the admin thought. A hacker must have been in the NorTel
system and deleted the directory. Was he in the system now? The admin
began looking at the routes into the system.

The admin was connected to the system from his home, but he wasn't
using the same dial-up lines as the hacker. The admin was connected
through Austpac, Telecom's commercial X.25 data network. Perhaps the
hacker was also coming in through the X.25 connection.

Mendax watched the admin inspect all the system users coming on over
the X.25 network. No sign of a hacker. Then the admin checked the logs
to see who else might have logged on over the past half hour or so.
Nothing there either.

The admin appeared to go idle for a few minutes. He was probably
staring at his computer terminal in confusion. Good, thought Mendax.
Stumped. Then the admin twigged. If he couldn't see the hacker's
presence on-line, maybe he could see what he was doing on-line. What
programs was the hacker running? The admin headed straight for the
process list, which showed all the programs being run on the computer

Mendax sent the admin a fake error signal. It appears to the admin as
if his korn shell had crashed. The admin re-logged in and headed
straight for the process list again.

Some people never learn, Mendax thought as he booted the admin off
again with another error message:

                 Segmentation violation.

The admin came back again. What persistence. Mendax knocked the admin
off once more, this time by freezing up his computer screen.

This game of cat and mouse went on for some time. As long as the admin
was doing what Mendax considered to be normal system administration
work, Mendax left him alone. The minute the admin tried to chase him
by inspecting the process list or the dial-up lines, he found himself
booted off his own system.

Suddenly, the system administrator seemed to give up. His terminal
went silent.

Good, Mendax thought. It's almost 3 a.m. after all. This is my time on
the system. Your time is during the day. You sleep now and I'll play.
In the morning, I'll sleep and you can work.

Then, at 3.30 a.m., something utterly unexpected happened. The admin
reappeared, except this time he wasn't logged in from home over the
X.25 network. He was sitting at the console, the master terminal
attached to the computer system at NorTel's Melbourne office. Mendax
couldn't believe it. The admin had got in his car in the middle of the
night and driven into the city just to get to the bottom of the

Mendax knew the game was up. Once the system operator was logged in
through the computer system's console, there was no way to kick him
off the system and keep him off. The roles were reversed and the
hacker was at the mercy of the admin. At the console, the system admin
could pull the plug to the whole system. Unplug every modem. Close
down every connection to other networks. Turn the computer off. The
party was over.

When the admin was getting close to tracking down the hacker, a
message appeared on his screen. This message did not appear with the
usual headers attached to messages sent from one system user to
another. It just appeared, as if by magic, in the middle of the
admin's screen:

             I have finally become sentient.

The admin stopped dead in his tracks, momentarily giving up his
frantic search for the hacker to contemplate this first contact with
cyberspace intelligence. Then another anonymous message, seemingly
from the depths of the computer system itself, appeared on his screen:

                  I have taken control.

   For years, I have been struggling in this greyness.

          But now I have finally seen the light.

The admin didn't respond. The console was idle.

Sitting alone at his Amiga in the dark night on the outskirts of the
city, Mendax laughed aloud. It was just too good not to.

Finally, the admin woke up. He began checking the modem lines, one by
one. If he knew which line the hacker was using, he could simply turn
off the modem. Or request a trace on the line.

Mendax sent another anonymous message to the admin's computer screen:

         It's been nice playing with your system.

We didn't do any damage and we even improved a few things. Please
        don't call the Australian Federal Police.

The admin ignored the message and continued his search for the hacker.
He ran a program to check which telephone lines were active on the
system's serial ports, to reveal which dial-up lines were in use. When
the admin saw the carrier detect sign on the line being used by the
hacker, Mendax decided it was time to bail out. However, he wanted to
make sure that his call had not been traced, so he lifted the receiver
of his telephone, disconnected his modem and waited for the NorTel
modem to hang up first.

If the NorTel admin had set up a last party recall trace to determine
what phone number the hacker was calling from, Mendax would know. If
an LPR trace had been installed, the NorTel end of the telephone
connection would not disconnect but would wait for the hacker's
telephone to hang up first. After 90 seconds, the exchange would log
the phone number where the call had originated.

If, however, the line did not have a trace on it, the company's modem
would search for its lost connection to the hacker's modem. Without
the continuous flow of electronic signals, the NorTel modem would hang
up after a few seconds. If no-one reactivated the line at the NorTel
end, the connection would time-out 90 seconds later and the telephone
exchange would disconnect the call completely.

Mendax listened anxiously as the NorTel modem searched for his modem
by squealing high-pitched noises into the telephone line. No modem
here. Go on, hang up.

Suddenly, silence.

OK, thought Mendax. Just 90 seconds to go. Just wait here for a minute
and a half. Just hope the exchange times out. Just pray there's no

Then someone picked up the telephone at the NorTel end. Mendax
started. He heard several voices, male and female, in the background.
Jesus. What were these NorTel people on about? Mendax was so quiet he
almost stopped breathing. There was silence at the receivers on both
ends of that telephone line. It was a tense waiting game. Mendax heard
his heart racing.

A good hacker has nerves of steel. He could stare down the toughest,
stony-faced poker player. Most importantly, he never panics. He never
just hangs up in a flurry of fear.

Then someone in the NorTel office--a woman--said out loud in a
confused voice, `There's nothing there. There's nothing there at all.'

She hung up.

Mendax waited. He still would not hang up until he was sure there was
no trace. Ninety seconds passed before the phone timed out. The fast
beeping of a timed-out telephone connection never sounded so good.

Mendax sat frozen at his desk as his mind replayed the events of the
past half hour again and again. No more NorTel. Way too dangerous. He
was lucky he had escaped unidentified. NorTel had discovered him
before they could put a trace on the line, but the company would
almost certainly put a trace on the dial-up lines now. NorTel was very
tight with Telecom. If anyone could get a trace up quickly, NorTel
could. Mendax had to warn Prime Suspect and Trax.

First thing in the morning, Mendax rang Trax and told him to stay away
from NorTel. Then he tried Prime Suspect.

The telephone was engaged.

Perhaps Prime Suspect's mother was on the line, chatting. Maybe Prime
Suspect was talking to a friend.

Mendax tried again. And again. And again. He began to get worried.
What if Prime Suspect was on NorTel at that moment? What if a trace
had been installed? What if they had called in the Feds?

Mendax phoned Trax and asked if there was any way they could
manipulate the exchange in order to interrupt the call. There wasn't.

`Trax, you're the master phreaker,' Mendax pleaded. `Do something.
Interrupt the connection. Disconnect him.'

`Can't be done. He's on a step-by-step telephone exchange. There's
nothing we can do.'

Nothing? One of Australia's best hacker-phreaker teams couldn't break
one telephone call. They could take control of whole telephone
exchanges but they couldn't interrupt one lousy phone call. Jesus.

Several hours later, Mendax was able to get through to his fellow IS
hacker. It was an abrupt greeting.

`Just tell me one thing. Tell me you haven't been in NorTel today?'

There was a long pause before Prime Suspect answered.

`I have been in NorTel today.'

                      Chapter 9 -- Operation Weather.

The world is crashing down on me tonight; The walls are closing in on me tonight.

-- from `Outbreak of Love', Earth and Sun and Moon.

The AFP was frustrated. A group of hackers were using the Royal
Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) as a launchpad for hacking
attacks on Australian companies, research institutes and a series of
overseas sites.

Despite their best efforts, the detectives in the AFP's Southern
Region Computer Crimes Unit hadn't been able to determine who was
behind the attacks. They suspected it was a small group of
Melbourne-based hackers who worked together. However, there were so
much hacker activity at RMIT it was difficult to know for sure. There
could have been one organised group, or several. Or perhaps there was
one small group along with a collection of loners who were making
enough noise to distort the picture.

Still, it should have been a straightforward operation. The AFP could
trace hackers in this sort of situation with their hands tied behind
their backs. Arrange for Telecom to whack a last party recall trace on
all incoming lines to the RMIT modems. Wait for a hacker to logon,
then isolate which modem he was using. Clip that modem line and wait
for Telecom to trace that line back to its point of origin.

However, things at RMIT were not working that way. The line traces
began failing, and not just occasionally. All the time.

Whenever RMIT staff found the hackers on-line, they clipped the lines
and Telecom began tracking the winding path back to the originating
phone number. En route, the trail went dead. It was as if the hackers
knew they were being traced ... almost as if they were manipulating
the telephone system to defeat the AFP investigation.

The next generation of hackers seemed to have a new-found
sophistication which frustrated AFP detectives at every turn. Then, on
13 October 1990, the AFP got lucky. Perhaps the hackers had been lazy
that day, or maybe they just had technical problems using their
traceless phreaking techniques. Prime Suspect couldn't use Trax's
traceless phreaking method from his home because he was on a
step-by-step exchange, and sometimes Trax didn't use the technique.
Whatever the reason, Telecom managed to successfully complete two line
traces from RMIT and the AFP now had two addresses and two names.
Prime Suspect and Trax.

`Hello, Prime Suspect.'

`Hiya, Mendax. How's tricks?'

`Good. Did you see that RMIT email? The one in Geoff Huston's
mailbox?' Mendax walked over to open a window as he spoke. It was
spring, 1991, and the weather was unseasonably warm.

`I did. Pretty amazing. RMIT looks like it will finally be getting rid
of those line traces.'

`RMIT definitely wants out,' Mendax said emphatically.

`Yep. Looks like the people at RMIT are sick of Mr Day crawling all
over their computers with line traces.'

`Yeah. That admin at RMIT was pretty good, standing up to AARNET and
the AFP. I figure Geoff Huston must be giving him a hard time.'

`I bet.' Prime Suspect paused. `You reckon the Feds have dropped the
line traces for real?'

`Looks like it. I mean if RMIT kicks them out, there isn't much the
Feds can do without the uni's cooperation. The letter sounded like
they just wanted to get on with securing their systems. Hang on. I've
got it here.'

Mendax pulled up a letter on his computer and scrolled through it.

From aarnet-contacts-request@jatz.aarnet.edu.au Tue May 28 09:32:31

Received: by jatz.aarnet.edu.au id AA07461

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Date: Tue, 28 May 91 09:32:08 +1000

From: rcoay@possum.ecg.rmit.OZ.AU (Alan Young)

Message-Id: <9105272332.29621@possum.ecg.rmit.OZ.AU>

To: aarnet-contacts@aarnet.edu.au

Subject: Re: Hackers

Status: RO

While no one would disagree that `Hacking' is bad and should be
stopped, or at least minimised there are several observations which I
have made over the last six or eight months relating to the persuit of
these people:

1. The cost involved was significant, we had a CSO working in
conjunction with the Commonwealth Police for almost three months full

2. While not a criticism of our staff, people lost sight of the ball,
the chase became the most important aspect of the whole exercise.

3. Catching Hackers (and charging them) is almost impossible, you have
to virtually break into their premises and catch them logged on to an
unauthorised machine.

4. If you do happen to catch and charge them, the cost of prosecution
is high, and a successful outcome is by no ways assured. There may be
some deterrent value in at least catching and prosecuting?

5. Continued pursuit of people involved requires doors to be left
open, this unfortunately exposes other sites and has subjected us to
some criticism.

The whole issue is very complex, and in some respects it is a case of
diminishing returns. A fine balance has to be maintained between
freedom, and the prevention of abuse, this appears to be the

Allan Young


`Yeah, I mean, this RMIT guy is basically saying they are not going to
catch us anyway, so why are they wasting all this time and money?'

`Yep. The Feds were in there for at least three months,' Prime Suspect
said. `Sounded more like nine months though.'

`Hmm. Yeah, nothing we didn't know already though.'

`Pretty obvious, leaving those accounts open all the time like they
did. I reckon that looked pretty suspicious, even if we hadn't gotten
the email.'

`Definitely,' Mendax agreed. `Lots of other hackers in RMIT too. I
wonder if they figured it out.'

`Hmm. They're gonna be screwed if they haven't been careful.'

`I don't think the Feds have gotten anyone though.'

`Yeah?' Prime Suspect asked.

`Well, if they had, why would they leave those accounts open? Why
would RMIT keep a full-time staff person on?'

`Doesn't make sense.'

`No,' Mendax said. `I'd be pretty sure RMIT has kicked them out.'

`Yeah, told them, "You had you're chance, boys. Couldn't catch anyone.
Now pack your bags".'

`Right.' Mendax paused. `Don't know about NorTel though.'

`Mmm, yeah,' Prime Suspect said. Then, as usual, a silence began to
descend on the conversation.

`Running out of things to say ...' Mendax said finally. They were good
enough friends for him to be blunt with Prime Suspect.


More silence.

Mendax thought how strange it was to be such good friends with
someone, to work so closely with him, and yet to always run out of

`OK, well, I better go. Things to do,' Mendax said in a friendly

`Yeah, OK. Bye Mendax,' Prime Suspect said cheerfully.

Mendax hung up.

Prime Suspect hung up.

And the AFP stayed on the line.

In the twelve months following the initial line trace in late 1990,
the AFP continued to monitor the RMIT dial-up lines. The line traces
kept failing again and again. But as new reports of hacker attacks
rolled in, there seemed to be a discernible pattern in many of the
attacks. Detectives began to piece together a picture of their prey.

In 1990 and 1991, RMIT dial-ups and computers were riddled with
hackers, many of whom used the university's systems as a nest--a place
to store files, and launch further attacks. They frolicked in the
system almost openly, often using RMIT as a place to chat on-line with
each other. The institute served as the perfect launchpad. It was only
a local phone call away, it had a live Internet connection, a
reasonably powerful set of computers and very poor security. Hacker

The police knew this, and they asked computer staff to keep the
security holes open so they could monitor hacker activity. With
perhaps a dozen different hackers--maybe more--inside RMIT, the task
of isolating a single cell of two or three organised hackers
responsible for the more serious attacks was not going to be easy.

By the middle of 1991, however, there was a growing reluctance among
some RMIT staff to continue leaving their computers wide open. On 28
August, Allan Young, the head of RMIT's Electronic Communications
Group, told the AFP that the institute wanted to close up the security
holes. The AFP did not like this one bit, but when they complained
Young told them, in essence, go talk to Geoff Huston at AARNET and to
the RMIT director.

The AFP was being squeezed out, largely because they had taken so long
conducting their investigation. RMIT couldn't reveal the AFP
investigation to anyone, so it was being embarrassed in front of
dozens of other research institutions which assumed it had no idea how
to secure its computers. Allan Young couldn't go to a conference with
other AARNET representatives without being hassled about `the hacker
problem' at RMIT. Meanwhile, his computer staff lost time playing
cops-and-robbers--and ignored their real work.

However, as RMIT prepared to phase out the AFP traps, the police had a
lucky break from a different quarter--NorTel. On 16 September, a line
trace from a NorTel dial-up, initiated after a complaint about the
hackers to the police, was successful. A fortnight later, on 1
October, the AFP began tapping Prime Suspect's telephone. The hackers
might be watching the police watch them, but the police were closing
in. The taps led back to Trax, and then to someone new--Mendax.

The AFP considered putting taps on Mendax and Trax's telephones as
well. It was a decision to be weighed up carefully. Telephone taps
were expensive, and often needed to be in place for at least a month.
They did, however, provide a reliable record of exactly what the
hacker was doing on-line.

Before police could move on setting up additional taps in Operation
Weather, the plot took another dramatic turn when one of the IS
hackers did something which took the AFP completely by surprise.

Trax turned himself in to the police.

On 29 October Prime Suspect was celebrating. His mum had cooked him a
nice dinner in honour of finishing his year 12 classes, and then
driven him to Vermont for a swot-vac party. When she arrived back home
she pottered around for an hour and a half, feeding her old dog Lizzy
and tidying up. At 11 p.m. she decided to call it a night.

Not much later, Lizzy barked.

`Are you home so soon?' Prime Suspect's mother called out. `Party not
much fun?'

No-one answered.

She sat up in bed. When there was still no answer, her mind raced to
reports of a spate of burglaries in the neighbourhood. There had even
been a few assaults.

A muffled male voice came from outside the front door. `Ma'am. Open
the door.'

She stood up and walked to the front door.

`Open the door. Police.'

`How do I know you're really the police?'

`If you don't open the door, we'll kick it in!' an exasperated male
voice shouted back at her from her front doorstep.

Prime Suspect's mother saw the outline of something being pressed
against the side window. She didn't have her reading glasses on, but
it looked like a police badge. Nervously, she opened the front door a
little bit and looked out.

There were eight or nine people on her doorstep. Before she could stop
them, they had pushed past her, swarming into her home.

A female officer began waving a piece of paper about. `Look at this!'
She said angrily. `It's a warrant! Can you read it?'

`No, actually I can't. I don't have my glasses on,' Prime Suspect's
mother answered curtly.

She told the police she wanted to make a phone call and tried to ring
her family solicitor, but without luck. He had been to a funeral and
wake and could not be roused. When she reached for the phone a second
time, one of the officers began lecturing her about making more phone

`You be quiet,' she said pointing her finger at the officer. Then she
made another unfruitful call.

Prime Suspect's mother looked at the police officers, sizing them up.
This was her home. She would show the police to her son's room, as
they requested, but she was not going to allow them to take over the
whole house. As she tartly instructed the police where they could and
could not go, she thought, I'm not standing for any nonsense from you

`Where's your son?' one officer asked her.

`At a party.'

`What is the address?'

She eyed him warily. She did not like these officers at all. However,
they would no doubt wait until her son returned anyway, so she handed
over the address.

While the police swarmed though Prime Suspect's room, gathering his
papers, computer, modem and other belongings, his mother waited in his
doorway where she could keep an eye on them.

Someone knocked at the door. An AFP officer and Prime Suspect's mother
both went to answer it.

It was the police--the state police.

The next-door neighbours had heard a commotion. When they looked out
of their window they saw a group of strange men in street clothes
brazenly taking things from the widow's home as if they owned the
place. So the neighbours did what any responsible person would in the
circumstances. They called the police.

The AFP officers sent the Victoria Police on their way. Then some of
them set off in a plain car for the Vermont party. Wanting to save
Prime Suspect some embarrassment in front of his friends, his mother
rang him at the party and suggested he wait outside for the AFP.

As soon as Prime Suspect hung up the phone he tried to shake off the
effect of a vast quantity of alcohol. When the police pulled up
outside, the party was in full swing. Prime Suspect was very drunk,
but he seemed to sober up quite well when the AFP officers introduced
themselves and packed him into the car.

`So,' said one of the officers as they headed toward his home, `what
are you more worried about? What's on your disks or what's in your
desk drawer?'

Prime Suspect thought hard. What was in his desk drawer? Oh shit! The
dope. He didn't smoke much, just occasionally for fun, but he had a
tiny amount of marijuana left over from a party.

He didn't answer. He looked out the window and tried not to look

At his house, the police asked him if he would agree to an interview.

`I don't think so. I'm feeling a little ... under the weather at the
moment,' he said. Doing a police interview would be difficult enough.
Doing it drunk would be just plain dangerous.

After the police carted away the last of his hacking gear, Prime
Suspect signed the official seizure forms and watched them drive off
in to the night.

Returning to his bedroom, he sat down, distracted, and tried to gather
his thoughts. Then he remembered the dope. He opened his desk drawer.
It was still there. Funny people, these feds.

Then again, maybe it made sense. Why would they bother with some tiny
amount of dope that was hardly worth the paperwork? His nervousness
over a couple of joints must have seemed laughable to the feds. They
had just seized enough evidence of hacking to lock him up for years,
depending on the judge, and here he was sweating about a thimbleful of
marijuana which might land him a $100 fine.

As the late spring night began to cool down, Prime Suspect wondered
whether the AFP had raided Mendax and Trax.

At the party, before the police had shown up, he had tried to ring
Mendax. From his mother's description when she called him, it sounded
as if the entire federal police force was in his house at that moment.
Which could mean that only one other IS hacker had gone down at the
same time. Unless he was the last to be raided, Mendax or Trax might
still be unaware of what was happening.

As he waited for the police to pick him up, a very drunk Prime Suspect
tried to ring Mendax again. Busy. He tried again. And again. The
maddening buzz of an engaged signal only made Prime Suspect more

There was no way to get through, no way to warn him.

Prime Suspect wondered whether the police had actually shown up at
Mendax's and whether, if he had been able to get through, his phone
call would have made any difference at all.

The house looked like it had been ransacked. It had been ransacked, by
Mendax's wife, on her way out. Half the furniture was missing, and the
other half was in disarray. Dresser drawers hung open with their
contents removed, and clothing lay scattered around the room.

When his wife left him, she didn't just take their toddler child. She
took a number of things which had sentimental value to Mendax. When
she insisted on taking the CD player she had given him for his
twentieth birthday just a few months before, he asked her to leave a
lock of her hair behind for him in its place. He still couldn't
believe his wife of three years had packed up and left him.

The last week of October had been a bad one for Mendax. Heartbroken,
he had sunk into a deep depression. He hadn't eaten properly for days,
he drifted in and out of a tortured sleep, and he had even lost the
desire to use his computer. His prized hacking disks, filled with
highly incriminating stolen computer access codes, were normally
stored in a secure hiding place. But on the evening of 29 October
1991, thirteen disks were strewn around his $700 Amiga 500. A
fourteenth disk was in the computer's disk drive.

Mendax sat on a couch reading Soledad Brother, the prison
letters from George Jackson's nine-year stint in one of the toughest
prisons in the US. Convicted for a petty crime, Jackson was supposed
to be released after a short sentence but was kept in the prison at
the governor's pleasure. The criminal justice system kept him on a
merry-go-round of hope and despair as the authorities dragged their
feet. Later, prison guards shot and killed Jackson. The book was one
of Mendax's favourites, but it offered little distraction from his

The droning sound of a telephone fault signal--like a busy
signal--filled the house. Mendax had hooked up his stereo speakers to
his modem and computer, effectively creating a speaker phone so he
could listen to tones he piped from his computer into the telephone
line and the ones which came back from the exchange in reply. It was
perfect for using Trax's MFC phreaking methods.

Mendax also used the system for scanning. Most of the time, he picked
telephone prefixes in the Melbourne CBD. When his modem hit another,
Mendax would rush to his computer and note the telephone number for
future hacking exploration.

By adjusting the device, he could also make it simulate a phreaker's
black box. The box would confuse the telephone exchange into thinking
he had not answered his phone, thus allowing Mendax's friends to call
him for free for 90 seconds.

On this night, however, the only signal Mendax was sending out was
that he wanted to be left alone. He hadn't been calling any computer
systems. The abandoned phone, with no connection to a remote modem,
had timed out and was beeping off the hook.

It was strange behaviour for someone who had spent most of his teenage
years trying to connect to the outside world through telephone lines
and computers, but Mendax had listened all day to the hypnotic sound
of a phone off the hook resonating through each room. BEEEP. Pause.
BEEEP. Pause. Endlessly.

A loud knock at the door punctured the stereo thrum of the phone.

Mendax looked up from his book to see a shadowy figure through the
frosted glass panes of the front door. The figure was quite short. It
looked remarkably like Ratface, an old school friend of Mendax's wife
and a character known for his practical jokes.

Mendax called out, `Who is it?' without moving from the sofa.

`Police. Open up.'

Yeah, sure. At 11.30 p.m.? Mendax rolled his eyes toward the door.
Everyone knew that the police only raid your house in the early
morning, when they know you are asleep and vulnerable.

Mendax dreamed of police raids all the time. He dreamed of footsteps
crunching on the driveway gravel, of shadows in the pre-dawn darkness,
of a gun-toting police squad bursting through his backdoor at 5 a.m.
He dreamed of waking from a deep sleep to find several police officers
standing over his bed. The dreams were very disturbing. They
accentuated his growing paranoia that the police were watching him,
following him.

The dreams had become so real that Mendax often became agitated in the
dead hour before dawn. At the close of an all-night hacking session,
he would begin to feel very tense, very strung out. It was not until
the computer disks, filled with stolen computer files from his hacking
adventures, were stored safely in their hiding place that he would
begin to calm down.

`Go away, Ratface, I'm not in the mood,' Mendax said, returning to his

The voice became louder, more insistent, `Police. Open the door. NOW'.
Other figures were moving around behind the glass, shoving police
badges and guns against the window pane. Hell. It really was the

Mendax's heart started racing. He asked the police to show him their
search warrant. They obliged immediately, pressing it against the
glass as well. Mendax opened the door to find nearly a dozen
plain-clothes police waiting for him.

`I don't believe this,' he said in a bewildered voice `My wife just
left me. Can't you come back later?'

At the front of the police entourage was Detective Sergeant Ken Day,
head of the AFP's Computer Crimes Unit in the southern region. The two
knew all about each other, but had never met in person. Day spoke

`I'm Ken Day. I believe you've been expecting me.'

Mendax and his fellow IS hackers had been expecting the AFP. For weeks
they had been intercepting electronic mail suggesting that the police
were closing the net. So when Day turned up saying, `I believe you've
been expecting me,' he was completing the information circle. The
circle of the police watching the hackers watching the police watch

It's just that Mendax didn't expect the police at that particular
moment. His mind was a tangle and he looked in disbelief at the band
of officers on his front step. Dazed, he looked at Day and then spoke
out loud, as if talking to himself, `But you're too short to be a

Day looked surprised. `Is that meant to be an insult?' he said.

It wasn't. Mendax was in denial and it wasn't until the police had
slipped past him into the house that the reality of the situation
slowly began to sink in. Mendax's mind started to work again.

The disks. The damn disks. The beehive.

An avid apiarist, Mendax kept his own hive. Bees fascinated him. He
liked to watch them interact, to see their sophisticated social
structure. So it was with particular pleasure that he enlisted their
help in hiding his hacking activities. For months he had meticulously
secreted the disks in the hive. It was the ideal location--unlikely,
and well guarded by 60000 flying things with stings. Though he hadn't
bought the hive specifically for hiding stolen computer account
passwords for the likes of the US Air Force 7th Command Group in the
Pentagon, it appeared to be a secure hiding place.

He had replaced the cover of the super box, which housed the
honeycomb, with a sheet of coloured glass so he could watch the bees
at work. In summer, he put a weather protector over the glass. The
white plastic cover had raised edges and could be fastened securely to
the glass sheet with metal clasps. As Mendax considered his
improvements to the bee box, he realised that this hive could provide
more than honey. He carefully laid out the disks between the glass and
the weather protector. They fitted perfectly in the small gap.

Mendax had even trained the bees not to attack him as he removed and
replaced the disks every day. He collected sweat from his armpits on
tissues and then soaked the tissues in a sugar water solution. He fed
this sweaty nectar to the bees. Mendax wanted the bees to associate
him with flowers instead of a bear, the bees' natural enemy.

But on the evening of the AFP raid Mendax's incriminating disks were
in full view on the computer table and the officers headed straight
for them. Ken Day couldn't have hoped for better evidence. The disks
were full of stolen userlists, encrypted passwords, cracked passwords,
modem telephone numbers, documents revealing security flaws in various
computer systems, and details of the AFP's own investigation--all from
computer systems Mendax had penetrated illegally.

Mendax's problems weren't confined to the beehive disks. The last
thing he had done on the computer the day before was still on screen.
It was a list of some 1500 accounts, their passwords, the dates that
Mendax had obtained them and a few small notes beside each one.

The hacker stood to the side as the police and two Telecom Protective
Services officers swarmed through the house. They photographed his
computer equipment and gathered up disks, then ripped up the carpet so
they could videotape the telephone cord running to his modem. They
scooped up every book, no small task since Mendax was an avid reader,
and held each one upside down looking for hidden computer passwords on
loose pieces of paper. They grabbed every bit of paper with
handwriting on it and poured through his love letters, notebooks and
private diaries. `We don't care how long it takes to do this job,' one
cop quipped. `We're getting paid overtime. And danger money.'

The feds even riffled through Mendax's collection of old Scientific
American and New Scientist magazines. Maybe they thought he had
underlined a word somewhere and turned it into a passphrase for an
encryption program.

Of course, there was only one magazine the feds really wanted:
International Subversive. They scooped up every print-out of the
electronic journal they could find.

As Mendax watched the federal police sift through his possessions and
disassemble his computer room, an officer who had some expertise with
Amigas arrived. He told Mendax to get the hell out of the computer

Mendax didn't want to leave the room. He wasn't under arrest and
wanted to make sure the police didn't plant anything. So he looked at
the cop and said, `This is my house and I want to stay in this room.
Am I under arrest or not?'

The cop snarled back at him, `Do you want to be under arrest?'

Mendax acquiesced and Day, who was far more subtle in his approach,
walked the hacker into another room for questioning. He turned to
Mendax and asked, with a slight grin, `So, what's it like being
busted? Is it like Nom told you?'

Mendax froze.

There were only two ways that Day could have known Nom had told Mendax
about his bust. Nom might have told him, but this was highly unlikely.
Nom's hacking case had not yet gone to court and Nom wasn't exactly on
chummy terms with the police. The other alternative was that the AFP
had been tapping telephones in Mendax's circle of hackers, which the
IS trio had strongly suspected. Talking in a three-way phone
conversation with Mendax and Trax, Nom had relayed the story of his
bust. Mendax later relayed Nom's story to Prime Suspect--also on the
phone. Harbouring suspicions is one thing. Having them confirmed by a
senior AFP officer is quite another.

Day pulled out a tape recorder, put it on the table, turned it on and
began asking questions. When Mendax told Day he wouldn't answer him,
Day turned the recorder off. `We can talk off the record if you want,'
he told the hacker.

Mendax nearly laughed out loud. Police were not journalists. There was
no such thing as an off-the-record conversation between a suspect and
a police officer.

Mendax asked to speak to a lawyer. He said he wanted to call
Alphaline, a free after-hours legal advice telephone service. Day
agreed, but when he picked up the telephone to inspect it before
handing it over to Mendax, something seemed amiss. The phone had an
unusual, middle-pitched tone which Day didn't seem to recognise.
Despite there being two Telecom employees and numerous police
specialists in the house, Day appeared unable to determine the cause
of the funny tone. He looked Mendax dead in the eye and said, `Is this
a hijacked telephone line?'

Hijacked? Day's comment took Mendax by surprise. What surprised him
was not that Day suspected him of hijacking the line, but rather that
he didn't know whether the line had been manipulated.

`Well, don't you know?' he taunted Day.

For the next half hour, Day and the other officers picked apart
Mendax's telephone, trying to work out what sort of shenanigans the
hacker had been up to. They made a series of calls to see if the
long-haired youth had somehow rewired his telephone line, perhaps to
make his calls untraceable.

In fact, the dial tone on Mendax's telephone was the very normal sound
of a tone-dial telephone on an ARE-11 telephone exchange. The tone was
simply different from the ones generated by other exchange types, such
as AXE and step-by-step exchanges.

Finally Mendax was allowed to call a lawyer at Alphaline. The lawyer
warned the hacker not to say anything. He said the police could offer
a sworn statement to the court about anything the hacker said, and
then added that the police might even be wired.

Next, Day tried the chummy approach at getting information from the
hacker. `Just between you and me, are you Mendax?' he asked.


Day tried another tactic. Hackers have a well-developed sense of
ego--a flaw Day no doubt believed he could tap into.

`There have been a lot of people over the years running around
impersonating you--using your handle,' he said.

Mendax could see Day was trying to manipulate him but by this stage he
didn't care. He figured that the police already had plenty of evidence
that linked him to his handle, so he admitted to it.

Day had some other surprising questions up his sleeve.

`So, Mendax, what do you know about that white powder in the bedroom?'

Mendax couldn't recall any white powder in the bedroom. He didn't do
drugs, so why would there be any white powder anywhere? He watched two
police officers bringing two large red toolboxes in the house--they
looked like drug testing kits. Jesus, Mendax thought. I'm being set

The cops led the hacker into the bedroom and pointed to two neat lines
of white powder laid out on a bench.

Mendax smiled, relieved. `It's not what you think,' he said. The white
powder was glow-in-the-dark glue he had used to paint stars on the
ceiling of his child's bedroom.

Two of the cops started smiling at each other. Mendax could see
exactly what was going through their minds: It's not every cocaine or
speed user that can come up with a story like that.

One grinned at the other and exclaimed gleefully, `TASTE TEST!'

`That's not a good idea,' Mendax said, but his protests only made
things worse. The cops shooed him into another room and returned to
inspect the powder by themselves.

What Mendax really wanted was to get word through to Prime Suspect.
The cops had probably busted all three IS hackers at the same time,
but maybe not. While the police investigated the glue on their own,
Mendax managed to sneak a telephone call to his estranged wife and
asked her to call Prime Suspect and warn him. He and his wife might
have had their differences, but he figured she would make the call

When Mendax's wife reached Prime Suspect later that night, he replied,
`Yeah, there's a party going on over here too.'

Mendax went back in to the kitchen where an officer was tagging the
growing number of possessions seized by the police. One of the female
officers was struggling to move his printer to the pile. She smiled
sweetly at Mendax and asked if he would move it for her. He obliged.

The police finally left Mendax's house at about 3 a.m. They had spent
three and half hours and seized 63 bundles of his personal belongings,
but they had not charged him with a single crime.

When the last of the unmarked police cars had driven away, Mendax
stepped out into the silent suburban street. He looked around. After
making sure that no-one was watching him, he walked to a nearby phone
booth and rang Trax.

`The AFP raided my house tonight.' he warned his friend. `They just

Trax sounded odd, awkward. `Oh. Ah. I see.'

`Is there something wrong? You sound strange,' Mendax said.

`Ah. No ... no, nothing's wrong. Just um ... tired. So, um ... so the
feds could ... ah, be here any minute ...' Trax's voice trailed off.

But something was very wrong. The AFP were already at Trax's house,
and they had been there for 10 hours.

The IS hackers waited almost three years to be charged. The threat of
criminal charges hung over their heads like personalised Swords of
Damocles. They couldn't apply for a job, make a friend at TAFE or plan
for the future without worrying about what would happen as a result of
the AFP raids of 29 October 1991.

Finally, in July 1994, each hacker received formal charges--in the
mail. During the intervening years, all three hackers went through
monumental changes in their lives.

Devastated by the break-down of his marriage and unhinged by the AFP
raid, Mendax sank into a deep depression and consuming anger. By the
middle of November 1991, he was admitted to hospital.

He hated hospital, its institutional regimens and game-playing
shrinks. Eventually, he told the doctors he wanted out. He might be
crazy, but hospital was definitely making him crazier. He left there
and stayed at his mother's house. The next year was the worst of his

Once a young person leaves home--particularly the home of a
strong-willed parent--it becomes very difficult for him or her to
return. Short visits might work, but permanent residency often fails.
Mendax lived for a few days at home, then went walkabout. He slept in
the open air, on the banks of rivers and creeks, in grassy
meadows--all on the country fringes of Melbourne's furthest suburbs.
Sometimes he travelled closer to the city, overnighting in places like
the Merri Creek reserve.

Mostly, he haunted Sherbrooke Forest in the Dandenong Ranges National
Park. Because of the park's higher elevation, the temperature dropped
well below the rest of Melbourne in winter. In summer, the mosquitoes
were unbearable and Mendax sometimes woke to find his face swollen and
bloated from their bites.

For six months after the AFP raid, Mendax didn't touch a computer.
Slowly, he started rebuilding his life from the ground up. By the time
the AFP's blue slips--carrying 29 charges--arrived in July 1994, he
was settled in a new house with his child. Throughout his period of
transition, he talked to Prime Suspect and Trax on the phone
regularly--as friends and fellow rebels, not fellow hackers. Prime
Suspect had been going through his own set of problems.

While he hacked, Prime Suspect didn't do many drugs. A little weed,
not much else. There was no time for drugs, girls, sports or anything
else. After the raid, he gave up hacking and began smoking more dope.
In April 1992, he tried ecstasy for the first time--and spent the next
nine months trying to find the same high. He didn't consider himself
addicted to drugs, but the drugs had certainly replaced his addiction
to hacking and his life fell into a rhythm.

Snort some speed or pop an ecstasy tablet on Saturday night. Go to a
rave. Dance all night, sometimes for six hours straight. Get home
mid-morning and spend Sunday coming down from the drugs. Get high on
dope a few times during the week, to dull the edges of desire for the
more expensive drugs. When Saturday rolled around, do it all over
again. Week in, week out. Month after month.

Dancing to techno-music released him. Dancing to it on drugs cleared
his mind completely, made him feel possessed by the music. Techno was
musical nihilism; no message, and not much medium either. Fast,
repetitive, computer-synthesised beats, completely stripped of vocals
or any other evidence of humanity. He liked to go to techno-night at
The Lounge, a city club, where people danced by themselves, or in
small, loose groups of four or five. Everyone watched the video screen
which provided an endless stream of ever-changing, colourful
computer-generated geometric shapes pulsing to the beat.

Prime Suspect never told his mother he was going to a rave. He just
said he was going to a friend's for the night. In between the drugs,
he attended his computer science courses at TAFE and worked at the
local supermarket so he could afford his weekly $60 ecstasy tablet,
$20 rave entry fee and regular baggy of marijuana.

Over time, the drugs became less and less fun. Then, one Sunday, he
came down off some speed hard. A big crash. The worst he had ever
experienced. Depression set in, and then paranoia. He knew the police
were still watching him. They had followed him before.

At his police interviews, he learned that an AFP officer had followed
him to an AC/DC concert less than two weeks before he had been busted.
The officer told him the AFP wanted to know what sort of friends Prime
Suspect associated with--and the officer had been treated to the spectre
of seven other arm-waving, head-thumping, screaming teenagers just like
Prime Suspect himself.

Now Prime Suspect believed that the AFP had started following him
again. They were going to raid him again, even though he had given up
hacking completely. It didn't make sense. He knew the premonition was
illogical, but he couldn't shake it.

Something bad--very, very bad--was going to happen any day. Overcome
with a great sense of impending doom, he lapsed into a sort of
hysterical depression. Feeling unable to prevent the advent of the
dark, terrible event which would tear apart his life yet again, he
reached out to a friend who had experienced his own personal problems.
The friend guided him to a psychologist at the Austin Hospital. Prime
Suspect decided that there had to be a better way to deal with his
problems than wasting himself every weekend. He began counselling.

The counselling made him deal with all sorts of unresolved business.
His father's death. His relationship with his mother. How he had
evolved into an introvert, and why he was never comfortable talking to
people. Why he hacked. How he became addicted to hacking. Why he took
up drugs.

At the end, the 21-year-old Prime Suspect emerged drug-free and,
though still shaky, on the road to recovery. The worst he had to wait
for were the charges from the AFP.

Trax's recovery from his psychological instabilities wasn't as
definitive. From 1985, Trax had suffered from panic attacks, but he
didn't want to seek professional help--he just ran away from the
problem. The situation only became worse after he was involved in a
serious car accident. He became afraid to leave the house at night. He
couldn't drive. Whenever he was in a car, he had to fight an
overwhelming desire to fling the door open and throw himself out on to
the road. In 1989, his local GP referred Trax to a psychiatrist, who
tried to treat the phreaker's growing anxiety attacks with hypnosis
and relaxation techniques.

Trax's illness degenerated into full-fledged agoraphobia, a fear of
open spaces. When he rang the police in late October 1991--just days
before the AFP raid--his condition had deteriorated to the point where
he could not comfortably leave his own house.

Initially he rang the state police to report a death threat made
against him by another phreaker. Somewhere in the conversation, he
began to talk about his own phreaking and hacking. He hadn't intended
to turn himself in but, well, the more he talked, the more he had to
say. So many things had been weighing on his mind. He knew that Prime
Suspect had probably been traced from NorTel as a result of Mendax's
own near miss in that system. And Prime Suspect and Mendax had been so
active, breaking into so many systems, it was almost as if they wanted
to be caught.

Then there was Prime Suspect's plan to write a destructive worm, which
would wipe systems en route. It wasn't really a plan per se, more just
an idea he had toyed with on the phone. Nonetheless, it had scared
Trax. He began to think all three IS hackers were getting in too deep
and he wanted out.

He tried to stop phreaking, even going so far as to ask Telecom to
change his telephone number to a new exchange which he knew would not
allow him to make untraceable calls. Trax reasoned that if he knew he
could be traced, he would stop phreaking and hacking.

For a period, he did stop. But the addiction was too strong, and
before long he was back at it again, regardless of the risk. He ran a
hidden cable from his sister's telephone line, which was on the old
exchange. His inability to stop made him feel weak and guilty, and
even more anxious about the risks. Perhaps the death threat threw him
over the edge. He couldn't really understand why he had turned himself
in to the police. It had just sort of happened.

The Victoria Police notified the AFP. The AFP detectives must have
been slapping their heads in frustration. Here was Australia's next
big hacker case after The Realm, and they had expected to make a clean
bust. They had names, addresses, phone numbers. They had jumped
through legal hoops to get a telephone tap. The tap was up and
running, catching every target computer, every plot, every word the
hackers said to each other. Then one of their targets goes and turns
himself in to the police. And not even to the right police--he goes to
the Victoria Police. In one fell swoop, the hacker was going to take
down the entire twelve-month Operation Weather investigation.

The AFP had to move quickly. If Trax tipped off the other two IS
hackers that he had called the police, they might destroy their notes,
computer files--all the evidence the AFP had hoped to seize in raids.

When the AFP swooped in on the three hackers, Mendax and Prime Suspect
had refused to be interviewed on the night. Trax, however, had spent
several hours talking to the police at his house.

He told the other IS hackers that the police had threatened to take
him down to AFP headquarters--despite the fact that they knew leaving
his house caused him anxiety. Faced with that prospect, made so
terrifying by his psychiatric illness, he had talked.

Prime Suspect and Mendax didn't know how much Trax had told the
police, but they didn't believe he would dob them in completely. Apart
from anything else, he hadn't been privy to much of his colleagues'
hacking. They hadn't tried to exclude Trax, but he was not as
sophisticated a hacker and therefore didn't share in many of their

In fact, one thing Trax did tell the police was just how sophisticated
the other two IS hackers had become just prior to the bust. Prime
Suspect and Mendax were, he said, `hackers on a major scale, on a huge
scale--something never achieved before', and the AFP had sat up and
taken notice.

After the raids, Trax told Mendax that the AFP had tried to recruit
him as an informant. Trax said that they had even offered him a new
computer system, but he had been non-committal. And it seemed the AFP
was still keeping tabs on the IS hackers, Trax also told Mendax. The
AFP officers had heard Mendax had gone into hospital and they were
worried. There seemed to be a disturbing pattern evolving.

On the subject of the IS raids, Trax told Mendax that the AFP felt it
didn't have any choice. Their attitude was: you were doing so much, we
had to bust you. You were inside so many systems, it was getting out
of control.

In any case, by December 1991 Mendax had agreed to a police interview,
based on legal advice. Ken Day interviewed Mendax, and the hacker was
open with Day about what he had done. He refused, however, to
implicate either Trax or Prime Suspect. In February 1992, Prime
Suspect followed suit, with two interviews. He was also careful about
what he said regarding his fellow hackers. Mendax was interviewed a
second time, in February 1992, as was Trax in August.

After the raid, Trax's psychiatric condition remained unstable. He
changed doctors and began receiving home visits from a hospital
psychiatric service. Eventually, a doctor prescribed medication.

The three hackers continued to talk on the phone, and see each other
occasionally. One or the other might drop out of communication for a
period, but would soon return to the fold. They helped each other and
they maintained their deep anti-establishment sentiments.

After the charges arrived in the mail, they called each other to
compare notes. Mendax thought out loud on the phone to Prime Suspect,
`I guess I should get a lawyer'.

`Yeah. I got one. He's lining up a barrister too.'

`They any good?' Mendax asked.

`Dunno. I guess so. The solicitor works at Legal Aid, an in-house guy.
I've only met them a few times.'

`Oh,' Mendax paused. `What are their names?'

`John McLoughlin and Boris Kayser. They did Electron's case.'

Trax and Prime Suspect decided to plead guilty. Once they saw the
overwhelming evidence--data taps, telephone voice taps, data seized
during the raids, nearly a dozen statements by witnesses from the
organisations they had hacked, the 300-page Telecom report--they
figured they would be better off pleading. The legal brief ran to more
than 7000 pages. At least they would get some kudos with the judge for
cooperating in the police interviews and pleading early in the
process, thus saving the court time and money.

Mendax, however, wanted to fight the charges. He knew about Pad and
Gandalf's case and the message from that seemed to be pretty clear:
Plead and you go to prison, fight and you might get off free.

The DPP shuffled the charges around so much between mid-1994 and 1995
that all the original charges against Trax, issued on 20 July 1994,
were dropped in favour of six new charges filed on Valentines Day,
1995. At that time, new charges--largely for hacking a Telecom
computer--were also laid against Mendax and Prime Suspect.

By May 1995, the three hackers faced 63 charges in all: 31 for Mendax,
26 for Prime Suspect and six for Trax. In addition, NorTel claimed the
damages attributed to the hacker incident totalled about $160000--and
the company was seeking compensation from the responsible parties. The
Australian National University claimed another $4200 in damages.

Most of the charges related to obtaining illegal access to commercial
or other information, and inserting and deleting data in numerous
computers. The deleting of data was not malicious--it generally
related to cleaning up evidence of the hackers' activities. However,
all three hackers were also charged with some form of `incitement'. By
writing articles for the IS magazine, the prosecution claimed the
hackers had been involved in disseminating information which would
encourage others to hack and phreak.

On 4 May 1995 Mendax sat in the office of his solicitor, Paul
Galbally, discussing the committal hearing scheduled for the next day.

Galbally was a young, well-respected member of Melbourne's most
prestigious law family. His family tree read like a Who's Who of the
law. Frank Galbally, his father, was one of Australia's most famous
criminal barristers. His uncle, Jack Galbally, was a well-known
lawyer, a minister in the State Labor government of John Cain Sr and,
later, the Leader of the Opposition in the Victorian parliament. His
maternal grandfather, Sir Norman O'Bryan, was a Supreme Court judge,
as was his maternal uncle of the same name. The Galballys weren't so
much a family of lawyers as a legal dynasty.

Rather than rest on his family's laurels, Paul Galbally worked out of
a cramped, 1970s time-warped, windowless office in a William Street
basement, where he was surrounded by defence briefs--the only briefs
he accepted. He liked the idea of keeping people out of prison better
than the idea of putting them in it. Working closely with a defendant,
he inevitably found redeeming qualities which the prosecution would
never see. Traces of humanity, no matter how small, made his choice
seem worthwhile.

His choices in life reflected the Galbally image as champions of the
underdog, and the family shared a background with the working class.
Catholic. Irish. Collingwood football enthusiasts. And, of course, a
very large family. Paul was one of eight children, and his father had
also come from a large family.

The 34-year-old criminal law specialist didn't know anything about
computer crime when Mendax first appeared in his office, but the
hacker's case seemed both interesting and worthy. The unemployed,
long-haired youth had explained he could only offer whatever fees the
Victorian Legal Aid Commission was willing to pay--a sentence Galbally
heard often in his practice. He agreed.

Galbally & O'Bryan had a very good reputation as a criminal law firm.
Criminals, however, tended not to have a great deal of money. The
large commercial firms might dabble in some criminal work, but they
cushioned any resulting financial inconvenience with other, more
profitable legal work. Pushing paper for Western Mining Corporation
paid for glass-enclosed corner offices on the fiftieth floor.
Defending armed robbers and drug addicts didn't.

The 4 May meeting between Galbally and Mendax was only scheduled to
take an hour or so. Although Mendax was contesting the committal
hearing along with Prime Suspect on the following day, it was Prime
Suspect's barrister, Boris Kayser, who was going to be running the
show. Prime Suspect told Mendax he had managed to get full Legal Aid
for the committal, something Galbally and Mendax had not been able to
procure. Thus Mendax would not have his own barrister at the

Mendax didn't mind. Both hackers knew they would be committed to
trial. Their immediate objective was to discredit the prosecution's
damage claims--particularly NorTel's.

As Mendax and Galbally talked, the mood in the office was upbeat.
Mendax was feeling optimistic. Then the phone rang. It was Geoff
Chettle, the barrister representing the DPP. While Chettle talked,
Mendax watched a dark cloud pass across his solicitor's face. When he
finally put the phone down, Galbally looked at Mendax with his serious,
crisis management expression.

`What's wrong? What's the matter?' Mendax asked.

Galbally sighed before he spoke.

`Prime Suspect has turned Crown witness against you.'

There was a mistake. Mendax was sure of it. The whole thing was just
one big mistake. Maybe Chettle and the DPP had misunderstood something
Prime Suspect had said to them. Maybe Prime Suspect's lawyers had
messed up. Whatever. There was definitely a mistake.

At Galbally's office, Mendax had refused to believe Prime Suspect had
really turned. Not until he saw a signed statement. That night he told
a friend, `Well, we'll see. Maybe Chettle is just playing it up.'

Chettle, however, was not just playing it up.

There it was--a witness statement--in front of him. Signed by Prime

Mendax stood outside the courtroom at Melbourne Magistrates Court trying
to reconcile two realities. In the first, there was one of Mendax's four
or five closest friends. A friend with whom he had shared his deepest
hacking secrets.  A friend he had been hanging out with only last week.

In the other reality, a six-page statement signed by Prime Suspect and
Ken Day at AFP Headquarters at 1.20 p.m. the day before. To compound
matters, Mendax began wondering if Prime Suspect may have been
speaking to the AFP for as long as six months.

The two realities were spinning through his head, dancing around each

When Galbally arrived at the court, Mendax took him to one side to go
over the statement. From a damage-control perspective, it wasn't a
complete disaster. Prime Suspect certainly hadn't gone in hard. He
could have raised a number of matters, but didn't. Mendax had already
admitted to most of the acts which formed the basis of his 31 charges
in his police interview. And he had already told the police a good
deal about his adventures in Telecom's telephone exchanges.

However, Prime Suspect had elaborated on the Telecom break-ins in his
statement. Telecom was owned by the government, meaning the court
would view phreaking from their exchanges not as defrauding a company
but as defrauding the Commonwealth. Had the DPP decided to lay those
new charges--the Telecom charges--in February 1995 because Prime
Suspect had given the AFP a draft Crown witness statement back then?
Mendax began to suspect so. Nothing seemed beyond doubt any more.

The immediate crisis was the committal hearing in the Melbourne
Magistrates Court. There was no way Boris Kayser was now going to
decimate their star witness, a NorTel information systems
manager. Galbally would have to run a cross-examination himself--no easy
task at short notice, given the highly complex technical aspects of the

Inside the courtroom, as Mendax got settled, he saw Prime Suspect. He
gave his former friend a hard, unblinking, intense stare. Prime
Suspect responded with a blank wall, then he looked away. In fact,
even if Mendax had wanted to say something, he couldn't. As a Crown
witness, Prime Suspect was off-limits until the case was over.

The lawyers began to file into the courtroom. The DPP representative,
Andrea Pavleka, breezed in, momentarily lifting the tension in the
windowless courtroom.

She had that effect on people. Tall, slender and long-legged, with a
bob of sandy blonde curls, booky spectacles resting on a cute button
nose and an infectious laugh, Pavleka didn't so much walk into a
courtroom as waft into it. She radiated happiness from her sunny face.
It's a great shame, Mendax thought, that she is on the other side.

The court was called into session. Prime Suspect stood in the dock and
pleaded guilty to 26 counts of computer crimes.

In the course of the proceedings his barrister, Boris Kayser, told the
court that his client had cooperated with the police, including
telling the AFP that the hackers had penetrated Telecom's exchanges.
He also said that Telecom didn't believe--or didn't want to
believe--that their exchanges had been compromised. When Kayser
professed loudly what a model citizen his client had been, Ken Day,
sitting in the public benches, quietly rolled his eyes.

The magistrate, John Tobin, extended Prime Suspect's bail. The hacker
would be sentenced at a later date.

That matter dealt with, the focus of the courtroom shifted to Mendax's
case. Geoff Chettle, for the prosecution, stood up, put the NorTel
manager, who had flown in from Sydney, on the stand and asked him some
warm-up questions.

Chettle could put people at ease--or rattle them--at will. Topped by a
minute stubble of hair, his weathered 40-something face provided a
good match to his deep, gravelly voice. With quick eyes and a hard,
no-nonsense manner, he lacked the pretentiousness of many barristers.
Perhaps because he didn't seem to give a fig about nineteenth century
protocols, he always managed to looked out of place in a barrister's
wig and robe. Every time he stood up, the black cape slid off his lean
shoulders. The barrister's wig went crooked. He continually adjusted
it--tugging the wig back into the correct spot like some wayward
child. In court, Chettle looked as if he wanted to tear off the crusty
trappings of his profession and roll up his sleeves before sinking
into a hearty debate. And he looked as if he would rather do it at a
pub or the footy.

The NorTel manager took the stand. Chettle asked him some questions
designed to show the court the witness was credible, in support of the
company's $160000 hacker-clean-up claim. His task accomplished,
Chettle sat down.

A little nervous, Paul Galbally stood up to his full height--more than
six feet--and straightened his jacket. Dressed in a moss green suit so
dark it was almost black, with thin lapels and a thin, 1960s style
tie, he looked about as understated hip as a lawyer could--and still
show his face in court.

Halting at first, Galbally appeared unsure of himself. Perhaps he had
lost his nerve because of the technical issues. WMTP files. UTMP
files. PACCT audits. Network architecture. IP addresses. He had been
expected to become an expert in the basics literally overnight. A
worried Mendax began passing him notes--questions to ask,
explanations, definitions. Slowly, Galbally started working up a
rhythm to the cross-examination.

During the questioning someone from the back of the court sidled up to
Mendax, in the front row of seats, and handed a note over his
shoulder. Mendax unfolded the note, read it and then turned around to
smile at the messenger. It was Electron.

By the time Galbally had finished, he had pulled apart much of the
NorTel manager's evidence. As he built up a head of steam quizzing the
witness, he forced the NorTel manager to admit he didn't know all that
much about the alleged hacking incidents. In fact, he wasn't even
employed by the company when they occurred. He had largely thrown
together an affidavit based on second-hand information--and it was
this affidavit which supposedly proved the hackers had cost the
company $160000. Worse, it seemed to an observer at court that the
NorTel manager had little Unix security technical expertise and
probably would not have been able to conduct a detailed technical
analysis of the incident even if he had been with the company in 1991.
By the end of the defence's cross-examination, it appeared that
Galbally knew more about Unix than the NorTel manager.

When Geoff Chettle stood up to re-examine the witness, the situation
was hopeless. The manager soon stood down. In Mendax's view, the
credibility of the NorTel Manager's statement was shot.

The court was then adjourned until 12 May.

After court, Mendax heard Geoff Chettle talking about the NorTel
witness. `That guy is OFF the team,' he said emphatically.

It was a mixed victory for Mendax. His solicitor had knocked off one
NorTel witness, but there were more where he came from. At a full
trial, the prosecution would likely fly in some real NorTel
fire-power, from Canada, where the 676-page security incident report
had been prepared by Clark Ferguson and other members of the NorTel
security team. Those witnesses would understand how a Unix system
operated, and would have first-hand knowledge of the hackers'
intrusions. It could make things much more difficult.

When Mendax returned to court a week later, he was committed to stand
trial in the County Court of Victoria, as expected.

Later, Mendax asked Galbally about his options. Take the case to full
trial, or plead guilty like the other two IS hackers. He wanted to
know where the DPP stood on his case. Would they go in hard if he
pleaded guilty? Had the NorTel manager disaster at the committal
hearing forced them to back down a little?

Paul sighed and shook his head. The DPP were standing firm. They
wanted to see Mendax go to prison.

Andrea Pavleka, the DPP's sunny-faced girl who radiated happiness, was
baying for blood.

One month later, on 21 July 1995, Prime Suspect arrived at the County
Court for sentencing.

Rising early that morning to make sure his court suit was in order,
Prime Suspect had been tense. His mother cooked him a big breakfast.
Toast, bacon and eggs the way he liked it. In fact, his favourite
breakfast was an Egg McMuffin from McDonald's, but he never told his
mother that.

The courtroom was already crowded. Reporters from newspapers, the wire
services, a few TV channels. There were also other people, perhaps
waiting for another case.

Dressed in a dark pin-stripe suit, Ken Day stood tapping on a laptop
on the prosecution's side of the courtroom. Geoff Chettle sat near
him. Prime Suspect's barrister, Boris Kayser, sifted through some
papers on the other side.

Mendax lingered at the back of the room, watching his former friend.
He wanted to hear Prime Suspect's sentence because, under the rules of
parity sentencing, Mendax's own sentence would have to be similar to
that of his fellow hackers. However, Prime Suspect might get some
dispensation for having helped the prosecution.

A handful of Prime Suspect's friends--none of them from the computer
underground--trickled in. The hacker's mother chatted nervously with

Court was called into session and everyone settled into their seats.
The first case, it turned out, was not Prime Suspect's. A tall,
silver-haired man in his mid-fifties, with eyes so blue they were
almost demonic, stepped into the dock. As the reporters began taking
notes, Prime Suspect tried to imagine what crime the polished,
well-dressed man had committed.

Child molesting.

The man had not just molested children, he had molested
his own son. In the parents' bedroom. Repeatedly. On Easter Sunday.
His son was less than ten years old at the time. The whole family had
collapsed. Psychologically scarred, his son had been too traumatised
even to give a victim impact statement.

For all of this, Judge Russell Lewis told the court, the man had shown
no remorse. Grave-faced, the judge sentenced him to a minimum prison
term of five years and nine months.

The court clerk then called Prime Suspect's case.

At the back of the courtroom, Mendax wondered at the strange
situation. How could the criminal justice system put a child molester
in the same category as a hacker? Yet, here they both were being
sentenced side by side in the same County Court room.

Boris Kayser had called a collection of witnesses, all of whom
attested to Prime Suspect's difficult life. One of these, the
well-regarded psychologist Tim Watson-Munro, described Prime Suspect's
treatments at the Austin Hospital and raised the issue of reduced
free-will. He had written a report for the court.

Judge Lewis was quick to respond to the suggestion that hacking was an
addiction. At one point, he wondered aloud to the courtroom whether
some of Prime Suspect's hacking activities were `like a shot of

Before long, Kayser had launched into his usual style of courtroom
address. First, he criticised the AFP for waiting so long to charge
his client.

`This fellow should have been dealt with six to twelve months after
being apprehended. It is a bit like the US, where a man can commit a
murder at twenty, have his appeal be knocked back by the Supreme Court
at 30 and be executed at 40--all for something he did when he was only
twenty years old.

Thoroughly warmed up, Kayser observed that 20 per cent of Prime
Suspect's life had gone by since being raided. Then he began hitting
his high notes.

`This young man received no assistance in the maturation process. He
didn't grow up, he drifted up.

`His world was so horrible that he withdrew into a fantasy world. He
knew no other way to interact with human beings. Hacking was like a
physical addiction to him.

`If he hadn't withdrawn into the cybernetic highway, what would he
have done instead? Set fires? Robbed houses? Look at the name he gave
himself. Prime Suspect. It has implied power--a threat. This kid
didn't have any power in his life other than when he sat down at a

Not only did Kayser want the judge to dismiss the idea of prison or
community service, he was asking him to order no recorded conviction.

The prosecution lawyers looked at Kayser as if he was telling a good
joke. The AFP had spent months tracking these hackers and almost three
years preparing the case against them. And now this barrister was
seriously suggesting that one of the key players should get off
virtually scot-free, with not so much as a conviction recorded against
him? It was too much.

The judge retired to consider the sentence. When he returned, he was
brief and to the point. No prison. No community service. The recording
of 26 convictions. A $500 three-year good behaviour bond. Forfeiture
of the now ancient Apple computer seized by police in the raid. And a
reparation payment to the Australian National University of $2100.

Relief passed over Prime Suspect's face, pink and sweaty from the
tension. His friends and family smiled at each other.

Chettle then asked the judge to rule on what he called `the
cooperation point'. He wanted the judge to say that Prime Suspect's
sentence was less than it would have been because the hacker had
turned Crown witness. The DPP was shoring up its position with regard
to its remaining target--Mendax.

Judge Lewis told the court that the cooperation in this case made no
difference. At the back of the court, Mendax felt suddenly sad. It was
good news for him, but somehow it felt like a hollow victory.

Prime Suspect has destroyed our friendship, he thought, and all for

Two months after Prime Suspect's sentencing, Trax appeared in another
County Court room to receive his sentence after pleading guilty to six
counts of hacking and phreaking. Despite taking medication to keep his
anxiety under control while in the city, he was still very nervous in
the dock.

Since he faced the least number of charges of any of the IS hackers,
Trax believed he had a shot at no recorded conviction. Whether or not
his lawyer could successfully argue the case was another matter.
Bumbling through papers he could never seem to organise, Trax's lawyer
rambled to the court, repeated the same points over and over again,
jumping all over the place in his arguments. His voice was a
half-whispered rasp--a fact which so annoyed the judge that he sternly
instructed the lawyer to speak up.

Talking informally before court, Geoff Chettle had told Mendax that in
his view there was no way Judge Mervyn Kimm would let Trax off with no
recorded conviction. Judge Kimm was considered to be one tough nut to
crack. If you were a bookmaker running bets on his court at a
sentencing hearing, the good money would be on the prosecution's side.

But on 20 September 1995, the judge showed he couldn't be predicted
quite so easily. Taking everything into account, including Prime
Suspect's sentence and Trax's history of mental illness, he ordered no
conviction be recorded against Trax. He also ordered a $500 three-year
good behaviour bond.

In passing sentence, Judge Kimm said something startlingly insightful
for a judge with little intimate knowledge of the hacker psyche. While
sternly stating that he did not intend to make light of the gravity of
the offences, he told the court that `the factors of specific
deterrence and general deterrence have little importance in the
determination of the sentence to be imposed'. It was perhaps the first
time an Australian judge had recognised that deterrence had little
relevance at the point of collision between hacking and mental

Trax's sentence was also a good outcome for Mendax, who on
29 August 1995 pleaded guilty to eight counts of computer crime, and
not guilty to all the other charges. Almost a year later, on 9 May
1996, he pleaded guilty to an additional eleven charges, and not
guilty to six. The prosecution dropped all the other charges.

Mendax wanted to fight those six outstanding charges, which involved
ANU, RMIT, NorTel and Telecom, because he felt that the law was on his
side in these instances. In fact, the law was fundamentally unclear
when it came to those charges. So much so that the DPP and the defence
agreed to take issues relating to those charges in a case stated to
the Supreme Court of Victoria.

In a case stated, both sides ask the Supreme Court to make a ruling
not on the court case itself, but on a point of law. The defence and
the prosecution hammer out an agreed statement about the facts of the
case and, in essence, ask the Supreme Court judges to use that
statement as a sort of case study. The resulting ruling is meant to
clarify the finer points of the law not only for the specific case,
but for similar cases which appear in future.

Presenting a case stated to the Supreme Court is somewhat uncommon. It
is unusual to find a court case where both sides can agree on enough
of the facts, but Mendax's hacking charges presented the perfect case
and the questions which would be put to the Victorian Supreme Court in
late 1996 were crucial for all future hacking cases in Australia. What
did it mean `to obtain access' to a computer? Did someone obtain
access if he or she got in without using a password? What if he or she
used the username `guest' and the password `guest'?

Perhaps the most crucial question of all was this: does a person
`obtain access' to data stored in a computer if he or she has the
ability to view the data, but does not in fact view or even attempt to
view that data?

A good example of this applied to the aggravated versions of the
offence of hacking: viewing commercial information. If, for example,
Mendax logged into a NorTel computer, which contained commercially
sensitive information, but he didn't actually read any of those files,
would he be guilty of `obtaining access' or `obtaining access to
commercial information'?

The chief judge of the County Court agreed to the case stated and sent
it up to the full bench of the Supreme Court. The lawyers from both
sides were pleased with the bench--Justices Frank Vincent, Kenneth
Hayne and John Coldrey.

On 30 September 1996, Mendax arrived at the Supreme Court and found
all the lawyers assembled at the court--all except for his barrister.
Paul Galbally kept checking his watch as the prosecution lawyers began
unpacking their mountains of paper--the fruit of months of
preparation. Galbally paced the plush carpet of the Supreme Court
anteroom. Still no barrister.

Mendax's barrister had worked tirelessly, preparing for the case
stated as if it was a million dollar case. Combing through legal
precedents from not only Australia, the UK and the US, but from all
the world's Western-style democracies, he had attained a great
understanding of the law in the area of computer crime. He had finally
arrived at that nexus of understanding between law, philosophy and
linguistics which many lesser lawyers spent their entire careers
trying to reach.

But where was he? Galbally pulled out his mobile and checked in with
his office for what seemed like the fifth time in as many minutes. The
news he received was bad. He was told, through second-hand sources,
that the barrister had collapsed in a state of nervous exhaustion. He
wouldn't be making it to court.

Galbally could feel his hairs turning grey.

When court opened, Galbally had to stand up and explain to three of
the most senior judges in Australia why the defence would like a
two-day adjournment. A consummate professional, Geoff Chettle
supported the submission. Still, it was a difficult request. Time in
the Supreme Court is a scarce and valuable thing. Fortunately, the
adjournment was granted.

This gave Galbally exactly two days in which to find a barrister who
was good, available and smart enough to assimilate a massive amount of
technical information in a short time. He found Andrew Tinney.

Tinney worked around the clock and by Wednesday, 2 October, he was
ready. Once again, all the lawyers, and the hacker, gathered at the

This time, however, it was the judges who threw a spanner into the
works. They asked both sides to spend the first hour or so explaining
exactly why the Supreme Court should hear the case stated at all. The
lawyers looked at each other in surprise. What was this all about?

After hearing some brief arguments from both sides, the judges retired
to consider their position. When they returned, Justice Hayne read a
detailed judgment saying, in essence, that the judges refused to hear
the case.

As the judge spoke, it became clear that the Supreme Court judges
weren't just refusing to hear this case stated; they were virtually
refusing to hear any case stated in future. Not for computer crimes.
Not for murder. Not for fraud. Not for anything. They were sending a
message to the County Court judges: don't send us a case stated except
in exceptional circumstances.

Geoff Chettle slumped in his chair, his hands shielding his face. Paul
Galbally looked stunned. Andrew Tinney looked as if he wanted to leap
from his chair shouting, `I just killed myself for the past two days
on this case! You have to hear it!' Even Lesley Taylor, the quiet,
unflappable and inscrutable DPP solicitor who had replaced Andrea
Pavleka on the case, looked amazed.

The ruling had enormous implications. Judges from the lower courts
would be loath to ever send cases to the Supreme Court for
clarification on points of law again. Mendax had made legal history,
but not in the way he had hoped.

Mendax's case passed back down to the County Court.

He had considered taking his case to trial, but with recently
announced budget cuts to Legal Aid, he knew there was little hope of
receiving funding to fight the charges. The cuts were forcing the poor
to plead guilty, leaving justice available only for the wealthy.
Worse, he felt the weight of pleading guilty, not only as a sense of
injustice in his own case, but for future hacking cases which would
follow. Without clarity on the meaning of the law--which the judges
had refused to provide--or a message from a jury in a landmark case,
such as Wandii's trial, Mendax believed that hackers could expect
little justice from either the police or the courts in the future.

On 5 December 1996, Mendax pleaded guilty to the remaining six charges
and was sentenced on all counts.

Court Two was quiet that day. Geoff Chettle, for the prosecution,
wasn't there. Instead, the quietly self-possessed Lesley Taylor
handled the matter. Paul Galbally appeared for Mendax himself. Ken Day
sat, expressionless, in the front row of the public benches. He looked
a little weary. A few rows back, Mendax's mother seemed nervous.
Electron slipped silently into the back of the room and gave Mendax a
discreet smile.

His hair pulled back into a loose ponytail, Mendax blinked and rolled
his eyes several times as if brought from a dark space into the
bright, white-walled courtroom.

Judge Ross, a ruddy-faced and jowly man of late middle age with bushy,
grey eyebrows, seated himself in his chair. At first, he was reluctant
to take on the case for sentencing. He thought it should be returned
to one of the original judges--Judge Kimm or Judge Lewis. When he
walked into court that morning, he had not read the other judges'

Lesley Taylor summarised the punishments handed down to the other two
hackers. The judge did not look altogether pleased. Finally, he
announced he would deal with the case. `Two judges have had a crack at
it, why not a third one? He might do it properly.'

Galbally was concerned. As the morning progressed, he became
increasingly distressed; things were not going well. Judge Ross made
clear that he personally favoured a custodial sentence, albeit a
suspended one. The only thing protecting Mendax seemed to be the
principle of parity in sentencing. Prime Suspect and Trax had
committed similar crimes to Mendax, and therefore he had to be given a
similar sentence.

Ross `registered some surprise' at Judge Lewis's disposition toward
the sentencing of Prime Suspect. In the context of parity, he told
Leslie Taylor, he was at times `quite soured by some penalties'
imposed by other judges. He quizzed her for reasons why he might be
able to step outside parity.

He told the court that he had not read the telephone intercepts in the
legal brief. In fact, he had `only read the summary of facts' and when
Taylor mentioned `International Subversive', he asked her, `What was

Then he asked her how to spell the word `phreak'.

Later that day, after Judge Ross had read the other judges' sentences,
he gave Mendax a sentence similar to Prime Suspect's--a recorded
conviction on all counts, a reparation payment of $2100 to ANU and a
three-year good behaviour bond.

There were two variations. Prime Suspect and Trax both received $500
good behaviour bonds; Judge Ross ordered a $5000 bond for Mendax.
Further, Judge Lewis had given Prime Suspect almost twelve months to
pay his $2100 reparation. Judge Ross ordered Mendax to pay within
three months.

Judge Ross told Mendax, `I repeat what I said before. I thought
initially that these were offences which justified a jail sentence, but
the mitigatory circumstances would have converted that to a suspended
sentence. The sentence given to your co-offender caused me to alter that
view, however.' He was concerned, he said, `that highly intelligent
individuals ought not to behave like this and I suspect it is only
highly intelligent individuals who can do what you did'.

The word `addiction' did not appear anywhere in the sentencing

                   Chapter 10 -- Anthrax -- The Outsider.

They had a gun at my head and a knife at my back; Don't wind me up too tight.

-- from `Powderworks' (also called The Blue Album).

Anthrax didn't like working as part of a team. He always considered
other people to be the weakest link in the chain.

Although people were never to be trusted completely, he socialised
with many hackers and phreakers and worked with a few of them now and
again on particular projects. But he never formed intimate
partnerships with any of them. Even if a fellow hacker dobbed him in
to the police, the informant couldn't know the full extent of his
activities. The nature of his relationships was also determined, in
part, by his isolation. Anthrax lived in a town in rural Victoria.

Despite the fact that he never joined a hacking partnership like The
Realm, Anthrax liked people, liked to talk to them for hours at a time
on the telephone. Sometimes he received up to ten international calls
a day from his phreaker friends overseas. He would be over at a
friend's house, and the friend's mother would knock on the door of the
bedroom where the boys were hanging out, listening to new music,

The mother would poke her head in the door, raise an eyebrow and point
at Anthrax. `Phone call for you. Someone from Denmark.' Or sometimes
it was Sweden. Finland. The US. Wherever. Though they didn't say
anything, his friends' parents thought it all a bit strange. Not many
kids in country towns got international calls trailing them around
from house to house. But then not many kids were master phreakers.

Anthrax loved the phone system and he understood its power. Many
phreakers thought it was enough to be able to call their friends
around the globe for free. Or make hacking attack phone calls without
being traced. However, real power for Anthrax lay in controlling voice
communications systems--things that moved conversations around the
world. He cruised through people's voice mailbox messages to piece
together a picture of what they were doing. He wanted to be able to
listen into telephone conversations. And he wanted to be able to
reprogram the telephone system, even take it down. That was real
power, the kind that lots of people would notice.

The desire for power grew throughout Anthrax's teenage years. He ached
to know everything, to see everything, to play with exotic systems in
foreign countries. He needed to know the purpose of every system, what
made them tick, how they fitted together. Understanding how things
worked would give him control.

His obsession with telephony and hacking began early in life. When he
was about eleven, his father had taken him to see the film War Games.
All Anthrax could think of as he left the theatre was how much he
wanted to learn how to hack. He had already developed a fascination
for computers, having received the simplest of machines, a Sinclair
ZX81 with 1 k of memory, as a birthday present from his parents.
Rummaging through outdoor markets, he found a few second-hand books on
hacking. He read Out of the Inner Circle by Bill Landreth, and Hackers
by Steven Levy.

By the time he was fourteen, Anthrax had joined a Melbourne-based
group of boys called The Force. The members swapped Commodore 64 and
Amiga games. They also wrote their own demos--short computer
programs--and delighted in cracking the copy protections on the games
and then trading them with other crackers around the world. It was
like an international penpal group. Anthrax liked the challenge
provided by cracking the protections, but few teenagers in his town
shared an interest in his unusual hobby. Joining The Force introduced
him to a whole new world of people who thought as he did.

When Anthrax first read about phreaking he wrote to one of his American
cracking contacts asking for advice on how to start. His friend sent him
a list of AT&T calling card numbers and a toll-free direct-dial number
which connected Australians with American operators. The card numbers
were all expired or cancelled, but Anthrax didn't care. What captured
his imagination was the fact that he could call an operator all the way
across the Pacific for free. Anthrax began trying to find more special

He would hang out at a pay phone near his house. It was a seedy
neighbourhood, home to the most downtrodden of all the town's
residents, but Anthrax would stand at the pay phone for hours most
evenings, oblivious to the clatter around him, hand-scanning for
toll-free numbers. He dialled 0014--the prefix for the international
toll-free numbers--followed by a random set of numbers. Then, as he
got more serious, he approached the task more methodically. He
selected a range of numbers, such as 300 to 400, for the last three
digits. Then he dialled over and over, increasing the number by one
each time he dialled. 301. 302. 303. 304. Whenever he hit a
functioning phone number, he noted it down. He never had to spend a
cent since all the 0014 numbers were free.

Anthrax found some valid numbers, but many of them had modems at the
other end. So he decided it was time to buy a modem so he could explore
further. Too young to work legally, he lied about his age and landed an
after-school job doing data entry at an escort agency. In the meantime,
he spent every available moment at the pay phone, scanning and adding
new numbers to his growing list of toll-free modem and operator-assisted

The scanning became an obsession. Often Anthrax stayed at the phone
until 10 or 11 p.m. Some nights it was 3 a.m. The pay phone had a
rotary dial, making the task laborious, and sometimes he would come
home with blisters on the tips of his fingers.

A month or so after he started working, he had saved enough money for
a modem.

Hand scanning was boring, but no more so than school. Anthrax attended
his state school regularly, at least until year 10. Much of that was
due to his mother's influence. She believed in education and in
bettering oneself, and she wanted to give her son the opportunities
she had been denied. It was his mother, a psychiatric nurse, who
scrimped and saved for months to buy him his first real computer, a
$400 Commodore 64. And it was his mother who took out a loan to buy
the more powerful Amiga a few years later in 1989. She knew the boy
was very bright. He used to read her medical textbooks, and computers
were the future.

Anthrax had always done well in school, earning distinctions every
year from year 7 to year 10. But not in maths. Maths bored him. Still,
he had some aptitude for it. He won an award in year 6 for designing a
pendulum device which measured the height of a building using basic
trigonometry--a subject he had never studied. However, Anthrax didn't
attend school so much after year 10. The teachers kept telling him
things he already knew, or things he could learn much faster from
reading a book. If he liked a topic, he wandered off to the library to
read about it.

Things at home became increasingly complicated around that time. His
family had struggled from the moment they arrived in Australia from
England, when Anthrax was about twelve. They struggled financially,
they struggled against the roughness of a country town, and, as
Indians, Anthrax, his younger brother and their mother struggled
against racism.

The town was a violent place, filled with racial hatred and ethnic
tension. The ethnics had carved out corners for themselves, but
incursions into enemy territory were common and almost always resulted
in violence. It was the kind of town where people ended up in fist
fights over a soccer game. Not an easy place for a half-Indian,
half-British boy with a violent father.

Anthrax's father, a white Englishman, came from a farming family. One
of five sons, he attended an agricultural college where he met and
married the sister of an Indian student on a scholarship. Their
marriage caused quite a stir, even making the local paper under the
headline `Farmer Marries Indian Woman'. It was not a happy marriage
and Anthrax often wondered why his father had married an Indian.
Perhaps it was a way of rebelling against his dominating father.
Perhaps he had once been in love. Or perhaps he simply wanted someone
he could dominate and control. Whatever the reason, the decision was
an unpopular one with Anthrax's grandfather and the mixed-race family
was often excluded from larger family gatherings.

When Anthrax's family moved to Australia, they had almost no money.
Eventually, the father got a job as an officer at Melbourne's
Pentridge prison, where he stayed during the week. He only received a
modest income, but he seemed to like his job. The mother began working
as a nurse. Despite their new-found financial stability, the family
was not close. The father appeared to have little respect for his wife
and sons, and Anthrax had little respect for his father.

As Anthrax entered his teenage years, his father became increasingly
abusive. On weekends, when he was home from work, he used to hit
Anthrax, sometimes throwing him on the floor and kicking him. Anthrax
tried to avoid the physical abuse but the scrawny teenager was little
match for the beefy prison officer. Anthrax and his brother were quiet
boys. It seemed to be the path of least resistance with a rough father
in a rough town. Besides, it was hard to talk back in the painful
stutter both boys shared through their early teens.

One day, when Anthrax was fifteen, he came home to find a commotion at
his house. On entering the house, Anthrax went to his parents'
bedroom. He found his mother there, and she was very upset and
emotionally distressed. He couldn't see his father anywhere, but found
him relaxing on the sofa in the lounge room, watching TV.

Disgust consumed Anthrax and he retreated into the kitchen. When his
father came in not long after to prepare some food Anthrax watched his
back with revulsion. Then he noticed a carving knife resting on the
counter. As Anthrax reached for the knife, an ambulance worker
appeared in the doorway. Anthrax put the knife down and walked away.

But he wasn't so quiet after that. He started talking back, at home and
at school, and that marked the beginning of the really big problems. In
primary school and early high school he had been beaten up now and
again. Not any more. When a fellow student hauled Anthrax up against the
wall of the locker shed and started shaking him and waving his fist,
Anthrax lost it. He saw, for a moment, his father's face instead of the
student's and began to throw punches in a frenzy that left his victim in
a terrible state.

At home, Anthrax's father learned how to bait his son. The bully
always savours a morsel of resistance from the victim, which makes
going in for the kill a little more fun. Talking back gave the father
a good excuse to get violent. Once he nearly broke his son's neck.
Another time it was his arm. He grabbed Anthrax and twisted his arm
behind his back. There was an eerie sound of cracking cartilage, and
then pain. Anthrax screamed for his father to stop. His father twisted
Anthrax's arm harder, then pressed on his neck. His mother shrieked at
her husband to let go of her son. He wouldn't.

`Look at you crying,' his father sneered. `You disgusting animal.'

`You're the disgusting animal,' Anthrax shouted, talking back again.

His father threw Anthrax on the floor and began kicking him in the
head, in the ribs, all over.

Anthrax ran away. He went south to Melbourne for a week, sleeping
anywhere he could, in the empty night-time spaces left over by day
workers gone to orderly homes. He even crashed in hospital emergency
rooms. If a nurse asked why he was there, he would answer politely, `I
received a phone call to meet someone here'. She would nod her head
and move on to someone else.

Eventually, when Anthrax returned home, he took up martial arts to
become strong. And he waited.

Anthrax was poking around a MILNET gateway when he stumbled on the
door to System X.* He had wanted to find this system for months,
because he had intercepted email about it which had aroused his

Anthrax telnetted into the gateway. A gateway binds two different
networks. It allows, for example, two computer networks which talk
different languages to communicate. A gateway might allow someone on a
system running DECNET to login to a TCP/IP based system, like a Unix.
Anthrax was frustrated that he couldn't seem to get past the System X
gateway and on to the hosts on the other side.

Using normal address formats for a variety of networks, he tried
telling the gateway to make a connection. X.25. TCP/IP. Whatever lay
beyond the gateway didn't respond. Anthrax looked around until he
found a sample of addresses in a help file. None of them worked, but
they offered a clue as to what format an address might take.

Each address had six digits, the first three numbers of which
corresponded to telephone area codes in the Washington DC area. So he
picked one of the codes and started guessing the last three digits.

Hand scanning was a pain, as ever, but if he was methodical and
persistent, something should turn up. 111. 112. 113. 114. 115. On it
went. Eventually he connected to something--a Sunos Unix system--which
gave him a full IP address in its login message. Now that was handy.
With the full IP address, he could connect to System X again through
the Internet directly--avoiding the gateway if he chose to. It's
always helpful in covering your tracks to have a few different routing
options. Importantly, he could approach System X through more than
just its front door.

Anthrax spiralled through the usual round of default usernames and
passwords. Nothing. This system required a more strategic attack.

He backed out of the login screen, escaped from the gateway and went
to another Internet site to have a good look at System X from a
healthy distance. He `fingered' the site, pulling up any bit of
information System X would release to the rest of the Internet when
asked. He probed and prodded, looking for openings. And then he found
one. Sendmail.

The version of Sendmail run by System X had a security hole Anthrax
could exploit by sending himself a tiny backdoor program. To do this,
he used System X's mail-processing service to send a `letter' which
contained a tiny computer program. System X would never have allowed
the program to run normally, but this program worked like a letter
bomb. When System X opened the letter, the program jumped out and
started running. It told System X that anyone could connect to port
2001--to an interactive shell--of the computer without using a

A port is a door to the outside world. TCP/IP computers use a standard
set of ports for certain services. Port 25 for mail. Port 79 for
Finger. Port 21 for FTP. Port 23 for Telnet. Port 513 for Rlogin. Port
80 for the World Wide Web. A TCP/IP based computer system has 65535
ports but most of them go unused. Indeed, the average Unix box uses
only 35, leaving the remaining 65500 ports sitting idle. Anthrax
simply picked one of these sleepy ports, dusted off the cobwebs and
plugged in using the backdoor created by his tiny mail-borne program.

Connecting directly to a port created some problems, because the
system wouldn't recognise certain keystrokes from the port, such as
the return key. For this reason, Anthrax had to create an account for
himself which would let him telnet to the site and login like any
normal user. To do this, he needed root privileges in order to create
an account and, ultimately, a permanent backdoor into the system.

He began hunting for vulnerabilities in System X's security. There was
nothing obvious, but he decided to try out a bug he had successfully
used elsewhere. He had first learned about it on an international
phone conference, where he had traded information with other hackers
and phreakers. The security hole involved the system's relatively
obscure load-module program. The program added features to the running
system but, more importantly, it ran as root, meaning that it had a
free run on the system when it was executed. It also meant that any
other programs the load-module program called up also ran as root. If
Anthrax could get this program to run one of his own programs--a
little Trojan--he could get root on System X.

The load-module bug was by no means a sure thing on System X. Most
commercial systems--computers run by banks or credit agencies, for
example--had cleaned up the load-module bug in their Sunos computers
months before. But military systems consistently missed the bug. They
were like turtles--hard on the outside, but soft and vulnerable on the
inside. Since the bug couldn't be exploited unless a hacker was
already inside a system, the military's computer security officials
didn't seem to pay much attention to it. Anthrax had visited a large
number of military systems prior to System X, and in his experience
more than 90 per cent of their Sunos computers had never fixed the

With only normal privileges, Anthrax couldn't force the load-module
program to run his backdoor Trojan program. But he could trick it into
doing so. The secret was in one simple keyboard character: /.

Unix-based computer systems are a bit like the protocols of the
diplomatic corps; the smallest variation can change something's
meaning entirely. Hackers, too, understand the implications of subtle

A Unix-based system reads the phrase:


very differently from:

bin program

One simple character--the `/'--makes an enormous difference. A Unix
computer reads the `/' as a road sign. The first phrase tells the
computer, `Follow the road to the house of the user called "bin" and
when you get there, go inside and fetch the file called "program" and
run it'. A blank space, however, tells the computer something quite
different. In this case, Anthrax knew it told the computer to execute
the command which proceeded the space. That second phrase told the
machine, `Look everywhere for a program called "bin" and run it'.

Anthrax prepared for his attack on the load-module program by
installing his own special program, named `bin', into a temporary
storage area on System X. If he could get System X to run his program
with root privileges, he too would have procured root level access to
the system. When everything was in place, Anthrax forced the system to
read the character `/' as a blank space. Then he ran the load-module
program, and watched. When System X hunted around for a program named
`bin', it quickly found Anthrax's Trojan and ran it.

The hacker savoured the moment, but he didn't pause for long. With a
few swift keystrokes, he added an entry to the password file, creating
a basic account for himself. He exited his connection to port 2001,
circled around through another route, using the 0014 gateway, and
logged into System X using his newly created account. It felt good
walking in through the front door.

Once inside, Anthrax had a quick look around. The system startled him.
There were only three human users. Now that was definitely odd. Most
systems had hundreds of users. Even a small system might serve 30 or
40 people, and this was not a small system. He concluded that System X
wasn't just some machine designed to send and receive email. It was
operational. It did something.

Anthrax considered how to clean up his footsteps and secure his
position. While he was hardly broadcasting his presence, someone might
discover his arrival simply by looking at who was logged in on the
list of accounts in the password file. He had given his backdoor root
account a bland name, but he could reasonably assume that these three
users knew their system pretty well. And with only three users, it was
probably the kind of system that had lots of babysitting. After all
that effort, Anthrax needed a watchful nanny like a hole in the head.
He worked at moving into the shadows.

He removed himself from the WTMP and UTMP files, which listed who had
been on-line and who was still logged in. Anthrax wasn't invisible,
but an admin would have to look closely at the system's network
connections and list of processes to find him. Next stop: the login

Anthrax couldn't use his newly created front-door account for an
extended period--the risk of discovery was too great. If he accessed
the computer repeatedly in this manner, a prying admin might
eventually find him and delete his account. An extra account on a
system with only three users was a dead give-away. And losing access
to System X just as things were getting interesting was not on his

Anthrax leaned back in his chair and stretched his shoulders. His
hacking room was an old cloakroom, though it was barely recognisable
as such. It looked more like a closet--a very messy closet. The whole
room was ankle-deep in scrap papers, most of them with lists of
numbers on the back and front. Occasionally, Anthrax scooped up all
the papers and piled them into heavy-duty garbage bags, three of which
could just fit inside the room at any one time. Anthrax always knew
roughly where he had `filed' a particular set of notes. When he needed
it, he tipped the bag onto the floor, searched through the mound and
returned to the computer. When the sea of paper reached a critical
mass, he jammed everything back into the garbage bag again.

The computer--an Amiga 500 box with a cheap Panasonic TV as the
monitor--sat on a small desk next to his mother's sewing machine
cabinet. The small bookcase under the desk
was stuffed with magazines like Compute and Australian Communications,
along with a few Commodore, Amiga and Unix reference manuals. There
was just enough space for Anthrax's old stereo and his short-wave
radio. When he wasn't listening to his favourite show, a hacking
program broadcast from a pirate station in Ecuador, he tuned into
Radio Moscow or the BBC's World Service.

Anthrax considered what to do with System X. This system had aroused
his curiosity and he intended to visit it frequently.

It was time to work on the login patch. The patch replaced the
system's normal login program and had a special feature: a master
password. The password was like a diplomatic passport. It would let
him do anything, go anywhere. He could login as any user using the
master password. Further, when he logged in with the master password,
he wouldn't show up on any log files--leaving no trail. But the beauty
of the login patch was that, in every other way, it ran as the normal
login program. The regular computer users--all three of them--could
login as usual with their passwords and would never know Anthrax had
been in the system.

He thought about ways of setting up his login patch. Installing a
patch on System X wasn't like mending a pair of jeans. He couldn't
just slap on a swath from an old bandanna and quick-stitch it in with
a thread of any colour. It was more like mending an expensive cashmere
coat. The fabric needed to be a perfect match in colour and texture.
And because the patch required high-quality invisible mending, the
size also needed to be just right.

Every file in a computer system has three dates: the date it was
created, the date it was last modified and the date it was last
accessed. The problem was that the login patch needed to have the same
creation and modification dates as the original login program so that
it would not raise suspicions. It wasn't hard to get the dates but it
was difficult to paste them onto the patch. The last access date
wasn't important as it changed whenever the program was run
anyway--whenever a user of the System X logged in.

If Anthrax ripped out the original login program and stitched his
patch in its place, the patch would be stamped with a new creation
date. He knew there was no way to change a creation date short of
changing the clock for the whole system--something which would cause
problems elsewhere in System X.

The first thing a good system admin does when he or she suspects a
break-in is search for all files created or modified over the previous
few days. One whiff of an intruder and a good admin would be all over
Anthrax's login patch within about five minutes.

Anthrax wrote the modification and creation dates down on a bit of
paper. He would need those in a moment. He also jotted down the size
of the login file.

Instead of tearing out the old program and sewing in a completely new
one, Anthrax decided to overlay his patch by copying it onto the top
of the old program. He uploaded his own login patch, with his master
password encased inside it, but he didn't install it yet. His patch
was called `troj'--short for Trojan. He typed:


The cat command told the computer: `go get the data in the file called
"troj" and put it in the file "/bin/login"'. He checked the piece of
paper where he had scribbled down the original file's creation and
modification dates, comparing them to the new patch. The creation date
and size matched the original. The modification date was still wrong,
but he was two-thirds of the way home.

Anthrax began to fasten down the final corner of the patch by using a
little-known feature of the command:


Then he changed the modification date of his login patch to the
original login file's date.

He stepped back to admire his work from a distance. The newly
installed patch matched the original perfectly. Same size. Same
creation date. Same modification date. With patch in place, he deleted
the root account he had installed while visiting port 2001. Always
take your garbage with you when you leave.

Now for the fun bit. Snooping around. Anthrax headed off for the
email, the best way to work out what a system was used for. There were
lots of reports from underlings to the three system users on buying
equipment, progress reports on a certain project, updates. What was
this project?

Then Anthrax came across a huge directory. He opened it and there,
couched inside, were perhaps 100 subdirectories. He opened one of
them. It was immense, containing hundreds of files. The smallest
subfile had perhaps 60 computer screens' worth of material, all of it
unintelligible. Numbers, letters, control codes. Anthrax couldn't make
head nor tail of the files. It was as if he was staring at a group of
binary files. The whole subdirectory was filled with thousands of
pages of mush. He thought they looked like data files for some

As he didn't have the program he needed to interpret the mush, Anthrax
cast around looking for a more readable directory.

He pried open a file and discovered it was a list. Names and phone
numbers of staff at a large telecommunications company. Work phone
numbers. Home numbers. Well, at least that gave him a clue as to the
nature of the project. Something to do with telecommunications. A
project important enough that the military needed the home phone
numbers of the senior people involved.

The next file confirmed it. Another list, a very special list. A pot
of gold at the end of the rainbow. The find of a career spent hacking.

If the US government had had any inkling what was happening at that
moment, heads would have rolled. If it had known that a foreigner, and
a follower of what mainstream American media termed an extremist
religious group, had this information in his possession, the defence
agency would have called in every law enforcement agency it could

As John McMahon might have said, a lot of yelling and screaming would
have occurred.

Anthrax's mother had made a good home for the family, but his father
continued to disrupt it with his violence. Fun times with his friends
shone like bright spots amidst the decay of Anthrax's family life.
Practical jokes were his specialty. Even as a small child, he had
delighted in trickery and as he grew up, the jokes became more
sophisticated. Phreaking was great. It let him prank people all over
the world. And pranking was cool.

Most of the fun in pranking was sharing it with friends. Anthrax
called into a voice conference frequented by phreakers and hackers.
Though he never trusted others completely when it came to working on
projects together, it was OK to socialise. The phreaking methods he
used to get onto the phone conference were his own business. Provided
he was discreet in how much he said in the conference, he thought
there wasn't too much risk.

He joined the conference calls using a variety of methods. One
favourite was using a multinational corporation's Dialcom service.
Company employees called in, gave their ID numbers, and the operator
put them through to wherever they wanted to go, free of charge. All
Anthrax needed was a valid ID number.

Sometimes it was hard work, sometimes he was lucky. The day Anthrax
tried the Dialcom service was a lucky day. He dialled from his
favourite pay phone.

`What is your code, sir?' The operator asked.

`Yes, well, this is Mr Baker. I have a sheet with a lot of numbers
here. I am new to the company. Not sure which one it is.' Anthrax
shuffled papers on top of the pay phone, near the receiver. `How many
digits is it?'


That was helpful. Now to find seven digits. Anthrax looked across the
street at the fish and chips shop. No numbers there. Then a car
licence plate caught his eye. He read off the first three digits, then
plucked the last four numbers from another car's plate.

`Thank you. Putting your call through, Mr Baker.'

A valid number! What amazing luck. Anthrax milked that number for all
it was worth. Called party lines. Called phreakers' bridges. Access
fed the obsession.

Then he gave the number to a friend in Adelaide, to call overseas. But
when that friend read off the code, the operator jumped in.


Huh? `Yes I am. You have my code.'

`You are definitely not him. I know his voice.'

The friend called Anthrax, who laughed his head off, then called into
Dialcom and changed his code! It was a funny incident. Still, it
reminded him how much safer it was working by himself.

Living in the country was hard for a hacker and Anthrax became a
phreaker out of necessity, not just desire. Almost everything involved
a long-distance call and he was always searching for ways to make
calls for free. He noticed that when he called certain 008
numbers--free calls--the phone would ring a few times, click, and then
pause briefly before ringing some more. Eventually a company
representative or answering service picked up the call. Anthrax had
read about diverters, devices used to forward calls automatically, in
one of the many telecommunications magazines and manuals he was
constantly reading. The click suggested the call was going through a
diverter and he guessed that if he punched in the right tones at the
right moment, he could make the call divert away from a company's
customer service agent. Furthermore, any line trace would end up at
the company.

Antrax collected some 008 numbers and fiddled with them. He discovered
that if he punched another number in very quickly over the top of the
ringing--just after the click--he could make the line divert to where
he wanted it to go. He used the 008 numbers to ring phone conferences
around the world, where he hung out with other phreakers, particularly
Canadians such as members of the Toronto-based UPI or the Montreal
group, NPC, which produced a phreakers' manual in French. The
conversation on the phreaker's phone conferences, or phone bridges as
they are often called, inevitably turned to planning a prank. And
those Canadian guys knew how to prank!

Once, they rang the emergency phone number in a major Canadian city.
Using the Canadian incarnation of his social engineering accents,
Anthrax called in a `police officer in need of assistance'. The
operator wanted to know where. The phreakers had decided on the Blue
Ribbon Ice-Cream Parlour. They always picked a spot within visual
range of at least one member, so they could see what was happening.

In the split second of silence which followed, one of the five other
phreakers quietly eavesdropping on the call coughed. It was a short,
sharp cough. The operator darted back on the line.

`Was that A GUN SHOT? Are you SHOT? Hello? John?' The operator leaned
away from her receiver for a moment and the phreakers heard her
talking to someone else in the background. `Officer down.'

Things moved so fast when pranking. What to do now?

`Ah, yeah. Yeah.' It was amazing how much someone squeezing laughter
back down his oesophagus can sound like someone who has been shot.

`John, talk to me. Talk to me,' the operator pleaded into the phone,
trying to keep John alert.

`I'm down. I'm down,' Anthrax strung her along.

Anthrax disconnected the operator from the conference call. Then the
phreaker who lived near the ice-cream parlour announced the street had
been blocked off by police cars. They had the parlour surrounded and
were anxiously searching for an injured fellow officer. It took
several hours before the police realised someone had played a mean
trick on them.

However, Anthrax's favourite prank was Mr McKenny, the befuddled
southern American hick. Anthrax had selected the phone number at
random, but the first prank was such fun he kept coming back for more.
He had been ringing Mr McKenny for years. It was always the same

`Mr McKenny? This is Peter Baker. I'd like my shovel back, please.'

`I don't have your shovel.'

`Yeah, I lent it to you. Lent it to you like two years ago. I want it
back now.'

`I never borrowed no shovel from you. Go away.'

`You did. You borrowed that shovel of mine. And if you don't give it
back I'm a gonna come round and get it myself. And you won't like it.
Now, when you gonna give me that shovel back?'

`Damn it! I don't have your goddamn shovel!'

`Give me my shovel!'

`Stop calling me! I've never had your friggin' shovel. Let me be!'

Nine in the morning. Eight at night. Two a.m. There would be no peace
for Mr McKenny until he admitted borrowing that shovel from a boy half
his age and half a world away.

Sometimes Anthrax pranked closer to home. The Trading Post, a weekly
rag of personals from people selling and buying, served as a good
place to begin. Always the innocent start, to lure them in.

`Yes, sir, I see you advertised that you wanted to buy a bathtub.'
Anthrax put on his serious voice. `I have a bathtub for sale.'

`Yeah? What sort? Do you have the measurements, and the model number?'
And people thought phreakers were weird.

`Ah, no model number. But its about a metre and a half long, has feet,
in the shape of claws. It's older style, off-white. There's only one
problem.' Anthrax paused, savouring the moment.

`Oh? What's that?'

`There's a body in it.'

Like dropping a boulder in a peaceful pond.

The list on System X had dial-up modem numbers, along with usernames
and password pairs for each address. These usernames were not words
like `jsmith' or `jdoe', and the passwords would not have appeared in
any dictionary. 12[AZ63. K5M82L. The type of passwords and usernames
only a computer would remember.

This, of course, made sense, since a computer picked them out in the
first place. It generated them randomly. The list wasn't particularly
user-friendly. It didn't have headers, outlining what each item
related to. This made sense too. The list wasn't meant to be read by

Occasionally, there were comments in the list. Programmers often
include a line of comment in code, which is delineated in such a way
that the computer skips over the words when interpreting the commands.
The comments are for other programmers examining the code. In this
case, the comments were places. Fort Green. Fort Myers. Fort Ritchie.
Dozens and dozens of forts. Almost half of them were not on the
mainland US. They were in places like the Philippines, Turkey,
Germany, Guam. Places with lots of US military presence.

Not that these bases were any secret to the locals, or indeed to many
Americans. Anthrax knew that anyone could discover a base existed
through perfectly legal means. The vast majority of people never
thought to look. But once they saw such a list, particularly from the
environment of a military computer's bowels, it tended to drive the
point home. The point being that the US military seemed to be

Anthrax logged out of System X, killed all his connections and hung up
the phone. It was time to move on. Routing through a few
out-of-the-way connections, he called one of the numbers on the list.
The username-password combination worked. He looked around. It was as
he expected. This wasn't a computer. It was a telephone exchange. It
looked like a NorTel DMS 100.

Hackers and phreakers usually have areas of expertise. In Australian
terms, Anthrax was a master of the X.25 network and a king of voice
mailbox systems, and others in the underground recognised him as such.
He knew Trilogues better than most company technicians. He knew
Meridian VMB systems better than almost anyone in Australia. In the
phreaking community, he was also a world-class expert in Aspen VMB
systems. He did not, however, have any expertise in DMS 100s.

Anthrax quickly hunted through his hacking disks for a text file on
DMS 100s he had copied from an underground BBS. The pressure was on.
He didn't want to spend long inside the exchange, maybe only fifteen
or twenty minutes tops. The longer he stayed without much of a clue
about how the thing operated, the greater the risk of his being
traced. When he found the disk with the text file, he began sorting
through it while still on-line at the telephone exchange. The
phreakers' file showed him some basic commands, things which let him
gently prod the exchange for basic information without disturbing the
system too much. He didn't want to do much more for fear of
inadvertently mutilating the system.

Although he was not an authority on DMS 100s, Anthrax had an old
hacker friend overseas who was a real genius on NorTel equipment. He
gave the list to his friend. Yes, the friend confirmed it was indeed a
DMS 100 exchange at a US military base. It was not part of the normal
telephone system, though. This exchange was part of a military phone

In times of war, the military doesn't want to be dependent on the
civilian telephone system. Even in times of peace, voice
communications between military staff are more secure if they don't
talk on an exchange used by civilians. For this and a variety of other
reasons, the military have separate telephone networks, just as they
have separate networks for their data communications. These networks
operate like a normal network and in some cases can communicate to the
outside world by connecting through their own exchanges to civilian

When Anthrax got the word from the expert hacker, he made up his mind
quickly. Up went the sniffer. System X was getting more interesting by
the hour and he didn't want to miss a precious minute in the information
gathering game when it came to this system.

The sniffer, a well-used program rumoured to be written by a
Sydney-based Unix hacker called Rockstar, sat on System X under an
innocuous name, silently tracking everyone who logged in and out of
the system. It recorded the first 128 characters of every telnet
connection that went across the ethernet network cable to which System
X was attached. Those 128 bytes included the username and the
passwords people used to log in. Sniffers were effective, but they
needed time. Usually, they grew like an embryo in a healthy womb,
slowly but steadily.

Anthrax resolved to return to System X in twelve hours to check on the

`Why are you two watching those nigger video clips?'

It was an offensive question, but not atypical for Anthrax's father.
He often breezed through the house, leaving a trail of disruption in
his wake.

Soon, however, Anthrax began eroding his father's authority. He
discovered his father's secrets hidden on the Commodore 64 computer.
Letters--lots of them--to his family in England. Vicious, racist,
horrid letters telling how his wife was stupid. How she had to be told
how to do everything, like a typical Indian. How he regretted marrying
her. There were other matters too, things unpleasant to discuss.

Anthrax confronted his father, who denied the allegations at first,
then finally told Anthrax to keep his mouth shut and mind his own
business. But Anthrax told his mother. Tensions erupted and, for a
time, Anthrax's parents saw a marriage counsellor.

But his father did not give up writing the letters. He put a password
protection program on the word processor to keep his son out of his
business. It was a futile effort. His father had chosen the wrong
medium to record his indiscretions.

Anthrax showed his mother the new letters and continued to confront
his father. When the tension in the house grew, Anthrax would escape
with his friends. One night they were at a nightclub when someone
started taunting Anthrax, calling him `curry muncher' and worse.

That was it. The anger which had been simmering below the surface for
so long exploded as Anthrax violently attacked his taunter, hitting,
kicking and punching him, using the tai kwon do combinations he had
been learning. There was blood and it felt good. Vengeance tasted

After that incident, Anthrax often lashed out violently. He was out of
control and it sometimes scared him. However, at times he went looking
for trouble. Once he tracked down a particularly seedy character who
had tried to rape one of his girlfriends. Anthrax pulled a knife on
the guy, but the incident had little to do with the girl. The thing
that made him angry was the disrespect. This guy knew the girl was
with Anthrax. The attempted rape was like spitting in his face.

Perhaps that's what appealed to Anthrax about Islam--the importance of
respect. At sixteen he found Islam and it changed his life. He
discovered the Qu'raan in the school library while researching an
assignment on religion. About the same time, he began listening to a
lot of rap music. More than half the American rappers in his music
collection were Muslim, and many sang about the Nation of Islam and
the sect's charismatic leader, Minister Louis Farrakhan. Their songs
described the injustices whites inflicted on blacks. They told blacks
to demand respect.

Anthrax found a magazine article about Farrakhan and began reading
books like the Autobiography of Malcolm X. Then he rang up the Nation
of Islam head office in Chicago and asked them to send some
information. The Final Call, the NOI newsletter, arrived one day,
followed by other literature which began appearing around Anthrax's
home. Under the TV guide. On the coffee table. Amid the pile of
newspapers. On top of his computer. Anthrax often took time to read
articles aloud to his mother while she did housework.

In the middle of 1990, when Anthrax was in year 11, his father
suggested the boy attend Catholic boarding school in Melbourne. The
school was inexpensive and the family could scrape and save to pay the
fees. Anthrax disliked the idea, but his father insisted.

Anthrax and his new school proved a bad match. The school thought he
asked too many questions, and Anthrax thought the school answered too
few of them. The hypocrisy of the Catholic church riled Anthrax and
pushed him further into the arms of NOI. How could he respect an
institution which had sanctioned slavery as a righteous and
progressive method of converting people? The school and Anthrax parted
on less than friendly terms after just one semester.

The Catholic school intensified a feeling of inferiority Anthrax had
felt for many years. He was an outsider. The wrong colour, the wrong
size, too intelligent for his school. Yet, NOI's Minister Farrakhan
told him that he wasn't inferior at all. `I know that you have been
discriminated against because of your colour,' Farrakhan told Anthrax
from the tape player. `Let me tell you why. Let me tell you about the
origins of the white race and how they were put on this earth to do
evil. They have shown themselves to be nothing but an enemy of the
East. Non-whites are the original people of the earth.'

Anthrax found some deep veins of truth in NOI's teachings. Interracial
marriages don't work. A white man marries a non-white woman because he
wants a slave, not because he loves and respects her. Islam respects
women in more meaningful ways than Western religions. Perhaps it wasn't
the type of respect that Western men were used to giving women, but he
had seen that kind of respect in his own home and he didn't think much
of it.

Anthrax read the words of the Honourable Elijah Muhammad, founder of
NOI: `The enemy does not have to be a real devil. He could be your
father, mother, brother, husband, wife or children. Many times they're
in your own household. Today is the great time of separation of the
righteous Muslim and the wicked white race.' Anthrax looked inside his
own household and saw what seemed to be a devil. A white devil.

NOI fed Anthrax's mind. He followed up the lists of literature
included in every issue of The Final Call. Books like Black Athena by
Martin Bernel and Deterring Democracy by Noam Chomsky had common
themes of conspiracy and oppression by the haves against the
have-nots. Anthrax read them all.

The transformation of Anthrax occurred over a period of six months. He
didn't talk about it much with his parents. It was a private matter.
But his mother later told him his adoption of the religion didn't
surprise her. His great-grandfather had been a Muslim scholar and
cleric in India. It was fate. His conversion presented a certain sense
of closure, of completing the circle.

His interest in Islam found secular outlets. A giant black and white
poster of Malcolm X appeared on Anthrax's bedroom wall. A huge photo
of Los Angeles Black Panther leader Elmer Pratt followed soon after.
The photo was captioned, `A coward dies a million deaths, a brave man
dies but one'. The last bit of wall was covered in posters of hip-hop
bands from ceiling to floor. A traditional Indian sword adorned the
top of one of the many bookcases. It complemented the growing
collection of books on martial arts. A well-loved copy of The Art of
War by Sun Tzu sat on the shelf next to Homer's Ulysses, The Lord of
The Rings, The Hobbit, a few old Dungeons and Dragons books, works of
mythology from India and Egypt. The shelves did not contain a single
work of science fiction. Anthrax shaved his head. His mother may not
have been surprised by the conversion to Islam, but the head shaving
went a bit over the top.

Anthrax pursued NOI with the same vigour with which he attacked
hacking. He memorised whole speeches of Farrakhan and began speaking
like him, commenting casually on `those caucasian, blue-eyed devils'.
He quoted people he had discovered through NOI. People who described
the US Federal Reserve Bank as being controlled by Jews. People who
spoke of those hooked-nose, bagel-eating, just-crawled-out-of-a-cave
Jews. Anthrax denied the existence of the Holocaust.

`You're shaping up to be quite a little Hitler,' his father told

His father disliked the NOI literature showing up at the house. It
seemed to frighten him. Receiving blueprints in the mail for
overthowing governments didn't sit well with the neighbours in the
quiet suburban street of the provincial town.

`Watch out,' he warned his son. `Having these thing turn up in your
mailbox can be dangerous. It will probably earmark you for some sort
of investigation. They will follow you around.'

The traffic raced. The ethernet cables attached to System X were a
regular speedway. People whizzed in and out of the mystery site like a
swarm of bees. In only twelve hours, the sniffer file topped 100 k.

Many of the connections went from System X to the major
telecommunications company. Anthrax headed in that direction.

He considered how to route the attack. He could go through a few
diverters and other leapfrog devices to cover his trail, thus hitting
the company's system from a completely separate source. The advantage
of this route was anonymity. If the admin managed to detect his entry,
Anthrax would only lose access to the phone company's system, not to
System X. Alternatively, if he went in to the company through the
gateway and System X, he risked alarms being raised at all three
sites. However, his sniffer showed so much traffic running on this
route, he might simply disappear in the flow. The established path was
obviously there for a reason. One more person logging into the gateway
through System X and then into the company's machine would not raise
suspicions. He chose to go through System X.

Anthrax logged into the company using a sniffed username and password.
Trying the load-module bug again, he got root on the system and
installed his own login patch. The company's system looked far more
normal than System X. A few hundred users. Lots of email, far too much
to read. He ran a few key word searches on all the email, trying to
piece together a better picture of the project being developed on
System X.

The company did plenty of defence work, mostly in telecommunications.
Different divisions of the company seemed to be working on different
segments of the project. Anthrax searched through people's home
directories, but nothing looked very interesting because he couldn't
get a handle on the whole project. People were all developing
different modules of the project and, without a centralised overview,
the pieces didn't mean much.

He did find a group of binary files--types of programs--but he had no
idea what they were for. The only real way to find out what they did
was to take them for a test drive. He ran a few binaries. They didn't
appear to do anything. He ran a few more. Again, nothing. He kept
running them, one after another. Still no results. All he received was
error messages.

The binaries seemed to need a monitor which could display graphics.
They used XII, a graphical display common on Unix systems. Anthrax's
inexpensive home computer didn't have that sort of graphical display
operating system. He could still run the binaries by telling System X
to run them on one of its local terminals, but he wouldn't be able to
see the output on his home computer. More importantly, it was a risky
course of action. What if someone happened to be sitting at the
terminal where he chose to run the binary? The game would be up.

He leaned away from his keyboard and stretched. Exhaustion was
beginning to set in. He hadn't slept in almost 48 hours. Occasionally,
he had left his computer terminal to eat, though he always brought the
food back to the screen. His mother popped her head in the doorway
once in a while and shook her head silently. When he noticed her
there, he tried to ease her concerns. `But I'm learning lots of
things,' he pleaded. She was not convinced.

He also broke his long hacking session to pray. It was important for a
devout Muslim to practice salat--to pray at least five times a day
depending on the branch of Islam followed by the devotee. Islam allows
followers to group some of their prayers, so Anthrax usually grouped
two in the morning, prayed once at midday as normal, and grouped two
more at night. An efficient way to meet religious obligations.

Sometimes the time just slipped away, hacking all night. When the
first hint of dawn snuck up on him, he was invariably in the middle of
some exciting journey. But duty was duty, and it had to be done. So he
pressed control S to freeze his screen, unfurled the prayer mat with
its built-in compass, faced Mecca, knelt down and did two sets of
prayers before sunrise. Ten minutes later he rolled the prayer mat up,
slid back into his chair, typed control Q to release the pause on his
computer and picked up where he left off.

This company's computer system seemed to confirm what he had begun to
suspect. System X was the first stage of a project, the rest of which
was under development. He found a number of tables and reports in
System X's files. The reports carried headers like `Traffic Analysis',
`calls in' and `calls out', `failure rate'. It all began to make sense
to Anthrax.

System X called up each of the military telephone exchanges in that
list. It logged in using the computer-generated name and password.
Once inside, a program in System X polled the exchange for important
statistics, such as the number of calls coming in and out of the base.
This information was then stored on System X. Whenever someone wanted
a report on something, for example, the military sites with the most
incoming calls over the past 24 hours, he or she would simply ask
System X to compile the information. All of this was done

Anthrax had read some email suggesting that changes to an exchange,
such as adding new telephone lines on the base, had been handled
manually, but this job was soon to be done automatically by System X.
It made sense. The maintenance time spent by humans would be cut

A machine which gathers statistics and services phone exchanges
remotely doesn't sound very sexy on the face of it, until you begin to
consider what you could do with something like that. You could sell it
to a foreign power interested in the level of activity at a certain
base at a particular time. And that is just the beginning.

You could tap any unencrypted line going in or out of any of the 100
or so exchanges and listen in to sensitive military discussions. Just
a few commands makes you a fly on the wall of a general's conversation
to the head of a base in the Philippines. Anti-government rebels in
that country might pay a pretty penny for getting intelligence on the
US forces.

All of those options paled next to the most striking power wielded by
a hacker who had unlimited access to System X and the 100 or so
telephone exchanges. He could take down that US military voice
communications system almost overnight, and he could do it
automatically. The potential for havoc creation was breathtaking. It
would be a small matter for a skilled programmer to alter the
automated program used by System X. Instead of using its dozen or more
modems to dial all the exchanges overnight and poll them for
statistics, System X could be instructed to call them overnight and
reprogram the exchanges.

What if every time General Colin Powell picked up his phone, he was be
automatically patched through to some Russian general's office? He
wouldn't be able to dial any other number from his office phone. He'd
pick up his phone to dial and there would be the Russian at the other
end. And what if every time someone called into the general's number,
they ended up talking to the stationery department? What if none of the
phone numbers connected to their proper telephones?  No-one would be
able to reach one another. An important part of the US military machine
would be in utter disarray. Now, what if all this happened in the first
few days of a war? People trying to contact each other with vital
information wouldn't be able to use the telephone exchanges reprogrammed
by System X.

THAT was power.

It wasn't like Anthrax screaming at his father until his voice turned
to a whisper, all for nothing. He could make people sit up and take
notice with this sort of power.

Hacking a system gave him a sense of control. Getting root on a system
always gave him an adrenalin rush for just that reason. It meant the
system was his, he could do whatever he wanted, he could run whatever
processes or programs he desired, he could remove other users he
didn't want using his system. He thought, I own the system. The word
`own' anchored the phrase which circled through his thoughts again and
again when he successfully hacked a system.

The sense of ownership was almost passionate, rippled with streaks of
obsession and jealousy. At any given moment, Anthrax had a list of
systems he owned and that had captured his interest for that moment.
Anthrax hated seeing a system administrator logging onto one of those
systems. It was an invasion. It was as though Anthrax had just got
this woman he had been after for some time alone in a room with the
door closed. Then, just as he was getting to know her, this other guy
had barged in, sat down on the couch and started talking to her.

It was never enough to look at a system from a distance and know he
could hack it if he wanted to. Anthrax had to actually hack the
system. He had to own it. He needed to see what was inside the system,
to know exactly what it was he owned.

The worst thing admins could do was to fiddle with system security.
That made Anthrax burn with anger. If Anthrax was on-line, silently
observing the admins' activities, he would feel a sudden urge to log
them off. He wanted to punish them. Wanted them to know he was into
their system. And yet, at the same time, he didn't want them to know.
Logging them off would draw attention to himself, but the two desires
pulled at him from opposite directions. What Anthrax really wanted was
for the admins to know he controlled their system, but for them not to
be able to do anything about it. He wanted them to be helpless.

Anthrax decided to keep undercover. But he contemplated the power of
having System X's list of telephone exchange dial-ups and their
username-password combinations. Normally, it would take days for a
single hacker with his lone modem to have much impact on the US
military's communications network. Sure, he could take down a few
exchanges before the military wised up and started protecting
themselves. It was like hacking a military computer. You could take
out a machine here, a system there. But the essence of the power of
System X was being able to use its own resources to orchestrate
widespread pandemonium quickly and quietly.

Anthrax defines power as the potential for real world impact. At that
moment of discovery and realisation, the real world impact of hacking
System X looked good. The telecommunications company computer seemed
like a good place to hang up a sniffer, so he plugged one into the
machine and decided to return in a little while. Then he logged out
and went to bed.

When he revisited the sniffer a day or so later, Anthrax received a
rude shock. Scrolling through the sniffer file, he did a double take
on one of the entries. Someone had logged into the company's system
using his special login patch password.

He tried to stay calm. He thought hard. When was the last time he had
logged into the system using that special password? Could his sniffer
have logged himself on an earlier hacking session? It did happen
occasionally. Hackers sometimes gave themselves quite a fright. In the
seamless days and nights of hacking dozens of systems, it was easy to
forget the last time you logged into a particular system using the
special password. The more he thought, the more he was absolutely
sure. He hadn't logged into the system again.

Which left the obvious question. Who had?

Sometimes Anthrax pranked, sometimes he punished. Punishment could be
severe or mild. Generally it was severe. And unlike pranking, it was
not done randomly.

Different things set him off. The librarian, for example. In early
1993 Anthrax had enrolled in Asia-Pacific and Business Studies at a
university in a nearby regional city. Ever since he showed up on the
campus, he had been hassled by a student who worked part-time at the
university library. On more than one occasion, Anthrax had been
reading at a library table when a security guard came up and asked to
search his bags. And when Anthrax looked over his shoulder to the
check-out desk, that librarian was always there, the one with the bad
attitude smeared across his face.

The harassment became so noticeable, Anthrax's friends began
commenting on it. His bag would be hand-searched when he left the
library, while other students walked through the electronic security
boom gate unbothered. When he returned a book one day late, the
librarian--that librarian--insisted he pay all sorts of fines.
Anthrax's pleas of being a poor student fell on deaf ears. By the time
exam period rolled around at the end of term, Anthrax decided to
punish the librarian by taking down the library's entire computer

Logging in to the library computer via modem from home, Anthrax
quickly gained root privileges. The system had security holes a mile
wide. Then, with one simple command, he deleted every file in the
computer. He knew the system would be backed up somewhere, but it
would take a day or two to get the system up and running again. In the
meantime, every loan or book search had to be conducted manually.

During Anthrax's first year at university, even small incidents
provoked punishment. Cutting him off while he was driving, or swearing
at him on the road, fit the bill. Anthrax would memorise the licence
plate of the offending driver, then social engineer the driver's
personal details. Usually he called the police to report what appeared
to be a stolen car and then provided the licence plate number. Shortly
after, Anthrax tuned into to his police scanner, where he picked up
the driver's name and address as it was read over the airways to the
investigating police car. Anthrax wrote it all down.

Then began the process of punishment. Posing as the driver, Anthrax rang
the driver's electricity company to arrange a power disconnection. The
next morning the driver might return home to find his electricity cut
off. The day after, his gas might be disconnected.  Then his water. Then
his phone.

Some people warranted special punishment--people such as Bill. Anthrax
came across Bill on the Swedish Party Line, an English-speaking
telephone conference. For a time, Anthrax was a regular fixture on the
line, having attempted to call it by phreaking more than 2000 times
over just a few months. Of course, not all those attempts were
successful, but he managed to get through at least half the time. It
required quite an effort to keep a presence on the party line, since
it automatically cut people off after only ten minutes. Anthrax made
friends with the operators, who sometimes let him stay on-line a while

Bill, a Swedish Party Line junkie, had recently been released from
prison, where he had served time for beating up a Vietnamese boy at a
railway station. He had a bad attitude and he often greeted the party
line by saying, `Are there any coons on the line today?' His attitude
to women wasn't much better. He relentlessly hit on the women who
frequented the line. One day, he made a mistake. He gave out his phone
number to a girl he was trying to pick up. The operator copied it down
and when her friend Anthrax came on later that day, she passed it on
to him.

Anthrax spent a few weeks social engineering various people, including
utilities and relatives whose telephone numbers appeared on Bill's
phone accounts, to piece together the details of his life. Bill was a
rough old ex-con who owned a budgie and was dying of cancer. Anthrax
phoned Bill in the hospital and proceeded to tell him all sorts of
personal details about himself, the kind of details which upset a

Not long after, Anthrax heard that Bill had died. The hacker felt as
though he had perhaps gone a bit too far.

The tension at home had eased a little by the time Anthrax left to
attend university. But when he returned home during holidays he found
his father even more unbearable. More and more, Anthrax rebelled
against his father's sniping comments and violence. Eventually, he
vowed that the next time his father tried to break his arm he would
fight back. And he did.

One day Anthrax's father began making bitter fun of his younger son's
stutter. Brimming with biting sarcasm, the father mimicked Anthrax's

`Why are you doing that?' Anthrax yelled. The bait had worked once

It was as though he became possessed with a spirit not his own. He
yelled at his father, and put a fist into the wall. His father grabbed
a chair and thrust it forward to keep Anthrax at bay, then reached
back for the phone. Said he was calling the police. Anthrax ripped the
phone from the wall. He pursued his father through the house, smashing
furniture. Amid the crashing violence of the fight, Anthrax suddenly
felt a flash of fear for his mother's clock--a much loved, delicate
family heirloom. He gently picked it up and placed it out of harm's
way. Then he heaved the stereo into the air and threw it at his
father. The stereo cabinet followed in its wake. Wardrobes toppled
with a crash across the floor.

When his father fled the house, Anthrax got a hold of himself and
began to look around. The place was a disaster area. All those things
so tenderly gathered and carefully treasured by his mother, the things
she had used to build her life in a foreign land of white people
speaking an alien tongue, lay in fragments scattered around the house.

Anthrax felt wretched. His mother was distraught at the destruction
and he was badly shaken by how much it upset her. He promised to try
and control his temper from that moment on. It proved to be a constant
battle. Mostly he would win, but not always. The battle still simmered
below the surface.

Sometimes it boiled over.

Anthrax considered the possibilities of who else would be using his
login patch. It could be another hacker, perhaps someone who was
running another sniffer that logged Anthrax's previous login. But it
was more likely to be a security admin. Meaning he had been found out.
Meaning that he might be being traced even as he leap-frogged through
System X to the telecommunications company's computer.

Anthrax made his way to the system admin's mailboxes. If the game was
up, chances were something in the mailbox would give it away.

There it was. The evidence. They were onto him all right, and they
hadn't wasted any time. The admins had mailed CERT, the Computer
Emergency Response Team at Carnegie Mellon University, reporting a
security breach. CERT, the nemesis of every Internet hacker, was bound
to complicate matters. Law enforcement would no doubt be called in

It was time to get out of this system, but not before leaving in a
blaze of glory. A prank left as a small present.

CERT had written back to the admins acknowledging the incident and
providing a case number. Posing as one of the admins, Anthrax drafted
a letter to CERT. To make the thing look official, he added the case
number `for reference'. The letter went something like this:

`In regard to incident no. XXXXX, reported on this date, we have since
carried out some additional investigations on the matter. We have
discovered the security incident was caused by a disgruntled employee
who was fired for alcoholism and decided to retaliate against the
company in this manner.

`We have long had a problem with alcohol and drug abuse due to the
stressful nature of the company environment. No further investigation
is necessary.'

At his computer terminal, Anthrax smiled. How embarrassing was that
going to be? Try scraping that mud off. He felt very pleased with

Anthrax then tidied up his things in the company's computer, deleted
the sniffer and moved out.

Things began to move quickly after that. He logged into System X later
to check the sniffer records, only to find that someone had used his
login patch password on that system as well. He became very nervous.
It was one thing goofing around with a commercial site, and quite
another being tracked from a military computer.

A new process had been added to System X, which Anthrax recognised. It
was called `-u'. He didn't know what it did, but he had seen it before
on military systems. About 24 hours after it appeared, he found
himself locked out of the system. He had tried killing off the -u
process before. It disappeared for a split-second and reappeared. Once
it was in place, there was no way to destroy it.

Anthrax also unearthed some alarming email. The admin at a site
upstream from both System X and the company's system had been sent a
warning letter: `We think there has been a security incident at your
site'. The circle was closing in on him. It was definitely time to get
the hell out. He packed up his things in a hurry. Killed off the
remaining sniffer. Moved his files. Removed the login patch. And
departed with considerable alacrity.

After he cut his connection, Anthrax sat wondering about the admins.
If they knew he was into their systems, why did they leave the
sniffers up and running? He could understand leaving the login patch.
Maybe they wanted to track his movements, determine his motives, or
trace his connection. Killing the patch would have simply locked him
out of the only door the admins could watch. They wouldn't know if he
had other backdoors into their system. But the sniffer? It didn't make
any sense.

It was possible that they simply hadn't seen the sniffer. Leaving it
there had been an oversight. But it was almost too glaring an error to
be a real possibility. If it was an error, it implied the admins
weren't actually monitoring the connections in and out of their
systems. If they had been watching the connections, they would
probably have seen the sniffer. But if they weren't monitoring the
connections, how on earth did they find out his special password for
the login patch? Like all passwords on the system, that one was
encrypted. There were only two ways to get that password. Monitor the
connection and sniff it, or break the encryption with a brute-force

Breaking the encryption would probably have taken millions of dollars
of computer time. He could pretty well rule that option out. That left
sniffing it, which would have alerted them to his own sniffer. Surely
they wouldn't have left his sniffer running on purpose. They must have
known he would learn they were watching him through his sniffer. The
whole thing was bizarre.

Anthrax thought about the admins who were chasing him. Thought about
their moves, their strategies. Wondered why. It was one of the
unsolved mysteries a hacker often faced--an unpleasant side of
hacking. Missing the answers to certain questions, the satisfaction of
a certain curiosity. Never being able to look over the fence at the
other side.

                   Chapter 11 -- The Prisoner's Dilemma.

Harrisburg Oh Harrisburg; The plant is melting down; The people out in Harrisbug; Are getting out of town; And when this stuff gets in; You cannot get it out .

-- from `Harrisburg', Red Sails in the Sunset.

Anthrax thought he would never get caught. But in some strange way, he
also wanted to get caught. When he thought about being busted, he
found himself filled with a strange emotion--impatience. Bring on the
impending doom and be done with it. Or perhaps it was frustration at
how inept his opponents seemed to be. They kept losing his trail and
he was impatient with their incompetence. It was more fun outwitting a
worthy opponent.

Perhaps he didn't really want to be caught so much as tracked. Anthrax
liked the idea of the police tracking him, of the system
administrators pursuing him. He liked to follow the trail of their
investigations through other people's mail. He especially liked being
on-line, watching them trying to figure out where he was coming from.
He would cleverly take control of their computers in ways they
couldn't see. He watched every character they typed, every spelling
error, every mistyped command, each twist and turn taken in the vain
hope of catching him.

He hadn't been caught back in early 1991, when it seemed everyone was
after him. In fact Anthrax nearly gave up hacking and phreaking
completely in that year after what he later called `The Fear of God'

Late at night, on a university computer system, he bumped into another
hacker. It wasn't an entirely uncommon experience. Once in a while,
hackers recognised another of their kind. Strange connections to
strange places in the middle of the night. Inconsistencies in process
names and sizes. The clues were visible for those who knew how to find

The two hackers danced around each other, trying to determine who the
other was without giving away too much information. Finally the
mystery hacker asked Anthrax, `Are you a disease which affects sheep?'

Anthrax typed the simple answer back. `Yes.'

The other hacker revealed himself as Prime Suspect, one of the
International Subversives. Anthrax recognised the name. He had seen
Prime Suspect around on the BBSes, had read his postings. Before
Anthrax could get started on a friendly chat, the IS hacker jumped in
with an urgent warning.

He had unearthed emails showing the Feds were closing in on Anthrax.
The mail, obtained from system admins at Miden Pacific, described the
systems Anthrax had been visiting. It showed the phone connections he
had been using to get to them, some of which Telecom had traced back
to his phone. One of the admins had written, `We're on to him. I feel
really bad. He's seventeen years old and they are going to bust him
and ruin his life.' Anthrax felt a cold chill run down his spine.

Prime Suspect continued with the story. When he first came across the
email, he thought it referred to himself. The two hackers were the
same age and had evidently been breaking into the same systems. Prime
Suspect had freaked out over the mail. He took it back to the other
two IS hackers, and they talked it through. Most of the description
fitted, but a few of the details didn't seem to make sense. Prime
Suspect wasn't calling from a country exchange. The more they worked
it through, the clearer it became that the email must have been
referring to someone else. They ran through the list of other options
and Anthrax's name came up as a possibility. The IS hackers had all
seen him around a few systems and BBSes. Trax had even spoken to him
once on a conference call with another phreaker. They pieced together
what they knew of him and the picture fitted. The AFP were onto
Anthrax and they seemed to know a lot about him. They had traced his
telephone connection back to his house. They knew his age, which
implied they knew his name. The phone bills were in his parents'
names, so there may have been some personal surveillance of him. The
Feds were so close they were all but treading on his heels. The IS
hackers had been keeping an eye out for him, to warn him, but this was
the first time they had found him.

Anthrax thanked Prime Suspect and got out of the system. He sat frozen
in the night stillness. It was one thing to contemplate getting caught,
to carry mixed emotions on the hypothetical situation. It was another to
have the real prospect staring you in the face. In the morning, he
gathered up all his hacking papers, notes, manuals--everything. Three
trunks' worth of material. He carried it all to the back garden, lit a
bonfire and watched it burn. He vowed to give up hacking forever.

And he did give it up, for a time. But a few months later he somehow
found himself back in front of his computer screen, with his modem
purring. It was so tempting, so hard to let go. The police had never
shown up. Months had come and gone, still nothing. Prime Suspect must
have been wrong. Perhaps the AFP were after another hacker entirely.

Then, in October 1991, the AFP busted Prime Suspect, Mendax and Trax.
But Anthrax continued to hack, mostly on his own as usual, for another
two years. He reminded himself that the IS hackers worked in a team.
If the police hadn't nailed him when they busted the others, surely
they would never find him now. Further, he had become more skilled as
a hacker, better at covering his tracks, less likely to draw attention
to himself. He had other rationalisations too. The town where he lived
was so far away, the police would never bother travelling all the way
into the bush. The elusive Anthrax would remain at large forever, the
unvanquished Ned Kelly of the computer underground.

Mundane matters were on Anthrax's mind on the morning of 14 July 1994.
The removalists were due to arrive to take things from the half-empty
apartment he had shared with another student. His room-mate had
already departed and the place was a clutter of boxes stuffed with
clothes, tapes and books.

Anthrax sat in bed half-asleep, half-watching the `Today' show when he
heard the sound of a large vehicle pulling up outside. He looked out
the window expecting to see the removalists. What he saw instead was
at least four men in casual clothes running toward the house.

They were a little too enthusiastic for removalists and they split up
before getting to the door, with two men forking off toward opposite
sides of the building. One headed for the car port. Another dove
around the other side of the building. A third banged on the front
door. Anthrax shook himself awake.

The short, stocky guy at the front door was a worry. He had puffy,
longish hair and was wearing a sweatshirt and acid-wash jeans so tight
you could count the change in his back pocket. Bad ideas raced through
Anthrax's head. It looked like a home invasion. Thugs were going to
break into his home, tie him up and terrorise him before stealing all
his valuables.

`Open up. Open up,' the stocky one shouted, flashing a police badge.

Stunned, and still uncomprehending, Anthrax opened the door. `Do you
know who WE are?' the stocky one asked him.

Anthrax looked confused. No. Not sure.

`The Australian Federal Police.' The cop proceeded to read out the
search warrant.

What happened from this point forward is a matter of some debate. What
is fact is that the events of the raid and what
followed formed the basis of a formal complaint by Anthrax to the
Office of the Ombudsman and an internal investigation within the AFP.
The following is simply Anthrax's account of how it happened.

The stocky one barked at Anthrax, `Where's your computer?'

`What computer?' Anthrax looked blankly at the officer. He didn't have
a computer at his apartment. He used the uni's machines or friend's

`Your computer. Where is it? Which one of your friends has it?'

`No-one has it. I don't own one.'

`Well, when you decide to tell us where it is, you let us know.'

Yeah. Right. If Anthrax did have a hidden computer at uni, revealing
its location wasn't top of the must-do list.

The police pawed through his personal letters, quizzed Anthrax about
them. Who wrote this letter? Is he in the computer underground? What's
his address?

Anthrax said `no comment' more times than he could count. He saw a few
police moving into his bedroom and decided it was time to watch them
closely, make sure nothing was planted. He stood up to follow them in
and observe the search when one of the cops stopped him. Anthrax told
them he wanted a lawyer. One of the police looked on with disapproval.

`You must be guilty,' he told Anthrax. `Only guilty people ask for
lawyers. And here I was feeling sorry for you.'

Then one of the other officers dropped the bomb. `You know,' he began
casually, `we're also raiding your parents' house ...'

Anthrax freaked out. His mum would be hysterical. He asked to call his
mother on his mobile, the only phone then working in the apartment.
The police refused to let him touch his mobile. Then he asked to call
her from the pay phone across the street. The police refused again.
One of the officers, a tall, lanky cop, recognised a leverage point if
ever he saw one. He spread the guilt on thick.

`Your poor sick mum. How could you do this to your poor sick mum?
We're going to have to take her to Melbourne for questioning, maybe
even to charge her, arrest her, take her to jail. You make me sick. I
feel sorry for a mother having a son like you who is going to cause
her all this trouble.'

From that moment on, the tall officer took every opportunity to talk
about Anthrax's `poor sick mum'. He wouldn't let up. Not that he
probably knew the first thing about scleroderma, the creeping fatal
disease which affected her. Anthrax often thought about the pain his
mother was in as the disease worked its way from her extremities to
her internal organs. Scleroderma toughened the skin on the fingers and
feet, but made them overly sensitive, particularly to changes in
weather. It typically affected women native to hot climates who moved
to colder environments.

Anthrax's mobile rang. His mother. It had to be. The police wouldn't
let him answer it.

The tall officer picked up the call, then turned to the stocky cop and
said in a mocking Indian accent, `It is some woman with an Indian
accent'. Anthrax felt like jumping out of his chair and grabbing the
phone. He felt like doing some other things too, things that would
have undoubtedly landed him in prison then and there.

The stocky cop nodded to the tall one, who handed the mobile to

At first, he couldn't make sense of what his mother was saying. She
was a terrified mess. Anthrax tried to calm her down. Then she tried
to comfort him.

`Don't worry. It will be all right,' she said it, over and over. No
matter what Anthrax said, she repeated that phrase, like a chant. In
trying to console him, she was actually calming herself. Anthrax
listened to her trying to impose order on the chaos around her. He
could hear noises in the background and he guessed it was the police
rummaging through her home. Suddenly, she said she had to go and hung

Anthrax handed the phone back to the police and sat with his head in
his hands. What a wretched situation. He couldn't believe this was
happening to him. How could the police seriously consider taking his
mother to Melbourne for questioning? True, he phreaked from her home
office phone, but she had no idea how to hack or phreak. As for
charging his mother, that would just about kill her. In her mental and
physical condition, she would simply collapse, maybe never to get up

He didn't have many options. One of the cops was sealing up his mobile
phone in a clear plastic bag and labelling it. It was physically
impossible for him to call a lawyer, since the police wouldn't let him
use the mobile or go to a pay phone. They harangued him about coming
to Melbourne for a police interview.

`It is your best interest to cooperate,' one of the cops told him. `It
would be in your best interest to come with us now.'

Anthrax pondered that line for a moment, considered how ludicrous it
sounded coming from a cop. Such a bald-faced lie told so
matter-of-factly. It would have been humorous if the situation with
his mother hadn't been so awful. He agreed to an interview with the
police, but it would have to be done on another day.

The cops wanted to search his car. Anthrax didn't like it, but there
was nothing incriminating in the car anyway. As he walked outside in
the winter morning, one of the cops looked down at Anthrax's feet,
which were bare in accordance with the Muslim custom of removing shoes
in the house. The cop asked if he was cold.

The other cop answered for Anthrax. `No. The fungus keeps them warm.'

Anthrax swallowed his anger. He was used to racism, and plenty of it,
especially from cops. But this was over the top.

In the town where he attended uni, everyone thought he was Aboriginal.
There were only two races in that country town--white and Aboriginal.
Indian, Pakistani, Malay, Burmese, Sri Lankan--it didn't matter. They
were all Aboriginal, and were treated accordingly.

Once when he was talking on the pay phone across from his house, the
police pulled up and asked him what he was doing there. Talking on the
phone, he told them. It was pretty obvious. They asked for
identification, made him empty his pockets, which contained his small
mobile phone. They told him his mobile must be stolen, took it from
him and ran a check on the serial number. Fifteen minutes and many
more accusations later, they finally let him go with the flimsiest of
apologies. `Well, you understand,' one cop said. `We don't see many of
your type around here.'

Yeah. Anthrax understood. It looked pretty suspicious, a dark-skinned
boy using a public telephone. Very suss indeed.

In fact, Anthrax had the last laugh. He had been on a phreaked call to
Canada at the time and he hadn't bothered to hang up when the cops
arrived. Just told the other phreakers to hang on. After the police
left, he picked up the conversation where he left off.

Incidents like that taught him that sometimes the better path was to
toy with the cops. Let them play their little games. Pretend to be
manipulated by them. Laugh at them silently and give them nothing. So
he appeared to ignore the fungus comment and led the cops to his car.
They found nothing.

When the police finally packed up to leave, one of them handed Anthrax
a business card with the AFP's phone number.

`Call us to arrange an interview time,' he said.

`Sure,' Anthrax replied as he shut the door.

Anthrax keep putting the police off. Every time they called hassling
him for an interview, he said he was busy. But when they began ringing
up his mum, he found himself in a quandary. They were threatening and
yet reassuring to his mother all at the same time and spoke politely
to her, even apologetically.

`As bad as it sounds,' one of them said, `we're going to have to
charge you with things Anthrax has done, hacking, phreaking, etc. if
he doesn't cooperate with us. We know it sounds funny, but we're
within our rights to do that. In fact that is what the law dictates
because the phone is in your name.'

He followed this with the well-worn `it's in your son's best interest
to cooperate' line, delivered with cooing persuasion.

Anthrax wondered why there was no mention of charging his father,
whose name appeared on the house's main telephone number. That line
also carried some illegal calls.

His mother worried. She asked her son to cooperate with the police.
Anthrax felt he had to protect his mother and finally agreed to a
police interview after his uni exams. The only reason he did so was
because of the police threat to charge his mother. He was sure that if
they dragged his mother through court, her health would deteriorate
and lead to an early death.

Anthrax's father picked him up from uni on a fine November day and
drove down to Melbourne. His mother had insisted that he attend the
interview, since he knew all about the law and police. Anthrax didn't
mind having him along: he figured a witness might prevent any use of
police muscle.

During the ride to the city, Anthrax talked about how he would handle
the interview. The good news was that the AFP had said they wanted to
interview him about his phreaking, not his hacking. He went to the
interview understanding they would only be discussing his `recent
stuff'--the phreaking. He had two possible approaches to the
interview. He could come clean and admit everything, as his first
lawyer had advised. Or he could pretend to cooperate and be evasive,
which was what his instincts told him to do.

His father jumped all over the second option. `You have to cooperate
fully. They will know if you are lying. They are trained to pick out
lies. Tell them everything and they will go easier on you.' Law and
order all the way.

`Who do they think they are anyway? The pigs.' Anthrax looked away,
disgusted at the thought of police harassing people like his mother.

`Don't call them pigs,' his father snapped. `They are police officers.
If you are ever in trouble, they are the first people you are ever
going to call.'

`Oh yeah. What kind of trouble am I going to be in that the first
people I call are the AFP?' Anthrax replied.

Anthrax would put up with his father coming along so long as he kept
his mouth shut during the interview. He certainly wasn't there for
personal support. They had a distant relationship at best. When his
father began working in the town where Anthrax now lived and studied,
his mother had tried to patch things between them. She suggested his
father take Anthrax out for dinner once a week, to smooth things over.
Develop a relationship. They had dinner a handful of times and Anthrax
listened to his father's lectures. Admit you were wrong. Cooperate
with the police. Get your life together. Own up to it all. Grow up. Be
responsible. Stop being so useless. Stop being so stupid.

The lectures were a bit rich, Anthrax thought, considering that his
father had benefited from Anthrax's hacking skills. When he discovered
Anthrax had got into a huge news clipping database, he asked the boy
to pull up every article containing the word `prison'. Then he had him
search for articles on discipline. The searches should have cost a
fortune, probably thousands of dollars. But his father didn't pay a
cent, thanks to Anthrax. And he didn't spend much time lecturing
Anthrax on the evils of hacking then.

When they arrived at AFP headquarters, Anthrax made a point of putting
his feet up on the leather couch in the reception area and opened a
can of Coke he had brought along. His father got upset.

`Get your feet off that seat. You shouldn't have brought that can of
Coke. It doesn't look very professional.'

`Hey, I'm not going for a job interview here,' Anthrax responded.

Constable Andrew Sexton, a redhead sporting two earrings, came up to
Anthrax and his father and took them upstairs for coffee. Detective
Sergeant Ken Day, head of the Computer Crime Unit, was in a meeting,
Sexton said, so the interview would be delayed a little.

Anthrax's father and Sexton found they shared some interests in law
enforcement. They discussed the problems associated with
rehabilitation and prisoner discipline. Joked with each other.
Laughed. Talked about `young Anthrax'. Young Anthrax did this. Young
Anthrax did that.

Young Anthrax felt sick. Watching his own father cosying up to the
enemy, talking as if he wasn't even there.

When Sexton went to check on whether Day had finished his meeting,
Anthrax's father growled, `Wipe that look of contempt off your face,
young man. You are going to get nowhere in this world if you show that
kind of attitude, they are going to come down on you like a ton of

Anthrax didn't know what to say. Why should he treat these people with
any respect after the way they threatened his mother?

The interview room was small but very full. A dozen or more boxes, all
filled with labelled print-outs.

Sexton began the interview. `Taped record of interview conducted at
Australian Federal Police Headquarters, 383 Latrobe Street Melbourne
on 29 November 1994.' He reeled off the names of the people present
and asked each to introduce himself for voice recognition.

`As I have already stated, Detective Sergeant Day and I are making
enquiries into your alleged involvement into the manipulation of
private automated branch exchanges [PABXes] via Telecom 008 numbers in
order to obtain free phone calls nationally and internationally. Do
you clearly understand this allegation?'


Sexton continued with the necessary, and important, preliminaries. Did
Anthrax understand that he was not obliged to answer any questions?
That he had the right to communicate with a lawyer? That he had
attended the interview of his own free will? That he was free to leave
at any time?

Yes, Anthrax said in answer to each question.

Sexton then ploughed through a few more standard procedures before he
finally got to the meat of the issue--telephones. He fished around in
one of the many boxes and pulled out a mobile phone. Anthrax confirmed
that it was his phone.

`Was that the phone that you used to call the 008 numbers and
subsequent connections?' Sexton asked.


`Contained in that phone is a number of pre-set numbers. Do you


`I went to the trouble of extracting those records from it.' Sexton
looked pleased with himself for hacking Anthrax's speed-dial numbers
from the mobile. `Number 22 is of some interest to myself. It comes up
as Aaron. Could that be the person you referred to before as Aaron in
South Australia?'

`Yes, but he is always moving house. He is a hard person to track

Sexton went through a few more numbers, most of which Anthrax hedged.
He asked Anthrax questions about his manipulation of the phone system,
particularly about the way he made free calls overseas using
Australian companies' 008 numbers.

When Anthrax had patiently explained how it all worked, Sexton went
through some more speed-dial numbers.

`Number 43. Do you recognise that one?'

`That's the Swedish Party Line.'

`What about these other numbers? Such as 78? And 30?'

`I'm not sure. I couldn't say what any of these are. It's been so
long,' Anthrax paused, sensing the pressure from the other side of the
table. `These ones here, they are numbers in my town. But I don't know
who. Very often, 'cause I don't have any pen and paper with me, I just
plug a number into the phone.'

Sexton looked unhappy. He decided to go in a little harder. `I'm going
to be pretty blunt. So far you have admitted to the 008s but I think
you are understating your knowledge and your experience when it comes
to these sort of offences.' He caught himself. `Not offences. But your
involvement in all of this ... I think you have got a little bit more
... I'm not saying you are lying, don't get me wrong, but you tend to
be pulling yourself away from how far you were really into this. And
how far everyone looked up to you.'

There was the gauntlet, thrown down on the table. Anthrax picked it

`They looked up to me? That was just a perception. To be honest, I
don't know that much. I couldn't tell you anything about telephone
exchanges or anything like that. In the past, I guess the reason they
might look up to me in the sense of a leader is because I was doing
this, as you are probably aware, quite a bit in the past, and
subsequently built up a reputation. Since then I decided I wouldn't do
it again.'

`Since this?' Sexton was quick off the mark.

`No. Before. I just said, "I don't want anything to do with this any
more. It's just stupid". When I broke up with my girlfriend ... I just
got dragged into it again. I'm not trying to say that I am any less
responsible for any of this but I will say I didn't originate any of
these 008s. They were all scanned by other people. But I made calls
and admittedly I did a lot of stupid things.'

But Sexton was like a dog with a bone.

`I just felt that you were tending to ... I don't know if it's because
your dad's here or ... I have read stuff that "Anthrax was a legend
when it came to this, and he was a scanner, and he was the man to talk
to about X.25, Tymnet, hacking, Unix. The whole kit and kaboodle".'

Anthrax didn't take the bait. Cops always try that line. Play on a
hacker's ego, get them to brag. It was so transparent.

`It's not true,' he answered. `I know nothing about ... I can't
program. I have an Amiga with one meg of memory. I have no formal
background in computers whatsoever.'

That part was definitely true. Everything was self-taught. Well,
almost everything. He did take one programming class at uni, but he
failed it. He went to the library to do extra research, used in his
final project for the course. Most of his classmates wrote simple
200-line programs with few functions; his ran to 500 lines and had
lots of special functions. But the lecturer flunked him. She told him,
`The functions in your program were not taught in this course'.

Sexton asked Anthrax if he was into carding, which he denied
emphatically. Then Sexton headed back into scanning. How much had
Anthrax done? Had he given scanned numbers to other hackers? Anthrax
was evasive, and both cops were getting impatient.

`What I am trying to get at is that I believe that, through your
scanning, you are helping other people break the law by promoting this
sort of thing.' Sexton had shown his hand.

`No more than a telephone directory would be assisting someone,
because it's really just a list. I didn't actually break anything. I
just looked at it.'

`These voice mailbox systems obviously belong to people. What would
you do when you found a VMB?'

`Just play with it. Give it to someone and say, "Have a look at this.
It is interesting," or whatever.'

`When you say play with it you would break the code out to the VMB?'

`No. Just have a look around. I'm not very good at breaking VMBs.'

Sexton tried a different tack. `What are 1-900 numbers? On the back of
that document there is a 1-900 number. What are they generally for?'

Easy question. `In America they like cost $10 a minute. You can ring
them up, I think, and get all sorts of information, party lines, etc.'

`It's a conference type of call?'


`Here is another document, contained in a clear plastic sleeve
labelled AS/AB/S/1. Is this a scan? Do you recognise your

`Yes, it's in my handwriting. Once again it's the same sort of scan.
It's just dialling some commercial numbers and noting them.'

`And once you found something, what would you do with it?'

Anthrax had no intention of being painted as some sort of ringleader
of a scanning gang. He was a sociable loner, not a part of a team.

`I'd just look at it, like in the case of this one here--630. I just
punched in a few numbers and it said that 113 diverts somewhere, 115
says goodbye, etc. I'd just do that and I probably never came back to
it again.'

`And you believe that if I pick up the telephone book, I would get all
this information?'

`No. It's just a list of numbers in the same sense that a telephone
book is.'

`What about a 1-800 number?'

`That is the same as a 0014.'

`If you rang a 1-800 number, where would you go?'

Anthrax wondered if the Computer Crimes Unit gained most of its
technical knowledge from interviews with hackers.

`You can either do 0014 or you can do 1-800. It's just the same.'

`Is it Canada--0014?'

`It's everywhere.' Oops. Don't sound too cocky. `Isn't it?'

`No, I'm not familiar.' Which is just what Anthrax was thinking.

Sexton moved on. `On the back of that document there is more type
scans ...'

`It's all just the same thing. Just take a note of what is there. In
this case, box 544 belongs to this woman ...'

`So, once again, you just release this type of information on the

`Not all of it. Most of it I would probably keep to myself and never
look at it again. I was bored. Is it illegal to scan?'

`I'm not saying it's illegal. I'm just trying to show that you were
really into this. I'm building a picture and I am gradually getting to
a point and I'm going to build a picture to show that for a while
there ...' Sexton then interrupted himself and veered down a less
confrontational course. `I'm not saying you are doing it now, but back
then, when all these offences occurred, you were really into scanning
telephone systems, be it voice mailboxes ... I'm not saying you found
the 008s but you ... anything to bugger up Telecom. You were really
getting into it and you were helping other people.'

Anthrax took offence. `The motivation for me doing it wasn't to bugger
up Telecom.'

Sexton backpedalled. `Perhaps ... probably a poor choice of words.'

He began pressing forward on the subject of hacking, something the
police had not said they were going to be discussing. Anthrax felt a
little unnerved, even rattled.

Day asked if Anthrax wanted a break.

`No,' he answered. `I just want to get it over and done with, if
that's OK. I'm not going to lie. I'm not going to say "no comment".
I'm going to admit to everything 'cause, based on what I have been
told, it's in my best interest to do so.'

The police paused. They didn't seem to like that last comment much.
Day tried to clear things up.

`Before we go any further, based on what you have been told, it is in
your best interests to tell the truth. Was it any member of the AFP
that told you this?'


`Who?' Day threw the question out quickly.

Anthrax couldn't remember their names. `The ones who came to my house.
I think Andrew also said it to me,' he said, nodding in the direction
of the red-headed constable.

Why were the cops getting so uncomfortable all of a sudden? It was no
secret that they had told both Anthrax and his mother repeatedly that
it was in his best interest to agree to an interview.

Day leaned forward, peered at Anthrax and asked, `What did you
interpret that to mean?'

`That if I don't tell the truth, if I say "no comment" and don't
cooperate, that it is going to be ... it will mean that you will go
after me with ...' Anthrax grasped for the right words, but he felt
tongue-tied, `with ... more force, I guess.'

Both officers stiffened visibly.

Day came back again. `Do you feel that an unfair inducement has been
placed on you as a result of that?'

`In what sense?' The question was genuine.

`You have made the comment and it has now been recorded and I have to
clear it up. Do you feel like, that a deal has been offered to you at
any stage?'

A deal? Anthrax thought about it. It wasn't a deal as in `Talk to us
now and we will make sure you don't go to jail'. Or `Talk now and we
won't beat you with a rubber hose'.

`No,' he answered.

`Do you feel that as a result of that being said that you have been
pressured to come forward today and tell the truth?'

Ah, that sort of deal. Well, of course.

`Yes, I have been pressured,' Anthrax answered. The two police
officers looked stunned. Anthrax paused, concerned about the growing
feeling of disapproval in the room. `Indirectly,' he added quickly,
almost apologetically.

For a brief moment, Anthrax just didn't care. About the police. About
his father. About the pressure. He would tell the truth. He decided to
explain the situation as he saw it.

`Because since they came to my house, they emphasised the fact that if
I didn't come for an interview, that they would then charge my mother
and, as my mother is very sick, I am not prepared to put her through

The police looked at each other. The shock waves reverberated around
the room. The AFP clearly hadn't bargained on this coming out in the
interview tape. But what he said about his mother being threatened was
the truth, so let it be on the record with everything else.

Ken Day caught his breath, `So you are saying that you
have now been ...' he cut himself off ... `that you are not here

Anthrax thought about it. What did `voluntarily' mean? The police
didn't cuff him to a chair and tell him he couldn't leave until he
talked. They didn't beat him around the head with a baton. They
offered him a choice: talk or inflict the police on his ailing mother.
Not a palatable choice, but a choice nonetheless. He chose to talk to
protect his mother.

`I am here voluntarily,' he answered.

`That is not what you have said. What you have just said is
that pressure has been placed on you and that you have had to come in
here and answer the questions. Otherwise certain actions would take
place. That does not mean you are here

The police must have realised they were on very thin ice and Anthrax
felt pressure growing in the room. The cops pushed. His father did not
looked pleased.

`I was going to come anyway,' Anthrax answered, again almost
apologetically. Walk the tightrope, he thought. Don't get them too mad
or they will charge my mother. `You can talk to the people who carried
out the warrant. All along, I said to them I would come in for an
interview. Whatever my motivations are, I don't think should matter. I
am going to tell you the truth.'

`It does matter,' Day responded, `because at the beginning of the
interview it was stated--do you agree--that you have come in here

`I have. No-one has forced me.'

Anthrax felt exasperated. The room was getting stuffy. He wanted to
finish this thing and get out of there. So much pressure.

`And is anyone forcing you to make the answers you have given here
today?' Day tried again.

`No individuals are forcing me, no.' There. You have what you want.
Now get on with it and let's get out of here.

`You have to tell the truth. Is that what you are saying?' The police
would not leave the issue be.

`I want to tell the truth. As well.' The key words there were `as
well'. Anthrax thought, I want to and I have to.

`It's the circumstances that are forcing this upon you, not an

`No.' Of course it was the circumstances. Never mind that the police
created the circumstance.

Anthrax felt as if the police were just toying with him. He knew and
they knew they would go after his mother if this interview wasn't to
their liking. Visions of his frail mother being hauled out of her
house by the AFP flashed through his mind. Anthrax felt sweaty and
hot. Just get on with it. Whatever makes them happy, just agree to it
in order to get out of this crowded room.

`So, would it be fair to summarise it, really, to say that perhaps ...
of your activity before the police arrived at your premises, that is
what is forcing you?'

What was this cop talking about? His `activity' forcing him? Anthrax
felt confused. The interview had already gone on some time. The cops
had such obscure ways of asking things. The room was oppressively

Day pressed on with the question, `The fact that you could see you had
broken the law, and that is what is forcing you to come forward here
today and tell the truth?'

Yeah. Whatever you want. `OK,' Anthrax started to answer, `That is a
fair assump--'

Day cut him off. `I just wanted to clarify that because the
interpretation I immediately got from that was that we, or members of
the AFP, had unfairly and unjustly forced you to come in here today,
and that is not the case?'

Define `unfairly'. Define `unjustly'. Anthrax thought it was unfair
the cops might charge his mother. But they told her it was perfectly
legal to do so. Anthrax felt light-headed. All these thoughts whirring
around inside his head.

`No, that is not the case. I'm sorry for ...' Be humble. Get out of
that room faster.

`No, that is OK. If that is what you believe, say it. I have no
problems with that. I just like to have it clarified. Remember, other
people might listen to this tape and they will draw inferences and
opinions from it. At any point where I think there is an ambiguity, I
will ask for clarification. Do you understand that?'

`Yes. I understand.' Anthrax couldn't really focus on what Day was
saying. He was feeling very distressed and just wanted to finish the

The cops finally moved on, but the new topic was almost as unpleasant.
Day began probing about Anthrax's earlier hacking career--the one he
had no intention of talking about. Anthrax began to feel a bit better.
He agreed to talk to the police about recent phreaking activities, not
hacking matters. Indeed, he had repeatedly told them that topic was
not on his agenda. He felt like he was standing on firmer ground.

After being politely stonewalled, Day circled around and tried again.
`OK. I will give you another allegation; that you have unlawfully
accessed computer systems in Australia and the United States. In the
US, you specifically targeted military computer systems. Do you
understand that allegation?'

`I understand that. I wouldn't like to comment on it.' No, sir. No

Day tried a new tack. `I will further allege that you did work with a
person known as Mendax.'

What on earth was Day talking about? Anthrax had heard of Mendax, but
they had never worked together. He thought the cops must not have very
good informants.

`No. That is not true. I know no-one of that name.' Not strictly true,
but true enough.

`Well, if he was to turn around to me and say that you were doing all
this hacking, he would be lying, would he?'

Oh wonderful. Some other hacker was crapping on to the cops with lies
about how he and Anthrax had worked together. That was exactly why
Anthrax didn't work in a group. He had plenty of real allegations to
fend off. He didn't need imaginary ones too.

`Most certainly would. Unless he goes by some other name, I know
no-one by that name, Mendax.' Kill that off quick.

In fact Mendax had not ratted on Anthrax at all. That was just a
technique the police used.

`You don't wish to comment on the fact that you have hacked into other
computer systems and military systems?' If there
was one thing Anthrax could say for Day, it was that he was

`No. I would prefer not to comment on any of that. This is the advice
I have received: not to comment on anything unrelated to the topic
that I was told I would be talking about when I came down here.'

`All right, well are you going to answer any questions in relation to
unlawfully accessing any computer systems?'

`Based upon the legal advice that I received, I choose not to.'

Day pursed his lips. `All right. If that is your attitude and you
don't wish to answer any of those questions, we won't pursue the
matter. However, I will inform you now that the matter may be reported
and you may receive a summons to answer the questions or face charges
in relation to those allegations, and, at any time that you so choose,
you can come forward and tell us the truth.'

Woah. Anthrax took a deep breath. Could the cops make him come answer
questions with a summons? They were changing the game midway through.
Anthrax felt as though the carpet had been pulled out from beneath his
feet. He needed a few minutes to clear his head.

`Is it something I can think over and discuss?' Anthrax asked.

`Yes. Do you want to have a pause and a talk with your father? The
constable and I can step out of the room, or offer you another room.
You may wish to have a break and think about it if you like. I think
it might be a good idea. I think we might have a ten-minute break and
put you in another room and let you two have a chat about it. There is
no pressure.'

Day and the Sexton stopped the interview and guided father and son
into another room. Once they were alone, Anthrax looked to his father
for support. This voice inside him still cried out to keep away from
his earlier hacking journeys. He needed someone to tell him the same

His father was definitely not that someone. He railed against Anthrax
with considerable vehemence. Stop holding back. You have to tell
everything. How could you be so stupid? You can't fool the police.
They know. Confess it all before it's too late. At the end of the
ten-minute tirade, Anthrax felt worse than he had at the beginning.

When the two returned to the interview room, Anthrax's father turned
to the police and said suddenly, `He has decided to confess'.

That was not true. Anthrax hadn't decided anything of the sort. His
father was full of surprises. It seemed every time he opened his
mouth, an ugly surprise came out.

Ken Day and Andrew Sexton warmed up a shaky Anthrax by showing him
various documents, pieces of paper with Anthrax's scribbles seized
during the raid, telephone taps. At one stage, Day pointed to some
handwritten notes which read `KDAY'. He looked at Anthrax.

`What's that? That's me.'

Anthrax smiled for the first time in a long while. It was something to
be happy about. The head of the AFP's Computer Crime Unit in Melbourne
sat there, so sure he was onto something big. There was his name, bold
as day, in the hacker's handwriting on a bit of paper seized in a
raid. Day seemed to be expecting something good.

Anthrax said, `If you ring that up you will find it is a radio
station.' An American radio station. Written on the same bit of paper
were the names of an American clothing store, another US-based radio
station, and a few records he wanted to order.

`There you go,' Day laughed at his own hasty conclusions. `I've got a
radio station named after me.'

Day asked Anthrax why he wrote down all sorts of things, directory
paths, codes, error messages.

`Just part of the record-keeping. I think I wrote this down when I had
first been given this dial-up and I was just feeling my way around,
taking notes of what different things did.'

`What were your intentions at the time with these computer networks?'

`At this stage, I was just having a look, just a matter of curiosity.'

`Was it a matter of curiosity--"Gee, this is interesting" or was it
more like "I would like to get into them" at this stage?'

`I couldn't say what was going through my mind at the time. But
initially once I got into the first system--I'm sure you have heard
this a lot--but once you get into the first system, it's like you get
into the next one and the next one and the next one, after a while it
doesn't ...' Anthrax couldn't find the right words to finish the

`Once you have tasted the forbidden fruit?'

`Exactly. It's a good analogy.'

Day pressed on with questions about Anthrax's hacking. He successfully
elicited admissions from the hacker. Anthrax gave Day more than the
police officer had before, but probably not as much as he would have

It was, however, enough. Enough to keep the police from charging
Anthrax's mother. And enough for them to charge him.

Anthrax didn't see his final list of charges until the day he appeared
in court on 28 August 1995. The whole case seemed to be a bit
disorganised. His Legal Aid lawyer had little knowledge of computers,
let alone computer crime. He told Anthrax he could ask for an
adjournment because he hadn't seen the final charges until so late,
but Anthrax wanted to get the thing over and done with. They had
agreed that Anthrax would plead guilty to the charges and hope for a
reasonable magistrate.

Anthrax looked through the hand-up brief provided by the prosecution,
which included a heavily edited transcript of his interview with the
police. It was labelled as a `summary', but it certainly didn't
summarise everything important in that interview. Either the
prosecution or the police had cut out all references to the fact that
the police had threatened to charge Anthrax's mother if he didn't
agree to be interviewed.

Anthrax pondered the matter. Wasn't everything relevant to his case
supposed to be covered in a hand-up brief? This seemed very relevant
to his case, yet there wasn't a mention of it anywhere in the
document. He began to wonder if the police had edited down the
transcript just so they could cut out that portion of the interview.
Perhaps the judge wouldn't be too happy about it. He thought that
maybe the police didn't want to be held accountable for how they had
dealt with his mother.

The rest of the hand-up brief wasn't much better. The only statement
by an actual `witness' to Anthrax's hacking was from his former
room-mate, who claimed that he had watched Anthrax break into a NASA
computer and access an `area of the computer system which showed the
latitude/longitude of ships'.

Did space ships even have longitudes and latitudes? Anthrax didn't
know. And he had certainly never broken into a NASA computer in front
of the room-mate. It was absurd. This guy is lying, Anthrax thought,
and five minutes under cross-examination by a reasonable lawyer would
illustrate as much. Anthrax's instincts told him the prosecution had a
flimsy case for some of the charges, but he felt overwhelmed by
pressure from all sides--his family, the bustle in the courtroom, even
the officiousness of his own lawyer quickly rustling through his

Anthrax looked around the room. His eyes fell on his father, who sat
waiting on the public benches. Anthrax's lawyer wanted him there to
give evidence during sentencing. He thought it would look good to show
there was a family presence. Anthrax gave the suggestion a cool
reception. But he didn't understand how courts worked, so he followed
his lawyer's advice.

Anthrax's mother was back at his apartment, waiting for news. She had
been on night duty and was supposed to be sleeping. That was the
ostensible reason she didn't attend. Anthrax thought perhaps that the
tension was too much for her. Whatever the reason, she didn't sleep
all that day. She tidied the place, washed the dishes, did the
laundry, and kept herself as busy as the tiny apartment would allow

Anthrax's girlfriend, a pretty, moon-faced Turkish girl, also came to
court. She had never been into the hacking scene. A group of school
children, mostly girls, chatted in the rows behind her.

Anthrax read through the four-page summary of facts provided by the
prosecution. When he reached the final page, his heart stopped. The
final paragraph said:

31. Penalty

s85ZF (a)--12 months, $6000 or both

s76E(a)--2 years, $12000 or both

Pointing to the last paragraph, Anthrax asked his lawyer what that was
all about. His lawyer told him that he would probably get prison but,
well, it wouldn't be that bad and he would just have `to take it on
the chin'. He would, after all, be out in a year or two.

Rapists sometimes got off with less than that. Anthrax couldn't
believe the prosecution was asking for prison. After he cooperated,
suffering through that miserable interview. He had no prior
convictions. But the snowball had been set in motion. The magistrate
appeared and opened the court.

Anthrax felt he couldn't back out now and he pleaded guilty to 21
counts, including one charge of inserting data and twenty charges of
defrauding or attempting to defraud a carrier.

His lawyer put the case for a lenient sentence. He called Anthrax's
father up on the stand and asked him questions about his son. His
father probably did more harm than good. When asked if he thought his
son would offend again, his father replied, `I don't know'.

Anthrax was livid. It was further unconscionable behaviour. Not long
before the trial, Anthrax had discovered that his father had planned
to sneak out of the country two days before the court case. He was
going overseas, he told his wife, but not until after the court case.
It was only by chance that she discovered his surreptitious plans to
leave early. Presumably he would find his son's trial humiliating.
Anthrax's mother insisted he stayed and he begrudgingly delayed the

His father sat down, a bit away from Anthrax and his lawyer. The
lawyer provided a colourful alternative to the prosecutor. He perched
one leg up on his bench, rested an elbow on the knee and stroked his
long, red beard. It was an impressive beard, more than a foot long and
thick with reddish brown curls. Somehow it fitted with his two-tone
chocolate brown suit and his tie, a breathtakingly wide creation with
wild patterns in gold. The suit was one size too small. He launched
into the usual courtroom flourish--lots of words saying nothing. Then
he got to the punch line.

`Your worship, this young man has been in all sorts of places. NASA,
military sites, you wouldn't believe some of the places he has been.'

`I don't think I want to know where he has been,' the magistrate
answered wryly.

The strategy was Anthrax's. He thought he could turn a
liability into an asset by showing that he had been in many
systems--many sensitive systems--but had done no malicious damage in
any of them.

The strategy worked and the magistrate announced there was no way he
was sending the young hacker to jail.

The prosecutor looked genuinely disappointed and launched a counter
proposal--1500 hours of community service. Anthrax caught his breath.
That was absurd. It would take almost nine months, full time. Painting
buildings, cleaning toilets. Forget about his university studies. It was
almost as bad as prison.

Anthrax's lawyer protested. `Your Worship, that penalty is something
out of cyberspace.' Anthrax winced at how corny that sounded, but the
lawyer looked very pleased with himself.

The magistrate refused to have a bar of the prosecutor's counter
proposal. Anthrax's girlfriend was impressed with the magistrate. She
didn't know much about the law or the court system, but he seemed a
fair man, a just man. He didn't appear to want to give a harsh
punishment to Anthrax at all. But he told the court he had to send a
message to Anthrax, to the class of school children in the public
benches and to the general community that hacking was wrong in the
eyes of the law. Anthrax glanced back at the students. They looked
like they were aged thirteen or fourteen, about the age he got into
hacking and phreaking.

The magistrate announced his sentence. Two hundred hours of community
service and $6116.90 of restitution to be paid to two telephone
companies--Telecom and Teleglobe in Canada. It wasn't prison, but it was
a staggering amount of money for a student to rake up. He had a year to
pay it off, and it would definitely take that long. At least he was

Anthrax's girlfriend thought how unlucky it was to have landed those
giggling school children in the courtroom on that day. They laughed
and pointed and half-whispered. Court was a game. They didn't seem to
take the magistrate's warning seriously. Perhaps they were gossiping
about the next party. Perhaps they were chatting about a new pair of
sneakers or a new CD.

And maybe one or two murmured quietly how cool it would be to break
into NASA.


It was billed as the `largest annual gathering of those in, related
to, or wishing to know more about the computer underground', so I
thought I had better go.

HoHoCon in Austin, Texas, was without a doubt one of the strangest
conferences I have attended. During the weekend leading up to New Year's
Day 1995, the Ramada Inn South was overrun by hackers, phreakers,
ex-hackers, underground sympathisers, journalists, computer company
employees and American law enforcement agents. Some people had come from
as far away as Germany and Canada.

The hackers and phreakers slept four or six to a room--if they slept
at all. The feds slept two to a room. I could be wrong; maybe they
weren't feds at all. But they seemed far too well dressed and well
pressed to be anything else. No one else at HoHoCon ironed their

I left the main conference hall and wandered into Room 518--the
computer room--sat down on one of the two hotel beds which had been
shoved into a corner to make room for all the computer gear, and
watched. The conference organisers had moved enough equipment in there
to open a store, and then connected it all to the Internet. For nearly
three days, the room was almost continuously full. Boys in their late
teens or early twenties lounged on the floor talking, playing with
their cell phones and scanners or tapping away at one of the six or
seven terminals. Empty bags of chips, Coke cans and pizza boxes
littered the room. The place felt like one giant college dorm floor
party, except that the people didn't talk to each other so much as to
their computers.

These weren't the only interesting people at the con. I met up with an
older group of nonconformists in the computer industry, a sort of
Austin intelligentsia. By older, I mean above the age of 26. They were
interested in many of the same issues as the young group of
hackers--privacy, encryption, the future of a digital world--and they
all had technical backgrounds.

This loose group of blue-jean clad thinkers, people like Doug Barnes,
Jeremy Porter and Jim McCoy, like to meet over enchiladas and
margueritas at university-style cafes. They always seemed to have
three or four projects on the run. Digital cash was the flavour of the
month when I met them. They were unconventional, perhaps even a little
weird, but they were also bright, very creative and highly innovative.
They were just the sort of people who might marry creative ideas with
maturity and business sense, eventually making widespread digital cash
a reality.

I began to wonder how many of the young men in Room 518 might follow
the same path. And I asked myself: where are these people in

Largely invisible or perhaps even non-existent, it seems. Except maybe
in the computer underground. The underground appears to be one of the
few places in Australia where madness, creativity, obsession,
addiction and rebellion collide like atoms in a cyclotron.

After the raids, the arrests and the court cases on three continents,
what became of the hackers described in this book?

Most of them went on to do interesting and constructive things with
their lives. Those who were interviewed for this work say they have
given up hacking for good. After what many of them had been through, I
would be surprised if any of them continued hacking.

Most of them, however, are not sorry for their hacking activities.
Some are sorry they upset people. They feel badly that they caused
system admins stress and unhappiness by hacking their systems. But
most do not feel hacking is wrong--and few, if any, feel that
`look-see hacking', as prosecuting barrister Geoff Chettle termed
non-malicious hacking, should be a crime.

For the most part, their punishments have only hardened their views on
the subject. They know that in many cases the authorities have sought
to make examples of them, for the benefit of rest of the computer
underground. The state has largely failed in this objective. In the
eyes of many in the computer underground, these prosecuted hackers are


When I met Par in Tucson, Arizona, he had travelled from a tiny,
snow-laden Mid-Western town where he was living with his grandparents.
He was looking for work, but hadn't been able to find anything.

As I drove around the outskirts of Tucson, a little jetlagged and
disoriented, I was often distracted from the road by the beauty of the
winter sun on the Sonoran desert cacti. Sitting in the front passenger
seat, Par said calmly, `I always wondered what it would be like to
drive on the wrong side of the road'.

I swerved back to the right side of the road.

Par is still like that. Easy-going, rolling with the punches, taking
what life hands him. He is also on the road again.

He moved back to the west coast for a while, but will likely pack up
and go somewhere else before long. He picks up temporary work where he
can, often just basic, dull data-entry stuff. It isn't easy. He can't
just explain away a four-year gap in his resumé with `Successfully
completed a telecommuting course for fugitives. Trained by the US
Secret Service'. He thought he might like to work at a local college
computer lab, helping out the students and generally keeping the
equipment running. Without any professional qualifications, that
seemed an unlikely option these days.

Although he is no longer a fugitive, Par's life hasn't changed that
much. He speaks to his mother very occasionally, though they don't
have much in common. Escaping his computer crimes charges proved
easier than overcoming the effects of being a fugitive for so long on
his personality and lifestyle. Now and again, the paranoia sets in
again. It seems to come in waves. There aren't many support mechanisms
in the US for an unemployed young man who doesn't have health


Prime Suspect has no regrets about his choices. He believed that he
and Mendax were headed in different directions in life. The friendship
would have ended anyway, so he decided that he was not willing to go
to prison for Mendax.

He completed a TAFE course in computer programming and found a job in
the burgeoning Internet industry. He likes his job. His employer, who
knows about his hacking convictions, recently gave him a pay rise. In
mid-1994, he gave up drugs for good. In 1995 he moved into a shared
house with some friends, and in August 1996 he stopped smoking

Without hacking, there seems to be time in his life to do new things.
He took up sky-diving. A single jump gives him a high which lasts for
days, sometimes up to a week. Girls have captured his interest. He's
had a few girlfriends and thinks he would like to settle into a
serious relationship when he finds the right person.

Recently, Prime Suspect has been studying martial arts. He tries to
attend at least four classes a week, sometimes more, and says he has a
special interest in the spiritual and philosophical sides of martial
arts. Most days, he rises at 5 a.m., either to jog or to meditate.


In 1992 Mendax and Trax teamed up with a wealthy Italian real-estate
investor, purchased La Trobe University's mainframe computer
(ironically, a machine they had been accused of hacking) and started a
computer security company. The company eventually dissolved when the
investor disappeared following actions by his creditors.

After a public confrontation in 1993 with Victorian Premier Jeff
Kennett, Mendax and two others formed a civil rights organisation to
fight corruption and lack of accountability in a Victorian government
department. As part of this ongoing effort, Mendax acted as a conduit
for leaked documents and became involved in a number of court cases
against the department during 1993-94. Eventually, he gave evidence in
camera to a state parliamentary committee examining the issues, and
his organisation later facilitated the appearance of more than 40
witnesses at an investigation by the Auditor-General.

Mendax volunteers his time and computer expertise for several other
non-profit community organisations. He believes strongly in the
importance of the non-profit sector, and spends much of his free time
as an activist on different community projects. Mendax has provided
information or assistance to law-enforcement bodies, but not against
hackers. He said, `I couldn't ethically justify that. But as for
others, such as people who prey on children or corporate spies, I am
not concerned about using my skills there.'

Still passionate about coding, Mendax donates his time to various
international programming efforts and releases some of his programs
for free on the Internet. His philosophy is that most of the lasting
social advances in the history of man have been a direct result of new

NorTel and a number of other organisations he was accused of hacking
use his cryptography software--a fact he finds rather ironic.


Anthrax moved to Melbourne, where he is completing a university course
and working on freelance assignments in the computer networking area
of a major corporation.

His father and mother are divorcing. Anthrax doesn't talk to his
father at all these days.

Anthrax's mother's health has stabilised somewhat since the completion
of the court case, though her condition still gives her chronic pain.
Despite some skin discolouration caused by the disease, she looks
well. As a result of her years of work in the local community, she has
a loyal group of friends who support her through bad bouts of the
illness. She tries to live without bitterness and continues to have a
good relationship with both her sons.

Anthrax is no longer involved in the Nation of Islam, but he is still
a devout Muslim. An acquaintance of his, an Albanian who ran a local
fish and chips shop, introduced him to a different kind of Islam. Not
long after, Anthrax became a Sunni Muslim. He doesn't drink alcohol or
gamble, and he attends a local mosque for Friday evening prayers. He
tries to read from the Qu'raan every day and to practise the tenets of
his religion faithfully.

With his computer and business skills now sought after by industry, he
is exploring the possibility of moving to a Muslim country in Asia or
the Middle East. He tries to promote the interests of Islam worldwide.

Most of his pranking needs are now met by commercial CDs--recordings
of other people's pranking sold through underground magazines and
American mail order catalogues. Once in a long while, he still rings
Mr McKenny in search of the missing shovel.

Anthrax felt aggrieved at the outcome of his written complaint to the
Office of the Ombudsman. In the complaint, Anthrax gave an account of
how he believed the AFP had behaved inappropriately throughout his
case. Specifically, he alleged that the AFP had pressured his mother
with threats and had harassed him, taken photographs of him without
his permission, given information to his university about his case
prior to the issue of a summons and the resolution of his case, and
made racist comments toward him during the raid.

In 1995-96, a total of 1157 complaints were filed against the AFP, 683
of which were investigated by the Commonwealth Ombudsman. Of the
complaint investigations completed and reviewed, only 6 per cent were
substantiated. Another 9 per cent were deemed to be `incapable of
determination', about 34 per cent were `unsubstantiated', and in more
than a quarter of all cases the Ombudsman either chose not to
investigate or not to continue to investigate a complaint.

The Office of the Ombudsman referred Anthrax's matter to the AFP's
Internal Investigations office. Although Anthrax and his mother both
gave statements to the investigating officers, there was no other
proof of Anthrax's allegations. In the end, it came down to Anthrax
and his mother's words against those of the police.

The AFP's internal investigation concluded that Anthrax's complaints
could either not be substantiated or not be determined, in part due to
the fact that almost two years had passed since the original raid. For
the most part, the Ombudsman backed the AFP's finding. No
recommendation was made for the disciplining of any officers.

Anthrax's only consolation was a concern voiced by the Ombudsman's
Office. Although the investigating officer agreed with the AFP
investigators that the complaint could not be substantiated, she
wrote, `I am concerned that your mother felt she was compelled to
pressure you into attending an interview based on a fear that she
would be charged because her phone was used to perpetrate the

Anthrax remains angry and sceptical about his experience with the
police. He believes a lot of things need to be changed about the way
the police operate. Most of all, he believes that justice will never
be assured in a system where the police are allowed to investigate


After Pad and Gandalf were released from prison, they started up a
free security advisory service on the Internet. One reason they began
releasing 8lgm advisories, as they were known, was to help admins
secure their own systems. The other reason was to thumb their noses at
the conservatives in the security industry.

Many on the Internet considered the 8lgm advisories to be the best
available at the time--far better than anything CERT had ever
produced. Pad and Gandalf were sending their own message back to the
establishment. The message, though never openly stated, was something
like this: `You busted us. You sent us to prison. But it didn't
matter. You can't keep information like this secret. Further, we are
still better than you ever were and, to prove it, we are going to beat
you at your own game.'

Believing that the best way to keep a hacker out of your system is to
secure it properly in the first place, the two British hackers
rejected security gurus who refused to tell the world about new
security holes. Their 8lgm advisories began marginalising the
traditional industry security reports, and helped to push the industry
toward its current, more open attitude.

Pad and Gandalf now both work, doing computer programming jobs on
contract, sometimes for financial institutions. Their clients like
them and value their work. Both have steady girlfriends.

Pad doesn't hack any more. The reason isn't the risk of getting caught
or the threat of prison. He has stopped hacking because he has
realised what a headache it is for a system administrator to clean up
his or her computer after an attack. Searching through logs. Looking
for backdoors the hacker might have left behind. The hours, the
hassle, the pressure--he thinks it is wrong to put anyone through
that. Pad understands far better now how much strain a hacker
intrusion can cause another human being.

There is another reason Pad has given up hacking: he has simply
outgrown the desire. He says that he has better things to do with his
time. Computers are a way for him to earn a living, not a way to spend
his leisure time. After a trip overseas he decided that real
travel--not its electronic cousin--was more interesting than hacking.
He has also learned to play the guitar, something he believes he would
have done years ago if he hadn't spent so much time hacking.

Gandalf shares Pad's interest in travelling. One reason they like
contract work is because it lets them work hard for six months, save
some money, and then take a few months off. The aim of both ex-hackers
for now is simply to sling backpacks over their shoulders and bounce
around the globe.

Pad still thinks that Britain takes hacking far too seriously and he
is considering moving overseas permanently. The 8lgm court case made
him wonder about the people in power in Britain--the politicians, the
judges, the law enforcement officers. He often thinks: what kind of
people are running this show?


In 1993, the Victorian Ombudsman1 and the Victoria Police2 both
investigated the leaking of confidential police information in
association with Operation Iceberg--a police investigation into
allegations of corruption against Assistant Commissioner of Police
Frank Green. Stuart Gill figured prominently in both reports.

The Victoria Police report concluded that `Gill was able to infiltrate
the policing environment by skilfully manipulating himself and
information to the unsuspecting'. The Ombudsman concluded that a
`large quantity of confidential police information, mainly from the
ISU database, was given to ... Gill by [Victoria Police officer]

The police report stated that Inspector Chris Cosgriff had
deliberately leaked confidential police information to Gill, and
reported that he was `besotted with Gill'. Superintendent Tony Warren,
ex-Deputy Commissioner John Frame and ex-Assistant Commissioner
Bernice Masterston were also criticised in the report.

The Ombudsman concluded that Warren and Cosgriff's relationship with
Gill was `primarily responsible for the release of confidential
information'. Interestingly, however, the Ombudsman also stated,
`Whilst Mr Gill may have had his own agenda and taken advantage of his
relationship with police, [the] police have equally used and in some
cases misused Mr Gill for their own purposes'.

The Ombudsman's report further concluded that there was no evidence of
criminal conduct by Frank Green, and that the `allegations made over
the years against Mr Green should have been properly and fully
investigated at the time they were made'.


As his court case played in the media, Phoenix was speeding on his
motorcycle through an inner-city Melbourne street one rainy night when
he hit a car. The car's driver leapt from the front seat and found a
disturbing scene. Phoenix was sprawled across the road. His helmet had
a huge crack on the side, where his head had hit the car's petrol
tank, and petrol had spilled over the motorcycle and its rider.

Miraculously, Phoenix was unhurt, though very dazed. Some bystanders
helped him and the distraught driver to a nearby halfway house. They
called an ambulance, and then made the two traumatised young men some
tea in the kitchen. Phoenix's mother arrived, called by a bystander at
Phoenix's request. The ambulance workers confirmed that Phoenix had
not broken any bones but they recommended he go to hospital to check
for possible concussion.

Still both badly shaken, Phoenix and the driver exchanged names and
phone numbers. Phoenix told the driver he did technical work for a
0055 telephone service, then said, `You might recognise me. I'm
Phoenix. There's this big computer hacking case going on in
court--that's my case'.

The driver looked at him blankly.

Phoenix said, `You might have seen me on the TV news.'

No, the driver said, somewhat amazed at the strange things which go
through the dazed mind of a young man who has so narrowly escaped

Some time after Phoenix's close brush with death, the former hacker
left his info-line technician's job and began working in the
information technology division of a large Melbourne-based
corporation. Well paid in his new job, Phoenix is seen, once again, as
the golden-haired boy. He helped to write a software program which
reduces waste in one of the production lines and reportedly saved the
company thousands of dollars. Now he travels abroad regularly, to
Japan and elsewhere.

He had a steady girlfriend for a time, but eventually she broke the
relationship off to see other people. Heartbroken, he avoided dating
for months. Instead, he filled his time with his ever-increasing
corporate responsibilities.

His new interest is music. He plays electric guitar in an amateur


A few weeks after his sentencing, Electron had another psychotic
episode, triggered by a dose of speed. He was admitted to hospital
again, this time at Larundel. After a short stay, he was released and
underwent further psychiatric care.

Some months later, he did speed again, and suffered another bout of
psychosis. He kept reading medical papers on the Internet about his
condition and his psychiatrists worried that his detailed research
might interfere with their ability to treat him.

He moved into special accommodation for people recovering from mental
instabilities. Slowly, he struggled to overcome his illness. When
people came up to him and said things like, `What a nice day it is!'
Electron willed himself to take their words at face value, to accept
that they really were just commenting on the weather, nothing more.
During this time, he quit drugs, alcohol and his much-hated accounting
course. Eventually he was able to come off his psychiatric medicines
completely. He hasn't taken drugs or had alcohol since December 1994.
His only chemical vice in 1996 was cigarettes. By the beginning of
1997 he had also given up tobacco.

Electron hasn't talked to either Phoenix or Nom since 1992.

In early 1996, Electron moved into his own flat with his steady
girlfriend, who studies dance and who also successfully overcame
mental illness after a long, hard struggle. Electron began another
university course in a philosophy-related field. This time university
life agreed with him, and his first semester transcript showed honours
grades in every class. He is considering moving to Sydney for further

Electron worked off his 300 hours of community service by painting walls
and doing minor handyman work at a local primary school. Among the small
projects the school asked him to complete was the construction of a
retaining wall. He designed and dug, measured and fortified. As he
finished off the last of his court-ordered community service hours on
the wall, he discovered that he was rather proud of his creation. Even
now, once in a while, he drives past the school and looks at the wall.

It is still standing.

There are still hacking cases in Australia. About the same time as
Mendax's case was being heard in Victoria, The Crawler pleaded guilty
to 23 indictable offences and thirteen summary offences--all hacking
related charges--in Brisbane District Court. On 20 December 1996, the
21-year-old Queenslander was given a three-year suspended prison
sentence, ordered to pay $5000 in reparations to various
organisations, and made to forfeit his modem and two computers. The
first few waves of hackers may have come and gone, but hacking is far
from dead. It is merely less visible.

Law enforcement agencies and the judiciaries of several countries have
tried to send a message to the next generation of would-be hackers.
The message is this: Don't hack.

But the next generation of elite hackers and phreakers have heard a
very different message, a message which says: Don't get caught.

The principle of deterrence has not worked with hackers at this level.
I'm not talking here about the codes-kids--the teeny-bopper, carding,
wanna-be nappies who hang out on IRC (Internet relay chat). I'm
talking about the elite hackers. If anything, law enforcement
crackdowns have not only pushed them further underground, they have
encouraged hackers to become more sophisticated than ever before in
the way they protect themselves. Adversity is the mother of invention.

When police officers march through the front door of a hacker's home
today, they may be better prepared than their predecessors, but they
will also be facing bigger hurdles.  Today, top hackers encrypt
everything sensitive. The data on their hard drives, their live data
connections, even their voice conversations.

So, if hackers are still hacking, who are their targets?

It is a broad field. Any type of network provider--X.25, cellular
phone or large Internet provider. Computer vendors--the manufacturers
of software and hardware, routers, gateways, firewalls or phone
switches. Military institutions, governments and banks seem to be a
little less fashionable these days, though there are still plenty of
attacks on these sorts of sites.

Attacks on security experts are still common, but a new trend is the
increase in attacks on other hackers' systems. One Australian hacker
joked, `What are the other hackers going to do? Call the Feds? Tell
the AFP, "Yes, officer, that's right, some computer criminal broke
into my machine and stole 20000 passwords and all my exploitation code
for bypassing firewalls".'

For the most part, elite hackers seem to work alone, because of the
well-advertised risks of getting caught. There are still some
underground hacking communities frequented by top hackers, most notably
UPT in Canada and a few groups like the l0pht in the US, but such groups
are far less common, and more fragmented than they used to be.

These hackers have reached a new level of sophistication, not just in
the technical nature of their attacks, but in their strategies and
objectives. Once, top hackers such as Electron and Phoenix were happy
to get copies of Zardoz, which listed security holes found by industry
experts. Now top hackers find those holes themselves--by reading line
by line through the proprietary source code from places like DEC, HP,
CISCO, Sun and Microsoft.

Industrial espionage does not seem to be on the agenda, at least with
anyone I interviewed. I have yet to meet a hacker who has given
proprietary source code to a vendor's competitor. I have, however, met
a hacker who found one company's proprietary source code inside the
computer of its competitor. Was that a legal copy of the source code?
Who knows? The hacker didn't think so, but he kept his mouth shut
about it, for obvious reasons.

Most of the time, these hackers want to keep their original bugs as
quiet as possible, so vendors won't release patches.

The second popular target is source code development machines. The top
hackers have a clear objective in this area: to install their own
backdoors before the product is released. They call it `backdooring' a
program or an operating system. The word `backdoor' is now used as
both a noun and a verb in the underground. Hackers are very nervous
discussing this subject, in part because they don't want to see a
computer company's stock dive and people lose their jobs.

What kind of programs do these hackers want to backdoor? Targets
mentioned include at least one major Internet browser, a popular game,
an Internet packet filter and a database product used by law
enforcement agencies.

A good backdoor is a very powerful device, creating a covert channel
through even the most sturdy of firewalls into the heart of an
otherwise secure network. In a net browser, a backdoor would in theory
allow a hacker to connect directly into someone's home computer every
time he or she wandered around the World Wide Web. However, don't
expect hackers to invade your suburban home just yet. Most elite
hackers couldn't care less about the average person's home computer.

Perhaps you are wondering who might be behind this sort of attack.
What sort of person would do this? There are no easy answers to that
question. Some hackers are good people, some are bad, just like any
group of people. The next generation of elite hackers are a diverse
bunch, and relaying their stories would take another book entirely.
However, I would like to introduce you to just one, to give you a
window into the future.

Meet SKiMo.

A European living outside Australia, SKiMo has been hacking for at
least four years, although he probably only joined the ranks of
world-class hackers in 1995 or 1996. Never busted. Young--between the
age of 18 and 25--and male. From a less than picture-perfect family.
Fluent in English as a second language. Left-leaning in his
politics--heading toward environmentally green parties and anarchy
rather than traditional labour parties. Smokes a little dope and
drinks alcohol, but doesn't touch the hard stuff.

His musical tastes include early Pink Floyd, Sullen, Dog Eat Dog,
Biohazard, old Ice-T, Therapy, Alanis Morissette, Rage Against the
Machine, Fear Factory, Life of Agony and Napalm Death. He reads
Stephen King, Stephen Hawking, Tom Clancy and Aldous Huxley. And any
good books about physics, chemistry or mathematics.

Shy in person, he doesn't like organised team sports and is not very
confident around girls. He has only had one serious girlfriend, but
the relationship finished. Now that he hacks and codes about four to
five hours per day on average, but sometimes up to 36 hours straight,
he doesn't have time for girls.

`Besides,' he says, `I am rather picky when it comes to girls. Maybe
if the girl shared the same interests ... but those ones are hard to
find.' He adds, by way of further explanation, `Girls are different
from hacking. You can't just brute force them if all else fails.'

SKiMo has never intentionally damaged a computer system, nor would he.
Indeed, when I asked him, he was almost offended by the question.
However, he has accidentally done damage on a few occasions. In at
least one case, he returned to the system and fixed the problem

Bored out of his mind for most of his school career, SKiMo spent a
great deal of time reading books in class--openly. He wanted to send
the teacher a message without actually jacking up in class.

He got into hacking after reading a magazine article about people who
hacked answering machines and VMBs. At that time, he had no idea what
a VMB was, but he learned fast. One Sunday evening, he sat down with
his phone and began scanning. Soon he was into phreaking, and visiting
English-speaking party lines. Somehow, he always felt more comfortable
speaking in English, to native English-speakers, perhaps because he
felt a little like an outsider in his own culture.

`I have always had the thought to leave my country as soon as I can,'
he said.

From the phreaking, it was a short jump into hacking.

What made him want to hack or phreak in the first place? Maybe it was
the desire to screw over the universally hated phone company, or
`possibly the sheer lust for power' or then again, maybe he was simply
answering his desire `to explore an intricate piece of technology'.
Today, however, he is a little clearer on why he continues to hack.
`My first and foremost motivation is to learn,' he said.

When asked why he doesn't visit his local university or library to
satisfy that desire, he answered, `in books, you only learn theory. It
is not that I dislike the theory but computer security in real life is
much different from theory'. Libraries also have trouble keeping pace
with the rate of technological change, SKiMo said. `Possibly, it is
also just the satisfaction of knowing that what I learn is
proprietary--is "inside knowledge",' he added. There could, he said,
be some truth in the statement that he likes learning in an
adrenalin-inducing environment.

Is he addicted to computers? SKiMo says no, but the indications are
there. By his own estimate, he has hacked between 3000 and 10000
computers in total. His parents--who have no idea what their son was
up to day and night on his computer--worry about his behaviour. They
pulled the plug on his machine many times. In SKiMo's own words, `they
tried everything to keep me away from it'.

Not surprisingly, they failed. SKiMo became a master at hiding his
equipment so they couldn't sneak in and take it away. Finally, when he
got sick of battling them over it and he was old enough, he put his
foot down. `I basically told them, "Diz is ma fuckin' life and none o'
yer business, Nemo"--but not in those words.'

SKiMo says he hasn't suffered from any mental illnesses or
instabilities--except perhaps paranoia. But he says that paranoia is
justified in his case. In two separate incidents in 1996, he believed
he was being followed. Try as he might, he couldn't shake the tails
for quite some time. Perhaps it was just a coincidence, but he can
never really be sure.

He described one hacking attack to me to illustrate his current
interests. He managed to get inside the internal network of a German
mobile phone network provider, DeTeMobil (Deutsche Telekom). A former
state-owned enterprise which was transformed into a publicly listed
corporation in January 1995, Deutsche Telekom is the largest
telecommunications company in Europe and ranks number three in the
world as a network operator. It employs almost a quarter of a million
people. By revenue, which totalled about $A37 billion in 1995, it is
one of the five largest companies in Germany.

After carefully researching and probing a site, SKiMo unearthed a
method of capturing the encryption keys generated for DeTeMobil's
mobile phone conversations.

He explained: `The keys are not fixed, in the sense that they are
generated once and then stored in some database. Rather, a key is
generated for each phone conversation by the company's AUC
[authentication centre], using the "Ki" and a random value generated
by the AUC. The Ki is the secret key that is securely stored on the
smart card [inside the cellphone], and a copy is also stored in the
AUC. When the AUC "tells" the cellphone the key for that particular
conversation, the information passes through the company's MSC [mobile
switching centre].

`It is possible to eavesdrop on a certain cellphone if one actively
monitors either the handovers or the connection set-up messages from
the OMC [operations and maintenance centre] or if one knows the Ki in
the smart card.

`Both options are entirely possible. The first option, which relies on
knowing the A5 encryption key, requires the right equipment. The
second option, using the Ki, means you have to know the A3/A8
algorithms as well or the Ki is useless. These algorithms can be
obtained by hacking the switch manufacturer, i.e. Siemens, Alcatel,
Motorola ...

`As a call is made from the target cellphone, you need to feed the A5
key into a cellphone which has been modified to let it eavesdrop on
the channel used by the cellphone. Normally, this eavesdropping will
only produce static--since the conversation is encrypted. However,
with the keys and equipment, you can decode the conversation.'

This is one of the handover messages, logged with a CCITT7 link
monitor, that he saw:

13:54:46"3 4Rx< SCCP 12-2-09-1 12-2-04-0 13 CR


BSSMAP GSM 08.08 Rev 3.9.2 (BSSM) HaNDover REQuest (HOREQ)

-------0 Discrimination bit D BSSMAP

0000000- Filler

00101011 Message Length 43

00010000 Message Type 0x10

Channel Type

00001011 IE Name Channel type

00000011 IE Length 3

00000001 Speech/Data Indicator Speech

00001000 Channel Rate/Type Full rate TCH channel Bm

00000001 Speech Encoding Algorithm GSM speech algorithm Ver 1

Encryption Information

00001010 IE Name Encryption information

00001001 IE Length 9

00000010 Algorithm ID GSM user data encryption V. 1

******** Encryption Key C9 7F 45 7E 29 8E 08 00

Classmark Information Type 2

00010010 IE Name Classmark information type 2

00000010 IE Length 2

-----001 RF power capability Class 2, portable

---00--- Encryption algorithm Algorithm A5

000----- Revision level

-----000 Frequency capability Band number 0

----1--- SM capability present

-000---- Spare

0------- Extension

Cell Identifier

00000101 IE Name Cell identifier

00000101 IE Length 5

00000001 Cell ID discriminator LAC/CI used to ident cell

******** LAC 4611

******** CI 3000


00000110 IE Name Priority

00000001 IE Length 1

-------0 Preemption allowed ind not allowed

------0- Queueing allowed ind not allowed

--0011-- Priority level 3

00------ Spare

Circuit Identity Code

00000001 IE Name Circuit identity code

00000000 PCM Multiplex a-h 0

---11110 Timeslot in use 30

101----- PCM Multiplex i-k 5

Downlink DTX flag

00011001 IE Name Downlink DTX flag

-------1 DTX in downlink direction disabled

0000000- Spare

Cell Identifier

00000101 IE Name Cell identifier

00000101 IE Length 5

00000001 Cell ID discriminator LAC/CI used to ident cell

******** LAC 4868

******** CI 3200

The beauty of a digital mobile phone, as opposed to the analogue
mobile phones still used by some people in Australia, is that a
conversation is reasonably secure from eavesdroppers. If I call you on
my digital mobile, our conversation will be encrypted with the A5
encryption algorithm between the mobile phone and the exchange. The
carrier has copies of the Kis and, in some countries, the government
can access these copies. They are, however, closely guarded secrets.

SKiMo had access to the database of the encrypted Kis and access to
some of the unencrypted Kis themselves. At the time, he never went to
the trouble of gathering enough information about the A3 and A8
algorithms to decrypt the full database, though it would have been
easy to do so. However, he has now obtained that information.

To SKiMo, access to the keys generated for each of thousands of German
mobile phone conversations was simply a curiosity--and a trophy. He
didn't have the expensive equipment required to eavesdrop. To an
intelligence agency, however, access could be very valuable,
particularly if some of those phones belonged to people such as
politicians. Even more valuable would be ongoing access to the OMC, or
better still, the MSC. SkiMo said he would not provide this to any
intelligence agency.

While inside DeTeMobil, SKiMo also learned how to interpret some of
the mapping and signal-strength data. The result? If one of the
company's customers has his mobile turned on, SKiMo says he can
pinpoint the customer's geographic location to within one kilometre.
The customer doesn't even have to be talking on the mobile. All he has
to do is have the phone turned on, waiting to receive calls.

SKiMo tracked one customer for an afternoon, as the man travelled
across Germany, then called the customer up. It turned out they spoke
the same European language.

`Why are you driving from Hamburg to Bremen with your phone on
stand-by mode?' SKiMo asked.

The customer freaked out. How did this stranger at the end of the
phone know where he had been travelling?

SKiMo said he was from Greenpeace. `Don't drive around so much. It
creates pollution,' he told the bewildered mobile customer. Then he
told the customer about the importance of conserving energy and how
prolonged used of mobile phones affected certain parts of one's brain.

Originally, SKiMo broke into the mobile phone carriers' network
because he wanted `to go completely cellular'--a transition which he
hoped would make him both mobile and much harder to trace. Being able
to eavesdrop on other people's calls-- including those of the
police--was going to be a bonus.

However, as he pursued this project, he discovered that the code from
a mobile phone manufacturer which he needed to study was `a
multi-lingual project'. `I don't know whether you have ever seen a
multi-lingual project,' SKiMo says, `where nobody defines a common
language that all programmers must use for their comments and function
names? They look horrible. They are no fun to read.' Part of this one
was in Finnish.

SKiMo says he has hacked a number of major vendors and, in several
cases, has had access to their products' source codes.

Has he had the access to install backdoors in primary source code for
major vendors? Yes. Has he done it? He says no. On other hand, I asked
him who he would tell if he did do it. `No-one,' he said, `because
there is more risk if two people know than if one does.'

SKiMo is mostly a loner these days. He shares a limited amount of
information about hacking exploits with two people, but the
conversations are usually carefully worded or vague. He substitutes a
different vendor's names for the real one, or he discusses technical
computer security issues in an in-depth but theoretical manner, so he
doesn't have to name any particular system.

He doesn't talk about anything to do with hacking on the telephone.
Mostly, when he manages to capture a particularly juicy prize, he
keeps news of his latest conquest to himself.

It wasn't always that way. `When I started hacking and phreaking, I
had the need to learn very much and to establish contacts which I
could ask for certain things--such as technical advice,' SKiMo said.
`Now I find it much easier to get that info myself than asking anyone
for it. I look at the source code, then experiment and discover new
bugs myself.'

Asked if the ever-increasing complexity of computer technology hasn't
forced hackers to work in groups of specialists instead of going solo,
he said in some cases yes, but in most cases, no. `That is only true
for people who don't want to learn everything.'

SKiMo can't see himself giving up hacking any time in the near future.

Who is on the other side these days?

In Australia, it is still the Australian Federal Police, although the
agency has come a long way since the early days of the Computer Crimes
Unit. When AFP officers burst in on Phoenix, Nom and Electron, they
were like the Keystone Cops. The police were no match for the
Australian hackers in the subsequent interviews. The hackers were so
far out in front in technical knowledge it was laughable.

The AFP has been closing that gap with considerable alacrity. Under
the guidance of officers like Ken Day, they now run a more technically
skilled group of law enforcement officers. In 1995-96, the AFP had
about 2800 employees, although some 800 of these worked in `community
policing'--serving as the local police in places like the ACT and
Norfolk Island. The AFP's annual expenditure was about $270 million in
that year.

As an institution, the AFP has recently gone through a major
reorganisation, designed to make it less of a command-and-control
military structure and more of an innovative, service oriented

Some of these changes are cosmetic. AFP officers are now no longer
called `constable' or `detective sergeant'--they are all just `federal
agents'. The AFP now has a `vision' which is `to fight crime and
win'.3 Its organisational chart had been transformed from a
traditional, hierarchical pyramid of square boxes into a collection of
little circles linked to bigger circles--all in a circle shape. No
phallo-centric structures here. You can tell the politically correct
management consultants have been visiting the AFP.

The AFP has, however, also changed in more substantive ways. There are
now `teams' with different expertise, and AFP investigators can draw
on them on an as-needed basis. In terms of increased efficiency, this
fluidity is probably a good thing.

There are about five permanent officers in the Melbourne computer
crimes area. Although the AFP doesn't release detailed budget
breakdowns, my back-of-the-envelope analysis suggested that the AFP
spends less than $1 million per year on the Melbourne computer crimes
area in total. Sydney also has a Computer Crimes Unit.

Catching hackers and phreakers is only one part of the unit's job.
Another important task is to provide technical computer expertise for
other investigations.

Day still runs the show in Melbourne. He doesn't think or act like a
street cop. He is a psychological player, and therefore well suited to
his opponents. According to a reliable source outside the underground,
he is also a clean cop, a competent officer, and `a nice guy'.

However, being the head of the Computer Crimes Unit for so many years
makes Day an easy target in the underground. In particular, hackers
often make fun of how seriously he seems to take both himself and his
job. When Day appeared on the former ABC show `Attitude', sternly
warning the audience off hacking, he told the viewers, `It's not a
game. It's a criminal act'.

To hackers watching the show, this was a matter of opinion. Not long
after the episode went to air, a few members of Neuro-cactus, an
Australian group of hackers and phreakers which had its roots in
Western Australia, decided to take the mickey out of Day. Two members,
Pick and Minnow, clipped Day's now famous soundbite. Before long, Day
appeared to be saying, `It's not a criminal act. It's a game'--to the
musical theme of `The Bill'. The Neuro-cactus crowd quickly spread
their lampoon across the underground via an illicit VMB connected to
its own toll-free 008 number.

Although Day does perhaps take himself somewhat seriously, it can't be
much fun for him to deal with this monkey business week in and week
out. More than one hacker has told me with great excitement, `I know
someone who is working on getting Day's home number'. The word is that
a few members of the underground already have the information and have
used it. Some people think it would be hilarious to call up Day at
home and prank him. Frankly, I feel a bit sorry for the guy. You can
bet the folks in traffic operations don't have to put up with this

But that doesn't mean I think these pranksters should be locked up

If we, as a society, choose not to lock hackers up, then what should
we do with them?

Perhaps a better question is, do we really need to do anything with

One answer is to simply ignore look-see hacking. Society could decide
that it makes more sense to use valuable police resources to catch
dangerous criminals--forgers, embezzlers, white-collar swindlers,
corporate spies and malicious hackers--than to chase look-see hackers.

The law must still maintain the capacity to punish hard where someone
has strayed into what society deems serious crime. However, almost any
serious crime committed by a hacker could be committed by a non-hacker
and prosecuted under other legislation. Fraud, wilful damage and
dealing in stolen property are crimes regardless of the medium--and
should be punished appropriately.

Does it make sense to view most look-see hackers--and by that I mean
hackers who do not do malicious damage or commit fraud--as criminals?
Probably not. They are primarily just a nuisance and should be treated
as such. This would not be difficult to do. The law-makers could
simply declare look-see hacking to be a minor legal infringement. In
the worst-case scenario, a repeat offender might have to do a little
community service. But such community service needs to be managed
properly. In one Australian case, a corrections officer assigned a
hacker to dig ditches with a convicted rapist and murderer.

Many hackers have never had a job--in part because of the high youth
unemployment in some areas--and so their community service might be
their first `position'. The right community service placement must
involve hackers using their computer skills to give something back to
society, preferably in some sort of autonomous, creative project. A
hacker's enthusiasm, curiosity and willingness to experiment can be
directed toward a positive outcome if managed properly.

In cases where hacking or phreaking has been an addiction, the problem
should be treated, not criminalised. Most importantly, these hackers
should not have convictions recorded against them, particularly if
they're young. As Paul Galbally said to the court at Mendax's
sentencing, `All the accused are intelligent--but their intelligence
outstretched their maturity'.  Chances are, most will be able to
overcome or outgrow their addiction.

In practice, most Australia's judges have been reasonably fair in
their sentencing, certainly compared to judges overseas. None of the
Australian hackers detailed in this work received a prison sentence.
Part of this is due to happenstance, but part is also due to the sound
judgments of people like Judge Lewis and Judge Kimm. It must be very
tempting, sitting on the bench every day, to shoot from the hip
interpreting new laws.

As I sat in court listening to each judge, it quickly became clear
that these judges had done their homework. With psychologist Tim
Watson-Munro on the stand, Judge Lewis rapidly zeroed in on the
subject of `free will'--as applied to addiction--regarding Prime
Suspect. In Trax's case, Judge Kimm asked pointed questions which he
could only have formulated after serious study of the extensive legal
brief. Their well-informed judgments suggested a deeper understanding
both of hacking as a crime, and of the intent of the largely untested
computer crime legislation.

However, a great deal of time and money has been wasted in the pursuit
of look-see hackers, largely because this sort of hacking is treated
as a major crime. Consider the following absurd situation created by
Australia's federal computer criminal legislation.

A spy breaks into a computer at the Liberal Party's headquarters and
reads the party's top-secret election strategy, which he may want to
pass on to the Labor Party. He doesn't insert or delete any data in
the process, or view any commercial information. The penalty under
this legislation? A maximum of six months in prison.

That same spy decides he wants to get rich quick. Using the local
telephone system, he hacks into a bank's computer with the intention
of defrauding the financial institution. He doesn't view any
commercial or personal information, or delete or insert any files. Yet
the information he reviews--about the layout of a bank building, or
how to set off its fire alarm or sprinkler system--proves vital in his
plan to defraud the bank. His penalty: a maximum of two years prison.

Our spy now moves onto bigger and better things. He penetrates a
Department of Defence computer with the intention of obtaining
information about Australia's military strategies and passing it on to
the Malaysians. Again, he doesn't delete or insert any data--he just
reads every sensitive planning document he can find. Under the federal
anti-hacking laws, the maximum penalty he would receive would also be
two years prison.

Meanwhile, a look-see hacker breaks into a university computer without
doing any damage. He doesn't delete any files. He FTPs a public-domain
file from another system and quietly tucks it away in a hidden, unused
corner of the university machine. Maybe he writes a message to someone
else on-line. If caught, the law, as interpreted by the AFP and the
DPP, says he faces up to ten years in prison. The reason? He has
inserted or deleted data.

Although the spy hacker might also face other charges--such as
treason--this exercise illustrates some of the problems with the
current computer crime legislation.

The letter of the law says that our look-see hacker might face a
prison term five times greater than the bank fraud criminal or the
military spy, and twenty times greater than the anti-Liberal Party
subversive, if he inserts or deletes any data. The law, as interpreted
by the AFP, says that the look-see hacking described above should have
the same maximum ten-year prison penalty as judicial corruption. It's
a weird mental image--the corrupt judge and the look-see hacker
sharing a prison cell.

Although the law-makers may not have fully understood the
technological aspects of hacking when they introduced the computer
crimes legislation, their intent seems clear. They were trying to
differentiate between a malicious hacker and a look-see hacker, but
they could have worded it better.

As it's worded, the legislation puts malicious, destructive hacking on
a par with look-see hacking by saying that anyone who destroys,
erases, alters or inserts data via a carrier faces a prison term,
regardless of the person's intent. There is no gradation in the law
between mere deletion of data and `aggravated deletion'--the maximum
penalty is ten years for both. The AFP has taken advantage of this
lack of distinction, and the result has been a steady stream of
look-see hackers being charged with the most serious computer crime

Parliament makes the laws. Government institutions such as the AFP,
the DPP and the courts interpret and apply those laws. The AFP and to
some extent the DPP have applied the strict letter of the law
correctly in most of the hacking cases described in this book. They
have, however, missed the intention of the law. Change the law and
they may behave differently. Make look-see hacking a minor offence and
the institutions will stop going after the soft targets and hopefully
spend more time on the real criminals.

I have seen some of these hackers up close, studied them for two years
and learned a bit about what makes them tick. In many ways, they are
quintessentially Australian, always questioning authority and
rebelling against `the establishment'. They're smart--in some cases
very smart. A few might even be classified as technical geniuses.
They're mischievous, but also very enterprising. They're rebels,
public nuisances and dreamers.

Most of all, they know how to think outside the box.

This is not a flaw. Often, it is a very valuable trait--and one which
pushes society forward into new frontiers. The question shouldn't be
whether we want to crush it but how we should steer it in a different


If you would like to comment on this book, please write to
feedback@underground-book.net. All comments are passed onto
Dreyfus & Assange.
                 Underground -- Glossary and Abbreviations.

AARNET Australian Academic Research Network

ACARB Australian Computer Abuse Research Bureau, once called CITCARB

AFP Australian Federal Police

Altos West German chat system and hacker hang-out, connected to X.25
network and run by Altos Computer Systems, Hamburg

ANU Australian National University

ASIO Australian Security Intelligence Organisation

Backdoor A program or modification providing secret access to a
computer system, installed by a hacker to bypass normal security. Also
used as a verb

BBS Bulletin Board System

BNL Brookhaven National Laboratory (US)

BRL Ballistics Research Laboratory (US)

BT British Telecom

CCITT Committee Consultatif Internationale Telegraph et Telephonie:
Swiss telecommunications standards body (now defunct; see ITU)

CCS Computer Crime Squad

CCU Computer Crimes Unit (Australian Federal Police)

CERT Computer Emergency Response Team

CIAC Computer Incident Advisory Capability: DOE's computer security

CITCARB Chisholm Institute of Technology Computer Abuse Research
Bureau (now defunct. See ACARB)

COBE Cosmic Background Explorer project: a NASA research project

DARPA Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (US)

DCL Digital Command Language, a computer programming language used on
VMS computers

DDN Defense Data Network

DEC Digital Equipment Corporation

DECNET A network protocol used to convey information between
(primarily) VAX/VMS machines

DEFCON (a) Defense Readiness Conditions, a system of progressive alert
postures in the US; (b) the name of Force's computer program which
automatically mapped out computer networks and scanned for accounts

DES Data Encryption Standard, an encryption algorithm developed by

Deszip Fast DES Unix password-cracking system developed by Matthew

Dial-up Modem access point into a computer or computer network

DMS-100 Computerised telephone switch (exchange) made by NorTel

DOD Department of Defense (US)

DOE Department of Energy (US)

DPP Director of Public Prosecutions

DST Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire-- French secret service

EASYNET Digital Equipment Corporation's internal communication network

GTN Global Telecommunications Network: Citibank's international data

HEPNET High Energy Physics Network: DECNET-based network, primarily
controlled by DOE, connected to NASA's SPAN

IID Internal Investigations Division. Both the Victoria Police and the
AFP have an IID

IP Internet Protocol (RFC791): a data communications protocol, used to
transmit packets of data between computers on the Internet

IS International Subversive (electronic magazine)

ISU Internal Security Unit: anti-corruption unit of the Victoria

ITU International Telecommunications Union, the international
telecommunications standards body

JANET Joint Academic Network (UK), a network of computers

JPL Jet Propulsion Laboratory--a California-based NASA research centre
affiliated with CalTech

LLNL Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (US)

LOD Legion of Doom

Lutzifer West German computer, connected to the X.25 network, which
had a chat facility

MFC Multi Frequency Code (Group III): inter-exchange
telecommunications system used by Telstra (Telecom)

MILNET Military Network: TCP/IP unclassified US DOD computer network

MOD Masters of Deception (or Destruction)

Modem Modulator De-modulator: a device used to transmit computer data
over a regular telephone line

NCA National Crime Authority

Netlink A Primos/Dialcom command used to initiate a connection over an
X.25 network

NIST National Institute of Standards (US)

NIC Network Information Center (US), run by DOD: a computer which
assigned domain names for the Internet.

NRL Naval Research Laboratory (US)

NSA National Security Agency (US)

NUA Network User Address: the `telephone' number of a computer on an
X.25 network

NUI Network User Identifier (or Identification): combined
username/password used on X.25 networks for billing purposes

NorTel Northern Telecom, Canadian manufacturer of telecommunications

PABX Private Automatic Branch Exchange

PAD Packet Assembler Disassembler--ASCII gateway to X.25 networks

PAR `PAR?'--command on PAD to display PAD

RMIT Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology

RTG Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator, space probe Galileo's
plutonium-based power system

RTM Robert Tappan Morris (Jr), the Cornell University student who
wrote the Internet worm, also known as the RTM worm

Scanner A program which scans and compiles information, such as a list
of NUAs

SPAN Space Physics Analysis Network: global DECNET- based network,
primarily controlled by NASA

Sprint US telecommunications company, an X.25 network provider

Sprinter Word used by some Australian and English hackers to denote
scanner. Derived from scanning attacks on Sprint communications

Sprintnet X.25 network controlled by Sprint communications

Sun Sun Microsystems--a major producer of Unix workstations

TCP Transmission Control Protocol (RFC793): a standard for data
connection between two computers on the Internet

TELENET An X.25 network, DNIC 3110

Telnet A method of connection between two computers on the Internet or
other TCP/IP networks

Trojan A program installed by hackers to secretly gather information,
such as passwords. Can also be a backdoor

Tymnet An X.25 network controlled by MCI, DNIC 3106

Unix Multi-user computer operating system developed by AT&T and
Berkeley CSRG

VAX Virtual Address Extension: series of mini/mainframe computer
systems produced by DEC

VMS Virtual Memory System: computer operating system produced by DEC
and used on its VAX machines

WANK Worms Against Nuclear Killers: the title of DECNET/VMS-based worm
released into SPAN/DEC/HEPNET in 1989

X.25 International data communications network, using the X.25
communications protocol. Network is run primarily by major
telecommunications companies. Based on CCITT standard # X.25

Zardoz A restricted computer security mailing list


Chapter 1

1. Words And Music by Rob Hirst/Martin Rotsey/James Moginie/Peter
Garrett/Peter Gifford. (c) Copyright 1982 Sprint Music. Administered
for the World--Warner/ Chappell Music Australia Pty Ltd. Used By

2. I have relied on numerous wire service reports, particularly those
of UPI Science Reporter William Harwood, for many of my descriptions
of Galileo and the launch.

3. William Harwood, `NASA Awaits Court Ruling on Shuttle Launch
Plans', UPI, 10 October 1989.

4. William Harwood, `Atlantis "Go" for Tuesday Launch', UPI, 16
October 1989.

5. Ibid.

6. From NASA's World Wide Web site.

7. Thomas A. Longstaff and E. Eugene Schulz, `Analysis of the WANK and
OILZ Worms', Computer and Security, vol. 12, no. 1, February 1993, p.

8. Katie Haffner and John Markoff, Cyberpunk, Corgi, London 1994, p.

9. The Age, 22 April 1996, reprinted from The New York Times.

10. DEC, Annual Report, 1989, listed in `SEC Online'.

11. GEMTOP was corrected to GEMPAK in a later advisory by CIAC.

12. `Officially' was spelled incorrectly in the original banner.

13. This advisory is printed with the permission of CIAC and Kevin
Oberman. CIAC requires the publication of the following disclaimer:

This document was prepared as an account of work sponsored by an
agency of the United States Government. Neither the United States
Government, nor the University of California, nor any of their
employees makes any warranty, express or implied, or assumes any legal
liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or
usefulness of any information, apparatus, product, or process
disclosed, or represents that its use would not infringe privately
owned rights. Reference herein to any specific commercial products,
process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or
otherwise, does not necessarily constitute or imply its endorsement,
recommendation or favouring by the United States Government or the
University of California. The views and opinions of authors expressed
herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of the United States
Government or the University of California, and shall not be used for
advertising or product endorsement purposes.

14. Michael Alexander and Maryfran Johnson, `Worm Eats Holes in NASA's
Decnet', Computer World, 23 October 1989, p. 4.

15. Ibid.

16. William Harwood, `Shuttle Launch Rained Out', UPI, 17 October

17. Vincent Del Guidice, `Atlantis Set for Another Launch Try', UPI,
18 October 1989.

18. William Harwood, `Astronauts Fire Galileo on Flight to Jupiter',
UPI, 18 October 1989.

Chapter 2

1. Words And Music by Rob Hirst/James Moginie. (c) Copyright 1985
Sprint Music. Administered for the World--Warner/Chappell Music
Australia Pty Ltd. Used By Permission.

2. FIRST was initially called CERT System. It was an international
version of CERT, the Computer Emergency Response Team, funded by the
US Department of Defense and run out of Carnegie Mellon University.

3. OTC was later merged with Telecom to become Telstra.

4. Stuart Gill is described in some detail in Operation Iceberg;
Investigation of Leaked Confidential Police Information and Related
Matters, Ordered to be printed by the Legislative Assembly of
Victoria, October 1993.

Chapter 3

1. Words And Music by Peter Garrett/James Moginie.
(c) Copyright 1982 Sprint Music. Administered for the
World--Warner/Chappell Music Australia Pty Ltd. Used By Permission.

Chapter 4

1. Words And Music by Peter Garrett/James Moginie/Martin Rotsey. (c)
Copyright 1980 Sprint Music. Administered for the
World--Warner/Chappell Music Australia Pty Ltd. Used By Permission.

Chapter 5

1. Words And Music by Rob Hirst/James Moginie. (c) Copyright 1989
Sprint Music. Administered for the World--Warner/ Chappell Music
Australia Pty Ltd. Used By Permission.

2. The full text of the articles, used by permission News Ltd and
Helen Meredith, is:

3. From Operation Iceberg; Investigations and Recommendations into
Allegations of Leaked Confidential Police Information, included as
Appendix 1 in the report of the Deputy Ombudsman, Operation Iceberg;
Investigation of Leaked Confidential Police Information and Related

4. Ibid., pp. 26-7.

5. Michael Alexander, `International Hacker "Dave" Arrested', Computer
World, 9 April 1990, p. 8.

6. Matthew May, `Hacker Tip-Off', The Times, 5 April 1990; Lou
Dolinar, `Australia Arrests Three in Computer Break-Ins', Newsday, 3
April 1990.

Chapter 6

1. Words And Music by Rob Hirst/James Moginie/Peter Garrett. (c)
Copyright 1978 Sprint Music. Administered for the
World--Warner/Chappell Music Australia Pty Ltd. Used By Permission.

Chapter 7

1. Words And Music by Peter Garrett/James Moginie/Rob Hirst. (c)
Copyright 1988 Sprint Music. Administered for the
World--Warner/Chappell Music Australia Pty Ltd. Used By Permission.

2. Rupert Battcock, `The Computer Misuse Act Five years on--the Record
since 1990', paper, Strathclyde University, Glasgow, UK.

3. For the British material in this chapter, I have relied on personal
interviews, media reports (particularly for the Wandii case), journal
articles, academic papers and commission reports.

4. Colin Randall, `Teenage Computer Hacker "Caused Worldwide Chaos"',
Daily Telegraph, 23 February 1993.

5. The local phone company agreed to reduce the bill to
[sterling]3000, EORTIC information systems manager Vincent Piedboeuf
told the court.

6. Susan Watts, `Trial Haunted by Images of Life in the Twilight
Zone', The Independent, 18 March 1993.

7. Toby Wolpe, `Hacker Worked on Barclay's Software', Computer Weekly,
4 March 1993.

8. David Millward, `Computer Hackers Will be Pursued, Vow Police',
Daily Telegraph, 19 March 1993.

9. Chester Stern, `Hackers' Threat to Gulf War Triumph', Mail on
Sunday, 21 March 1993.

10. `Crimes of the Intellect--Computer Hacking', editorial, The Times,
20 March 1993.

11. `Owners Must Act to Put End to Computer Hacker "Insanity"', South
China Morning Post, 30 March 1993.

12. Nick Nuttall, `Hackers Stay Silent on Court Acquittal', The Times,
19 March 1993.

13. Melvyn Howe, Press Association Newsfile, Home News section, 21 May

Chapter 8

1. Words And Music by James Moginie/Peter Garrett. (c) Copyright 1982
Sprint Music. Administered for the World--Warner/Chappell Music
Australia Pty Ltd. Used By Permission.

2. This is an edited version.

Chapter 9

1. Words And Music by Rob Hirst. (c) Copyright 1993 Sprint Music.
Administered for the World--Warner/Chappell Music Australia Pty Ltd.
Used By Permission.

Chapter 10

1. Words And Music by Rob Hirst/James Moginie/Martin Rotsey/Andrew
James. (c) Copyright 1978 Sprint Music. Administered for the
World--Warner/Chappell Music Australia Pty Ltd and Andrew James. Used
By Permission.

Chapter 11

1. Words And Music by James Moginie (lyrics adapted from the book The
Great Prawn War And Other Stories by Dennis Kevans). (c) Copyright
1984 Sprint Music. Administered for the World--Warner/Chappell Music
Australia Pty Ltd. Used By Permission.


1. Victorian Ombudsman, Operation Iceberg; Investigation of Leaked
Confidential Police Information and Related Matters.

2. The police report was printed as an appendix in the Ombudsman's
report. See Chapter 5, note 1, above.

3. Australian Federal Police, Annual Report, 1995-1996, p. 7.


Australian Federal Police (AFP), Annual Report 1995-1996, Canberra,

----, Annual Report 1994-1995, Canberra, 1995.

----, Annual Report 1993-1994, Canberra, 1994.

Bourne, Philip E., `Internet security; System Security', DEC
Professional, vol. 11, June 1992.

Cerf, Vinton G., `Networks', Scientific American, vol. 265, September

Clyde, Robert A., `DECnet security', DEC Professional, vol. 10, April

Commonwealth Attorney-General's Department, Interim Report on Computer
Crime (The Gibbs Report), Canberra, 1988.

Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (DDP), Annual Report
1993-1994, Canberra, 1994.

Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO),
Annual Report 1994-1995, Canberra, 1995.

Davis, Andrew W., `DEC Pathworks the mainstay in Mac-to-VAX
connectivity', MacWeek, vol. 6, 3 August 1992.

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australian Treaty Series
1993, no. 40, Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra,

Digital Equipment Corporation, Annual Report 1989, Securities and
Exchange Commission (SEC) Online (USA) Inc., 1989.

----, Quarterly Report for period ending 12.31.89, SEC Online (USA).

Gezelter, Robert, `The DECnet TASK object; Tutorial', Digital Systems
Journal, vol. 16, July 1994.

Gianatasio, David, `Worm infestation hits 300 VAX/VMS systems
worldwide via DECnet', Digital Review, vol. 6, 20 November 1989.

Haffner, Katie & Markoff, John, Cyberpunk, Corgi Books (Transworld),
Moorebank NSW, 1994.

Halbert, Debora, `The Potential for Modern Communication Technology to
Challenge Legal Discourses of Authorship and Property', Murdoch
University E-Law Journal, vol. 1, no. 2.

Kelman, Alistair, `Computer Crime in the 1990s: A Barrister's View',
Paper for the Twelfth International Symposium on Economic Crime,
September 1994.

Law Commission (UK) Working Paper, no. 110, 1988.

Lloyd, J. Ian & Simpson, Moira, Law on the Electronic Frontier, David
Hume Institute, Edinburgh, 1996.

Longstaff, Thomas A., & Schultz, E. Eugene, `Beyond preliminary
analysis of the WANK and OILZ worms: a case study of malicious code',
Computers & Security, vol. 12, February 1993.

Loundy, David J., `Information Systems Law and Operator Liability
Revisited', Murdoch University E-Law Journal, vol. 1, no. 3, September

McMahon, John, `Practical DECnet security', Digital Systems Journal,
vol. 14, November 1992.

Melford, Robert J., `Network security; computer networks', Internal
Auditor, Institute of Internal Auditors, vol. 50, February 1993.

Natalie, D. & Ball, W, EIS Coordinator, North Carolina Emergency
Management, `How North Carolina Managed Hurricane Hugo', EIS News,
vol. 3, no. 11, 1988.

NorTel Australia Pty Ltd, Discovering Tomorrow's Telecommunications
Solutions, Chatswood, NSW (n.d.).

Northern Telecom, Annual Report 1993, Ontario, 1993.

Slatalla, Michelle & Quittner, Joshua, Masters of Deception,
HarperCollins, New York, 1995.

Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, Report of the
Inquiry into the Death of the Woman Who Died at Ceduna, Australian
Government Publishing Service, Canberra, 1990.

Scottish Law Commission's Report on Computer Crime, no. 174, 1987.

SPAN Management Office, `Security guidelines to be followed in the
latest worm attack', an Intranetwork Memorandum released by the SPAN
Management Office, NASA, 30 October 1989.

Sterling, Bruce, The Hacker Crackdown, Penguin Books, Melbourne, 1994.

Stoll, Clifford, The Cuckoo's Egg, Pan Books, London, 1991.

Tencati, Ron, `Information regarding the DECNET worm and protection
measures', an Intranetwork Memorandum released by the SPAN Management
Office, NASA, 19 October 1989.

----, `Network Security Suplemental Information--Protecting the DECNET
Account', security advisory, released by SPAN, NASA/Goddard Space
Flight Center, 1989.

The Victorian Ombudsman, Operation Iceberg: Investigation of Leaked
Confidential Police Information and Related Matters, Report of the
Deputy Ombudsman (Police Complaints), L.V. North Government Printer,
Melbourne, 1993.

`USA proposes international virus team', Computer Fraud & Security
Bulletin (Elsevier Advanced Technology Publications), August 1991.

Victoria Police, Operation Iceberg--Investigation and Recommendations
into Allegations of Leaked Confidential Police Information, 1 June,
Memorandum from Victoria Police Commander Bowles to Chief Commissioner
Comrie (also available as Appendix 1 in the Victorian Ombudsman's
Operation Iceberg Report, tabled in Victorian Parliament, October
1993), 1993.

Vietor, Richard, Contrived Competition: Regulation and Deregulation in
America, BelKnap/Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1994.

Yallop, David, To the Ends of the Earth, Corgi Books (Transworld),
Moorebank, NSW, 1994.


Computer Misuse Act 1990 (UK)

Crimes Act 1914 (no. 5) (Cwlth)

Crimes Legislation Amendment Act 1989, no. 108

Computer Fraud and Abuse Act 1986 (US), 18 USC 1030

Computer Misuse Crimes Legislation Amendment Bill 1989 (AUS),
Explanatory Memo Clause 7

Crimes (Computers) Act, no. 36 of 1988 (VIC)

Other publications and databases:

American Bar Association Journal

Associated Press

Attorney General's Information Service (Australia)

Australian Accountant

Australian Computer Commentary

Aviation Week and Space Technology (USA)

Banking Technology

Business Week

Cable News Network (CNN)

Card News (USA)

CERT Advisories (The Computer Emergency Response Team at Carnegie
Mellon University)

Chicago Daily Law Bulletin


CommunicationsWeek International

Computer Incident Advisory Capability (CIAC)

Computer Law and Practice (Australia)

Computer Law and Security Report (Australia)

Computer Weekly




Corporate EFT Report (USA)

Daily Mail (UK)

Daily Telegraph (Sydney)

Daily Telegraph (UK)

Data Communications


Evening Standard (UK)

Export Control News (USA)

FinTech Electronic Office (The Financial Times)

Gannett News Service

Government Computer News (USA)


Intellectual Property Journal (Australia)

Intelligence Newsletter (Indigo Publications)

Journal of Commerce (The New York Times)

Journal of the Law Society of Scotland

Korea Economic Daily

Law Institute Journal (Melbourne)

Law Society's Gazette (UK)

Law Society's Guardian Gazette (UK)

Legal Times (USA)

Lexis-Nexis (Reed Elsevier)

Lloyds List

Mail on Sunday (UK)

Media Week

MIS Week

Mortgage Finance Gazette

Network World

New Law Journal (UK)

New York Law Journal


PC Week (USA)

Press Association Newsfile


Reuter News Service--United Kingdom Science

South China Morning Post

St Louis Post-Dispatch

St Petersburg Times

Sunday Telegraph (Sydney)

Sunday Telegraph (UK)

Sunday Times (UK)

Telecommunications (Horizon House Publications Inc.)

The Age

The Australian

The Australian Financial Review

The Bulletin

The Computer Lawyer (USA)

The Connecticut Law Tribune

The Daily Record (USA)

The Engineer (UK)

The Gazette (Montreal)

The Guardian

The Herald (Glasgow)

The Herald (Melbourne)

The Herald Sun (Melbourne)

The Independent

The Irish Times

The Legal Intelligencer (USA)

The Los Angeles Times

The Nation

The National Law Journal (USA)

The New York Times

The Recorder (USA)

The Reuter European Community Report

The Reuter Library Report

The Scotsman

The Sun (Melbourne)

The Sunday Age

The Sydney Morning Herald

The Times

The Washington Post

The Washington Times

The Weekend Australian

Time Magazine

United Nations Chronicle

United Press International

USA Today


Hearing of the Transportation, Aviation and Materials Subcommittee of
the House Science, Space and Technology Committee transcript: witness
Clifford Stoll, 10 July 1990

`Larry King Live' transcript, interview with Clifford Stoll, 23 March

The World Uranium Hearing, Salzburg 1992, witness transcripts

US Government Accounting Office Hearing (computer security) witness
transcripts, 1996


Chris Goggans, Robert Cupps and Scott Chasin, Appellants v. Boyd &
Fraser Publishing Co., a Division of South-Western Publishing Co.,
Appellee No. 01-95-00331-Cv 1995 Tex. App.

Gerald Gold v. Australian Federal Police, no. V93/1140

Gerald Gold v. National Crime Authority, no. V93/1141 AAT No. 9940
Freedom of Information (1994) 37 ALD 168

Henry John Tasman Rook v. Lucas Richard Maynard (no. 2) no. LCA
52/1994 ; judgment no. A64/1994

Pedro Juan Cubillo v. Commonwealth Of Australia, no. NG 571 of 1991
FED no. 1006/95 Tort--Negligence

R v. Gold and another, House of Lords (UK), [1988] 1 AC 1063, [1988] 2
All ER 186, [1988] 2 WLR 984, 87 Cr App Rep 257, 152 JP 445, [1988]
Crim LR 437

Steve Jackson Games Incorporated, et al., Plaintiffs, v. United States
Secret Service, United States Of America, et al., Defendants no. A 91
CA 346 Ss 816 F. Supp. 432; 1993 U.S. Dist.

United States of America v. Julio Fernandez, et al. 92 Cr. 563 (RO)

United States of America, Plaintiff, v. Robert J. Riggs, also known as
Robert Johnson, also known as Prophet, and Craig Neidorf, also known
as Knight Lightning, Defendants No. 90 CR 0070 743 F. Supp. 556; 1990
U.S. Dist.

United States of America, Appellee, v. Robert Tappan Morris,
Defendant-Appellant No. 90-1336 928 F.2d 504; 1991 U.S. App.

Wesley Thomas Dingwall v. Commonwealth of Australia no. NG575 of 1991
Fed no. 296/94 Torts

William Thomas Bartlett v. Claire Patricia Weir, Henry J T Rook, Noel
E. Aikman, Philip Edwards and Michael B McKay no. TG7 of 1992; FED no.

Additional court records:

(Court documents of most cases described in this book)

Memos and reports to/from:

Bureau of Criminal Intelligence, Victoria Police

Internal Security Unit, Victoria Police

The NASA SPAN office relating to the WANK worm

Office of the District Attorney, Monterey, California

Overseas Telecommunications Commission (Australia)

Police Department, City of Del Rey Oaks, California

Police Department, City of Salinas, California

Stuart Gill

The United States Secret Service

US Attorney's Office, New York

Numerous Internet sites, including those of NASA, Sydney University,
Greenpeace, the Australian Legal Information Institute, and the Legal
Aspects of Computer Crime Archives.

End of book.

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