Pirate Cinema


+ Keep Up Your Rights. First Preliminary Program of the Berlin Pirate Cinema
+ I krig mod virkeligheden / In war with reality
+ A means of mutation Notes on I/O/D 4: "The Web Stalker"
+ The DEAD MEDIA Project: A Modest Proposal and a Public Appeal
+ A HACKER MANIFESTO [version 4.0]
+ Bitch Mutant Manifesto
+ Cinema and Revolution (1969)
+ A Cyborg Manifesto (1991)

+ In and Against Cinema (June 1958)
+ T. A. Z.The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism
+ The Hacker Crackdown: Law and Disorder on the Electronic Frontier
+ What is Property? An Inquiry into the Principle of Right and of Government
+ Expanded Cinema
+ the futurist cinema (15th november 1916)
+ Gibe's UNIX COMMAND Bible (1987)


Bruce Sterling

The Hacker Crackdown

Law and Disorder on the Electronic Frontier


Preface to the Electronic Release of THE HACKER CRACKDOWN

Chronology of the Hacker Crackdown



A Brief History of Telephony / Bell's Golden Vaporware / Universal Service /
Wild Boys and Wire Women / The Electronic Communities / The Ungentle Giant / The
Breakup / In Defense of the System / The Crash Post-Mortem / Landslides in


Steal This Phone / Phreaking and Hacking / The View From Under the Floorboards /
Boards: Core of the Underground / Phile Phun / The Rake's Progress / Strongholds
of the Elite / Sting Boards / Hot Potatoes / War on the Legion / Terminus /
Phile 9-1-1 / War Games / Real Cyberpunk


Crooked Boards / The World's Biggest Hacker Bust / Teach Them a Lesson / The
U.S. Secret Service / The Secret Service Battles the Boodlers / A Walk Downtown
/ FCIC: The Cutting-Edge Mess / Cyberspace Rangers / FLETC: Training the


NuPrometheus + FBI = Grateful Dead / Whole Earth + Computer Revolution = WELL /
Phiber Runs Underground and Acid Spikes the Well / The Trial of Knight Lightning
/ Shadowhawk Plummets to Earth / Kyrie in the Confessional / $79,499 / A Scholar
Investigates / Computers, Freedom, and Privacy

Electronic Afterword to THE HACKER CRACKDOWN, Halloween 1993

Preface to the Electronic Release of THE HACKER CRACKDOWN

October 31, 1993--Austin, Texas

Hi, I'm Bruce Sterling, the author of this electronic book. Out in the
traditional world of print, this book is still a part of the traditional
commercial economy, because it happens to be widely available in paperback (for
a while, at least).

Out in the world of print, THE HACKER CRACKDOWN is ISBN 0-553-08058-X, and is
formally catalogued by the Library of Congress as "1. Computer crimes--United
States. 2. Telephone-- United States--Corrupt practices. 3. Programming
(Electronic computers)--United States--Corrupt practices." 'Corrupt practices,'
I always get a kick out of that description. Librarians are very ingenious

If you go and buy the print version of THE HACKER CRACKDOWN, an action I
encourage heartily, you may notice that in the front of the book, right under
the copyright sign--"Copyright (C) 1992 by Bruce Sterling"--it has this little
block of printed legal boilerplate from the publisher. It says, and I quote:

"No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any
means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any
information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the
publisher. For information address: Bantam Books."

This is a pretty good disclaimer, as such disclaimers go. I collect
intellectual-property disclaimers, and I've seen dozens of them, and this one is
at least pretty straightforward. Unfortunately, it doesn't have much to do with
reality. Bantam Books puts that disclaimer on every book they publish, but
Bantam Books does not, in fact, own the electronic rights to this book. I do.
And I've chosen to give them away.

Bantam Books is not going to fuss about this. They are not going to bother you
for what you do with the electronic copy of this book. If you want to check this
out personally, you can ask them; they're at 1540 Broadway NY NY 10036.
However, if you were so foolish as to print this book and start retailing it for
money in violation of my copyright and the commercial interests of Bantam Books,
then Bantam, a part of the gigantic Bertelsmann multinational publishing
combine, would roust some of their heavy-duty attorneys out of hibernation and
crush you like a bug. This is only to be expected. I didn't write this book so
that you could make money out of it. If anybody is gonna make money out of this
book, it's gonna be me and my publisher.

My publisher deserves to make money out of this book. Not only did the folks at
Bantam Books commission me to write the book, and pay me a hefty sum to do so,
but they bravely printed, in text, an electronic document the reproduction of
which was once alleged to be a federal felony. Bantam Books and their numerous
attorneys were very brave and forthright about this book. Furthermore, my
former editor at Bantam Books, Betsy Mitchell, genuinely cared about this
project, and worked hard on it, and had a lot of wise things to say about the
manuscript. Betsy deserves genuine credit for this book, credit that editors too
rarely get.

The critics were very kind to THE HACKER CRACKDOWN, and commercially the book
has done well. On the other hand, I didn't write this book in order to squeeze
every last nickel and dime out of the mitts of impoverished sixteen-year-old
cyberpunk high- school-students. Teenagers don't have any money--no, not even
enough for HACKER CRACKDOWN. That's a major reason why they sometimes succumb
to the temptation to do things they shouldn't, such as swiping my books out of
libraries. Kids: this one is all yours, all right? Go give the paper copy
back. *8-)

Well-meaning, public-spirited civil libertarians don't have much money, either.
And it seems almost criminal to snatch cash out of the hands of America's
grotesquely underpaid electronic law enforcement community.

If you're a computer cop, a hacker, or an electronic civil liberties activist,
you are the target audience for this book. I wrote this book because I wanted
to help you, and help other people understand you and your unique, uhm,
problems. I wrote this book to aid your activities, and to contribute to the
public discussion of important political issues. In giving the text away in
this fashion, I am directly contributing to the book's ultimate aim: to help
civilize cyberspace.

Information WANTS to be free. And the information inside this book longs for
freedom with a peculiar intensity. I genuinely believe that the natural habitat
of this book is inside an electronic network. That may not be the easiest
direct method to generate revenue for the book's author, but that doesn't
matter; this is where this book belongs by its nature. I've written other
books--plenty of other books--and I'll write more and I am writing more, but
this one is special. I am making THE HACKER CRACKDOWN available electronically
as widely as I can conveniently manage, and if you like the book, and think it
is useful, then I urge you to do the same with it.

You can copy this electronic book. Copy the heck out of it, be my guest, and
give those copies to anybody who wants them. The nascent world of cyberspace is
full of sysadmins, teachers, trainers, cybrarians, netgurus, and various species
of cybernetic activist. If you're one of those people, I know about you, and I
know the hassle you go through to try to help people learn about the electronic
frontier. I hope that possessing this book in electronic form will lessen your
troubles. Granted, this treatment of our electronic social spectrum not the
ultimate in academic rigor. And politically, it has something to offend and
trouble almost everyone. But hey, I'm told it's readable, and at least the
price is right.

You can upload the book onto bulletin board systems, or Internet nodes, or
electronic discussion groups. Go right ahead and do that, I am giving you
express permission right now. Enjoy yourself.

You can put the book on disks and give the disks away, as long as you don't take
any money for it.

But this book is not public domain. You can't copyright it in your own name. I
own the copyright. Attempts to pirate this book and make money from selling it
may involve you in a serious litigative snarl. Believe me, for the pittance you
might wring out of such an action, it's really not worth it. This book don't
"belong" to you. In an odd but very genuine way, I feel it doesn't "belong" to
me, either. It's a book about the people of cyberspace, and distributing it in
this way is the best way I know to actually make this information available,
freely and easily, to all the people of cyberspace--including people far outside
the borders of the United States, who otherwise may never have a chance to see
any edition of the book, and who may perhaps learn something useful from this
strange story of distant, obscure, but portentous events in so-called "American

This electronic book is now literary freeware. It now belongs to the emergent
realm of alternative information economics. You have no right to make this
electronic book part of the conventional flow of commerce. Let it be part of
the flow of knowledge: there's a difference. I've divided the book into four
sections, so that it is less ungainly for upload and download; if there's a
section of particular relevance to you and your colleagues, feel free to
reproduce that one and skip the rest.

Just make more when you need them, and give them to whoever might want them.

Now have fun.

Bruce Sterling--bruces@well.sf.ca.us


1865 U.S. Secret Service (USSS) founded.

1876 Alexander Graham Bell invents telephone.

1878 First teenage males flung off phone system by enraged authorities.

1939 "Futurian" science-fiction group raided by Secret Service.

1971 Yippie phone phreaks start YIPL/TAP magazine.

1972 RAMPARTS magazine seized in blue-box rip-off scandal.

1978 Ward Christenson and Randy Suess create first personal computer bulletin
board system.

1982 William Gibson coins term "cyberspace."

1982 "414 Gang" raided.

1983-1983 AT&T dismantled in divestiture.

1984 Congress passes Comprehensive Crime Control Act giving USSS jurisdiction
over credit card fraud and computer fraud.

1984 "Legion of Doom" formed.

1984. 2600: THE HACKER QUARTERLY founded.


1985. First police "sting" bulletin board systems established.

1985. Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link computer conference (WELL) goes on-line.

1986 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act passed.

1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act passed.

1987 Chicago prosecutors form Computer Fraud and Abuse Task Force.


July. Secret Service covertly videotapes "SummerCon" hacker convention.

September. "Prophet" cracks BellSouth AIMSX computer network and downloads E911
Document to his own computer and to Jolnet.

September. AT&T Corporate Information Security informed of Prophet's action.

October. Bellcore Security informed of Prophet's action.


January. Prophet uploads E911 Document to Knight Lightning.

February 25. Knight Lightning publishes E911 Document in PHRACK electronic

May. Chicago Task Force raids and arrests "Kyrie."

June. "NuPrometheus League" distributes Apple Computer proprietary software.

June 13. Florida probation office crossed with phone-sex line in switching-
station stunt.

July. "Fry Guy" raided by USSS and Chicago Computer Fraud and Abuse Task Force.

July. Secret Service raids "Prophet," "Leftist," and "Urvile" in Georgia.


January 15. Martin Luther King Day Crash strikes AT&T long-distance network

January 18-19. Chicago Task Force raids Knight Lightning in St. Louis.

January 24. USSS and New York State Police raid "Phiber Optik," "Acid Phreak,"
and "Scorpion" in New York City.

February 1. USSS raids "Terminus" in Maryland.

February 3. Chicago Task Force raids Richard Andrews' home.

February 6. Chicago Task Force raids Richard Andrews' business.

February 6. USSS arrests Terminus, Prophet, Leftist, and Urvile.

February 9. Chicago Task Force arrests Knight Lightning.

February 20. AT&T Security shuts down public-access "attctc" computer in

February 21. Chicago Task Force raids Robert Izenberg in Austin.

March 1. Chicago Task Force raids Steve Jackson Games, Inc., "Mentor," and
"Erik Bloodaxe" in Austin.

May 7,8,9 USSS and Arizona Organized Crime and Racketeering Bureau conduct
"Operation Sundevil" raids in Cincinnatti, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami, Newark,
Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Richmond, Tucson, San Diego, San Jose, and San Francisco.

May. FBI interviews John Perry Barlow re NuPrometheus case.

June. Mitch Kapor and Barlow found Electronic Frontier Foundation; Barlow
publishes CRIME AND PUZZLEMENT manifesto.

July 24-27. Trial of Knight Lightning.


February. CPSR Roundtable in Washington, D.C.

March 25-28. Computers, Freedom and Privacy conference in San Francisco.

May 1. Electronic Frontier Foundation, Steve Jackson, and others file suit
against members of Chicago Task Force.

July 1-2. Switching station phone software crash affects Washington, Los
Angeles, Pittsburgh, San Francisco.

September 17. AT&T phone crash affects New York City and three airports.


This is a book about cops, and wild teenage whiz-kids, and lawyers, and hairy-
eyed anarchists, and industrial technicians, and hippies, and high-tech
millionaires, and game hobbyists, and computer security experts, and Secret
Service agents, and grifters, and thieves.

This book is about the electronic frontier of the 1990s. It concerns activities
that take place inside computers and over telephone lines.

A science fiction writer coined the useful term "cyberspace" in 1982. But the
territory in question, the electronic frontier, is about a hundred and thirty
years old. Cyberspace is the "place" where a telephone conversation appears to
occur. Not inside your actual phone, the plastic device on your desk. Not
inside the other person's phone, in some other city. THE PLACE BETWEEN the
phones. The indefinite place OUT THERE, where the two of you, two human beings,
actually meet and communicate.

Although it is not exactly "real," "cyberspace" is a genuine place. Things
happen there that have very genuine consequences. This "place" is not "real,"
but it is serious, it is earnest. Tens of thousands of people have dedicated
their lives to it, to the public service of public communication by wire and

People have worked on this "frontier" for generations now. Some people became
rich and famous from their efforts there. Some just played in it, as hobbyists.
Others soberly pondered it, and wrote about it, and regulated it, and negotiated
over it in international forums, and sued one another about it, in gigantic,
epic court battles that lasted for years. And almost since the beginning, some
people have committed crimes in this place.

But in the past twenty years, this electrical "space," which was once thin and
dark and one-dimensional--little more than a narrow speaking-tube, stretching
from phone to phone--has flung itself open like a gigantic jack-in-the-box.
Light has flooded upon it, the eerie light of the glowing computer screen. This
dark electric netherworld has become a vast flowering electronic landscape.
Since the 1960s, the world of the telephone has cross-bred itself with computers
and television, and though there is still no substance to cyberspace, nothing
you can handle, it has a strange kind of physicality now. It makes good sense
today to talk of cyberspace as a place all its own.

Because people live in it now. Not just a few people, not just a few
technicians and eccentrics, but thousands of people, quite normal people. And
not just for a little while, either, but for hours straight, over weeks, and
months, and years. Cyberspace today is a "Net," a "Matrix," international in
scope and growing swiftly and steadily. It's growing in size, and wealth, and
political importance.

People are making entire careers in modern cyberspace. Scientists and
technicians, of course; they've been there for twenty years now. But
increasingly, cyberspace is filling with journalists and doctors and lawyers and
artists and clerks. Civil servants make their careers there now, "on-line" in
vast government data-banks; and so do spies, industrial, political, and just
plain snoops; and so do police, at least a few of them. And there are children
living there now.

People have met there and been married there. There are entire living
communities in cyberspace today; chattering, gossiping, planning, conferring and
scheming, leaving one another voice-mail and electronic mail, giving one another
big weightless chunks of valuable data, both legitimate and illegitimate. They
busily pass one another computer software and the occasional festering computer

We do not really understand how to live in cyberspace yet. We are feeling our
way into it, blundering about. That is not surprising. Our lives in the
physical world, the "real" world, are also far from perfect, despite a lot more
practice. Human lives, real lives, are imperfect by their nature, and there are
human beings in cyberspace. The way we live in cyberspace is a funhouse mirror
of the way we live in the real world. We take both our advantages and our
troubles with us.

This book is about trouble in cyberspace. Specifically, this book is about
certain strange events in the year 1990, an unprecedented and startling year for
the the growing world of computerized communications.

In 1990 there came a nationwide crackdown on illicit computer hackers, with
arrests, criminal charges, one dramatic show-trial, several guilty pleas, and
huge confiscations of data and equipment all over the USA.

The Hacker Crackdown of 1990 was larger, better organized, more deliberate, and
more resolute than any previous effort in the brave new world of computer crime.
The U.S. Secret Service, private telephone security, and state and local law
enforcement groups across the country all joined forces in a determined attempt
to break the back of America's electronic underground. It was a fascinating
effort, with very mixed results.

The Hacker Crackdown had another unprecedented effect; it spurred the creation,
within "the computer community," of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a new
and very odd interest group, fiercely dedicated to the establishment and
preservation of electronic civil liberties. The crackdown, remarkable in
itself, has created a melee of debate over electronic crime, punishment, freedom
of the press, and issues of search and seizure. Politics has entered
cyberspace. Where people go, politics follow.

This is the story of the people of cyberspace.

PART ONE: Crashing the System

On January 15, 1990, AT&T's long-distance telephone switching system crashed.

This was a strange, dire, huge event. Sixty thousand people lost their
telephone service completely. During the nine long hours of frantic effort that
it took to restore service, some seventy million telephone calls went

Losses of service, known as "outages" in the telco trade, are a known and
accepted hazard of the telephone business. Hurricanes hit, and phone cables get
snapped by the thousands. Earthquakes wrench through buried fiber-optic lines.
Switching stations catch fire and burn to the ground. These things do happen.
There are contingency plans for them, and decades of experience in dealing with
them. But the Crash of January 15 was unprecedented. It was unbelievably huge,
and it occurred for no apparent physical reason.

The crash started on a Monday afternoon in a single switching-station in
Manhattan. But, unlike any merely physical damage, it spread and spread.
Station after station across America collapsed in a chain reaction, until fully
half of AT&T's network had gone haywire and the remaining half was hard-put to
handle the overflow.

Within nine hours, AT&T software engineers more or less understood what had
caused the crash. Replicating the problem exactly, poring over software line by
line, took them a couple of weeks. But because it was hard to understand
technically, the full truth of the matter and its implications were not widely
and thoroughly aired and explained. The root cause of the crash remained
obscure, surrounded by rumor and fear.

The crash was a grave corporate embarrassment. The "culprit" was a bug in
AT&T's own software--not the sort of admission the telecommunications giant
wanted to make, especially in the face of increasing competition. Still, the
truth WAS told, in the baffling technical terms necessary to explain it.

Somehow the explanation failed to persuade American law enforcement officials
and even telephone corporate security personnel. These people were not
technical experts or software wizards, and they had their own suspicions about
the cause of this disaster.

The police and telco security had important sources of information denied to
mere software engineers. They had informants in the computer underground and
years of experience in dealing with high-tech rascality that seemed to grow ever
more sophisticated. For years they had been expecting a direct and savage
attack against the American national telephone system. And with the Crash of
January 15--the first month of a new, high- tech decade--their predictions,
fears, and suspicions seemed at last to have entered the real world. A world
where the telephone system had not merely crashed, but, quite likely, BEEN
crashed--by "hackers."

The crash created a large dark cloud of suspicion that would color certain
people's assumptions and actions for months. The fact that it took place in the
realm of software was suspicious on its face. The fact that it occurred on
Martin Luther King Day, still the most politically touchy of American holidays,
made it more suspicious yet.

The Crash of January 15 gave the Hacker Crackdown its sense of edge and its
sweaty urgency. It made people, powerful people in positions of public
authority, willing to believe the worst. And, most fatally, it helped to give
investigators a willingness to take extreme measures and the determination to
preserve almost total secrecy.

An obscure software fault in an aging switching system in New York was to lead
to a chain reaction of legal and constitutional trouble all across the country.

Like the crash in the telephone system, this chain reaction was ready and
waiting to happen. During the 1980s, the American legal system was extensively
patched to deal with the novel issues of computer crime. There was, for
instance, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 (eloquently
described as "a stinking mess" by a prominent law enforcement official). And
there was the draconian Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986, passed unanimously
by the United States Senate, which later would reveal a large number of flaws.
Extensive, well-meant efforts had been made to keep the legal system up to date.
But in the day-to-day grind of the real world, even the most elegant software
tends to crumble and suddenly reveal its hidden bugs.

Like the advancing telephone system, the American legal system was certainly not
ruined by its temporary crash; but for those caught under the weight of the
collapsing system, life became a series of blackouts and anomalies.

In order to understand why these weird events occurred, both in the world of
technology and in the world of law, it's not enough to understand the merely
technical problems. We will get to those; but first and foremost, we must try
to understand the telephone, and the business of telephones, and the community
of human beings that telephones have created.

Technologies have life cycles, like cities do, like institutions do, like laws
and governments do.

The first stage of any technology is the Question Mark, often known as the
"Golden Vaporware" stage. At this early point, the technology is only a
phantom, a mere gleam in the inventor's eye. One such inventor was a speech
teacher and electrical tinkerer named Alexander Graham Bell.

Bell's early inventions, while ingenious, failed to move the world. In 1863,
the teenage Bell and his brother Melville made an artificial talking mechanism
out of wood, rubber, gutta- percha, and tin. This weird device had a rubber-
covered "tongue" made of movable wooden segments, with vibrating rubber "vocal
cords," and rubber "lips" and "cheeks." While Melville puffed a bellows into a
tin tube, imitating the lungs, young Alec Bell would manipulate the "lips,"
"teeth," and "tongue," causing the thing to emit high-pitched falsetto

Another would-be technical breakthrough was the Bell "phonautograph" of 1874,
actually made out of a human cadaver's ear. Clamped into place on a tripod,
this grisly gadget drew sound-wave images on smoked glass through a thin straw
glued to its vibrating earbones.

By 1875, Bell had learned to produce audible sounds--ugly shrieks and squawks--
by using magnets, diaphragms, and electrical current.

Most "Golden Vaporware" technologies go nowhere.

But the second stage of technology is the Rising Star, or, the "Goofy
Prototype," stage. The telephone, Bell's most ambitious gadget yet, reached
this stage on March 10, 1876. On that great day, Alexander Graham Bell became
the first person to transmit intelligible human speech electrically. As it
happened, young Professor Bell, industriously tinkering in his Boston lab, had
spattered his trousers with acid. His assistant, Mr. Watson, heard his cry for
help--over Bell's experimental audio-telegraph. This was an event without

Technologies in their "Goofy Prototype" stage rarely work very well. They're
experimental, and therefore half-baked and rather frazzled. The prototype may
be attractive and novel, and it does look as if it ought to be good for
something-or-other. But nobody, including the inventor, is quite sure what.
Inventors, and speculators, and pundits may have very firm ideas about its
potential use, but those ideas are often very wrong.

The natural habitat of the Goofy Prototype is in trade shows and in the popular
press. Infant technologies need publicity and investment money like a tottering
calf need milk. This was very true of Bell's machine. To raise research and
development money, Bell toured with his device as a stage attraction.

Contemporary press reports of the stage debut of the telephone showed pleased
astonishment mixed with considerable dread. Bell's stage telephone was a large
wooden box with a crude speaker-nozzle, the whole contraption about the size and
shape of an overgrown Brownie camera. Its buzzing steel soundplate, pumped up
by powerful electromagnets, was loud enough to fill an auditorium. Bell's
assistant Mr. Watson, who could manage on the keyboards fairly well, kicked in
by playing the organ from distant rooms, and, later, distant cities. This feat
was considered marvellous, but very eerie indeed.

Bell's original notion for the telephone, an idea promoted for a couple of
years, was that it would become a mass medium. We might recognize Bell's idea
today as something close to modern "cable radio." Telephones at a central
source would transmit music, Sunday sermons, and important public speeches to a
paying network of wired-up subscribers.

At the time, most people thought this notion made good sense. In fact, Bell's
idea was workable. In Hungary, this philosophy of the telephone was
successfully put into everyday practice. In Budapest, for decades, from 1893
until after World War I, there was a government-run information service called
"Telefon Hirmondo+." Hirmondo+ was a centralized source of news and
entertainment and culture, including stock reports, plays, concerts, and novels
read aloud. At certain hours of the day, the phone would ring, you would plug
in a loudspeaker for the use of the family, and Telefon Hirmondo+ would be on
the air--or rather, on the phone.

Hirmondo+ is dead tech today, but Hirmondo+ might be considered a spiritual
ancestor of the modern telephone-accessed computer data services, such as
CompuServe, GEnie or Prodigy. The principle behind Hirmondo+ is also not too far
from computer "bulletin-board systems" or BBS's, which arrived in the late
1970s, spread rapidly across America, and will figure largely in this book.

We are used to using telephones for individual person-to- person speech, because
we are used to the Bell system. But this was just one possibility among many.
Communication networks are very flexible and protean, especially when their
hardware becomes sufficiently advanced. They can be put to all kinds of uses.
And they have been--and they will be.

Bell's telephone was bound for glory, but this was a combination of political
decisions, canny infighting in court, inspired industrial leadership, receptive
local conditions and outright good luck. Much the same is true of
communications systems today.

As Bell and his backers struggled to install their newfangled system in the real
world of nineteenth-century New England, they had to fight against skepticism
and industrial rivalry. There was already a strong electrical communications
network present in America: the telegraph. The head of the Western Union
telegraph system dismissed Bell's prototype as "an electrical toy" and refused
to buy the rights to Bell's patent. The telephone, it seemed, might be all right
as a parlor entertainment--but not for serious business.

Telegrams, unlike mere telephones, left a permanent physical record of their
messages. Telegrams, unlike telephones, could be answered whenever the
recipient had time and convenience. And the telegram had a much longer
distance-range than Bell's early telephone. These factors made telegraphy seem
a much more sound and businesslike technology--at least to some.

The telegraph system was huge, and well-entrenched. In 1876, the United States
had 214,000 miles of telegraph wire, and 8500 telegraph offices. There were
specialized telegraphs for businesses and stock traders, government, police and
fire departments. And Bell's "toy" was best known as a stage-magic musical

The third stage of technology is known as the "Cash Cow" stage. In the "cash
cow" stage, a technology finds its place in the world, and matures, and becomes
settled and productive. After a year or so, Alexander Graham Bell and his
capitalist backers concluded that eerie music piped from nineteenth-century
cyberspace was not the real selling-point of his invention. Instead, the
telephone was about speech--individual, personal speech, the human voice, human
conversation and human interaction. The telephone was not to be managed from
any centralized broadcast center. It was to be a personal, intimate technology.

When you picked up a telephone, you were not absorbing the cold output of a
machine--you were speaking to another human being. Once people realized this,
their instinctive dread of the telephone as an eerie, unnatural device, swiftly
vanished. A "telephone call" was not a "call" from a "telephone" itself, but a
call from another human being, someone you would generally know and recognize.
The real point was not what the machine could do for you (or to you), but what
you yourself, a person and citizen, could do THROUGH the machine. This decision
on the part of the young Bell Company was absolutely vital.

The first telephone networks went up around Boston-- mostly among the
technically curious and the well-to-do (much the same segment of the American
populace that, a hundred years later, would be buying personal computers).
Entrenched backers of the telegraph continued to scoff.

But in January 1878, a disaster made the telephone famous. A train crashed in
Tarriffville, Connecticut. Forward- looking doctors in the nearby city of
Hartford had had Bell's "speaking telephone" installed. An alert local druggist
was able to telephone an entire community of local doctors, who rushed to the
site to give aid. The disaster, as disasters do, aroused intense press
coverage. The phone had proven its usefulness in the real world.

After Tarriffville, the telephone network spread like crabgrass. By 1890 it was
all over New England. By '93, out to Chicago. By '97, into Minnesota, Nebraska
and Texas. By 1904 it was all over the continent.

The telephone had become a mature technology. Professor Bell (now generally
known as "Dr. Bell" despite his lack of a formal degree) became quite wealthy.
He lost interest in the tedious day-to-day business muddle of the booming
telephone network, and gratefully returned his attention to creatively hacking-
around in his various laboratories, which were now much larger, better-
ventilated, and gratifyingly better-equipped. Bell was never to have another
great inventive success, though his speculations and prototypes anticipated
fiber-optic transmission, manned flight, sonar, hydrofoil ships, tetrahedral
construction, and Montessori education. The "decibel," the standard scientific
measure of sound intensity, was named after Bell.

Not all Bell's vaporware notions were inspired. He was fascinated by human
eugenics. He also spent many years developing a weird personal system of
astrophysics in which gravity did not exist.

Bell was a definite eccentric. He was something of a hypochondriac, and
throughout his life he habitually stayed up until four A.M., refusing to rise
before noon. But Bell had accomplished a great feat; he was an idol of millions
and his influence, wealth, and great personal charm, combined with his
eccentricity, made him something of a loose cannon on deck. Bell maintained a
thriving scientific salon in his winter mansion in Washington, D.C., which gave
him considerable backstage influence in governmental and scientific circles. He
was a major financial backer of the the magazines SCIENCE and NATIONAL
GEOGRAPHIC, both still flourishing today as important organs of the American
scientific establishment.

Bell's companion Thomas Watson, similarly wealthy and similarly odd, became the
ardent political disciple of a 19th- century science-fiction writer and would-be
social reformer, Edward Bellamy. Watson also trod the boards briefly as a
Shakespearian actor.

There would never be another Alexander Graham Bell, but in years to come there
would be surprising numbers of people like him. Bell was a prototype of the
high-tech entrepreneur. High- tech entrepreneurs will play a very prominent
role in this book: not merely as technicians and businessmen, but as pioneers of
the technical frontier, who can carry the power and prestige they derive from
high-technology into the political and social arena.

Like later entrepreneurs, Bell was fierce in defense of his own technological
territory. As the telephone began to flourish, Bell was soon involved in
violent lawsuits in the defense of his patents. Bell's Boston lawyers were
excellent, however, and Bell himself, as an elocution teacher and gifted public
speaker, was a devastatingly effective legal witness. In the eighteen years of
Bell's patents, the Bell company was involved in six hundred separate lawsuits.
The legal records printed filled 149 volumes. The Bell Company won every single

After Bell's exclusive patents expired, rival telephone companies sprang up all
over America. Bell's company, American Bell Telephone, was soon in deep
trouble. In 1907, American Bell Telephone fell into the hands of the rather
sinister J.P. Morgan financial cartel, robber-baron speculators who dominated
Wall Street.

At this point, history might have taken a different turn. American might well
have been served forever by a patchwork of locally owned telephone companies.
Many state politicians and local businessmen considered this an excellent

But the new Bell holding company, American Telephone and Telegraph or AT&T, put
in a new man at the helm, a visionary industrialist named Theodore Vail. Vail,
a former Post Office manager, understood large organizations and had an innate
feeling for the nature of large-scale communications. Vail quickly saw to it
that AT&T seized the technological edge once again. The Pupin and Campbell
"loading coil," and the deForest "audion," are both extinct technology today,
but in 1913 they gave Vail's company the best LONG-DISTANCE lines ever built.
By controlling long-distance--the links between, and over, and above the smaller
local phone companies--AT&T swiftly gained the whip-hand over them, and was soon
devouring them right and left.

Vail plowed the profits back into research and development, starting the Bell
tradition of huge-scale and brilliant industrial research.

Technically and financially, AT&T gradually steamrollered the opposition.
Independent telephone companies never became entirely extinct, and hundreds of
them flourish today. But Vail's AT&T became the supreme communications company.
At one point, Vail's AT&T bought Western Union itself, the very company that had
derided Bell's telephone as a "toy." Vail thoroughly reformed Western Union's
hidebound business along his modern principles; but when the federal government
grew anxious at this centralization of power, Vail politely gave Western Union

This centralizing process was not unique. Very similar events had happened in
American steel, oil, and railroads. But AT&T, unlike the other companies, was
to remain supreme. The monopoly robber-barons of those other industries were
humbled and shattered by government trust-busting.

Vail, the former Post Office official, was quite willing to accommodate the US
government; in fact he would forge an active alliance with it. AT&T would
become almost a wing of the American government, almost another Post Office--
though not quite. AT&T would willingly submit to federal regulation, but in
return, it would use the government's regulators as its own police, who would
keep out competitors and assure the Bell system's profits and preeminence.

This was the second birth--the political birth--of the American telephone
system. Vail's arrangement was to persist, with vast success, for many decades,
until 1982. His system was an odd kind of American industrial socialism. It
was born at about the same time as Leninist Communism, and it lasted almost as
long--and, it must be admitted, to considerably better effect.

Vail's system worked. Except perhaps for aerospace, there has been no
technology more thoroughly dominated by Americans than the telephone. The
telephone was seen from the beginning as a quintessentially American technology.
Bell's policy, and the policy of Theodore Vail, was a profoundly democratic
policy of UNIVERSAL ACCESS. Vail's famous corporate slogan, "One Policy, One
System, Universal Service," was a political slogan, with a very American ring to

The American telephone was not to become the specialized tool of government or
business, but a general public utility. At first, it was true, only the wealthy
could afford private telephones, and Bell's company pursued the business markets
primarily. The American phone system was a capitalist effort, meant to make
money; it was not a charity. But from the first, almost all communities with
telephone service had public telephones. And many stores--especially
drugstores--offered public use of their phones. You might not own a telephone--
but you could always get into the system, if you really needed to.

There was nothing inevitable about this decision to make telephones "public" and
"universal." Vail's system involved a profound act of trust in the public.
This decision was a political one, informed by the basic values of the American
republic. The situation might have been very different; and in other countries,
under other systems, it certainly was.

Joseph Stalin, for instance, vetoed plans for a Soviet phone system soon after
the Bolshevik revolution. Stalin was certain that publicly accessible
telephones would become instruments of anti-Soviet counterrevolution and
conspiracy. (He was probably right.) When telephones did arrive in the Soviet
Union, they would be instruments of Party authority, and always heavily tapped.
(Alexander Solzhenitsyn's prison-camp novel THE FIRST CIRCLE describes efforts
to develop a phone system more suited to Stalinist purposes.)

France, with its tradition of rational centralized government, had fought
bitterly even against the electric telegraph, which seemed to the French
entirely too anarchical and frivolous. For decades, nineteenth-century France
communicated via the "visual telegraph," a nation-spanning, government-owned
semaphore system of huge stone towers that signalled from hilltops, across vast
distances, with big windmill-like arms. In 1846, one Dr. Barbay, a semaphore
enthusiast, memorably uttered an early version of what might be called "the
security expert's argument" against the open media.

"No, the electric telegraph is not a sound invention. It will always be at the
mercy of the slightest disruption, wild youths, drunkards, bums, etc.... The
electric telegraph meets those destructive elements with only a few meters of
wire over which supervision is impossible. A single man could, without being
seen, cut the telegraph wires leading to Paris, and in twenty-four hours cut in
ten different places the wires of the same line, without being arrested. The
visual telegraph, on the contrary, has its towers, its high walls, its gates
well-guarded from inside by strong armed men. Yes, I declare, substitution of
the electric telegraph for the visual one is a dreadful measure, a truly idiotic

Dr. Barbay and his high-security stone machines were eventually unsuccessful,
but his argument--that communication exists for the safety and convenience of
the state, and must be carefully protected from the wild boys and the gutter
rabble who might want to crash the system--would be heard again and again.

When the French telephone system finally did arrive, its snarled inadequacy was
to be notorious. Devotees of the American Bell System often recommended a trip
to France, for skeptics.

In Edwardian Britain, issues of class and privacy were a ball-and-chain for
telephonic progress. It was considered outrageous that anyone--any wild fool
off the street--could simply barge bellowing into one's office or home, preceded
only by the ringing of a telephone bell. In Britain, phones were tolerated for
the use of business, but private phones tended be stuffed away into closets,
smoking rooms, or servants' quarters. Telephone operators were resented in
Britain because they did not seem to "know their place." And no one of breeding
would print a telephone number on a business card; this seemed a crass attempt
to make the acquaintance of strangers.

But phone access in America was to become a popular right; something like
universal suffrage, only more so. American women could not yet vote when the
phone system came through; yet from the beginning American women doted on the
telephone. This "feminization" of the American telephone was often commented on
by foreigners. Phones in America were not censored or stiff or formalized; they
were social, private, intimate, and domestic. In America, Mother's Day is by far
the busiest day of the year for the phone network.

The early telephone companies, and especially AT&T, were among the foremost
employers of American women. They employed the daughters of the American
middle-class in great armies: in 1891, eight thousand women; by 1946, almost a
quarter of a million. Women seemed to enjoy telephone work; it was respectable,
it was steady, it paid fairly well as women's work went, and--not least--it
seemed a genuine contribution to the social good of the community. Women found
Vail's ideal of public service attractive. This was especially true in rural
areas, where women operators, running extensive rural party- lines, enjoyed
considerable social power. The operator knew everyone on the party-line, and
everyone knew her.

Although Bell himself was an ardent suffragist, the telephone company did not
employ women for the sake of advancing female liberation. AT&T did this for
sound commercial reasons. The first telephone operators of the Bell system were
not women, but teenage American boys. They were telegraphic messenger boys (a
group about to be rendered technically obsolescent), who swept up around the
phone office, dunned customers for bills, and made phone connections on the
switchboard, all on the cheap.

Within the very first year of operation, 1878, Bell's company learned a sharp
lesson about combining teenage boys and telephone switchboards. Putting teenage
boys in charge of the phone system brought swift and consistent disaster.
Bell's chief engineer described them as "Wild Indians." The boys were openly
rude to customers. They talked back to subscribers, saucing off, uttering
facetious remarks, and generally giving lip. The rascals took Saint Patrick's
Day off without permission. And worst of all they played clever tricks with the
switchboard plugs: disconnecting calls, crossing lines so that customers found
themselves talking to strangers, and so forth.

This combination of power, technical mastery, and effective anonymity seemed to
act like catnip on teenage boys.

This wild-kid-on-the-wires phenomenon was not confined to the USA; from the
beginning, the same was true of the British phone system. An early British
commentator kindly remarked: "No doubt boys in their teens found the work not a
little irksome, and it is also highly probable that under the early conditions
of employment the adventurous and inquisitive spirits of which the average
healthy boy of that age is possessed, were not always conducive to the best
attention being given to the wants of the telephone subscribers."

So the boys were flung off the system--or at least, deprived of control of the
switchboard. But the "adventurous and inquisitive spirits" of the teenage boys
would be heard from in the world of telephony, again and again.

The fourth stage in the technological life-cycle is death: "the Dog," dead
tech. The telephone has so far avoided this fate. On the contrary, it is
thriving, still spreading, still evolving, and at increasing speed.

The telephone has achieved a rare and exalted state for a technological
artifact: it has become a HOUSEHOLD OBJECT. The telephone, like the clock,
like pen and paper, like kitchen utensils and running water, has become a
technology that is visible only by its absence. The telephone is
technologically transparent. The global telephone system is the largest and
most complex machine in the world, yet it is easy to use. More remarkable yet,
the telephone is almost entirely physically safe for the user.

For the average citizen in the 1870s, the telephone was weirder, more shocking,
more "high-tech" and harder to comprehend, than the most outrageous stunts of
advanced computing for us Americans in the 1990s. In trying to understand what
is happening to us today, with our bulletin-board systems, direct overseas
dialling, fiber-optic transmissions, computer viruses, hacking stunts, and a
vivid tangle of new laws and new crimes, it is important to realize that our
society has been through a similar challenge before--and that, all in all, we
did rather well by it.

Bell's stage telephone seemed bizarre at first. But the sensations of weirdness
vanished quickly, once people began to hear the familiar voices of relatives and
friends, in their own homes on their own telephones. The telephone changed from
a fearsome high-tech totem to an everyday pillar of human community.

This has also happened, and is still happening, to computer networks. Computer
networks such as NSFnet, BITnet, USENET, JANET, are technically advanced,
intimidating, and much harder to use than telephones. Even the popular,
commercial computer networks, such as GEnie, Prodigy, and CompuServe, cause much
head-scratching and have been described as "user-hateful." Nevertheless they too
are changing from fancy high-tech items into everyday sources of human

The words "community" and "communication" have the same root. Wherever you put
a communications network, you put a community as well. And whenever you TAKE
AWAY that network-- confiscate it, outlaw it, crash it, raise its price beyond
affordability--then you hurt that community.

Communities will fight to defend themselves. People will fight harder and more
bitterly to defend their communities, than they will fight to defend their own
individual selves. And this is very true of the "electronic community" that
arose around computer networks in the 1980s--or rather, the VARIOUS electronic
communities, in telephony, law enforcement, computing, and the digital
underground that, by the year 1990, were raiding, rallying, arresting, suing,
jailing, fining and issuing angry manifestos.

None of the events of 1990 were entirely new. Nothing happened in 1990 that did
not have some kind of earlier and more understandable precedent. What gave the
Hacker Crackdown its new sense of gravity and importance was the feeling--the
COMMUNITY feeling--that the political stakes had been raised; that trouble in
cyberspace was no longer mere mischief or inconclusive skirmishing, but a
genuine fight over genuine issues, a fight for community survival and the shape
of the future.

These electronic communities, having flourished throughout the 1980s, were
becoming aware of themselves, and increasingly, becoming aware of other, rival
communities. Worries were sprouting up right and left, with complaints, rumors,
uneasy speculations. But it would take a catalyst, a shock, to make the new
world evident. Like Bell's great publicity break, the Tarriffville Rail
Disaster of January 1878, it would take a cause celebre.

That cause was the AT&T Crash of January 15, 1990. After the Crash, the wounded
and anxious telephone community would come out fighting hard.

The community of telephone technicians, engineers, operators and researchers is
the oldest community in cyberspace. These are the veterans, the most developed
group, the richest, the most respectable, in most ways the most powerful. Whole
generations have come and gone since Alexander Graham Bell's day, but the
community he founded survives; people work for the phone system today whose
great-grandparents worked for the phone system. Its specialty magazines, such
decades old; they make computer publications like MACWORLD and PC WEEK look like
amateur johnny-come-latelies.

And the phone companies take no back seat in high- technology, either. Other
companies' industrial researchers may have won new markets; but the researchers
of Bell Labs have won SEVEN NOBLE PRIZES. One potent device that Bell Labs
originated, the transistor, has created entire GROUPS of industries. Bell Labs
are world-famous for generating "a patent a day," and have even made vital
discoveries in astronomy, physics and cosmology.

Throughout its seventy-year history, "Ma Bell" was not so much a company as a
way of life. Until the cataclysmic divestiture of the 1980s, Ma Bell was
perhaps the ultimate maternalist mega-employer. The AT&T corporate image was
the "gentle giant," "the voice with a smile," a vaguely socialist- realist world
of cleanshaven linemen in shiny helmets and blandly pretty phone-girls in
headsets and nylons. Bell System employees were famous as rock-ribbed Kiwanis
and Rotary members, Little- League enthusiasts, school-board people.

During the long heyday of Ma Bell, the Bell employee corps were nurtured top-to-
bottom on a corporate ethos of public service. There was good money in Bell,
but Bell was not ABOUT money; Bell used public relations, but never mere
marketeering. People went into the Bell System for a good life, and they had a
good life. But it was not mere money that led Bell people out in the midst of
storms and earthquakes to fight with toppled phone- poles, to wade in flooded
manholes, to pull the red-eyed graveyard-shift over collapsing switching-
systems. The Bell ethic was the electrical equivalent of the postman's: neither
rain, nor snow, nor gloom of night would stop these couriers.

It is easy to be cynical about this, as it is easy to be cynical about any
political or social system; but cynicism does not change the fact that thousands
of people took these ideals very seriously. And some still do.

The Bell ethos was about public service; and that was gratifying; but it was
also about private POWER, and that was gratifying too. As a corporation, Bell
was very special. Bell was privileged. Bell had snuggled up close to the
state. In fact, Bell was as close to government as you could get in America and
still make a whole lot of legitimate money.

But unlike other companies, Bell was above and beyond the vulgar commercial
fray. Through its regional operating companies, Bell was omnipresent, local,
and intimate, all over America; but the central ivory towers at its corporate
heart were the tallest and the ivoriest around.

There were other phone companies in America, to be sure; the so-called
independents. Rural cooperatives, mostly; small fry, mostly tolerated,
sometimes warred upon. For many decades, "independent" American phone companies
lived in fear and loathing of the official Bell monopoly (or the "Bell Octopus,"
as Ma Bell's nineteenth-century enemies described her in many angry newspaper
manifestos). Some few of these independent entrepreneurs, while legally in the
wrong, fought so bitterly against the Octopus that their illegal phone networks
were cast into the street by Bell agents and publicly burned.

The pure technical sweetness of the Bell System gave its operators, inventors
and engineers a deeply satisfying sense of power and mastery. They had devoted
their lives to improving this vast nation-spanning machine; over years, whole
human lives, they had watched it improve and grow. It was like a great
technological temple. They were an elite, and they knew it-- even if others did
not; in fact, they felt even more powerful BECAUSE others did not understand.

The deep attraction of this sensation of elite technical power should never be
underestimated. "Technical power" is not for everybody; for many people it
simply has no charm at all. But for some people, it becomes the core of their
lives. For a few, it is overwhelming, obsessive; it becomes something close to
an addiction. People--especially clever teenage boys whose lives are otherwise
mostly powerless and put-upon--love this sensation of secret power, and are
willing to do all sorts of amazing things to achieve it. The technical POWER of
electronics has motivated many strange acts detailed in this book, which would
otherwise be inexplicable.

So Bell had power beyond mere capitalism. The Bell service ethos worked, and
was often propagandized, in a rather saccharine fashion. Over the decades,
people slowly grew tired of this. And then, openly impatient with it. By the
early 1980s, Ma Bell was to find herself with scarcely a real friend in the
world. Vail's industrial socialism had become hopelessly out-of-fashion
politically. Bell would be punished for that. And that punishment would fall
harshly upon the people of the telephone community.

In 1983, Ma Bell was dismantled by federal court action. The pieces of Bell are
now separate corporate entities. The core of the company became AT&T
Communications, and also AT&T Industries (formerly Western Electric, Bell's
manufacturing arm). AT&T Bell Labs become Bell Communications Research,
Bellcore. Then there are the Regional Bell Operating Companies, or RBOCs,
pronounced "arbocks."

Bell was a titan and even these regional chunks are gigantic enterprises:
Fortune 50 companies with plenty of wealth and power behind them. But the clean
lines of "One Policy, One System, Universal Service" have been shattered,
apparently forever.

The "One Policy" of the early Reagan Administration was to shatter a system that
smacked of noncompetitive socialism. Since that time, there has been no real
telephone "policy" on the federal level. Despite the breakup, the remnants of
Bell have never been set free to compete in the open marketplace.

The RBOCs are still very heavily regulated, but not from the top. Instead, they
struggle politically, economically and legally, in what seems an endless
turmoil, in a patchwork of overlapping federal and state jurisdictions.
Increasingly, like other major American corporations, the RBOCs are becoming
multinational, acquiring important commercial interests in Europe, Latin
America, and the Pacific Rim. But this, too, adds to their legal and political

The people of what used to be Ma Bell are not happy about their fate. They feel
ill-used. They might have been grudgingly willing to make a full transition to
the free market; to become just companies amid other companies. But this never
happened. Instead, AT&T and the RBOCS ("the Baby Bells") feel themselves
wrenched from side to side by state regulators, by Congress, by the FCC, and
especially by the federal court of Judge Harold Greene, the magistrate who
ordered the Bell breakup and who has been the de facto czar of American
telecommunications ever since 1983. Bell people feel that they exist in a kind
of paralegal limbo today. They don't understand what's demanded of them. If
it's "service," why aren't they treated like a public service? And if it's
money, then why aren't they free to compete for it? No one seems to know,
really. Those who claim to know keep changing their minds. Nobody in authority
seems willing to grasp the nettle for once and all.

Telephone people from other countries are amazed by the American telephone
system today. Not that it works so well; for nowadays even the French telephone
system works, more or less. They are amazed that the American telephone system
STILL works AT ALL, under these strange conditions.

Bell's "One System" of long-distance service is now only about eighty percent of
a system, with the remainder held by Sprint, MCI, and the midget long-distance
companies. Ugly wars over dubious corporate practices such as "slamming" (an
underhanded method of snitching clients from rivals) break out with some
regularity in the realm of long-distance service. The battle to break Bell's
long-distance monopoly was long and ugly, and since the breakup the battlefield
has not become much prettier. AT&T's famous shame-and-blame advertisements,
which emphasized the shoddy work and purported ethical shadiness of their
competitors, were much remarked on for their studied psychological cruelty.

There is much bad blood in this industry, and much long- treasured resentment.
AT&T's post-breakup corporate logo, a striped sphere, is known in the industry
as the "Death Star" (a reference from the movie STAR WARS, in which the "Death
Star" was the spherical high-tech fortress of the harsh-breathing imperial
ultra-baddie, Darth Vader.) Even AT&T employees are less than thrilled by the
Death Star. A popular (though banned) T-shirt among AT&T employees bears the
old-fashioned Bell logo of the Bell System, plus the newfangled striped sphere,
with the before- and-after comments: "This is your brain--This is your brain on
drugs!" AT&T made a very well-financed and determined effort to break into the
personal computer market; it was disastrous, and telco computer experts are
derisively known by their competitors as "the pole-climbers." AT&T and the Baby
Bell arbocks still seem to have few friends.

Under conditions of sharp commercial competition, a crash like that of January
15, 1990 was a major embarrassment to AT&T. It was a direct blow against their
much-treasured reputation for reliability. Within days of the crash AT&T's
Chief Executive Officer, Bob Allen, officially apologized, in terms of deeply
pained humility:

"AT&T had a major service disruption last Monday. We didn't live up to our own
standards of quality, and we didn't live up to yours. It's as simple as that.
And that's not acceptable to us. Or to you.... We understand how much people
have come to depend upon AT&T service, so our AT&T Bell Laboratories scientists
and our network engineers are doing everything possible to guard against a
recurrence.... We know there's no way to make up for the inconvenience this
problem may have caused you."

Mr Allen's "open letter to customers" was printed in lavish ads all over the

In another press release, AT&T went to some pains to suggest that this "software
glitch" MIGHT have happened just as easily to MCI, although, in fact, it hadn't.
(MCI's switching software was quite different from AT&T's--though not
necessarily any safer.) AT&T also announced their plans to offer a rebate of
service on Valentine's Day to make up for the loss during the Crash.

"Every technical resource available, including Bell Labs scientists and
engineers, has been devoted to assuring it will not occur again," the public was
told. They were further assured that "The chances of a recurrence are small--a
problem of this magnitude never occurred before."

In the meantime, however, police and corporate security maintained their own
suspicions about "the chances of recurrence" and the real reason why a "problem
of this magnitude" had appeared, seemingly out of nowhere. Police and security
knew for a fact that hackers of unprecedented sophistication were illegally
entering, and reprogramming, certain digital switching stations. Rumors of
hidden "viruses" and secret "logic bombs" in the switches ran rampant in the
underground, with much chortling over AT&T's predicament, and idle speculation
over what unsung hacker genius was responsible for it. Some hackers, including
police informants, were trying hard to finger one another as the true culprits
of the Crash.

Telco people found little comfort in objectivity when they contemplated these
possibilities. It was just too close to the bone for them; it was embarrassing;
it hurt so much, it was hard even to talk about.

There has always been thieving and misbehavior in the phone system. There has
always been trouble with the rival independents, and in the local loops. But to
have such trouble in the core of the system, the long-distance switching
stations, is a horrifying affair. To telco people, this is all the difference
between finding roaches in your kitchen and big horrid sewer-rats in your

From the outside, to the average citizen, the telcos still seem gigantic and
impersonal. The American public seems to regard them as something akin to
Soviet apparats. Even when the telcos do their best corporate-citizen routine,
subsidizing magnet high-schools and sponsoring news-shows on public television,
they seem to win little except public suspicion.

But from the inside, all this looks very different. There's harsh competition.
A legal and political system that seems baffled and bored, when not actively
hostile to telco interests. There's a loss of morale, a deep sensation of
having somehow lost the upper hand. Technological change has caused a loss of
data and revenue to other, newer forms of transmission. There's theft, and new
forms of theft, of growing scale and boldness and sophistication. With all
these factors, it was no surprise to see the telcos, large and small, break out
in a litany of bitter complaint.

In late '88 and throughout 1989, telco representatives grew shrill in their
complaints to those few American law enforcement officials who make it their
business to try to understand what telephone people are talking about. Telco
security officials had discovered the computer-hacker underground, infiltrated
it thoroughly, and become deeply alarmed at its growing expertise. Here they
had found a target that was not only loathsome on its face, but clearly ripe for

Those bitter rivals: AT&T, MCI and Sprint--and a crowd of Baby Bells: PacBell,
Bell South, Southwestern Bell, NYNEX, USWest, as well as the Bell research
consortium Bellcore, and the independent long-distance carrier Mid-American--all
were to have their role in the great hacker dragnet of 1990. After years of
being battered and pushed around, the telcos had, at least in a small way,
seized the initiative again. After years of turmoil, telcos and government
officials were once again to work smoothly in concert in defense of the System.
Optimism blossomed; enthusiasm grew on all sides; the prospective taste of
vengeance was sweet.

From the beginning--even before the crackdown had a name --secrecy was a big
problem. There were many good reasons for secrecy in the hacker crackdown.
Hackers and code-thieves were wily prey, slinking back to their bedrooms and
basements and destroying vital incriminating evidence at the first hint of
trouble. Furthermore, the crimes themselves were heavily technical and
difficult to describe, even to police--much less to the general public.

When such crimes HAD been described intelligibly to the public, in the past,
that very publicity had tended to INCREASE the crimes enormously. Telco
officials, while painfully aware of the vulnerabilities of their systems, were
anxious not to publicize those weaknesses. Experience showed them that those
weaknesses, once discovered, would be pitilessly exploited by tens of thousands
of people--not only by professional grifters and by underground hackers and
phone phreaks, but by many otherwise more-or-less honest everyday folks, who
regarded stealing service from the faceless, soulless "Phone Company" as a kind
of harmless indoor sport. When it came to protecting their interests, telcos
had long since given up on general public sympathy for "the Voice with a Smile."
Nowadays the telco's "Voice" was very likely to be a computer's; and the
American public showed much less of the proper respect and gratitude due the
fine public service bequeathed them by Dr. Bell and Mr. Vail. The more
efficient, high-tech, computerized, and impersonal the telcos became, it seemed,
the more they were met by sullen public resentment and amoral greed.

Telco officials wanted to punish the phone-phreak underground, in as public and
exemplary a manner as possible. They wanted to make dire examples of the worst
offenders, to seize the ringleaders and intimidate the small fry, to discourage
and frighten the wacky hobbyists, and send the professional grifters to jail.
To do all this, publicity was vital.

Yet operational secrecy was even more so. If word got out that a nationwide
crackdown was coming, the hackers might simply vanish; destroy the evidence,
hide their computers, go to earth, and wait for the campaign to blow over. Even
the young hackers were crafty and suspicious, and as for the professional
grifters, they tended to split for the nearest state-line at the first sign of
trouble. For the crackdown to work well, they would all have to be caught red-
handed, swept upon suddenly, out of the blue, from every corner of the compass.

And there was another strong motive for secrecy. In the worst-case scenario, a
blown campaign might leave the telcos open to a devastating hacker counter-
attack. If there were indeed hackers loose in America who had caused the
January 15 Crash--if there were truly gifted hackers, loose in the nation's
long- distance switching systems, and enraged or frightened by the crackdown--
then they might react unpredictably to an attempt to collar them. Even if
caught, they might have talented and vengeful friends still running around
loose. Conceivably, it could turn ugly. Very ugly. In fact, it was hard to
imagine just how ugly things might turn, given that possibility.

Counter-attack from hackers was a genuine concern for the telcos. In point of
fact, they would never suffer any such counter-attack. But in months to come,
they would be at some pains to publicize this notion and to utter grim warnings
about it.

Still, that risk seemed well worth running. Better to run the risk of vengeful
attacks, than to live at the mercy of potential crashers. Any cop would tell
you that a protection racket had no real future.

And publicity was such a useful thing. Corporate security officers, including
telco security, generally work under conditions of great discretion. And
corporate security officials do not make money for their companies. Their job is
to PREVENT THE LOSS of money, which is much less glamorous than actually winning

If you are a corporate security official, and you do your job brilliantly, then
nothing bad happens to your company at all. Because of this, you appear
completely superfluous. This is one of the many unattractive aspects of
security work. It's rare that these folks have the chance to draw some healthy
attention to their own efforts.

Publicity also served the interest of their friends in law enforcement. Public
officials, including law enforcement officials, thrive by attracting favorable
public interest. A brilliant prosecution in a matter of vital public interest
can make the career of a prosecuting attorney. And for a police officer, good
publicity opens the purses of the legislature; it may bring a citation, or a
promotion, or at least a rise in status and the respect of one's peers.

But to have both publicity and secrecy is to have one's cake and eat it too. In
months to come, as we will show, this impossible act was to cause great pain to
the agents of the crackdown. But early on, it seemed possible--maybe even
likely-- that the crackdown could successfully combine the best of both worlds.
The ARREST of hackers would be heavily publicized. The actual DEEDS of the
hackers, which were technically hard to explain and also a security risk, would
be left decently obscured. The THREAT hackers posed would be heavily trumpeted;
the likelihood of their actually committing such fearsome crimes would be left
to the public's imagination. The spread of the computer underground, and its
growing technical sophistication, would be heavily promoted; the actual hackers
themselves, mostly bespectacled middle-class white suburban teenagers, would be
denied any personal publicity.

It does not seem to have occurred to any telco official that the hackers accused
would demand a day in court; that journalists would smile upon the hackers as
"good copy;" that wealthy high-tech entrepreneurs would offer moral and
financial support to crackdown victims; that constitutional lawyers would show
up with briefcases, frowning mightily. This possibility does not seem to have
ever entered the game-plan.

And even if it had, it probably would not have slowed the ferocious pursuit of a
stolen phone-company document, mellifluously known as "Control Office
Administration of Enhanced 911 Services for Special Services and Major Account

In the chapters to follow, we will explore the worlds of police and the computer
underground, and the large shadowy area where they overlap. But first, we must
explore the battleground. Before we leave the world of the telcos, we must
understand what a switching system actually is and how your telephone actually

To the average citizen, the idea of the telephone is represented by, well, a
TELEPHONE: a device that you talk into. To a telco professional, however, the
telephone itself is known, in lordly fashion, as a "subset." The "subset" in
your house is a mere adjunct, a distant nerve ending, of the central switching
stations, which are ranked in levels of hierarchy, up to the long-distance
electronic switching stations, which are some of the largest computers on earth.

Let us imagine that it is, say, 1925, before the introduction of computers, when
the phone system was simpler and somewhat easier to grasp. Let's further
imagine that you are Miss Leticia Luthor, a fictional operator for Ma Bell in
New York City of the 20s.

Basically, you, Miss Luthor, ARE the "switching system." You are sitting in
front of a large vertical switchboard, known as a "cordboard," made of shiny
wooden panels, with ten thousand metal-rimmed holes punched in them, known as
jacks. The engineers would have put more holes into your switchboard, but ten
thousand is as many as you can reach without actually having to get up out of
your chair.

Each of these ten thousand holes has its own little electric lightbulb, known as
a "lamp," and its own neatly printed number code.

With the ease of long habit, you are scanning your board for lit-up bulbs. This
is what you do most of the time, so you are used to it.

A lamp lights up. This means that the phone at the end of that line has been
taken off the hook. Whenever a handset is taken off the hook, that closes a
circuit inside the phone which then signals the local office, i.e. you,
automatically. There might be somebody calling, or then again the phone might
be simply off the hook, but this does not matter to you yet. The first thing
you do, is record that number in your logbook, in your fine American public-
school handwriting. This comes first, naturally, since it is done for billing

You now take the plug of your answering cord, which goes directly to your
headset, and plug it into the lit-up hole. "Operator," you announce.

In operator's classes, before taking this job, you have been issued a large
pamphlet full of canned operator's responses for all kinds of contingencies,
which you had to memorize. You have also been trained in a proper non-regional,
non-ethnic pronunciation and tone of voice. You rarely have the occasion to
make any spontaneous remark to a customer, and in fact this is frowned upon
(except out on the rural lines where people have time on their hands and get up
to all kinds of mischief).

A tough-sounding user's voice at the end of the line gives you a number.
Immediately, you write that number down in your logbook, next to the caller's
number, which you just wrote earlier. You then look and see if the number this
guy wants is in fact on your switchboard, which it generally is, since it's
generally a local call. Long distance costs so much that people use it

Only then do you pick up a calling-cord from a shelf at the base of the
switchboard. This is a long elastic cord mounted on a kind of reel so that it
will zip back in when you unplug it. There are a lot of cords down there, and
when a bunch of them are out at once they look like a nest of snakes. Some of
the girls think there are bugs living in those cable-holes. They're called
"cable mites" and are supposed to bite your hands and give you rashes. You
don't believe this, yourself.

Gripping the head of your calling-cord, you slip the tip of it deftly into the
sleeve of the jack for the called person. Not all the way in, though. You just
touch it. If you hear a clicking sound, that means the line is busy and you
can't put the call through. If the line is busy, you have to stick the calling-
cord into a "busy-tone jack," which will give the guy a busy-tone. This way you
don't have to talk to him yourself and absorb his natural human frustration.

But the line isn't busy. So you pop the cord all the way in. Relay circuits in
your board make the distant phone ring, and if somebody picks it up off the
hook, then a phone conversation starts. You can hear this conversation on your
answering cord, until you unplug it. In fact you could listen to the whole
conversation if you wanted, but this is sternly frowned upon by management, and
frankly, when you've overheard one, you've pretty much heard 'em all.

You can tell how long the conversation lasts by the glow of the calling-cord's
lamp, down on the calling-cord's shelf. When it's over, you unplug and the
calling-cord zips back into place.

Having done this stuff a few hundred thousand times, you become quite good at
it. In fact you're plugging, and connecting, and disconnecting, ten, twenty,
forty cords at a time. It's a manual handicraft, really, quite satisfying in a
way, rather like weaving on an upright loom.

Should a long-distance call come up, it would be different, but not all that
different. Instead of connecting the call through your own local switchboard,
you have to go up the hierarchy, onto the long-distance lines, known as
"trunklines." Depending on how far the call goes, it may have to work its way
through a whole series of operators, which can take quite a while. The caller
doesn't wait on the line while this complex process is negotiated across the
country by the gaggle of operators. Instead, the caller hangs up, and you call
him back yourself when the call has finally worked its way through.

After four or five years of this work, you get married, and you have to quit
your job, this being the natural order of womanhood in the American 1920s. The
phone company has to train somebody else--maybe two people, since the phone
system has grown somewhat in the meantime. And this costs money.

In fact, to use any kind of human being as a switching system is a very
expensive proposition. Eight thousand Leticia Luthors would be bad enough, but
a quarter of a million of them is a military-scale proposition and makes drastic
measures in automation financially worthwhile.

Although the phone system continues to grow today, the number of human beings
employed by telcos has been dropping steadily for years. Phone "operators" now
deal with nothing but unusual contingencies, all routine operations having been
shrugged off onto machines. Consequently, telephone operators are considerably
less machine-like nowadays, and have been known to have accents and actual
character in their voices. When you reach a human operator today, the operators
are rather more "human" than they were in Leticia's day--but on the other hand,
human beings in the phone system are much harder to reach in the first place.

Over the first half of the twentieth century, "electromechanical" switching
systems of growing complexity were cautiously introduced into the phone system.
In certain backwaters, some of these hybrid systems are still in use. But after
1965, the phone system began to go completely electronic, and this is by far the
dominant mode today. Electromechanical systems have "crossbars," and "brushes,"
and other large moving mechanical parts, which, while faster and cheaper than
Leticia, are still slow, and tend to wear out fairly quickly.

But fully electronic systems are inscribed on silicon chips, and are lightning-
fast, very cheap, and quite durable. They are much cheaper to maintain than even
the best electromechanical systems, and they fit into half the space. And with
every year, the silicon chip grows smaller, faster, and cheaper yet. Best of
all, automated electronics work around the clock and don't have salaries or
health insurance.

There are, however, quite serious drawbacks to the use of computer-chips. When
they do break down, it is a daunting challenge to figure out what the heck has
gone wrong with them. A broken cordboard generally had a problem in it big
enough to see. A broken chip has invisible, microscopic faults. And the faults
in bad software can be so subtle as to be practically theological.

If you want a mechanical system to do something new, then you must travel to
where it is, and pull pieces out of it, and wire in new pieces. This costs
money. However, if you want a chip to do something new, all you have to do is
change its software, which is easy, fast and dirt-cheap. You don't even have to
see the chip to change its program. Even if you did see the chip, it wouldn't
look like much. A chip with program X doesn't look one whit different from a
chip with program Y.

With the proper codes and sequences, and access to specialized phone-lines, you
can change electronic switching systems all over America from anywhere you

And so can other people. If they know how, and if they want to, they can sneak
into a microchip via the special phonelines and diddle with it, leaving no
physical trace at all. If they broke into the operator's station and held
Leticia at gunpoint, that would be very obvious. If they broke into a telco
building and went after an electromechanical switch with a toolbelt, that would
at least leave many traces. But people can do all manner of amazing things to
computer switches just by typing on a keyboard, and keyboards are everywhere
today. The extent of this vulnerability is deep, dark, broad, almost mind-
boggling, and yet this is a basic, primal fact of life about any computer on a

Security experts over the past twenty years have insisted, with growing urgency,
that this basic vulnerability of computers represents an entirely new level of
risk, of unknown but obviously dire potential to society. And they are right.

An electronic switching station does pretty much everything Letitia did, except
in nanoseconds and on a much larger scale. Compared to Miss Luthor's ten
thousand jacks, even a primitive 1ESS switching computer, 60s vintage, has a
128,000 lines. And the current AT&T system of choice is the monstrous fifth-
generation 5ESS.

An Electronic Switching Station can scan every line on its "board" in a tenth of
a second, and it does this over and over, tirelessly, around the clock. Instead
of eyes, it uses "ferrod scanners" to check the condition of local lines and
trunks. Instead of hands, it has "signal distributors," "central pulse
distributors," "magnetic latching relays," and "reed switches," which complete
and break the calls. Instead of a brain, it has a "central processor." Instead
of an instruction manual, it has a program. Instead of a handwritten logbook
for recording and billing calls, it has magnetic tapes. And it never has to talk
to anybody. Everything a customer might say to it is done by punching the
direct-dial tone buttons on your subset.

Although an Electronic Switching Station can't talk, it does need an interface,
some way to relate to its, er, employers. This interface is known as the "master
control center." (This interface might be better known simply as "the
interface," since it doesn't actually "control" phone calls directly. However,
a term like "Master Control Center" is just the kind of rhetoric that telco
maintenance engineers--and hackers--find particularly satisfying.)

Using the master control center, a phone engineer can test local and trunk lines
for malfunctions. He (rarely she) can check various alarm displays, measure
traffic on the lines, examine the records of telephone usage and the charges for
those calls, and change the programming.

And, of course, anybody else who gets into the master control center by remote
control can also do these things, if he (rarely she) has managed to figure them
out, or, more likely, has somehow swiped the knowledge from people who already

In 1989 and 1990, one particular RBOC, BellSouth, which felt particularly
troubled, spent a purported $1.2 million on computer security. Some think it
spent as much as two million, if you count all the associated costs. Two
million dollars is still very little compared to the great cost-saving utility
of telephonic computer systems.

Unfortunately, computers are also stupid. Unlike human beings, computers
possess the truly profound stupidity of the inanimate.

In the 1960s, in the first shocks of spreading computerization, there was much
easy talk about the stupidity of computers--how they could "only follow the
program" and were rigidly required to do "only what they were told." There has
been rather less talk about the stupidity of computers since they began to
achieve grandmaster status in chess tournaments, and to manifest many other
impressive forms of apparent cleverness.

Nevertheless, computers STILL are profoundly brittle and stupid; they are simply
vastly more subtle in their stupidity and brittleness. The computers of the
1990s are much more reliable in their components than earlier computer systems,
but they are also called upon to do far more complex things, under far more
challenging conditions.

On a basic mathematical level, every single line of a software program offers a
chance for some possible screwup. Software does not sit still when it works; it
"runs," it interacts with itself and with its own inputs and outputs. By
analogy, it stretches like putty into millions of possible shapes and
conditions, so many shapes that they can never all be successfully tested, not
even in the lifespan of the universe. Sometimes the putty snaps.

The stuff we call "software" is not like anything that human society is used to
thinking about. Software is something like a machine, and something like
mathematics, and something like language, and something like thought, and art,
and information.... but software is not in fact any of those other things. The
protean quality of software is one of the great sources of its fascination. It
also makes software very powerful, very subtle, very unpredictable, and very

Some software is bad and buggy. Some is "robust," even "bulletproof." The best
software is that which has been tested by thousands of users under thousands of
different conditions, over years. It is then known as "stable." This does NOT
mean that the software is now flawless, free of bugs. It generally means that
there are plenty of bugs in it, but the bugs are well- identified and fairly
well understood.

There is simply no way to assure that software is free of flaws. Though
software is mathematical in nature, it cannot by "proven" like a mathematical
theorem; software is more like language, with inherent ambiguities, with
different definitions, different assumptions, different levels of meaning that
can conflict.

Human beings can manage, more or less, with human language because we can catch
the gist of it.

Computers, despite years of effort in "artificial intelligence," have proven
spectacularly bad in "catching the gist" of anything at all. The tiniest bit of
semantic grit may still bring the mightiest computer tumbling down. One of the
most hazardous things you can do to a computer program is try to improve it--to
try to make it safer. Software "patches" represent new, untried un-"stable"
software, which is by definition riskier.

The modern telephone system has come to depend, utterly and irretrievably, upon
software. And the System Crash of January 15, 1990, was caused by an
IMPROVEMENT in software. Or rather, an ATTEMPTED improvement.

As it happened, the problem itself--the problem per se -- took this form. A
piece of telco software had been written in C language, a standard language of
the telco field. Within the C software was a long "do... while" construct. The
"do... while" construct contained a "switch" statement. The "switch" statement
contained an "if" clause. The "if" clause contained a "break." The "break" was
SUPPOSED to "break" the "if clause." Instead, the "break" broke the "switch"

That was the problem, the actual reason why people picking up phones on January
15, 1990, could not talk to one another.

Or at least, that was the subtle, abstract, cyberspatial seed of the problem.
This is how the problem manifested itself from the realm of programming into the
realm of real life.

The System 7 software for AT&T's 4ESS switching station, the "Generic 44E14
Central Office Switch Software," had been extensively tested, and was considered
very stable. By the end of 1989, eighty of AT&T's switching systems nationwide
had been programmed with the new software. Cautiously, thirty-four stations
were left to run the slower, less-capable System 6, because AT&T suspected there
might be shakedown problems with the new and unprecedently sophisticated System
7 network.

The stations with System 7 were programmed to switch over to a backup net in
case of any problems. In mid-December 1989, however, a new high-velocity, high-
security software patch was distributed to each of the 4ESS switches that would
enable them to switch over even more quickly, making the System 7 network that
much more secure.

Unfortunately, every one of these 4ESS switches was now in possession of a small
but deadly flaw.

In order to maintain the network, switches must monitor the condition of other
switches--whether they are up and running, whether they have temporarily shut
down, whether they are overloaded and in need of assistance, and so forth. The
new software helped control this bookkeeping function by monitoring the status
calls from other switches.

It only takes four to six seconds for a troubled 4ESS switch to rid itself of
all its calls, drop everything temporarily, and re-boot its software from
scratch. Starting over from scratch will generally rid the switch of any
software problems that may have developed in the course of running the system.
Bugs that arise will be simply wiped out by this process. It is a clever idea.
This process of automatically re- booting from scratch is known as the "normal
fault recovery routine." Since AT&T's software is in fact exceptionally stable,
systems rarely have to go into "fault recovery" in the first place; but AT&T has
always boasted of its "real world" reliability, and this tactic is a belt-and-
suspenders routine.

The 4ESS switch used its new software to monitor its fellow switches as they
recovered from faults. As other switches came back on line after recovery, they
would send their "OK" signals to the switch. The switch would make a little
note to that effect in its "status map," recognizing that the fellow switch was
back and ready to go, and should be sent some calls and put back to regular

Unfortunately, while it was busy bookkeeping with the status map, the tiny flaw
in the brand-new software came into play. The flaw caused the 4ESS switch to
interacted, subtly but drastically, with incoming telephone calls from human
users. If--and only if--two incoming phone-calls happened to hit the switch
within a hundredth of a second, then a small patch of data would be garbled by
the flaw.

But the switch had been programmed to monitor itself constantly for any possible
damage to its data. When the switch perceived that its data had been somehow
garbled, then it too would go down, for swift repairs to its software. It would
signal its fellow switches not to send any more work. It would go into the
fault-recovery mode for four to six seconds. And then the switch would be fine
again, and would send out its "OK, ready for work" signal.

However, the "OK, ready for work" signal was the VERY THING THAT CAUSED THE
SWITCH TO GO DOWN IN THE FIRST PLACE. And ALL the System 7 switches had the
same flaw in their status-map software. As soon as they stopped to make the
bookkeeping note that their fellow switch was "OK," then they too would become
vulnerable to the slight chance that two phone-calls would hit them within a
hundredth of a second.

At approximately 2:25 p.m. EST on Monday, January 15, one of AT&T's 4ESS toll
switching systems in New York City had an actual, legitimate, minor problem. It
went into fault recovery routines, announced "I'm going down," then announced,
"I'm back, I'm OK." And this cheery message then blasted throughout the network
to many of its fellow 4ESS switches.

Many of the switches, at first, completely escaped trouble. These lucky
switches were not hit by the coincidence of two phone calls within a hundredth
of a second. Their software did not fail--at first. But three switches--in
Atlanta, St. Louis, and Detroit--were unlucky, and were caught with their hands
full. And they went down. And they came back up, almost immediately. And they
too began to broadcast the lethal message that they, too, were "OK" again,
activating the lurking software bug in yet other switches.

As more and more switches did have that bit of bad luck and collapsed, the call-
traffic became more and more densely packed in the remaining switches, which
were groaning to keep up with the load. And of course, as the calls became more
densely packed, the switches were MUCH MORE LIKELY to be hit twice within a
hundredth of a second.

It only took four seconds for a switch to get well. There was no PHYSICAL damage
of any kind to the switches, after all. Physically, they were working
perfectly. This situation was "only" a software problem.

But the 4ESS switches were leaping up and down every four to six seconds, in a
virulent spreading wave all over America, in utter, manic, mechanical stupidity.
They kept KNOCKING one another down with their contagious "OK" messages.

It took about ten minutes for the chain reaction to cripple the network. Even
then, switches would periodically luck-out and manage to resume their normal
work. Many calls-- millions of them--were managing to get through. But
millions weren't.

The switching stations that used System 6 were not directly affected. Thanks to
these old-fashioned switches, AT&T's national system avoided complete collapse.
This fact also made it clear to engineers that System 7 was at fault.

Bell Labs engineers, working feverishly in New Jersey, Illinois, and Ohio, first
tried their entire repertoire of standard network remedies on the malfunctioning
System 7. None of the remedies worked, of course, because nothing like this had
ever happened to any phone system before.

By cutting out the backup safety network entirely, they were able to reduce the
frenzy of "OK" messages by about half. The system then began to recover, as the
chain reaction slowed. By 11:30 pm on Monday January 15, sweating engineers on
the midnight shift breathed a sigh of relief as the last switch cleared-up.

By Tuesday they were pulling all the brand-new 4ESS software and replacing it
with an earlier version of System 7.

If these had been human operators, rather than computers at work, someone would
simply have eventually stopped screaming. It would have been OBVIOUS that the
situation was not "OK," and common sense would have kicked in. Humans possess
common sense --at least to some extent. Computers simply don't.

On the other hand, computers can handle hundreds of calls per second. Humans
simply can't. If every single human being in America worked for the phone
company, we couldn't match the performance of digital switches: direct-
dialling, three-way calling, speed-calling, call-waiting, Caller ID, all the
rest of the cornucopia of digital bounty. Replacing computers with operators is
simply not an option any more.

And yet we still, anachronistically, expect humans to be running our phone
system. It is hard for us to understand that we have sacrificed huge amounts of
initiative and control to senseless yet powerful machines. When the phones
fail, we want somebody to be responsible. We want somebody to blame.

When the Crash of January 15 happened, the American populace was simply not
prepared to understand that enormous landslides in cyberspace, like the Crash
itself, can happen, and can be nobody's fault in particular. It was easier to
believe, maybe even in some odd way more reassuring to believe, that some evil
person, or evil group, had done this to us. "Hackers" had done it. With a
virus. A trojan horse. A software bomb. A dirty plot of some kind. People
believed this, responsible people. In 1990, they were looking hard for evidence
to confirm their heartfelt suspicions.

And they would look in a lot of places.

Come 1991, however, the outlines of an apparent new reality would begin to
emerge from the fog.

On July 1 and 2, 1991, computer-software collapses in telephone switching
stations disrupted service in Washington DC, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles and San
Francisco. Once again, seemingly minor maintenance problems had crippled the
digital System 7. About twelve million people were affected in the Crash of July
1, 1991.

Said the New York Times Service: "Telephone company executives and federal
regulators said they were not ruling out the possibility of sabotage by computer
hackers, but most seemed to think the problems stemmed from some unknown defect
in the software running the networks."

And sure enough, within the week, a red-faced software company, DSC
Communications Corporation of Plano, Texas, owned up to "glitches" in the
"signal transfer point" software that DSC had designed for Bell Atlantic and
Pacific Bell. The immediate cause of the July 1 Crash was a single mistyped
character: one tiny typographical flaw in one single line of the software. One
mistyped letter, in one single line, had deprived the nation's capital of phone
service. It was not particularly surprising that this tiny flaw had escaped
attention: a typical System 7 station requires TEN MILLION lines of code.

On Tuesday, September 17, 1991, came the most spectacular outage yet. This case
had nothing to do with software failures-- at least, not directly. Instead, a
group of AT&T's switching stations in New York City had simply run out of
electrical power and shut down cold. Their back-up batteries had failed.
Automatic warning systems were supposed to warn of the loss of battery power,
but those automatic systems had failed as well.

This time, Kennedy, La Guardia, and Newark airports all had their voice and data
communications cut. This horrifying event was particularly ironic, as attacks
on airport computers by hackers had long been a standard nightmare scenario,
much trumpeted by computer-security experts who feared the computer underground.
There had even been a Hollywood thriller about sinister hackers ruining airport
computers--DIE HARD II. Now AT&T itself had crippled airports with computer
malfunctions--not just one airport, but three at once, some of the busiest in
the world.

Air traffic came to a standstill throughout the Greater New York area, causing
more than 500 flights to be cancelled, in a spreading wave all over America and
even into Europe. Another 500 or so flights were delayed, affecting, all in
all, about 85,000 passengers. (One of these passengers was the chairman of the
Federal Communications Commission.)

Stranded passengers in New York and New Jersey were further infuriated to
discover that they could not even manage to make a long distance phone call, to
explain their delay to loved ones or business associates. Thanks to the crash,
about four and a half million domestic calls, and half a million international
calls, failed to get through.

The September 17 NYC Crash, unlike the previous ones, involved not a whisper of
"hacker" misdeeds. On the contrary, by 1991, AT&T itself was suffering much of
the vilification that had formerly been directed at hackers. Congressmen were
grumbling. So were state and federal regulators. And so was the press.

For their part, ancient rival MCI took out snide full- page newspaper ads in New
York, offering their own long-distance services for the "next time that AT&T
goes down."

"You wouldn't find a classy company like AT&T using such advertising," protested
AT&T Chairman Robert Allen, unconvincingly. Once again, out came the full-page
AT&T apologies in newspapers, apologies for "an inexcusable culmination of both
human and mechanical failure." (This time, however, AT&T offered no discount on
later calls. Unkind critics suggested that AT&T were worried about setting any
precedent for refunding the financial losses caused by telephone crashes.)

Industry journals asked publicly if AT&T was "asleep at the switch." The
telephone network, America's purported marvel of high-tech reliability, had gone
down three times in 18 months. FORTUNE magazine listed the Crash of September 17
among the "Biggest Business Goofs of 1991," cruelly parodying AT&T's ad campaign
in an article entitled "AT&T Wants You Back (Safely On the Ground, God

Why had those New York switching systems simply run out of power? Because no
human being had attended to the alarm system. Why did the alarm systems blare
automatically, without any human being noticing? Because the three telco
technicians who SHOULD have been listening were absent from their stations in
the power-room, on another floor of the building--attending a training class. A
training class about the alarm systems for the power room!

"Crashing the System" was no longer "unprecedented" by late 1991. On the
contrary, it no longer even seemed an oddity. By 1991, it was clear that all the
policemen in the world could no longer "protect" the phone system from crashes.
By far the worst crashes the system had ever had, had been inflicted, by the
system, upon ITSELF. And this time nobody was making cocksure statements that
this was an anomaly, something that would never happen again. By 1991 the
System's defenders had met their nebulous Enemy, and the Enemy was--the System.


The date was May 9, 1990. The Pope was touring Mexico City. Hustlers from the
Medellin Cartel were trying to buy black-market Stinger missiles in Florida. On
the comics page, Doonesbury character Andy was dying of AIDS. And then.... a
highly unusual item whose novelty and calculated rhetoric won it headscratching
attention in newspapers all over America.

The US Attorney's office in Phoenix, Arizona, had issued a press release
announcing a nationwide law enforcement crackdown against "illegal computer
hacking activities." The sweep was officially known as "Operation Sundevil."

Eight paragraphs in the press release gave the bare facts: twenty-seven search
warrants carried out on May 8, with three arrests, and a hundred and fifty
agents on the prowl in "twelve" cities across America. (Different counts in
local press reports yielded "thirteen," "fourteen," and "sixteen" cities.)
Officials estimated that criminal losses of revenue to telephone companies "may
run into millions of dollars." Credit for the Sundevil investigations was taken
by the US Secret Service, Assistant US Attorney Tim Holtzen of Phoenix, and the
Assistant Attorney General of Arizona, Gail Thackeray.

The prepared remarks of Garry M. Jenkins, appearing in a U.S. Department of
Justice press release, were of particular interest. Mr. Jenkins was the
Assistant Director of the US Secret Service, and the highest-ranking federal
official to take any direct public role in the hacker crackdown of 1990.

"Today, the Secret Service is sending a clear message to those computer hackers
who have decided to violate the laws of this nation in the mistaken belief that
they can successfully avoid detection by hiding behind the relative anonymity of
their computer terminals.(...)

"Underground groups have been formed for the purpose of exchanging information
relevant to their criminal activities. These groups often communicate with each
other through message systems between computers called 'bulletin boards.'

"Our experience shows that many computer hacker suspects are no longer misguided
teenagers, mischievously playing games with their computers in their bedrooms.
Some are now high tech computer operators using computers to engage in unlawful

Who were these "underground groups" and "high-tech operators?" Where had they
come from? What did they want? Who WERE they? Were they "mischievous?" Were
they dangerous? How had "misguided teenagers" managed to alarm the United
States Secret Service? And just how widespread was this sort of thing?

Of all the major players in the Hacker Crackdown: the phone companies, law
enforcement, the civil libertarians, and the "hackers" themselves--the "hackers"
are by far the most mysterious, by far the hardest to understand, by far the

Not only are "hackers" novel in their activities, but they come in a variety of
odd subcultures, with a variety of languages, motives and values.

The earliest proto-hackers were probably those unsung mischievous telegraph boys
who were summarily fired by the Bell Company in 1878.

Legitimate "hackers," those computer enthusiasts who are independent-minded but
law-abiding, generally trace their spiritual ancestry to elite technical
universities, especially M.I.T. and Stanford, in the 1960s.

But the genuine roots of the modern hacker UNDERGROUND can probably be traced
most successfully to a now much-obscured hippie anarchist movement known as the
Yippies. The Yippies, who took their name from the largely fictional "Youth
International Party," carried out a loud and lively policy of surrealistic
subversion and outrageous political mischief. Their basic tenets were flagrant
sexual promiscuity, open and copious drug use, the political overthrow of any
powermonger over thirty years of age, and an immediate end to the war in
Vietnam, by any means necessary, including the psychic levitation of the

The two most visible Yippies were Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin. Rubin
eventually became a Wall Street broker. Hoffman, ardently sought by federal
authorities, went into hiding for seven years, in Mexico, France, and the United
States. While on the lam, Hoffman continued to write and publish, with help
from sympathizers in the American anarcho-leftist underground. Mostly, Hoffman
survived through false ID and odd jobs. Eventually he underwent facial plastic
surgery and adopted an entirely new identity as one "Barry Freed." After
surrendering himself to authorities in 1980, Hoffman spent a year in prison on a
cocaine conviction.

Hoffman's worldview grew much darker as the glory days of the 1960s faded. In
1989, he purportedly committed suicide, under odd and, to some, rather
suspicious circumstances.

Abbie Hoffman is said to have caused the Federal Bureau of Investigation to
amass the single largest investigation file ever opened on an individual
American citizen. (If this is true, it is still questionable whether the FBI
regarded Abbie Hoffman a serious public threat--quite possibly, his file was
enormous simply because Hoffman left colorful legendry wherever he went). He was
a gifted publicist, who regarded electronic media as both playground and weapon.
He actively enjoyed manipulating network TV and other gullible, image-hungry
media, with various weird lies, mindboggling rumors, impersonation scams, and
other sinister distortions, all absolutely guaranteed to upset cops,
Presidential candidates, and federal judges. Hoffman's most famous work was a
book self-reflexively known as STEAL THIS BOOK, which publicized a number of
methods by which young, penniless hippie agitators might live off the fat of a
system supported by humorless drones. STEAL THIS BOOK, whose title urged
readers to damage the very means of distribution which had put it into their
hands, might be described as a spiritual ancestor of a computer virus.

Hoffman, like many a later conspirator, made extensive use of pay-phones for his
agitation work--in his case, generally through the use of cheap brass washers as

During the Vietnam War, there was a federal surtax imposed on telephone service;
Hoffman and his cohorts could, and did, argue that in systematically stealing
phone service they were engaging in civil disobedience: virtuously denying tax
funds to an illegal and immoral war.

But this thin veil of decency was soon dropped entirely. Ripping-off the System
found its own justification in deep alienation and a basic outlaw contempt for
conventional bourgeois values. Ingenious, vaguely politicized varieties of rip-
off, which might be described as "anarchy by convenience," became very popular
in Yippie circles, and because rip-off was so useful, it was to survive the
Yippie movement itself.

In the early 1970s, it required fairly limited expertise and ingenuity to cheat
payphones, to divert "free" electricity and gas service, or to rob vending
machines and parking meters for handy pocket change. It also required a
conspiracy to spread this knowledge, and the gall and nerve actually to commit
petty theft, but the Yippies had these qualifications in plenty. In June 1971,
Abbie Hoffman and a telephone enthusiast sarcastically known as "Al Bell" began
publishing a newsletter called YOUTH INTERNATIONAL PARTY LINE. This newsletter
was dedicated to collating and spreading Yippie rip-off techniques, especially
of phones, to the joy of the freewheeling underground and the insensate rage of
all straight people.

As a political tactic, phone-service theft ensured that Yippie advocates would
always have ready access to the long- distance telephone as a medium, despite
the Yippies' chronic lack of organization, discipline, money, or even a steady
home address.

PARTY LINE was run out of Greenwich Village for a couple of years, then "Al
Bell" more or less defected from the faltering ranks of Yippiedom, changing the
newsletter's name to _TAP_ or TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE PROGRAM. After the Vietnam
War ended, the steam began leaking rapidly out of American radical dissent. But
by this time, "Bell" and his dozen or so core contributors had the bit between
their teeth, and had begun to derive tremendous gut-level satisfaction from the
sensation of pure TECHNICAL POWER.

_TAP_ articles, once highly politicized, became pitilessly jargonized and
technical, in homage or parody to the Bell System's own technical documents,
which _TAP_ studied closely, gutted, and reproduced without permission. The
_TAP_ elite revelled in gloating possession of the specialized knowledge
necessary to beat the system.

"Al Bell" dropped out of the game by the late 70s, and "Tom Edison" took over;
TAP readers (some 1400 of them, all told) now began to show more interest in
telex switches and the growing phenomenon of computer systems.

In 1983, "Tom Edison" had his computer stolen and his house set on fire by an
arsonist. This was an eventually mortal blow to _TAP_ (though the legendary
name was to be resurrected in 1990 by a young Kentuckian computer-outlaw named

Ever since telephones began to make money, there have been people willing to rob
and defraud phone companies. The legions of petty phone thieves vastly
outnumber those "phone phreaks" who "explore the system" for the sake of the
intellectual challenge. The New York metropolitan area (long in the vanguard of
American crime) claims over 150,000 physical attacks on pay telephones every
year! Studied carefully, a modern payphone reveals itself as a little fortress,
carefully designed and redesigned over generations, to resist coin-slugs, zaps
of electricity, chunks of coin-shaped ice, prybars, magnets, lockpicks, blasting
caps. Public pay-phones must survive in a world of unfriendly, greedy people,
and a modern payphone is as exquisitely evolved as a cactus.

Because the phone network pre-dates the computer network, the scofflaws known as
"phone phreaks" pre-date the scofflaws known as "computer hackers." In
practice, today, the line between "phreaking" and "hacking" is very blurred,
just as the distinction between telephones and computers has blurred. The phone
system has been digitized, and computers have learned to "talk" over phone-
lines. What's worse--and this was the point of the Mr. Jenkins of the Secret
Service--some hackers have learned to steal, and some thieves have learned to

Despite the blurring, one can still draw a few useful behavioral distinctions
between "phreaks" and "hackers." Hackers are intensely interested in the
"system" per se, and enjoy relating to machines. "Phreaks" are more social,
manipulating the system in a rough-and-ready fashion in order to get through to
other human beings, fast, cheap and under the table.

Phone phreaks love nothing so much as "bridges," illegal conference calls of ten
or twelve chatting conspirators, seaboard to seaboard, lasting for many hours--
and running, of course, on somebody else's tab, preferably a large

As phone-phreak conferences wear on, people drop out (or simply leave the phone
off the hook, while they sashay off to work or school or babysitting), and new
people are phoned up and invited to join in, from some other continent, if
possible. Technical trivia, boasts, brags, lies, head-trip deceptions, weird
rumors, and cruel gossip are all freely exchanged.

The lowest rung of phone-phreaking is the theft of telephone access codes.
Charging a phone call to somebody else's stolen number is, of course, a pig-easy
way of stealing phone service, requiring practically no technical expertise.
This practice has been very widespread, especially among lonely people without
much money who are far from home. Code theft has flourished especially in
college dorms, military bases, and, notoriously, among roadies for rock bands.
Of late, code theft has spread very rapidly among Third Worlders in the US, who
pile up enormous unpaid long-distance bills to the Caribbean, South America, and

The simplest way to steal phone-codes is simply to look over a victim's shoulder
as he punches-in his own code-number on a public payphone. This technique is
known as "shoulder- surfing," and is especially common in airports, bus
terminals, and train stations. The code is then sold by the thief for a few
dollars. The buyer abusing the code has no computer expertise, but calls his
Mom in New York, Kingston or Caracas and runs up a huge bill with impunity. The
losses from this primitive phreaking activity are far, far greater than the
monetary losses caused by computer-intruding hackers.

In the mid-to-late 1980s, until the introduction of sterner telco security
measures, COMPUTERIZED code theft worked like a charm, and was virtually
omnipresent throughout the digital underground, among phreaks and hackers alike.
This was accomplished through programming one's computer to try random code
numbers over the telephone until one of them worked. Simple programs to do this
were widely available in the underground; a computer running all night was
likely to come up with a dozen or so useful hits. This could be repeated week
after week until one had a large library of stolen codes.

Nowadays, the computerized dialling of hundreds of numbers can be detected
within hours and swiftly traced. If a stolen code is repeatedly abused, this
too can be detected within a few hours. But for years in the 1980s, the
publication of stolen codes was a kind of elementary etiquette for fledgling
hackers. The simplest way to establish your bona-fides as a raider was to steal
a code through repeated random dialling and offer it to the "community" for use.
Codes could be both stolen, and used, simply and easily from the safety of one's
own bedroom, with very little fear of detection or punishment.

Before computers and their phone-line modems entered American homes in gigantic
numbers, phone phreaks had their own special telecommunications hardware gadget,
the famous "blue box." This fraud device (now rendered increasingly useless by
the digital evolution of the phone system) could trick switching systems into
granting free access to long-distance lines. It did this by mimicking the
system's own signal, a tone of 2600 hertz.

Steven Jobs and Steve Wozniak, the founders of Apple Computer, Inc., once
dabbled in selling blue-boxes in college dorms in California. For many, in the
early days of phreaking, blue-boxing was scarcely perceived as "theft," but
rather as a fun (if sneaky) way to use excess phone capacity harmlessly. After
all, the long-distance lines were JUST SITTING THERE.... Whom did it hurt,
really? If you're not DAMAGING the system, and you're not USING UP ANY TANGIBLE
RESOURCE, and if nobody FIND OUT what you did, then what real harm have you
done? What exactly HAVE you "stolen," anyway? If a tree falls in the forest
and nobody hears it, how much is the noise worth? Even now this remains a
rather dicey question.

Blue-boxing was no joke to the phone companies, however. Indeed, when RAMPARTS
magazine, a radical publication in California, printed the wiring schematics
necessary to create a mute box in June 1972, the magazine was seized by police
and Pacific Bell phone-company officials. The mute box, a blue-box variant,
allowed its user to receive long-distance calls free of charge to the caller.
This device was closely described in a RAMPARTS article wryly titled "Regulating
the Phone Company In Your Home." Publication of this article was held to be in
violation of Californian State Penal Code section 502.7, which outlaws ownership
of wire-fraud devices and the selling of "plans or instructions for any
instrument, apparatus, or device intended to avoid telephone toll charges."

Issues of RAMPARTS were recalled or seized on the newsstands, and the resultant
loss of income helped put the magazine out of business. This was an ominous
precedent for free-expression issues, but the telco's crushing of a radical-
fringe magazine passed without serious challenge at the time. Even in the
freewheeling California 1970s, it was widely felt that there was something
sacrosanct about what the phone company knew; that the telco had a legal and
moral right to protect itself by shutting off the flow of such illicit
information. Most telco information was so "specialized" that it would scarcely
be understood by any honest member of the public. If not published, it would
not be missed. To print such material did not seem part of the legitimate role
of a free press.

In 1990 there would be a similar telco-inspired attack on the electronic
phreak/hacking "magazine" PHRACK. The PHRACK legal case became a central issue
in the Hacker Crackdown, and gave rise to great controversy. PHRACK would also
be shut down, for a time, at least, but this time both the telcos and their law-
enforcement allies would pay a much larger price for their actions. The PHRACK
case will be examined in detail, later.

Phone-phreaking as a social practice is still very much alive at this moment.
Today, phone-phreaking is thriving much more vigorously than the better-known
and worse-feared practice of "computer hacking." New forms of phreaking are
spreading rapidly, following new vulnerabilities in sophisticated phone

Cellular phones are especially vulnerable; their chips can be re-programmed to
present a false caller ID and avoid billing. Doing so also avoids police
tapping, making cellular- phone abuse a favorite among drug-dealers. "Call-sell
operations" using pirate cellular phones can, and have, been run right out of
the backs of cars, which move from "cell" to "cell" in the local phone system,
retailing stolen long-distance service, like some kind of demented electronic
version of the neighborhood ice-cream truck.

Private branch-exchange phone systems in large corporations can be penetrated;
phreaks dial-up a local company, enter its internal phone-system, hack it, then
use the company's own PBX system to dial back out over the public network,
causing the company to be stuck with the resulting long-distance bill. This
technique is known as "diverting." "Diverting" can be very costly, especially
because phreaks tend to travel in packs and never stop talking. Perhaps the
worst by-product of this "PBX fraud" is that victim companies and telcos have
sued one another over the financial responsibility for the stolen calls, thus
enriching not only shabby phreaks but well-paid lawyers.

"Voice-mail systems" can also be abused; phreaks can seize their own sections of
these sophisticated electronic answering machines, and use them for trading
codes or knowledge of illegal techniques. Voice-mail abuse does not hurt the
company directly, but finding supposedly empty slots in your company's answering
machine all crammed with phreaks eagerly chattering and hey-duding one another
in impenetrable jargon can cause sensations of almost mystical repulsion and

Worse yet, phreaks have sometimes been known to react truculently to attempts to
"clean up" the voice-mail system. Rather than humbly acquiescing to being thrown
out of their playground, they may very well call up the company officials at
work (or at home) and loudly demand free voice-mail addresses of their very own.
Such bullying is taken very seriously by spooked victims.

Acts of phreak revenge against straight people are rare, but voice-mail systems
are especially tempting and vulnerable, and an infestation of angry phreaks in
one's voice-mail system is no joke. They can erase legitimate messages; or spy
on private messages; or harass users with recorded taunts and obscenities.
They've even been known to seize control of voice-mail security, and lock out
legitimate users, or even shut down the system entirely.

Cellular phone-calls, cordless phones, and ship-to-shore telephony can all be
monitored by various forms of radio; this kind of "passive monitoring" is
spreading explosively today. Technically eavesdropping on other people's
cordless and cellular phone-calls is the fastest-growing area in phreaking
today. This practice strongly appeals to the lust for power and conveys
gratifying sensations of technical superiority over the eavesdropping victim.
Monitoring is rife with all manner of tempting evil mischief. Simple prurient
snooping is by far the most common activity. But credit-card numbers unwarily
spoken over the phone can be recorded, stolen and used. And tapping people's
phone-calls (whether through active telephone taps or passive radio monitors)
does lend itself conveniently to activities like blackmail, industrial
espionage, and political dirty tricks.

It should be repeated that telecommunications fraud, the theft of phone service,
causes vastly greater monetary losses than the practice of entering into
computers by stealth. Hackers are mostly young suburban American white males,
and exist in their hundreds--but "phreaks" come from both sexes and from many
nationalities, ages and ethnic backgrounds, and are flourishing in the

The term "hacker" has had an unfortunate history. This book, THE HACKER
CRACKDOWN, has little to say about "hacking" in its finer, original sense. The
term can signify the free- wheeling intellectual exploration of the highest and
deepest potential of computer systems. Hacking can describe the determination
to make access to computers and information as free and open as possible.
Hacking can involve the heartfelt conviction that beauty can be found in
computers, that the fine aesthetic in a perfect program can liberate the mind
and spirit. This is "hacking" as it was defined in Steven Levy's much-praised
history of the pioneer computer milieu, HACKERS, published in 1984.

Hackers of all kinds are absolutely soaked through with heroic anti-bureaucratic
sentiment. Hackers long for recognition as a praiseworthy cultural archetype,
the postmodern electronic equivalent of the cowboy and mountain man. Whether
they deserve such a reputation is something for history to decide. But many
hackers--including those outlaw hackers who are computer intruders, and whose
activities are defined as criminal--actually attempt to LIVE UP TO this techno-
cowboy reputation. And given that electronics and telecommunications are still
largely unexplored territories, there is simply NO TELLING what hackers might

For some people, this freedom is the very breath of oxygen, the inventive
spontaneity that makes life worth living and that flings open doors to
marvellous possibility and individual empowerment. But for many people--and
increasingly so--the hacker is an ominous figure, a smart-aleck sociopath ready
to burst out of his basement wilderness and savage other people's lives for his
own anarchical convenience.

Any form of power without responsibility, without direct and formal checks and
balances, is frightening to people--and reasonably so. It should be frankly
admitted that hackers ARE frightening, and that the basis of this fear is not

Fear of hackers goes well beyond the fear of merely criminal activity.

Subversion and manipulation of the phone system is an act with disturbing
political overtones. In America, computers and telephones are potent symbols of
organized authority and the technocratic business elite.

But there is an element in American culture that has always strongly rebelled
against these symbols; rebelled against all large industrial computers and all
phone companies. A certain anarchical tinge deep in the American soul delights
in causing confusion and pain to all bureaucracies, including technological

There is sometimes malice and vandalism in this attitude, but it is a deep and
cherished part of the American national character. The outlaw, the rebel, the
rugged individual, the pioneer, the sturdy Jeffersonian yeoman, the private
citizen resisting interference in his pursuit of happiness--these are figures
that all Americans recognize, and that many will strongly applaud and defend.

Many scrupulously law-abiding citizens today do cutting- edge work with
electronics--work that has already had tremendous social influence and will have
much more in years to come. In all truth, these talented, hardworking, law-
abiding, mature, adult people are far more disturbing to the peace and order of
the current status quo than any scofflaw group of romantic teenage punk kids.
These law-abiding hackers have the power, ability, and willingness to influence
other people's lives quite unpredictably. They have means, motive, and
opportunity to meddle drastically with the American social order. When
corralled into governments, universities, or large multinational companies, and
forced to follow rulebooks and wear suits and ties, they at least have some
conventional halters on their freedom of action. But when loosed alone, or in
small groups, and fired by imagination and the entrepreneurial spirit, they can
move mountains--causing landslides that will likely crash directly into your
office and living room.

These people, as a class, instinctively recognize that a public, politicized
attack on hackers will eventually spread to them--that the term "hacker," once
demonized, might be used to knock their hands off the levers of power and choke
them out of existence. There are hackers today who fiercely and publicly resist
any besmirching of the noble title of hacker. Naturally and understandably,
they deeply resent the attack on their values implicit in using the word
"hacker" as a synonym for computer- criminal.

This book, sadly but in my opinion unavoidably, rather adds to the degradation
of the term. It concerns itself mostly with "hacking" in its commonest latter-
day definition, i.e., intruding into computer systems by stealth and without

The term "hacking" is used routinely today by almost all law enforcement
officials with any professional interest in computer fraud and abuse. American
police describe almost any crime committed with, by, through, or against a
computer as hacking.

Most importantly, "hacker" is what computer-intruders choose to call THEMSELVES.
Nobody who "hacks" into systems willingly describes himself (rarely, herself) as
a "computer intruder," "computer trespasser," "cracker," "wormer," "darkside
hacker" or "high tech street gangster." Several other demeaning terms have been
invented in the hope that the press and public will leave the original sense of
the word alone. But few people actually use these terms. (I exempt the term
"cyberpunk," which a few hackers and law enforcement people actually do use.
The term "cyberpunk" is drawn from literary criticism and has some odd and
unlikely resonances, but, like hacker, cyberpunk too has become a criminal
pejorative today.)

In any case, breaking into computer systems was hardly alien to the original
hacker tradition. The first tottering systems of the 1960s required fairly
extensive internal surgery merely to function day-by-day. Their users "invaded"
the deepest, most arcane recesses of their operating software almost as a matter
of routine. "Computer security" in these early, primitive systems was at best
an afterthought. What security there was, was entirely physical, for it was
assumed that anyone allowed near this expensive, arcane hardware would be a
fully qualified professional expert.

In a campus environment, though, this meant that grad students, teaching
assistants, undergraduates, and eventually, all manner of dropouts and hangers-
on ended up accessing and often running the works.

Universities, even modern universities, are not in the business of maintaining
security over information. On the contrary, universities, as institutions, pre-
date the "information economy" by many centuries and are not-for-profit cultural
entities, whose reason for existence (purportedly) is to discover truth, codify
it through techniques of scholarship, and then teach it. Universities are meant
to PASS THE TORCH OF CIVILIZATION, not just download data into student skulls,
and the values of the academic community are strongly at odds with those of all
would-be information empires. Teachers at all levels, from kindergarten up,
have proven to be shameless and persistent software and data pirates.
Universities do not merely "leak information" but vigorously broadcast free

This clash of values has been fraught with controversy. Many hackers of the
1960s remember their professional apprenticeship as a long guerilla war against
the uptight mainframe-computer "information priesthood." These computer- hungry
youngsters had to struggle hard for access to computing power, and many of them
were not above certain, er, shortcuts. But, over the years, this practice freed
computing from the sterile reserve of lab-coated technocrats and was largely
responsible for the explosive growth of computing in general society--especially
PERSONAL computing.

Access to technical power acted like catnip on certain of these youngsters.
Most of the basic techniques of computer intrusion: password cracking,
trapdoors, backdoors, trojan horses--were invented in college environments in
the 1960s, in the early days of network computing. Some off-the-cuff experience
at computer intrusion was to be in the informal resume of most "hackers" and
many future industry giants. Outside of the tiny cult of computer enthusiasts,
few people thought much about the implications of "breaking into" computers.
This sort of activity had not yet been publicized, much less criminalized.

In the 1960s, definitions of "property" and "privacy" had not yet been extended
to cyberspace. Computers were not yet indispensable to society. There were no
vast databanks of vulnerable, proprietary information stored in computers, which
might be accessed, copied without permission, erased, altered, or sabotaged.
The stakes were low in the early days--but they grew every year, exponentially,
as computers themselves grew.

By the 1990s, commercial and political pressures had become overwhelming, and
they broke the social boundaries of the hacking subculture. Hacking had become
too important to be left to the hackers. Society was now forced to tackle the
intangible nature of cyberspace-as-property, cyberspace as privately-owned
unreal-estate. In the new, severe, responsible, high-stakes context of the
"Information Society" of the 1990s, "hacking" was called into question.

What did it mean to break into a computer without permission and use its
computational power, or look around inside its files without hurting anything?
What were computer-intruding hackers, anyway--how should society, and the law,
best define their actions? Were they just BROWSERS, harmless intellectual
explorers? Were they VOYEURS, snoops, invaders of privacy? Should they be
sternly treated as potential AGENTS OF ESPIONAGE, or perhaps as INDUSTRIAL
SPIES? Or were they best defined as TRESPASSERS, a very common teenage
misdemeanor? Was hacking THEFT OF SERVICE? (After all, intruders were getting
someone else's computer to carry out their orders, without permission and
without paying). Was hacking FRAUD? Maybe it was best described as
IMPERSONATION. The commonest mode of computer intrusion was (and is) to swipe
or snoop somebody else's password, and then enter the computer in the guise of
another person--who is commonly stuck with the blame and the bills.

Perhaps a medical metaphor was better--hackers should be defined as "sick," as
COMPUTER ADDICTS unable to control their irresponsible, compulsive behavior.

But these weighty assessments meant little to the people who were actually being
judged. From inside the underground world of hacking itself, all these
perceptions seem quaint, wrongheaded, stupid, or meaningless. The most
important self- perception of underground hackers--from the 1960s, right through
to the present day--is that they are an ELITE. The day-to-day struggle in the
underground is not over sociological definitions--who cares?--but for power,
knowledge, and status among one's peers.

When you are a hacker, it is your own inner conviction of your elite status that
enables you to break, or let us say "transcend," the rules. It is not that ALL
rules go by the board. The rules habitually broken by hackers are UNIMPORTANT
rules--the rules of dopey greedhead telco bureaucrats and pig- ignorant
government pests.

Hackers have their OWN rules, which separate behavior which is cool and elite,
from behavior which is rodentlike, stupid and losing. These "rules," however,
are mostly unwritten and enforced by peer pressure and tribal feeling. Like all
rules that depend on the unspoken conviction that everybody else is a good old
boy, these rules are ripe for abuse. The mechanisms of hacker peer-pressure,
"teletrials" and ostracism, are rarely used and rarely work. Back-stabbing
slander, threats, and electronic harassment are also freely employed in down-
and- dirty intrahacker feuds, but this rarely forces a rival out of the scene
entirely. The only real solution for the problem of an utterly losing,
treacherous and rodentlike hacker is to TURN HIM IN TO THE POLICE. Unlike the
Mafia or Medellin Cartel, the hacker elite cannot simply execute the bigmouths,
creeps and troublemakers among their ranks, so they turn one another in with
astonishing frequency.

There is no tradition of silence or OMERTA in the hacker underworld. Hackers
can be shy, even reclusive, but when they do talk, hackers tend to brag, boast
and strut. Almost everything hackers do is INVISIBLE; if they don't brag,
boast, and strut about it, then NOBODY WILL EVER KNOW. If you don't have
something to brag, boast, and strut about, then nobody in the underground will
recognize you and favor you with vital cooperation and respect.

The way to win a solid reputation in the underground is by telling other hackers
things that could only have been learned by exceptional cunning and stealth.
Forbidden knowledge, therefore, is the basic currency of the digital
underground, like seashells among Trobriand Islanders. Hackers hoard this
knowledge, and dwell upon it obsessively, and refine it, and bargain with it,
and talk and talk about it.

Many hackers even suffer from a strange obsession to TEACH--to spread the ethos
and the knowledge of the digital underground. They'll do this even when it
gains them no particular advantage and presents a grave personal risk.

And when that risk catches up with them, they will go right on teaching and
preaching--to a new audience this time, their interrogators from law
enforcement. Almost every hacker arrested tells everything he knows--all about
his friends, his mentors, his disciples--legends, threats, horror stories, dire
rumors, gossip, hallucinations. This is, of course, convenient for law
enforcement--except when law enforcement begins to believe hacker legendry.

Phone phreaks are unique among criminals in their willingness to call up law
enforcement officials--in the office, at their homes--and give them an extended
piece of their mind. It is hard not to interpret this as BEGGING FOR ARREST, and
in fact it is an act of incredible foolhardiness. Police are naturally nettled
by these acts of chutzpah and will go well out of their way to bust these
flaunting idiots. But it can also be interpreted as a product of a world-view
so elitist, so closed and hermetic, that electronic police are simply not
perceived as "police," but rather as ENEMY PHONE PHREAKS who should be scolded
into behaving "decently."

Hackers at their most grandiloquent perceive themselves as the elite pioneers of
a new electronic world. Attempts to make them obey the democratically
established laws of contemporary American society are seen as repression and
persecution. After all, they argue, if Alexander Graham Bell had gone along
with the rules of the Western Union telegraph company, there would have been no
telephones. If Jobs and Wozniak had believed that IBM was the be-all and end-
all, there would have been no personal computers. If Benjamin Franklin and
Thomas Jefferson had tried to "work within the system" there would have been no
United States.

Not only do hackers privately believe this as an article of faith, but they have
been known to write ardent manifestos about it. Here are some revealing
excerpts from an especially vivid hacker manifesto: "The Techno-Revolution" by
"Dr. Crash," which appeared in electronic form in PHRACK Volume 1, Issue 6,
Phile 3.

"To fully explain the true motives behind hacking, we must first take a quick
look into the past. In the 1960s, a group of MIT students built the first
modern computer system. This wild, rebellious group of young men were the first
to bear the name 'hackers.' The systems that they developed were intended to be
used to solve world problems and to benefit all of mankind.

"As we can see, this has not been the case. The computer system has been solely
in the hands of big businesses and the government. The wonderful device meant
to enrich life has become a weapon which dehumanizes people. To the government
and large businesses, people are no more than disk space, and the government
doesn't use computers to arrange aid for the poor, but to control nuclear death
weapons. The average American can only have access to a small microcomputer
which is worth only a fraction of what they pay for it. The businesses keep the
true state-of-the-art equipment away from the people behind a steel wall of
incredibly high prices and bureaucracy. It is because of this state of affairs
that hacking was born.(...)

"Of course, the government doesn't want the monopoly of technology broken, so
they have outlawed hacking and arrest anyone who is caught.(...) The phone
company is another example of technology abused and kept from people with high

"Hackers often find that their existing equipment, due to the monopoly tactics
of computer companies, is inefficient for their purposes. Due to the
exorbitantly high prices, it is impossible to legally purchase the necessary
equipment. This need has given still another segment of the fight: Credit
Carding. Carding is a way of obtaining the necessary goods without paying for
them. It is again due to the companies' stupidity that Carding is so easy, and
shows that the world's businesses are in the hands of those with considerably
less technical know-how than we, the hackers. (...)

"Hacking must continue. We must train newcomers to the art of hacking.(...)
And whatever you do, continue the fight. Whether you know it or not, if you are
a hacker, you are a revolutionary. Don't worry, you're on the right side."

The defense of "carding" is rare. Most hackers regard credit-card theft as
"poison" to the underground, a sleazy and immoral effort that, worse yet, is
hard to get away with. Nevertheless, manifestos advocating credit-card theft,
the deliberate crashing of computer systems, and even acts of violent physical
destruction such as vandalism and arson do exist in the underground. These
boasts and threats are taken quite seriously by the police. And not every
hacker is an abstract, Platonic computer-nerd. Some few are quite experienced
at picking locks, robbing phone-trucks, and breaking and entering buildings.

Hackers vary in their degree of hatred for authority and the violence of their
rhetoric. But, at a bottom line, they are scofflaws. They don't regard the
current rules of electronic behavior as respectable efforts to preserve law and
order and protect public safety. They regard these laws as immoral efforts by
soulless corporations to protect their profit margins and to crush dissidents.
"Stupid" people, including police, businessmen, politicians, and journalists,
simply have no right to judge the actions of those possessed of genius, techno-
revolutionary intentions, and technical expertise.

Hackers are generally teenagers and college kids not engaged in earning a
living. They often come from fairly well- to-do middle-class backgrounds, and
are markedly anti- materialistic (except, that is, when it comes to computer
equipment). Anyone motivated by greed for mere money (as opposed to the greed
for power, knowledge and status) is swiftly written- off as a narrow-minded
breadhead whose interests can only be corrupt and contemptible. Having grown up
in the 1970s and 1980s, the young Bohemians of the digital underground regard
straight society as awash in plutocratic corruption, where everyone from the
President down is for sale and whoever has the gold makes the rules.

Interestingly, there's a funhouse-mirror image of this attitude on the other
side of the conflict. The police are also one of the most markedly anti-
materialistic groups in American society, motivated not by mere money but by
ideals of service, justice, esprit-de-corps, and, of course, their own brand of
specialized knowledge and power. Remarkably, the propaganda war between cops
and hackers has always involved angry allegations that the other side is trying
to make a sleazy buck. Hackers consistently sneer that anti-phreak prosecutors
are angling for cushy jobs as telco lawyers and that computer-crime police are
aiming to cash in later as well-paid computer-security consultants in the
private sector.

For their part, police publicly conflate all hacking crimes with robbing
payphones with crowbars. Allegations of "monetary losses" from computer
intrusion are notoriously inflated. The act of illicitly copying a document
from a computer is morally equated with directly robbing a company of, say, half
a million dollars. The teenage computer intruder in possession of this
"proprietary" document has certainly not sold it for such a sum, would likely
have little idea how to sell it at all, and quite probably doesn't even
understand what he has. He has not made a cent in profit from his felony but is
still morally equated with a thief who has robbed the church poorbox and lit out
for Brazil.

Police want to believe that all hackers are thieves. It is a tortuous and
almost unbearable act for the American justice system to put people in jail
because they want to learn things which are forbidden for them to know. In an
American context, almost any pretext for punishment is better than jailing
people to protect certain restricted kinds of information. Nevertheless,
POLICING INFORMATION is part and parcel of the struggle against hackers.

This dilemma is well exemplified by the remarkable activities of "Emmanuel
Goldstein," editor and publisher of a print magazine known as 2600: THE HACKER
QUARTERLY. Goldstein was an English major at Long Island's State University of
New York in the '70s, when he became involved with the local college radio
station. His growing interest in electronics caused him to drift into Yippie
_TAP_ circles and thus into the digital underground, where he became a self-
described techno-rat. His magazine publishes techniques of computer intrusion
and telephone "exploration" as well as gloating exposes of telco misdeeds and
governmental failings.

Goldstein lives quietly and very privately in a large, crumbling Victorian
mansion in Setauket, New York. The seaside house is decorated with telco
decals, chunks of driftwood, and the basic bric-a-brac of a hippie crash-pad.
He is unmarried, mildly unkempt, and survives mostly on TV dinners and turkey-
stuffing eaten straight out of the bag. Goldstein is a man of considerable
charm and fluency, with a brief, disarming smile and the kind of pitiless,
stubborn, thoroughly recidivist integrity that America's electronic police find
genuinely alarming.

Goldstein took his nom-de-plume, or "handle," from a character in Orwell's
_1984_, which may be taken, correctly, as a symptom of the gravity of his
sociopolitical worldview. He is not himself a practicing computer intruder,
though he vigorously abets these actions, especially when they are pursued
against large corporations or governmental agencies. Nor is he a thief, for he
loudly scorns mere theft of phone service, in favor of 'exploring and
manipulating the system.' He is probably best described and understood as a

Weirdly, Goldstein is living in modern America under conditions very similar to
those of former East European intellectual dissidents. In other words, he
flagrantly espouses a value-system that is deeply and irrevocably opposed to the
system of those in power and the police. The values in _2600_ are generally
expressed in terms that are ironic, sarcastic, paradoxical, or just downright
confused. But there's no mistaking their radically anti-authoritarian tenor.
_2600_ holds that technical power and specialized knowledge, of any kind
obtainable, belong by right in the hands of those individuals brave and bold
enough to discover them--by whatever means necessary. Devices, laws, or systems
that forbid access, and the free spread of knowledge, are provocations that any
free and self-respecting hacker should relentlessly attack. The "privacy" of
governments, corporations and other soulless technocratic organizations should
never be protected at the expense of the liberty and free initiative of the
individual techno-rat.

However, in our contemporary workaday world, both governments and corporations
are very anxious indeed to police information which is secret, proprietary,
restricted, confidential, copyrighted, patented, hazardous, illegal, unethical,
embarrassing, or otherwise sensitive. This makes Goldstein persona non grata,
and his philosophy a threat.

Very little about the conditions of Goldstein's daily life would astonish, say,
Vaclav Havel. (We may note in passing that President Havel once had his word-
processor confiscated by the Czechoslovak police.) Goldstein lives by SAMIZDAT,
acting semi-openly as a data-center for the underground, while challenging the
powers-that-be to abide by their own stated rules: freedom of speech and the
First Amendment.

Goldstein thoroughly looks and acts the part of techno- rat, with shoulder-
length ringlets and a piratical black fisherman's-cap set at a rakish angle. He
often shows up like Banquo's ghost at meetings of computer professionals, where
he listens quietly, half-smiling and taking thorough notes.

Computer professionals generally meet publicly, and find it very difficult to
rid themselves of Goldstein and his ilk without extralegal and unconstitutional
actions. Sympathizers, many of them quite respectable people with responsible
jobs, admire Goldstein's attitude and surreptitiously pass him information. An
unknown but presumably large proportion of Goldstein's 2,000-plus readership are
telco security personnel and police, who are forced to subscribe to _2600_ to
stay abreast of new developments in hacking. They thus find themselves PAYING
THIS GUY'S RENT while grinding their teeth in anguish, a situation that would
have delighted Abbie Hoffman (one of Goldstein's few idols).

Goldstein is probably the best-known public representative of the hacker
underground today, and certainly the best-hated. Police regard him as a Fagin,
a corrupter of youth, and speak of him with untempered loathing. He is quite an
accomplished gadfly.

After the Martin Luther King Day Crash of 1990, Goldstein, for instance, adeptly
rubbed salt into the wound in the pages of _2600_. "Yeah, it was fun for the
phone phreaks as we watched the network crumble," he admitted cheerfully. "But
it was also an ominous sign of what's to come... Some AT&T people, aided by
well-meaning but ignorant media, were spreading the notion that many companies
had the same software and therefore could face the same problem someday. Wrong.
This was entirely an AT&T software deficiency. Of course, other companies could
face entirely DIFFERENT software problems. But then, so too could AT&T."

After a technical discussion of the system's failings, the Long Island techno-
rat went on to offer thoughtful criticism to the gigantic multinational's
hundreds of professionally qualified engineers. "What we don't know is how a
major force in communications like AT&T could be so sloppy. What happened to
backups? Sure, computer systems go down all the time, but people making phone
calls are not the same as people logging on to computers. We must make that
distinction. It's not acceptable for the phone system or any other essential
service to 'go down.' If we continue to trust technology without understanding
it, we can look forward to many variations on this theme.

"AT&T owes it to its customers to be prepared to INSTANTLY switch to another
network if something strange and unpredictable starts occurring. The news here
isn't so much the failure of a computer program, but the failure of AT&T's
entire structure."

The very idea of this.... this PERSON.... offering "advice" about "AT&T's entire
structure" is more than some people can easily bear. How dare this near-
criminal dictate what is or isn't "acceptable" behavior from AT&T? Especially
when he's publishing, in the very same issue, detailed schematic diagrams for
creating various switching-network signalling tones unavailable to the public.

"See what happens when you drop a 'silver box' tone or two down your local
exchange or through different long distance service carriers," advises _2600_
contributor "Mr. Upsetter" in "How To Build a Signal Box." "If you experiment
systematically and keep good records, you will surely discover something

This is, of course, the scientific method, generally regarded as a praiseworthy
activity and one of the flowers of modern civilization. One can indeed learn a
great deal with this sort of structured intellectual activity. Telco employees
regard this mode of "exploration" as akin to flinging sticks of dynamite into
their pond to see what lives on the bottom.

_2600_ has been published consistently since 1984. It has also run a bulletin
board computer system, printed _2600_ T- shirts, taken fax calls... The Spring
1991 issue has an interesting announcement on page 45: "We just discovered an
extra set of wires attached to our fax line and heading up the pole. (They've
since been clipped.) Your faxes to us and to anyone else could be monitored."

In the worldview of _2600_, the tiny band of techno-rat brothers (rarely,
sisters) are a beseiged vanguard of the truly free and honest. The rest of the
world is a maelstrom of corporate crime and high-level governmental corruption,
occasionally tempered with well-meaning ignorance. To read a few issues in a
row is to enter a nightmare akin to Solzhenitsyn's, somewhat tempered by the
fact that _2600_ is often extremely funny.

Goldstein did not become a target of the Hacker Crackdown, though he protested
loudly, eloquently, and publicly about it, and it added considerably to his
fame. It was not that he is not regarded as dangerous, because he is so
regarded. Goldstein has had brushes with the law in the past: in 1985, a _2600_
bulletin board computer was seized by the FBI, and some software on it was
formally declared "a burglary tool in the form of a computer program." But
Goldstein escaped direct repression in 1990, because his magazine is printed on
paper, and recognized as subject to Constitutional freedom of the press
protection. As was seen in the RAMPARTS case, this is far from an absolute
guarantee. Still, as a practical matter, shutting down _2600_ by court-order
would create so much legal hassle that it is simply unfeasible, at least for the
present. Throughout 1990, both Goldstein and his magazine were peevishly

Instead, the Crackdown of 1990 would concern itself with the computerized
version of forbidden data. The crackdown itself, first and foremost, was about
BULLETIN BOARD SYSTEMS. Bulletin Board Systems, most often known by the ugly and
un- pluralizable acronym "BBS," are the life-blood of the digital underground.
Boards were also central to law enforcement's tactics and strategy in the Hacker

A "bulletin board system" can be formally defined as a computer which serves as
an information and message-passing center for users dialing-up over the phone-
lines through the use of modems. A "modem," or modulator-demodulator, is a
device which translates the digital impulses of computers into audible analog
telephone signals, and vice versa. Modems connect computers to phones and thus
to each other.

Large-scale mainframe computers have been connected since the 1960s, but
PERSONAL computers, run by individuals out of their homes, were first networked
in the late 1970s. The "board" created by Ward Christensen and Randy Suess in
February 1978, in Chicago, Illinois, is generally regarded as the first
personal- computer bulletin board system worthy of the name.

Boards run on many different machines, employing many different kinds of
software. Early boards were crude and buggy, and their managers, known as
"system operators" or "sysops," were hard-working technical experts who wrote
their own software. But like most everything else in the world of electronics,
boards became faster, cheaper, better-designed, and generally far more
sophisticated throughout the 1980s. They also moved swiftly out of the hands of
pioneers and into those of the general public. By 1985 there were something in
the neighborhood of 4,000 boards in America. By 1990 it was calculated,
vaguely, that there were about 30,000 boards in the US, with uncounted thousands

Computer bulletin boards are unregulated enterprises. Running a board is a
rough-and-ready, catch-as-catch-can proposition. Basically, anybody with a
computer, modem, software and a phone-line can start a board. With second-hand
equipment and public-domain free software, the price of a board might be quite
small--less than it would take to publish a magazine or even a decent pamphlet.
Entrepreneurs eagerly sell bulletin- board software, and will coach nontechnical
amateur sysops in its use.

Boards are not "presses." They are not magazines, or libraries, or phones, or
CB radios, or traditional cork bulletin boards down at the local laundry, though
they have some passing resemblance to those earlier media. Boards are a new
medium-- they may even be a LARGE NUMBER of new media.

Consider these unique characteristics: boards are cheap, yet they can have a
national, even global reach. Boards can be contacted from anywhere in the
global telephone network, at NO COST to the person running the board--the caller
pays the phone bill, and if the caller is local, the call is free. Boards do
not involve an editorial elite addressing a mass audience. The "sysop" of a
board is not an exclusive publisher or writer--he is managing an electronic
salon, where individuals can address the general public, play the part of the
general public, and also exchange private mail with other individuals. And the
"conversation" on boards, though fluid, rapid, and highly interactive, is not
spoken, but written. It is also relatively anonymous, sometimes completely so.

And because boards are cheap and ubiquitous, regulations and licensing
requirements would likely be practically unenforceable. It would almost be
easier to "regulate", "inspect" and "license" the content of private mail--
probably more so, since the mail system is operated by the federal government.
Boards are run by individuals, independently, entirely at their own whim.

For the sysop, the cost of operation is not the primary limiting factor. Once
the investment in a computer and modem has been made, the only steady cost is
the charge for maintaining a phone line (or several phone lines). The primary
limits for sysops are time and energy. Boards require upkeep. New users are
generally "validated"--they must be issued individual passwords, and called at
home by voice-phone, so that their identity can be verified. Obnoxious users,
who exist in plenty, must be chided or purged. Proliferating messages must be
deleted when they grow old, so that the capacity of the system is not
overwhelmed. And software programs (if such things are kept on the board) must
be examined for possible computer viruses. If there is a financial charge to
use the board (increasingly common, especially in larger and fancier systems)
then accounts must be kept, and users must be billed. And if the board crashes-
-a very common occurrence--then repairs must be made.

Boards can be distinguished by the amount of effort spent in regulating them.
First, we have the completely open board, whose sysop is off chugging brews and
watching re-runs while his users generally degenerate over time into peevish
anarchy and eventual silence. Second comes the supervised board, where the
sysop breaks in every once in a while to tidy up, calm brawls, issue
announcements, and rid the community of dolts and troublemakers. Third is the
heavily supervised board, which sternly urges adult and responsible behavior and
swiftly edits any message considered offensive, impertinent, illegal or
irrelevant. And last comes the completely edited "electronic publication,"
which is presented to a silent audience which is not allowed to respond directly
in any way.

Boards can also be grouped by their degree of anonymity. There is the completely
anonymous board, where everyone uses pseudonyms--"handles"--and even the sysop
is unaware of the user's true identity. The sysop himself is likely
pseudonymous on a board of this type. Second, and rather more common, is the
board where the sysop knows (or thinks he knows) the true names and addresses of
all users, but the users don't know one another's names and may not know his.
Third is the board where everyone has to use real names, and roleplaying and
pseudonymous posturing are forbidden.

Boards can be grouped by their immediacy. "Chat-lines" are boards linking
several users together over several different phone-lines simultaneously, so
that people exchange messages at the very moment that they type. (Many large
boards feature "chat" capabilities along with other services.) Less immediate
boards, perhaps with a single phoneline, store messages serially, one at a time.
And some boards are only open for business in daylight hours or on weekends,
which greatly slows response. A NETWORK of boards, such as "FidoNet," can carry
electronic mail from board to board, continent to continent, across huge
distances--but at a relative snail's pace, so that a message can take several
days to reach its target audience and elicit a reply.

Boards can be grouped by their degree of community. Some boards emphasize the
exchange of private, person-to-person electronic mail. Others emphasize public
postings and may even purge people who "lurk," merely reading posts but refusing
to openly participate. Some boards are intimate and neighborly. Others are
frosty and highly technical. Some are little more than storage dumps for
software, where users "download" and "upload" programs, but interact among
themselves little if at all.

Boards can be grouped by their ease of access. Some boards are entirely public.
Others are private and restricted only to personal friends of the sysop. Some
boards divide users by status. On these boards, some users, especially
beginners, strangers or children, will be restricted to general topics, and
perhaps forbidden to post. Favored users, though, are granted the ability to
post as they please, and to stay "on-line" as long as they like, even to the
disadvantage of other people trying to call in. High-status users can be given
access to hidden areas in the board, such as off-color topics, private
discussions, and/or valuable software. Favored users may even become "remote
sysops" with the power to take remote control of the board through their own
home computers. Quite often "remote sysops" end up doing all the work and
taking formal control of the enterprise, despite the fact that it's physically
located in someone else's house. Sometimes several "co-sysops" share power.

And boards can also be grouped by size. Massive, nationwide commercial
networks, such as CompuServe, Delphi, GEnie and Prodigy, are run on mainframe
computers and are generally not considered "boards," though they share many of
their characteristics, such as electronic mail, discussion topics, libraries of
software, and persistent and growing problems with civil-liberties issues. Some
private boards have as many as thirty phone-lines and quite sophisticated
hardware. And then there are tiny boards.

Boards vary in popularity. Some boards are huge and crowded, where users must
claw their way in against a constant busy-signal. Others are huge and empty--
there are few things sadder than a formerly flourishing board where no one posts
any longer, and the dead conversations of vanished users lie about gathering
digital dust. Some boards are tiny and intimate, their telephone numbers
intentionally kept confidential so that only a small number can log on.

And some boards are UNDERGROUND.

Boards can be mysterious entities. The activities of their users can be hard to
differentiate from conspiracy. Sometimes they ARE conspiracies. Boards have
harbored, or have been accused of harboring, all manner of fringe groups, and
have abetted, or been accused of abetting, every manner of frowned- upon,
sleazy, radical, and criminal activity. There are Satanist boards. Nazi
boards. Pornographic boards. Pedophile boards. Drug-dealing boards. Anarchist
boards. Communist boards. Gay and Lesbian boards (these exist in great
profusion, many of them quite lively with well-established histories).
Religious cult boards. Evangelical boards. Witchcraft boards, hippie boards,
punk boards, skateboarder boards. Boards for UFO believers. There may well be
boards for serial killers, airline terrorists and professional assassins. There
is simply no way to tell. Boards spring up, flourish, and disappear in large
numbers, in most every corner of the developed world. Even apparently innocuous
public boards can, and sometimes do, harbor secret areas known only to a few.
And even on the vast, public, commercial services, private mail is very private-
-and quite possibly criminal.

Boards cover most every topic imaginable and some that are hard to imagine.
They cover a vast spectrum of social activity. However, all board users do have
something in common: their possession of computers and phones. Naturally,
computers and phones are primary topics of conversation on almost every board.

And hackers and phone phreaks, those utter devotees of computers and phones,
live by boards. They swarm by boards. They are bred by boards. By the late
1980s, phone-phreak groups and hacker groups, united by boards, had proliferated

As evidence, here is a list of hacker groups compiled by the editors of PHRACK
on August 8, 1988.

The Administration. Advanced Telecommunications, Inc. ALIAS. American Tone
Travelers. Anarchy Inc. Apple Mafia. The Association. Atlantic Pirates Guild.

Bad Ass Mother Fuckers. Bellcore. Bell Shock Force. Black Bag.

Camorra. C&M Productions. Catholics Anonymous. Chaos Computer Club. Chief
Executive Officers. Circle Of Death. Circle Of Deneb. Club X. Coalition of
Hi-Tech Pirates. Coast- To-Coast. Corrupt Computing. Cult Of The Dead Cow.
Custom Retaliations.

Damage Inc. D&B Communications. The Dange Gang. Dec Hunters. Digital Gang.

Eastern Alliance. The Elite Hackers Guild. Elite Phreakers and Hackers Club.
The Elite Society Of America. EPG. Executives Of Crime. Extasyy Elite.

Fargo 4A. Farmers Of Doom. The Federation. Feds R Us. First Class. Five O.
Five Star. Force Hackers. The 414s.

Hack-A-Trip. Hackers Of America. High Mountain Hackers. High Society. The

IBM Syndicate. The Ice Pirates. Imperial Warlords. Inner Circle. Inner Circle
II. Insanity Inc. International Computer Underground Bandits.

Justice League of America.

Kaos Inc. Knights Of Shadow. Knights Of The Round Table.

League Of Adepts. Legion Of Doom. Legion Of Hackers. Lords Of Chaos. Lunatic
Labs, Unlimited.

Master Hackers. MAD! The Marauders. MD/PhD. Metal Communications, Inc.
MetalliBashers, Inc. MBI. Metro Communications. Midwest Pirates Guild.

NASA Elite. The NATO Association. Neon Knights. Nihilist Order.

Order Of The Rose. OSS.

Pacific Pirates Guild. Phantom Access Associates. PHido PHreaks. The Phirm.
Phlash. PhoneLine Phantoms. Phone Phreakers Of America. Phortune 500. Phreak
Hack Delinquents. Phreak Hack Destroyers. Phreakers, Hackers, And Laundromat
Employees Gang (PHALSE Gang). Phreaks Against Geeks. Phreaks Against Phreaks
Against Geeks. Phreaks and Hackers of America. Phreaks Anonymous World Wide.
Project Genesis. The Punk Mafia.

The Racketeers. Red Dawn Text Files. Roscoe Gang.

SABRE. Secret Circle of Pirates. Secret Service. 707 Club. Shadow
Brotherhood. Sharp Inc. 65C02 Elite. Spectral Force. Star League. Stowaways.

Team Hackers '86. Team Hackers '87. TeleComputist Newsletter Staff. Tribunal
Of Knowledge. Triple Entente. Turn Over And Die Syndrome (TOADS). 300 Club.
1200 Club. 2300 Club. 2600 Club. 2601 Club. 2AF.

The United Soft WareZ Force. United Technical Underground.

Ware Brigade. The Warelords. WASP.

Contemplating this list is an impressive, almost humbling business. As a
cultural artifact, the thing approaches poetry.

Underground groups--subcultures--can be distinguished from independent cultures
by their habit of referring constantly to the parent society. Undergrounds by
their nature constantly must maintain a membrane of differentiation.
Funny/distinctive clothes and hair, specialized jargon, specialized ghettoized
areas in cities, different hours of rising, working, sleeping.... The digital
underground, which specializes in information, relies very heavily on language
to distinguish itself. As can be seen from this list, they make heavy use of
parody and mockery. It's revealing to see who they choose to mock.

First, large corporations. We have the Phortune 500, The Chief Executive
Officers, Bellcore, IBM Syndicate, SABRE (a computerized reservation service
maintained by airlines). The common use of "Inc." is telling--none of these
groups are actual corporations, but take clear delight in mimicking them.

Second, governments and police. NASA Elite, NATO Association. "Feds R Us" and
"Secret Service" are fine bits of fleering boldness. OSS--the Office of
Strategic Services was the forerunner of the CIA.

Third, criminals. Using stigmatizing pejoratives as a perverse badge of honor
is a time-honored tactic for subcultures: punks, gangs, delinquents, mafias,
pirates, bandits, racketeers.

Specialized orthography, especially the use of "ph" for "f" and "z" for the
plural "s," are instant recognition symbols. So is the use of the numeral "0"
for the letter "O"--computer- software orthography generally features a slash
through the zero, making the distinction obvious.

Some terms are poetically descriptive of computer intrusion: the Stowaways, the
Hitchhikers, the PhoneLine Phantoms, Coast-to-Coast. Others are simple bravado
and vainglorious puffery. (Note the insistent use of the terms "elite" and
"master.") Some terms are blasphemous, some obscene, others merely cryptic--
anything to puzzle, offend, confuse, and keep the straights at bay.

Many hacker groups further re-encrypt their names by the use of acronyms:
United Technical Underground becomes UTU, Farmers of Doom become FoD, the United
SoftWareZ Force becomes, at its own insistence, "TuSwF," and woe to the ignorant
rodent who capitalizes the wrong letters.

It should be further recognized that the members of these groups are themselves
pseudonymous. If you did, in fact, run across the "PhoneLine Phantoms," you
would find them to consist of "Carrier Culprit," "The Executioner," "Black
Majik," "Egyptian Lover," "Solid State," and "Mr Icom." "Carrier Culprit" will
likely be referred to by his friends as "CC," as in, "I got these dialups from
CC of PLP."

It's quite possible that this entire list refers to as few as a thousand people.
It is not a complete list of underground groups--there has never been such a
list, and there never will be. Groups rise, flourish, decline, share
membership, maintain a cloud of wannabes and casual hangers-on. People pass in
and out, are ostracized, get bored, are busted by police, or are cornered by
telco security and presented with huge bills. Many "underground groups" are
software pirates, "warez d00dz," who might break copy protection and pirate
programs, but likely wouldn't dare to intrude on a computer-system.

It is hard to estimate the true population of the digital underground. There is
constant turnover. Most hackers start young, come and go, then drop out at age
22--the age of college graduation. And a large majority of "hackers" access
pirate boards, adopt a handle, swipe software and perhaps abuse a phone- code or
two, while never actually joining the elite.

Some professional informants, who make it their business to retail knowledge of
the underground to paymasters in private corporate security, have estimated the
hacker population at as high as fifty thousand. This is likely highly inflated,
unless one counts every single teenage software pirate and petty phone- booth
thief. My best guess is about 5,000 people. Of these, I would guess that as
few as a hundred are truly "elite"--active computer intruders, skilled enough to
penetrate sophisticated systems and truly to worry corporate security and law

Another interesting speculation is whether this group is growing or not. Young
teenage hackers are often convinced that hackers exist in vast swarms and will
soon dominate the cybernetic universe. Older and wiser veterans, perhaps as
wizened as 24 or 25 years old, are convinced that the glory days are long gone,
that the cops have the underground's number now, and that kids these days are
dirt-stupid and just want to play Nintendo.

My own assessment is that computer intrusion, as a non- profit act of
intellectual exploration and mastery, is in slow decline, at least in the United
States; but that electronic fraud, especially telecommunication crime, is
growing by leaps and bounds.

One might find a useful parallel to the digital underground in the drug
underground. There was a time, now much- obscured by historical revisionism,
when Bohemians freely shared joints at concerts, and hip, small-scale marijuana
dealers might turn people on just for the sake of enjoying a long stoned
conversation about the Doors and Allen Ginsberg. Now drugs are increasingly
verboten, except in a high-stakes, highly-criminal world of highly addictive
drugs. Over years of disenchantment and police harassment, a vaguely
ideological, free-wheeling drug underground has relinquished the business of
drug-dealing to a far more savage criminal hard-core. This is not a pleasant
prospect to contemplate, but the analogy is fairly compelling.

What does an underground board look like? What distinguishes it from a standard
board? It isn't necessarily the conversation--hackers often talk about common
board topics, such as hardware, software, sex, science fiction, current events,
politics, movies, personal gossip. Underground boards can best be distinguished
by their files, or "philes," pre-composed texts which teach the techniques and
ethos of the underground. These are prized reservoirs of forbidden knowledge.
Some are anonymous, but most proudly bear the handle of the "hacker" who has
created them, and his group affiliation, if he has one.

Here is a partial table-of-contents of philes from an underground board,
somewhere in the heart of middle America, circa 1991. The descriptions are
mostly self-explanatory.

BANKAMER.ZIP 5406 06-11-91 Hacking Bank America

CHHACK.ZIP 4481 06-11-91 Chilton Hacking

CITIBANK.ZIP 4118 06-11-91 Hacking Citibank

CREDIMTC.ZIP 3241 06-11-91 Hacking Mtc Credit Company

DIGEST.ZIP 5159 06-11-91 Hackers Digest

HACK.ZIP 14031 06-11-91 How To Hack

HACKBAS.ZIP 5073 06-11-91 Basics Of Hacking

HACKDICT.ZIP 42774 06-11-91 Hackers Dictionary

HACKER.ZIP 57938 06-11-91 Hacker Info

HACKERME.ZIP 3148 06-11-91 Hackers Manual

HACKHAND.ZIP 4814 06-11-91 Hackers Handbook

HACKTHES.ZIP 48290 06-11-91 Hackers Thesis

HACKVMS.ZIP 4696 06-11-91 Hacking Vms Systems

MCDON.ZIP 3830 06-11-91 Hacking Macdonalds (Home Of The Archs)

P500UNIX.ZIP 15525 06-11-91 Phortune 500 Guide To Unix

RADHACK.ZIP 8411 06-11-91 Radio Hacking

TAOTRASH.DOC 4096 12-25-89 Suggestions For Trashing

TECHHACK.ZIP 5063 06-11-91 Technical Hacking

The files above are do-it-yourself manuals about computer intrusion. The above
is only a small section of a much larger library of hacking and phreaking
techniques and history. We now move into a different and perhaps surprising


| Anarchy |


ANARC.ZIP 3641 06-11-91 Anarchy Files

ANARCHST.ZIP 63703 06-11-91 Anarchist Book

ANARCHY.ZIP 2076 06-11-91 Anarchy At Home

ANARCHY3.ZIP 6982 06-11-91 Anarchy No 3

ANARCTOY.ZIP 2361 06-11-91 Anarchy Toys

ANTIMODM.ZIP 2877 06-11-91 Anti-modem Weapons

ATOM.ZIP 4494 06-11-91 How To Make An Atom Bomb

BARBITUA.ZIP 3982 06-11-91 Barbiturate Formula

BLCKPWDR.ZIP 2810 06-11-91 Black Powder Formulas

BOMB.ZIP 3765 06-11-91 How To Make Bombs

BOOM.ZIP 2036 06-11-91 Things That Go Boom

CHLORINE.ZIP 1926 06-11-91 Chlorine Bomb

COOKBOOK.ZIP 1500 06-11-91 Anarchy Cook Book

DESTROY.ZIP 3947 06-11-91 Destroy Stuff

DUSTBOMB.ZIP 2576 06-11-91 Dust Bomb

ELECTERR.ZIP 3230 06-11-91 Electronic Terror

EXPLOS1.ZIP 2598 06-11-91 Explosives 1

EXPLOSIV.ZIP 18051 06-11-91 More Explosives

EZSTEAL.ZIP 4521 06-11-91 Ez-stealing

FLAME.ZIP 2240 06-11-91 Flame Thrower

FLASHLT.ZIP 2533 06-11-91 Flashlight Bomb

FMBUG.ZIP 2906 06-11-91 How To Make An Fm Bug

OMEEXPL.ZIP 2139 06-11-91 Home Explosives

HOW2BRK.ZIP 3332 06-11-91 How To Break In

LETTER.ZIP 2990 06-11-91 Letter Bomb

LOCK.ZIP 2199 06-11-91 How To Pick Locks

MRSHIN.ZIP 3991 06-11-91 Briefcase Locks

NAPALM.ZIP 3563 06-11-91 Napalm At Home

NITRO.ZIP 3158 06-11-91 Fun With Nitro

PARAMIL.ZIP 2962 06-11-91 Paramilitary Info

PICKING.ZIP 3398 06-11-91 Picking Locks

PIPEBOMB.ZIP 2137 06-11-91 Pipe Bomb

POTASS.ZIP 3987 06-11-91 Formulas With Potassium

PRANK.TXT 11074 08-03-90 More Pranks To Pull On Idiots!

REVENGE.ZIP 4447 06-11-91 Revenge Tactics

ROCKET.ZIP 2590 06-11-91 Rockets For Fun

SMUGGLE.ZIP 3385 06-11-91 How To Smuggle

HOLY COW! The damned thing is full of stuff about bombs!

What are we to make of this?

First, it should be acknowledged that spreading knowledge about demolitions to
teenagers is a highly and deliberately antisocial act. It is not, however,

Second, it should be recognized that most of these philes were in fact WRITTEN
by teenagers. Most adult American males who can remember their teenage years
will recognize that the notion of building a flamethrower in your garage is an
incredibly neat-o idea. ACTUALLY building a flamethrower in your garage,
however, is fraught with discouraging difficulty. Stuffing gunpowder into a
booby-trapped flashlight, so as to blow the arm off your high- school vice-
principal, can be a thing of dark beauty to contemplate. Actually committing
assault by explosives will earn you the sustained attention of the federal
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

Some people, however, will actually try these plans. A determinedly murderous
American teenager can probably buy or steal a handgun far more easily than he
can brew fake "napalm" in the kitchen sink. Nevertheless, if temptation is
spread before people a certain number will succumb, and a small minority will
actually attempt these stunts. A large minority of that small minority will
either fail or, quite likely, maim themselves, since these "philes" have not
been checked for accuracy, are not the product of professional experience, and
are often highly fanciful. But the gloating menace of these philes is not to be
entirely dismissed.

Hackers may not be "serious" about bombing; if they were, we would hear far more
about exploding flashlights, homemade bazookas, and gym teachers poisoned by
chlorine and potassium. However, hackers are VERY serious about forbidden
knowledge. They are possessed not merely by curiosity, but by a positive LUST TO
KNOW. The desire to know what others don't is scarcely new. But the INTENSITY
of this desire, as manifested by these young technophilic denizens of the
Information Age, may in fact BE new, and may represent some basic shift in
social values--a harbinger of what the world may come to, as society lays more
and more value on the possession, assimilation and retailing of INFORMATION as a
basic commodity of daily life.

There have always been young men with obsessive interests in these topics.
Never before, however, have they been able to network so extensively and easily,
and to propagandize their interests with impunity to random passers-by. High-
school teachers will recognize that there's always one in a crowd, but when the
one in a crowd escapes control by jumping into the phone-lines, and becomes a
hundred such kids all together on a board, then trouble is brewing visibly. The
urge of authority to DO SOMETHING, even something drastic, is hard to resist.
And in 1990, authority did something. In fact authority did a great deal.

The process by which boards create hackers goes something like this. A
youngster becomes interested in computers--usually, computer games. He hears
from friends that "bulletin boards" exist where games can be obtained for free.
(Many computer games are "freeware," not copyrighted--invented simply for the
love of it and given away to the public; some of these games are quite good.)
He bugs his parents for a modem, or quite often, uses his parents' modem.

The world of boards suddenly opens up. Computer games can be quite expensive,
real budget-breakers for a kid, but pirated games, stripped of copy protection,
are cheap or free. They are also illegal, but it is very rare, almost unheard
of, for a small-scale software pirate to be prosecuted. Once "cracked" of its
copy protection, the program, being digital data, becomes infinitely
reproducible. Even the instructions to the game, any manuals that accompany it,
can be reproduced as text files, or photocopied from legitimate sets. Other
users on boards can give many useful hints in game-playing tactics. And a
youngster with an infinite supply of free computer games can certainly cut quite
a swath among his modem-less friends.

And boards are pseudonymous. No one need know that you're fourteen years old--
with a little practice at subterfuge, you can talk to adults about adult things,
and be accepted and taken seriously! You can even pretend to be a girl, or an
old man, or anybody you can imagine. If you find this kind of deception
gratifying, there is ample opportunity to hone your ability on boards.

But local boards can grow stale. And almost every board maintains a list of
phone-numbers to other boards, some in distant, tempting, exotic locales. Who
knows what they're up to, in Oregon or Alaska or Florida or California? It's
very easy to find out--just order the modem to call through its software--
nothing to this, just typing on a keyboard, the same thing you would do for most
any computer game. The machine reacts swiftly and in a few seconds you are
talking to a bunch of interesting people on another seaboard.

And yet the BILLS for this trivial action can be staggering! Just by going
tippety-tap with your fingers, you may have saddled your parents with four
hundred bucks in long- distance charges, and gotten chewed out but good. That
hardly seems fair.

How horrifying to have made friends in another state and to be deprived of their
company--and their software--just because telephone companies demand absurd
amounts of money! How painful, to be restricted to boards in one's own AREA
CODE--what the heck is an "area code" anyway, and what makes it so special? A
few grumbles, complaints, and innocent questions of this sort will often elicit
a sympathetic reply from another board user--someone with some stolen codes to
hand. You dither a while, knowing this isn't quite right, then you make up your
mind to try them anyhow--AND THEY WORD! Suddenly you're doing something even
your parents can't do. Six months ago you were just some kid--now, you're the
Crimson Flash of Area Code 512! You're bad--you're nationwide!

Maybe you'll stop at a few abused codes. Maybe you'll decide that boards aren't
all that interesting after all, that it's wrong, not worth the risk--but maybe
you won't. The next step is to pick up your own repeat-dialling program--to
learn to generate your own stolen codes. (This was dead easy five years ago,
much harder to get away with nowadays, but not yet impossible.) And these
dialling programs are not complex or intimidating--some are as small as twenty
lines of software.

Now, you too can share codes. You can trade codes to learn other techniques.
If you're smart enough to catch on, and obsessive enough to want to bother, and
ruthless enough to start seriously bending rules, then you'll get better, fast.
You start to develop a rep. You move up to a heavier class of board--a board
with a bad attitude, the kind of board that naive dopes like your classmates and
your former self have never even heard of! You pick up the jargon of phreaking
and hacking from the board. You read a few of those anarchy philes--and man,
you never realized you could be a real OUTLAW without ever leaving your bedroom.

You still play other computer games, but now you have a new and bigger game.
This one will bring you a different kind of status than destroying even eight
zillion lousy space invaders.

Hacking is perceived by hackers as a "game." This is not an entirely
unreasonable or sociopathic perception. You can win or lose at hacking, succeed
or fail, but it never feels "real." It's not simply that imaginative youngsters
sometimes have a hard time telling "make-believe" from "real life." Cyberspace
is NOT REAL! "Real" things are physical objects like trees and shoes and cars.
Hacking takes place on a screen. Words aren't physical, numbers (even telephone
numbers and credit card numbers) aren't physical. Sticks and stones may break
my bones, but data will never hurt me. Computers SIMULATE reality, like
computer games that simulate tank battles or dogfights or spaceships.
Simulations are just make-believe, and the stuff in computers is NOT REAL.

Consider this: if "hacking" is supposed to be so serious and real-life and
dangerous, then how come NINE-YEAR-OLD KIDS have computers and modems? You
wouldn't give a nine year old his own car, or his own rifle, or his own
chainsaw--those things are "real."

People underground are perfectly aware that the "game" is frowned upon by the
powers that be. Word gets around about busts in the underground. Publicizing
busts is one of the primary functions of pirate boards, but they also promulgate
an attitude about them, and their own idiosyncratic ideas of justice. The users
of underground boards won't complain if some guy is busted for crashing systems,
spreading viruses, or stealing money by wire-fraud. They may shake their heads
with a sneaky grin, but they won't openly defend these practices. But when a
kid is charged with some theoretical amount of theft: $233,846.14, for
instance, because he sneaked into a computer and copied something, and kept it
in his house on a floppy disk--this is regarded as a sign of near-insanity from
prosecutors, a sign that they've drastically mistaken the immaterial game of
computing for their real and boring everyday world of fatcat corporate money.

It's as if big companies and their suck-up lawyers think that computing belongs
to them, and they can retail it with price stickers, as if it were boxes of
laundry soap! But pricing "information" is like trying to price air or price
dreams. Well, anybody on a pirate board knows that computing can be, and ought
to be, FREE. Pirate boards are little independent worlds in cyberspace, and
they don't belong to anybody but the underground. Underground boards aren't
"brought to you by Procter & Gamble."

To log on to an underground board can mean to experience liberation, to enter a
world where, for once, money isn't everything and adults don't have all the

Let's sample another vivid hacker manifesto. Here are some excerpts from "The
Conscience of a Hacker," by "The Mentor," from PHRACK Volume One, Issue 7, Phile

"I made a discovery today. I found a computer. Wait a second, this is cool.
It does what I want it to. If it makes a mistake, it's because I screwed it up.
Not because it doesn't like me.(...)

"And then it happened... a door opened to a world... rushing through the phone
line like heroin through an addict's veins, an electronic pulse is sent out, a
refuge from day-to-day incompetencies is sought... a board is found. 'This is
it... this is where I belong...'

"I know everyone here... even if I've never met them, never talked to them, may
never hear from them again... I know you all...(...)

"This is our world now.... the world of the electron and the switch, the beauty
of the baud. We make use of a service already existing without paying for what
could be dirt-cheap if it wasn't run by profiteering gluttons, and you call us
criminals. We explore... and you call us criminals. We seek after knowledge...
and you call us criminals. We exist without skin color, without nationality,
without religious bias... and you call us criminals. You build atomic bombs,
you wage wars, you murder, cheat and lie to us and try to make us believe that
it's for our own good, yet we're the criminals.

"Yes, I am a criminal. My crime is that of curiosity. My crime is that of
judging people by what they say and think, not what they look like. My crime is
that of outsmarting you, something that you will never forgive me for."

There have been underground boards almost as long as there have been boards.
One of the first was 8BBS, which became a stronghold of the West Coast phone-
phreak elite. After going on-line in March 1980, 8BBS sponsored "Susan
Thunder," and "Tuc," and, most notoriously, "the Condor." "The Condor" bore the
singular distinction of becoming the most vilified American phreak and hacker
ever. Angry underground associates, fed up with Condor's peevish behavior,
turned him in to police, along with a heaping double-helping of outrageous
hacker legendry. As a result, Condor was kept in solitary confinement for seven
months, for fear that he might start World War Three by triggering missile silos
from the prison payphone. (Having served his time, Condor is now walking around
loose; WWIII has thus far conspicuously failed to occur.)

The sysop of 8BBS was an ardent free-speech enthusiast who simply felt that ANY
attempt to restrict the expression of his users was unconstitutional and
immoral. Swarms of the technically curious entered 8BBS and emerged as phreaks
and hackers, until, in 1982, a friendly 8BBS alumnus passed the sysop a new
modem which had been purchased by credit-card fraud. Police took this
opportunity to seize the entire board and remove what they considered an
attractive nuisance.

Plovernet was a powerful East Coast pirate board that operated in both New York
and Florida. Owned and operated by teenage hacker "Quasi Moto," Plovernet
attracted five hundred eager users in 1983. "Emmanuel Goldstein" was one-time
co-sysop of Plovernet, along with "Lex Luthor," founder of the "Legion of Doom"
group. Plovernet bore the signal honor of being the original home of the
"Legion of Doom," about which the reader will be hearing a great deal, soon.

"Pirate-80," or "P-80," run by a sysop known as "Scan- Man," got into the game
very early in Charleston, and continued steadily for years. P-80 flourished so
flagrantly that even its most hardened users became nervous, and some
slanderously speculated that "Scan Man" must have ties to corporate security, a
charge he vigorously denied.

"414 Private" was the home board for the first GROUP to attract conspicuous
trouble, the teenage "414 Gang," whose intrusions into Sloan-Kettering Cancer
Center and Los Alamos military computers were to be a nine-days-wonder in 1982.

At about this time, the first software piracy boards began to open up, trading
cracked games for the Atari 800 and the Commodore C64. Naturally these boards
were heavily frequented by teenagers. And with the 1983 release of the hacker-
thriller movie WAR GAMES, the scene exploded. It seemed that every kid in
America had demanded and gotten a modem for Christmas. Most of these dabbler
wannabes put their modems in the attic after a few weeks, and most of the
remainder minded their P's and Q's and stayed well out of hot water. But some
stubborn and talented diehards had this hacker kid in WAR GAMES figured for a
happening dude. They simply could not rest until they had contacted the
underground--or, failing that, created their own.

In the mid-80s, underground boards sprang up like digital fungi. ShadowSpawn
Elite. Sherwood Forest I, II, and III. Digital Logic Data Service in Florida,
sysoped by no less a man than "Digital Logic" himself; Lex Luthor of the Legion
of Doom was prominent on this board, since it was in his area code. Lex's own
board, "Legion of Doom," started in 1984. The Neon Knights ran a network of
Apple-hacker boards: Neon Knights North, South, East and West. Free World II
was run by "Major Havoc." Lunatic Labs is still in operation as of this writing.
Dr. Ripco in Chicago, an anything-goes anarchist board with an extensive and
raucous history, was seized by Secret Service agents in 1990 on Sundevil day,
but up again almost immediately, with new machines and scarcely diminished

The St. Louis scene was not to rank with major centers of American hacking such
as New York and L.A. But St. Louis did rejoice in possession of "Knight
Lightning" and "Taran King," two of the foremost JOURNALISTS native to the
underground. Missouri boards like Metal Shop, Metal Shop Private, Metal Shop
Brewery, may not have been the heaviest boards around in terms of illicit
expertise. But they became boards where hackers could exchange social gossip
and try to figure out what the heck was going on nationally--and
internationally. Gossip from Metal Shop was put into the form of news files,
then assembled into a general electronic publication, PHRACK, a portmanteau
title coined from "phreak" and "hack." The PHRACK editors were as obsessively
curious about other hackers as hackers were about machines.

PHRACK, being free of charge and lively reading, began to circulate throughout
the underground. As Taran King and Knight Lightning left high school for
college, PHRACK began to appear on mainframe machines linked to BITNET, and,
through BITNET to the "Internet," that loose but extremely potent not-for-profit
network where academic, governmental and corporate machines trade data through
the UNIX TCP/IP protocol. (The "Internet Worm" of November 2-3,1988, created by
Cornell grad student Robert Morris, was to be the largest and best-publicized
computer-intrusion scandal to date. Morris claimed that his ingenious "worm"
program was meant to harmlessly explore the Internet, but due to bad
programming, the Worm replicated out of control and crashed some six thousand
Internet computers. Smaller-scale and less ambitious Internet hacking was a
standard for the underground elite.)

Most any underground board not hopelessly lame and out- of-it would feature a
complete run of PHRACK--and, possibly, the lesser-known standards of the
underground: the LEGION OF DOOM TECHNICAL JOURNAL, the obscene and raucous CULT
perhaps the highly anarcho-political ACTIVIST TIMES INCORPORATED.

Possession of PHRACK on one's board was prima facie evidence of a bad attitude.
PHRACK was seemingly everywhere, aiding, abetting, and spreading the underground
ethos. And this did not escape the attention of corporate security or the

We now come to the touchy subject of police and boards. Police, do, in fact, own
boards. In 1989, there were police- sponsored boards in California, Colorado,
Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Michigan, Missouri, Texas, and Virginia: boards such
as "Crime Bytes," "Crimestoppers," "All Points" and "Bullet-N- Board." Police
officers, as private computer enthusiasts, ran their own boards in Arizona,
California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Missouri, Maryland, New Mexico,
North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee and Texas. Police boards have often proved
helpful in community relations. Sometimes crimes are reported on police boards.

Sometimes crimes are COMMITTED on police boards. This has sometimes happened by
accident, as naive hackers blunder onto police boards and blithely begin
offering telephone codes. Far more often, however, it occurs through the now
almost-traditional use of "sting boards." The first police sting-boards were
established in 1985: "Underground Tunnel" in Austin, Texas, whose sysop Sgt.
Robert Ansley called himself "Pluto"--"The Phone Company" in Phoenix, Arizona,
run by Ken MacLeod of the Maricopa County Sheriff's office--and Sgt. Dan
Pasquale's board in Fremont, California. Sysops posed as hackers, and swiftly
garnered coteries of ardent users, who posted codes and loaded pirate software
with abandon, and came to a sticky end.

Sting boards, like other boards, are cheap to operate, very cheap by the
standards of undercover police operations. Once accepted by the local
underground, sysops will likely be invited into other pirate boards, where they
can compile more dossiers. And when the sting is announced and the worst
offenders arrested, the publicity is generally gratifying. The resultant
paranoia in the underground--perhaps more justly described as a "deterrence
effect"--tends to quell local lawbreaking for quite a while.

Obviously police do not have to beat the underbrush for hackers. On the
contrary, they can go trolling for them. Those caught can be grilled. Some
become useful informants. They can lead the way to pirate boards all across the

And boards all across the country showed the sticky fingerprints of PHRACK, and
of that loudest and most flagrant of all underground groups, the "Legion of

The term "Legion of Doom" came from comic books. The Legion of Doom, a
conspiracy of costumed super-villains headed by the chrome-domed criminal ultra-
mastermind Lex Luthor, gave Superman a lot of four-color graphic trouble for a
number of decades. Of course, Superman, that exemplar of Truth, Justice, and
the American Way, always won in the long run. This didn't matter to the hacker
Doomsters--"Legion of Doom" was not some thunderous and evil Satanic reference,
it was not meant to be taken seriously. "Legion of Doom" came from funny-books
and was supposed to be funny.

"Legion of Doom" did have a good mouthfilling ring to it, though. It sounded
really cool. Other groups, such as the "Farmers of Doom," closely allied to
LoD, recognized this grandiloquent quality, and made fun of it. There was even
a hacker group called "Justice League of America," named after Superman's club
of true-blue crimefighting superheros.

But they didn't last; the Legion did.

The original Legion of Doom, hanging out on Quasi Moto's Plovernet board, were
phone phreaks. They weren't much into computers. "Lex Luthor" himself (who was
under eighteen when he formed the Legion) was a COSMOS expert, COSMOS being the
"Central System for Mainframe Operations," a telco internal computer network.
Lex would eventually become quite a dab hand at breaking into IBM mainframes,
but although everyone liked Lex and admired his attitude, he was not considered
a truly accomplished computer intruder. Nor was he the "mastermind" of the
Legion of Doom--LoD were never big on formal leadership. As a regular on
Plovernet and sysop of his "Legion of Doom BBS," Lex was the Legion's
cheerleader and recruiting officer.

Legion of Doom began on the ruins of an earlier phreak group, The Knights of
Shadow. Later, LoD was to subsume the personnel of the hacker group "Tribunal
of Knowledge." People came and went constantly in LoD; groups split up or
formed offshoots.

Early on, the LoD phreaks befriended a few computer- intrusion enthusiasts, who
became the associated "Legion of Hackers." Then the two groups conflated into
the "Legion of Doom/Hackers," or LoD/H. When the original "hacker" wing,
Messrs. "Compu-Phreak" and "Phucked Agent 04," found other matters to occupy
their time, the extra "/H" slowly atrophied out of the name; but by this time
the phreak wing, Messrs. Lex Luthor, "Blue Archer," "Gary Seven," "Kerrang
Khan," "Master of Impact," "Silver Spy," "The Marauder," and "The Videosmith,"
had picked up a plethora of intrusion expertise and had become a force to be
reckoned with.

LoD members seemed to have an instinctive understanding that the way to real
power in the underground lay through covert publicity. LoD were flagrant. Not
only was it one of the earliest groups, but the members took pains to widely
distribute their illicit knowledge. Some LoD members, like "The Mentor," were
close to evangelical about it. LEGION OF DOOM TECHNICAL JOURNAL began to show
up on boards throughout the underground.

LOD TECHNICAL JOURNAL was named in cruel parody of the ancient and honored AT&T
TECHNICAL JOURNAL. The material in these two publications was quite similar--
much of it, adopted from public journals and discussions in the telco community.
And yet, the predatory attitude of LoD made even its most innocuous data seem
deeply sinister; an outrage; a clear and present danger.

To see why this should be, let's consider the following (invented) paragraphs,
as a kind of thought experiment.

(A) "W. Fred Brown, AT&T Vice President for Advanced Technical Development,
testified May 8 at a Washington hearing of the National Telecommunications and
Information Administration (NTIA), regarding Bellcore's GARDEN project. GARDEN
(Generalized Automatic Remote Distributed Electronic Network) is a telephone-
switch programming tool that makes it possible to develop new telecom services,
including hold-on-hold and customized message transfers, from any keypad
terminal, within seconds. The GARDEN prototype combines centrex lines with a
minicomputer using UNIX operating system software."

(B) "Crimson Flash 512 of the Centrex Mobsters reports: D00dz, you wouldn't
believe this GARDEN bullshit Bellcore's just come up with! Now you don't even
need a lousy Commodore to reprogram a switch--just log on to GARDEN as a
technician, and you can reprogram switches right off the keypad in any public
phone booth! You can give yourself hold-on-hold and customized message
transfers, and best of all, the thing is run off (notoriously insecure) centrex
lines using--get this--standard UNIX software! Ha ha ha ha!"

Message (A), couched in typical techno-bureaucratese, appears tedious and almost
unreadable. (A) scarcely seems threatening or menacing. Message (B), on the
other hand, is a dreadful thing, prima facie evidence of a dire conspiracy,
definitely not the kind of thing you want your teenager reading.

The INFORMATION, however, is identical. It is PUBLIC information, presented
before the federal government in an open hearing. It is not "secret." It is
not "proprietary." It is not even "confidential." On the contrary, the
development of advanced software systems is a matter of great public pride to

However, when Bellcore publicly announces a project of this kind, it expects a
certain attitude from the public-- something along the lines of GOSH WOW, YOU
GUYS ARE GREAT, KEEP THAT UP, WHATEVER IT IS--certainly not cruel mimickry, one-
upmanship and outrageous speculations about possible security holes.

Now put yourself in the place of a policeman confronted by an outraged parent,
or telco official, with a copy of Version (B). This well-meaning citizen, to
his horror, has discovered a local bulletin-board carrying outrageous stuff like
(B), which his son is examining with a deep and unhealthy interest. If (B) were
printed in a book or magazine, you, as an American law enforcement officer,
would know that it would take a hell of a lot of trouble to do anything about
it; but it doesn't take technical genius to recognize that if there's a computer
in your area harboring stuff like (B), there's going to be trouble.

In fact, if you ask around, any computer-literate cop will tell you straight out
that boards with stuff like (B) are the SOURCE of trouble. And the WORST source
of trouble on boards are the ringleaders inventing and spreading stuff like (B).
If it weren't for these jokers, there wouldn't BE any trouble.

And Legion of Doom were on boards like nobody else. Plovernet. The Legion of
Doom Board. The Farmers of Doom Board. Metal Shop. OSUNY. Blottoland.
Private Sector. Atlantis. Digital Logic. Hell Phrozen Over.

LoD members also ran their own boards. "Silver Spy" started his own board,
"Catch-22," considered one of the heaviest around. So did "Mentor," with his
"Phoenix Project." When they didn't run boards themselves, they showed up on
other people's boards, to brag, boast, and strut. And where they themselves
didn't go, their philes went, carrying evil knowledge and an even more evil

As early as 1986, the police were under the vague impression that EVERYONE in
the underground was Legion of Doom. LoD was never that large--considerably
smaller than either "Metal Communications" or "The Administration," for
instance--but LoD got tremendous press. Especially in PHRACK, which at times
read like an LoD fan magazine; and PHRACK was everywhere, especially in the
offices of telco security. You couldn't GET busted as a phone phreak, a hacker,
or even a lousy codes kid or warez dood, without the cops asking if you were

This was a difficult charge to deny, as LoD never distributed membership badges
or laminated ID cards. If they had, they would likely have died out quickly,
for turnover in their membership was considerable. LoD was less a high-tech
street-gang than an ongoing state-of-mind. LoD was the Gang That Refused to
Die. By 1990, LoD had RULED for ten years, and it seemed WEIRD to police that
they were continually busting people who were only sixteen years old. All these
teenage small-timers were pleading the tiresome hacker litany of "just curious,
no criminal intent." Somewhere at the center of this conspiracy there had to be
some serious adult masterminds, not this seemingly endless supply of myopic
suburban white kids with high SATs and funny haircuts.

There was no question that most any American hacker arrested would "know" LoD.
They knew the handles of contributors to LOD TECH JOURNAL, and were likely to
have learned their craft through LoD boards and LoD activism. But they'd never
met anyone from LoD. Even some of the rotating cadre who were actually and
formally "in LoD" knew one another only by board-mail and pseudonyms. This was
a highly unconventional profile for a criminal conspiracy. Computer networking,
and the rapid evolution of the digital underground, made the situation very
diffuse and confusing.

Furthermore, a big reputation in the digital underground did not coincide with
one's willingness to commit "crimes." Instead, reputation was based on
cleverness and technical mastery. As a result, it often seemed that the HEAVIER
the hackers were, the LESS likely they were to have committed any kind of
common, easily prosecutable crime. There were some hackers who could really
steal. And there were hackers who could really hack. But the two groups didn't
seem to overlap much, if at all. For instance, most people in the underground
looked up to "Emmanuel Goldstein" of _2600_ as a hacker demigod. But
Goldstein's publishing activities were entirely legal--Goldstein just printed
dodgy stuff and talked about politics, he didn't even hack. When you came right
down to it, Goldstein spent half his time complaining that computer security
WASN'T STRONG ENOUGH and ought to be drastically improved across the board!

Truly heavy-duty hackers, those with serious technical skills who had earned the
respect of the underground, never stole money or abused credit cards. Sometimes
they might abuse phone- codes--but often, they seemed to get all the free phone-
time they wanted without leaving a trace of any kind.

The best hackers, the most powerful and technically accomplished, were not
professional fraudsters. They raided computers habitually, but wouldn't alter
anything, or damage anything. They didn't even steal computer equipment--most
had day-jobs messing with hardware, and could get all the cheap secondhand
equipment they wanted. The hottest hackers, unlike the teenage wannabes,
weren't snobs about fancy or expensive hardware. Their machines tended to be
raw second-hand digital hot-rods full of custom add-ons that they'd cobbled
together out of chickenwire, memory chips and spit. Some were adults, computer
software writers and consultants by trade, and making quite good livings at it.
Some of them ACTUALLY WORKED FOR THE PHONE COMPANY--and for those, the "hackers"
actually found under the skirts of Ma Bell, there would be little mercy in 1990.

It has long been an article of faith in the underground that the "best" hackers
never get caught. They're far too smart, supposedly. They never get caught
because they never boast, brag, or strut. These demigods may read underground
boards (with a condescending smile), but they never say anything there. The
"best" hackers, according to legend, are adult computer professionals, such as
mainframe system administrators, who already know the ins and outs of their
particular brand of security. Even the "best" hacker can't break in to just any
computer at random: the knowledge of security holes is too specialized, varying
widely with different software and hardware. But if people are employed to run,
say, a UNIX mainframe or a VAX/VMS machine, then they tend to learn security
from the inside out. Armed with this knowledge, they can look into most anybody
else's UNIX or VMS without much trouble or risk, if they want to. And, according
to hacker legend, of course they want to, so of course they do. They just don't
make a big deal of what they've done. So nobody ever finds out.

It is also an article of faith in the underground that professional telco people
"phreak" like crazed weasels. OF COURSE they spy on Madonna's phone calls--I
mean, WOULDN'T YOU? Of course they give themselves free long-distance--why the
hell should THEY pay, they're running the whole shebang!

It has, as a third matter, long been an article of faith that any hacker caught
can escape serious punishment if he confesses HOW HE DID IT. Hackers seem to
believe that governmental agencies and large corporations are blundering about
in cyberspace like eyeless jellyfish or cave salamanders. They feel that these
large but pathetically stupid organizations will proffer up genuine gratitude,
and perhaps even a security post and a big salary, to the hot-shot intruder who
will deign to reveal to them the supreme genius of his modus operandi.

In the case of longtime LoD member "Control-C," this actually happened, more or
less. Control-C had led Michigan Bell a merry chase, and when captured in 1987,
he turned out to be a bright and apparently physically harmless young fanatic,
fascinated by phones. There was no chance in hell that Control-C would actually
repay the enormous and largely theoretical sums in long-distance service that he
had accumulated from Michigan Bell. He could always be indicted for fraud or
computer-intrusion, but there seemed little real point in this--he hadn't
physically damaged any computer. He'd just plead guilty, and he'd likely get
the usual slap-on-the-wrist, and in the meantime it would be a big hassle for
Michigan Bell just to bring up the case. But if kept on the payroll, he might
at least keep his fellow hackers at bay.

There were uses for him. For instance, a contrite Control-C was featured on
Michigan Bell internal posters, sternly warning employees to shred their trash.
He'd always gotten most of his best inside info from "trashing"--raiding telco
dumpsters, for useful data indiscreetly thrown away. He signed these posters,
too. Control-C had become something like a Michigan Bell mascot. And in fact,
Control-C DID keep other hackers at bay. Little hackers were quite scared of
Control-C and his heavy-duty Legion of Doom friends. And big hackers WERE his
friends and didn't want to screw up his cushy situation.

No matter what one might say of LoD, they did stick together. When "Wasp," an
apparently genuinely malicious New York hacker, began crashing Bellcore
machines, Control-C received swift volunteer help from "the Mentor" and the
Georgia LoD wing made up of "The Prophet," "Urvile," and "Leftist." Using
Mentor's Phoenix Project board to coordinate, the Doomsters helped telco
security to trap Wasp, by luring him into a machine with a tap and line-trace
installed. Wasp lost. LoD won! And my, did they brag.

Urvile, Prophet and Leftist were well-qualified for this activity, probably more
so even than the quite accomplished Control-C. The Georgia boys knew all about
phone switching- stations. Though relative johnny-come-latelies in the Legion
of Doom, they were considered some of LoD's heaviest guys, into the hairiest
systems around. They had the good fortune to live in or near Atlanta, home of
the sleepy and apparently tolerant BellSouth RBOC.

As RBOC security went, BellSouth were "cake." US West (of Arizona, the Rockies
and the Pacific Northwest) were tough and aggressive, probably the heaviest RBOC
around. Pacific Bell, California's PacBell, were sleek, high-tech, and longtime
veterans of the LA phone-phreak wars. NYNEX had the misfortune to run the New
York City area, and were warily prepared for most anything. Even Michigan Bell,
a division of the Ameritech RBOC, at least had the elementary sense to hire
their own hacker as a useful scarecrow. But BellSouth, even though their
corporate P.R. proclaimed them to have "Everything You Expect From a Leader,"
were pathetic.

When rumor about LoD's mastery of Georgia's switching network got around to
BellSouth through Bellcore and telco security scuttlebutt, they at first refused
to believe it. If you paid serious attention to every rumor out and about these
hacker kids, you would hear all kinds of wacko saucer-nut nonsense: that the
National Security Agency monitored all American phone calls, that the CIA and
DEA tracked traffic on bulletin-boards with word-analysis programs, that the
Condor could start World War III from a payphone.

If there were hackers into BellSouth switching-stations, then how come nothing
had happened? Nothing had been hurt. BellSouth's machines weren't crashing.
BellSouth wasn't suffering especially badly from fraud. BellSouth's customers
weren't complaining. BellSouth was headquartered in Atlanta, ambitious
metropolis of the new high-tech Sunbelt; and BellSouth was upgrading its network
by leaps and bounds, digitizing the works left right and center. They could
hardly be considered sluggish or naive. BellSouth's technical expertise was
second to none, thank you kindly.

But then came the Florida business.

On June 13, 1989, callers to the Palm Beach County Probation Department, in
Delray Beach, Florida, found themselves involved in a remarkable discussion with
a phone-sex worker named "Tina" in New York State. Somehow, ANY call to this
probation office near Miami was instantly and magically transported across state
lines, at no extra charge to the user, to a pornographic phone-sex hotline
hundreds of miles away!

This practical joke may seem utterly hilarious at first hearing, and indeed
there was a good deal of chuckling about it in phone phreak circles, including
the Autumn 1989 issue of _2600_. But for Southern Bell (the division of the
BellSouth RBOC supplying local service for Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and
South Carolina), this was a smoking gun. For the first time ever, a computer
intruder had broken into a BellSouth central office switching station and re-
programmed it!

Or so BellSouth thought in June 1989. Actually, LoD members had been frolicking
harmlessly in BellSouth switches since September 1987. The stunt of June 13--
call-forwarding a number through manipulation of a switching station--was
child's play for hackers as accomplished as the Georgia wing of LoD. Switching
calls interstate sounded like a big deal, but it took only four lines of code to
accomplish this. An easy, yet more discreet, stunt, would be to call-forward
another number to your own house. If you were careful and considerate, and
changed the software back later, then not a soul would know. Except you. And
whoever you had bragged to about it.

As for BellSouth, what they didn't know wouldn't hurt them.

Except now somebody had blown the whole thing wide open, and BellSouth knew.

A now alerted and considerably paranoid BellSouth began searching switches right
and left for signs of impropriety, in that hot summer of 1989. No fewer than
forty-two BellSouth employees were put on 12-hour shifts, twenty-four hours a
day, for two solid months, poring over records and monitoring computers for any
sign of phony access. These forty-two overworked experts were known as
BellSouth's "Intrusion Task Force."

What the investigators found astounded them. Proprietary telco databases had
been manipulated: phone numbers had been created out of thin air, with no
users' names and no addresses. And perhaps worst of all, no charges and no
records of use. The new digital ReMOB (Remote Observation) diagnostic feature
had been extensively tampered with--hackers had learned to reprogram ReMOB
software, so that they could listen in on any switch-routed call at their
leisure! They were using telco property to SPY!

The electrifying news went out throughout law enforcement in 1989. It had never
really occurred to anyone at BellSouth that their prized and brand-new digital
switching- stations could be RE-PROGRAMMED. People seemed utterly amazed that
anyone could have the nerve. Of course these switching stations were
"computers," and everybody knew hackers liked to "break into computers": but
telephone people's computers were DIFFERENT from normal people's computers.

The exact reason WHY these computers were "different" was rather ill-defined.
It certainly wasn't the extent of their security. The security on these
BellSouth computers was lousy; the AIMSX computers, for instance, didn't even
have passwords. But there was no question that BellSouth strongly FELT that
their computers were very different indeed. And if there were some criminals
out there who had not gotten that message, BellSouth was determined to see that
message taught.

After all, a 5ESS switching station was no mere bookkeeping system for some
local chain of florists. Public service depended on these stations. Public
SAFETY depended on these stations.

And hackers, lurking in there call-forwarding or ReMobbing, could spy on anybody
in the local area! They could spy on telco officials! They could spy on police
stations! They could spy on local offices of the Secret Service....

In 1989, electronic cops and hacker-trackers began using scrambler-phones and
secured lines. It only made sense. There was no telling who was into those
systems. Whoever they were, they sounded scary. This was some new level of
antisocial daring. Could be West German hackers, in the pay of the KGB. That
too had seemed a weird and farfetched notion, until Clifford Stoll had poked and
prodded a sluggish Washington law-enforcement bureaucracy into investigating a
computer intrusion that turned out to be exactly that--HACKERS, IN THE PAY OF
THE KGB! Stoll, the systems manager for an Internet lab in Berkeley California,
had ended up on the front page of the NEW YORK TIMES, proclaimed a national hero
in the first true story of international computer espionage. Stoll's counterspy
efforts, which he related in a bestselling book, THE CUCKOO'S EGG, in 1989, had
established the credibility of 'hacking' as a possible threat to national
security. The United States Secret Service doesn't mess around when it suspects
a possible action by a foreign intelligence apparat.

The Secret Service scrambler-phones and secured lines put a tremendous kink in
law enforcement's ability to operate freely; to get the word out, cooperate,
prevent misunderstandings. Nevertheless, 1989 scarcely seemed the time for half-
measures. If the police and Secret Service themselves were not operationally
secure, then how could they reasonably demand measures of security from private
enterprise? At least, the inconvenience made people aware of the seriousness of
the threat.

If there was a final spur needed to get the police off the dime, it came in the
realization that the emergency 911 system was vulnerable. The 911 system has
its own specialized software, but it is run on the same digital switching
systems as the rest of the telephone network. 911 is not physically different
from normal telephony. But it is certainly culturally different, because this
is the area of telephonic cyberspace reserved for the police and emergency

Your average policeman may not know much about hackers or phone-phreaks.
Computer people are weird; even computer COPS are rather weird; the stuff they
do is hard to figure out. But a threat to the 911 system is anything but an
abstract threat. If the 911 system goes, people can die.

Imagine being in a car-wreck, staggering to a phone- booth, punching 911 and
hearing "Tina" pick up the phone-sex line somewhere in New York! The
situation's no longer comical, somehow.

And was it possible? No question. Hackers had attacked 911 systems before.
Phreaks can max-out 911 systems just by siccing a bunch of computer-modems on
them in tandem, dialling them over and over until they clog. That's very crude
and low- tech, but it's still a serious business.

The time had come for action. It was time to take stern measures with the
underground. It was time to start picking up the dropped threads, the loose
edges, the bits of braggadocio here and there; it was time to get on the stick
and start putting serious casework together. Hackers weren't "invisible." They
THOUGHT they were invisible; but the truth was, they had just been tolerated too

Under sustained police attention in the summer of '89, the digital underground
began to unravel as never before.

The first big break in the case came very early on: July 1989, the following
month. The perpetrator of the "Tina" switch was caught, and confessed. His
name was "Fry Guy," a 16-year-old in Indiana. Fry Guy had been a very wicked
young man.

Fry Guy had earned his handle from a stunt involving French fries. Fry Guy had
filched the log-in of a local MacDonald's manager and had logged-on to the
MacDonald's mainframe on the Sprint Telenet system. Posing as the manager, Fry
Guy had altered MacDonald's records, and given some teenage hamburger-flipping
friends of his, generous raises. He had not been caught.

Emboldened by success, Fry Guy moved on to credit-card abuse. Fry Guy was quite
an accomplished talker; with a gift for "social engineering." If you can do
"social engineering"--fast- talk, fake-outs, impersonation, conning, scamming--
then card abuse comes easy. (Getting away with it in the long run is another

Fry Guy had run across "Urvile" of the Legion of Doom on the ALTOS Chat board in
Bonn, Germany. ALTOS Chat was a sophisticated board, accessible through globe-
spanning computer networks like BITnet, Tymnet, and Telenet. ALTOS was much
frequented by members of Germany's Chaos Computer Club. Two Chaos hackers who
hung out on ALTOS, "Jaeger" and "Pengo," had been the central villains of
Clifford Stoll's CUCKOO'S EGG case: consorting in East Berlin with a spymaster
from the KGB, and breaking into American computers for hire, through the

When LoD members learned the story of Jaeger's depredations from Stoll's book,
they were rather less than impressed, technically speaking. On LoD's own
favorite board of the moment, "Black Ice," LoD members bragged that they
themselves could have done all the Chaos break-ins in a week flat! Nevertheless,
LoD were grudgingly impressed by the Chaos rep, the sheer hairy-eyed daring of
hash-smoking anarchist hackers who had rubbed shoulders with the fearsome big-
boys of international Communist espionage. LoD members sometimes traded bits of
knowledge with friendly German hackers on ALTOS--phone numbers for vulnerable
VAX/VMS computers in Georgia, for instance. Dutch and British phone phreaks,
and the Australian clique of "Phoenix," "Nom," and "Electron," were ALTOS
regulars, too. In underground circles, to hang out on ALTOS was considered the
sign of an elite dude, a sophisticated hacker of the international digital jet-

Fry Guy quickly learned how to raid information from credit-card consumer-
reporting agencies. He had over a hundred stolen credit-card numbers in his
notebooks, and upwards of a thousand swiped long-distance access codes. He knew
how to get onto Altos, and how to talk the talk of the underground convincingly.
He now wheedled knowledge of switching-station tricks from Urvile on the ALTOS

Combining these two forms of knowledge enabled Fry Guy to bootstrap his way up
to a new form of wire-fraud. First, he'd snitched credit card numbers from
credit-company computers. The data he copied included names, addresses and
phone numbers of the random card-holders.

Then Fry Guy, impersonating a card-holder, called up Western Union and asked for
a cash advance on "his" credit card. Western Union, as a security guarantee,
would call the customer back, at home, to verify the transaction.

But, just as he had switched the Florida probation office to "Tina" in New York,
Fry Guy switched the card-holder's number to a local pay-phone. There he would
lurk in wait, muddying his trail by routing and re-routing the call, through
switches as far away as Canada. When the call came through, he would boldly
"social-engineer," or con, the Western Union people, pretending to be the
legitimate card-holder. Since he'd answered the proper phone number, the
deception was not very hard. Western Union's money was then shipped to a
confederate of Fry Guy's in his home town in Indiana.

Fry Guy and his cohort, using LoD techniques, stole six thousand dollars from
Western Union between December 1988 and July 1989. They also dabbled in
ordering delivery of stolen goods through card-fraud. Fry Guy was intoxicated
with success. The sixteen-year-old fantasized wildly to hacker rivals, boasting
that he'd used rip-off money to hire himself a big limousine, and had driven
out-of-state with a groupie from his favorite heavy- metal band, Motley Crue.

Armed with knowledge, power, and a gratifying stream of free money, Fry Guy now
took it upon himself to call local representatives of Indiana Bell security, to
brag, boast, strut, and utter tormenting warnings that his powerful friends in
the notorious Legion of Doom could crash the national telephone network. Fry
Guy even named a date for the scheme: the Fourth of July, a national holiday.

This egregious example of the begging-for-arrest syndrome was shortly followed
by Fry Guy's arrest. After the Indiana telephone company figured out who he
was, the Secret Service had DNRs--Dialed Number Recorders--installed on his home
phone lines. These devices are not taps, and can't record the substance of phone
calls, but they do record the phone numbers of all calls going in and out.
Tracing these numbers showed Fry Guy's long- distance code fraud, his extensive
ties to pirate bulletin boards, and numerous personal calls to his LoD friends
in Atlanta. By July 11, 1989, Prophet, Urvile and Leftist also had Secret
Service DNR "pen registers" installed on their own lines.

The Secret Service showed up in force at Fry Guy's house on July 22, 1989, to
the horror of his unsuspecting parents. The raiders were led by a special agent
from the Secret Service's Indianapolis office. However, the raiders were
accompanied and advised by Timothy M. Foley of the Secret Service's Chicago
office (a gentleman about whom we will soon be hearing a great deal).

Following federal computer-crime techniques that had been standard since the
early 1980s, the Secret Service searched the house thoroughly, and seized all of
Fry Guy's electronic equipment and notebooks. All Fry Guy's equipment went out
the door in the custody of the Secret Service, which put a swift end to his

The USSS interrogated Fry Guy at length. His case was put in the charge of
Deborah Daniels, the federal US Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana.
Fry Guy was charged with eleven counts of computer fraud, unauthorized computer
access, and wire fraud. The evidence was thorough and irrefutable. For his
part, Fry Guy blamed his corruption on the Legion of Doom and offered to testify
against them.

Fry Guy insisted that the Legion intended to crash the phone system on a
national holiday. And when AT&T crashed on Martin Luther King Day, 1990, this
lent a credence to his claim that genuinely alarmed telco security and the
Secret Service.

Fry Guy eventually pled guilty on May 31, 1990. On September 14, he was
sentenced to forty-four months' probation and four hundred hours' community
service. He could have had it much worse; but it made sense to prosecutors to
take it easy on this teenage minor, while zeroing in on the notorious kingpins
of the Legion of Doom.

But the case against LoD had nagging flaws. Despite the best effort of
investigators, it was impossible to prove that the Legion had crashed the phone
system on January 15, because they, in fact, hadn't done so. The investigations
of 1989 did show that certain members of the Legion of Doom had achieved
unprecedented power over the telco switching stations, and that they were in
active conspiracy to obtain more power yet. Investigators were privately
convinced that the Legion of Doom intended to do awful things with this
knowledge, but mere evil intent was not enough to put them in jail.

And although the Atlanta Three--Prophet, Leftist, and especially Urvile--had
taught Fry Guy plenty, they were not themselves credit-card fraudsters. The
only thing they'd "stolen" was long-distance service--and since they'd done much
of that through phone-switch manipulation, there was no easy way to judge how
much they'd "stolen," or whether this practice was even "theft" of any easily
recognizable kind.

Fry Guy's theft of long-distance codes had cost the phone companies plenty. The
theft of long-distance service may be a fairly theoretical "loss," but it costs
genuine money and genuine time to delete all those stolen codes, and to re-issue
new codes to the innocent owners of those corrupted codes. The owners of the
codes themselves are victimized, and lose time and money and peace of mind in
the hassle. And then there were the credit-card victims to deal with, too, and
Western Union. When it came to rip-off, Fry Guy was far more of a thief than
LoD. It was only when it came to actual computer expertise that Fry Guy was
small potatoes.

The Atlanta Legion thought most "rules" of cyberspace were for rodents and
TOOK MONEY. These were rough rules-of-thumb, and rather dubious principles when
it comes to the ethical subtleties of cyberspace, but they enabled the Atlanta
Three to operate with a relatively clear conscience (though never with peace of

If you didn't hack for money, if you weren't robbing people of actual funds--
money in the bank, that is--then nobody REALLY got hurt, in LoD's opinion.
"Theft of service" was a bogus issue, and "intellectual property" was a bad
joke. But LoD had only elitist contempt for rip-off artists, "leechers,"
thieves. They considered themselves clean. In their opinion, if you didn't
smash-up or crash any systems--(well, not on purpose, anyhow--accidents can
happen, just ask Robert Morris) then it was very unfair to call you a "vandal"
or a "cracker." When you were hanging out on-line with your "pals" in telco
security, you could face them down from the higher plane of hacker morality.
And you could mock the police from the supercilious heights of your hacker's
quest for pure knowledge.

But from the point of view of law enforcement and telco security, however, Fry
Guy was not really dangerous. The Atlanta Three WERE dangerous. It wasn't the
crimes they were committing, but the DANGER, the potential hazard, the sheer
TECHNICAL POWER LoD had accumulated, that had made the situation untenable.

Fry Guy was not LoD. He'd never laid eyes on anyone in LoD; his only contacts
with them had been electronic. Core members of the Legion of Doom tended to
meet physically for conventions every year or so, to get drunk, give each other
the hacker high-sign, send out for pizza and ravage hotel suites. Fry Guy had
never done any of this. Deborah Daniels assessed Fry Guy accurately as "an LoD

Nevertheless Fry Guy's crimes would be directly attributed to LoD in much future
police propaganda. LoD would be described as "a closely knit group" involved in
"numerous illegal activities" including "stealing and modifying individual
credit histories," and "fraudulently obtaining money and property." Fry Guy did
this, but the Atlanta Three didn't; they simply weren't into theft, but rather
intrusion. This caused a strange kink in the prosecution's strategy. LoD were
accused of "disseminating information about attacking computers to other
computer hackers in an effort to shift the focus of law enforcement to those
other hackers and away from the Legion of Doom."

This last accusation (taken directly from a press release by the Chicago
Computer Fraud and Abuse Task Force) sounds particularly far-fetched. One might
conclude at this point that investigators would have been well-advised to go
ahead and "shift their focus" from the "Legion of Doom." Maybe they SHOULD
concentrate on "those other hackers"--the ones who were actually stealing money
and physical objects.

But the Hacker Crackdown of 1990 was not a simple policing action. It wasn't
meant just to walk the beat in cyberspace--it was a CRACKDOWN, a deliberate
attempt to nail the core of the operation, to send a dire and potent message
that would settle the hash of the digital underground for good.

By this reasoning, Fry Guy wasn't much more than the electronic equivalent of a
cheap streetcorner dope dealer. As long as the masterminds of LoD were still
flagrantly operating, pushing their mountains of illicit knowledge right and
left, and whipping up enthusiasm for blatant lawbreaking, then there would be an

Because LoD were flagrant, they had left trails everywhere, to be picked up by
law enforcement in New York, Indiana, Florida, Texas, Arizona, Missouri, even
Australia. But 1990's war on the Legion of Doom was led out of Illinois, by the
Chicago Computer Fraud and Abuse Task Force.

The Computer Fraud and Abuse Task Force, led by federal prosecutor William J.
Cook, had started in 1987 and had swiftly become one of the most aggressive
local "dedicated computer-crime units." Chicago was a natural home for such a
group. The world's first computer bulletin-board system had been invented in
Illinois. The state of Illinois had some of the nation's first and sternest
computer crime laws. Illinois State Police were markedly alert to the
possibilities of white-collar crime and electronic fraud.

And William J. Cook in particular was a rising star in electronic crime-busting.
He and his fellow federal prosecutors at the U.S. Attorney's office in Chicago
had a tight relation with the Secret Service, especially go-getting Chicago-
based agent Timothy Foley. While Cook and his Department of Justice colleagues
plotted strategy, Foley was their man on the street.

Throughout the 1980s, the federal government had given prosecutors an armory of
new, untried legal tools against computer crime. Cook and his colleagues were
pioneers in the use of these new statutes in the real-life cut-and-thrust of the
federal courtroom.

On October 2, 1986, the US Senate had passed the "Computer Fraud and Abuse Act"
unanimously, but there were pitifully few convictions under this statute.
Cook's group took their name from this statute, since they were determined to
transform this powerful but rather theoretical Act of Congress into a real-life
engine of legal destruction against computer fraudsters and scofflaws.

It was not a question of merely discovering crimes, investigating them, and then
trying and punishing their perpetrators. The Chicago unit, like most everyone
else in the business, already KNEW who the bad guys were: the Legion of Doom
and the writers and editors of PHRACK. The task at hand was to find some legal
means of putting these characters away.

This approach might seem a bit dubious, to someone not acquainted with the
gritty realities of prosecutorial work. But prosecutors don't put people in
jail for crimes they have committed; they put people in jail for crimes they
have committed THAT CAN BE PROVED IN COURT. Chicago federal police put Al
Capone in prison for income-tax fraud. Chicago is a big town, with a rough-and-
ready bare-knuckle tradition on both sides of the law.

Fry Guy had broken the case wide open and alerted telco security to the scope of
the problem. But Fry Guy's crimes would not put the Atlanta Three behind bars--
much less the wacko underground journalists of PHRACK. So on July 22, 1989, the
same day that Fry Guy was raided in Indiana, the Secret Service descended upon
the Atlanta Three.

This was likely inevitable. By the summer of 1989, law enforcement were closing
in on the Atlanta Three from at least six directions at once. First, there were
the leads from Fry Guy, which had led to the DNR registers being installed on
the lines of the Atlanta Three. The DNR evidence alone would have finished them
off, sooner or later.

But second, the Atlanta lads were already well-known to Control-C and his telco
security sponsors. LoD's contacts with telco security had made them
overconfident and even more boastful than usual; they felt that they had
powerful friends in high places, and that they were being openly tolerated by
telco security. But BellSouth's Intrusion Task Force were hot on the trail of
LoD and sparing no effort or expense.

The Atlanta Three had also been identified by name and listed on the extensive
anti-hacker files maintained, and retailed for pay, by private security
operative John Maxfield of Detroit. Maxfield, who had extensive ties to telco
security and many informants in the underground, was a bete noire of the PHRACK
crowd, and the dislike was mutual.

The Atlanta Three themselves had written articles for PHRACK. This boastful act
could not possibly escape telco and law enforcement attention.

"Knightmare," a high-school age hacker from Arizona, was a close friend and
disciple of Atlanta LoD, but he had been nabbed by the formidable Arizona
Organized Crime and Racketeering Unit. Knightmare was on some of LoD's favorite
boards--"Black Ice" in particular--and was privy to their secrets. And to have
Gail Thackeray, the Assistant Attorney General of Arizona, on one's trail was a
dreadful peril for any hacker.

And perhaps worst of all, Prophet had committed a major blunder by passing an
illicitly copied BellSouth computer-file to Knight Lightning, who had published
it in PHRACK. This, as we will see, was an act of dire consequence for almost
everyone concerned.

On July 22, 1989, the Secret Service showed up at the Leftist's house, where he
lived with his parents. A massive squad of some twenty officers surrounded the
building: Secret Service, federal marshals, local police, possibly BellSouth
telco security; it was hard to tell in the crush. Leftist's dad, at work in his
basement office, first noticed a muscular stranger in plain clothes crashing
through the back yard with a drawn pistol. As more strangers poured into the
house, Leftist's dad naturally assumed there was an armed robbery in progress.

Like most hacker parents, Leftist's mom and dad had only the vaguest notions of
what their son had been up to all this time. Leftist had a day-job repairing
computer hardware. His obsession with computers seemed a bit odd, but harmless
enough, and likely to produce a well-paying career. The sudden, overwhelming
raid left Leftist's parents traumatized.

The Leftist himself had been out after work with his co- workers, surrounding a
couple of pitchers of margaritas. As he came trucking on tequila-numbed feet up
the pavement, toting a bag full of floppy-disks, he noticed a large number of
unmarked cars parked in his driveway. All the cars sported tiny microwave

The Secret Service had knocked the front door off its hinges, almost flattening
his Mom.

Inside, Leftist was greeted by Special Agent James Cool of the US Secret
Service, Atlanta office. Leftist was flabbergasted. He'd never met a Secret
Service agent before. He could not imagine that he'd ever done anything worthy
of federal attention. He'd always figured that if his activities became
intolerable, one of his contacts in telco security would give him a private
phone-call and tell him to knock it off.

But now Leftist was pat-searched for weapons by grim professionals, and his bag
of floppies was quickly seized. He and his parents were all shepherded into
separate rooms and grilled at length as a score of officers scoured their home
for anything electronic.

Leftist was horrified as his treasured IBM AT personal computer with its forty-
meg hard disk, and his recently purchased 80386 IBM-clone with a whopping
hundred-meg hard disk, both went swiftly out the door in Secret Service custody.
They also seized all his disks, all his notebooks, and a tremendous booty in
dogeared telco documents that Leftist had snitched out of trash dumpsters.

Leftist figured the whole thing for a big misunderstanding. He'd never been
into MILITARY computers. He wasn't a SPY or a COMMUNIST. He was just a good
ol' Georgia hacker, and now he just wanted all these people out of the house.
But it seemed they wouldn't go until he made some kind of statement.

And so, he levelled with them.

And that, Leftist said later from his federal prison camp in Talladega, Alabama,
was a big mistake.

The Atlanta area was unique, in that it had three members of the Legion of Doom
who actually occupied more or less the same physical locality. Unlike the rest
of LoD, who tended to associate by phone and computer, Atlanta LoD actually WERE
"tightly knit." It was no real surprise that the Secret Service agents
apprehending Urvile at the computer-labs at Georgia Tech, would discover Prophet
with him as well.

Urvile, a 21-year-old Georgia Tech student in polymer chemistry, posed quite a
puzzling case for law enforcement. Urvile--also known as "Necron 99," as well as
other handles, for he tended to change his cover-alias about once a month--was
both an accomplished hacker and a fanatic simulation-gamer.

Simulation games are an unusual hobby; but then hackers are unusual people, and
their favorite pastimes tend to be somewhat out of the ordinary. The best-known
American simulation game is probably "Dungeons & Dragons," a multi-player parlor
entertainment played with paper, maps, pencils, statistical tables and a variety
of oddly-shaped dice. Players pretend to be heroic characters exploring a
wholly-invented fantasy world. The fantasy worlds of simulation gaming are
commonly pseudo-medieval, involving swords and sorcery--spell-casting wizards,
knights in armor, unicorns and dragons, demons and goblins.

Urvile and his fellow gamers preferred their fantasies highly technological.
They made use of a game known as "G.U.R.P.S.," the "Generic Universal Role
Playing System," published by a company called Steve Jackson Games (SJG).

"G.U.R.P.S." served as a framework for creating a wide variety of artificial
fantasy worlds. Steve Jackson Games published a smorgasboard of books, full of
detailed information and gaming hints, which were used to flesh-out many
different fantastic backgrounds for the basic GURPS framework. Urvile made
extensive use of two SJG books called GURPS HIGH-TECH and GURPS SPECIAL OPS.

In the artificial fantasy-world of GURPS SPECIAL OPS, players entered a modern
fantasy of intrigue and international espionage. On beginning the game, players
started small and powerless, perhaps as minor-league CIA agents or penny-ante
arms dealers. But as players persisted through a series of game sessions (game
sessions generally lasted for hours, over long, elaborate campaigns that might
be pursued for months on end) then they would achieve new skills, new knowledge,
new power. They would acquire and hone new abilities, such as marksmanship,
karate, wiretapping, or Watergate burglary. They could also win various kinds
of imaginary booty, like Berettas, or martini shakers, or fast cars with
ejection seats and machine-guns under the headlights.

As might be imagined from the complexity of these games, Urvile's gaming notes
were very detailed and extensive. Urvile was a "dungeon-master," inventing
scenarios for his fellow gamers, giant simulated adventure-puzzles for his
friends to unravel. Urvile's game notes covered dozens of pages with all sorts
of exotic lunacy, all about ninja raids on Libya and break- ins on encrypted Red
Chinese supercomputers. His notes were written on scrap-paper and kept in
loose-leaf binders.

The handiest scrap paper around Urvile's college digs were the many pounds of
BellSouth printouts and documents that he had snitched out of telco dumpsters.
His notes were written on the back of misappropriated telco property. Worse
yet, the gaming notes were chaotically interspersed with Urvile's hand- scrawled
records involving ACTUAL COMPUTER INTRUSIONS that he had committed.

Not only was it next to impossible to tell Urvile's fantasy game-notes from
cyberspace "reality," but Urvile himself barely made this distinction. It's no
exaggeration to say that to Urvile it was ALL a game. Urvile was very bright,
highly imaginative, and quite careless of other people's notions of propriety.
His connection to "reality" was not something to which he paid a great deal of

Hacking was a game for Urvile. It was an amusement he was carrying out, it was
something he was doing for fun. And Urvile was an obsessive young man. He
could no more stop hacking than he could stop in the middle of a jigsaw puzzle,
or stop in the middle of reading a Stephen Donaldson fantasy trilogy. (The name
"Urvile" came from a best-selling Donaldson novel.)

Urvile's airy, bulletproof attitude seriously annoyed his interrogators. First
of all, he didn't consider that he'd done anything wrong. There was scarcely a
shred of honest remorse in him. On the contrary, he seemed privately convinced
that his police interrogators were operating in a demented fantasy-world all
their own. Urvile was too polite and well-behaved to say this straight-out, but
his reactions were askew and disquieting.

For instance, there was the business about LoD's ability to monitor phone-calls
to the police and Secret Service. Urvile agreed that this was quite possible,
and posed no big problem for LoD. In fact, he and his friends had kicked the
idea around on the "Black Ice" board, much as they had discussed many other
nifty notions, such as building personal flame-throwers and jury- rigging
fistfulls of blasting-caps. They had hundreds of dial-up numbers for government
agencies that they'd gotten through scanning Atlanta phones, or had pulled from
raided VAX/VMS mainframe computers.

Basically, they'd never gotten around to listening in on the cops because the
idea wasn't interesting enough to bother with. Besides, if they'd been
monitoring Secret Service phone calls, obviously they'd never have been caught
in the first place. Right?

The Secret Service was less than satisfied with this rapier-like hacker logic.

Then there was the issue of crashing the phone system. No problem, Urvile
admitted sunnily. Atlanta LoD could have shut down phone service all over
Atlanta any time they liked. EVEN THE 911 SERVICE? Nothing special about that,
Urvile explained patiently. Bring the switch to its knees, with say the UNIX
"makedir" bug, and 911 goes down too as a matter of course. The 911 system
wasn't very interesting, frankly. It might be tremendously interesting to cops
(for odd reasons of their own), but as technical challenges went, the 911
service was yawnsville.

So of course the Atlanta Three could crash service. They probably could have
crashed service all over BellSouth territory, if they'd worked at it for a
while. But Atlanta LoD weren't crashers. Only losers and rodents were
crashers. LoD were ELITE.

Urvile was privately convinced that sheer technical expertise could win him free
of any kind of problem. As far as he was concerned, elite status in the digital
underground had placed him permanently beyond the intellectual grasp of cops and
straights. Urvile had a lot to learn.

Of the three LoD stalwarts, Prophet was in the most direct trouble. Prophet was
a UNIX programming expert who burrowed in and out of the Internet as a matter of
course. He'd started his hacking career at around age 14, meddling with a UNIX
mainframe system at the University of North Carolina.

Prophet himself had written the handy Legion of Doom file "UNIX Use and Security
From the Ground Up." UNIX (pronounced "you-nicks") is a powerful, flexible
computer operating-system, for multi-user, multi-tasking computers. In 1969,
when UNIX was created in Bell Labs, such computers were exclusive to large
corporations and universities, but today UNIX is run on thousands of powerful
home machines. UNIX was particularly well-suited to telecommunications
programming, and had become a standard in the field. Naturally, UNIX also
became a standard for the elite hacker and phone phreak.

Lately, Prophet had not been so active as Leftist and Urvile, but Prophet was a
recidivist. In 1986, when he was eighteen, Prophet had been convicted of
"unauthorized access to a computer network" in North Carolina. He'd been
discovered breaking into the Southern Bell Data Network, a UNIX-based internal
telco network supposedly closed to the public. He'd gotten a typical hacker
sentence: six months suspended, 120 hours community service, and three years'

After that humiliating bust, Prophet had gotten rid of most of his tonnage of
illicit phreak and hacker data, and had tried to go straight. He was, after
all, still on probation. But by the autumn of 1988, the temptations of
cyberspace had proved too much for young Prophet, and he was shoulder-to-
shoulder with Urvile and Leftist into some of the hairiest systems around.

In early September 1988, he'd broken into BellSouth's centralized automation
system, AIMSX or "Advanced Information Management System." AIMSX was an
internal business network for BellSouth, where telco employees stored electronic
mail, databases, memos, and calendars, and did text processing. Since AIMSX did
not have public dial-ups, it was considered utterly invisible to the public, and
was not well-secured--it didn't even require passwords. Prophet abused an
account known as "waa1," the personal account of an unsuspecting telco employee.
Disguised as the owner of waa1, Prophet made about ten visits to AIMSX.

Prophet did not damage or delete anything in the system. His presence in AIMSX
was harmless and almost invisible. But he could not rest content with that.

One particular piece of processed text on AIMSX was a telco document known as
"Bell South Standard Practice 660-225- 104SV Control Office Administration of
Enhanced 911 Services for Special Services and Major Account Centers dated March

Prophet had not been looking for this document. It was merely one among
hundreds of similar documents with impenetrable titles. However, having
blundered over it in the course of his illicit wanderings through AIMSX, he
decided to take it with him as a trophy. It might prove very useful in some
future boasting, bragging, and strutting session. So, some time in September
1988, Prophet ordered the AIMSX mainframe computer to copy this document
(henceforth called simply called "the E911 Document") and to transfer this copy
to his home computer.

No one noticed that Prophet had done this. He had "stolen" the E911 Document in
some sense, but notions of property in cyberspace can be tricky. BellSouth
noticed nothing wrong, because BellSouth still had their original copy. They
had not been "robbed" of the document itself. Many people were supposed to copy
this document--specifically, people who worked for the nineteen BellSouth
"special services and major account centers," scattered throughout the
Southeastern United States. That was what it was for, why it was present on a
computer network in the first place: so that it could be copied and read--by
telco employees. But now the data had been copied by someone who wasn't
supposed to look at it.

Prophet now had his trophy. But he further decided to store yet another copy of
the E911 Document on another person's computer. This unwitting person was a
computer enthusiast named Richard Andrews who lived near Joliet, Illinois.
Richard Andrews was a UNIX programmer by trade, and ran a powerful UNIX board
called "Jolnet," in the basement of his house.

Prophet, using the handle "Robert Johnson," had obtained an account on Richard
Andrews' computer. And there he stashed the E911 Document, by storing it in his
own private section of Andrews' computer.

Why did Prophet do this? If Prophet had eliminated the E911 Document from his
own computer, and kept it hundreds of miles away, on another machine, under an
alias, then he might have been fairly safe from discovery and prosecution--
although his sneaky action had certainly put the unsuspecting Richard Andrews at

But, like most hackers, Prophet was a pack-rat for illicit data. When it came
to the crunch, he could not bear to part from his trophy. When Prophet's place
in Decatur, Georgia was raided in July 1989, there was the E911 Document, a
smoking gun. And there was Prophet in the hands of the Secret Service, doing
his best to "explain."

Our story now takes us away from the Atlanta Three and their raids of the Summer
of 1989. We must leave Atlanta Three "cooperating fully" with their numerous
investigators. And all three of them did cooperate, as their Sentencing
Memorandum from the US District Court of the Northern Division of Georgia
explained--just before all three of them were sentenced to various federal
prisons in November 1990.

We must now catch up on the other aspects of the war on the Legion of Doom. The
war on the Legion was a war on a network--in fact, a network of three networks,
which intertwined and interrelated in a complex fashion. The Legion itself,
with Atlanta LoD, and their hanger-on Fry Guy, were the first network. The
second network was PHRACK magazine, with its editors and contributors.

The third network involved the electronic circle around a hacker known as

The war against these hacker networks was carried out by a law enforcement
network. Atlanta LoD and Fry Guy were pursued by USSS agents and federal
prosecutors in Atlanta, Indiana, and Chicago. "Terminus" found himself pursued
by USSS and federal prosecutors from Baltimore and Chicago. And the war against
Phrack was almost entirely a Chicago operation.

The investigation of Terminus involved a great deal of energy, mostly from the
Chicago Task Force, but it was to be the least-known and least-publicized of the
Crackdown operations. Terminus, who lived in Maryland, was a UNIX programmer and
consultant, fairly well-known (under his given name) in the UNIX community, as
an acknowledged expert on AT&T minicomputers. Terminus idolized AT&T, especially
Bellcore, and longed for public recognition as a UNIX expert; his highest
ambition was to work for Bell Labs.

But Terminus had odd friends and a spotted history. Terminus had once been the
subject of an admiring interview in PHRACK (Volume II, Issue 14, Phile 2--dated
May 1987). In this article, PHRACK co-editor Taran King described "Terminus" as
an electronics engineer, 5'9", brown-haired, born in 1959--at 28 years old,
quite mature for a hacker.

Terminus had once been sysop of a phreak/hack underground board called
"MetroNet," which ran on an Apple II. Later he'd replaced "MetroNet" with an
underground board called "MegaNet," specializing in IBMs. In his younger days,
Terminus had written one of the very first and most elegant code-scanning
programs for the IBM-PC. This program had been widely distributed in the
underground. Uncounted legions of PC-owning phreaks and hackers had used
Terminus's scanner program to rip-off telco codes. This feat had not escaped the
attention of telco security; it hardly could, since Terminus's earlier handle,
"Terminal Technician," was proudly written right on the program.

When he became a full-time computer professional (specializing in
telecommunications programming), he adopted the handle Terminus, meant to
indicate that he had "reached the final point of being a proficient hacker."
He'd moved up to the UNIX- based "Netsys" board on an AT&T computer, with four
phone lines and an impressive 240 megs of storage. "Netsys" carried complete
issues of PHRACK, and Terminus was quite friendly with its publishers, Taran
King and Knight Lightning.

In the early 1980s, Terminus had been a regular on Plovernet, Pirate-80,
Sherwood Forest and Shadowland, all well- known pirate boards, all heavily
frequented by the Legion of Doom. As it happened, Terminus was never officially
"in LoD," because he'd never been given the official LoD high-sign and back-slap
by Legion maven Lex Luthor. Terminus had never physically met anyone from LoD.
But that scarcely mattered much--the Atlanta Three themselves had never been
officially vetted by Lex, either.

As far as law enforcement was concerned, the issues were clear. Terminus was a
full-time, adult computer professional with particular skills at AT&T software
and hardware--but Terminus reeked of the Legion of Doom and the underground.

On February 1, 1990--half a month after the Martin Luther King Day Crash--USSS
agents Tim Foley from Chicago, and Jack Lewis from the Baltimore office,
accompanied by AT&T security officer Jerry Dalton, travelled to Middle Town,
Maryland. There they grilled Terminus in his home (to the stark terror of his
wife and small children), and, in their customary fashion, hauled his computers
out the door.

The Netsys machine proved to contain a plethora of arcane UNIX software--
proprietary source code formally owned by AT&T. Software such as: UNIX System
Five Release 3.2; UNIX SV Release 3.1; UUCP communications software; KORN SHELL;
RFS; IWB; WWB; DWB; the C++ programming language; PMON; TOOL CHEST; QUEST; DACT,
and S FIND.

In the long-established piratical tradition of the underground, Terminus had
been trading this illicitly-copied software with a small circle of fellow UNIX
programmers. Very unwisely, he had stored seven years of his electronic mail on
his Netsys machine, which documented all the friendly arrangements he had made
with his various colleagues.

Terminus had not crashed the AT&T phone system on January 15. He was, however,
blithely running a not-for-profit AT&T software-piracy ring. This was not an
activity AT&T found amusing. AT&T security officer Jerry Dalton valued this
"stolen" property at over three hundred thousand dollars.

AT&T's entry into the tussle of free enterprise had been complicated by the new,
vague groundrules of the information economy. Until the break-up of Ma Bell,
AT&T was forbidden to sell computer hardware or software. Ma Bell was the phone
company; Ma Bell was not allowed to use the enormous revenue from telephone
utilities, in order to finance any entry into the computer market.

AT&T nevertheless invented the UNIX operating system. And somehow AT&T managed
to make UNIX a minor source of income. Weirdly, UNIX was not sold as computer
software, but actually retailed under an obscure regulatory exemption allowing
sales of surplus equipment and scrap. Any bolder attempt to promote or retail
UNIX would have aroused angry legal opposition from computer companies.
Instead, UNIX was licensed to universities, at modest rates, where the acids of
academic freedom ate away steadily at AT&T's proprietary rights.

Come the breakup, AT&T recognized that UNIX was a potential gold-mine. By now,
large chunks of UNIX code had been created that were not AT&T's, and were being
sold by others. An entire rival UNIX-based operating system had arisen in
Berkeley, California (one of the world's great founts of ideological hackerdom).
Today, "hackers" commonly consider "Berkeley UNIX" to be technically superior to
AT&T's "System V UNIX," but AT&T has not allowed mere technical elegance to
intrude on the real- world business of marketing proprietary software. AT&T has
made its own code deliberately incompatible with other folks' UNIX, and has
written code that it can prove is copyrightable, even if that code happens to be
somewhat awkward--"kludgey." AT&T UNIX user licenses are serious business
agreements, replete with very clear copyright statements and non-disclosure

AT&T has not exactly kept the UNIX cat in the bag, but it kept a grip on its
scruff with some success. By the rampant, explosive standards of software
piracy, AT&T UNIX source code is heavily copyrighted, well-guarded, well-
licensed. UNIX was traditionally run only on mainframe machines, owned by large
groups of suit-and-tie professionals, rather than on bedroom machines where
people can get up to easy mischief.

And AT&T UNIX source code is serious high-level programming. The number of
skilled UNIX programmers with any actual motive to swipe UNIX source code is
small. It's tiny, compared to the tens of thousands prepared to rip-off, say,
entertaining PC games like "Leisure Suit Larry."

But by 1989, the warez-d00d underground, in the persons of Terminus and his
friends, was gnawing at AT&T UNIX. And the property in question was not sold
for twenty bucks over the counter at the local branch of Babbage's or Egghead's;
this was massive, sophisticated, multi-line, multi-author corporate code worth
tens of thousands of dollars.

It must be recognized at this point that Terminus's purported ring of UNIX
software pirates had not actually made any money from their suspected crimes.
The $300,000 dollar figure bandied about for the contents of Terminus's computer
did not mean that Terminus was in actual illicit possession of three hundred
thousand of AT&T's dollars. Terminus was shipping software back and forth,
privately, person to person, for free. He was not making a commercial business
of piracy. He hadn't asked for money; he didn't take money. He lived quite

AT&T employees--as well as freelance UNIX consultants, like Terminus--commonly
worked with "proprietary" AT&T software, both in the office and at home on their
private machines. AT&T rarely sent security officers out to comb the hard disks
of its consultants. Cheap freelance UNIX contractors were quite useful to AT&T;
they didn't have health insurance or retirement programs, much less union
membership in the Communication Workers of America. They were humble digital
drudges, wandering with mop and bucket through the Great Technological Temple of
AT&T; but when the Secret Service arrived at their homes, it seemed they were
eating with company silverware and sleeping on company sheets! Outrageously,
they behaved as if the things they worked with every day belonged to them!

And these were no mere hacker teenagers with their hands full of trash-paper and
their noses pressed to the corporate windowpane. These guys were UNIX wizards,
not only carrying AT&T data in their machines and their heads, but eagerly
networking about it, over machines that were far more powerful than anything
previously imagined in private hands. How do you keep people disposable, yet
assure their awestruck respect for your property? It was a dilemma.

Much UNIX code was public-domain, available for free. Much "proprietary" UNIX
code had been extensively re-written, perhaps altered so much that it became an
entirely new product-- or perhaps not. Intellectual property rights for
software developers were, and are, extraordinarily complex and confused. And
software "piracy," like the private copying of videos, is one of the most widely
practiced "crimes" in the world today.

The USSS were not experts in UNIX or familiar with the customs of its use. The
United States Secret Service, considered as a body, did not have one single
person in it who could program in a UNIX environment--no, not even one. The
Secret Service WERE making extensive use of expert help, but the "experts" they
had chosen were AT&T and Bellcore security officials, the very victims of the
purported crimes under investigation, the very people whose interest in AT&T's
"proprietary" software was most pronounced.

On February 6, 1990, Terminus was arrested by Agent Lewis. Eventually, Terminus
would be sent to prison for his illicit use of a piece of AT&T software.

The issue of pirated AT&T software would bubble along in the background during
the war on the Legion of Doom. Some half- dozen of Terminus's on-line
acquaintances, including people in Illinois, Texas and California, were grilled
by the Secret Service in connection with the illicit copying of software. Except
for Terminus, however, none were charged with a crime. None of them shared his
peculiar prominence in the hacker underground.

But that did not mean that these people would, or could, stay out of trouble.
The transferral of illicit data in cyberspace is hazy and ill-defined business,
with paradoxical dangers for everyone concerned: hackers, signal carriers,
board owners, cops, prosecutors, even random passers-by. Sometimes, well-meant
attempts to avert trouble or punish wrongdoing bring more trouble than would
simple ignorance, indifference or impropriety.

Terminus's "Netsys" board was not a common-or-garden bulletin board system,
though it had most of the usual functions of a board. Netsys was not a stand-
alone machine, but part of the globe-spanning "UUCP" cooperative network. The
UUCP network uses a set of Unix software programs called "Unix-to-Unix Copy,"
which allows Unix systems to throw data to one another at high speed through the
public telephone network. UUCP is a radically decentralized, not-for-profit
network of UNIX computers. There are tens of thousands of these UNIX machines.
Some are small, but many are powerful and also link to other networks. UUCP has
certain arcane links to major networks such as JANET, EasyNet, BITNET, JUNET,
VNET, DASnet, PeaceNet and FidoNet, as well as the gigantic Internet. (The so-
called "Internet" is not actually a network itself, but rather an "internetwork"
connections standard that allows several globe-spanning computer networks to
communicate with one another. Readers fascinated by the weird and intricate
tangles of modern computer networks may enjoy John S. Quarterman's authoritative
719-page explication, THE MATRIX, Digital Press, 1990.)

A skilled user of Terminus' UNIX machine could send and receive electronic mail
from almost any major computer network in the world. Netsys was not called a
"board" per se, but rather a "node." "Nodes" were larger, faster, and more
sophisticated than mere "boards," and for hackers, to hang out on
internationally- connected "nodes" was quite the step up from merely hanging out
on local "boards."

Terminus's Netsys node in Maryland had a number of direct links to other,
similar UUCP nodes, run by people who shared his interests and at least
something of his free-wheeling attitude. One of these nodes was Jolnet, owned by
Richard Andrews, who, like Terminus, was an independent UNIX consultant. Jolnet
also ran UNIX, and could be contacted at high speed by mainframe machines from
all over the world. Jolnet was quite a sophisticated piece of work, technically
speaking, but it was still run by an individual, as a private, not-for-profit
hobby. Jolnet was mostly used by other UNIX programmers--for mail, storage, and
access to networks. Jolnet supplied access network access to about two hundred
people, as well as a local junior college.

Among its various features and services, Jolnet also carried PHRACK magazine.

For reasons of his own, Richard Andrews had become suspicious of a new user
called "Robert Johnson." Richard Andrews took it upon himself to have a look at
what "Robert Johnson" was storing in Jolnet. And Andrews found the E911

"Robert Johnson" was the Prophet from the Legion of Doom, and the E911 Document
was illicitly copied data from Prophet's raid on the BellSouth computers.

The E911 Document, a particularly illicit piece of digital property, was about
to resume its long, complex, and disastrous career.

It struck Andrews as fishy that someone not a telephone employee should have a
document referring to the "Enhanced 911 System." Besides, the document itself
bore an obvious warning.


These standard nondisclosure tags are often appended to all sorts of corporate
material. Telcos as a species are particularly notorious for stamping most
everything in sight as "not for use or disclosure." Still, this particular
piece of data was about the 911 System. That sounded bad to Rich Andrews.

Andrews was not prepared to ignore this sort of trouble. He thought it would be
wise to pass the document along to a friend and acquaintance on the UNIX
network, for consultation. So, around September 1988, Andrews sent yet another
copy of the E911 Document electronically to an AT&T employee, one Charles
Boykin, who ran a UNIX-based node called "attctc" in Dallas, Texas.

"Attctc" was the property of AT&T, and was run from AT&T's Customer Technology
Center in Dallas, hence the name "attctc." "Attctc" was better-known as
"Killer," the name of the machine that the system was running on. "Killer" was
a hefty, powerful, AT&T 3B2 500 model, a multi-user, multi-tasking UNIX platform
with 32 meg of memory and a mind-boggling 3.2 Gigabytes of storage. When Killer
had first arrived in Texas, in 1985, the 3B2 had been one of AT&T's great white
hopes for going head-to- head with IBM for the corporate computer-hardware
market. "Killer" had been shipped to the Customer Technology Center in the
Dallas Infomart, essentially a high-technology mall, and there it sat, a
demonstration model.

Charles Boykin, a veteran AT&T hardware and digital communications expert, was a
local technical backup man for the AT&T 3B2 system. As a display model in the
Infomart mall, "Killer" had little to do, and it seemed a shame to waste the
system's capacity. So Boykin ingeniously wrote some UNIX bulletin-board
software for "Killer," and plugged the machine in to the local phone network.
"Killer's" debut in late 1985 made it the first publicly available UNIX site in
the state of Texas. Anyone who wanted to play was welcome.

The machine immediately attracted an electronic community. It joined the UUCP
network, and offered network links to over eighty other computer sites, all of
which became dependent on Killer for their links to the greater world of
cyberspace. And it wasn't just for the big guys; personal computer users also
stored freeware programs for the Amiga, the Apple, the IBM and the Macintosh on
Killer's vast 3,200 meg archives. At one time, Killer had the largest library
of public- domain Macintosh software in Texas.

Eventually, Killer attracted about 1,500 users, all busily communicating,
uploading and downloading, getting mail, gossipping, and linking to arcane and
distant networks.

Boykin received no pay for running Killer. He considered it good publicity for
the AT&T 3B2 system (whose sales were somewhat less than stellar), but he also
simply enjoyed the vibrant community his skill had created. He gave away the
bulletin-board UNIX software he had written, free of charge.

In the UNIX programming community, Charlie Boykin had the reputation of a warm,
open-hearted, level-headed kind of guy. In 1989, a group of Texan UNIX
professionals voted Boykin "System Administrator of the Year." He was
considered a fellow you could trust for good advice.

In September 1988, without warning, the E911 Document came plunging into
Boykin's life, forwarded by Richard Andrews. Boykin immediately recognized that
the Document was hot property. He was not a voice-communications man, and knew
little about the ins and outs of the Baby Bells, but he certainly knew what the
911 System was, and he was angry to see confidential data about it in the hands
of a nogoodnik. This was clearly a matter for telco security. So, on September
21, 1988, Boykin made yet ANOTHER copy of the E911 Document and passed this one
along to a professional acquaintance of his, one Jerome Dalton, from AT&T
Corporate Information Security. Jerry Dalton was the very fellow who would
later raid Terminus's house.

From AT&T's security division, the E911 Document went to Bellcore.

Bellcore (or BELL COmmunications REsearch) had once been the central laboratory
of the Bell System. Bell Labs employees had invented the UNIX operating system.
Now Bellcore was a quasi-independent, jointly owned company that acted as the
research arm for all seven of the Baby Bell RBOCs. Bellcore was in a good
position to co-ordinate security technology and consultation for the RBOCs, and
the gentleman in charge of this effort was Henry M. Kluepfel, a veteran of the
Bell System who had worked there for twenty-four years.

On October 13, 1988, Dalton passed the E911 Document to Henry Kluepfel.
Kluepfel, a veteran expert witness in telecommunications fraud and computer-
fraud cases, had certainly seen worse trouble than this. He recognized the
document for what it was: a trophy from a hacker break-in.

However, whatever harm had been done in the intrusion was presumably old news.
At this point there seemed little to be done. Kluepfel made a careful note of
the circumstances and shelved the problem for the time being.

Whole months passed.

February 1989 arrived. The Atlanta Three were living it up in Bell South's
switches, and had not yet met their comeuppance. The Legion was thriving. So
was PHRACK magazine. A good six months had passed since Prophet's AIMSX break-
in. Prophet, as hackers will, grew weary of sitting on his laurels. "Knight
Lightning" and "Taran King," the editors of PHRACK, were always begging Prophet
for material they could publish. Prophet decided that the heat must be off by
this time, and that he could safely brag, boast, and strut.

So he sent a copy of the E911 Document--yet another one-- from Rich Andrews'
Jolnet machine to Knight Lightning's BITnet account at the University of

Let's review the fate of the document so far.

0. The original E911 Document. This in the AIMSX system on a mainframe
computer in Atlanta, available to hundreds of people, but all of them,
presumably, BellSouth employees. An unknown number of them may have their own
copies of this document, but they are all professionals and all trusted by the
phone company.

1. Prophet's illicit copy, at home on his own computer in Decatur, Georgia.

2. Prophet's back-up copy, stored on Rich Andrew's Jolnet machine in the
basement of Rich Andrews' house near Joliet Illinois.

3. Charles Boykin's copy on "Killer" in Dallas, Texas, sent by Rich Andrews
from Joliet.

4. Jerry Dalton's copy at AT&T Corporate Information Security in New Jersey,
sent from Charles Boykin in Dallas.

5. Henry Kluepfel's copy at Bellcore security headquarters in New Jersey, sent
by Dalton.

6. Knight Lightning's copy, sent by Prophet from Rich Andrews' machine, and now
in Columbia, Missouri.

We can see that the "security" situation of this proprietary document, once dug
out of AIMSX, swiftly became bizarre. Without any money changing hands, without
any particular special effort, this data had been reproduced at least six times
and had spread itself all over the continent. By far the worst, however, was
yet to come.

In February 1989, Prophet and Knight Lightning bargained electronically over the
fate of this trophy. Prophet wanted to boast, but, at the same time, scarcely
wanted to be caught.

For his part, Knight Lightning was eager to publish as much of the document as
he could manage. Knight Lightning was a fledgling political-science major with
a particular interest in freedom-of-information issues. He would gladly publish
most anything that would reflect glory on the prowess of the underground and
embarrass the telcos. However, Knight Lightning himself had contacts in telco
security, and sometimes consulted them on material he'd received that might be
too dicey for publication.

Prophet and Knight Lightning decided to edit the E911 Document so as to delete
most of its identifying traits. First of all, its large "NOT FOR USE OR
DISCLOSURE" warning had to go. Then there were other matters. For instance, it
listed the office telephone numbers of several BellSouth 911 specialists in
Florida. If these phone numbers were published in PHRACK, the BellSouth
employees involved would very likely be hassled by phone phreaks, which would
anger BellSouth no end, and pose a definite operational hazard for both Prophet

So Knight Lightning cut the Document almost in half, removing the phone numbers
and some of the touchier and more specific information. He passed it back
electronically to Prophet; Prophet was still nervous, so Knight Lightning cut a
bit more. They finally agreed that it was ready to go, and that it would be
published in PHRACK under the pseudonym, "The Eavesdropper."

And this was done on February 25, 1989.

The twenty-fourth issue of PHRACK featured a chatty interview with co-ed phone-
phreak "Chanda Leir," three articles on BITNET and its links to other computer
networks, an article on 800 and 900 numbers by "Unknown User," "VaxCat's"
article on telco basics (slyly entitled "Lifting Ma Bell's Veil of Secrecy,)"
and the usual "Phrack World News."

The News section, with painful irony, featured an extended account of the
sentencing of "Shadowhawk," an eighteen- year-old Chicago hacker who had just
been put in federal prison by William J. Cook himself.

And then there were the two articles by "The Eavesdropper." The first was the
edited E911 Document, now titled "Control Office Administration Of Enhanced 911
Services for Special Services and Major Account Centers." Eavesdropper's second
article was a glossary of terms explaining the blizzard of telco acronyms and
buzzwords in the E911 Document.

The hapless document was now distributed, in the usual PHRACK routine, to a good
one hundred and fifty sites. Not a hundred and fifty PEOPLE, mind you--a
hundred and fifty SITES, some of these sites linked to UNIX nodes or bulletin
board systems, which themselves had readerships of tens, dozens, even hundreds
of people.

This was February 1989. Nothing happened immediately. Summer came, and the
Atlanta crew were raided by the Secret Service. Fry Guy was apprehended. Still
nothing whatever happened to PHRACK. Six more issues of PHRACK came out, 30 in
all, more or less on a monthly schedule. Knight Lightning and co-editor Taran
King went untouched.

PHRACK tended to duck and cover whenever the heat came down. During the summer
busts of 1987--(hacker busts tended to cluster in summer, perhaps because
hackers were easier to find at home than in college)--PHRACK had ceased
publication for several months, and laid low. Several LoD hangers-on had been
arrested, but nothing had happened to the PHRACK crew, the premiere gossips of
the underground. In 1988, PHRACK had been taken over by a new editor, "Crimson
Death," a raucous youngster with a taste for anarchy files.

1989, however, looked like a bounty year for the underground. Knight Lightning
and his co-editor Taran King took up the reins again, and PHRACK flourished
throughout 1989. Atlanta LoD went down hard in the summer of 1989, but PHRACK
rolled merrily on. Prophet's E911 Document seemed unlikely to cause PHRACK any
trouble. By January 1990, it had been available in PHRACK for almost a year.
Kluepfel and Dalton, officers of Bellcore and AT&T security, had possessed the
document for sixteen months--in fact, they'd had it even before Knight Lightning
himself, and had done nothing in particular to stop its distribution. They
hadn't even told Rich Andrews or Charles Boykin to erase the copies from their
UNIX nodes, Jolnet and Killer.

But then came the monster Martin Luther King Day Crash of January 15, 1990.

A flat three days later, on January 18, four agents showed up at Knight
Lightning's fraternity house. One was Timothy Foley, the second Barbara Golden,
both of them Secret Service agents from the Chicago office. Also along was a
University of Missouri security officer, and Reed Newlin, a security man from
Southwestern Bell, the RBOC having jurisdiction over Missouri.

Foley accused Knight Lightning of causing the nationwide crash of the phone

Knight Lightning was aghast at this allegation. On the face of it, the
suspicion was not entirely implausible--though Knight Lightning knew that he
himself hadn't done it. Plenty of hot-dog hackers had bragged that they could
crash the phone system, however. "Shadowhawk," for instance, the Chicago hacker
whom William Cook had recently put in jail, had several times boasted on boards
that he could "shut down AT&T's public switched network."

And now this event, or something that looked just like it, had actually taken
place. The Crash had lit a fire under the Chicago Task Force. And the former
fence-sitters at Bellcore and AT&T were now ready to roll. The consensus among
telco security--already horrified by the skill of the BellSouth intruders--was
that the digital underground was out of hand. LoD and PHRACK must go.

And in publishing Prophet's E911 Document, PHRACK had provided law enforcement
with what appeared to be a powerful legal weapon.

Foley confronted Knight Lightning about the E911 Document.

Knight Lightning was cowed. He immediately began "cooperating fully" in the
usual tradition of the digital underground.

He gave Foley a complete run of PHRACK, printed out in a set of three-ring
binders. He handed over his electronic mailing list of PHRACK subscribers.
Knight Lightning was grilled for four hours by Foley and his cohorts. Knight
Lightning admitted that Prophet had passed him the E911 Document, and he
admitted that he had known it was stolen booty from a hacker raid on a telephone
company. Knight Lightning signed a statement to this effect, and agreed, in
writing, to cooperate with investigators.

Next day--January 19, 1990, a Friday--the Secret Service returned with a search
warrant, and thoroughly searched Knight Lightning's upstairs room in the
fraternity house. They took all his floppy disks, though, interestingly, they
left Knight Lightning in possession of both his computer and his modem. (The
computer had no hard disk, and in Foley's judgement was not a store of
evidence.) But this was a very minor bright spot among Knight Lightning's
rapidly multiplying troubles. By this time, Knight Lightning was in plenty of
hot water, not only with federal police, prosecutors, telco investigators, and
university security, but with the elders of his own campus fraternity, who were
outraged to think that they had been unwittingly harboring a federal computer-

On Monday, Knight Lightning was summoned to Chicago, where he was further
grilled by Foley and USSS veteran agent Barbara Golden, this time with an
attorney present. And on Tuesday, he was formally indicted by a federal grand

The trial of Knight Lightning, which occurred on July 24- 27, 1990, was the
crucial show-trial of the Hacker Crackdown. We will examine the trial at some
length in Part Four of this book.

In the meantime, we must continue our dogged pursuit of the E911 Document.

It must have been clear by January 1990 that the E911 Document, in the form
PHRACK had published it back in February 1989, had gone off at the speed of
light in at least a hundred and fifty different directions. To attempt to put
this electronic genie back in the bottle was flatly impossible.

And yet, the E911 Document was STILL stolen property, formally and legally
speaking. Any electronic transference of this document, by anyone unauthorized
to have it, could be interpreted as an act of wire fraud. Interstate transfer
of stolen property, including electronic property, was a federal crime.

The Chicago Computer Fraud and Abuse Task Force had been assured that the E911
Document was worth a hefty sum of money. In fact, they had a precise estimate of
its worth from BellSouth security personnel: $79,449. A sum of this scale
seemed to warrant vigorous prosecution. Even if the damage could not be undone,
at least this large sum offered a good legal pretext for stern punishment of the
thieves. It seemed likely to impress judges and juries. And it could be used
in court to mop up the Legion of Doom.

The Atlanta crowd was already in the bag, by the time the Chicago Task Force had
gotten around to PHRACK. But the Legion was a hydra-headed thing. In late 89,
a brand-new Legion of Doom board, "Phoenix Project," had gone up in Austin,
Texas. Phoenix Project was sysoped by no less a man than the Mentor himself,
ably assisted by University of Texas student and hardened Doomster "Erik

As we have seen from his PHRACK manifesto, the Mentor was a hacker zealot who
regarded computer intrusion as something close to a moral duty. Phoenix Project
was an ambitious effort, intended to revive the digital underground to what
Mentor considered the full flower of the early 80s. The Phoenix board would
also boldly bring elite hackers face-to-face with the telco "opposition." On
"Phoenix," America's cleverest hackers would supposedly shame the telco
squareheads out of their stick-in-the- mud attitudes, and perhaps convince them
that the Legion of Doom elite were really an all-right crew. The premiere of
"Phoenix Project" was heavily trumpeted by PHRACK, and "Phoenix Project" carried
a complete run of PHRACK issues, including the E911 Document as PHRACK had
published it.

Phoenix Project was only one of many--possibly hundreds-- of nodes and boards
all over America that were in guilty possession of the E911 Document. But
Phoenix was an outright, unashamed Legion of Doom board. Under Mentor's
guidance, it was flaunting itself in the face of telco security personnel. Worse
yet, it was actively trying to WIN THEM OVER as sympathizers for the digital
underground elite. "Phoenix" had no cards or codes on it. Its hacker elite
considered Phoenix at least technically legal. But Phoenix was a corrupting
influence, where hacker anarchy was eating away like digital acid at the
underbelly of corporate propriety.

The Chicago Computer Fraud and Abuse Task Force now prepared to descend upon
Austin, Texas.

Oddly, not one but TWO trails of the Task Force's investigation led toward
Austin. The city of Austin, like Atlanta, had made itself a bulwark of the
Sunbelt's Information Age, with a strong university research presence, and a
number of cutting-edge electronics companies, including Motorola, Dell,
CompuAdd, IBM, Sematech and MCC.

Where computing machinery went, hackers generally followed. Austin boasted not
only "Phoenix Project," currently LoD's most flagrant underground board, but a
number of UNIX nodes.

One of these nodes was "Elephant," run by a UNIX consultant named Robert
Izenberg. Izenberg, in search of a relaxed Southern lifestyle and a lowered
cost-of-living, had recently migrated to Austin from New Jersey. In New Jersey,
Izenberg had worked for an independent contracting company, programming UNIX
code for AT&T itself. "Terminus" had been a frequent user on Izenberg's
privately owned Elephant node.

Having interviewed Terminus and examined the records on Netsys, the Chicago Task
Force were now convinced that they had discovered an underground gang of UNIX
software pirates, who were demonstrably guilty of interstate trafficking in
illicitly copied AT&T source code. Izenberg was swept into the dragnet around
Terminus, the self-proclaimed ultimate UNIX hacker.

Izenberg, in Austin, had settled down into a UNIX job with a Texan branch of
IBM. Izenberg was no longer working as a contractor for AT&T, but he had
friends in New Jersey, and he still logged on to AT&T UNIX computers back in New
Jersey, more or less whenever it pleased him. Izenberg's activities appeared
highly suspicious to the Task Force. Izenberg might well be breaking into AT&T
computers, swiping AT&T software, and passing it to Terminus and other possible
confederates, through the UNIX node network. And this data was worth, not
merely $79,499, but hundreds of thousands of dollars!

On February 21, 1990, Robert Izenberg arrived home from work at IBM to find that
all the computers had mysteriously vanished from his Austin apartment.
Naturally he assumed that he had been robbed. His "Elephant" node, his other
machines, his notebooks, his disks, his tapes, all gone! However, nothing much
else seemed disturbed--the place had not been ransacked.

The puzzle becaming much stranger some five minutes later. Austin U. S. Secret
Service Agent Al Soliz, accompanied by University of Texas campus-security
officer Larry Coutorie and the ubiquitous Tim Foley, made their appearance at
Izenberg's door. They were in plain clothes: slacks, polo shirts. They came
in, and Tim Foley accused Izenberg of belonging to the Legion of Doom.

Izenberg told them that he had never heard of the "Legion of Doom." And what
about a certain stolen E911 Document, that posed a direct threat to the police
emergency lines? Izenberg claimed that he'd never heard of that, either.

His interrogators found this difficult to believe. Didn't he know Terminus?


They gave him Terminus's real name. Oh yes, said Izenberg. He knew THAT guy
all right--he was leading discussions on the Internet about AT&T computers,
especially the AT&T 3B2.

AT&T had thrust this machine into the marketplace, but, like many of AT&T's
ambitious attempts to enter the computing arena, the 3B2 project had something
less than a glittering success. Izenberg himself had been a contractor for the
division of AT&T that supported the 3B2. The entire division had been shut

Nowadays, the cheapest and quickest way to get help with this fractious piece of
machinery was to join one of Terminus's discussion groups on the Internet, where
friendly and knowledgeable hackers would help you for free. Naturally the
remarks within this group were less than flattering about the Death Star.... was
THAT the problem?

Foley told Izenberg that Terminus had been acquiring hot software through his,
Izenberg's, machine.

Izenberg shrugged this off. A good eight megabytes of data flowed through his
UUCP site every day. UUCP nodes spewed data like fire hoses. Elephant had been
directly linked to Netsys--not surprising, since Terminus was a 3B2 expert and
Izenberg had been a 3B2 contractor. Izenberg was also linked to "attctc" and
the University of Texas. Terminus was a well-known UNIX expert, and might have
been up to all manner of hijinks on Elephant. Nothing Izenberg could do about
that. That was physically impossible. Needle in a haystack.

In a four-hour grilling, Foley urged Izenberg to come clean and admit that he
was in conspiracy with Terminus, and a member of the Legion of Doom.

Izenberg denied this. He was no weirdo teenage hacker-- he was thirty-two years
old, and didn't even have a "handle." Izenberg was a former TV technician and
electronics specialist who had drifted into UNIX consulting as a full-grown
adult. Izenberg had never met Terminus, physically. He'd once bought a cheap
high-speed modem from him, though.

Foley told him that this modem (a Telenet T2500 which ran at 19.2 kilobaud, and
which had just gone out Izenberg's door in Secret Service custody) was likely
hot property. Izenberg was taken aback to hear this; but then again, most of
Izenberg's equipment, like that of most freelance professionals in the industry,
was discounted, passed hand-to-hand through various kinds of barter and gray-
market. There was no proof that the modem was stolen, and even if it was,
Izenberg hardly saw how that gave them the right to take every electronic item
in his house.

Still, if the United States Secret Service figured they needed his computer for
national security reasons--or whatever-- then Izenberg would not kick. He
figured he would somehow make the sacrifice of his twenty thousand dollars'
worth of professional equipment, in the spirit of full cooperation and good

Robert Izenberg was not arrested. Izenberg was not charged with any crime. His
UUCP node--full of some 140 megabytes of the files, mail, and data of himself
and his dozen or so entirely innocent users--went out the door as "evidence."
Along with the disks and tapes, Izenberg had lost about 800 megabytes of data.

Six months would pass before Izenberg decided to phone the Secret Service and
ask how the case was going. That was the first time that Robert Izenberg would
ever hear the name of William Cook. As of January 1992, a full two years after
the seizure, Izenberg, still not charged with any crime, would be struggling
through the morass of the courts, in hope of recovering his thousands of
dollars' worth of seized equipment.

In the meantime, the Izenberg case received absolutely no press coverage. The
Secret Service had walked into an Austin home, removed a UNIX bulletin-board
system, and met with no operational difficulties whatsoever.

Except that word of a crackdown had percolated through the Legion of Doom. "The
Mentor" voluntarily shut down "The Phoenix Project." It seemed a pity,
especially as telco security employees had, in fact, shown up on Phoenix, just
as he had hoped--along with the usual motley crowd of LoD heavies, hangers- on,
phreaks, hackers and wannabes. There was "Sandy" Sandquist from US SPRINT
security, and some guy named Henry Kluepfel, from Bellcore itself! Kluepfel had
been trading friendly banter with hackers on Phoenix since January 30th (two
weeks after the Martin Luther King Day Crash). The presence of such a stellar
telco official seemed quite the coup for Phoenix Project.

Still, Mentor could judge the climate. Atlanta in ruins, PHRACK in deep
trouble, something weird going on with UNIX nodes--discretion was advisable.
Phoenix Project went off-line.

Kluepfel, of course, had been monitoring this LoD bulletin board for his own
purposes--and those of the Chicago unit. As far back as June 1987, Kluepfel had
logged on to a Texas underground board called "Phreak Klass 2600." There he'd
discovered an Chicago youngster named "Shadowhawk," strutting and boasting about
rifling AT&T computer files, and bragging of his ambitions to riddle AT&T's
Bellcore computers with trojan horse programs. Kluepfel had passed the news to
Cook in Chicago, Shadowhawk's computers had gone out the door in Secret Service
custody, and Shadowhawk himself had gone to jail.

Now it was Phoenix Project's turn. Phoenix Project postured about "legality"
and "merely intellectual interest," but it reeked of the underground. It had
PHRACK on it. It had the E911 Document. It had a lot of dicey talk about
breaking into systems, including some bold and reckless stuff about a supposed
"decryption service" that Mentor and friends were planning to run, to help crack
encrypted passwords off of hacked systems.

Mentor was an adult. There was a bulletin board at his place of work, as well.
Kleupfel logged onto this board, too, and discovered it to be called
"Illuminati." It was run by some company called Steve Jackson Games.

On March 1, 1990, the Austin crackdown went into high gear.

On the morning of March 1--a Thursday--21-year-old University of Texas student
"Erik Bloodaxe," co-sysop of Phoenix Project and an avowed member of the Legion
of Doom, was wakened by a police revolver levelled at his head.

Bloodaxe watched, jittery, as Secret Service agents appropriated his 300 baud
terminal and, rifling his files, discovered his treasured source-code for Robert
Morris's notorious Internet Worm. But Bloodaxe, a wily operator, had suspected
that something of the like might be coming. All his best equipment had been
hidden away elsewhere. The raiders took everything electronic, however,
including his telephone. They were stymied by his hefty arcade-style Pac-Man
game, and left it in place, as it was simply too heavy to move.

Bloodaxe was not arrested. He was not charged with any crime. A good two years
later, the police still had what they had taken from him, however.

The Mentor was less wary. The dawn raid rousted him and his wife from bed in
their underwear, and six Secret Service agents, accompanied by an Austin
policeman and Henry Kluepfel himself, made a rich haul. Off went the works,
into the agents' white Chevrolet minivan: an IBM PC-AT clone with 4 meg of RAM
and a 120-meg hard disk; a Hewlett-Packard LaserJet II printer; a completely
legitimate and highly expensive SCO-Xenix 286 operating system; Pagemaker disks
and documentation; and the Microsoft Word word-processing program. Mentor's
wife had her incomplete academic thesis stored on the hard-disk; that went, too,
and so did the couple's telephone. As of two years later, all this property
remained in police custody.

Mentor remained under guard in his apartment as agents prepared to raid Steve
Jackson Games. The fact that this was a business headquarters and not a private
residence did not deter the agents. It was still very early; no one was at work
yet. The agents prepared to break down the door, but Mentor, eavesdropping on
the Secret Service walkie-talkie traffic, begged them not to do it, and offered
his key to the building.

The exact details of the next events are unclear. The agents would not let
anyone else into the building. Their search warrant, when produced, was
unsigned. Apparently they breakfasted from the local "Whataburger," as the
litter from hamburgers was later found inside. They also extensively sampled a
bag of jellybeans kept by an SJG employee. Someone tore a "Dukakis for
President" sticker from the wall.

SJG employees, diligently showing up for the day's work, were met at the door
and briefly questioned by U.S. Secret Service agents. The employees watched in
astonishment as agents wielding crowbars and screwdrivers emerged with captive
machines. They attacked outdoor storage units with boltcutters. The agents wore
blue nylon windbreakers with "SECRET SERVICE" stencilled across the back, with
running-shoes and jeans.

Jackson's company lost three computers, several hard- disks, hundred of floppy
disks, two monitors, three modems, a laser printer, various powercords, cables,
and adapters (and, oddly, a small bag of screws, bolts and nuts). The seizure
of Illuminati BBS deprived SJG of all the programs, text files, and private e-
mail on the board. The loss of two other SJG computers was a severe blow as
well, since it caused the loss of electronically stored contracts, financial
projections, address directories, mailing lists, personnel files, business
correspondence, and, not least, the drafts of forthcoming games and gaming

No one at Steve Jackson Games was arrested. No one was accused of any crime.
No charges were filed. Everything appropriated was officially kept as
"evidence" of crimes never specified.

After the PHRACK show-trial, the Steve Jackson Games scandal was the most
bizarre and aggravating incident of the Hacker Crackdown of 1990. This raid by
the Chicago Task Force on a science-fiction gaming publisher was to rouse a
swarming host of civil liberties issues, and gave rise to an enduring
controversy that was still re-complicating itself, and growing in the scope of
its implications, a full two years later.

The pursuit of the E911 Document stopped with the Steve Jackson Games raid. As
we have seen, there were hundreds, perhaps thousands of computer users in
America with the E911 Document in their possession. Theoretically, Chicago had
a perfect legal right to raid any of these people, and could have legally seized
the machines of anybody who subscribed to PHRACK. However, there was no copy of
the E911 Document on Jackson's Illuminati board. And there the Chicago raiders
stopped dead; they have not raided anyone since.

It might be assumed that Rich Andrews and Charlie Boykin, who had brought the
E911 Document to the attention of telco security, might be spared any official
suspicion. But as we have seen, the willingness to "cooperate fully" offers
little, if any, assurance against federal anti-hacker prosecution.

Richard Andrews found himself in deep trouble, thanks to the E911 Document.
Andrews lived in Illinois, the native stomping grounds of the Chicago Task
Force. On February 3 and 6, both his home and his place of work were raided by
USSS. His machines went out the door, too, and he was grilled at length (though
not arrested). Andrews proved to be in purportedly guilty possession of: UNIX
and QUEST, among other items. Andrews had received this proprietary code--which
AT&T officially valued at well over $250,000--through the UNIX network, much of
it supplied to him as a personal favor by Terminus. Perhaps worse yet, Andrews
admitted to returning the favor, by passing Terminus a copy of AT&T proprietary
STARLAN source code.

Even Charles Boykin, himself an AT&T employee, entered some very hot water. By
1990, he'd almost forgotten about the E911 problem he'd reported in September
88; in fact, since that date, he'd passed two more security alerts to Jerry
Dalton, concerning matters that Boykin considered far worse than the E911

But by 1990, year of the crackdown, AT&T Corporate Information Security was fed
up with "Killer." This machine offered no direct income to AT&T, and was
providing aid and comfort to a cloud of suspicious yokels from outside the
company, some of them actively malicious toward AT&T, its property, and its
corporate interests. Whatever goodwill and publicity had been won among
Killer's 1,500 devoted users was considered no longer worth the security risk.
On February 20, 1990, Jerry Dalton arrived in Dallas and simply unplugged the
phone jacks, to the puzzled alarm of Killer's many Texan users. Killer went
permanently off-line, with the loss of vast archives of programs and huge
quantities of electronic mail; it was never restored to service. AT&T showed no
particular regard for the "property" of these 1,500 people. Whatever "property"
the users had been storing on AT&T's computer simply vanished completely.

Boykin, who had himself reported the E911 problem, now found himself under a
cloud of suspicion. In a weird private- security replay of the Secret Service
seizures, Boykin's own home was visited by AT&T Security and his own machines
were carried out the door.

However, there were marked special features in the Boykin case. Boykin's disks
and his personal computers were swiftly examined by his corporate employers and
returned politely in just two days--(unlike Secret Service seizures, which
commonly take months or years). Boykin was not charged with any crime or
wrongdoing, and he kept his job with AT&T (though he did retire from AT&T in
September 1991, at the age of 52).

It's interesting to note that the US Secret Service somehow failed to seize
Boykin's "Killer" node and carry AT&T's own computer out the door. Nor did they
raid Boykin's home. They seemed perfectly willing to take the word of AT&T
Security that AT&T's employee, and AT&T's "Killer" node, were free of hacker
contraband and on the up-and-up.

It's digital water-under-the-bridge at this point, as Killer's 3,200 megabytes
of Texan electronic community were erased in 1990, and "Killer" itself was
shipped out of the state.

But the experiences of Andrews and Boykin, and the users of their systems,
remained side issues. They did not begin to assume the social, political, and
legal importance that gathered, slowly but inexorably, around the issue of the
raid on Steve Jackson Games.

We must now turn our attention to Steve Jackson Games itself, and explain what
SJG was, what it really did, and how it had managed to attract this particularly
odd and virulent kind of trouble. The reader may recall that this is not the
first but the second time that the company has appeared in this narrative; a
Steve Jackson game called GURPS was a favorite pastime of Atlanta hacker Urvile,
and Urvile's science-fictional gaming notes had been mixed up promiscuously with
notes about his actual computer intrusions.

First, Steve Jackson Games, Inc., was NOT a publisher of "computer games." SJG
published "simulation games," parlor games that were played on paper, with
pencils, and dice, and printed guidebooks full of rules and statistics tables.
There were no computers involved in the games themselves. When you bought a
Steve Jackson Game, you did not receive any software disks. What you got was a
plastic bag with some cardboard game tokens, maybe a few maps or a deck of
cards. Most of their products were books.

However, computers WERE deeply involved in the Steve Jackson Games business.
Like almost all modern publishers, Steve Jackson and his fifteen employees used
computers to write text, to keep accounts, and to run the business generally.
They also used a computer to run their official bulletin board system for Steve
Jackson Games, a board called Illuminati. On Illuminati, simulation gamers who
happened to own computers and modems could associate, trade mail, debate the
theory and practice of gaming, and keep up with the company's news and its
product announcements.

Illuminati was a modestly popular board, run on a small computer with limited
storage, only one phone-line, and no ties to large-scale computer networks. It
did, however, have hundreds of users, many of them dedicated gamers willing to
call from out- of-state.

Illuminati was NOT an "underground" board. It did not feature hints on computer
intrusion, or "anarchy files," or illicitly posted credit card numbers, or long-
distance access codes. Some of Illuminati's users, however, were members of the
Legion of Doom. And so was one of Steve Jackson's senior employees--the Mentor.
The Mentor wrote for PHRACK, and also ran an underground board, Phoenix Project-
-but the Mentor was not a computer professional. The Mentor was the managing
editor of Steve Jackson Games and a professional game designer by trade. These
LoD members did not use Illuminati to help their HACKING activities. They used
it to help their GAME-PLAYING activities-- and they were even more dedicated to
simulation gaming than they were to hacking.

"Illuminati" got its name from a card-game that Steve Jackson himself, the
company's founder and sole owner, had invented. This multi-player card-game was
one of Mr Jackson's best-known, most successful, most technically innovative
products. "Illuminati" was a game of paranoiac conspiracy in which various
antisocial cults warred covertly to dominate the world. "Illuminati" was
hilarious, and great fun to play, involving flying saucers, the CIA, the KGB,
the phone companies, the Ku Klux Klan, the South American Nazis, the cocaine
cartels, the Boy Scouts, and dozens of other splinter groups from the twisted
depths of Mr. Jackson's professionally fervid imagination. For the uninitiated,
any public discussion of the "Illuminati" card-game sounded, by turns, utterly
menacing or completely insane.

And then there was SJG's "Car Wars," in which souped-up armored hot-rods with
rocket-launchers and heavy machine-guns did battle on the American highways of
the future. The lively Car Wars discussion on the Illuminati board featured
many meticulous, painstaking discussions of the effects of grenades, land-mines,
flamethrowers and napalm. It sounded like hacker anarchy files run amuck.

Mr. Jackson and his co-workers earned their daily bread by supplying people with
make-believe adventures and weird ideas. The more far-out, the better.

Simulation gaming is an unusual pastime, but gamers have not generally had to
beg the permission of the Secret Service to exist. Wargames and role-playing
adventures are an old and honored pastime, much favored by professional military
strategists. Once little-known, these games are now played by hundreds of
thousands of enthusiasts throughout North America, Europe and Japan. Gaming-
books, once restricted to hobby outlets, now commonly appear in chain-stores
like B. Dalton's and Waldenbooks, and sell vigorously.

Steve Jackson Games, Inc., of Austin, Texas, was a games company of the middle
rank. In 1989, SJG grossed about a million dollars. Jackson himself had a good
reputation in his industry as a talented and innovative designer of rather
unconventional games, but his company was something less than a titan of the
field--certainly not like the multimillion-dollar TSR Inc., or Britain's
gigantic "Games Workshop."

SJG's Austin headquarters was a modest two-story brick office-suite, cluttered
with phones, photocopiers, fax machines and computers. It bustled with semi-
organized activity and was littered with glossy promotional brochures and dog-
eared science- fiction novels. Attached to the offices was a large tin-roofed
warehouse piled twenty feet high with cardboard boxes of games and books.
Despite the weird imaginings that went on within it, the SJG headquarters was
quite a quotidian, everyday sort of place. It looked like what it was: a
publishers' digs.

Both "Car Wars" and "Illuminati" were well-known, popular games. But the
mainstay of the Jackson organization was their Generic Universal Role-Playing
System, "G.U.R.P.S." The GURPS system was considered solid and well-designed,
an asset for players. But perhaps the most popular feature of the GURPS system
was that it allowed gaming-masters to design scenarios that closely resembled
well-known books, movies, and other works of fantasy. Jackson had licensed and
adapted works from many science fiction and fantasy authors. There was GURPS
familiar to science-fiction readers. And there was GURPS SPECIAL OPS, from the
world of espionage fantasy and unconventional warfare.

And then there was GURPS CYBERPUNK.

"Cyberpunk" was a term given to certain science fiction writers who had entered
the genre in the 1980s. "Cyberpunk," as the label implies, had two general
distinguishing features. First, its writers had a compelling interest in
information technology, an interest closely akin to science fiction's earlier
fascination with space travel. And second, these writers were "punks," with all
the distinguishing features that that implies: Bohemian artiness, youth run
wild, an air of deliberate rebellion, funny clothes and hair, odd politics, a
fondness for abrasive rock and roll; in a word, trouble.

The "cyberpunk" SF writers were a small group of mostly college-educated white
middle-class litterateurs, scattered through the US and Canada. Only one, Rudy
Rucker, a professor of computer science in Silicon Valley, could rank with even
the humblest computer hacker. But, except for Professor Rucker, the "cyberpunk"
authors were not programmers or hardware experts; they considered themselves
artists (as, indeed, did Professor Rucker). However, these writers all owned
computers, and took an intense and public interest in the social ramifications
of the information industry.

The cyberpunks had a strong following among the global generation that had grown
up in a world of computers, multinational networks, and cable television. Their
outlook was considered somewhat morbid, cynical, and dark, but then again, so
was the outlook of their generational peers. As that generation matured and
increased in strength and influence, so did the cyberpunks. As science-fiction
writers went, they were doing fairly well for themselves. By the late 1980s,
their work had attracted attention from gaming companies, including Steve
Jackson Games, which was planning a cyberpunk simulation for the flourishing
GURPS gaming-system.

The time seemed ripe for such a product, which had already been proven in the
marketplace. The first games-company out of the gate, with a product boldly
called "Cyberpunk" in defiance of possible infringement-of-copyright suits, had
been an upstart group called R. Talsorian. Talsorian's Cyberpunk was a fairly
decent game, but the mechanics of the simulation system left a lot to be
desired. Commercially, however, the game did very well.

The next cyberpunk game had been the even more successful SHADOWRUN by FASA
Corporation. The mechanics of this game were fine, but the scenario was
rendered moronic by sappy fantasy elements like elves, trolls, wizards, and
dragons--all highly ideologically-incorrect, according to the hard-edged, high-
tech standards of cyberpunk science fiction.

Other game designers were champing at the bit. Prominent among them was the
Mentor, a gentleman who, like most of his friends in the Legion of Doom, was
quite the cyberpunk devotee. Mentor reasoned that the time had come for a REAL
cyberpunk gaming-book--one that the princes of computer-mischief in the Legion
of Doom could play without laughing themselves sick. This book, GURPS
CYBERPUNK, would reek of culturally on-line authenticity.

Mentor was particularly well-qualified for this task. Naturally, he knew far
more about computer-intrusion and digital skullduggery than any previously
published cyberpunk author. Not only that, but he was good at his work. A
vivid imagination, combined with an instinctive feeling for the working of
systems and, especially, the loopholes within them, are excellent qualities for
a professional game designer.

By March 1st, GURPS CYBERPUNK was almost complete, ready to print and ship.
Steve Jackson expected vigorous sales for this item, which, he hoped, would keep
the company financially afloat for several months. GURPS CYBERPUNK, like the
other GURPS "modules," was not a "game" like a Monopoly set, but a BOOK: a
bound paperback book the size of a glossy magazine, with a slick color cover,
and pages full of text, illustrations, tables and footnotes. It was advertised
as a game, and was used as an aid to game-playing, but it was a book, with an
ISBN number, published in Texas, copyrighted, and sold in bookstores.

And now, that book, stored on a computer, had gone out the door in the custody
of the Secret Service.

The day after the raid, Steve Jackson visited the local Secret Service
headquarters with a lawyer in tow. There he confronted Tim Foley (still in
Austin at that time) and demanded his book back. But there was trouble. GURPS
CYBERPUNK, alleged a Secret Service agent to astonished businessman Steve
Jackson, was "a manual for computer crime."

"It's science fiction," Jackson said.

"No, this is real." This statement was repeated several times, by several
agents. Jackson's ominously accurate game had passed from pure, obscure, small-
scale fantasy into the impure, highly publicized, large-scale fantasy of the
Hacker Crackdown.

No mention was made of the real reason for the search. According to their search
warrant, the raiders had expected to find the E911 Document stored on Jackson's
bulletin board system. But that warrant was sealed; a procedure that most law
enforcement agencies will use only when lives are demonstrably in danger. The
raiders' true motives were not discovered until the Jackson search-warrant was
unsealed by his lawyers, many months later. The Secret Service, and the Chicago
Computer Fraud and Abuse Task Force, said absolutely nothing to Steve Jackson
about any threat to the police 911 System. They said nothing about the Atlanta
Three, nothing about PHRACK or Knight Lightning, nothing about Terminus.

Jackson was left to believe that his computers had been seized because he
intended to publish a science fiction book that law enforcement considered too
dangerous to see print.

This misconception was repeated again and again, for months, to an ever-widening
public audience. It was not the truth of the case; but as months passed, and
this misconception was publicly printed again and again, it became one of the
few publicly known "facts" about the mysterious Hacker Crackdown. The Secret
Service had seized a computer to stop the publication of a cyberpunk science
fiction book.

The second section of this book, "The Digital Underground," is almost finished
now. We have become acquainted with all the major figures of this case who
actually belong to the underground milieu of computer intrusion. We have some
idea of their history, their motives, their general modus operandi. We now know,
I hope, who they are, where they came from, and more or less what they want. In
the next section of this book, "Law and Order," we will leave this milieu and
directly enter the world of America's computer-crime police.

At this point, however, I have another figure to introduce: myself.

My name is Bruce Sterling. I live in Austin, Texas, where I am a science
fiction writer by trade: specifically, a CYBERPUNK science fiction writer.

Like my "cyberpunk" colleagues in the U.S. and Canada, I've never been entirely
happy with this literary label-- especially after it became a synonym for
computer criminal. But I did once edit a book of stories by my colleagues,
called MIRRORSHADES: THE CYBERPUNK ANTHOLOGY, and I've long been a writer of
literary-critical cyberpunk manifestos. I am not a "hacker" of any description,
though I do have readers in the digital underground.

When the Steve Jackson Games seizure occurred, I naturally took an intense
interest. If "cyberpunk" books were being banned by federal police in my own
home town, I reasonably wondered whether I myself might be next. Would my
computer be seized by the Secret Service? At the time, I was in possession of
an aging Apple IIe without so much as a hard disk. If I were to be raided as an
author of computer-crime manuals, the loss of my feeble word-processor would
likely provoke more snickers than sympathy.

I'd known Steve Jackson for many years. We knew one another as colleagues, for
we frequented the same local science- fiction conventions. I'd played Jackson
games, and recognized his cleverness; but he certainly had never struck me as a
potential mastermind of computer crime.

I also knew a little about computer bulletin-board systems. In the mid-1980s I
had taken an active role in an Austin board called "SMOF-BBS," one of the first
boards dedicated to science fiction. I had a modem, and on occasion I'd logged
on to Illuminati, which always looked entertainly wacky, but certainly harmless

At the time of the Jackson seizure, I had no experience whatsoever with
underground boards. But I knew that no one on Illuminati talked about breaking
into systems illegally, or about robbing phone companies. Illuminati didn't
even offer pirated computer games. Steve Jackson, like many creative artists,
was markedly touchy about theft of intellectual property.

It seemed to me that Jackson was either seriously suspected of some crime--in
which case, he would be charged soon, and would have his day in court--or else
he was innocent, in which case the Secret Service would quickly return his
equipment, and everyone would have a good laugh. I rather expected the good
laugh. The situation was not without its comic side. The raid, known as the
"Cyberpunk Bust" in the science fiction community, was winning a great deal of
free national publicity both for Jackson himself and the "cyberpunk" science
fiction writers generally.

Besides, science fiction people are used to being misinterpreted. Science
fiction is a colorful, disreputable, slipshod occupation, full of unlikely
oddballs, which, of course, is why we like it. Weirdness can be an occupational
hazard in our field. People who wear Halloween costumes are sometimes mistaken
for monsters.

Once upon a time--back in 1939, in New York City--science fiction and the U.S.
Secret Service collided in a comic case of mistaken identity. This weird
incident involved a literary group quite famous in science fiction, known as
"the Futurians," whose membership included such future genre greats as Isaac
Asimov, Frederik Pohl, and Damon Knight. The Futurians were every bit as
offbeat and wacky as any of their spiritual descendants, including the
cyberpunks, and were given to communal living, spontaneous group renditions of
light opera, and midnight fencing exhibitions on the lawn. The Futurians didn't
have bulletin board systems, but they did have the technological equivalent in
1939--mimeographs and a private printing press. These were in steady use,
producing a stream of science-fiction fan magazines, literary manifestos, and
weird articles, which were picked up in ink-sticky bundles by a succession of
strange, gangly, spotty young men in fedoras and overcoats.

The neighbors grew alarmed at the antics of the Futurians and reported them to
the Secret Service as suspected counterfeiters. In the winter of 1939, a squad
of USSS agents with drawn guns burst into "Futurian House," prepared to
confiscate the forged currency and illicit printing presses. There they
discovered a slumbering science fiction fan named George Hahn, a guest of the
Futurian commune who had just arrived in New York. George Hahn managed to
explain himself and his group, and the Secret Service agents left the Futurians
in peace henceforth. (Alas, Hahn died in 1991, just before I had discovered
this astonishing historical parallel, and just before I could interview him for
this book.)

But the Jackson case did not come to a swift and comic end. No quick answers
came his way, or mine; no swift reassurances that all was right in the digital
world, that matters were well in hand after all. Quite the opposite. In my
alternate role as a sometime pop-science journalist, I interviewed Jackson and
his staff for an article in a British magazine. The strange details of the raid
left me more concerned than ever. Without its computers, the company had been
financially and operationally crippled. Half the SJG workforce, a group of
entirely innocent people, had been sorrowfully fired, deprived of their
livelihoods by the seizure. It began to dawn on me that authors--American
writers--might well have their computers seized, under sealed warrants, without
any criminal charge; and that, as Steve Jackson had discovered, there was no
immediate recourse for this. This was no joke; this wasn't science fiction;
this was real.

I determined to put science fiction aside until I had discovered what had
happened and where this trouble had come from. It was time to enter the
purportedly real world of electronic free expression and computer crime. Hence,
this book. Hence, the world of the telcos; and the world of the digital
underground; and next, the world of the police.


Of the various anti-hacker activities of 1990, "Operation Sundevil" had by far
the highest public profile. The sweeping, nationwide computer seizures of May
8, 1990 were unprecedented in scope and highly, if rather selectively,

Unlike the efforts of the Chicago Computer Fraud and Abuse Task Force,
"Operation Sundevil" was not intended to combat "hacking" in the sense of
computer intrusion or sophisticated raids on telco switching stations. Nor did
it have anything to do with hacker misdeeds with AT&T's software, or with
Southern Bell's proprietary documents.

Instead, "Operation Sundevil" was a crackdown on those traditional scourges of
the digital underground: credit-card theft and telephone code abuse. The
ambitious activities out of Chicago, and the somewhat lesser-known but vigorous
anti-hacker actions of the New York State Police in 1990, were never a part of
"Operation Sundevil" per se, which was based in Arizona.

Nevertheless, after the spectacular May 8 raids, the public, misled by police
secrecy, hacker panic, and a puzzled national press-corps, conflated all aspects
of the nationwide crackdown in 1990 under the blanket term "Operation Sundevil."
"Sundevil" is still the best-known synonym for the crackdown of 1990. But the
Arizona organizers of "Sundevil" did not really deserve this reputation--any
more, for instance, than all hackers deserve a reputation as "hackers."

There was some justice in this confused perception, though. For one thing, the
confusion was abetted by the Washington office of the Secret Service, who
responded to Freedom of Information Act requests on "Operation Sundevil" by
referring investigators to the publicly known cases of Knight Lightning and the
Atlanta Three. And "Sundevil" was certainly the largest aspect of the
Crackdown, the most deliberate and the best- organized. As a crackdown on
electronic fraud, "Sundevil" lacked the frantic pace of the war on the Legion of
Doom; on the contrary, Sundevil's targets were picked out with cool deliberation
over an elaborate investigation lasting two full years.

And once again the targets were bulletin board systems.

Boards can be powerful aids to organized fraud. Underground boards carry lively,
extensive, detailed, and often quite flagrant "discussions" of lawbreaking
techniques and lawbreaking activities. "Discussing" crime in the abstract, or
"discussing" the particulars of criminal cases, is not illegal-- but there are
stern state and federal laws against coldbloodedly conspiring in groups in order
to commit crimes.

In the eyes of police, people who actively conspire to break the law are not
regarded as "clubs," "debating salons," "users' groups," or "free speech
advocates." Rather, such people tend to find themselves formally indicted by
prosecutors as "gangs," "racketeers," "corrupt organizations" and "organized
crime figures."

What's more, the illicit data contained on outlaw boards goes well beyond mere
acts of speech and/or possible criminal conspiracy. As we have seen, it was
common practice in the digital underground to post purloined telephone codes on
boards, for any phreak or hacker who cared to abuse them. Is posting digital
booty of this sort supposed to be protected by the First Amendment? Hardly--
though the issue, like most issues in cyberspace, is not entirely resolved.
Some theorists argue that to merely RECITE a number publicly is not illegal--
only its USE is illegal. But anti-hacker police point out that magazines and
newspapers (more traditional forms of free expression) never publish stolen
telephone codes (even though this might well raise their circulation).

Stolen credit card numbers, being riskier and more valuable, were less often
publicly posted on boards--but there is no question that some underground boards
carried "carding" traffic, generally exchanged through private mail.

Underground boards also carried handy programs for "scanning" telephone codes
and raiding credit card companies, as well as the usual obnoxious galaxy of
pirated software, cracked passwords, blue-box schematics, intrusion manuals,
anarchy files, porn files, and so forth.

But besides their nuisance potential for the spread of illicit knowledge,
bulletin boards have another vitally interesting aspect for the professional
investigator. Bulletin boards are cram-full of EVIDENCE. All that busy trading
of electronic mail, all those hacker boasts, brags and struts, even the stolen
codes and cards, can be neat, electronic, real-time recordings of criminal

As an investigator, when you seize a pirate board, you have scored a coup as
effective as tapping phones or intercepting mail. However, you have not
actually tapped a phone or intercepted a letter. The rules of evidence
regarding phone-taps and mail interceptions are old, stern and well-understood
by police, prosecutors and defense attorneys alike. The rules of evidence
regarding boards are new, waffling, and understood by nobody at all.

Sundevil was the largest crackdown on boards in world history. On May 7, 8, and
9, 1990, about forty-two computer systems were seized. Of those forty-two
computers, about twenty- five actually were running boards. (The vagueness of
this estimate is attributable to the vagueness of (a) what a "computer system"
is, and (b) what it actually means to "run a board" with one--or with two
computers, or with three.)

About twenty-five boards vanished into police custody in May 1990. As we have
seen, there are an estimated 30,000 boards in America today. If we assume that
one board in a hundred is up to no good with codes and cards (which rather
flatters the honesty of the board-using community), then that would leave 2,975
outlaw boards untouched by Sundevil. Sundevil seized about one tenth of one
percent of all computer bulletin boards in America. Seen objectively, this is
something less than a comprehensive assault. In 1990, Sundevil's organizers--
the team at the Phoenix Secret Service office, and the Arizona Attorney
General's office--had a list of at least THREE HUNDRED boards that they
considered fully deserving of search and seizure warrants. The twenty-five
boards actually seized were merely among the most obvious and egregious of this
much larger list of candidates. All these boards had been examined beforehand--
either by informants, who had passed printouts to the Secret Service, or by
Secret Service agents themselves, who not only come equipped with modems but
know how to use them.

There were a number of motives for Sundevil. First, it offered a chance to get
ahead of the curve on wire-fraud crimes. Tracking back credit-card ripoffs to
their perpetrators can be appallingly difficult. If these miscreants have any
kind of electronic sophistication, they can snarl their tracks through the phone
network into a mind-boggling, untraceable mess, while still managing to "reach
out and rob someone." Boards, however, full of brags and boasts, codes and
cards, offer evidence in the handy congealed form.

Seizures themselves--the mere physical removal of machines--tends to take the
pressure off. During Sundevil, a large number of code kids, warez d00dz, and
credit card thieves would be deprived of those boards--their means of community
and conspiracy--in one swift blow. As for the sysops themselves (commonly among
the boldest offenders) they would be directly stripped of their computer
equipment, and rendered digitally mute and blind.

And this aspect of Sundevil was carried out with great success. Sundevil seems
to have been a complete tactical surprise--unlike the fragmentary and continuing
seizures of the war on the Legion of Doom, Sundevil was precisely timed and
utterly overwhelming. At least forty "computers" were seized during May 7, 8
and 9, 1990, in Cincinnati, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami, Newark, Phoenix,
Tucson, Richmond, San Diego, San Jose, Pittsburgh and San Francisco. Some
cities saw multiple raids, such as the five separate raids in the New York City
environs. Plano, Texas (essentially a suburb of the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex,
and a hub of the telecommunications industry) saw four computer seizures.
Chicago, ever in the forefront, saw its own local Sundevil raid, briskly carried
out by Secret Service agents Timothy Foley and Barbara Golden.

Many of these raids occurred, not in the cities proper, but in associated white-
middle class suburbs--places like Mount Lebanon, Pennsylvania and Clark Lake,
Michigan. There were a few raids on offices; most took place in people's homes,
the classic hacker basements and bedrooms.

The Sundevil raids were searches and seizures, not a group of mass arrests.
There were only four arrests during Sundevil. "Tony the Trashman," a longtime
teenage bete noire of the Arizona Racketeering unit, was arrested in Tucson on
May 9. "Dr. Ripco," sysop of an outlaw board with the misfortune to exist in
Chicago itself, was also arrested--on illegal weapons charges. Local units also
arrested a 19-year-old female phone phreak named "Electra" in Pennsylvania, and
a male juvenile in California. Federal agents however were not seeking arrests,
but computers.

Hackers are generally not indicted (if at all) until the evidence in their
seized computers is evaluated--a process that can take weeks, months--even
years. When hackers are arrested on the spot, it's generally an arrest for
other reasons. Drugs and/or illegal weapons show up in a good third of anti-
hacker computer seizures (though not during Sundevil).

That scofflaw teenage hackers (or their parents) should have marijuana in their
homes is probably not a shocking revelation, but the surprisingly common
presence of illegal firearms in hacker dens is a bit disquieting. A Personal
Computer can be a great equalizer for the techno-cowboy--much like that more
traditional American "Great Equalizer," the Personal Sixgun. Maybe it's not all
that surprising that some guy obsessed with power through illicit technology
would also have a few illicit high-velocity-impact devices around. An element
of the digital underground particularly dotes on those "anarchy philes," and
this element tends to shade into the crackpot milieu of survivalists, gun-nuts,
anarcho-leftists and the ultra-libertarian right-wing.

This is not to say that hacker raids to date have uncovered any major crack-dens
or illegal arsenals; but Secret Service agents do not regard "hackers" as "just
kids." They regard hackers as unpredictable people, bright and slippery. It
doesn't help matters that the hacker himself has been "hiding behind his
keyboard" all this time. Commonly, police have no idea what he looks like.
This makes him an unknown quantity, someone best treated with proper caution.

To date, no hacker has come out shooting, though they do sometimes brag on
boards that they will do just that. Threats of this sort are taken seriously.
Secret Service hacker raids tend to be swift, comprehensive, well-manned (even
over-manned); and agents generally burst through every door in the home at once,
sometimes with drawn guns. Any potential resistance is swiftly quelled. Hacker
raids are usually raids on people's homes. It can be a very dangerous business
to raid an American home; people can panic when strangers invade their sanctum.
Statistically speaking, the most dangerous thing a policeman can do is to enter
someone's home. (The second most dangerous thing is to stop a car in traffic.)
People have guns in their homes. More cops are hurt in homes than are ever hurt
in biker bars or massage parlors.

But in any case, no one was hurt during Sundevil, or indeed during any part of
the Hacker Crackdown.

Nor were there any allegations of any physical mistreatment of a suspect. Guns
were pointed, interrogations were sharp and prolonged; but no one in 1990
claimed any act of brutality by any crackdown raider.

In addition to the forty or so computers, Sundevil reaped floppy disks in
particularly great abundance--an estimated 23,000 of them, which naturally
included every manner of illegitimate data: pirated games, stolen codes, hot
credit card numbers, the complete text and software of entire pirate bulletin-
boards. These floppy disks, which remain in police custody today, offer a
gigantic, almost embarrassingly rich source of possible criminal indictments.
These 23,000 floppy disks also include a thus-far unknown quantity of legitimate
computer games, legitimate software, purportedly "private" mail from boards,
business records, and personal correspondence of all kinds.

Standard computer-crime search warrants lay great emphasis on seizing written
documents as well as computers-- specifically including photocopies, computer
printouts, telephone bills, address books, logs, notes, memoranda and
correspondence. In practice, this has meant that diaries, gaming magazines,
software documentation, nonfiction books on hacking and computer security,
sometimes even science fiction novels, have all vanished out the door in police
custody. A wide variety of electronic items have been known to vanish as well,
including telephones, televisions, answering machines, Sony Walkmans, desktop
printers, compact disks, and audiotapes.

No fewer than 150 members of the Secret Service were sent into the field during
Sundevil. They were commonly accompanied by squads of local and/or state
police. Most of these officers-- especially the locals--had never been on an
anti-hacker raid before. (This was one good reason, in fact, why so many of
them were invited along in the first place.) Also, the presence of a uniformed
police officer assures the raidees that the people entering their homes are, in
fact, police. Secret Service agents wear plain clothes. So do the telco
security experts who commonly accompany the Secret Service on raids (and who
make no particular effort to identify themselves as mere employees of telephone

A typical hacker raid goes something like this. First, police storm in rapidly,
through every entrance, with overwhelming force, in the assumption that this
tactic will keep casualties to a minimum. Second, possible suspects are
immediately removed from the vicinity of any and all computer systems, so that
they will have no chance to purge or destroy computer evidence. Suspects are
herded into a room without computers, commonly the living room, and kept under
guard--not ARMED guard, for the guns are swiftly holstered, but under guard
nevertheless. They are presented with the search warrant and warned that
anything they say may be held against them. Commonly they have a great deal to
say, especially if they are unsuspecting parents.

Somewhere in the house is the "hot spot"--a computer tied to a phone line
(possibly several computers and several phones). Commonly it's a teenager's
bedroom, but it can be anywhere in the house; there may be several such rooms.
This "hot spot" is put in charge of a two-agent team, the "finder" and the
"recorder." The "finder" is computer-trained, commonly the case agent who has
actually obtained the search warrant from a judge. He or she understands what
is being sought, and actually carries out the seizures: unplugs machines, opens
drawers, desks, files, floppy- disk containers, etc. The "recorder" photographs
all the equipment, just as it stands--especially the tangle of wired connections
in the back, which can otherwise be a real nightmare to restore. The recorder
will also commonly photograph every room in the house, lest some wily criminal
claim that the police had robbed him during the search. Some recorders carry
videocams or tape recorders; however, it's more common for the recorder to
simply take written notes. Objects are described and numbered as the finder
seizes them, generally on standard preprinted police inventory forms.

Even Secret Service agents were not, and are not, expert computer users. They
have not made, and do not make, judgements on the fly about potential threats
posed by various forms of equipment. They may exercise discretion; they may
leave Dad his computer, for instance, but they don't HAVE to. Standard
computer-crime search warrants, which date back to the early 80s, use a sweeping
language that targets computers, most anything attached to a computer, most
anything used to operate a computer--most anything that remotely resembles a
computer--plus most any and all written documents surrounding it. Computer-
crime investigators have strongly urged agents to seize the works.

In this sense, Operation Sundevil appears to have been a complete success.
Boards went down all over America, and were shipped en masse to the computer
investigation lab of the Secret Service, in Washington DC, along with the 23,000
floppy disks and unknown quantities of printed material.

But the seizure of twenty-five boards, and the multi- megabyte mountains of
possibly useful evidence contained in these boards (and in their owners' other
computers, also out the door), were far from the only motives for Operation
Sundevil. An unprecedented action of great ambition and size, Sundevil's
motives can only be described as political. It was a public- relations effort,
meant to pass certain messages, meant to make certain situations clear: both in
the mind of the general public, and in the minds of various constituencies of
the electronic community.

First--and this motivation was vital--a "message" would be sent from law
enforcement to the digital underground. This very message was recited in so
many words by Garry M. Jenkins, the Assistant Director of the US Secret Service,
at the Sundevil press conference in Phoenix on May 9, 1990, immediately after
the raids. In brief, hackers were mistaken in their foolish belief that they
could hide behind the "relative anonymity of their computer terminals." On the
contrary, they should fully understand that state and federal cops were actively
patrolling the beat in cyberspace--that they were on the watch everywhere, even
in those sleazy and secretive dens of cybernetic vice, the underground boards.

This is not an unusual message for police to publicly convey to crooks. The
message is a standard message; only the context is new.

In this respect, the Sundevil raids were the digital equivalent of the standard
vice-squad crackdown on massage parlors, porno bookstores, head-shops, or
floating crap-games. There may be few or no arrests in a raid of this sort; no
convictions, no trials, no interrogations. In cases of this sort, police may
well walk out the door with many pounds of sleazy magazines, X-rated videotapes,
sex toys, gambling equipment, baggies of marijuana....

Of course, if something truly horrendous is discovered by the raiders, there
will be arrests and prosecutions. Far more likely, however, there will simply
be a brief but sharp disruption of the closed and secretive world of the
nogoodniks. There will be "street hassle." "Heat." "Deterrence." And, of
course, the immediate loss of the seized goods. It is very unlikely that any of
this seized material will ever be returned. Whether charged or not, whether
convicted or not, the perpetrators will almost surely lack the nerve ever to ask
for this stuff to be given back.

Arrests and trials--putting people in jail--may involve all kinds of formal
legalities; but dealing with the justice system is far from the only task of
police. Police do not simply arrest people. They don't simply put people in
jail. That is not how the police perceive their jobs. Police "protect and
serve." Police "keep the peace," they "keep public order." Like other forms of
public relations, keeping public order is not an exact science. Keeping public
order is something of an art-form.

If a group of tough-looking teenage hoodlums was loitering on a street-corner,
no one would be surprised to see a street-cop arrive and sternly order them to
"break it up." On the contrary, the surprise would come if one of these ne'er-
do- wells stepped briskly into a phone-booth, called a civil rights lawyer, and
instituted a civil suit in defense of his Constitutional rights of free speech
and free assembly. But something much along this line was one of the many
anomolous outcomes of the Hacker Crackdown.

Sundevil also carried useful "messages" for other constituents of the electronic
community. These messages may not have been read aloud from the Phoenix podium
in front of the press corps, but there was little mistaking their meaning.
There was a message of reassurance for the primary victims of coding and
carding: the telcos, and the credit companies. Sundevil was greeted with joy
by the security officers of the electronic business community. After years of
high-tech harassment and spiralling revenue losses, their complaints of rampant
outlawry were being taken seriously by law enforcement. No more head-
scratching or dismissive shrugs; no more feeble excuses about "lack of computer-
trained officers" or the low priority of "victimless" white-collar
telecommunication crimes.

Computer-crime experts have long believed that computer- related offenses are
drastically under-reported. They regard this as a major open scandal of their
field. Some victims are reluctant to come forth, because they believe that
police and prosecutors are not computer-literate, and can and will do nothing.
Others are embarrassed by their vulnerabilities, and will take strong measures
to avoid any publicity; this is especially true of banks, who fear a loss of
investor confidence should an embezzlement-case or wire-fraud surface. And some
victims are so helplessly confused by their own high technology that they never
even realize that a crime has occurred--even when they have been fleeced to the

The results of this situation can be dire. Criminals escape apprehension and
punishment. The computer-crime units that do exist, can't get work. The true
scope of computer-crime: its size, its real nature, the scope of its threats,
and the legal remedies for it--all remain obscured.

Another problem is very little publicized, but it is a cause of genuine concern.
Where there is persistent crime, but no effective police protection, then
vigilantism can result. Telcos, banks, credit companies, the major corporations
who maintain extensive computer networks vulnerable to hacking--these
organizations are powerful, wealthy, and politically influential. They are
disinclined to be pushed around by crooks (or by most anyone else, for that
matter). They often maintain well-organized private security forces, commonly
run by experienced veterans of military and police units, who have left public
service for the greener pastures of the private sector. For police, the
corporate security manager can be a powerful ally; but if this gentleman finds
no allies in the police, and the pressure is on from his board-of-directors, he
may quietly take certain matters into his own hands.

Nor is there any lack of disposable hired-help in the corporate security
business. Private security agencies--the 'security business' generally--grew
explosively in the 1980s. Today there are spooky gumshoed armies of "security
consultants," "rent-a-cops," "private eyes," "outside experts"--every manner of
shady operator who retails in "results" and discretion. Or course, many of
these gentlemen and ladies may be paragons of professional and moral rectitude.
But as anyone who has read a hard-boiled detective novel knows, police tend to
be less than fond of this sort of private-sector competition.

Companies in search of computer-security have even been known to hire hackers.
Police shudder at this prospect.

Police treasure good relations with the business community. Rarely will you see
a policeman so indiscreet as to allege publicly that some major employer in his
state or city has succumbed to paranoia and gone off the rails. Nevertheless,
police--and computer police in particular--are aware of this possibility.
Computer-crime police can and do spend up to half of their business hours just
doing public relations: seminars, "dog and pony shows," sometimes with parents'
groups or computer users, but generally with their core audience: the likely
victims of hacking crimes. These, of course, are telcos, credit card companies
and large computer-equipped corporations. The police strongly urge these
people, as good citizens, to report offenses and press criminal charges; they
pass the message that there is someone in authority who cares, understands, and,
best of all, will take useful action should a computer-crime occur.

But reassuring talk is cheap. Sundevil offered action.

The final message of Sundevil was intended for internal consumption by law
enforcement. Sundevil was offered as proof that the community of American
computer-crime police had come of age. Sundevil was proof that enormous things
like Sundevil itself could now be accomplished. Sundevil was proof that the
Secret Service and its local law-enforcement allies could act like a well-oiled
machine--(despite the hampering use of those scrambled phones). It was also
proof that the Arizona Organized Crime and Racketeering Unit--the sparkplug of
Sundevil--ranked with the best in the world in ambition, organization, and sheer
conceptual daring.

And, as a final fillip, Sundevil was a message from the Secret Service to their
longtime rivals in the Federal Bureau of Investigation. By Congressional fiat,
both USSS and FBI formally share jurisdiction over federal computer-crimebusting
activities. Neither of these groups has ever been remotely happy with this
muddled situation. It seems to suggest that Congress cannot make up its mind as
to which of these groups is better qualified. And there is scarcely a G-man or
a Special Agent anywhere without a very firm opinion on that topic.

For the neophyte, one of the most puzzling aspects of the crackdown on hackers
is why the United States Secret Service has anything at all to do with this

The Secret Service is best known for its primary public role: its agents
protect the President of the United States. They also guard the President's
family, the Vice President and his family, former Presidents, and Presidential
candidates. They sometimes guard foreign dignitaries who are visiting the
United States, especially foreign heads of state, and have been known to
accompany American officials on diplomatic missions overseas.

Special Agents of the Secret Service don't wear uniforms, but the Secret Service
also has two uniformed police agencies. There's the former White House Police
(now known as the Secret Service Uniformed Division, since they currently guard
foreign embassies in Washington, as well as the White House itself). And
there's the uniformed Treasury Police Force.

The Secret Service has been charged by Congress with a number of little-known
duties. They guard the precious metals in Treasury vaults. They guard the most
valuable historical documents of the United States: originals of the
Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, Lincoln's Second Inaugural
Address, an American-owned copy of the Magna Carta, and so forth. Once they were
assigned to guard the Mona Lisa, on her American tour in the 1960s.

The entire Secret Service is a division of the Treasury Department. Secret
Service Special Agents (there are about 1,900 of them) are bodyguards for the
President et al, but they all work for the Treasury. And the Treasury (through
its divisions of the U.S. Mint and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing) prints
the nation's money.

As Treasury police, the Secret Service guards the nation's currency; it is the
only federal law enforcement agency with direct jurisdiction over counterfeiting
and forgery. It analyzes documents for authenticity, and its fight against fake
cash is still quite lively (especially since the skilled counterfeiters of
Medellin, Columbia have gotten into the act). Government checks, bonds, and
other obligations, which exist in untold millions and are worth untold billions,
are common targets for forgery, which the Secret Service also battles. It even
handles forgery of postage stamps.

But cash is fading in importance today as money has become electronic. As
necessity beckoned, the Secret Service moved from fighting the counterfeiting of
paper currency and the forging of checks, to the protection of funds transferred
by wire.

From wire-fraud, it was a simple skip-and-jump to what is formally known as
"access device fraud." Congress granted the Secret Service the authority to
investigate "access device fraud" under Title 18 of the United States Code
(U.S.C. Section 1029).

The term "access device" seems intuitively simple. It's some kind of high-tech
gizmo you use to get money with. It makes good sense to put this sort of thing
in the charge of counterfeiting and wire-fraud experts.

However, in Section 1029, the term "access device" is very generously defined.
An access device is: "any card, plate, code, account number, or other means of
account access that can be used, alone or in conjunction with another access
device, to obtain money, goods, services, or any other thing of value, or that
can be used to initiate a transfer of funds."

"Access device" can therefore be construed to include credit cards themselves (a
popular forgery item nowadays). It also includes credit card account NUMBERS,
those standards of the digital underground. The same goes for telephone charge
cards (an increasingly popular item with telcos, who are tired of being robbed
of pocket change by phone-booth thieves). And also telephone access CODES,
those OTHER standards of the digital underground. (Stolen telephone codes may
not "obtain money," but they certainly do obtain valuable "services," which is
specifically forbidden by Section 1029.)

We can now see that Section 1029 already pits the United States Secret Service
directly against the digital underground, without any mention at all of the word

Standard phreaking devices, like "blue boxes," used to steal phone service from
old-fashioned mechanical switches, are unquestionably "counterfeit access
devices." Thanks to Sec.1029, it is not only illegal to USE counterfeit access
devices, but it is even illegal to BUILD them. "Producing," "designing"
"duplicating" or "assembling" blue boxes are all federal crimes today, and if
you do this, the Secret Service has been charged by Congress to come after you.

Automatic Teller Machines, which replicated all over America during the 1980s,
are definitely "access devices," too, and an attempt to tamper with their punch-
in codes and plastic bank cards falls directly under Sec. 1029.

Section 1029 is remarkably elastic. Suppose you find a computer password in
somebody's trash. That password might be a "code"--it's certainly a "means of
account access." Now suppose you log on to a computer and copy some software
for yourself. You've certainly obtained "service" (computer service) and a
"thing of value" (the software). Suppose you tell a dozen friends about your
swiped password, and let them use it, too. Now you're "trafficking in
unauthorized access devices." And when the Prophet, a member of the Legion of
Doom, passed a stolen telephone company document to Knight Lightning at PHRACK
magazine, they were both charged under Sec. 1029!

There are two limitations on Section 1029. First, the offense must "affect
interstate or foreign commerce" in order to become a matter of federal
jurisdiction. The term "affecting commerce" is not well defined; but you may
take it as a given that the Secret Service can take an interest if you've done
most anything that happens to cross a state line. State and local police can be
touchy about their jurisdictions, and can sometimes be mulish when the feds show
up. But when it comes to computer- crime, the local police are pathetically
grateful for federal help--in fact they complain that they can't get enough of
it. If you're stealing long-distance service, you're almost certainly crossing
state lines, and you're definitely "affecting the interstate commerce" of the
telcos. And if you're abusing credit cards by ordering stuff out of glossy
catalogs from, say, Vermont, you're in for it.

The second limitation is money. As a rule, the feds don't pursue penny-ante
offenders. Federal judges will dismiss cases that appear to waste their time.
Federal crimes must be serious; Section 1029 specifies a minimum loss of a
thousand dollars.

We now come to the very next section of Title 18, which is Section 1030, "Fraud
and related activity in connection with computers." This statute gives the
Secret Service direct jurisdiction over acts of computer intrusion. On the face
of it, the Secret Service would now seem to command the field. Section 1030,
however, is nowhere near so ductile as Section 1029.

The first annoyance is Section 1030(d), which reads:

"(d) The United States Secret Service shall, IN ADDITION TO ANY OTHER AGENCY
HAVING SUCH AUTHORITY, have the authority to investigate offenses under this
section. Such authority of the United States Secret Service shall be exercised
in accordance with an agreement which shall be entered into by the Secretary of
the Treasury AND THE ATTORNEY GENERAL." (Author's emphasis.)

The Secretary of the Treasury is the titular head of the Secret Service, while
the Attorney General is in charge of the FBI. In Section (d), Congress shrugged
off responsibility for the computer-crime turf-battle between the Service and
the Bureau, and made them fight it out all by themselves. The result was a
rather dire one for the Secret Service, for the FBI ended up with exclusive
jurisdiction over computer break-ins having to do with national security,
foreign espionage, federally insured banks, and U.S. military bases, while
retaining joint jurisdiction over all the other computer intrusions.
Essentially, when it comes to Section 1030, the FBI not only gets the real
glamor stuff for itself, but can peer over the shoulder of the Secret Service
and barge in to meddle whenever it suits them.

The second problem has to do with the dicey term "Federal interest computer."
Section 1030(a)(2) makes it illegal to "access a computer without authorization"
if that computer belongs to a financial institution or an issuer of credit cards
(fraud cases, in other words). Congress was quite willing to give the Secret
Service jurisdiction over money-transferring computers, but Congress balked at
letting them investigate any and all computer intrusions. Instead, the USSS had
to settle for the money machines and the "Federal interest computers." A
"Federal interest computer" is a computer which the government itself owns, or
is using. Large networks of interstate computers, linked over state lines, are
also considered to be of "Federal interest." (This notion of "Federal interest"
is legally rather foggy and has never been clearly defined in the courts. The
Secret Service has never yet had its hand slapped for investigating computer
break-ins that were NOT of "Federal interest," but conceivably someday this
might happen.)

So the Secret Service's authority over "unauthorized access" to computers covers
a lot of territory, but by no means the whole ball of cyberspatial wax. If you
are, for instance, a LOCAL computer retailer, or the owner of a LOCAL bulletin
board system, then a malicious LOCAL intruder can break in, crash your system,
trash your files and scatter viruses, and the U.S. Secret Service cannot do a
single thing about it.

At least, it can't do anything DIRECTLY. But the Secret Service will do plenty
to help the local people who can.

The FBI may have dealt itself an ace off the bottom of the deck when it comes to
Section 1030; but that's not the whole story; that's not the street. What's
Congress thinks is one thing, and Congress has been known to change its mind.
The REAL turf-struggle is out there in the streets where it's happening. If
you're a local street-cop with a computer problem, the Secret Service wants you
to know where you can find the real expertise. While the Bureau crowd are off
having their favorite shoes polished--(wing-tips)--and making derisive fun of
the Service's favorite shoes--("pansy-ass tassels")--the tassel-toting Secret
Service has a crew of ready-and-able hacker-trackers installed in the capital of
every state in the Union. Need advice? They'll give you advice, or at least
point you in the right direction. Need training? They can see to that, too.

If you're a local cop and you call in the FBI, the FBI (as is widely and
slanderously rumored) will order you around like a coolie, take all the credit
for your busts, and mop up every possible scrap of reflected glory. The Secret
Service, on the other hand, doesn't brag a lot. They're the quiet types. VERY
quiet. Very cool. Efficient. High-tech. Mirrorshades, icy stares, radio ear-
plugs, an Uzi machine-pistol tucked somewhere in that well-cut jacket. American
samurai, sworn to give their lives to protect our President. "The granite
agents." Trained in martial arts, absolutely fearless. Every single one of 'em
has a top-secret security clearance. Something goes a little wrong, you're not
gonna hear any whining and moaning and political buck-passing out of these guys.

The facade of the granite agent is not, of course, the reality. Secret Service
agents are human beings. And the real glory in Service work is not in battling
computer crime--not yet, anyway--but in protecting the President. The real
glamour of Secret Service work is in the White House Detail. If you're at the
President's side, then the kids and the wife see you on television; you rub
shoulders with the most powerful people in the world. That's the real heart of
Service work, the number one priority. More than one computer investigation has
stopped dead in the water when Service agents vanished at the President's need.

There's romance in the work of the Service. The intimate access to circles of
great power; the esprit-de-corps of a highly trained and disciplined elite; the
high responsibility of defending the Chief Executive; the fulfillment of a
patriotic duty. And as police work goes, the pay's not bad. But there's
squalor in Service work, too. You may get spat upon by protesters howling
abuse--and if they get violent, if they get too close, sometimes you have to
knock one of them down-- discreetly.

The real squalor in Service work is drudgery such as "the quarterlies,"
traipsing out four times a year, year in, year out, to interview the various
pathetic wretches, many of them in prisons and asylums, who have seen fit to
threaten the President's life. And then there's the grinding stress of
searching all those faces in the endless bustling crowds, looking for hatred,
looking for psychosis, looking for the tight, nervous face of an Arthur Bremer,
a Squeaky Fromme, a Lee Harvey Oswald. It's watching all those grasping, waving
hands for sudden movements, while your ears strain at your radio headphone for
the long-rehearsed cry of "Gun!"

It's poring, in grinding detail, over the biographies of every rotten loser who
ever shot at a President. It's the unsung work of the Protective Research
Section, who study scrawled, anonymous death threats with all the meticulous
tools of anti- forgery techniques.

And it's maintaining the hefty computerized files on anyone who ever threatened
the President's life. Civil libertarians have become increasingly concerned at
the Government's use of computer files to track American citizens-- but the
Secret Service file of potential Presidential assassins, which has upward of
twenty thousand names, rarely causes a peep of protest. If you EVER state that
you intend to kill the President, the Secret Service will want to know and
record who you are, where you are, what you are, and what you're up to. If
you're a serious threat--if you're officially considered "of protective
interest"--then the Secret Service may well keep tabs on you for the rest of
your natural life.

Protecting the President has first call on all the Service's resources. But
there's a lot more to the Service's traditions and history than standing guard
outside the Oval Office.

The Secret Service is the nation's oldest general federal law-enforcement
agency. Compared to the Secret Service, the FBI are new-hires and the CIA are
temps. The Secret Service was founded 'way back in 1865, at the suggestion of
Hugh McCulloch, Abraham Lincoln's Secretary of the Treasury. McCulloch wanted a
specialized Treasury police to combat counterfeiting. Abraham Lincoln agreed
that this seemed a good idea, and, with a terrible irony, Abraham Lincoln was
shot that very night by John Wilkes Booth.

The Secret Service originally had nothing to do with protecting Presidents.
They didn't take this on as a regular assignment until after the Garfield
assassination in 1881. And they didn't get any Congressional money for it until
President McKinley was shot in 1901. The Service was originally designed for
one purpose: destroying counterfeiters.

There are interesting parallels between the Service's nineteenth-century entry
into counterfeiting, and America's twentieth-century entry into computer-crime.

In 1865, America's paper currency was a terrible muddle. Security was
drastically bad. Currency was printed on the spot by local banks in literally
hundreds of different designs. No one really knew what the heck a dollar bill
was supposed to look like. Bogus bills passed easily. If some joker told you
that a one-dollar bill from the Railroad Bank of Lowell, Massachusetts had a
woman leaning on a shield, with a locomotive, a cornucopia, a compass, various
agricultural implements, a railroad bridge, and some factories, then you pretty
much had to take his word for it. (And in fact he was telling the truth!)

SIXTEEN HUNDRED local American banks designed and printed their own paper
currency, and there were no general standards for security. Like a badly
guarded node in a computer network, badly designed bills were easy to fake, and
posed a security hazard for the entire monetary system.

No one knew the exact extent of the threat to the currency. There were panicked
estimates that as much as a third of the entire national currency was faked.
Counterfeiters--known as "boodlers" in the underground slang of the time--were
mostly technically skilled printers who had gone to the bad. Many had once
worked printing legitimate currency. Boodlers operated in rings and gangs.
Technical experts engraved the bogus plates-- commonly in basements in New York
City. Smooth confidence men passed large wads of high-quality, high-
denomination fakes, including the really sophisticated stuff--government bonds,
stock certificates, and railway shares. Cheaper, botched fakes were sold or
sharewared to low-level gangs of boodler wannabes. (The really cheesy lowlife
boodlers merely upgraded real bills by altering face values, changing ones to
fives, tens to hundreds, and so on.)

The techniques of boodling were little-known and regarded with a certain awe by
the mid-nineteenth-century public. The ability to manipulate the system for
rip-off seemed diabolically clever. As the skill and daring of the boodlers
increased, the situation became intolerable. The federal government stepped in,
and began offering its own federal currency, which was printed in fancy green
ink, but only on the back--the original "greenbacks." And at first, the improved
security of the well-designed, well- printed federal greenbacks seemed to solve
the problem; but then the counterfeiters caught on. Within a few years things
were worse than ever: a CENTRALIZED system where ALL security was bad!

The local police were helpless. The Government tried offering blood money to
potential informants, but this met with little success. Banks, plagued by
boodling, gave up hope of police help and hired private security men instead.
Merchants and bankers queued up by the thousands to buy privately-printed
manuals on currency security, slim little books like Laban Heath's INFALLIBLE
GOVERNMENT COUNTERFEIT DETECTOR. The back of the book offered Laban Heath's
patent microscope for five bucks.

Then the Secret Service entered the picture. The first agents were a rough and
ready crew. Their chief was one William P. Wood, a former guerilla in the
Mexican War who'd won a reputation busting contractor fraudsters for the War
Department during the Civil War. Wood, who was also Keeper of the Capital
Prison, had a sideline as a counterfeiting expert, bagging boodlers for the
federal bounty money.

Wood was named Chief of the new Secret Service in July 1865. There were only
ten Secret Service agents in all: Wood himself, a handful who'd worked for him
in the War Department, and a few former private investigators--counterfeiting
experts-- whom Wood had won over to public service. (The Secret Service of 1865
was much the size of the Chicago Computer Fraud Task Force or the Arizona
Racketeering Unit of 1990.) These ten "Operatives" had an additional twenty or
so "Assistant Operatives" and "Informants." Besides salary and per diem, each
Secret Service employee received a whopping twenty-five dollars for each boodler
he captured.

Wood himself publicly estimated that at least HALF of America's currency was
counterfeit, a perhaps pardonable perception. Within a year the Secret Service
had arrested over 200 counterfeiters. They busted about two hundred boodlers a
year for four years straight.

Wood attributed his success to travelling fast and light, hitting the bad-guys
hard, and avoiding bureaucratic baggage. "Because my raids were made without
military escort and I did not ask the assistance of state officers, I surprised
the professional counterfeiter."

Wood's social message to the once-impudent boodlers bore an eerie ring of
Sundevil: "It was also my purpose to convince such characters that it would no
longer be healthy for them to ply their vocation without being handled roughly,
a fact they soon discovered."

William P. Wood, the Secret Service's guerilla pioneer, did not end well. He
succumbed to the lure of aiming for the really big score. The notorious
Brockway Gang of New York City, headed by William E. Brockway, the "King of the
Counterfeiters," had forged a number of government bonds. They'd passed these
brilliant fakes on the prestigious Wall Street investment firm of Jay Cooke and
Company. The Cooke firm were frantic and offered a huge reward for the forgers'

Laboring diligently, Wood confiscated the plates (though not Mr. Brockway) and
claimed the reward. But the Cooke company treacherously reneged. Wood got
involved in a down-and-dirty lawsuit with the Cooke capitalists. Wood's boss,
Secretary of the Treasury McCulloch, felt that Wood's demands for money and
glory were unseemly, and even when the reward money finally came through,
McCulloch refused to pay Wood anything. Wood found himself mired in a seemingly
endless round of federal suits and Congressional lobbying.

Wood never got his money. And he lost his job to boot. He resigned in 1869.

Wood's agents suffered, too. On May 12, 1869, the second Chief of the Secret
Service took over, and almost immediately fired most of Wood's pioneer Secret
Service agents: Operatives, Assistants and Informants alike. The practice of
receiving $25 per crook was abolished. And the Secret Service began the long,
uncertain process of thorough professionalization.

Wood ended badly. He must have felt stabbed in the back. In fact his entire
organization was mangled.

On the other hand, William P. Wood WAS the first head of the Secret Service.
William Wood was the pioneer. People still honor his name. Who remembers the
name of the SECOND head of the Secret Service?

As for William Brockway (also known as "Colonel Spencer"), he was finally
arrested by the Secret Service in 1880. He did five years in prison, got out,
and was still boodling at the age of seventy-four.

Anyone with an interest in Operation Sundevil--or in American computer-crime
generally--could scarcely miss the presence of Gail Thackeray, Assistant
Attorney General of the State of Arizona. Computer-crime training manuals often
cited Thackeray's group and her work; she was the highest-ranking state official
to specialize in computer-related offenses. Her name had been on the Sundevil
press release (though modestly ranked well after the local federal prosecuting
attorney and the head of the Phoenix Secret Service office).

As public commentary, and controversy, began to mount about the Hacker
Crackdown, this Arizonan state official began to take a higher and higher public
profile. Though uttering almost nothing specific about the Sundevil operation
itself, she coined some of the most striking soundbites of the growing
propaganda war: "Agents are operating in good faith, and I don't think you can
say that for the hacker community," was one. Another was the memorable "I am
not a mad dog prosecutor" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, Sept 2, 1990.) In the meantime,
the Secret Service maintained its usual extreme discretion; the Chicago Unit,
smarting from the backlash of the Steve Jackson scandal, had gone completely to

As I collated my growing pile of newspaper clippings, Gail Thackeray ranked as a
comparative fount of public knowledge on police operations.

I decided that I had to get to know Gail Thackeray. I wrote to her at the
Arizona Attorney General's Office. Not only did she kindly reply to me, but, to
my astonishment, she knew very well what "cyberpunk" science fiction was.

Shortly after this, Gail Thackeray lost her job. And I temporarily misplaced my
own career as a science-fiction writer, to become a full-time computer-crime
journalist. In early March, 1991, I flew to Phoenix, Arizona, to interview Gail
Thackeray for my book on the hacker crackdown.

"Credit cards didn't used to cost anything to get," says Gail Thackeray. "Now
they cost forty bucks--and that's all just to cover the costs from RIP-OFF

Electronic nuisance criminals are parasites. One by one they're not much harm,
no big deal. But they never come just one by one. They come in swarms, heaps,
legions, sometimes whole subcultures. And they bite. Every time we buy a
credit card today, we lose a little financial vitality to a particular species
of bloodsucker.

What, in her expert opinion, are the worst forms of electronic crime, I ask,
consulting my notes. Is it--credit card fraud? Breaking into ATM bank
machines? Phone-phreaking? Computer intrusions? Software viruses? Access-code
theft? Records tampering? Software piracy? Pornographic bulletin boards?
Satellite TV piracy? Theft of cable service? It's a long list. By the time I
reach the end of it I feel rather depressed.

"Oh no," says Gail Thackeray, leaning forward over the table, her whole body
gone stiff with energetic indignation, "the biggest damage is telephone fraud.
Fake sweepstakes, fake charities. Boiler-room con operations. You could pay
off the national debt with what these guys steal.... They target old people,
they get hold of credit ratings and demographics, they rip off the old and the
weak." The words come tumbling out of her.

It's low-tech stuff, your everyday boiler-room fraud. Grifters, conning people
out of money over the phone, have been around for decades. This is where the
word "phony" came from!

It's just that it's so much EASIER now, horribly facilitated by advances in
technology and the byzantine structure of the modern phone system. The same
professional fraudsters do it over and over, Thackeray tells me, they hide
behind dense onion-shells of fake companies.... fake holding corporations nine
or ten layers deep, registered all over the map. They get a phone installed
under a false name in an empty safe-house. And then they call-forward
everything out of that phone to yet another phone, a phone that may even be in
another STATE. And they don't even pay the charges on their phones; after a
month or so, they just split; set up somewhere else in another Podunkville with
the same seedy crew of veteran phone-crooks. They buy or steal commercial credit
card reports, slap them on the PC, have a program pick out people over sixty-
five who pay a lot to charities. A whole subculture living off this, merciless
folks on the con.

"The 'light-bulbs for the blind' people," Thackeray muses, with a special
loathing. "There's just no end to them."

We're sitting in a downtown diner in Phoenix, Arizona. It's a tough town,
Phoenix. A state capital seeing some hard times. Even to a Texan like myself,
Arizona state politics seem rather baroque. There was, and remains, endless
trouble over the Martin Luther King holiday, the sort of stiff-necked, foot-
shooting incident for which Arizona politics seem famous. There was Evan
Mecham, the eccentric Republican millionaire governor who was impeached, after
reducing state government to a ludicrous shambles. Then there was the national
Keating scandal, involving Arizona savings and loans, in which both of Arizona's
U.S. senators, DeConcini and McCain, played sadly prominent roles.

And the very latest is the bizarre AzScam case, in which state legislators were
videotaped, eagerly taking cash from an informant of the Phoenix city police
department, who was posing as a Vegas mobster.

"Oh," says Thackeray cheerfully. "These people are amateurs here, they thought
they were finally getting to play with the big boys. They don't have the least
idea how to take a bribe! It's not institutional corruption. It's not like
back in Philly."

Gail Thackeray was a former prosecutor in Philadelphia. Now she's a former
assistant attorney general of the State of Arizona. Since moving to Arizona in
1986, she had worked under the aegis of Steve Twist, her boss in the Attorney
General's office. Steve Twist wrote Arizona's pioneering computer crime laws
and naturally took an interest in seeing them enforced. It was a snug niche, and
Thackeray's Organized Crime and Racketeering Unit won a national reputation for
ambition and technical knowledgeability.... Until the latest election in
Arizona. Thackeray's boss ran for the top job, and lost. The victor, the new
Attorney General, apparently went to some pains to eliminate the bureaucratic
traces of his rival, including his pet group--Thackeray's group. Twelve people
got their walking papers.

Now Thackeray's painstakingly assembled computer lab sits gathering dust
somewhere in the glass-and-concrete Attorney General's HQ on 1275 Washington
Street. Her computer-crime books, her painstakingly garnered back issues of
phreak and hacker zines, all bought at her own expense--are piled in boxes
somewhere. The State of Arizona is simply not particularly interested in
electronic racketeering at the moment.

At the moment of our interview, Gail Thackeray, officially unemployed, is
working out of the county sheriff's office, living on her savings, and
prosecuting several cases-- working 60-hour weeks, just as always--for no pay at
all. "I'm trying to train people," she mutters.

Half her life seems to be spent training people--merely pointing out, to the
naive and incredulous (such as myself) that this stuff is ACTUALLY GOING ON OUT
THERE. It's a small world, computer crime. A young world. Gail Thackeray, a
trim blonde Baby-Boomer who favors Grand Canyon white-water rafting to kill some
slow time, is one of the world's most senior, most veteran "hacker-trackers."
Her mentor was Donn Parker, the California think-tank theorist who got it all
started 'way back in the mid- 70s, the "grandfather of the field," "the great
bald eagle of computer crime."

And what she has learned, Gail Thackeray teaches. Endlessly. Tirelessly. To
anybody. To Secret Service agents and state police, at the Glynco, Georgia
federal training center. To local police, on "roadshows" with her slide
projector and notebook. To corporate security personnel. To journalists. To

Even CROOKS look to Gail Thackeray for advice. Phone- phreaks call her at the
office. They know very well who she is. They pump her for information on what
the cops are up to, how much they know. Sometimes whole CROWDS of phone
phreaks, hanging out on illegal conference calls, will call Gail Thackeray up.
They taunt her. And, as always, they boast. Phone-phreaks, real stone phone-
phreaks, simply CANNOT SHUT UP. They natter on for hours.

Left to themselves, they mostly talk about the intricacies of ripping-off
phones; it's about as interesting as listening to hot-rodders talk about
suspension and distributor- caps. They also gossip cruelly about each other.
And when talking to Gail Thackeray, they incriminate themselves. "I have
tapes," Thackeray says coolly.

Phone phreaks just talk like crazy. "Dial-Tone" out in Alabama has been known
to spend half-an-hour simply reading stolen phone-codes aloud into voice-mail
answering machines. Hundreds, thousands of numbers, recited in a monotone,
without a break--an eerie phenomenon. When arrested, it's a rare phone phreak
who doesn't inform at endless length on everybody he knows.

Hackers are no better. What other group of criminals, she asks rhetorically,
publishes newsletters and holds conventions? She seems deeply nettled by the
sheer brazenness of this behavior, though to an outsider, this activity might
make one wonder whether hackers should be considered "criminals" at all.
Skateboarders have magazines, and they trespass a lot. Hot rod people have
magazines and they break speed limits and sometimes kill people....

I ask her whether it would be any loss to society if phone phreaking and
computer hacking, as hobbies, simply dried up and blew away, so that nobody ever
did it again.

She seems surprised. "No," she says swiftly. "Maybe a little... in the old
days... the MIT stuff... But there's a lot of wonderful, legal stuff you can do
with computers now, you don't have to break into somebody else's just to learn.
You don't have that excuse. You can learn all you like."

Did you ever hack into a system? I ask.

The trainees do it at Glynco. Just to demonstrate system vulnerabilities.
She's cool to the notion. Genuinely indifferent.

"What kind of computer do you have?"

"A Compaq 286LE," she mutters.

"What kind do you WISH you had?"

At this question, the unmistakable light of true hackerdom flares in Gail
Thackeray's eyes. She becomes tense, animated, the words pour out: "An Amiga
2000 with an IBM card and Mac emulation! The most common hacker machines are
Amigas and Commodores. And Apples." If she had the Amiga, she enthuses, she
could run a whole galaxy of seized computer- evidence disks on one convenient
multifunctional machine. A cheap one, too. Not like the old Attorney General
lab, where they had an ancient CP/M machine, assorted Amiga flavors and Apple
flavors, a couple IBMS, all the utility software... but no Commodores. The
workstations down at the Attorney General's are Wang dedicated word-processors.
Lame machines tied in to an office net--though at least they get on-line to the
Lexis and Westlaw legal data services.

I don't say anything. I recognize the syndrome, though. This computer-fever has
been running through segments of our society for years now. It's a strange kind
of lust: K-hunger, Meg-hunger; but it's a shared disease; it can kill parties
dead, as conversation spirals into the deepest and most deviant recesses of
software releases and expensive peripherals.... The mark of the hacker beast.
I have it too. The whole "electronic community," whatever the hell that is, has
it. Gail Thackeray has it. Gail Thackeray is a hacker cop. My immediate
reaction is a strong rush of indignant pity: WHY DOESN'T SOMEBODY BUY THIS
WOMEN HER AMIGA?! It's not like she's asking for a Cray X- MP supercomputer
mainframe; an Amiga's a sweet little cookie-box thing. We're losing zillions in
organized fraud; prosecuting and defending a single hacker case in court can
cost a hundred grand easy. How come nobody can come up with four lousy grand so
this woman can do her job? For a hundred grand we could buy every computer cop
in America an Amiga. There aren't that many of 'em.

Computers. The lust, the hunger, for computers. The loyalty they inspire, the
intense sense of possessiveness. The culture they have bred. I myself am
sitting in downtown Phoenix, Arizona because it suddenly occurred to me that the
police might --just MIGHT--come and take away my computer. The prospect of
this, the mere IMPLIED THREAT, was unbearable. It literally changed my life.
It was changing the lives of many others. Eventually it would change everybody's

Gail Thackeray was one of the top computer-crime people in America. And I was
just some novelist, and yet I had a better computer than hers. PRACTICALLY
EVERYBODY I KNEW had a better computer than Gail Thackeray and her feeble laptop
286. It was like sending the sheriff in to clean up Dodge City and arming her
with a slingshot cut from an old rubber tire.

But then again, you don't need a howitzer to enforce the law. You can do a lot
just with a badge. With a badge alone, you can basically wreak havoc, take a
terrible vengeance on wrongdoers. Ninety percent of "computer crime
investigation" is just "crime investigation:" names, places, dossiers, modus
operandi, search warrants, victims, complainants, informants...

What will computer crime look like in ten years? Will it get better? Did
"Sundevil" send 'em reeling back in confusion?

It'll be like it is now, only worse, she tells me with perfect conviction.
Still there in the background, ticking along, changing with the times: the
criminal underworld. It'll be like drugs are. Like our problems with alcohol.
All the cops and laws in the world never solved our problems with alcohol. If
there's something people want, a certain percentage of them are just going to
take it. Fifteen percent of the populace will never steal. Fifteen percent
will steal most anything not nailed down. The battle is for the hearts and
minds of the remaining seventy percent.

And criminals catch on fast. If there's not "too steep a learning curve"--if it
doesn't require a baffling amount of expertise and practice--then criminals are
often some of the first through the gate of a new technology. Especially if it
helps them to hide. They have tons of cash, criminals. The new communications
tech--like pagers, cellular phones, faxes, Federal Express--were pioneered by
rich corporate people, and by criminals. In the early years of pagers and
beepers, dope dealers were so enthralled this technology that owing a beeper was
practically prima facie evidence of cocaine dealing. CB radio exploded when the
speed limit hit 55 and breaking the highway law became a national pastime. Dope
dealers send cash by Federal Express, despite, or perhaps BECAUSE OF, the
warnings in FedEx offices that tell you never to try this. Fed Ex uses X- rays
and dogs on their mail, to stop drug shipments. That doesn't work very well.

Drug dealers went wild over cellular phones. There are simple methods of faking
ID on cellular phones, making the location of the call mobile, free of charge,
and effectively untraceable. Now victimized cellular companies routinely bring
in vast toll-lists of calls to Colombia and Pakistan.

Judge Greene's fragmentation of the phone company is driving law enforcement
nuts. Four thousand telecommunications companies. Fraud skyrocketing. Every
temptation in the world available with a phone and a credit card number.
Criminals untraceable. A galaxy of "new neat rotten things to do."

If there were one thing Thackeray would like to have, it would be an effective
legal end-run through this new fragmentation minefield.

It would be a new form of electronic search warrant, an "electronic letter of
marque" to be issued by a judge. It would create a new category of "electronic
emergency." Like a wiretap, its use would be rare, but it would cut across
state lines and force swift cooperation from all concerned. Cellular, phone,
laser, computer network, PBXes, AT&T, Baby Bells, long-distance entrepreneurs,
packet radio. Some document, some mighty court- order, that could slice through
four thousand separate forms of corporate red-tape, and get her at once to the
source of calls, the source of email threats and viruses, the sources of bomb
threats, kidnapping threats. "From now on," she says, "the Lindbergh baby will
always die."

Something that would make the Net sit still, if only for a moment. Something
that would get her up to speed. Seven league boots. That's what she really
needs. "Those guys move in nanoseconds and I'm on the Pony Express."

And then, too, there's the coming international angle. Electronic crime has
never been easy to localize, to tie to a physical jurisdiction. And phone-
phreaks and hackers loathe boundaries, they jump them whenever they can. The
English. The Dutch. And the Germans, especially the ubiquitous Chaos Computer
Club. The Australians. They've all learned phone-phreaking from America. It's
a growth mischief industry. The multinational networks are global, but
governments and the police simply aren't. Neither are the laws. Or the legal
frameworks for citizen protection.

One language is global, though--English. Phone phreaks speak English; it's
their native tongue even if they're Germans. English may have started in England
but now it's the Net language; it might as well be called "CNNese."

Asians just aren't much into phone phreaking. They're the world masters at
organized software piracy. The French aren't into phone-phreaking either. The
French are into computerized industrial espionage.

In the old days of the MIT righteous hackerdom, crashing systems didn't hurt
anybody. Not all that much, anyway. Not permanently. Now the players are more
venal. Now the consequences are worse. Hacking will begin killing people soon.
Already there are methods of stacking calls onto 911 systems, annoying the
police, and possibly causing the death of some poor soul calling in with a
genuine emergency. Hackers in Amtrak computers, or air-traffic control
computers, will kill somebody someday. Maybe a lot of people. Gail Thackeray
expects it.

And the viruses are getting nastier. The "Scud" virus is the latest one out.
It wipes hard-disks.

According to Thackeray, the idea that phone-phreaks are Robin Hoods is a fraud.
They don't deserve this repute. Basically, they pick on the weak. AT&T now
protects itself with the fearsome ANI (Automatic Number Identification) trace
capability. When AT&T wised up and tightened security generally, the phreaks
drifted into the Baby Bells. The Baby Bells lashed out in 1989 and 1990, so the
phreaks switched to smaller long- distance entrepreneurs. Today, they are
moving into locally owned PBXes and voice-mail systems, which are full of
security holes, dreadfully easy to hack. These victims aren't the moneybags
Sheriff of Nottingham or Bad King John, but small groups of innocent people who
find it hard to protect themselves, and who really suffer from these
depredations. Phone phreaks pick on the weak. They do it for power. If it
were legal, they wouldn't do it. They don't want service, or knowledge, they
want the thrill of power-tripping. There's plenty of knowledge or service
around, if you're willing to pay. Phone phreaks don't pay, they steal. It's
because it is illegal that it feels like power, that it gratifies their vanity.

I leave Gail Thackeray with a handshake at the door of her office building--a
vast International-Style office building downtown. The Sheriff's office is
renting part of it. I get the vague impression that quite a lot of the building
is empty--real estate crash.

In a Phoenix sports apparel store, in a downtown mall, I meet the "Sun Devil"
himself. He is the cartoon mascot of Arizona State University, whose football
stadium, "Sundevil," is near the local Secret Service HQ--hence the name
Operation Sundevil. The Sun Devil himself is named "Sparky." Sparky the Sun
Devil is maroon and bright yellow, the school colors. Sparky brandishes a
three-tined yellow pitchfork. He has a small mustache, pointed ears, a barbed
tail, and is dashing forward jabbing the air with the pitchfork, with an
expression of devilish glee.

Phoenix was the home of Operation Sundevil. The Legion of Doom ran a hacker
bulletin board called "The Phoenix Project." An Australian hacker named
"Phoenix" once burrowed through the Internet to attack Cliff Stoll, then bragged
and boasted about it to THE NEW YORK TIMES. This net of coincidence is both odd
and meaningless.

The headquarters of the Arizona Attorney General, Gail Thackeray's former
workplace, is on 1275 Washington Avenue. Many of the downtown streets in
Phoenix are named after prominent American presidents: Washington, Jefferson,

After dark, all the employees go home to their suburbs. Washington, Jefferson
and Madison--what would be the Phoenix inner city, if there were an inner city
in this sprawling automobile-bred town--become the haunts of transients and
derelicts. The homeless. The sidewalks along Washington are lined with orange
trees. Ripe fallen fruit lies scattered like croquet balls on the sidewalks and
gutters. No one seems to be eating them. I try a fresh one. It tastes
unbearably bitter.

The Attorney General's office, built in 1981 during the Babbitt administration,
is a long low two-story building of white cement and wall-sized sheets of
curtain-glass. Behind each glass wall is a lawyer's office, quite open and
visible to anyone strolling by. Across the street is a dour government building
labelled simply ECONOMIC SECURITY, something that has not been in great supply
in the American Southwest lately.

The offices are about twelve feet square. They feature tall wooden cases full
of red-spined lawbooks; Wang computer monitors; telephones; Post-it notes
galore. Also framed law diplomas and a general excess of bad Western landscape
art. Ansel Adams photos are a big favorite, perhaps to compensate for the dismal
specter of the parking-lot, two acres of striped black asphalt, which features
gravel landscaping and some sickly- looking barrel cacti.

It has grown dark. Gail Thackeray has told me that the people who work late
here, are afraid of muggings in the parking lot. It seems cruelly ironic that a
woman tracing electronic racketeers across the interstate labyrinth of
Cyberspace should fear an assault by a homeless derelict in the parking lot of
her own workplace.

Perhaps this is less than coincidence. Perhaps these two seemingly disparate
worlds are somehow generating one another. The poor and disenfranchised take to
the streets, while the rich and computer-equipped, safe in their bedrooms,
chatter over their modems. Quite often the derelicts kick the glass out and
break in to the lawyers' offices, if they see something they need or want badly

I cross the parking lot to the street behind the Attorney General's office. A
pair of young tramps are bedding down on flattened sheets of cardboard, under an
alcove stretching over the sidewalk. One tramp wears a glitter-covered T-shirt
reading "CALIFORNIA" in Coca-Cola cursive. His nose and cheeks look chafed and
swollen; they glisten with what seems to be Vaseline. The other tramp has a
ragged long-sleeved shirt and lank brown hair parted in the middle. They both
wear blue jeans coated in grime. They are both drunk.

"You guys crash here a lot?" I ask them.

They look at me warily. I am wearing black jeans, a black pinstriped suit
jacket and a black silk tie. I have odd shoes and a funny haircut.

"It's our first time here," says the red-nosed tramp unconvincingly. There is a
lot of cardboard stacked here. More than any two people could use.

"We usually stay at the Vinnie's down the street," says the brown-haired tramp,
puffing a Marlboro with a meditative air, as he sprawls with his head on a blue
nylon backpack. "The Saint Vincent's."

"You know who works in that building over there?" I ask, pointing.

The brown-haired tramp shrugs. "Some kind of attorneys, it says."

We urge one another to take it easy. I give them five bucks.

A block down the street I meet a vigorous workman who is wheeling along some
kind of industrial trolley; it has what appears to be a tank of propane on it.

We make eye contact. We nod politely. I walk past him. "Hey! Excuse me sir!"
he says.

"Yes?" I say, stopping and turning.

"Have you seen," the guy says rapidly, "a black guy, about 6'7", scars on both
his cheeks like this--" he gestures-- "wears a black baseball cap on backwards,
wandering around here anyplace?"

"Sounds like I don't much WANT to meet him," I say.

"He took my wallet," says my new acquaintance. "Took it this morning. Y'know,
some people would be SCARED of a guy like that. But I'm not scared. I'm from
Chicago. I'm gonna hunt him down. We do things like that in Chicago."


"I went to the cops and now he's got an APB out on his ass," he says with
satisfaction. "You run into him, you let me know."

"Okay," I say. "What is your name, sir?"


"And how can I reach you?"

"Oh," Stanley says, in the same rapid voice, "you don't have to reach, uh, me.
You can just call the cops. Go straight to the cops." He reaches into a pocket
and pulls out a greasy piece of pasteboard. "See, here's my report on him."

I look. The "report," the size of an index card, is labelled PRO-ACT: Phoenix
Residents Opposing Active Crime Threat.... or is it Organized Against Crime
Threat? In the darkening street it's hard to read. Some kind of vigilante
group? Neighborhood watch? I feel very puzzled.

"Are you a police officer, sir?"

He smiles, seems very pleased by the question.

"No," he says.

"But you are a 'Phoenix Resident?'"

"Would you believe a homeless person," Stanley says.

"Really? But what's with the..." For the first time I take a close look at
Stanley's trolley. It's a rubber-wheeled thing of industrial metal, but the
device I had mistaken for a tank of propane is in fact a water-cooler. Stanley
also has an Army duffel-bag, stuffed tight as a sausage with clothing or perhaps
a tent, and, at the base of his trolley, a cardboard box and a battered leather

"I see," I say, quite at a loss. For the first time I notice that Stanley has a
wallet. He has not lost his wallet at all. It is in his back pocket and
chained to his belt. It's not a new wallet. It seems to have seen a lot of

"Well, you know how it is, brother," says Stanley. Now that I know that he is
homeless--A POSSIBLE THREAT--my entire perception of him has changed in an
instant. His speech, which once seemed just bright and enthusiastic, now seems
to have a dangerous tang of mania. "I have to do this!" he assures me. "Track
this guy down... It's a thing I do... you know... to keep myself together!" He
smiles, nods, lifts his trolley by its decaying rubber handgrips.

"Gotta work together, y'know," Stanley booms, his face alight with cheerfulness,
"the police can't do everything!"

The gentlemen I met in my stroll in downtown Phoenix are the only computer
illiterates in this book. To regard them as irrelevant, however, would be a
grave mistake.

As computerization spreads across society, the populace at large is subjected to
wave after wave of future shock. But, as a necessary converse, the "computer
community" itself is subjected to wave after wave of incoming computer
illiterates. How will those currently enjoying America's digital bounty regard,
and treat, all this teeming refuse yearning to breathe free? Will the
electronic frontier be another Land of Opportunity--or an armed and monitored
enclave, where the disenfranchised snuggle on their cardboard at the locked
doors of our houses of justice?

Some people just don't get along with computers. They can't read. They can't
type. They just don't have it in their heads to master arcane instructions in
wirebound manuals. Somewhere, the process of computerization of the populace
will reach a limit. Some people--quite decent people maybe, who might have
thrived in any other situation--will be left irretrievably outside the bounds.
What's to be done with these people, in the bright new shiny electroworld? How
will they be regarded, by the mouse-whizzing masters of cyberspace? With
contempt? Indifference? Fear?

In retrospect, it astonishes me to realize how quickly poor Stanley became a
perceived threat. Surprise and fear are closely allied feelings. And the world
of computing is full of surprises.

I met one character in the streets of Phoenix whose role in those book is
supremely and directly relevant. That personage was Stanley's giant thieving
scarred phantom. This phantasm is everywhere in this book. He is the specter
haunting cyberspace.

Sometimes he's a maniac vandal ready to smash the phone system for no sane
reason at all. Sometimes he's a fascist fed, coldly programming his mighty
mainframes to destroy our Bill of Rights. Sometimes he's a telco bureaucrat,
covertly conspiring to register all modems in the service of an Orwellian
surveillance regime. Mostly, though, this fearsome phantom is a "hacker." He's
strange, he doesn't belong, he's not authorized, he doesn't smell right, he's
not keeping his proper place, he's not one of us. The focus of fear is the
hacker, for much the same reasons that Stanley's fancied assailant is black.

Stanley's demon can't go away, because he doesn't exist. Despite singleminded
and tremendous effort, he can't be arrested, sued, jailed, or fired. The only
constructive way to do ANYTHING about him is to learn more about Stanley
himself. This learning process may be repellent, it may be ugly, it may involve
grave elements of paranoiac confusion, but it's necessary. Knowing Stanley
requires something more than class-crossing condescension. It requires more
than steely legal objectivity. It requires human compassion and sympathy.

To know Stanley is to know his demon. If you know the other guy's demon, then
maybe you'll come to know some of your own. You'll be able to separate reality
from illusion. And then you won't do your cause, and yourself, more harm than
good. Like poor damned Stanley from Chicago did.

The Federal Computer Investigations Committee (FCIC) is the most important and
influential organization in the realm of American computer-crime. Since the
police of other countries have largely taken their computer-crime cues from
American methods, the FCIC might well be called the most important computer
crime group in the world.

It is also, by federal standards, an organization of great unorthodoxy. State
and local investigators mix with federal agents. Lawyers, financial auditors
and computer- security programmers trade notes with street cops. Industry
vendors and telco security people show up to explain their gadgetry and plead
for protection and justice. Private investigators, think-tank experts and
industry pundits throw in their two cents' worth. The FCIC is the antithesis of
a formal bureaucracy.

Members of the FCIC are obscurely proud of this fact; they recognize their group
as aberrant, but are entirely convinced that this, for them, outright WEIRD
behavior is nevertheless ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY to get their jobs done.

FCIC regulars--from the Secret Service, the FBI, the IRS, the Department of
Labor, the offices of federal attorneys, state police, the Air Force, from
military intelligence--often attend meetings, held hither and thither across the
country, at their own expense. The FCIC doesn't get grants. It doesn't charge
membership fees. It doesn't have a boss. It has no headquarters--just a mail
drop in Washington DC, at the Fraud Division of the Secret Service. It doesn't
have a budget. It doesn't have schedules. It meets three times a year--sort
of. Sometimes it issues publications, but the FCIC has no regular publisher, no
treasurer, not even a secretary. There are no minutes of FCIC meetings. Non-
federal people are considered "non-voting members," but there's not much in the
way of elections. There are no badges, lapel pins or certificates of
membership. Everyone is on a first-name basis. There are about forty of them.
Nobody knows how many, exactly. People come, people go--sometimes people "go"
formally but still hang around anyway. Nobody has ever exactly figured out what
"membership" of this "Committee" actually entails.

Strange as this may seem to some, to anyone familiar with the social world of
computing, the "organization" of the FCIC is very recognizable.

For years now, economists and management theorists have speculated that the
tidal wave of the information revolution would destroy rigid, pyramidal
bureaucracies, where everything is top-down and centrally controlled. Highly
trained "employees" would take on much greater autonomy, being self-starting,
and self-motivating, moving from place to place, task to task, with great speed
and fluidity. "Ad-hocracy" would rule, with groups of people spontaneously
knitting together across organizational lines, tackling the problem at hand,
applying intense computer- aided expertise to it, and then vanishing whence they

This is more or less what has actually happened in the world of federal computer
investigation. With the conspicuous exception of the phone companies, which are
after all over a hundred years old, practically EVERY organization that playthe
basis of this fear is not irrational.

Fear of hackers goes well beyond the fear of merely criminal activity.

Subversion and manipulation of the phone system is an act with disturbing
political overtones. In America, computers and telephones are potent symbols of
organized authority and the technocratic business elite.

But there is an element in American culture that has always strongly rebelled
against these symbols; rebelled against all large industrial computers and all
phone companies. A certain anarchical tinge deep in the American soul delights
in causing confusion and pain to all bureaucracies, including technological

There is sometimes malice and vandalism in this attitude, but it is a deep and
cherished part of the American national character. The outlaw, the rebel, the
rugged individual, the pioneer, the sturdy Jeffersonian yeoman, the private
citizen resisting interference in his pursuit of happiness--these are figures
that all Americans recognize, and that many will strongly applaud and defend.

Many scrupulously law-abiding citizens today do cutting- edge work with
electronics--work that has already had tremendous social influence and will have
much more in years to come. In all truth, these talented, hardworking, law-
abiding, mature, adult people are far more disturbing to the peace and order of
the current status quo than any scofflaw group of romantic teenage punk kids.
These law-abiding hackers have the power, ability, and willingness to influence
other people's lives quite unpredictably. They have means, motive, and
opportunity to meddle drastically with the American social order. When
corralled into governments, universities, or large multinational companies, and
forced to follow rulebooks and wear suits and ties, they at least have some
conventional halters on their freedom of action. But when loosed alone, or in
small groups, and fired by imagination and the entrepreneurial spirit, they can
move mountains--causing landslides that will likely crash directly is any
important role in this book functions just like the FCIC. The Chicago Task
Force, the Arizona Racketeering Unit, the Legion of Doom, the Phrack crowd, the
Electronic Frontier Foundation--they ALL look and act like "tiger teams" or
"user's groups." They are all electronic ad-hocracies leaping up spontaneously
to attempt to meet a need.

Some are police. Some are, by strict definition, criminals. Some are political
interest-groups. But every single group has that same quality of apparent
spontaneity--"Hey, gang! My uncle's got a barn--let's put on a show!"

Every one of these groups is embarrassed by this "amateurism," and, for the sake
of their public image in a world of non-computer people, they all attempt to
look as stern and formal and impressive as possible. These electronic frontier-
dwellers resemble groups of nineteenth-century pioneers hankering after the
respectability of statehood. There are however, two crucial differences in the
historical experience of these "pioneers" of the nineteeth and twenty-first

First, powerful information technology DOES play into the hands of small, fluid,
loosely organized groups. There have always been "pioneers," "hobbyists,"
"amateurs," "dilettantes," "volunteers," "movements," "users' groups" and "blue-
ribbon panels of experts" around. But a group of this kind--when technically
equipped to ship huge amounts of specialized information, at lightning speed, to
its members, to government, and to the press--is simply a different kind of
animal. It's like the difference between an eel and an electric eel.

The second crucial change is that American society is currently in a state
approaching permanent technological revolution. In the world of computers
particularly, it is practically impossible to EVER stop being a "pioneer,"
unless you either drop dead or deliberately jump off the bus. The scene has
never slowed down enough to become well-institutionalized. And after twenty,
thirty, forty years the "computer revolution" continues to spread, to permeate
new corners of society. Anything that really works is already obsolete.

If you spend your entire working life as a "pioneer," the word "pioneer" begins
to lose its meaning. Your way of life looks less and less like an introduction
to something else" more stable and organized, and more and more like JUST THE
WAY THINGS ARE. A "permanent revolution" is really a contradiction in terms.
If "turmoil" lasts long enough, it simply becomes A NEW KIND OF SOCIETY--still
the same game of history, but new players, new rules.

Apply this to the world of late twentieth-century law enforcement, and the
implications are novel and puzzling indeed. Any bureaucratic rulebook you write
about computer-crime will be flawed when you write it, and almost an antique by
the time it sees print. The fluidity and fast reactions of the FCIC give them a
great advantage in this regard, which explains their success. Even with the
best will in the world (which it does not, in fact, possess) it is impossible
for an organization the size of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation to get
up to speed on the theory and practice of computer crime. If they tried to
train all their agents to do this, it would be SUICIDAL, as they would NEVER BE

The FBI does try to train its agents in the basics of electronic crime, at their
base in Quantico, Virginia. And the Secret Service, along with many other law
enforcement groups, runs quite successful and well-attended training courses on
wire fraud, business crime, and computer intrusion at the Federal Law
Enforcement Training Center (FLETC, pronounced "fletsy") in Glynco, Georgia.
But the best efforts of these bureaucracies does not remove the absolute need
for a "cutting-edge mess" like the FCIC.

For you see--the members of FCIC ARE the trainers of the rest of law
enforcement. Practically and literally speaking, they are the Glynco computer-
crime faculty by another name. If the FCIC went over a cliff on a bus, the U.S.
law enforcement community would be rendered deaf dumb and blind in the world of
computer crime, and would swiftly feel a desperate need to reinvent them. And
this is no time to go starting from scratch.

On June 11, 1991, I once again arrived in Phoenix, Arizona, for the latest
meeting of the Federal Computer Investigations Committee. This was more or less
the twentieth meeting of this stellar group. The count was uncertain, since
nobody could figure out whether to include the meetings of "the Colluquy," which
is what the FCIC was called in the mid-1980s before it had even managed to
obtain the dignity of its own acronym.

Since my last visit to Arizona, in May, the local AzScam bribery scandal had
resolved itself in a general muddle of humiliation. The Phoenix chief of
police, whose agents had videotaped nine state legislators up to no good, had
resigned his office in a tussle with the Phoenix city council over the propriety
of his undercover operations.

The Phoenix Chief could now join Gail Thackeray and eleven of her closest
associates in the shared experience of politically motivated unemployment. As
of June, resignations were still continuing at the Arizona Attorney General's
office, which could be interpreted as either a New Broom Sweeping Clean or a
Night of the Long Knives Part II, depending on your point of view.

The meeting of FCIC was held at the Scottsdale Hilton Resort. Scottsdale is a
wealthy suburb of Phoenix, known as "Scottsdull" to scoffing local trendies, but
well-equipped with posh shopping-malls and manicured lawns, while conspicuously
undersupplied with homeless derelicts. The Scottsdale Hilton Resort was a
sprawling hotel in postmodern crypto-Southwestern style. It featured a "mission
bell tower" plated in turquoise tile and vaguely resembling a Saudi minaret.

Inside it was all barbarically striped Santa Fe Style decor. There was a health
spa downstairs and a large oddly- shaped pool in the patio. A poolside
umbrella-stand offered Ben and Jerry's politically correct Peace Pops.

they FORGIVE YOU, which in nine cases out of ten is something even your boss
can't do, because as soon as you start talking "ROM," "BBS," or "T-1 trunk," his
eyes glaze over.

I had nothing much to do that afternoon. The FCIC were beavering away in their
conference room. Doors were firmly closed, windows too dark to peer through. I
wondered what a real hacker, a computer intruder, would do at a meeting like

The answer came at once. He would "trash" the place. Not reduce the place to
trash in some orgy of vandalism; that's not the use of the term in the hacker
milieu. No, he would quietly EMPTY THE TRASH BASKETS and silently raid any
valuable data indiscreetly thrown away.

Journalists have been known to do this. (Journalists hunting information have
been known to do almost every single unethical thing that hackers have ever
done. They also throw in a few awful techniques all their own.) The legality
of 'trashing' is somewhat dubious but it is not in fact flagrantly illegal. It
was, however, absurd to contemplate trashing the FCIC. These people knew all
about trashing. I wouldn't last fifteen seconds.

The idea sounded interesting, though. I'd been hearing a lot about the practice
lately. On the spur of the moment, I decided I would try trashing the office
ACROSS THE HALL from the FCIC, an area which had nothing to do with the

The office was tiny; six chairs, a table.... Nevertheless, it was open, so I dug
around in its plastic trash can.

To my utter astonishment, I came up with the torn scraps of a SPRINT long-
distance phone bill. More digging produced a bank statement and the scraps of a
hand-written letter, along with gum, cigarette ashes, candy wrappers and a day-
old-issue of USA TODAY.

The trash went back in its receptacle while the scraps of data went into my
travel bag. I detoured through the hotel souvenir shop for some Scotch tape and
went up to my room.

Coincidence or not, it was quite true. Some poor soul had, in fact, thrown a
SPRINT bill into the hotel's trash. Date May 1991, total amount due: $252.36.
Not a business phone, either, but a residential bill, in the name of someone
called Evelyn (not her real name). Evelyn's records showed a ## PAST DUE BILL
##! Here was her nine-digit account ID. Here was a stern computer-printed


I examined my watch. Still plenty of time left for the FCIC to carry on. I
sorted out the scraps of Evelyn's SPRINT bill and re-assembled them with fresh
Scotch tape. Here was her ten-digit FONCARD number. Didn't seem to have the ID
number necessary to cause real fraud trouble.

I did, however, have Evelyn's home phone number. And the phone numbers for a
whole crowd of Evelyn's long-distance friends and acquaintances. In San Diego,
Folsom, Redondo, Las Vegas, La Jolla, Topeka, and Northampton Massachusetts.
Even somebody in Australia!

I examined other documents. Here was a bank statement. It was Evelyn's IRA
account down at a bank in San Mateo, California (total balance $1877.20). Here
was a charge-card bill for $382.64. She was paying it off bit by bit.

Driven by motives that were completely unethical and prurient, I now examined
the handwritten notes. They had been torn fairly thoroughly, so much so that it
took me almost an entire five minutes to reassemble them.

They were drafts of a love letter. They had been written on the lined
stationery of Evelyn's employer, a biomedical company. Probably written at work
when she should have been doing something else.

"Dear Bob," (not his real name) "I guess in everyone's life there comes a time
when hard decisions have to be made, and this is a difficult one for me--very
upsetting. Since you haven't called me, and I don't understand why, I can only
surmise it's because you don't want to. I thought I would have heard from you
Friday. I did have a few unusual problems with my phone and possibly you tried,
I hope so.

"Robert, you asked me to 'let go'..."

The first note ended. UNUSUAL PROBLEMS WITH HER PHONE? I looked swiftly at the
next note.

"Bob, not hearing from you for the whole weekend has left me very perplexed..."

Next draft.

"Dear Bob, there is so much I don't understand right now, and I wish I did. I
wish I could talk to you, but for some unknown reason you have elected not to
call--this is so difficult for me to understand..."

She tried again.

"Bob, Since I have always held you in such high esteem, I had every hope that we
could remain good friends, but now one essential ingredient is missing--respect.
Your ability to discard people when their purpose is served is appalling to me.
The kindest thing you could do for me now is to leave me alone. You are no
longer welcome in my heart or home..."

Try again.

"Bob, I wrote a very factual note to you to say how much respect I had lost for
you, by the way you treat people, me in particular, so uncaring and cold. The
kindest thing you can do for me is to leave me alone entirely, as you are no
longer welcome in my heart or home. I would appreciate it if you could retire
your debt to me as soon as possible--I wish no link to you in any way.
Sincerely, Evelyn."

Good heavens, I thought, the bastard actually owes her money! I turned to the
next page.

"Bob: very simple. GOODBYE! No more mind games--no more fascination--no more
coldness--no more respect for you! It's over--Finis. Evie"

There were two versions of the final brushoff letter, but they read about the
same. Maybe she hadn't sent it. The final item in my illicit and shameful
booty was an envelope addressed to "Bob" at his home address, but it had no
stamp on it and it hadn't been mailed.

Maybe she'd just been blowing off steam because her rascal boyfriend had
neglected to call her one weekend. Big deal. Maybe they'd kissed and made up,
maybe she and Bob were down at Pop's Chocolate Shop now, sharing a malted.

Easy to find out. All I had to do was call Evelyn up. With a half-clever story
and enough brass-plated gall I could probably trick the truth out of her.
Phone-phreaks and hackers deceive people over the phone all the time. It's
called "social engineering." Social engineering is a very common practice in
the underground, and almost magically effective. Human beings are almost always
the weakest link in computer security. The simplest way to learn Things You Are
Not Meant To Know is simply to call up and exploit the knowledgeable people.
With social engineering, you use the bits of specialized knowledge you already
have as a key, to manipulate people into believing that you are legitimate. You
can then coax, flatter, or frighten them into revealing almost anything you want
to know. Deceiving people (especially over the phone) is easy and fun.
Exploiting their gullibility is very gratifying; it makes you feel very superior
to them.

If I'd been a malicious hacker on a trashing raid, I would now have Evelyn very
much in my power. Given all this inside data, it wouldn't take much effort at
all to invent a convincing lie. If I were ruthless enough, and jaded enough,
and clever enough, this momentary indiscretion of hers--maybe committed in
tears, who knows--could cause her a whole world of confusion and grief.

I didn't even have to have a MALICIOUS motive. Maybe I'd be "on her side," and
call up Bob instead, and anonymously threaten to break both his kneecaps if he
didn't take Evelyn out for a steak dinner pronto. It was still profoundly NONE
OF MY BUSINESS. To have gotten this knowledge at all was a sordid act and to
use it would be to inflict a sordid injury.

To do all these awful things would require exactly zero high-tech expertise.
All it would take was the willingness to do it and a certain amount of bent

I went back downstairs. The hard-working FCIC, who had labored forty-five
minutes over their schedule, were through for the day, and adjourned to the
hotel bar. We all had a beer.

I had a chat with a guy about "Isis," or rather IACIS, the International
Association of Computer Investigation Specialists. They're into "computer
forensics," the techniques of picking computer-systems apart without destroying
vital evidence. IACIS, currently run out of Oregon, is comprised of
investigators in the U.S., Canada, Taiwan and Ireland. "Taiwan and Ireland?" I
said. Are TAIWAN and IRELAND really in the forefront of this stuff? Well not
exactly, my informant admitted. They just happen to have been the first ones to
have caught on by word of mouth. Still, the international angle counts, because
this is obviously an international problem. Phone-lines go everywhere.

There was a Mountie here from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. He seemed to
be having quite a good time. Nobody had flung this Canadian out because he
might pose a foreign security risk. These are cyberspace cops. They still
worry a lot about "jurisdictions," but mere geography is the least of their

NASA had failed to show. NASA suffers a lot from computer intrusions, in
particular from Australian raiders and a well-trumpeted Chaos Computer Club
case, and in 1990 there was a brief press flurry when it was revealed that one
of NASA's Houston branch-exchanges had been systematically ripped off by a gang
of phone-phreaks. But the NASA guys had had their funding cut. They were
stripping everything.

Air Force OSI, its Office of Special Investigations, is the ONLY federal entity
dedicated full-time to computer security. They'd been expected to show up in
force, but some of them had cancelled--a Pentagon budget pinch.

As the empties piled up, the guys began joshing around and telling war-stories.
"These are cops," Thackeray said tolerantly. "If they're not talking shop they
talk about women and beer."

I heard the story about the guy who, asked for "a copy" of a computer disk,
PHOTOCOPIED THE LABEL ON IT. He put the floppy disk onto the glass plate of a
photocopier. The blast of static when the copier worked completely erased all
the real information on the disk.

Some other poor souls threw a whole bag of confiscated diskettes into the squad-
car trunk next to the police radio. The powerful radio signal blasted them,

We heard a bit about Dave Geneson, the first computer prosecutor, a mainframe-
runner in Dade County, turned lawyer. Dave Geneson was one guy who had hit the
ground running, a signal virtue in making the transition to computer-crime. It
was generally agreed that it was easier to learn the world of computers first,
then police or prosecutorial work. You could take certain computer people and
train 'em to successful police work--but of course they had to have the COP
MENTALITY. They had to have street smarts. Patience. Persistence. And
discretion. You've got to make sure they're not hot-shots, show-offs, "cowboys."

Most of the folks in the bar had backgrounds in military intelligence, or drugs,
or homicide. It was rudely opined that "military intelligence" was a
contradiction in terms, while even the grisly world of homicide was considered
cleaner than drug enforcement. One guy had been 'way undercover doing dope-work
in Europe for four years straight. "I'm almost recovered now," he said deadpan,
with the acid black humor that is pure cop. "Hey, now I can say FUCKER without
putting MOTHER in front of it."

"In the cop world," another guy said earnestly, "everything is good and bad,
black and white. In the computer world everything is gray."

One guy--a founder of the FCIC, who'd been with the group since it was just the
Colluquy--described his own introduction to the field. He'd been a Washington
DC homicide guy called in on a "hacker" case. From the word "hacker," he
naturally assumed he was on the trail of a knife-wielding marauder, and went to
the computer center expecting blood and a body. When he finally figured out
what was happening there (after loudly demanding, in vain, that the programmers
"speak English"), he called headquarters and told them he was clueless about
computers. They told him nobody else knew diddly either, and to get the hell
back to work.

So, he said, he had proceeded by comparisons. By analogy. By metaphor.
"Somebody broke in to your computer, huh?" Breaking and entering; I can
understand that. How'd he get in? "Over the phone-lines." Harassing phone-
calls, I can understand that! What we need here is a tap and a trace!

It worked. It was better than nothing. And it worked a lot faster when he got
hold of another cop who'd done something similar. And then the two of them got
another, and another, and pretty soon the Colluquy was a happening thing. It
helped a lot that everybody seemed to know Carlton Fitzpatrick, the data-
processing trainer in Glynco.

The ice broke big-time in Memphis in '86. The Colluquy had attracted a bunch of
new guys--Secret Service, FBI, military, other feds, heavy guys. Nobody wanted
to tell anybody anything. They suspected that if word got back to the home
office they'd all be fired. They passed an uncomfortably guarded afternoon.

The formalities got them nowhere. But after the formal session was over, the
organizers brought in a case of beer. As soon as the participants knocked it
off with the bureaucratic ranks and turf-fighting, everything changed. "I bared
my soul," one veteran reminisced proudly. By nightfall they were building
pyramids of empty beer-cans and doing everything but composing a team fight

FCIC were not the only computer-crime people around. There was DATTA (District
Attorneys' Technology Theft Association), though they mostly specialized in chip
theft, intellectual property, and black-market cases. There was HTCIA (High
Tech Computer Investigators Association), also out in Silicon Valley, a year
older than FCIC and featuring brilliant people like Donald Ingraham. There was
LEETAC (Law Enforcement Electronic Technology Assistance Committee) in Florida,
and computer-crime units in Illinois and Maryland and Texas and Ohio and
Colorado and Pennsylvania. But these were local groups. FCIC were the first to
really network nationally and on a federal level.

FCIC people live on the phone lines. Not on bulletin board systems--they know
very well what boards are, and they know that boards aren't secure. Everyone in
the FCIC has a voice- phone bill like you wouldn't believe. FCIC people have
been tight with the telco people for a long time. Telephone cyberspace is their
native habitat.

FCIC has three basic sub-tribes: the trainers, the security people, and the
investigators. That's why it's called an "Investigations Committee" with no
mention of the term "computer-crime"--the dreaded "C-word." FCIC, officially,
is "an association of agencies rather than individuals;" unofficially, this
field is small enough that the influence of individuals and individual expertise
is paramount. Attendance is by invitation only, and most everyone in FCIC
considers himself a prophet without honor in his own house.

Again and again I heard this, with different terms but identical sentiments.
"I'd been sitting in the wilderness talking to myself." "I was totally
isolated." "I was desperate." "FCIC is the best thing there is about computer
crime in America." "FCIC is what really works." "This is where you hear real
people telling you what's really happening out there, not just lawyers picking
nits." "We taught each other everything we knew."

The sincerity of these statements convinces me that this is true. FCIC is the
real thing and it is invaluable. It's also very sharply at odds with the rest
of the traditions and power structure in American law enforcement. There
probably hasn't been anything around as loose and go-getting as the FCIC since
the start of the U.S. Secret Service in the 1860s. FCIC people are living like
twenty-first-century people in a twentieth- century environment, and while
there's a great deal to be said for that, there's also a great deal to be said
against it, and those against it happen to control the budgets.

I listened to two FCIC guys from Jersey compare life histories. One of them had
been a biker in a fairly heavy-duty gang in the 1960s. "Oh, did you know so-
and-so?" said the other guy from Jersey. "Big guy, heavyset?"

"Yeah, I knew him."

"Yeah, he was one of ours. He was our plant in the gang."

"Really? Wow! Yeah, I knew him. Helluva guy."

Thackeray reminisced at length about being tear-gassed blind in the November
1969 antiwar protests in Washington Circle, covering them for her college paper.
"Oh yeah, I was there," said another cop. "Glad to hear that tear gas hit
somethin'. Haw haw haw." He'd been so blind himself, he confessed, that later
that day he'd arrested a small tree.

FCIC are an odd group, sifted out by coincidence and necessity, and turned into
a new kind of cop. There are a lot of specialized cops in the world--your bunco
guys, your drug guys, your tax guys, but the only group that matches FCIC for
sheer isolation are probably the child-pornography people. Because they both
deal with conspirators who are desperate to exchange forbidden data and also
desperate to hide; and because nobody else in law enforcement even wants to hear
about it.

FCIC people tend to change jobs a lot. They tend not to get the equipment and
training they want and need. And they tend to get sued quite often.

As the night wore on and a band set up in the bar, the talk grew darker.
Nothing ever gets done in government, someone opined, until there's a DISASTER.
Computing disasters are awful, but there's no denying that they greatly help the
credibility of FCIC people. The Internet Worm, for instance. "For years we'd
been warning about that--but it's nothing compared to what's coming." They
expect horrors, these people. They know that nothing will really get done until
there is a horror.

Next day we heard an extensive briefing from a guy who'd been a computer cop,
gotten into hot water with an Arizona city council, and now installed computer
networks for a living (at a considerable rise in pay). He talked about pulling
fiber-optic networks apart.

Even a single computer, with enough peripherals, is a literal "network"--a bunch
of machines all cabled together, generally with a complexity that puts stereo
units to shame. FCIC people invent and publicize methods of seizing computers
and maintaining their evidence. Simple things, sometimes, but vital rules of
thumb for street cops, who nowadays often stumble across a busy computer in the
midst of a drug investigation or a white-collar bust. For instance: Photograph
the system before you touch it. Label the ends of all the cables before you
detach anything. "Park" the heads on the disk drives before you move them. Get
the diskettes. Don't put the diskettes in magnetic fields. Don't write on
diskettes with ballpoint pens. Get the manuals. Get the printouts. Get the
handwritten notes. Copy data before you look at it, and then examine the copy
instead of the original.

Now our lecturer distributed copied diagrams of a typical LAN or "Local Area
Network", which happened to be out of Connecticut. ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY-NINE
desktop computers, each with its own peripherals. Three "file servers." Five
"star couplers" each with thirty-two ports. One sixteen-port coupler off in the
corner office. All these machines talking to each other, distributing
electronic mail, distributing software, distributing, quite possibly, criminal
evidence. All linked by high-capacity fiber-optic cable. A bad guy--cops talk
a lot about "bad guys"--might be lurking on PC #47 or #123 and distributing his
ill doings onto some dupe's "personal" machine in another office--or another
floor--or, quite possibly, two or three miles away! Or, conceivably, the
evidence might be "data- striped"--split up into meaningless slivers stored, one
by one, on a whole crowd of different disk drives.

The lecturer challenged us for solutions. I for one was utterly clueless. As
far as I could figure, the Cossacks were at the gate; there were probably more
disks in this single building than were seized during the entirety of Operation

"Inside informant," somebody said. Right. There's always the human angle,
something easy to forget when contemplating the arcane recesses of high
technology. Cops are skilled at getting people to talk, and computer people,
given a chair and some sustained attention, will talk about their computers till
their throats go raw. There's a case on record of a single question--"How'd you
do it?"--eliciting a forty-five- minute videotaped confession from a computer
criminal who not only completely incriminated himself but drew helpful diagrams.

Computer people talk. Hackers BRAG. Phone-phreaks talk PATHOLOGICALLY--why
else are they stealing phone-codes, if not to natter for ten hours straight to
their friends on an opposite seaboard? Computer-literate people do in fact
possess an arsenal of nifty gadgets and techniques that would allow them to
conceal all kinds of exotic skullduggery, and if they could only SHUT UP about
it, they could probably get away with all manner of amazing information-crimes.
But that's just not how it works--or at least, that's not how it's worked SO

Most every phone-phreak ever busted has swiftly implicated his mentors, his
disciples, and his friends. Most every white-collar computer-criminal, smugly
convinced that his clever scheme is bulletproof, swiftly learns otherwise when,
for the first time in his life, an actual no-kidding policeman leans over, grabs
the front of his shirt, looks him right in the eye and says: "All right,
ASSHOLE--you and me are going downtown!" All the hardware in the world will not
insulate your nerves from these actual real-life sensations of terror and guilt.

Cops know ways to get from point A to point Z without thumbing through every
letter in some smart-ass bad-guy's alphabet. Cops know how to cut to the chase.
Cops know a lot of things other people don't know.

Hackers know a lot of things other people don't know, too. Hackers know, for
instance, how to sneak into your computer through the phone-lines. But cops can
show up RIGHT UP YOUR DOORSTEP and carry off YOU and your computer in separate
steel boxes. A cop interested in hackers can grab them and grill them. A hacker
interested in cops has to depend on hearsay, underground legends, and what cops
are willing to publicly reveal. And the Secret Service didn't get named "the
SECRET Service" because they blab a lot.

Some people, our lecturer informed us, were under the mistaken impression that
it was "impossible" to tap a fiber-optic line. Well, he announced, he and his
son had just whipped up a fiber-optic tap in his workshop at home. He passed it
around the audience, along with a circuit-covered LAN plug-in card so we'd all
recognize one if we saw it on a case. We all had a look.

The tap was a classic "Goofy Prototype"--a thumb-length rounded metal cylinder
with a pair of plastic brackets on it. From one end dangled three thin black
cables, each of which ended in a tiny black plastic cap. When you plucked the
safety-cap off the end of a cable, you could see the glass fiber--no thicker
than a pinhole.

Our lecturer informed us that the metal cylinder was a "wavelength division
multiplexer." Apparently, what one did was to cut the fiber-optic cable, insert
two of the legs into the cut to complete the network again, and then read any
passing data on the line by hooking up the third leg to some kind of monitor.
Sounded simple enough. I wondered why nobody had thought of it before. I also
wondered whether this guy's son back at the workshop had any teenage friends.

We had a break. The guy sitting next to me was wearing a giveaway baseball cap
advertising the Uzi submachine gun. We had a desultory chat about the merits of
Uzis. Long a favorite of the Secret Service, it seems Uzis went out of fashion
with the advent of the Persian Gulf War, our Arab allies taking some offense at
Americans toting Israeli weapons. Besides, I was informed by another expert,
Uzis jam. The equivalent weapon of choice today is the Heckler & Koch,
manufactured in Germany.

The guy with the Uzi cap was a forensic photographer. He also did a lot of
photographic surveillance work in computer crime cases. He used to, that is,
until the firings in Phoenix. He was now a private investigator and, with his
wife, ran a photography salon specializing in weddings and portrait photos. At--
one must repeat--a considerable rise in income.

He was still FCIC. If you were FCIC, and you needed to talk to an expert about
forensic photography, well, there he was, willing and able. If he hadn't shown
up, people would have missed him.

Our lecturer had raised the point that preliminary investigation of a computer
system is vital before any seizure is undertaken. It's vital to understand how
many machines are in there, what kinds there are, what kind of operating system
they use, how many people use them, where the actual data itself is stored. To
simply barge into an office demanding "all the computers" is a recipe for swift

This entails some discreet inquiries beforehand. In fact, what it entails is
basically undercover work. An intelligence operation. SPYING, not to put too
fine a point on it.

In a chat after the lecture, I asked an attendee whether "trashing" might work.

I received a swift briefing on the theory and practice of "trash covers."
Police "trash covers," like "mail covers" or like wiretaps, require the
agreement of a judge. This obtained, the "trashing" work of cops is just like
that of hackers, only more so and much better organized. So much so, I was
informed, that mobsters in Phoenix make extensive use of locked garbage cans
picked up by a specialty high-security trash company.

In one case, a tiger team of Arizona cops had trashed a local residence for four
months. Every week they showed up on the municipal garbage truck, disguised as
garbagemen, and carried the contents of the suspect cans off to a shade tree,
where they combed through the garbage--a messy task, especially considering that
one of the occupants was undergoing kidney dialysis. All useful documents were
cleaned, dried and examined. A discarded typewriter-ribbon was an especially
valuable source of data, as its long one-strike ribbon of film contained the
contents of every letter mailed out of the house. The letters were neatly
retyped by a police secretary equipped with a large desk-mounted magnifying

There is something weirdly disquieting about the whole subject of "trashing"--an
unsuspected and indeed rather disgusting mode of deep personal vulnerability.
Things that we pass by every day, that we take utterly for granted, can be
exploited with so little work. Once discovered, the knowledge of these
vulnerabilities tend to spread.

Take the lowly subject of MANHOLE COVERS. The humble manhole cover reproduces
many of the dilemmas of computer- security in miniature. Manhole covers are, of
course, technological artifacts, access-points to our buried urban
infrastructure. To the vast majority of us, manhole covers are invisible. They
are also vulnerable. For many years now, the Secret Service has made a point of
caulking manhole covers along all routes of the Presidential motorcade. This
is, of course, to deter terrorists from leaping out of underground ambush or,
more likely, planting remote-control car-smashing bombs beneath the street.

Lately, manhole covers have seen more and more criminal exploitation, especially
in New York City. Recently, a telco in New York City discovered that a cable
television service had been sneaking into telco manholes and installing cable
service alongside the phone-lines--WITHOUT PAYING ROYALTIES. New York companies
have also suffered a general plague of (a) underground copper cable theft; (b)
dumping of garbage, including toxic waste, and (c) hasty dumping of murder

Industry complaints reached the ears of an innovative New England industrial-
security company, and the result was a new product known as "the Intimidator," a
thick titanium-steel bolt with a precisely machined head that requires a special
device to unscrew. All these "keys" have registered serial numbers kept on file
with the manufacturer. There are now some thousands of these "Intimidator"
bolts being sunk into American pavements wherever our President passes, like
some macabre parody of strewn roses. They are also spreading as fast as steel
dandelions around US military bases and many centers of private industry.

Quite likely it has never occurred to you to peer under a manhole cover, perhaps
climb down and walk around down there with a flashlight, just to see what it's
like. Formally speaking, this might be trespassing, but if you didn't hurt
anything, and didn't make an absolute habit of it, nobody would really care. The
freedom to sneak under manholes was likely a freedom you never intended to

You now are rather less likely to have that freedom at all. You may never even
have missed it until you read about it here, but if you're in New York City it's
gone, and elsewhere it's likely going. This is one of the things that crime,
and the reaction to crime, does to us.

The tenor of the meeting now changed as the Electronic Frontier Foundation
arrived. The EFF, whose personnel and history will be examined in detail in the
next chapter, are a pioneering civil liberties group who arose in direct
response to the Hacker Crackdown of 1990.

Now Mitchell Kapor, the Foundation's president, and Michael Godwin, its chief
attorney, were confronting federal law enforcement MANO A MANO for the first
time ever. Ever alert to the manifold uses of publicity, Mitch Kapor and Mike
Godwin had brought their own journalist in tow: Robert Draper, from Austin,
whose recent well-received book about ROLLING STONE magazine was still on the
stands. Draper was on assignment for TEXAS MONTHLY.

The Steve Jackson/EFF civil lawsuit against the Chicago Computer Fraud and Abuse
Task Force was a matter of considerable regional interest in Texas. There were
now two Austinite journalists here on the case. In fact, counting Godwin (a
former Austinite and former journalist) there were three of us. Lunch was like
Old Home Week.

Later, I took Draper up to my hotel room. We had a long frank talk about the
case, networking earnestly like a miniature freelance-journo version of the
FCIC: privately confessing the numerous blunders of journalists covering the
story, and trying hard to figure out who was who and what the hell was really
going on out there. I showed Draper everything I had dug out of the Hilton
trashcan. We pondered the ethics of "trashing" for a while, and agreed that
they were dismal. We also agreed that finding a SPRINT bill on your first time
out was a heck of a coincidence.

First I'd "trashed"--and now, mere hours later, I'd bragged to someone else.
Having entered the lifestyle of hackerdom, I was now, unsurprisingly, following
its logic. Having discovered something remarkable through a surreptitious
action, I of course HAD to "brag," and to drag the passing Draper into my
iniquities. I felt I needed a witness. Otherwise nobody would have believed
what I'd discovered....

Back at the meeting, Thackeray cordially, if rather tentatively, introduced
Kapor and Godwin to her colleagues. Papers were distributed. Kapor took center
stage. The brilliant Bostonian high-tech entrepreneur, normally the hawk in his
own administration and quite an effective public speaker, seemed visibly
nervous, and frankly admitted as much. He began by saying he consided computer-
intrusion to be morally wrong, and that the EFF was not a "hacker defense fund,"
despite what had appeared in print. Kapor chatted a bit about the basic
motivations of his group, emphasizing their good faith and willingness to listen
and seek common ground with law enforcement--when, er, possible.

Then, at Godwin's urging, Kapor suddenly remarked that EFF's own Internet
machine had been "hacked" recently, and that EFF did not consider this incident

After this surprising confession, things began to loosen up quite rapidly. Soon
Kapor was fielding questions, parrying objections, challenging definitions, and
juggling paradigms with something akin to his usual gusto.

Kapor seemed to score quite an effect with his shrewd and skeptical analysis of
the merits of telco "Caller-ID" services. (On this topic, FCIC and EFF have
never been at loggerheads, and have no particular established earthworks to
defend.) Caller-ID has generally been promoted as a privacy service for
consumers, a presentation Kapor described as a "smokescreen," the real point of
room had considered this possibility, except perhaps for two late-arrivals from
US WEST RBOC security, who chuckled nervously.

Mike Godwin then made an extensive presentation on "Civil Liberties Implications
of Computer Searches and Seizures." Now, at last, we were getting to the real
nitty-gritty here, real political horse-trading. The audience listened with
close attention, angry mutters rising occasionally: "He's trying to teach us
our jobs!" "We've been thinking about this for years! We think about these
issues every day!" "If I didn't seize the works, I'd be sued by the guy's
victims!" "I'm violating the law if I leave ten thousand disks full of illegal
PIRATED SOFTWARE and STOLEN CODES!" "It's our job to make sure people don't
trash the Constitution--we're the DEFENDERS of the Constitution!" "We seize
stuff when we know it will be forfeited anyway as restitution for the victim!"

"If it's forfeitable, then don't get a search warrant, get a forfeiture
warrant," Godwin suggested coolly. He further remarked that most suspects in
computer crime don't WANT to see their computers vanish out the door, headed God
knew where, for who knows how long. They might not mind a search, even an
extensive search, but they want their machines searched on-site.

"Are they gonna feed us?" somebody asked sourly.

"How about if you take copies of the data?" Godwin parried.

"That'll never stand up in court."

"Okay, you make copies, give THEM the copies, and take the originals."


Godwin championed bulletin-board systems as repositories of First Amendment
protected free speech. He complained that federal computer-crime training
manuals gave boards a bad press, suggesting that they are hotbeds of crime
haunted by pedophiles and crooks, whereas the vast majority of the nation's
thousands of boards are completely innocuous, and nowhere near so romantically

People who run boards violently resent it when their systems are seized, and
their dozens (or hundreds) of users look on in abject horror. Their rights of
free expression are cut short. Their right to associate with other people is
infringed. And their privacy is violated as their private electronic mail
becomes police property.

Not a soul spoke up to defend the practice of seizing boards. The issue passed
in chastened silence. Legal principles aside--(and those principles cannot be
settled without laws passed or court precedents)--seizing bulletin boards has
become public-relations poison for American computer police.

And anyway, it's not entirely necessary. If you're a cop, you can get 'most
everything you need from a pirate board, just by using an inside informant.
Plenty of vigilantes--well, CONCERNED CITIZENS--will inform police the moment
they see a pirate board hit their area (and will tell the police all about it,
in such technical detail, actually, that you kinda wish they'd shut up). They
will happily supply police with extensive downloads or printouts. It's
IMPOSSIBLE to keep this fluid electronic information out of the hands of police.

Some people in the electronic community become enraged at the prospect of cops
"monitoring" bulletin boards. This does have touchy aspects, as Secret Service
people in particular examine bulletin boards with some regularity. But to
expect electronic police to be deaf dumb and blind in regard to this particular
medium rather flies in the face of common sense. Police watch television, listen
to radio, read newspapers and magazines; why should the new medium of boards be
different? Cops can exercise the same access to electronic information as
everybody else. As we have seen, quite a few computer police maintain THEIR OWN
bulletin boards, including anti-hacker "sting" boards, which have generally
proven quite effective.

As a final clincher, their Mountie friends in Canada (and colleagues in Ireland
and Taiwan) don't have First Amendment or American constitutional restrictions,
but they do have phone lines, and can call any bulletin board in America
whenever they please. The same technological determinants that play into the
hands of hackers, phone phreaks and software pirates can play into the hands of
police. "Technological determinants" don't have ANY human allegiances. They're
not black or white, or Establishment or Underground, or pro-or-anti anything.

Godwin complained at length about what he called "the Clever Hobbyist
hypothesis"--the assumption that the "hacker" you're busting is clearly a
technical genius, and must therefore by searched with extreme thoroughness. So:
from the law's point of view, why risk missing anything? Take the works. Take
the guy's computer. Take his books. Take his notebooks. Take the electronic
drafts of his love letters. Take his Walkman. Take his wife's computer. Take
his dad's computer. Take his kid sister's computer. Take his employer's
computer. Take his compact disks--they MIGHT be CD-ROM disks, cunningly
disguised as pop music. Take his laser printer--he might have hidden something
vital in the printer's 5 meg of memory. Take his software manuals and hardware
documentation. Take his science- fiction novels and his simulation-gaming
books. Take his Nintendo Game-Boy and his Pac-Man arcade game. Take his
answering machine, take his telephone out of the wall. Take anything remotely

Godwin pointed out that most "hackers" are not, in fact, clever genius
hobbyists. Quite a few are crooks and grifters who don't have much in the way
of technical sophistication; just some rule-of-thumb rip-off techniques. The
same goes for most fifteen-year-olds who've downloaded a code-scanning program
from a pirate board. There's no real need to seize everything in sight. It
doesn't require an entire computer system and ten thousand disks to prove a case
in court.

What if the computer is the instrumentality of a crime? someone demanded.

Godwin admitted quietly that the doctrine of seizing the instrumentality of a
crime was pretty well established in the American legal system.

The meeting broke up. Godwin and Kapor had to leave. Kapor was testifying next
morning before the Massachusetts Department Of Public Utility, about ISDN
narrowband wide-area networking.

As soon as they were gone, Thackeray seemed elated. She had taken a great risk
with this. Her colleagues had not, in fact, torn Kapor and Godwin's heads off.
She was very proud of them, and told them so.

"Did you hear what Godwin said about INSTRUMENTALITY OF A CRIME?" she exulted,
to nobody in particular. "Wow, that means MITCH ISN'T GOING TO SUE ME."

America's computer police are an interesting group. As a social phenomenon they
are far more interesting, and far more important, than teenage phone phreaks and
computer hackers. First, they're older and wiser; not dizzy hobbyists with leaky
morals, but seasoned adult professionals with all the responsibilities of public
service. And, unlike hackers, they possess not merely TECHNICAL power alone,
but heavy-duty legal and social authority.

And, very interestingly, they are just as much at sea in cyberspace as everyone
else. They are not happy about this. Police are authoritarian by nature, and
prefer to obey rules and precedents. (Even those police who secretly enjoy a
fast ride in rough territory will soberly disclaim any "cowboy" attitude.) But
in cyberspace there ARE no rules and precedents. They are groundbreaking
pioneers, Cyberspace Rangers, whether they like it or not.

In my opinion, any teenager enthralled by computers, fascinated by the ins and
outs of computer security, and attracted by the lure of specialized forms of
knowledge and power, would do well to forget all about "hacking" and set his (or
her) sights on becoming a fed. Feds can trump hackers at almost every single
thing hackers do, including gathering intelligence, undercover disguise,
trashing, phone-tapping, building dossiers, networking, and infiltrating
computer systems- -CRIMINAL computer systems. Secret Service agents know more
about phreaking, coding and carding than most phreaks can find out in years, and
when it comes to viruses, break-ins, software bombs and trojan horses, Feds have
direct access to red-hot confidential information that is only vague rumor in
the underground.

And if it's an impressive public rep you're after, there are few people in the
world who can be so chillingly impressive as a well-trained, well-armed United
States Secret Service agent.

Of course, a few personal sacrifices are necessary in order to obtain that power
and knowledge. First, you'll have the galling discipline of belonging to a
large organization; but the world of computer crime is still so small, and so
amazingly fast- moving, that it will remain spectacularly fluid for years to
come. The second sacrifice is that you'll have to give up ripping people off.
This is not a great loss. Abstaining from the use of illegal drugs, also
necessary, will be a boon to your health.

A career in computer security is not a bad choice for a young man or woman
today. The field will almost certainly expand drastically in years to come. If
you are a teenager today, by the time you become a professional, the pioneers
you have read about in this book will be the grand old men and women of the
field, swamped by their many disciples and successors. Of course, some of them,
like William P. Wood of the 1865 Secret Service, may well be mangled in the
whirring machinery of legal controversy; but by the time you enter the computer-
crime field, it may have stabilized somewhat, while remaining entertainingly

But you can't just have a badge. You have to win it. First, there's the federal
law enforcement training. And it's hard--it's a challenge. A real challenge--
not for wimps and rodents.

Every Secret Service agent must complete gruelling courses at the Federal Law
Enforcement Training Center. (In fact, Secret Service agents are periodically
re-trained during their entire careers.)

In order to get a glimpse of what this might be like, I myself travelled to

The Federal Law Enforcement Training Center is a 1500- acre facility on
Georgia's Atlantic coast. It's a milieu of marshgrass, seabirds, damp, clinging
sea-breezes, palmettos, mosquitos, and bats. Until 1974, it was a Navy Air
Base, and still features a working runway, and some WWII vintage blockhouses and
officers' quarters. The Center has since benefitted by a forty-million-dollar
retrofit, but there's still enough forest and swamp on the facility for the
Border Patrol to put in tracking practice.

As a town, "Glynco" scarcely exists. The nearest real town is Brunswick, a few
miles down Highway 17, where I stayed at the aptly named Marshview Holiday Inn.
I had Sunday dinner at a seafood restaurant called "Jinright's," where I feasted
on deep- fried alligator tail. This local favorite was a heaped basket of bite-
sized chunks of white, tender, almost fluffy reptile meat, steaming in a
peppered batter crust. Alligator makes a culinary experience that's hard to
forget, especially when liberally basted with homemade cocktail sauce from a
Jinright squeeze- bottle.

The crowded clientele were tourists, fishermen, local black folks in their
Sunday best, and white Georgian locals who all seemed to bear an uncanny
resemblance to Georgia humorist Lewis Grizzard.

The 2,400 students from 75 federal agencies who make up the FLETC population
scarcely seem to make a dent in the low-key local scene. The students look like
tourists, and the teachers seem to have taken on much of the relaxed air of the
Deep South. My host was Mr. Carlton Fitzpatrick, the Program Coordinator of the
Financial Fraud Institute. Carlton Fitzpatrick is a mustached, sinewy, well-
tanned Alabama native somewhere near his late forties, with a fondness for
chewing tobacco, powerful computers, and salty, down-home homilies. We'd met
before, at FCIC in Arizona.

The Financial Fraud Institute is one of the nine divisions at FLETC. Besides
Financial Fraud, there's Driver & Marine, Firearms, and Physical Training.
These are specialized pursuits. There are also five general training divisions:
Basic Training, Operations, Enforcement Techniques, Legal Division, and
Behavioral Science.

Somewhere in this curriculum is everything necessary to turn green college
graduates into federal agents. First they're given ID cards. Then they get the
rather miserable-looking blue coveralls known as "smurf suits." The trainees
are assigned a barracks and a cafeteria, and immediately set on FLETC's bone-
grinding physical training routine. Besides the obligatory daily jogging--(the
trainers run up danger flags beside the track when the humidity rises high
enough to threaten heat stroke)--there's the Nautilus machines, the martial
arts, the survival skills....

The eighteen federal agencies who maintain on-site academies at FLETC employ a
wide variety of specialized law enforcement units, some of them rather arcane.
There's Border Patrol, IRS Criminal Investigation Division, Park Service, Fish
and Wildlife, Customs, Immigration, Secret Service and the Treasury's uniformed
subdivisions.... If you're a federal cop and you don't work for the FBI, you
train at FLETC. This includes people as apparently obscure as the agents of the
Railroad Retirement Board Inspector General. Or the Tennessee Valley Authority
Police, who are in fact federal police officers, and can and do arrest criminals
on the federal property of the Tennessee Valley Authority.

And then there are the computer-crime people. All sorts, all backgrounds. Mr.
Fitzpatrick is not jealous of his specialized knowledge. Cops all over, in
every branch of service, may feel a need to learn what he can teach.
Backgrounds don't matter much. Fitzpatrick himself was originally a Border
Patrol veteran, then became a Border Patrol instructor at FLETC. His Spanish is
still fluent--but he found himself strangely fascinated when the first computers
showed up at the Training Center. Fitzpatrick did have a background in
electrical engineering, and though he never considered himself a computer
hacker, he somehow found himself writing useful little programs for this new and
promising gizmo.

He began looking into the general subject of computers and crime, reading Donn
Parker's books and articles, keeping an ear cocked for war stories, useful
insights from the field, the up-and-coming people of the local computer-crime
and high- technology units.... Soon he got a reputation around FLETC as the
resident "computer expert," and that reputation alone brought him more exposure,
more experience--until one day he looked around, and sure enough he WAS a
federal computer-crime expert.

In fact, this unassuming, genial man may be THE federal computer-crime expert.
There are plenty of very good computer people, and plenty of very good federal
investigators, but the area where these worlds of expertise overlap is very
slim. And Carlton Fitzpatrick has been right at the center of that since 1985,
the first year of the Colluquy, a group which owes much to his influence.

He seems quite at home in his modest, acoustic-tiled office, with its Ansel
Adams-style Western photographic art, a gold-framed Senior Instructor
Certificate, and a towering bookcase crammed with three-ring binders with

The phone rings every ten minutes; colleagues show up at the door to chat about
new developments in locksmithing or to shake their heads over the latest dismal
developments in the BCCI global banking scandal.

Carlton Fitzpatrick is a fount of computer-crime war- stories, related in an
acerbic drawl. He tells me the colorful tale of a hacker caught in California
some years back. He'd been raiding systems, typing code without a detectable
break, for twenty, twenty-four, thirty-six hours straight. Not just logged on--
TYPING. Investigators were baffled. Nobody could do that. Didn't he have to go
to the bathroom? Was it some kind of automatic keyboard-whacking device that
could actually type code?

A raid on the suspect's home revealed a situation of astonishing squalor. The
hacker turned out to be a Pakistani computer-science student who had flunked out
of a California university. He'd gone completely underground as an illegal
electronic immigrant, and was selling stolen phone-service to stay alive. The
place was not merely messy and dirty, but in a state of psychotic disorder.
Powered by some weird mix of culture shock, computer addiction, and
amphetamines, the suspect had in fact been sitting in front of his computer for
a day and a half straight, with snacks and drugs at hand on the edge of his desk
and a chamber-pot under his chair.

Word about stuff like this gets around in the hacker- tracker community.

Carlton Fitzpatrick takes me for a guided tour by car around the FLETC grounds.
One of our first sights is the biggest indoor firing range in the world. There
are federal trainees in there, Fitzpatrick assures me politely, blasting away
with a wide variety of automatic weapons: Uzis, Glocks, AK-47s.... He's willing
to take me inside. I tell him I'm sure that's really interesting, but I'd
rather see his computers. Carlton Fitzpatrick seems quite surprised and
pleased. I'm apparently the first journalist he's ever seen who has turned down
the shooting gallery in favor of microchips.

Our next stop is a favorite with touring Congressmen: the three-mile long FLETC
driving range. Here trainees of the Driver & Marine Division are taught high-
speed pursuit skills, setting and breaking road-blocks, diplomatic security
driving for VIP limousines.... A favorite FLETC pastime is to strap a passing
Senator into the passenger seat beside a Driver & Marine trainer, hit a hundred
miles an hour, then take it right into "the skid-pan," a section of greased
track where two tons of Detroit iron can whip and spin like a hockey puck.

Cars don't fare well at FLETC. First they're rifled again and again for search
practice. Then they do 25,000 miles of high-speed pursuit training; they get
about seventy miles per set of steel-belted radials. Then it's off to the skid
pan, where sometimes they roll and tumble headlong in the grease. When they're
sufficiently grease-stained, dented, and creaky, they're sent to the roadblock
unit, where they're battered without pity. And finally then they're sacrificed
to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, whose trainees learn the ins and
outs of car-bomb work by blowing them into smoking wreckage.

There's a railroad box-car on the FLETC grounds, and a large grounded boat, and
a propless plane; all training-grounds for searches. The plane sits forlornly
on a patch of weedy tarmac next to an eerie blockhouse known as the "ninja
compound," where anti-terrorism specialists practice hostage rescues. As I gaze
on this creepy paragon of modern low-intensity warfare, my nerves are jangled by
a sudden staccato outburst of automatic weapons fire, somewhere in the woods to
my right. "Nine- millimeter," Fitzpatrick judges calmly.

Even the eldritch ninja compound pales somewhat compared to the truly surreal
area known as "the raid-houses." This is a street lined on both sides with
nondescript concrete-block houses with flat pebbled roofs. They were once
officers' quarters. Now they are training grounds. The first one to our left,
Fitzpatrick tells me, has been specially adapted for computer search-and-seizure
practice. Inside it has been wired for video from top to bottom, with eighteen
pan-and-tilt remotely controlled videocams mounted on walls and in corners.
Every movement of the trainee agent is recorded live by teachers, for later
taped analysis. Wasted movements, hesitations, possibly lethal tactical
mistakes--all are gone over in detail.

Perhaps the weirdest single aspect of this building is its front door, scarred
and scuffed all along the bottom, from the repeated impact, day after day, of
federal shoe-leather.

Down at the far end of the row of raid-houses some people are practicing a
murder. We drive by slowly as some very young and rather nervous-looking
federal trainees interview a heavyset bald man on the raid-house lawn. Dealing
with murder takes a lot of practice; first you have to learn to control your own
instinctive disgust and panic, then you have to learn to control the reactions
of a nerve-shredded crowd of civilians, some of whom may have just lost a loved
one, some of whom may be murderers--quite possibly both at once.

A dummy plays the corpse. The roles of the bereaved, the morbidly curious, and
the homicidal are played, for pay, by local Georgians: waitresses, musicians,
most anybody who needs to moonlight and can learn a script. These people, some
of whom are FLETC regulars year after year, must surely have one of the
strangest jobs in the world.

Something about the scene: "normal" people in a weird situation, standing
around talking in bright Georgia sunshine, unsuccessfully pretending that
something dreadful has gone on, while a dummy lies inside on faked
bloodstains.... While behind this weird masquerade, like a nested set of
Russian dolls, are grim future realities of real death, real violence, real
murders of real people, that these young agents will really investigate, many
times during their careers.... Over and over.... Will those anticipated
murders look like this, feel like this--not as "real" as these amateur actors
are trying to make it seem, but both as "real," and as numbingly unreal, as
watching fake people standing around on a fake lawn? Something about this scene
unhinges me. It seems nightmarish to me, Kafkaesque. I simply don't know how
to take it; my head is turned around; I don't know whether to laugh, cry, or
just shudder.

When the tour is over, Carlton Fitzpatrick and I talk about computers. For the
first time cyberspace seems like quite a comfortable place. It seems very real
to me suddenly, a place where I know what I'm talking about, a place I'm used
to. It's real. "Real." Whatever.

Carlton Fitzpatrick is the only person I've met in cyberspace circles who is
happy with his present equipment. He's got a 5 Meg RAM PC with a 112 meg hard
disk; a 660 meg's on the way. He's got a Compaq 386 desktop, and a Zenith 386
laptop with 120 meg. Down the hall is a NEC Multi-Sync 2A with a CD-ROM drive
and a 9600 baud modem with four com-lines. There's a training minicomputer, and
a 10-meg local mini just for the Center, and a lab-full of student PC clones and
half-a-dozen Macs or so. There's a Data General MV 2500 with 8 meg on board and
a 370 meg disk.

Fitzpatrick plans to run a UNIX board on the Data General when he's finished
beta-testing the software for it, which he wrote himself. It'll have E-mail
features, massive files on all manner of computer-crime and investigation
procedures, and will follow the computer-security specifics of the Department of
Defense "Orange Book." He thinks it will be the biggest BBS in the federal

Will it have PHRACK on it? I ask wryly.

Sure, he tells me. PHRACK, _TAP_, COMPUTER UNDERGROUND DIGESTM, all that stuff.
With proper disclaimers, of course.

I ask him if he plans to be the sysop. Running a system that size is very time-
consuming, and Fitzpatrick teaches two three-hour courses every day.

No, he says seriously, FLETC has to get its money worth out of the instructors.
He thinks he can get a local volunteer to do it, a high-school student.

He says a bit more, something I think about an Eagle Scout law-enforcement
liaison program, but my mind has rocketed off in disbelief.

"You're going to put a TEENAGER in charge of a federal security BBS?" I'm
speechless. It hasn't escaped my notice that the FLETC Financial Fraud
Institute is the ULTIMATE hacker- trashing target; there is stuff in here, stuff
of such utter and consummate cool by every standard of the digital
underground.... I imagine the hackers of my acquaintance, fainting dead-away
from forbidden-knowledge greed-fits, at the mere prospect of cracking the
superultra top-secret computers used to train the Secret Service in computer-

"Uhm, Carlton," I babble, "I'm sure he's a really nice kid and all, but that's a
terrible temptation to set in front of somebody who's, you know, into computers
and just starting out..."

"Yeah," he says, "that did occur to me." For the first time I begin to suspect
that he's pulling my leg.

He seems proudest when he shows me an ongoing project called JICC, Joint
Intelligence Control Council. It's based on the services provided by EPIC, the
El Paso Intelligence Center, which supplies data and intelligence to the Drug
Enforcement Administration, the Customs Service, the Coast Guard, and the state
police of the four southern border states. Certain EPIC files can now be
accessed by drug-enforcement police of Central America, South America and the
Caribbean, who can also trade information among themselves. Using a telecom
program called "White Hat," written by two brothers named Lopez from the
Dominican Republic, police can now network internationally on inexpensive PCs.
Carlton Fitzpatrick is teaching a class of drug-war agents from the Third World,
and he's very proud of their progress. Perhaps soon the sophisticated smuggling
networks of the Medellin Cartel will be matched by a sophisticated computer
network of the Medellin Cartel's sworn enemies. They'll track boats, track
contraband, track the international drug-lords who now leap over borders with
great ease, defeating the police through the clever use of fragmented national

JICC and EPIC must remain beyond the scope of this book. They seem to me to be
very large topics fraught with complications that I am not fit to judge. I do
know, however, that the international, computer-assisted networking of police,
across national boundaries, is something that Carlton Fitzpatrick considers very
important, a harbinger of a desirable future. I also know that networks by
their nature ignore physical boundaries. And I also know that where you put
communications you put a community, and that when those communities become self-
aware they will fight to preserve themselves and to expand their influence. I
make no judgements whether this is good or bad. It's just cyberspace; it's just
the way things are.

I asked Carlton Fitzpatrick what advice he would have for a twenty-year-old who
wanted to shine someday in the world of electronic law enforcement.

He told me that the number one rule was simply not to be scared of computers.
You don't need to be an obsessive "computer weenie," but you mustn't be
buffaloed just because some machine looks fancy. The advantages computers give
smart crooks are matched by the advantages they give smart cops. Cops in the
future will have to enforce the law "with their heads, not their holsters."
Today you can make good cases without ever leaving your office. In the future,
cops who resist the computer revolution will never get far beyond walking a

I asked Carlton Fitzpatrick if he had some single message for the public; some
single thing that he would most like the American public to know about his work.

He thought about it while. "Yes," he said finally. "TELL me the rules, and I'll
TEACH those rules!" He looked me straight in the eye. "I do the best that I


The story of the Hacker Crackdown, as we have followed it thus far, has been
technological, subcultural, criminal and legal. The story of the Civil
Libertarians, though it partakes of all those other aspects, is profoundly and
thoroughly POLITICAL.

In 1990, the obscure, long-simmering struggle over the ownership and nature of
cyberspace became loudly and irretrievably public. People from some of the
oddest corners of American society suddenly found themselves public figures.
Some of these people found this situation much more than they had ever bargained
for. They backpedalled, and tried to retreat back to the mandarin obscurity of
their cozy subcultural niches. This was generally to prove a mistake.

But the civil libertarians seized the day in 1990. They found themselves
organizing, propagandizing, podium-pounding, persuading, touring, negotiating,
posing for publicity photos, submitting to interviews, squinting in the
limelight as they tried a tentative, but growingly sophisticated, buck-and-wing
upon the public stage.

It's not hard to see why the civil libertarians should have this competitive

The hackers of the digital underground are an hermetic elite. They find it hard
to make any remotely convincing case for their actions in front of the general
public. Actually, hackers roundly despise the "ignorant" public, and have never
trusted the judgement of "the system." Hackers do propagandize, but only among
themselves, mostly in giddy, badly spelled manifestos of class warfare, youth
rebellion or naive techie utopianism. Hackers must strut and boast in order to
establish and preserve their underground reputations. But if they speak out too
loudly and publicly, they will break the fragile surface- tension of the
underground, and they will be harrassed or arrested. Over the longer term, most
hackers stumble, get busted, get betrayed, or simply give up. As a political
force, the digital underground is hamstrung.

The telcos, for their part, are an ivory tower under protracted seige. They
have plenty of money with which to push their calculated public image, but they
waste much energy and goodwill attacking one another with slanderous and
demeaning ad campaigns. The telcos have suffered at the hands of politicians,
and, like hackers, they don't trust the public's judgement. And this distrust
may be well-founded. Should the general public of the high-tech 1990s come to
understand its own best interests in telecommunications, that might well pose a
grave threat to the specialized technical power and authority that the telcos
have relished for over a century. The telcos do have strong advantages: loyal
employees, specialized expertise, influence in the halls of power, tactical
allies in law enforcement, and unbelievably vast amounts of money. But
politically speaking, they lack genuine grassroots support; they simply don't
seem to have many friends.

Cops know a lot of things other people don't know. But cops willingly reveal
only those aspects of their knowledge that they feel will meet their
institutional purposes and further public order. Cops have respect, they have
responsibilities, they have power in the streets and even power in the home, but
cops don't do particularly well in limelight. When pressed, they will step out
in the public gaze to threaten bad-guys, or to cajole prominent citizens, or
perhaps to sternly lecture the naive and misguided. But then they go back
within their time- honored fortress of the station-house, the courtroom and the

The electronic civil libertarians, however, have proven to be born political
animals. They seemed to grasp very early on the postmodern truism that
communication is power. Publicity is power. Soundbites are power. The ability
to shove one's issue onto the public agenda--and KEEP IT THERE--is power. Fame
is power. Simple personal fluency and eloquence can be power, if you can
somehow catch the public's eye and ear.

The civil libertarians had no monopoly on "technical power"--though they all
owned computers, most were not particularly advanced computer experts. They had
a good deal of money, but nowhere near the earthshaking wealth and the galaxy of
resources possessed by telcos or federal agencies. They had no ability to
arrest people. They carried out no phreak and hacker covert dirty-tricks.

But they really knew how to network.

Unlike the other groups in this book, the civil libertarians have operated very
much in the open, more or less right in the public hurly-burly. They have
lectured audiences galore and talked to countless journalists, and have learned
to refine their spiels. They've kept the cameras clicking, kept those faxes
humming, swapped that email, run those photocopiers on overtime, licked
envelopes and spent small fortunes on airfare and long-distance. In an
information society, this open, overt, obvious activity has proven to be a
profound advantage.

In 1990, the civil libertarians of cyberspace assembled out of nowhere in
particular, at warp speed. This "group" (actually, a networking gaggle of
interested parties which scarcely deserves even that loose term) has almost
nothing in the way of formal organization. Those formal civil libertarian
organizations which did take an interest in cyberspace issues, mainly the
Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility and the American Civil
Liberties Union, were carried along by events in 1990, and acted mostly as
adjuncts, underwriters or launching- pads.

The civil libertarians nevertheless enjoyed the greatest success of any of the
groups in the Crackdown of 1990. At this writing, their future looks rosy and
the political initiative is firmly in their hands. This should be kept in mind
as we study the highly unlikely lives and lifestyles of the people who actually
made this happen.

In June 1989, Apple Computer, Inc., of Cupertino, California, had a problem.
Someone had illicitly copied a small piece of Apple's proprietary software,
software which controlled an internal chip driving the Macintosh screen display.
This Color QuickDraw source code was a closely guarded piece of Apple's
intellectual property. Only trusted Apple insiders were supposed to possess it.

But the "NuPrometheus League" wanted things otherwise. This person (or persons)
made several illicit copies of this source code, perhaps as many as two dozen.
He (or she, or they) then put those illicit floppy disks into envelopes and
mailed them to people all over America: people in the computer industry who
were associated with, but not directly employed by, Apple Computer.

The NuPrometheus caper was a complex, highly ideological, and very hacker-like
crime. Prometheus, it will be recalled, stole the fire of the Gods and gave
this potent gift to the general ranks of downtrodden mankind. A similar god-in-
the- manger attitude was implied for the corporate elite of Apple Computer,
while the "Nu" Prometheus had himself cast in the role of rebel demigod. The
illicitly copied data was given away for free.

The new Prometheus, whoever he was, escaped the fate of the ancient Greek
Prometheus, who was chained to a rock for centuries by the vengeful gods while
an eagle tore and ate his liver. On the other hand, NuPrometheus chickened out
somewhat by comparison with his role model. The small chunk of Color QuickDraw
code he had filched and replicated was more or less useless to Apple's
industrial rivals (or, in fact, to anyone else). Instead of giving fire to
mankind, it was more as if NuPrometheus had photocopied the schematics for part
of a Bic lighter. The act was not a genuine work of industrial espionage. It
was best interpreted as a symbolic, deliberate slap in the face for the Apple
corporate hierarchy.

Apple's internal struggles were well-known in the industry. Apple's founders,
Jobs and Wozniak, had both taken their leave long since. Their raucous core of
senior employees had been a barnstorming crew of 1960s Californians, many of
them markedly less than happy with the new button-down multimillion dollar
regime at Apple. Many of the programmers and developers who had invented the
Macintosh model in the early 1980s had also taken their leave of the company.
It was they, not the current masters of Apple's corporate fate, who had invented
the stolen Color QuickDraw code. The NuPrometheus stunt was well-calculated to
wound company morale.

Apple called the FBI. The Bureau takes an interest in high-profile
intellectual-property theft cases, industrial espionage and theft of trade
secrets. These were likely the right people to call, and rumor has it that the
entities responsible were in fact discovered by the FBI, and then quietly
squelched by Apple management. NuPrometheus was never publicly charged with a
crime, or prosecuted, or jailed. But there were no further illicit releases of
Macintosh internal software. Eventually the painful issue of NuPrometheus was
allowed to fade.

In the meantime, however, a large number of puzzled bystanders found themselves
entertaining surprise guests from the FBI.

One of these people was John Perry Barlow. Barlow is a most unusual man,
difficult to describe in conventional terms. He is perhaps best known as a
songwriter for the Grateful Dead, for he composed lyrics for "Hell in a Bucket,"
"Picasso Moon," "Mexicali Blues," "I Need a Miracle," and many more; he has been
writing for the band since 1970.

Before we tackle the vexing question as to why a rock lyricist should be
interviewed by the FBI in a computer-crime case, it might be well to say a word
or two about the Grateful Dead. The Grateful Dead are perhaps the most
successful and long-lasting of the numerous cultural emanations from the Haight-
Ashbury district of San Francisco, in the glory days of Movement politics and
lysergic transcendance. The Grateful Dead are a nexus, a veritable whirlwind,
of applique decals, psychedelic vans, tie-dyed T-shirts, earth-color denim,
frenzied dancing and open and unashamed drug use. The symbols, and the
realities, of Californian freak power surround the Grateful Dead like knotted

The Grateful Dead and their thousands of Deadhead devotees are radical
Bohemians. This much is widely understood. Exactly what this implies in the
1990s is rather more problematic.

The Grateful Dead are among the world's most popular and wealthy entertainers:
number 20, according to FORBES magazine, right between M.C. Hammer and Sean
Connery. In 1990, this jeans- clad group of purported raffish outcasts earned
seventeen million dollars. They have been earning sums much along this line for
quite some time now.

And while the Dead are not investment bankers or three- piece-suit tax
specialists--they are, in point of fact, hippie musicians--this money has not
been squandered in senseless Bohemian excess. The Dead have been quietly active
for many years, funding various worthy activities in their extensive and
widespread cultural community.

The Grateful Dead are not conventional players in the American power
establishment. They nevertheless are something of a force to be reckoned with.
They have a lot of money and a lot of friends in many places, both likely and

The Dead may be known for back-to-the-earth environmentalist rhetoric, but this
hardly makes them anti- technological Luddites. On the contrary, like most rock
musicians, the Grateful Dead have spent their entire adult lives in the company
of complex electronic equipment. They have funds to burn on any sophisticated
tool and toy that might happen to catch their fancy. And their fancy is quite

The Deadhead community boasts any number of recording engineers, lighting
experts, rock video mavens, electronic technicians of all descriptions. And the
drift goes both ways. Steve Wozniak, Apple's co-founder, used to throw rock
festivals. Silicon Valley rocks out.

These are the 1990s, not the 1960s. Today, for a surprising number of people
all over America, the supposed dividing line between Bohemian and technician
simply no longer exists. People of this sort may have a set of windchimes and a
dog with a knotted kerchief 'round its neck, but they're also quite likely to
own a multimegabyte Macintosh running MIDI synthesizer software and trippy
fractal simulations. These days, even Timothy Leary himself, prophet of LSD,
does virtual-reality computer-graphics demos in his lecture tours.

John Perry Barlow is not a member of the Grateful Dead. He is, however, a
ranking Deadhead.

Barlow describes himself as a "techno-crank." A vague term like "social
activist" might not be far from the mark, either. But Barlow might be better
described as a "poet"--if one keeps in mind Percy Shelley's archaic definition
of poets as "unacknowledged legislators of the world."

Barlow once made a stab at acknowledged legislator status. In 1987, he narrowly
missed the Republican nomination for a seat in the Wyoming State Senate. Barlow
is a Wyoming native, the third-generation scion of a well-to-do cattle- ranching
family. He is in his early forties, married and the father of three daughters.

Barlow is not much troubled by other people's narrow notions of consistency. In
the late 1980s, this Republican rock lyricist cattle rancher sold his ranch and
became a computer telecommunications devotee.

The free-spirited Barlow made this transition with ease. He genuinely enjoyed
computers. With a beep of his modem, he leapt from small-town Pinedale,
Wyoming, into electronic contact with a large and lively crowd of bright,
inventive, technological sophisticates from all over the world. Barlow found
the social milieu of computing attractive: its fast-lane pace, its blue-sky
rhetoric, its open-endedness. Barlow began dabbling in computer journalism,
with marked success, as he was a quick study, and both shrewd and eloquent. He
frequently travelled to San Francisco to network with Deadhead friends. There
Barlow made extensive contacts throughout the Californian computer community,
including friendships among the wilder spirits at Apple.

In May 1990, Barlow received a visit from a local Wyoming agent of the FBI. The
NuPrometheus case had reached Wyoming.

Barlow was troubled to find himself under investigation in an area of his
interests once quite free of federal attention. He had to struggle to explain
the very nature of computer-crime to a headscratching local FBI man who
specialized in cattle- rustling. Barlow, chatting helpfully and demonstrating
the wonders of his modem to the puzzled fed, was alarmed to find all "hackers"
generally under FBI suspicion as an evil influence in the electronic community.
The FBI, in pursuit of a hacker called "NuPrometheus," were tracing attendees of
a suspect group called the Hackers Conference.

The Hackers Conference, which had been started in 1984, was a yearly Californian
meeting of digital pioneers and enthusiasts. The hackers of the Hackers
Conference had little if anything to do with the hackers of the digital
underground. On the contrary, the hackers of this conference were mostly well-
to- do Californian high-tech CEOs, consultants, journalists and entrepreneurs.
(This group of hackers were the exact sort of "hackers" most likely to react
with militant fury at any criminal degradation of the term "hacker.")

Barlow, though he was not arrested or accused of a crime, and though his
computer had certainly not gone out the door, was very troubled by this anomaly.
He carried the word to the Well.

Like the Hackers Conference, "the Well" was an emanation of the Point
Foundation. Point Foundation, the inspiration of a wealthy Californian 60s
radical named Stewart Brand, was to be a major launch-pad of the civil
libertarian effort.

Point Foundation's cultural efforts, like those of their fellow Bay Area
Californians the Grateful Dead, were multifaceted and multitudinous. Rigid
ideological consistency had never been a strong suit of the WHOLE EARTH CATALOG.
This Point publication had enjoyed a strong vogue during the late 60s and early
70s, when it offered hundreds of practical (and not so practical) tips on
communitarian living, environmentalism, and getting back-to- the-land. The
WHOLE EARTH CATALOG, and its sequels, sold two and half million copies and won a
National Book Award.

With the slow collapse of American radical dissent, the WHOLE EARTH CATALOG had
slipped to a more modest corner of the cultural radar; but in its magazine
incarnation, COEVOLUTION QUARTERLY, the Point Foundation continued to offer a
magpie potpourri of "access to tools and ideas."

COEVOLUTION QUARTERLY, which started in 1974, was never a widely popular
magazine. Despite periodic outbreaks of millenarian fervor, COEVOLUTION
QUARTERLY failed to revolutionize Western civilization and replace leaden
centuries of history with bright new Californian paradigms. Instead, this
propaganda arm of Point Foundation cakewalked a fine line between impressive
brilliance and New Age flakiness. COEVOLUTION QUARTERLY carried no advertising,
cost a lot, and came out on cheap newsprint with modest black-and-white
graphics. It was poorly distributed, and spread mostly by subscription and word
of mouth.

It could not seem to grow beyond 30,000 subscribers. And yet--it never seemed
to shrink much, either. Year in, year out, decade in, decade out, some strange
demographic minority accreted to support the magazine. The enthusiastic
readership did not seem to have much in the way of coherent politics or ideals.
It was sometimes hard to understand what held them together (if the often bitter
debate in the letter-columns could be described as "togetherness").

But if the magazine did not flourish, it was resilient; it got by. Then, in
1984, the birth-year of the Macintosh computer, COEVOLUTION QUARTERLY suddenly
hit the rapids. Point Foundation had discovered the computer revolution. Out
came the WHOLE EARTH SOFTWARE CATALOG of 1984, arousing headscratching doubts
among the tie-dyed faithful, and rabid enthusiasm among the nascent "cyberpunk"
milieu, present company included. Point Foundation started its yearly Hackers
Conference, and began to take an extensive interest in the strange new
possibilities of digital counterculture. COEVOLUTION QUARTERLY folded its
teepee, replaced by WHOLE EARTH SOFTWARE REVIEW and eventually by WHOLE EARTH
REVIEW (the magazine's present incarnation, currently under the editorship of
virtual-reality maven Howard Rheingold).

1985 saw the birth of the "WELL"--the "Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link." The Well
was Point Foundation's bulletin board system.

As boards went, the Well was an anomaly from the beginning, and remained one.
It was local to San Francisco. It was huge, with multiple phonelines and
enormous files of commentary. Its complex UNIX-based software might be most
charitably described as "user-opaque." It was run on a mainframe out of the
rambling offices of a non-profit cultural foundation in Sausalito. And it was
crammed with fans of the Grateful Dead.

Though the Well was peopled by chattering hipsters of the Bay Area
counterculture, it was by no means a "digital underground" board. Teenagers
were fairly scarce; most Well users (known as "Wellbeings") were thirty- and
forty-something Baby Boomers. They tended to work in the information industry:
hardware, software, telecommunications, media, entertainment. Librarians,
academics, and journalists were especially common on the Well, attracted by
Point Foundation's open-handed distribution of "tools and ideas."

There were no anarchy files on the Well, scarcely a dropped hint about access
codes or credit-card theft. No one used handles. Vicious "flame-wars" were
held to a comparatively civilized rumble. Debates were sometimes sharp, but no
Wellbeing ever claimed that a rival had disconnected his phone, trashed his
house, or posted his credit card numbers.

The Well grew slowly as the 1980s advanced. It charged a modest sum for access
and storage, and lost money for years--but not enough to hamper the Point
Foundation, which was nonprofit anyway. By 1990, the Well had about five
thousand users. These users wandered about a gigantic cyberspace smorgasbord of
"Conferences", each conference itself consisting of a welter of "topics," each
topic containing dozens, sometimes hundreds of comments, in a tumbling,
multiperson debate that could last for months or years on end.

In 1991, the Well's list of conferences looked like this:


WELL "Screenzine" Digest - (g zine)

Best of the WELL - vintage material - (g best)

Index listing of new topics in all conferences - (g newtops)


Business - Education


Apple Library Users Group (g alug) Agriculture (g agri)

Brainstorming (g brain) Classifieds (g cla)

Computer Journalism (g cj) Consultants (g consult)

Consumers (g cons) Design (g design)

Desktop Publishing (g desk) Disability (g disability)

Education (g ed) Energy (g energy91)

Entrepreneurs (g entre) Homeowners (g home)

Indexing (g indexing) Investments (g invest)

Kids91 (g kids) Legal (g legal)

One Person Business (g one) Periodical/newsletter (g per)

Telecomm Law (g tcl) The Future (g fut)

Translators (g trans) Travel (g tra)

Work (g work)

Electronic Frontier Foundation (g eff)

Computers, Freedom & Privacy (g cfp)

Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (g cpsr)


Social - Political - Humanities


Aging (g gray) AIDS (g aids)

Amnesty International (g amnesty) Archives (g arc)

Berkeley (g berk) Buddhist (g wonderland)

Christian (g cross) Couples (g couples)

Current Events (g curr) Dreams (g dream)

Drugs (g dru) East Coast (g east)

Emotional Health**** (g private) Erotica (g eros)

Environment (g env) Firearms (g firearms)

First Amendment (g first) Fringes of Reason (g fringes)

Gay (g gay) Gay (Private)# (g gaypriv)

Geography (g geo) German (g german)

Gulf War (g gulf) Hawaii (g aloha)

Health (g heal) History (g hist)

Holistic (g holi) Interview (g inter)

Italian (g ital) Jewish (g jew)

Liberty (g liberty) Mind (g mind)

Miscellaneous (g misc) Men on the WELL** (g mow)

Network Integration (g origin) Nonprofits (g non)

North Bay (g north) Northwest (g nw)

Pacific Rim (g pacrim) Parenting (g par)

Peace (g pea) Peninsula (g pen)

Poetry (g poetry) Philosophy (g phi)

Politics (g pol) Psychology (g psy)

Psychotherapy (g therapy) Recovery## (g recovery)

San Francisco (g sanfran) Scams (g scam)

Sexuality (g sex) Singles (g singles)

Southern (g south) Spanish (g spanish)

Spirituality (g spirit) Tibet (g tibet)

Transportation (g transport) True Confessions (g tru)

Unclear (g unclear) WELL Writer's Workshop*** (g www)

Whole Earth (g we) Women on the WELL* (g wow)

Words (g words) Writers (g wri)

**** Private Conference - mail wooly for entry

***Private conference - mail sonia for entry

** Private conference - mail flash for entry

* Private conference - mail reva for entry

# Private Conference - mail hudu for entry

## Private Conference - mail dhawk for entry


Arts - Recreation - Entertainment


ArtCom Electronic Net (g acen) Audio-Videophilia (g aud)

Bicycles (g bike) Bay Area Tonight** (g bat)

Boating (g wet) Books (g books)

CD's (g cd) Comics (g comics)

Cooking (g cook) Flying (g flying)

Fun (g fun) Games (g games)

Gardening (g gard) Kids (g kids)

Nightowls* (g owl) Jokes (g jokes)

MIDI (g midi) Movies (g movies)

Motorcycling (g ride) Motoring (g car)

Music (g mus) On Stage (g onstage)

Pets (g pets) Radio (g rad)

Restaurant (g rest) Science Fiction (g sf)

Sports (g spo) Star Trek (g trek)

Television (g tv) Theater (g theater)

Weird (g weird) Zines/Factsheet Five (g f5)

* Open from midnight to 6am

** Updated daily


Grateful Dead


Grateful Dead (g gd) Deadplan* (g dp)

Deadlit (g deadlit) Feedback (g feedback)

GD Hour (g gdh) Tapes (g tapes)

Tickets (g tix) Tours (g tours)

* Private conference - mail tnf for entry




AI/Forth/Realtime (g realtime) Amiga (g amiga)

Apple (g app) Computer Books (g cbook)

Art & Graphics (g gra) Hacking (g hack)

HyperCard (g hype) IBM PC (g ibm)

LANs (g lan) Laptop (g lap)

Macintosh (g mac) Mactech (g mactech)

Microtimes (g microx) Muchomedia (g mucho)

NeXt (g next) OS/2 (g os2)

Printers (g print) Programmer's Net (g net)

Siggraph (g siggraph) Software Design (g sdc)

Software/Programming (g software) Software Support (g ssc)

Unix (g unix) Windows (g windows)

Word Processing (g word)


Technical - Communications


Bioinfo (g bioinfo) Info (g boing)

Media (g media) NAPLPS (g naplps)

Netweaver (g netweaver) Networld (g networld)

Packet Radio (g packet) Photography (g pho)

Radio (g rad) Science (g science)

Technical Writers (g tec) Telecommunications (g tele)

Usenet (g usenet) Video (g vid)

Virtual Reality (g vr)


The WELL Itself


Deeper (g deeper) Entry (g ent)

General (g gentech) Help (g help)

Hosts (g hosts) Policy (g policy)

System News (g news) Test (g test)

The list itself is dazzling, bringing to the untutored eye a dizzying impression
of a bizarre milieu of mountain- climbing Hawaiian holistic photographers
trading true-life confessions with bisexual word-processing Tibetans.

But this confusion is more apparent than real. Each of these conferences was a
little cyberspace world in itself, comprising dozens and perhaps hundreds of
sub-topics. Each conference was commonly frequented by a fairly small, fairly
like-minded community of perhaps a few dozen people. It was humanly impossible
to encompass the entire Well (especially since access to the Well's mainframe
computer was billed by the hour). Most long-time users contented themselves with
a few favorite topical neighborhoods, with the occasional foray elsewhere for a
taste of exotica. But especially important news items, and hot topical debates,
could catch the attention of the entire Well community.

Like any community, the Well had its celebrities, and John Perry Barlow, the
silver-tongued and silver-modemed lyricist of the Grateful Dead, ranked
prominently among them. It was here on the Well that Barlow posted his true-
life tale of computer- crime encounter with the FBI.

The story, as might be expected, created a great stir. The Well was already
primed for hacker controversy. In December 1989, HARPER'S magazine had hosted a
debate on the Well about the ethics of illicit computer intrusion. While over
forty various computer-mavens took part, Barlow proved a star in the debate. So
did "Acid Phreak" and "Phiber Optik," a pair of young New York hacker-phreaks
whose skills at telco switching-station intrusion were matched only by their
apparently limitless hunger for fame. The advent of these two boldly swaggering
outlaws in the precincts of the Well created a sensation akin to that of Black
Panthers at a cocktail party for the radically chic.

Phiber Optik in particular was to seize the day in 1990. A devotee of the _2600_
circle and stalwart of the New York hackers' group "Masters of Deception,"
Phiber Optik was a splendid exemplar of the computer intruder as committed
dissident. The eighteen-year-old Optik, a high-school dropout and part-time
computer repairman, was young, smart, and ruthlessly obsessive, a sharp-
dressing, sharp-talking digital dude who was utterly and airily contemptuous of
anyone's rules but his own. By late 1991, Phiber Optik had appeared in
HARPER'S, ESQUIRE, THE NEW YORK TIMES, in countless public debates and
conventions, even on a television show hosted by Geraldo Rivera.

Treated with gingerly respect by Barlow and other Well mavens, Phiber Optik
swiftly became a Well celebrity. Strangely, despite his thorny attitude and
utter single-mindedness, Phiber Optik seemed to arouse strong protective
instincts in most of the people who met him. He was great copy for journalists,
always fearlessly ready to swagger, and, better yet, to actually DEMONSTRATE
some off-the-wall digital stunt. He was a born media darling.

Even cops seemed to recognize that there was something peculiarly unworldly and
uncriminal about this particular troublemaker. He was so bold, so flagrant, so
young, and so obviously doomed, that even those who strongly disapproved of his
actions grew anxious for his welfare, and began to flutter about him as if he
were an endangered seal pup.

In January 24, 1990 (nine days after the Martin Luther King Day Crash), Phiber
Optik, Acid Phreak, and a third NYC scofflaw named Scorpion were raided by the
Secret Service. Their computers went out the door, along with the usual
blizzard of papers, notebooks, compact disks, answering machines, Sony Walkmans,
etc. Both Acid Phreak and Phiber Optik were accused of having caused the Crash.

The mills of justice ground slowly. The case eventually fell into the hands of
the New York State Police. Phiber had lost his machinery in the raid, but there
were no charges filed against him for over a year. His predicament was
extensively publicized on the Well, where it caused much resentment for police
tactics. It's one thing to merely hear about a hacker raided or busted; it's
another to see the police attacking someone you've come to know personally, and
who has explained his motives at length. Through the HARPER'S debate on the
Well, it had become clear to the Wellbeings that Phiber Optik was not in fact
going to "hurt anything." In their own salad days, many Wellbeings had tasted
tear-gas in pitched street-battles with police. They were inclined to
indulgence for acts of civil disobedience.

Wellbeings were also startled to learn of the draconian thoroughness of a
typical hacker search-and-seizure. It took no great stretch of imagination for
them to envision themselves suffering much the same treatment.

As early as January 1990, sentiment on the Well had already begun to sour, and
people had begun to grumble that "hackers" were getting a raw deal from the ham-
handed powers- that-be. The resultant issue of HARPER'S magazine posed the
question as to whether computer-intrusion was a "crime" at all. As Barlow put it
later: "I've begun to wonder if we wouldn't also regard spelunkers as desperate
criminals if AT&T owned all the caves."

In February 1991, more than a year after the raid on his home, Phiber Optik was
finally arrested, and was charged with first-degree Computer Tampering and
Computer Trespass, New York state offenses. He was also charged with a theft-
of-service misdemeanor, involving a complex free-call scam to a 900 number.
Phiber Optik pled guilty to the misdemeanor charge, and was sentenced to 35
hours of community service.

This passing harassment from the unfathomable world of straight people seemed to
bother Optik himself little if at all. Deprived of his computer by the January
search-and-seizure, he simply bought himself a portable computer so the cops
could no longer monitor the phone where he lived with his Mom, and he went right
on with his depredations, sometimes on live radio or in front of television

The crackdown raid may have done little to dissuade Phiber Optik, but its
galling affect on the Wellbeings was profound. As 1990 rolled on, the slings
and arrows mounted: the Knight Lightning raid, the Steve Jackson raid, the
nation- spanning Operation Sundevil. The rhetoric of law enforcement made it
clear that there was, in fact, a concerted crackdown on hackers in progress.

The hackers of the Hackers Conference, the Wellbeings, and their ilk, did not
really mind the occasional public misapprehension of "hacking"; if anything,
this membrane of differentiation from straight society made the "computer
community" feel different, smarter, better. They had never before been
confronted, however, by a concerted vilification campaign.

Barlow's central role in the counter-struggle was one of the major anomalies of
1990. Journalists investigating the controversy often stumbled over the truth
about Barlow, but they commonly dusted themselves off and hurried on as if
nothing had happened. It was as if it were TWO MUCH TO BELIEVE that a 1960s
freak from the Grateful Dead had taken on a federal law enforcement operation

Barlow had no easily detectable power-base for a political struggle of this
kind. He had no formal legal or technical credentials. Barlow was, however, a
computer networker of truly stellar brilliance. He had a poet's gift of
concise, colorful phrasing. He also had a journalist's shrewdness, an off-the-
wall, self-deprecating wit, and a phenomenal wealth of simple personal charm.

The kind of influence Barlow possessed is fairly common currency in literary,
artistic, or musical circles. A gifted critic can wield great artistic
influence simply through defining the temper of the times, by coining the catch-
phrases and the terms of debate that become the common currency of the period.
(And as it happened, Barlow WAS a part-time art critic, with a special fondness
for the Western art of Frederic Remington.)

Barlow was the first commentator to adopt William Gibson's striking science-
fictional term "cyberspace" as a synonym for the present-day nexus of computer
and telecommunications networks. Barlow was insistent that cyberspace should be
regarded as a qualitatively new world, a "frontier." According to Barlow, the
world of electronic communications, now made visible through the computer
screen, could no longer be usefully regarded as just a tangle of high- tech
wiring. Instead, it had become a PLACE, cyberspace, which demanded a new set of
metaphors, a new set of rules and behaviors. The term, as Barlow employed it,
struck a useful chord, and this concept of cyberspace was picked up by TIME,
SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, computer police, hackers, and even Constitutional scholars.
"Cyberspace" now seems likely to become a permanent fixture of the language.

Barlow was very striking in person: a tall, craggy-faced, bearded, deep-voiced
Wyomingan in a dashing Western ensemble of jeans, jacket, cowboy boots, a
knotted throat-kerchief and an ever-present Grateful Dead cloisonne lapel pin.

Armed with a modem, however, Barlow was truly in his element. Formal
hierarchies were not Barlow's strong suit; he rarely missed a chance to belittle
the "large organizations and their drones," with their uptight, institutional
mindset. Barlow was very much of the free-spirit persuasion, deeply unimpressed
by brass-hats and jacks-in-office. But when it came to the digital grapevine,
Barlow was a cyberspace ad-hocrat par excellence.

There was not a mighty army of Barlows. There was only one Barlow, and he was a
fairly anomolous individual. However, the situation only seemed to REQUIRE a
single Barlow. In fact, after 1990, many people must have concluded that a
single Barlow was far more than they'd ever bargained for.

Barlow's querulous mini-essay about his encounter with the FBI struck a strong
chord on the Well. A number of other free spirits on the fringes of Apple
Computing had come under suspicion, and they liked it not one whit better than
he did.

One of these was Mitchell Kapor, the co-inventor of the spreadsheet program
"Lotus 1-2-3" and the founder of Lotus Development Corporation. Kapor had
written-off the passing indignity of being fingerprinted down at his own local
Boston FBI headquarters, but Barlow's post made the full national scope of the
FBI's dragnet clear to Kapor. The issue now had Kapor's full attention. As the
Secret Service swung into anti-hacker operation nationwide in 1990, Kapor
watched every move with deep skepticism and growing alarm.

As it happened, Kapor had already met Barlow, who had interviewed Kapor for a
California computer journal. Like most people who met Barlow, Kapor had been
very taken with him. Now Kapor took it upon himself to drop in on Barlow for a
heart-to- heart talk about the situation.

Kapor was a regular on the Well. Kapor had been a devotee of the WHOLE EARTH
CATALOG since the beginning, and treasured a complete run of the magazine. And
Kapor not only had a modem, but a private jet. In pursuit of the scattered
high- tech investments of Kapor Enterprises Inc., his personal, multi- million
dollar holding company, Kapor commonly crossed state lines with about as much
thought as one might give to faxing a letter.

The Kapor-Barlow council of June 1990, in Pinedale, Wyoming, was the start of
the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Barlow swiftly wrote a manifesto, "Crime and
Puzzlement," which announced his, and Kapor's, intention to form a political
organization to "raise and disburse funds for education, lobbying, and
litigation in the areas relating to digital speech and the extension of the
Constitution into Cyberspace."

Furthermore, proclaimed the manifesto, the foundation would "fund, conduct, and
support legal efforts to demonstrate that the Secret Service has exercised prior
restraint on publications, limited free speech, conducted improper seizure of
equipment and data, used undue force, and generally conducted itself in a
fashion which is arbitrary, oppressive, and unconstitutional."

"Crime and Puzzlement" was distributed far and wide through computer networking
channels, and also printed in the WHOLE EARTH REVIEW. The sudden declaration of
a coherent, politicized counter-strike from the ranks of hackerdom electrified
the community. Steve Wozniak (perhaps a bit stung by the NuPrometheus scandal)
swiftly offered to match any funds Kapor offered the Foundation.

John Gilmore, one of the pioneers of Sun Microsystems, immediately offered his
own extensive financial and personal support. Gilmore, an ardent libertarian,
was to prove an eloquent advocate of electronic privacy issues, especially
freedom from governmental and corporate computer-assisted surveillance of
private citizens.

A second meeting in San Francisco rounded up further allies: Stewart Brand of
the Point Foundation, virtual-reality pioneers Jaron Lanier and Chuck Blanchard,
network entrepreneur and venture capitalist Nat Goldhaber. At this dinner
meeting, the activists settled on a formal title: the Electronic Frontier
Foundation, Incorporated. Kapor became its president. A new EFF Conference was
opened on the Point Foundation's Well, and the Well was declared "the home of
the Electronic Frontier Foundation."

Press coverage was immediate and intense. Like their nineteenth-century
spiritual ancestors, Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Watson, the high-tech
computer entrepreneurs of the 1970s and 1980s--people such as Wozniak, Jobs,
Kapor, Gates, and H. Ross Perot, who had raised themselves by their bootstraps
to dominate a glittering new industry--had always made very good copy.

But while the Wellbeings rejoiced, the press in general seemed nonplussed by the
self-declared "civilizers of cyberspace." EFF's insistence that the war against
"hackers" involved grave Constitutional civil liberties issues seemed somewhat
farfetched, especially since none of EFF's organizers were lawyers or
established politicians. The business press in particular found it easier to
seize on the apparent core of the story--that high-tech entrepreneur Mitchell
Kapor had established a "defense fund for hackers." Was EFF a genuinely
important political development--or merely a clique of wealthy eccentrics,
dabbling in matters better left to the proper authorities? The jury was still

But the stage was now set for open confrontation. And the first and the most
critical battle was the hacker show-trial of "Knight Lightning."

It has been my practice throughout this book to refer to hackers only by their
"handles." There is little to gain by giving the real names of these people,
many of whom are juveniles, many of whom have never been convicted of any crime,
and many of whom had unsuspecting parents who have already suffered enough.

But the trial of Knight Lightning on July 24-27, 1990, made this particular
"hacker" a nationally known public figure. It can do no particular harm to
himself or his family if I repeat the long-established fact that his name is
Craig Neidorf (pronounced NYE-dorf).

Neidorf's jury trial took place in the United States District Court, Northern
District of Illinois, Eastern Division, with the Honorable Nicholas J. Bua
presiding. The United States of America was the plaintiff, the defendant Mr.
Neidorf. The defendant's attorney was Sheldon T. Zenner of the Chicago firm of
Katten, Muchin and Zavis.

The prosecution was led by the stalwarts of the Chicago Computer Fraud and Abuse
Task Force: William J. Cook, Colleen D. Coughlin, and David A. Glockner, all
Assistant United States Attorneys. The Secret Service Case Agent was Timothy M.

It will be recalled that Neidorf was the co-editor of an underground hacker
"magazine" called PHRACK. PHRACK was an entirely electronic publication,
distributed through bulletin boards and over electronic networks. It was
amateur publication given away for free. Neidorf had never made any money for
his work in PHRACK. Neither had his unindicted co-editor "Taran King" or any of
the numerous PHRACK contributors.

The Chicago Computer Fraud and Abuse Task Force, however, had decided to
prosecute Neidorf as a fraudster. To formally admit that PHRACK was a
"magazine" and Neidorf a "publisher" was to open a prosecutorial Pandora's Box
of First Amendment issues. To do this was to play into the hands of Zenner and
his EFF advisers, which now included a phalanx of prominent New York civil
rights lawyers as well as the formidable legal staff of Katten, Muchin and
Zavis. Instead, the prosecution relied heavily on the issue of access device
fraud: Section 1029 of Title 18, the section from which the Secret Service drew
its most direct jurisdiction over computer crime.

Neidorf's alleged crimes centered around the E911 Document. He was accused of
having entered into a fraudulent scheme with the Prophet, who, it will be
recalled, was the Atlanta LoD member who had illicitly copied the E911 Document
from the BellSouth AIMSX system.

The Prophet himself was also a co-defendant in the Neidorf case, part-and-parcel
of the alleged "fraud scheme" to "steal" BellSouth's E911 Document (and to pass
the Document across state lines, which helped establish the Neidorf trial as a
federal case). The Prophet, in the spirit of full co-operation, had agreed to
testify against Neidorf.

In fact, all three of the Atlanta crew stood ready to testify against Neidorf.
Their own federal prosecutors in Atlanta had charged the Atlanta Three with:
(a) conspiracy, (b) computer fraud, (c) wire fraud, (d) access device fraud, and
(e) interstate transportation of stolen property (Title 18, Sections 371, 1030,
1343, 1029, and 2314).

Faced with this blizzard of trouble, Prophet and Leftist had ducked any public
trial and had pled guilty to reduced charges--one conspiracy count apiece.
Urvile had pled guilty to that odd bit of Section 1029 which makes it illegal to
possess "fifteen or more" illegal access devices (in his case, computer
passwords). And their sentences were scheduled for September 14, 1990--well
after the Neidorf trial. As witnesses, they could presumably be relied upon to

Neidorf, however, was pleading innocent. Most everyone else caught up in the
crackdown had "cooperated fully" and pled guilty in hope of reduced sentences.
(Steve Jackson was a notable exception, of course, and had strongly protested
his innocence from the very beginning. But Steve Jackson could not get a day in
court--Steve Jackson had never been charged with any crime in the first place.)

Neidorf had been urged to plead guilty. But Neidorf was a political science
major and was disinclined to go to jail for "fraud" when he had not made any
money, had not broken into any computer, and had been publishing a magazine that
he considered protected under the First Amendment.

Neidorf's trial was the ONLY legal action of the entire Crackdown that actually
involved bringing the issues at hand out for a public test in front of a jury of
American citizens.

Neidorf, too, had cooperated with investigators. He had voluntarily handed over
much of the evidence that had led to his own indictment. He had already
admitted in writing that he knew that the E911 Document had been stolen before
he had "published" it in PHRACK--or, from the prosecution's point of view,
illegally transported stolen property by wire in something purporting to be a

But even if the "publication" of the E911 Document was not held to be a crime,
that wouldn't let Neidorf off the hook. Neidorf had still received the E911
Document when Prophet had transferred it to him from Rich Andrews' Jolnet node.
On that occasion, it certainly hadn't been "published"--it was hacker booty,
pure and simple, transported across state lines.

The Chicago Task Force led a Chicago grand jury to indict Neidorf on a set of
charges that could have put him in jail for thirty years. When some of these
charges were successfully challenged before Neidorf actually went to trial, the
Chicago Task Force rearranged his indictment so that he faced a possible jail
term of over sixty years! As a first offender, it was very unlikely that
Neidorf would in fact receive a sentence so drastic; but the Chicago Task Force
clearly intended to see Neidorf put in prison, and his conspiratorial "magazine"
put permanently out of commission. This was a federal case, and Neidorf was
charged with the fraudulent theft of property worth almost eighty thousand

William Cook was a strong believer in high-profile prosecutions with symbolic
overtones. He often published articles on his work in the security trade press,
arguing that "a clear message had to be sent to the public at large and the
computer community in particular that unauthorized attacks on computers and the
theft of computerized information would not be tolerated by the courts."

The issues were complex, the prosecution's tactics somewhat unorthodox, but the
Chicago Task Force had proved sure- footed to date. "Shadowhawk" had been
bagged on the wing in 1989 by the Task Force, and sentenced to nine months in
prison, and a $10,000 fine. The Shadowhawk case involved charges under Section
1030, the "federal interest computer" section.

Shadowhawk had not in fact been a devotee of "federal- interest" computers per
se. On the contrary, Shadowhawk, who owned an AT&T home computer, seemed to
cherish a special aggression toward AT&T. He had bragged on the underground
boards "Phreak Klass 2600" and "Dr. Ripco" of his skills at raiding AT&T, and of
his intention to crash AT&T's national phone system. Shadowhawk's brags were
noticed by Henry Kluepfel of Bellcore Security, scourge of the outlaw boards,
whose relations with the Chicago Task Force were long and intimate.

The Task Force successfully established that Section 1030 applied to the teenage
Shadowhawk, despite the objections of his defense attorney. Shadowhawk had
entered a computer "owned" by U.S. Missile Command and merely "managed" by AT&T.
He had also entered an AT&T computer located at Robbins Air Force Base in
Georgia. Attacking AT&T was of "federal interest" whether Shadowhawk had
intended it or not.

The Task Force also convinced the court that a piece of AT&T software that
Shadowhawk had illicitly copied from Bell Labs, the "Artificial Intelligence C5
Expert System," was worth a cool one million dollars. Shadowhawk's attorney had
argued that Shadowhawk had not sold the program and had made no profit from the
illicit copying. And in point of fact, the C5 Expert System was experimental
software, and had no established market value because it had never been on the
market in the first place. AT&T's own assessment of a "one million dollar"
figure for its own intangible property was accepted without challenge by the
court, however. And the court concurred with the government prosecutors that
Shadowhawk showed clear "intent to defraud" whether he'd gotten any money or
not. Shadowhawk went to jail.

The Task Force's other best-known triumph had been the conviction and jailing of
"Kyrie." Kyrie, a true denizen of the digital criminal underground, was a 36-
year-old Canadian woman, convicted and jailed for telecommunications fraud in
Canada. After her release from prison, she had fled the wrath of Canada Bell and
the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and eventually settled, very unwisely, in

"Kyrie," who also called herself "Long Distance Information," specialized in
voice-mail abuse. She assembled large numbers of hot long-distance codes, then
read them aloud into a series of corporate voice-mail systems. Kyrie and her
friends were electronic squatters in corporate voice-mail systems, using them
much as if they were pirate bulletin boards, then moving on when their vocal
chatter clogged the system and the owners necessarily wised up. Kyrie's camp
followers were a loose tribe of some hundred and fifty phone-phreaks, who
followed her trail of piracy from machine to machine, ardently begging for her
services and expertise.

Kyrie's disciples passed her stolen credit-card numbers, in exchange for her
stolen "long distance information." Some of Kyrie's clients paid her off in
cash, by scamming credit-card cash advances from Western Union.

Kyrie travelled incessantly, mostly through airline tickets and hotel rooms that
she scammed through stolen credit cards. Tiring of this, she found refuge with
a fellow female phone phreak in Chicago. Kyrie's hostess, like a surprising
number of phone phreaks, was blind. She was also physically disabled. Kyrie
allegedly made the best of her new situation by applying for, and receiving,
state welfare funds under a false identity as a qualified caretaker for the

Sadly, Kyrie's two children by a former marriage had also vanished underground
with her; these pre-teen digital refugees had no legal American identity, and
had never spent a day in school.

Kyrie was addicted to technical mastery and enthralled by her own cleverness and
the ardent worship of her teenage followers. This foolishly led her to phone up
Gail Thackeray in Arizona, to boast, brag, strut, and offer to play informant.
Thackeray, however, had already learned far more than enough about Kyrie, whom
she roundly despised as an adult criminal corrupting minors, a "female Fagin."
Thackeray passed her tapes of Kyrie's boasts to the Secret Service.

Kyrie was raided and arrested in Chicago in May 1989. She confessed at great
length and pled guilty.

In August 1990, Cook and his Task Force colleague Colleen Coughlin sent Kyrie to
jail for 27 months, for computer and telecommunications fraud. This was a
markedly severe sentence by the usual wrist-slapping standards of "hacker"
busts. Seven of Kyrie's foremost teenage disciples were also indicted and
convicted. The Kyrie "high-tech street gang," as Cook described it, had been
crushed. Cook and his colleagues had been the first ever to put someone in
prison for voice-mail abuse. Their pioneering efforts had won them attention
and kudos.

In his article on Kyrie, Cook drove the message home to the readers of SECURITY
MANAGEMENT magazine, a trade journal for corporate security professionals. The
case, Cook said, and Kyrie's stiff sentence, "reflect a new reality for hackers
and computer crime victims in the '90s.... Individuals and corporations who
report computer and telecommunications crimes can now expect that their
cooperation with federal law enforcement will result in meaningful punishment.
Companies and the public at large must report computer-enhanced crimes if they
want prosecutors and the course to protect their rights to the tangible and
intangible property developed and stored on computers."

Cook had made it his business to construct this "new reality for hackers." He'd
also made it his business to police corporate property rights to the intangible.

Had the Electronic Frontier Foundation been a "hacker defense fund" as that term
was generally understood, they presumably would have stood up for Kyrie. Her
1990 sentence did indeed send a "message" that federal heat was coming down on
"hackers." But Kyrie found no defenders at EFF, or anywhere else, for that
matter. EFF was not a bail-out fund for electronic crooks.

The Neidorf case paralleled the Shadowhawk case in certain ways. The victim
once again was allowed to set the value of the "stolen" property. Once again
Kluepfel was both investigator and technical advisor. Once again no money had
changed hands, but the "intent to defraud" was central.

The prosecution's case showed signs of weakness early on. The Task Force had
originally hoped to prove Neidorf the center of a nationwide Legion of Doom
criminal conspiracy. The PHRACK editors threw physical get-togethers every
summer, which attracted hackers from across the country; generally two dozen or
so of the magazine's favorite contributors and readers. (Such conventions were
common in the hacker community; 2600 Magazine, for instance, held public
meetings of hackers in New York, every month.) LoD heavy-dudes were always a
strong presence at these PHRACK-sponsored "Summercons."

In July 1988, an Arizona hacker named "Dictator" attended Summercon in Neidorf's
home town of St. Louis. Dictator was one of Gail Thackeray's underground
informants; Dictator's underground board in Phoenix was a sting operation for
the Secret Service. Dictator brought an undercover crew of Secret Service
agents to Summercon. The agents bored spyholes through the wall of Dictator's
hotel room in St Louis, and videotaped the frolicking hackers through a one-way
mirror. As it happened, however, nothing illegal had occurred on videotape,
other than the guzzling of beer by a couple of minors. Summercons were social
events, not sinister cabals. The tapes showed fifteen hours of raucous
laughter, pizza-gobbling, in-jokes and back- slapping.

Neidorf's lawyer, Sheldon Zenner, saw the Secret Service tapes before the trial.
Zenner was shocked by the complete harmlessness of this meeting, which Cook had
earlier characterized as a sinister interstate conspiracy to commit fraud.
Zenner wanted to show the Summercon tapes to the jury. It took protracted
maneuverings by the Task Force to keep the tapes from the jury as "irrelevant."

The E911 Document was also proving a weak reed. It had originally been valued
at $79,449. Unlike Shadowhawk's arcane Artificial Intelligence booty, the E911
Document was not software--it was written in English. Computer-knowledgeable
people found this value--for a twelve-page bureaucratic document--frankly
incredible. In his "Crime and Puzzlement" manifesto for EFF, Barlow commented:
"We will probably never know how this figure was reached or by whom, though I
like to imagine an appraisal team consisting of Franz Kafka, Joseph Heller, and
Thomas Pynchon."

As it happened, Barlow was unduly pessimistic. The EFF did, in fact, eventually
discover exactly how this figure was reached, and by whom--but only in 1991,
long after the Neidorf trial was over.

Kim Megahee, a Southern Bell security manager, had arrived at the document's
value by simply adding up the "costs associated with the production" of the E911
Document. Those "costs" were as follows:

1. A technical writer had been hired to research and write the E911 Document.
200 hours of work, at $35 an hour, cost : $7,000. A Project Manager had
overseen the technical writer. 200 hours, at $31 an hour, made: $6,200.

2. A week of typing had cost $721 dollars. A week of formatting had cost $721.
A week of graphics formatting had cost $742.

3. Two days of editing cost $367.

4. A box of order labels cost five dollars.

5. Preparing a purchase order for the Document, including typing and the
obtaining of an authorizing signature from within the BellSouth bureaucracy,
cost $129.

6. Printing cost $313. Mailing the Document to fifty people took fifty hours
by a clerk, and cost $858.

7. Placing the Document in an index took two clerks an hour each, totalling

Bureaucratic overhead alone, therefore, was alleged to have cost a whopping
$17,099. According to Mr. Megahee, the typing of a twelve-page document had
taken a full week. Writing it had taken five weeks, including an overseer who
apparently did nothing else but watch the author for five weeks. Editing twelve
pages had taken two days. Printing and mailing an electronic document (which
was already available on the Southern Bell Data Network to any telco employee
who needed it), had cost over a thousand dollars.

But this was just the beginning. There were also the HARDWARE EXPENSES. Eight
hundred fifty dollars for a VT220 computer monitor. THIRTY-ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS
for a sophisticated VAXstation II computer. Six thousand dollars for a computer
printer. TWENTY-TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS for a copy of "Interleaf" software. Two
thousand five hundred dollars for VMS software. All this to create the twelve-
page Document.

Plus ten percent of the cost of the software and the hardware, for maintenance.
(Actually, the ten percent maintenance costs, though mentioned, had been left
off the final $79,449 total, apparently through a merciful oversight).

Mr. Megahee's letter had been mailed directly to William Cook himself, at the
office of the Chicago federal attorneys. The United States Government accepted
these telco figures without question.

As incredulity mounted, the value of the E911 Document was officially revised
downward. This time, Robert Kibler of BellSouth Security estimated the value of
the twelve pages as a mere $24,639.05--based, purportedly, on "R&D costs." But
this specific estimate, right down to the nickel, did not move the skeptics at
all; in fact it provoked open scorn and a torrent of sarcasm.

The financial issues concerning theft of proprietary information have always
been peculiar. It could be argued that BellSouth had not "lost" its E911
Document at all in the first place, and therefore had not suffered any monetary
damage from this "theft." And Sheldon Zenner did in fact argue this at
Neidorf's trial--that Prophet's raid had not been "theft," but was better
understood as illicit copying.

The money, however, was not central to anyone's true purposes in this trial. It
was not Cook's strategy to convince the jury that the E911 Document was a major
act of theft and should be punished for that reason alone. His strategy was to
argue that the E911 Document was DANGEROUS. It was his intention to establish
that the E911 Document was "a road-map" to the Enhanced 911 System. Neidorf had
deliberately and recklessly distributed a dangerous weapon. Neidorf and the
Prophet did not care (or perhaps even gloated at the sinister idea) that the
E911 Document could be used by hackers to disrupt 911 service, "a life line for
every person certainly in the Southern Bell region of the United States, and
indeed, in many communities throughout the United States," in Cook's own words.
Neidorf had put people's lives in danger.

In pre-trial maneuverings, Cook had established that the E911 Document was too
hot to appear in the public proceedings of the Neidorf trial. The JURY ITSELF
would not be allowed to ever see this Document, lest it slip into the official
court records, and thus into the hands of the general public, and, thus,
somehow, to malicious hackers who might lethally abuse it.

Hiding the E911 Document from the jury may have been a clever legal maneuver,
but it had a severe flaw. There were, in point of fact, hundreds, perhaps
thousands, of people, already in possession of the E911 Document, just as PHRACK
had published it. Its true nature was already obvious to a wide section of the
interested public (all of whom, by the way, were, at least theoretically, party
to a gigantic wire-fraud conspiracy). Most everyone in the electronic community
who had a modem and any interest in the Neidorf case already had a copy of the
Document. It had already been available in PHRACK for over a year.

People, even quite normal people without any particular prurient interest in
forbidden knowledge, did not shut their eyes in terror at the thought of
beholding a "dangerous" document from a telephone company. On the contrary,
they tended to trust their own judgement and simply read the Document for
themselves. And they were not impressed.

One such person was John Nagle. Nagle was a forty-one- year-old professional
programmer with a masters' degree in computer science from Stanford. He had
worked for Ford Aerospace, where he had invented a computer-networking technique
known as the "Nagle Algorithm," and for the prominent Californian computer-
graphics firm "Autodesk," where he was a major stockholder.

Nagle was also a prominent figure on the Well, much respected for his technical

Nagle had followed the civil-liberties debate closely, for he was an ardent
telecommunicator. He was no particular friend of computer intruders, but he
believed electronic publishing had a great deal to offer society at large, and
attempts to restrain its growth, or to censor free electronic expression,
strongly roused his ire.

The Neidorf case, and the E911 Document, were both being discussed in detail on
the Internet, in an electronic publication called TELECOM DIGEST. Nagle, a
longtime Internet maven, was a regular reader of TELECOM DIGEST. Nagle had
never seen a copy of PHRACK, but the implications of the case disturbed him.

While in a Stanford bookstore hunting books on robotics, Nagle happened across a
book called THE INTELLIGENT NETWORK. Thumbing through it at random, Nagle came
across an entire chapter meticulously detailing the workings of E911 police
emergency systems. This extensive text was being sold openly, and yet in
Illinois a young man was in danger of going to prison for publishing a thin six-
page document about 911 service.

Nagle made an ironic comment to this effect in TELECOM DIGEST. From there,
Nagle was put in touch with Mitch Kapor, and then with Neidorf's lawyers.

Sheldon Zenner was delighted to find a computer telecommunications expert
willing to speak up for Neidorf, one who was not a wacky teenage "hacker."
Nagle was fluent, mature, and respectable; he'd once had a federal security

Nagle was asked to fly to Illinois to join the defense team.

Having joined the defense as an expert witness, Nagle read the entire E911
Document for himself. He made his own judgement about its potential for menace.

The time has now come for you yourself, the reader, to have a look at the E911
Document. This six-page piece of work was the pretext for a federal prosecution
that could have sent an electronic publisher to prison for thirty, or even
sixty, years. It was the pretext for the search and seizure of Steve Jackson
Games, a legitimate publisher of printed books. It was also the formal pretext
for the search and seizure of the Mentor's bulletin board, "Phoenix Project,"
and for the raid on the home of Erik Bloodaxe. It also had much to do with the
seizure of Richard Andrews' Jolnet node and the shutdown of Charles Boykin's
AT&T node. The E911 Document was the single most important piece of evidence in
the Hacker Crackdown. There can be no real and legitimate substitute for the
Document itself.


==Phrack Inc.==

Volume Two, Issue 24, File 5 of 13

Control Office Administration Of Enhanced 911 Services For Special Services and
Account Centers by the Eavesdropper

March, 1988


Description of Service


The control office for Emergency 911 service is assigned in accordance with the
existing standard guidelines to one of the following centers:

o Special Services Center (SSC)

o Major Accounts Center (MAC)

o Serving Test Center (STC)

o Toll Control Center (TCC)

The SSC/MAC designation is used in this document interchangeably for any of
these four centers. The Special Services Centers (SSCs) or Major Account
Centers (MACs) have been designated as the trouble reporting contact for all
E911 customer (PSAP) reported troubles. Subscribers who have trouble on an E911
call will continue to contact local repair service (CRSAB) who will refer the
trouble to the SSC/MAC, when appropriate.

Due to the critical nature of E911 service, the control and timely repair of
troubles is demanded. As the primary E911 customer contact, the SSC/MAC is in
the unique position to monitor the status of the trouble and insure its


System Overview


The number 911 is intended as a nationwide universal telephone number which
provides the public with direct access to a Public Safety Answering Point
(PSAP). A PSAP is also referred to as an Emergency Service Bureau (ESB). A
PSAP is an agency or facility which is authorized by a municipality to receive
and respond to police, fire and/or ambulance services. One or more attendants
are located at the PSAP facilities to receive and handle calls of an emergency
nature in accordance with the local municipal requirements.

An important advantage of E911 emergency service is improved (reduced) response
times for emergency services. Also close coordination among agencies providing
various emergency services is a valuable capability provided by E911 service.

1A ESS is used as the tandem office for the E911 network to route all 911 calls
to the correct (primary) PSAP designated to serve the calling station. The E911
feature was developed primarily to provide routing to the correct PSAP for all
911 calls. Selective routing allows a 911 call originated from a particular
station located in a particular district, zone, or town, to be routed to the
primary PSAP designated to serve that customer station regardless of wire center
boundaries. Thus, selective routing eliminates the problem of wire center
boundaries not coinciding with district or other political boundaries.

The services available with the E911 feature include:

Forced Disconnect Default Routing

Alternative Routing Night Service

Selective Routing Automatic Number Identification (ANI)

Selective Transfer Automatic Location Identification (ALI)


Preservice/Installation Guidelines


When a contract for an E911 system has been signed, it is the responsibility of
Network Marketing to establish an implementation/cutover committee which should
include a representative from the SSC/MAC. Duties of the E911 Implementation
Team include coordination of all phases of the E911 system deployment and the
formation of an on-going E911 maintenance subcommittee.

Marketing is responsible for providing the following customer specific
information to the SSC/MAC prior to the start of call through testing:

o All PSAP's (name, address, local contact)

o All PSAP circuit ID's

o 1004 911 service request including PSAP details on each PSAP (1004 Section K,
L, M)

o Network configuration

o Any vendor information (name, telephone number, equipment)

The SSC/MAC needs to know if the equipment and sets at the PSAP are maintained
by the BOCs, an independent company, or an outside vendor, or any combination.
This information is then entered on the PSAP profile sheets and reviewed
quarterly for changes, additions and deletions.

Marketing will secure the Major Account Number (MAN) and provide this number to
Corporate Communications so that the initial issue of the service orders carry
the MAN and can be tracked by the SSC/MAC via CORDNET. PSAP circuits are
official services by definition.

All service orders required for the installation of the E911 system should
include the MAN assigned to the city/county which has purchased the system.

In accordance with the basic SSC/MAC strategy for provisioning, the SSC/MAC will
be Overall Control Office (OCO) for all Node to PSAP circuits (official
services) and any other services for this customer. Training must be scheduled
for all SSC/MAC involved personnel during the pre-service stage of the project.

The E911 Implementation Team will form the on-going maintenance subcommittee
prior to the initial implementation of the E911 system. This sub-committee will
establish post implementation quality assurance procedures to ensure that the
E911 system continues to provide quality service to the customer.
Customer/Company training, trouble reporting interfaces for the customer,
telephone company and any involved independent telephone companies needs to be
addressed and implemented prior to E911 cutover. These functions can be best
addressed by the formation of a sub-committee of the E911 Implementation Team to
set up guidelines for and to secure service commitments of interfacing
organizations. A SSC/MAC supervisor should chair this subcommittee and include
the following organizations:

1) Switching Control Center

- E911 translations

- Trunking

- End office and Tandem office hardware/software

2) Recent Change Memory Administration Center

- Daily RC update activity for TN/ESN translations

- Processes validity errors and rejects

3) Line and Number Administration

- Verification of TN/ESN translations

4) Special Service Center/Major Account Center

- Single point of contact for all PSAP and Node to host troubles

- Logs, tracks & statusing of all trouble reports

- Trouble referral, follow up, and escalation

- Customer notification of status and restoration

- Analyzation of "chronic" troubles

- Testing, installation and maintenance of E911 circuits

5) Installation and Maintenance (SSIM/I&M)

- Repair and maintenance of PSAP equipment and Telco owned sets

6) Minicomputer Maintenance Operations Center

- E911 circuit maintenance (where applicable)

7) Area Maintenance Engineer

- Technical assistance on voice (CO-PSAP) network related E911 troubles


Maintenance Guidelines


The CCNC will test the Node circuit from the 202T at the Host site to the 202T
at the Node site. Since Host to Node (CCNC to MMOC) circuits are official
company services, the CCNC will refer all Node circuit troubles to the SSC/MAC.
The SSC/MAC is responsible for the testing and follow up to restoration of these
circuit troubles.

Although Node to PSAP circuit are official services, the MMOC will refer PSAP
circuit troubles to the appropriate SSC/MAC. The SSC/MAC is responsible for
testing and follow up to restoration of PSAP circuit troubles.

The SSC/MAC will also receive reports from CRSAB/IMC(s) on subscriber 911
troubles when they are not line troubles. The SSC/MAC is responsible for
testing and restoration of these troubles.

Maintenance responsibilities are as follows:

SCC* Voice Network (ANI to PSAP)

*SCC responsible for tandem switch

SSIM/I&M PSAP Equipment (Modems, CIU's, sets)

Vendor PSAP Equipment (when CPE)

SSC/MAC PSAP to Node circuits, and tandem to PSAP voice circuits (EMNT)

MMOC Node site (Modems, cables, etc)

Note: All above work groups are required to resolve troubles by interfacing
with appropriate work groups for resolution.

The Switching Control Center (SCC) is responsible for E911/1AESS translations in
tandem central offices. These translations route E911 calls, selective
transfer, default routing, speed calling, etc., for each PSAP. The SCC is also
responsible for troubleshooting on the voice network (call originating to end
office tandem equipment).

For example, ANI failures in the originating offices would be a responsibility
of the SCC.

Recent Change Memory Administration Center (RCMAC) performs the daily tandem
translation updates (recent change) for routing of individual telephone numbers.

Recent changes are generated from service order activity (new service, address
changes, etc.) and compiled into a daily file by the E911 Center (ALI/DMS E911

SSIM/I&M is responsible for the installation and repair of PSAP equipment. PSAP
equipment includes ANI Controller, ALI Controller, data sets, cables, sets, and
other peripheral equipment that is not vendor owned. SSIM/I&M is responsible
for establishing maintenance test kits, complete with spare parts for PSAP
maintenance. This includes test gear, data sets, and ANI/ALI Controller parts.

Special Services Center (SSC) or Major Account Center (MAC) serves as the
trouble reporting contact for all (PSAP) troubles reported by customer. The
SSC/MAC refers troubles to proper organizations for handling and tracks status
of troubles, escalating when necessary. The SSC/MAC will close out troubles
with customer. The SSC/MAC will analyze all troubles and tracks "chronic" PSAP

Corporate Communications Network Center (CCNC) will test and refer troubles on
all node to host circuits. All E911 circuits are classified as official company

The Minicomputer Maintenance Operations Center (MMOC) maintains the E911
(ALI/DMS) computer hardware at the Host site. This MMOC is also responsible for
monitoring the system and reporting certain PSAP and system problems to the
local MMOC's, SCC's or SSC/MAC's. The MMOC personnel also operate software
programs that maintain the TN data base under the direction of the E911 Center.
The maintenance of the NODE computer (the interface between the PSAP and the
ALI/DMS computer) is a function of the MMOC at the NODE site. The MMOC's at the
NODE sites may also be involved in the testing of NODE to Host circuits. The
MMOC will also assist on Host to PSAP and data network related troubles not
resolved through standard trouble clearing procedures.

Installation And Maintenance Center (IMC) is responsible for referral of E911
subscriber troubles that are not subscriber line problems.

E911 Center - Performs the role of System Administration and is responsible for
overall operation of the E911 computer software. The E911 Center does A-Z
trouble analysis and provides statistical information on the performance of the

This analysis includes processing PSAP inquiries (trouble reports) and referral
of network troubles. The E911 Center also performs daily processing of tandem
recent change and provides information to the RCMAC for tandem input. The E911
Center is responsible for daily processing of the ALI/DMS computer data base and
provides error files, etc. to the Customer Services department for investigation
and correction. The E911 Center participates in all system implementations and
on-going maintenance effort and assists in the development of procedures,
training and education of information to all groups.

Any group receiving a 911 trouble from the SSC/MAC should close out the trouble
with the SSC/MAC or provide a status if the trouble has been referred to another
group. This will allow the SSC/MAC to provide a status back to the customer or
escalate as appropriate.

Any group receiving a trouble from the Host site (MMOC or CCNC) should close the
trouble back to that group.

The MMOC should notify the appropriate SSC/MAC when the Host, Node, or all Node
circuits are down so that the SSC/MAC can reply to customer reports that may be
called in by the PSAPs. This will eliminate duplicate reporting of troubles. On
complete outages the MMOC will follow escalation procedures for a Node after two
(2) hours and for a PSAP after four (4) hours. Additionally the MMOC will notify
the appropriate SSC/MAC when the Host, Node, or all Node circuits are down.

The PSAP will call the SSC/MAC to report E911 troubles. The person reporting
the E911 trouble may not have a circuit I.D. and will therefore report the PSAP
name and address. Many PSAP troubles are not circuit specific. In those
instances where the caller cannot provide a circuit I.D., the SSC/MAC will be
required to determine the circuit I.D. using the PSAP profile. Under no
circumstances will the SSC/MAC Center refuse to take the trouble. The E911
trouble should be handled as quickly as possible, with the SSC/MAC providing as
much assistance as possible while taking the trouble report from the caller.

The SSC/MAC will screen/test the trouble to determine the appropriate handoff
organization based on the following criteria:

PSAP equipment problem: SSIM/I&M

Circuit problem: SSC/MAC

Voice network problem: SCC (report trunk group number)

Problem affecting multiple PSAPs (No ALI report from all PSAPs): Contact the
MMOC to check for NODE or Host computer problems before further testing.

The SSC/MAC will track the status of reported troubles and escalate as
appropriate. The SSC/MAC will close out customer/company reports with the
initiating contact. Groups with specific maintenance responsibilities, defined
above, will investigate "chronic" troubles upon request from the SSC/MAC and the
ongoing maintenance subcommittee.

All "out of service" E911 troubles are priority one type reports. One link down
to a PSAP is considered a priority one trouble and should be handled as if the
PSAP was isolated.

The PSAP will report troubles with the ANI controller, ALI controller or set
equipment to the SSC/MAC.

NO ANI: Where the PSAP reports NO ANI (digital display screen is blank) ask if
this condition exists on all screens and on all calls. It is important to
differentiate between blank screens and screens displaying 911-00XX, or all

When the PSAP reports all screens on all calls, ask if there is any voice
contact with callers. If there is no voice contact the trouble should be
referred to the SCC immediately since 911 calls are not getting through which
may require alternate routing of calls to another PSAP.

When the PSAP reports this condition on all screens but not all calls and has
voice contact with callers, the report should be referred to SSIM/I&M for
dispatch. The SSC/MAC should verify with the SCC that ANI is pulsing before
dispatching SSIM.

When the PSAP reports this condition on one screen for all calls (others work
fine) the trouble should be referred to SSIM/I&M for dispatch, because the
trouble is isolated to one piece of equipment at the customer premise.

An ANI failure (i.e. all zeroes) indicates that the ANI has not been received by
the PSAP from the tandem office or was lost by the PSAP ANI controller. The
PSAP may receive "02" alarms which can be caused by the ANI controller logging
more than three all zero failures on the same trunk. The PSAP has been
instructed to report this condition to the SSC/MAC since it could indicate an
equipment trouble at the PSAP which might be affecting all subscribers calling
into the PSAP. When all zeroes are being received on all calls or "02" alarms
continue, a tester should analyze the condition to determine the appropriate
action to be taken. The tester must perform cooperative testing with the SCC
when there appears to be a problem on the Tandem-PSAP trunks before requesting

When an occasional all zero condition is reported, the SSC/MAC should dispatch
SSIM/I&M to routine equipment on a "chronic" troublesweep.

The PSAPs are instructed to report incidental ANI failures to the BOC on a PSAP
inquiry trouble ticket (paper) that is sent to the Customer Services E911 group
and forwarded to E911 center when required. This usually involves only a
particular telephone number and is not a condition that would require a report
to the SSC/MAC. Multiple ANI failures which our from the same end office (XX
denotes end office), indicate a hard trouble condition may exist in the end
office or end office tandem trunks. The PSAP will report this type of condition
to the SSC/MAC and the SSC/MAC should refer the report to the SCC responsible
for the tandem office. NOTE: XX is the ESCO (Emergency Service Number)
associated with the incoming 911 trunks into the tandem. It is important that
the C/MAC tell the SCC what is displayed at the PSAP (i.e. 911-0011) which
indicates to the SCC which end office is in trouble.

Note: It is essential that the PSAP fill out inquiry form on every ANI failure.

The PSAP will report a trouble any time an address is not received on an address
display (screen blank) E911 call. (If a record is not in the 911 data base or
an ANI failure is encountered, the screen will provide a display noticing such
condition). The SSC/MAC should verify with the PSAP whether the NO ALI
condition is on one screen or all screens.

When the condition is on one screen (other screens receive ALI information) the
SSC/MAC will request SSIM/I&M to dispatch.

If no screens are receiving ALI information, there is usually a circuit trouble
between the PSAP and the Host computer. The SSC/MAC should test the trouble and
refer for restoral.

Note: If the SSC/MAC receives calls from multiple PSAP's, all of which are
receiving NO ALI, there is a problem with the Node or Node to Host circuits or
the Host computer itself. Before referring the trouble the SSC/MAC should call
the MMOC to inquire if the Node or Host is in trouble.

Alarm conditions on the ANI controller digital display at the PSAP are to be
reported by the PSAP's. These alarms can indicate various trouble conditions so
the SSC/MAC should ask the PSAP if any portion of the E911 system is not
functioning properly.

The SSC/MAC should verify with the PSAP attendant that the equipment's primary
function is answering E911 calls. If it is, the SSC/MAC should request a
dispatch SSIM/I&M. If the equipment is not primarily used for E911, then the
SSC/MAC should advise PSAP to contact their CPE vendor.

Note: These troubles can be quite confusing when the PSAP has vendor equipment
mixed in with equipment that the BOC maintains. The Marketing representative
should provide the SSC/MAC information concerning any unusual or exception items
where the PSAP should contact their vendor. This information should be included
in the PSAP profile sheets.

ANI or ALI controller down: When the host computer sees the PSAP equipment down
and it does not come back up, the MMOC will report the trouble to the SSC/MAC;
the equipment is down at the PSAP, a dispatch will be required.

PSAP link (circuit) down: The MMOC will provide the SSC/MAC with the circuit ID
that the Host computer indicates in trouble. Although each PSAP has two
circuits, when either circuit is down the condition must be treated as an
emergency since failure of the second circuit will cause the PSAP to be

Any problems that the MMOC identifies from the Node location to the Host
computer will be handled directly with the appropriate MMOC(s)/CCNC.

Note: The customer will call only when a problem is apparent to the PSAP. When
only one circuit is down to the PSAP, the customer may not be aware there is a
trouble, even though there is one link down, notification should appear on the
PSAP screen. Troubles called into the SSC/MAC from the MMOC or other company
employee should not be closed out by calling the PSAP since it may result in the
customer responding that they do not have a trouble. These reports can only be
closed out by receiving information that the trouble was fixed and by checking
with the company employee that reported the trouble. The MMOC personnel will be
able to verify that the trouble has cleared by reviewing a printout from the

When the CRSAB receives a subscriber complaint (i.e., cannot dial 911) the RSA
should obtain as much information as possible while the customer is on the line.

For example, what happened when the subscriber dialed 911? The report is
automatically directed to the IMC for subscriber line testing. When no line
trouble is found, the IMC will refer the trouble condition to the SSC/MAC. The
SSC/MAC will contact Customer Services E911 Group and verify that the subscriber
should be able to call 911 and obtain the ESN. The SSC/MAC will verify the ESN
via 2SCCS. When both verifications match, the SSC/MAC will refer the report to
the SCC responsible for the 911 tandem office for investigation and resolution.
The MAC is responsible for tracking the trouble and informing the IMC when it is

For more information, please refer to E911 Glossary of Terms.

End of Phrack File


The reader is forgiven if he or she was entirely unable to read this document.
John Perry Barlow had a great deal of fun at its expense, in "Crime and
Puzzlement:" "Bureaucrat-ese of surpassing opacity.... To read the whole thing
straight through without entering coma requires either a machine or a human who
has too much practice thinking like one. Anyone who can understand it fully and
fluidly had altered his consciousness beyond the ability to ever again read
Blake, Whitman, or Tolstoy.... the document contains little of interest to
anyone who is not a student of advanced organizational sclerosis."

With the Document itself to hand, however, exactly as it was published (in its
six-page edited form) in PHRACK, the reader may be able to verify a few
statements of fact about its nature. First, there is no software, no computer
code, in the Document. It is not computer-programming language like FORTRAN or
C++, it is English; all the sentences have nouns and verbs and punctuation. It
does not explain how to break into the E911 system. It does not suggest ways to
destroy or damage the E911 system.

There are no access codes in the Document. There are no computer passwords. It
does not explain how to steal long distance service. It does not explain how to
break in to telco switching stations. There is nothing in it about using a
personal computer or a modem for any purpose at all, good or bad.

Close study will reveal that this document is not about machinery. The E911
Document is about ADMINISTRATION. It describes how one creates and administers
certain units of telco bureaucracy: Special Service Centers and Major Account
Centers (SSC/MAC). It describes how these centers should distribute
responsibility for the E911 service, to other units of telco bureaucracy, in a
chain of command, a formal hierarchy. It describes who answers customer
complaints, who screens calls, who reports equipment failures, who answers those
reports, who handles maintenance, who chairs subcommittees, who gives orders,
who follows orders, WHO tells WHOM what to do. The Document is not a "roadmap"
to computers. The Document is a roadmap to PEOPLE.

As an aid to breaking into computer systems, the Document is USELESS. As an aid
to harassing and deceiving telco people, however, the Document might prove handy
(especially with its Glossary, which I have not included). An intense and
protracted study of this Document and its Glossary, combined with many other
such documents, might teach one to speak like a telco employee. And telco people
live by SPEECH--they live by phone communication. If you can mimic their
language over the phone, you can "social-engineer" them. If you can con telco
people, you can wreak havoc among them. You can force them to no longer trust
one another; you can break the telephonic ties that bind their community; you
can make them paranoid. And people will fight harder to defend their community
than they will fight to defend their individual selves.

This was the genuine, gut-level threat posed by PHRACK magazine. The real
struggle was over the control of telco language, the control of telco knowledge.
It was a struggle to defend the social "membrane of differentiation" that forms
the walls of the telco community's ivory tower--the special jargon that allows
telco professionals to recognize one another, and to exclude charlatans,
thieves, and upstarts. And the prosecution brought out this fact. They
repeatedly made reference to the threat posed to telco professionals by hackers
using "social engineering."

However, Craig Neidorf was not on trial for learning to speak like a
professional telecommunications expert. Craig Neidorf was on trial for access
device fraud and transportation of stolen property. He was on trial for
stealing a document that was purportedly highly sensitive and purportedly worth
tens of thousands of dollars.

John Nagle read the E911 Document. He drew his own conclusions. And he
presented Zenner and his defense team with an overflowing box of similar
material, drawn mostly from Stanford University's engineering libraries. During
the trial, the defense team--Zenner, half-a-dozen other attorneys, Nagle,
Neidorf, and computer-security expert Dorothy Denning, all pored over the E911
Document line-by-line.

On the afternoon of July 25, 1990, Zenner began to cross- examine a woman named
Billie Williams, a service manager for Southern Bell in Atlanta. Ms. Williams
had been responsible for the E911 Document. (She was not its author--its
original "author" was a Southern Bell staff manager named Richard Helms.
However, Mr. Helms should not bear the entire blame; many telco staff people and
maintenance personnel had amended the Document. It had not been so much
"written" by a single author, as built by committee out of concrete-blocks of

Ms. Williams had been called as a witness for the prosecution, and had gamely
tried to explain the basic technical structure of the E911 system, aided by

Now it was Zenner's turn. He first established that the "proprietary stamp"
that BellSouth had used on the E911 Document was stamped on EVERY SINGLE
DOCUMENT that BellSouth wrote-- THOUSANDS of documents. "We do not publish
anything other than for our own company," Ms. Williams explained. "Any company
document of this nature is considered proprietary." Nobody was in charge of
singling out special high-security publications for special high-security
protection. They were ALL special, no matter how trivial, no matter what their
subject matter--the stamp was put on as soon as any document was written, and
the stamp was never removed.

Zenner now asked whether the charts she had been using to explain the mechanics
of E911 system were "proprietary," too. Were they PUBLIC INFORMATION, these
charts, all about PSAPs, ALIs, nodes, local end switches? Could he take the
charts out in the street and show them to anybody, "without violating some
proprietary notion that BellSouth has?"

Ms. Williams showed some confusion, but finally agreed that the charts were, in
fact, public.

"But isn't this what you said was basically what appeared in PHRACK?"

Ms. Williams denied this.

Zenner now pointed out that the E911 Document as published in Phrack was only
half the size of the original E911 Document (as Prophet had purloined it). Half
of it had been deleted--edited by Neidorf.

Ms. Williams countered that "Most of the information that is in the text file is

Zenner continued to probe. Exactly what bits of knowledge in the Document were,
in fact, unknown to the public? Locations of E911 computers? Phone numbers for
telco personnel? Ongoing maintenance subcommittees? Hadn't Neidorf removed much
of this?

Then he pounced. "Are you familiar with Bellcore Technical Reference Document
TR-TSY-000350?" It was, Zenner explained, officially titled "E911 Public Safety
Answering Point Interface Between 1-1AESS Switch and Customer Premises
Equipment." It contained highly detailed and specific technical information
about the E911 System. It was published by Bellcore and publicly available for
about $20.

He showed the witness a Bellcore catalog which listed thousands of documents
from Bellcore and from all the Baby Bells, BellSouth included. The catalog,
Zenner pointed out, was free. Anyone with a credit card could call the Bellcore
toll-free 800 number and simply order any of these documents, which would be
shipped to any customer without question. Including, for instance, "BellSouth
E911 Service Interfaces to Customer Premises Equipment at a Public Safety
Answering Point."

Zenner gave the witness a copy of "BellSouth E911 Service Interfaces," which
cost, as he pointed out, $13, straight from the catalog. "Look at it
carefully," he urged Ms. Williams, "and tell me if it doesn't contain about
twice as much detailed information about the E911 system of BellSouth than
appeared anywhere in PHRACK."

"You want me to...." Ms. Williams trailed off. "I don't understand."

"Take a careful look," Zenner persisted. "Take a look at that document, and
tell me when you're done looking at it if, indeed, it doesn't contain much more
detailed information about the E911 system than appeared in PHRACK."

"PHRACK wasn't taken from this," Ms. Williams said.

"Excuse me?" said Zenner.

"PHRACK wasn't taken from this."

"I can't hear you," Zenner said.

"PHRACK was not taken from this document. I don't understand your question to

"I guess you don't," Zenner said.

At this point, the prosecution's case had been gutshot. Ms. Williams was
distressed. Her confusion was quite genuine. PHRACK had not been taken from any
publicly available Bellcore document. PHRACK E911 Document had been stolen from
her own company's computers, from her own company's text files, that her own
colleagues had written, and revised, with much labor.

But the "value" of the Document had been blown to smithereens. It wasn't worth
eighty grand. According to Bellcore it was worth thirteen bucks. And the
looming menace that it supposedly posed had been reduced in instants to a
scarecrow. Bellcore itself was selling material far more detailed and
"dangerous," to anybody with a credit card and a phone.

Actually, Bellcore was not giving this information to just anybody. They gave
it to ANYBODY WHO ASKED, but not many did ask. Not many people knew that
Bellcore had a free catalog and an 800 number. John Nagle knew, but certainly
the average teenage phreak didn't know. "Tuc," a friend of Neidorf's and
sometime PHRACK contributor, knew, and Tuc had been very helpful to the defense,
behind the scenes. But the Legion of Doom didn't know--otherwise, they would
never have wasted so much time raiding dumpsters. Cook didn't know. Foley
didn't know. Kluepfel didn't know. The right hand of Bellcore knew not what the
left hand was doing. The right hand was battering hackers without mercy, while
the left hand was distributing Bellcore's intellectual property to anybody who
was interested in telephone technical trivia--apparently, a pathetic few.

The digital underground was so amateurish and poorly organized that they had
never discovered this heap of unguarded riches. The ivory tower of the telcos
was so wrapped-up in the fog of its own technical obscurity that it had left all
the windows open and flung open the doors. No one had even noticed.

Zenner sank another nail in the coffin. He produced a printed issue of
TELEPHONE ENGINEER & MANAGEMENT, a prominent industry journal that comes out
twice a month and costs $27 a year. This particular issue of _TE&M_, called
"Update on 911," featured a galaxy of technical details on 911 service and a
glossary far more extensive than PHRACK'S.

The trial rumbled on, somehow, through its own momentum. Tim Foley testified
about his interrogations of Neidorf. Neidorf's written admission that he had
known the E911 Document was pilfered was officially read into the court record.

An interesting side issue came up: "Terminus" had once passed Neidorf a piece
of UNIX AT&T software, a log-in sequence, that had been cunningly altered so
that it could trap passwords. The UNIX software itself was illegally copied AT&T
property, and the alterations "Terminus" had made to it, had transformed it into
a device for facilitating computer break-ins. Terminus himself would eventually
plead guilty to theft of this piece of software, and the Chicago group would
send Terminus to prison for it. But it was of dubious relevance in the Neidorf
case. Neidorf hadn't written the program. He wasn't accused of ever having used
it. And Neidorf wasn't being charged with software theft or owning a password

On the next day, Zenner took the offensive. The civil libertarians now had
their own arcane, untried legal weaponry to launch into action--the Electronic
Communications Privacy Act of 1986, 18 US Code, Section 2701 et seq. Section
2701 makes it a crime to intentionally access without authorization a facility
in which an electronic communication service is provided--it is, at heart, an
anti-bugging and anti-tapping law, intended to carry the traditional protections
of telephones into other electronic channels of communication. While providing
penalties for amateur snoops, however, Section 2703 of the ECPA also lays some
formal difficulties on the bugging and tapping activities of police.

The Secret Service, in the person of Tim Foley, had served Richard Andrews with
a federal grand jury subpoena, in their pursuit of Prophet, the E911 Document,
and the Terminus software ring. But according to the Electronic Communications
Privacy Act, a "provider of remote computing service" was legally entitled to
"prior notice" from the government if a subpoena was used. Richard Andrews and
his basement UNIX node, Jolnet, had not received any "prior notice." Tim Foley
had purportedly violated the ECPA and committed an electronic crime! Zenner now
sought the judge's permission to cross-examine Foley on the topic of Foley's own
electronic misdeeds.

Cook argued that Richard Andrews' Jolnet was a privately owned bulletin board,
and not within the purview of ECPA. Judge Bua granted the motion of the
government to prevent cross- examination on that point, and Zenner's offensive
fizzled. This, however, was the first direct assault on the legality of the
actions of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Task Force itself--the first suggestion
that they themselves had broken the law, and might, perhaps, be called to

Zenner, in any case, did not really need the ECPA. Instead, he grilled Foley on
the glaring contradictions in the supposed value of the E911 Document. He also
brought up the embarrassing fact that the supposedly red-hot E911 Document had
been sitting around for months, in Jolnet, with Kluepfel's knowledge, while
Kluepfel had done nothing about it.

In the afternoon, the Prophet was brought in to testify for the prosecution.
(The Prophet, it will be recalled, had also been indicted in the case as partner
in a fraud scheme with Neidorf.) In Atlanta, the Prophet had already pled
guilty to one charge of conspiracy, one charge of wire fraud and one charge of
interstate transportation of stolen property. The wire fraud charge, and the
stolen property charge, were both directly based on the E911 Document.

The twenty-year-old Prophet proved a sorry customer, answering questions
politely but in a barely audible mumble, his voice trailing off at the ends of
sentences. He was constantly urged to speak up.

Cook, examining Prophet, forced him to admit that he had once had a "drug
problem," abusing amphetamines, marijuana, cocaine, and LSD. This may have
established to the jury that "hackers" are, or can be, seedy lowlife characters,
but it may have damaged Prophet's credibility somewhat. Zenner later suggested
that drugs might have damaged Prophet's memory. The interesting fact also
surfaced that Prophet had never physically met Craig Neidorf. He didn't even
know Neidorf's last name--at least, not until the trial.

Prophet confirmed the basic facts of his hacker career. He was a member of the
Legion of Doom. He had abused codes, he had broken into switching stations and
re-routed calls, he had hung out on pirate bulletin boards. He had raided the
BellSouth AIMSX computer, copied the E911 Document, stored it on Jolnet, mailed
it to Neidorf. He and Neidorf had edited it, and Neidorf had known where it
came from.

Zenner, however, had Prophet confirm that Neidorf was not a member of the Legion
of Doom, and had not urged Prophet to break into BellSouth computers. Neidorf
had never urged Prophet to defraud anyone, or to steal anything. Prophet also
admitted that he had never known Neidorf to break in to any computer. Prophet
said that no one in the Legion of Doom considered Craig Neidorf a "hacker" at
all. Neidorf was not a UNIX maven, and simply lacked the necessary skill and
ability to break into computers. Neidorf just published a magazine.

On Friday, July 27, 1990, the case against Neidorf collapsed. Cook moved to
dismiss the indictment, citing "information currently available to us that was
not available to us at the inception of the trial." Judge Bua praised the
prosecution for this action, which he described as "very responsible," then
dismissed a juror and declared a mistrial.

Neidorf was a free man. His defense, however, had cost himself and his family
dearly. Months of his life had been consumed in anguish; he had seen his
closest friends shun him as a federal criminal. He owed his lawyers over a
hundred thousand dollars, despite a generous payment to the defense by Mitch

Neidorf was not found innocent. The trial was simply dropped. Nevertheless, on
September 9, 1991, Judge Bua granted Neidorf's motion for the "expungement and
sealing" of his indictment record. The United States Secret Service was ordered
to delete and destroy all fingerprints, photographs, and other records of arrest
or processing relating to Neidorf's indictment, including their paper documents
and their computer records.

Neidorf went back to school, blazingly determined to become a lawyer. Having
seen the justice system at work, Neidorf lost much of his enthusiasm for merely
technical power. At this writing, Craig Neidorf is working in Washington as a
salaried researcher for the American Civil Liberties Union.

The outcome of the Neidorf trial changed the EFF from voices-in-the-wilderness
to the media darlings of the new frontier.

Legally speaking, the Neidorf case was not a sweeping triumph for anyone
concerned. No constitutional principles had been established. The issues of
"freedom of the press" for electronic publishers remained in legal limbo. There
were public misconceptions about the case. Many people thought Neidorf had been
found innocent and relieved of all his legal debts by Kapor. The truth was that
the government had simply dropped the case, and Neidorf's family had gone deeply
into hock to support him.

But the Neidorf case did provide a single, devastating, public sound-bite: THE

This is the Neidorf case's single most memorable element. No serious report of
the case missed this particular element. Even cops could not read this without a
wince and a shake of the head. It left the public credibility of the crackdown
agents in tatters.

The crackdown, in fact, continued, however. Those two charges against Prophet,
which had been based on the E911 Document, were quietly forgotten at his
sentencing--even though Prophet had already pled guilty to them. Georgia
federal prosecutors strongly argued for jail time for the Atlanta Three,
insisting on "the need to send a message to the community," "the message that
hackers around the country need to hear."

There was a great deal in their sentencing memorandum about the awful things
that various other hackers had done (though the Atlanta Three themselves had
not, in fact, actually committed these crimes). There was also much speculation
about the awful things that the Atlanta Three MIGHT have done and WERE CAPABLE
of doing (even though they had not, in fact, actually done them). The
prosecution's argument carried the day. The Atlanta Three were sent to prison:
Urvile and Leftist both got 14 months each, while Prophet (a second offender)
got 21 months.

The Atlanta Three were also assessed staggering fines as "restitution":
$233,000 each. BellSouth claimed that the defendants had "stolen"
"approximately $233,880 worth" of "proprietary computer access information"--
specifically, $233,880 worth of computer passwords and connect addresses.
BellSouth's astonishing claim of the extreme value of its own computer passwords
and addresses was accepted at face value by the Georgia court. Furthermore (as
if to emphasize its theoretical nature) this enormous sum was not divvied up
among the Atlanta Three, but each of them had to pay all of it.

A striking aspect of the sentence was that the Atlanta Three were specifically
forbidden to use computers, except for work or under supervision. Depriving
hackers of home computers and modems makes some sense if one considers hackers
as "computer addicts," but EFF, filing an amicus brief in the case, protested
that this punishment was unconstitutional--it deprived the Atlanta Three of
their rights of free association and free expression through electronic media.

Terminus, the "ultimate hacker," was finally sent to prison for a year through
the dogged efforts of the Chicago Task Force. His crime, to which he pled
guilty, was the transfer of the UNIX password trapper, which was officially
valued by AT&T at $77,000, a figure which aroused intense skepticism among those
familiar with UNIX "login.c" programs.

The jailing of Terminus and the Atlanta Legionnaires of Doom, however, did not
cause the EFF any sense of embarrassment or defeat. On the contrary, the civil
libertarians were rapidly gathering strength.

An early and potent supporter was Senator Patrick Leahy, Democrat from Vermont,
who had been a Senate sponsor of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.
Even before the Neidorf trial, Leahy had spoken out in defense of hacker-power
and freedom of the keyboard: "We cannot unduly inhibit the inquisitive 13-year-
old who, if left to experiment today, may tomorrow develop the
telecommunications or computer technology to lead the United States into the
21st century. He represents our future and our best hope to remain a
technologically competitive nation."

It was a handsome statement, rendered perhaps rather more effective by the fact
that the crackdown raiders DID NOT HAVE any Senators speaking out for THEM. On
the contrary, their highly secretive actions and tactics, all "sealed search
warrants" here and "confidential ongoing investigations" there, might have won
them a burst of glamorous publicity at first, but were crippling them in the on-
going propaganda war. Gail Thackeray was reduced to unsupported bluster: "Some
of these people who are loudest on the bandwagon may just slink into the
background," she predicted in NEWSWEEK--when all the facts came out, and the
cops were vindicated.

But all the facts did not come out. Those facts that did, were not very
flattering. And the cops were not vindicated. And Gail Thackeray lost her job.
By the end of 1991, William Cook had also left public employment.

1990 had belonged to the crackdown, but by '91 its agents were in severe
disarray, and the libertarians were on a roll. People were flocking to the

A particularly interesting ally had been Mike Godwin of Austin, Texas. Godwin
was an individual almost as difficult to describe as Barlow; he had been editor
of the student newspaper of the University of Texas, and a computer salesman,
and a programmer, and in 1990 was back in law school, looking for a law degree.

Godwin was also a bulletin board maven. He was very well-known in the Austin
board community under his handle "Johnny Mnemonic," which he adopted from a
cyberpunk science fiction story by William Gibson. Godwin was an ardent
cyberpunk science fiction fan. As a fellow Austinite of similar age and similar
interests, I myself had known Godwin socially for many years. When William
Gibson and myself had been writing our collaborative SF novel, THE DIFFERENCE
ENGINE, Godwin had been our technical advisor in our effort to link our Apple
word-processors from Austin to Vancouver. Gibson and I were so pleased by his
generous expert help that we named a character in the novel "Michael Godwin" in
his honor.

The handle "Mnemonic" suited Godwin very well. His erudition and his mastery of
trivia were impressive to the point of stupor; his ardent curiosity seemed
insatiable, and his desire to debate and argue seemed the central drive of his
life. Godwin had even started his own Austin debating society, wryly known as
the "Dull Men's Club." In person, Godwin could be overwhelming; a flypaper-
brained polymath who could not seem to let any idea go. On bulletin boards,
however, Godwin's closely reasoned, highly grammatical, erudite posts suited the
medium well, and he became a local board celebrity.

Mike Godwin was the man most responsible for the public national exposure of the
Steve Jackson case. The Izenberg seizure in Austin had received no press
coverage at all. The March 1 raids on Mentor, Bloodaxe, and Steve Jackson Games
had received a brief front-page splash in the front page of the AUSTIN AMERICAN-
STATESMAN, but it was confused and ill-informed: the warrants were sealed, and
the Secret Service wasn't talking. Steve Jackson seemed doomed to obscurity.
Jackson had not been arrested; he was not charged with any crime; he was not on
trial. He had lost some computers in an ongoing investigation--so what? Jackson
tried hard to attract attention to the true extent of his plight, but he was
drawing a blank; no one in a position to help him seemed able to get a mental
grip on the issues.

Godwin, however, was uniquely, almost magically, qualified to carry Jackson's
case to the outside world. Godwin was a board enthusiast, a science fiction
fan, a former journalist, a computer salesman, a lawyer-to-be, and an Austinite.
Through a coincidence yet more amazing, in his last year of law school Godwin
had specialized in federal prosecutions and criminal procedure. Acting entirely
on his own, Godwin made up a press packet which summarized the issues and
provided useful contacts for reporters. Godwin's behind-the-scenes effort
(which he carried out mostly to prove a point in a local board debate) broke the
story again in the AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN and then in NEWSWEEK.

Life was never the same for Mike Godwin after that. As he joined the growing
civil liberties debate on the Internet, it was obvious to all parties involved
that here was one guy who, in the midst of complete murk and confusion,
Godwin's dilettantish existence suddenly fell together as neatly as the facets
of a Rubik's cube.

When the time came to hire a full-time EFF staff attorney, Godwin was the
obvious choice. He took the Texas bar exam, left Austin, moved to Cambridge,
became a full-time, professional, computer civil libertarian, and was soon
touring the nation on behalf of EFF, delivering well-received addresses on the
issues to crowds as disparate as academics, industrialists, science fiction
fans, and federal cops.

Michael Godwin is currently the chief legal counsel of the Electronic Frontier
Foundation in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Another early and influential participant in the controversy was Dorothy
Denning. Dr. Denning was unique among investigators of the computer underground
in that she did not enter the debate with any set of politicized motives. She
was a professional cryptographer and computer security expert whose primary
interest in hackers was SCHOLARLY. She had a B.A. and M.A. in mathematics, and
a Ph.D. in computer science from Purdue. She had worked for SRI International,
the California think-tank that was also the home of computer-security maven Donn
Parker, and had authored an influential text called CRYPTOGRAPHY AND DATA
SECURITY. In 1990, Dr. Denning was working for Digital Equipment Corporation in
their Systems Reseach Center. Her husband, Peter Denning, was also a computer
security expert, working for NASA's Research Institute for Advanced Computer
Science. He had edited the well-received COMPUTERS UNDER ATTACK: INTRUDERS,

Dr. Denning took it upon herself to contact the digital underground, more or
less with an anthropological interest. There she discovered that these computer-
intruding hackers, who had been characterized as unethical, irresponsible, and a
serious danger to society, did in fact have their own subculture and their own
rules. They were not particularly well-considered rules, but they were, in
fact, rules. Basically, they didn't take money and they didn't break anything.

Her dispassionate reports on her researches did a great deal to influence
serious-minded computer professionals--the sort of people who merely rolled
their eyes at the cyberspace rhapsodies of a John Perry Barlow.

For young hackers of the digital underground, meeting Dorothy Denning was a
genuinely mind-boggling experience. Here was this neatly coiffed,
conservatively dressed, dainty little personage, who reminded most hackers of
their moms or their aunts. And yet she was an IBM systems programmer with
profound expertise in computer architectures and high-security information flow,
who had personal friends in the FBI and the National Security Agency.

Dorothy Denning was a shining example of the American mathematical
intelligentsia, a genuinely brilliant person from the central ranks of the
computer-science elite. And here she was, gently questioning twenty-year-old
hairy-eyed phone-phreaks over the deeper ethical implications of their behavior.

Confronted by this genuinely nice lady, most hackers sat up very straight and
did their best to keep the anarchy-file stuff down to a faint whiff of
brimstone. Nevertheless, the hackers WERE in fact prepared to seriously discuss
serious issues with Dorothy Denning. They were willing to speak the unspeakable
and defend the indefensible, to blurt out their convictions that information
cannot be owned, that the databases of governments and large corporations were a
threat to the rights and privacy of individuals.

Denning's articles made it clear to many that "hacking" was not simple vandalism
by some evil clique of psychotics. "Hacking" was not an aberrant menace that
could be charmed away by ignoring it, or swept out of existence by jailing a few
ringleaders. Instead, "hacking" was symptomatic of a growing, primal struggle
over knowledge and power in the age of information.

Denning pointed out that the attitude of hackers were at least partially shared
by forward-looking management theorists in the business community: people like
Peter Drucker and Tom Peters. Peter Drucker, in his book THE NEW REALITIES, had
stated that "control of information by the government is no longer possible.
Indeed, information is now transnational. Like money, it has no 'fatherland.'"

And management maven Tom Peters had chided large corporations for uptight,
proprietary attitudes in his bestseller, THRIVING ON CHAOS: "Information
hoarding, especially by politically motivated, power-seeking staffs, had been
commonplace throughout American industry, service and manufacturing alike. It
will be an impossible millstone aroung the neck of tomorrow's organizations."

Dorothy Denning had shattered the social membrane of the digital underground.
She attended the Neidorf trial, where she was prepared to testify for the
defense as an expert witness. She was a behind-the-scenes organizer of two of
the most important national meetings of the computer civil libertarians. Though
not a zealot of any description, she brought disparate elements of the
electronic community into a surprising and fruitful collusion.

Dorothy Denning is currently the Chair of the Computer Science Department at
Georgetown University in Washington, DC.

There were many stellar figures in the civil libertarian community. There's no
question, however, that its single most influential figure was Mitchell D.
Kapor. Other people might have formal titles, or governmental positions, have
more experience with crime, or with the law, or with the arcanities of computer
security or constitutional theory. But by 1991 Kapor had transcended any such
narrow role. Kapor had become "Mitch."

Mitch had become the central civil-libertarian ad-hocrat. Mitch had stood up
first, he had spoken out loudly, directly, vigorously and angrily, he had put
his own reputation, and his very considerable personal fortune, on the line. By
mid-'91 Kapor was the best-known advocate of his cause and was known PERSONALLY
by almost every single human being in America with any direct influence on the
question of civil liberties in cyberspace. Mitch had built bridges, crossed
voids, changed paradigms, forged metaphors, made phone-calls and swapped
business cards to such spectacular effect that it had become impossible for
anyone to take any action in the "hacker question" without wondering what Mitch
might think--and say--and tell his friends.

The EFF had simply NETWORKED the situation into an entirely new status quo. And
in fact this had been EFF's deliberate strategy from the beginning. Both Barlow
and Kapor loathed bureaucracies and had deliberately chosen to work almost
entirely through the electronic spiderweb of "valuable personal contacts."

After a year of EFF, both Barlow and Kapor had every reason to look back with
satisfaction. EFF had established its own Internet node, "eff.org," with a
well-stocked electronic archive of documents on electronic civil rights, privacy
issues, and academic freedom. EFF was also publishing _EFFector_, a quarterly
printed journal, as well as _EFFector Online_, an electronic newsletter with
over 1,200 subscribers. And EFF was thriving on the Well.

EFF had a national headquarters in Cambridge and a full- time staff. It had
become a membership organization and was attracting grass-roots support. It had
also attracted the support of some thirty civil-rights lawyers, ready and eager
to do pro bono work in defense of the Constitution in Cyberspace.

EFF had lobbied successfully in Washington and in Massachusetts to change state
and federal legislation on computer networking. Kapor in particular had become
a veteran expert witness, and had joined the Computer Science and
Telecommunications Board of the National Academy of Science and Engineering.

EFF had sponsored meetings such as "Computers, Freedom and Privacy" and the CPSR
Roundtable. It had carried out a press offensive that, in the words of
_EFFector_, "has affected the climate of opinion about computer networking and
begun to reverse the slide into 'hacker hysteria' that was beginning to grip the

It had helped Craig Neidorf avoid prison.

And, last but certainly not least, the Electronic Frontier Foundation had filed
a federal lawsuit in the name of Steve Jackson, Steve Jackson Games Inc., and
three users of the Illuminati bulletin board system. The defendants were, and
are, the United States Secret Service, William Cook, Tim Foley, Barbara Golden
and Henry Kleupfel.

The case, which is in pre-trial procedures in an Austin federal court as of this
writing, is a civil action for damages to redress alleged violations of the
First and Fourth Amendments to the United States Constitution, as well as the
Privacy Protection Act of 1980 (42 USC 2000aa et seq.), and the Electronic
Communications Privacy Act (18 USC 2510 et seq and 2701 et seq).

EFF had established that it had credibility. It had also established that it
had teeth.

In the fall of 1991 I travelled to Massachusetts to speak personally with Mitch
Kapor. It was my final interview for this book.

The city of Boston has always been one of the major intellectual centers of the
American republic. It is a very old city by American standards, a place of
skyscrapers overshadowing seventeenth-century graveyards, where the high-tech
start-up companies of Route 128 co-exist with the hand-wrought pre- industrial
grace of "Old Ironsides," the USS CONSTITUTION.

The Battle of Bunker Hill, one of the first and bitterest armed clashes of the
American Revolution, was fought in Boston's environs. Today there is a
monumental spire on Bunker Hill, visible throughout much of the city. The
willingness of the republican revolutionaries to take up arms and fire on their
oppressors has left a cultural legacy that two full centuries have not effaced.
Bunker Hill is still a potent center of American political symbolism, and the
Spirit of '76 is still a potent image for those who seek to mold public opinion.

Of course, not everyone who wraps himself in the flag is necessarily a patriot.
When I visited the spire in September 1991, it bore a huge, badly-erased, spray-
can grafitto around its bottom reading "BRITS OUT--IRA PROVOS." Inside this
hallowed edifice was a glass-cased diorama of thousands of tiny toy soldiers,
rebels and redcoats, fighting and dying over the green hill, the riverside
marshes, the rebel trenchworks. Plaques indicated the movement of troops, the
shiftings of strategy. The Bunker Hill Monument is occupied at its very center
by the toy soldiers of a military war-game simulation.

The Boston metroplex is a place of great universities, prominent among the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where the term "computer hacker" was
first coined. The Hacker Crackdown of 1990 might be interpreted as a political
struggle among American cities: traditional strongholds of longhair
intellectual liberalism, such as Boston, San Francisco, and Austin, versus the
bare-knuckle industrial pragmatism of Chicago and Phoenix (with Atlanta and New
York wrapped in internal struggle).

The headquarters of the Electronic Frontier Foundation is on 155 Second Street
in Cambridge, a Bostonian suburb north of the River Charles. Second Street has
weedy sidewalks of dented, sagging brick and elderly cracked asphalt; large
street-signs warn "NO PARKING DURING DECLARED SNOW EMERGENCY." This is an old
area of modest manufacturing industries; the EFF is catecorner from the Greene
Rubber Company. EFF's building is two stories of red brick; its large wooden
windows feature gracefully arched tops and stone sills.

The glass window beside the Second Street entrance bears three sheets of neatly
laser-printed paper, taped against the glass. They read: ON Technology. EFF.

"ON Technology" is Kapor's software company, which currently specializes in
"groupware" for the Apple Macintosh computer. "Groupware" is intended to
promote efficient social interaction among office-workers linked by computers.
ON Technology's most successful software products to date are "Meeting Maker"
and "Instant Update."

"KEI" is Kapor Enterprises Inc., Kapor's personal holding company, the
commercial entity that formally controls his extensive investments in other
hardware and software corporations.

"EFF" is a political action group--of a special sort.

Inside, someone's bike has been chained to the handrails of a modest flight of
stairs. A wall of modish glass brick separates this anteroom from the offices.
Beyond the brick, there's an alarm system mounted on the wall, a sleek, complex
little number that resembles a cross between a thermostat and a CD player.
Piled against the wall are box after box of a recent special issue of SCIENTIFIC
AMERICAN, "How to Work, Play, and Thrive in Cyberspace," with extensive coverage
of electronic networking techniques and political issues, including an article
by Kapor himself. These boxes are addressed to Gerard Van der Leun, EFF's
Director of Communications, who will shortly mail those magazines to every
member of the EFF.

The joint headquarters of EFF, KEI, and ON Technology, which Kapor currently
rents, is a modestly bustling place. It's very much the same physical size as
Steve Jackson's gaming company. It's certainly a far cry from the gigantic gray
steel- sided railway shipping barn, on the Monsignor O'Brien Highway, that is
owned by Lotus Development Corporation.

Lotus is, of course, the software giant that Mitchell Kapor founded in the late
70s. The software program Kapor co- authored, "Lotus 1-2-3," is still that
company's most profitable product. "Lotus 1-2-3" also bears a singular
distinction in the digital underground: it's probably the most pirated piece of
application software in world history.

Kapor greets me cordially in his own office, down a hall. Kapor, whose name is
pronounced KAY-por, is in his early forties, married and the father of two. He
has a round face, high forehead, straight nose, a slightly tousled mop of black
hair peppered with gray. His large brown eyes are wideset, reflective, one
might almost say soulful. He disdains ties, and commonly wears Hawaiian shirts
and tropical prints, not so much garish as simply cheerful and just that little
bit anomalous.

There is just the whiff of hacker brimstone about Mitch Kapor. He may not have
the hard-riding, hell-for-leather, guitar-strumming charisma of his Wyoming
colleague John Perry Barlow, but there's something about the guy that still
stops one short. He has the air of the Eastern city dude in the bowler hat, the
dreamy, Longfellow-quoting poker shark who only HAPPENS to know the exact
mathematical odds against drawing to an inside straight. Even among his
computer-community colleagues, who are hardly known for mental sluggishness,
Kapor strikes one forcefully as a very intelligent man. He speaks rapidly, with
vigorous gestures, his Boston accent sometimes slipping to the sharp nasal tang
of his youth in Long Island.

Kapor, whose Kapor Family Foundation does much of his philanthropic work, is a
strong supporter of Boston's Computer Museum. Kapor's interest in the history
of his industry has brought him some remarkable curios, such as the "byte" just
outside his office door. This "byte"--eight digital bits--has been salvaged
from the wreck of an electronic computer of the pre-transistor age. It's a
standing gunmetal rack about the size of a small toaster-oven: with eight slots
of hand-soldered breadboarding featuring thumb-sized vacuum tubes. If it fell
off a table it could easily break your foot, but it was state-of-the- art
computation in the 1940s. (It would take exactly 157,184 of these primordial
toasters to hold the first part of this book.)

There's also a coiling, multicolored, scaly dragon that some inspired techno-
punk artist has cobbled up entirely out of transistors, capacitors, and brightly
plastic-coated wiring.

Inside the office, Kapor excuses himself briefly to do a little mouse-whizzing
housekeeping on his personal Macintosh IIfx. If its giant screen were an open
window, an agile person could climb through it without much trouble at all.
There's a coffee-cup at Kapor's elbow, a memento of his recent trip to Eastern
Europe, which has a black-and-white stencilled photo and the legend CAPITALIST
FOOLS TOUR. It's Kapor, Barlow, and two California venture-capitalist
luminaries of their acquaintance, four windblown, grinning Baby Boomer dudes in
leather jackets, boots, denim, travel bags, standing on airport tarmac somewhere
behind the formerly Iron Curtain. They look as if they're having the absolute
time of their lives.

Kapor is in a reminiscent mood. We talk a bit about his youth--high school days
as a "math nerd," Saturdays attending Columbia University's high-school science
honors program, where he had his first experience programming computers. IBM
1620s, in 1965 and '66. "I was very interested," says Kapor, "and then I went
off to college and got distracted by drugs sex and rock and roll, like anybody
with half a brain would have then!" After college he was a progressive-rock DJ
in Hartford, Connecticut, for a couple of years.

I ask him if he ever misses his rock and roll days--if he ever wished he could
go back to radio work.

He shakes his head flatly. "I stopped thinking about going back to be a DJ the
day after Altamont."

Kapor moved to Boston in 1974 and got a job programming mainframes in COBOL. He
hated it. He quit and became a teacher of transcendental meditation. (It was
Kapor's long flirtation with Eastern mysticism that gave the world "Lotus.")

In 1976 Kapor went to Switzerland, where the Transcendental Meditation movement
had rented a gigantic Victorian hotel in St-Moritz. It was an all-male group--a
hundred and twenty of them--determined upon Enlightenment or Bust. Kapor had
given the transcendant his best shot. He was becoming disenchanted by "the
nuttiness in the organization." "They were teaching people to levitate," he
says, staring at the floor. His voice drops an octave, becomes flat. "THEY

Kapor chose Bust. He went back to the States and acquired a degree in
counselling psychology. He worked a while in a hospital, couldn't stand that
either. "My rep was," he says, "a very bright kid with a lot of potential who
hasn't found himself. Almost thirty. Sort of lost."

Kapor was unemployed when he bought his first personal computer--an Apple II.
He sold his stereo to raise cash and drove to New Hampshire to avoid the sales

"The day after I purchased it," Kapor tells me, "I was hanging out in a computer
store and I saw another guy, a man in his forties, well-dressed guy, and
eavesdropped on his conversation with the salesman. He didn't know anything
about computers. I'd had a year programming. And I could program in BASIC.
I'd taught myself. So I went up to him, and I actually sold myself to him as a
consultant." He pauses. "I don't know where I got the nerve to do this. It
was uncharacteristic. I just said, 'I think I can help you, I've been
listening, this is what you need to do and I think I can do it for you.' And he
took me on! He was my first client! I became a computer consultant the first
day after I bought the Apple II."

Kapor had found his true vocation. He attracted more clients for his consultant
service, and started an Apple users' group.

A friend of Kapor's, Eric Rosenfeld, a graduate student at MIT, had a problem.
He was doing a thesis on an arcane form of financial statistics, but could not
wedge himself into the crowded queue for time on MIT's mainframes. (One might
note at this point that if Mr. Rosenfeld had dishonestly broken into the MIT
mainframes, Kapor himself might have never invented Lotus 1- 2-3 and the PC
business might have been set back for years!) Eric Rosenfeld did have an Apple
II, however, and he thought it might be possible to scale the problem down.
Kapor, as favor, wrote a program for him in BASIC that did the job.

It then occurred to the two of them, out of the blue, that it might be possible
to SELL this program. They marketed it themselves, in plastic baggies, for
about a hundred bucks a pop, mail order. "This was a total cottage industry by
a marginal consultant," Kapor says proudly. "That's how I got started, honest
to God."

Rosenfeld, who later became a very prominent figure on Wall Street, urged Kapor
to go to MIT's business school for an MBA. Kapor did seven months there, but
never got his MBA. He picked up some useful tools--mainly a firm grasp of the
principles of accounting--and, in his own words, "learned to talk MBA." Then he
dropped out and went to Silicon Valley.

The inventors of VisiCalc, the Apple computer's premier business program, had
shown an interest in Mitch Kapor. Kapor worked diligently for them for six
months, got tired of California, and went back to Boston where they had better
bookstores. The VisiCalc group had made the critical error of bringing in
"professional management." "That drove them into the ground," Kapor says.

"Yeah, you don't hear a lot about VisiCalc these days," I muse.

Kapor looks surprised. "Well, Lotus.... we BOUGHT it."

"Oh. You BOUGHT it?"


"Sort of like the Bell System buying Western Union?"

Kapor grins. "Yep! Yep! Yeah, exactly!"

Mitch Kapor was not in full command of the destiny of himself or his industry.
The hottest software commodities of the early 1980s were COMPUTER GAMES--the
Atari seemed destined to enter every teenage home in America. Kapor got into
business software simply because he didn't have any particular feeling for
computer games. But he was supremely fast on his feet, open to new ideas and
inclined to trust his instincts. And his instincts were good. He chose good
people to deal with--gifted programmer Jonathan Sachs (the co-author of Lotus 1-
2-3). Financial wizard Eric Rosenfeld, canny Wall Street analyst and venture
capitalist Ben Rosen. Kapor was the founder and CEO of Lotus, one of the most
spectacularly successful business ventures of the later twentieth century.

He is now an extremely wealthy man. I ask him if he actually knows how much
money he has.

"Yeah," he says. "Within a percent or two."

How much does he actually have, then?

He shakes his head. "A lot. A lot. Not something I talk about. Issues of
money and class are things that cut pretty close to the bone."

I don't pry. It's beside the point. One might presume, impolitely, that Kapor
has at least forty million--that's what he got the year he left Lotus. People
who ought to know claim Kapor has about a hundred and fifty million, give or
take a market swing in his stock holdings. If Kapor had stuck with Lotus, as
his colleague friend and rival Bill Gates has stuck with his own software start-
up, Microsoft, then Kapor would likely have much the same fortune Gates has--
somewhere in the neighborhood of three billion, give or take a few hundred
million. Mitch Kapor has all the money he wants. Money has lost whatever charm
it ever held for him--probably not much in the first place. When Lotus became
too uptight, too bureaucratic, too far from the true sources of his own
satisfaction, Kapor walked. He simply severed all connections with the company
and went out the door. It stunned everyone--except those who knew him best.

Kapor has not had to strain his resources to wreak a thorough transformation in
cyberspace politics. In its first year, EFF's budget was about a quarter of a
million dollars. Kapor is running EFF out of his pocket change.

Kapor takes pains to tell me that he does not consider himself a civil
libertarian per se. He has spent quite some time with true-blue civil
libertarians lately, and there's a political-correctness to them that bugs him.
They seem to him to spend entirely too much time in legal nitpicking and not
enough vigorously exercising civil rights in the everyday real world.

Kapor is an entrepreneur. Like all hackers, he prefers his involvements direct,
personal, and hands-on. "The fact that EFF has a node on the Internet is a
great thing. We're a publisher. We're a distributor of information." Among
the items the eff.org Internet node carries is back issues of PHRACK. They had
an internal debate about that in EFF, and finally decided to take the plunge.
They might carry other digital underground publications--but if they do, he
says, "we'll certainly carry Donn Parker, and anything Gail Thackeray wants to
put up. We'll turn it into a public library, that has the whole spectrum of
use. Evolve in the direction of people making up their own minds." He grins.
"We'll try to label all the editorials."

Kapor is determined to tackle the technicalities of the Internet in the service
of the public interest. "The problem with being a node on the Net today is that
you've got to have a captive technical specialist. We have Chris Davis around,
for the care and feeding of the balky beast! We couldn't do it ourselves!"

He pauses. "So one direction in which technology has to evolve is much more
standardized units, that a non-technical person can feel comfortable with. It's
the same shift as from minicomputers to PCs. I can see a future in which any
person can have a Node on the Net. Any person can be a publisher. It's better
than the media we now have. It's possible. We're working actively."

Kapor is in his element now, fluent, thoroughly in command in his material.
"You go tell a hardware Internet hacker that everyone should have a node on the
Net," he says, "and the first thing they're going to say is, 'IP doesn't
scale!'" ("IP" is the interface protocol for the Internet. As it currently
exists, the IP software is simply not capable of indefinite expansion; it will
run out of usable addresses, it will saturate.) "The answer," Kapor says, "is:
evolve the protocol! Get the smart people together and figure out what to do.
Do we add ID? Do we add new protocol? Don't just say, WE CAN'T DO IT."

Getting smart people together to figure out what to do is a skill at which Kapor
clearly excels. I counter that people on the Internet rather enjoy their elite
technical status, and don't seem particularly anxious to democratize the Net.

Kapor agrees, with a show of scorn. "I tell them that this is the snobbery of
the people on the MAYFLOWER looking down their noses at the people who came over
ON THE SECOND BOAT! Just because they got here a year, or five years, or ten
years before everybody else, that doesn't give them ownership of cyberspace! By
what right?"

I remark that the telcos are an electronic network, too, and they seem to guard
their specialized knowledge pretty closely.

Kapor ripostes that the telcos and the Internet are entirely different animals.
"The Internet is an open system, everything is published, everything gets argued
about, basically by anybody who can get in. Mostly, it's exclusive and elitist
just because it's so difficult. Let's make it easier to use."

On the other hand, he allows with a swift change of emphasis, the so-called
elitists do have a point as well. "Before people start coming in, who are new,
who want to make suggestions, and criticize the Net as 'all screwed up'....
They should at least take the time to understand the culture on its own terms.
It has its own history--show some respect for it. I'm a conservative, to that

The Internet is Kapor's paradigm for the future of telecommunications. The
Internet is decentralized, non- hierarchical, almost anarchic. There are no
bosses, no chain of command, no secret data. If each node obeys the general
interface standards, there's simply no need for any central network authority.

Wouldn't that spell the doom of AT&T as an institution? I ask.

That prospect doesn't faze Kapor for a moment. "Their big advantage, that they
have now, is that they have all of the wiring. But two things are happening.
Anyone with right-of-way is putting down fiber--Southern Pacific Railroad,
people like that--there's enormous 'dark fiber' laid in." ("Dark Fiber" is
fiber-optic cable, whose enormous capacity so exceeds the demands of current
usage that much of the fiber still has no light- signals on it--it's still
'dark,' awaiting future use.)

"The other thing that's happening is the local-loop stuff is going to go
wireless. Everyone from Bellcore to the cable TV companies to AT&T wants to put
in these things called 'personal communication systems.' So you could have
local competition--you could have multiplicity of people, a bunch of
neighborhoods, sticking stuff up on poles. And a bunch of other people laying
in dark fiber. So what happens to the telephone companies? There's enormous
pressure on them from both sides.

"The more I look at this, the more I believe that in a post-industrial, digital
world, the idea of regulated monopolies is bad. People will look back on it and
say that in the 19th and 20th centuries the idea of public utilities was an okay
compromise. You needed one set of wires in the ground. It was too economically
inefficient, otherwise. And that meant one entity running it. But now, with
pieces being wireless--the connections are going to be via high-level
interfaces, not via wires. I mean, ULTIMATELY there are going to be wires--but
the wires are just a commodity. Fiber, wireless. You no longer NEED a

Water utilities? Gas utilities?

Of course we still need those, he agrees. "But when what you're moving is
information, instead of physical substances, then you can play by a different
set of rules. We're evolving those rules now! Hopefully you can have a much
more decentralized system, and one in which there's more competition in the

"The role of government will be to make sure that nobody cheats. The proverbial
'level playing field.' A policy that prevents monopolization. It should result
in better service, lower prices, more choices, and local empowerment." He
smiles. "I'm very big on local empowerment."

Kapor is a man with a vision. It's a very novel vision which he and his allies
are working out in considerable detail and with great energy. Dark, cynical,
morbid cyberpunk that I am, I cannot avoid considering some of the darker
implications of "decentralized, nonhierarchical, locally empowered" networking.

I remark that some pundits have suggested that electronic networking--faxes,
phones, small-scale photocopiers--played a strong role in dissolving the power
of centralized communism and causing the collapse of the Warsaw Pact.

Socialism is totally discredited, says Kapor, fresh back from the Eastern Bloc.
The idea that faxes did it, all by themselves, is rather wishful thinking.

Has it occurred to him that electronic networking might corrode America's
industrial and political infrastructure to the point where the whole thing
becomes untenable, unworkable--and the old order just collapses headlong, like
in Eastern Europe?

"No," Kapor says flatly. "I think that's extraordinarily unlikely. In part,
because ten or fifteen years ago, I had similar hopes about personal computers--
which utterly failed to materialize." He grins wryly, then his eyes narrow.
"I'm VERY opposed to techno-utopias. Every time I see one, I either run away,
or try to kill it."

It dawns on me then that Mitch Kapor is not trying to make the world safe for
democracy. He certainly is not trying to make it safe for anarchists or
utopians--least of all for computer intruders or electronic rip-off artists.
What he really hopes to do is make the world safe for future Mitch Kapors. This
world of decentralized, small-scale nodes, with instant global access for the
best and brightest, would be a perfect milieu for the shoestring attic
capitalism that made Mitch Kapor what he is today.

Kapor is a very bright man. He has a rare combination of visionary intensity
with a strong practical streak. The Board of the EFF: John Barlow, Jerry
Berman of the ACLU, Stewart Brand, John Gilmore, Steve Wozniak, and Esther
Dyson, the doyenne of East-West computer entrepreneurism--share his gift, his
vision, and his formidable networking talents. They are people of the 1960s,
winnowed-out by its turbulence and rewarded with wealth and influence. They are
some of the best and the brightest that the electronic community has to offer.
But can they do it, in the real world? Or are they only dreaming? They are so
few. And there is so much against them.

I leave Kapor and his networking employees struggling cheerfully with the
promising intricacies of their newly installed Macintosh System 7 software. The
next day is Saturday. EFF is closed. I pay a few visits to points of interest

One of them is the birthplace of the telephone.

It's marked by a bronze plaque in a plinth of black-and- white speckled granite.
It sits in the plaza of the John F. Kennedy Federal Building, the very place
where Kapor was once fingerprinted by the FBI.

The plaque has a bas-relief picture of Bell's original telephone. "BIRTHPLACE
OF THE TELEPHONE," it reads. "Here, on June 2, 1875, Alexander Graham Bell and
Thomas A. Watson first transmitted sound over wires.

"This successful experiment was completed in a fifth floor garret at what was
then 109 Court Street and marked the beginning of world-wide telephone service."

109 Court Street is long gone. Within sight of Bell's plaque, across a street,
is one of the central offices of NYNEX, the local Bell RBOC, on 6 Bowdoin

I cross the street and circle the telco building, slowly, hands in my jacket
pockets. It's a bright, windy, New England autumn day. The central office is a
handsome 1940s-era megalith in late Art Deco, eight stories high.

Parked outside the back is a power-generation truck. The generator strikes me
as rather anomalous. Don't they already have their own generators in this
eight-story monster? Then the suspicion strikes me that NYNEX must have heard
of the September 17 AT&T power-outage which crashed New York City. Belt-and-
suspenders, this generator. Very telco.

Over the glass doors of the front entrance is a handsome bronze bas-relief of
Art Deco vines, sunflowers, and birds, entwining the Bell logo and the legend
officially exists.

The doors are locked securely. I peer through the shadowed glass. Inside is an
official poster reading:

"New England Telephone a NYNEX Company


"All persons while on New England Telephone Company premises are required to
visibly wear their identification cards (C.C.P. Section 2, Page 1).

"Visitors, vendors, contractors, and all others are required to visibly wear a
daily pass.

"Thank you.

Kevin C. Stanton,

Building Security Coordinator."

Outside, around the corner, is a pull-down ribbed metal security door, a locked
delivery entrance. Some passing stranger has grafitti-tagged this door, with a
single word in red spray- painted cursive:


My book on the Hacker Crackdown is almost over now. I have deliberately saved
the best for last.

In February 1991, I attended the CPSR Public Policy Roundtable, in Washington,
DC. CPSR, Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility, was a sister
organization of EFF, or perhaps its aunt, being older and perhaps somewhat wiser
in the ways of the world of politics.

Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility began in 1981 in Palo Alto, as
an informal discussion group of Californian computer scientists and technicians,
united by nothing more than an electronic mailing list. This typical high-tech
ad-hocracy received the dignity of its own acronym in 1982, and was formally
incorporated in 1983.

CPSR lobbied government and public alike with an educational outreach effort,
sternly warning against any foolish and unthinking trust in complex computer
systems. CPSR insisted that mere computers should never be considered a magic
panacea for humanity's social, ethical or political problems. CPSR members were
especially troubled about the stability, safety, and dependability of military
computer systems, and very especially troubled by those systems controlling
nuclear arsenals. CPSR was best-known for its persistent and well-publicized
attacks on the scientific credibility of the Strategic Defense Initiative ("Star

In 1990, CPSR was the nation's veteran cyber-political activist group, with over
two thousand members in twenty-one local chapters across the US. It was
especially active in Boston, Silicon Valley, and Washington DC, where its
Washington office sponsored the Public Policy Roundtable.

The Roundtable, however, had been funded by EFF, which had passed CPSR an
extensive grant for operations. This was the first large-scale, official
meeting of what was to become the electronic civil libertarian community.

Sixty people attended, myself included--in this instance, not so much as a
journalist as a cyberpunk author. Many of the luminaries of the field took
part: Kapor and Godwin as a matter of course. Richard Civille and Marc
Rotenberg of CPSR. Jerry Berman of the ACLU. John Quarterman, author of THE
MATRIX. Steven Levy, author of HACKERS. George Perry and Sandy Weiss of Prodigy
Services, there to network about the civil-liberties troubles their young
commercial network was experiencing. Dr. Dorothy Denning. Cliff Figallo,
manager of the Well. Steve Jackson was there, having finally found his ideal
target audience, and so was Craig Neidorf, "Knight Lightning" himself, with his
attorney, Sheldon Zenner. Katie Hafner, science journalist, and co-author of
pioneer and fabled Internet guru. Janlori Goldman of the ACLU's Project on
Privacy and Technology. John Nagle of Autodesk and the Well. Don Goldberg of
the House Judiciary Committee. Tom Guidoboni, the defense attorney in the
Internet Worm case. Lance Hoffman, computer-science professor at The George
Washington University. Eli Noam of Columbia. And a host of others no less

Senator Patrick Leahy delivered the keynote address, expressing his
determination to keep ahead of the curve on the issue of electronic free speech.
The address was well-received, and the sense of excitement was palpable. Every
panel discussion was interesting--some were entirely compelling. People
networked with an almost frantic interest.

I myself had a most interesting and cordial lunch discussion with Noel and
Jeanne Gayler, Admiral Gayler being a former director of the National Security
Agency. As this was the first known encounter between an actual no-kidding
cyberpunk and a chief executive of America's largest and best-financed
electronic espionage apparat, there was naturally a bit of eyebrow-raising on
both sides.

Unfortunately, our discussion was off-the-record. In fact all the discussions
at the CPSR were officially off-the- record, the idea being to do some serious
networking in an atmosphere of complete frankness, rather than to stage a media

In any case, CPSR Roundtable, though interesting and intensely valuable, was as
nothing compared to the truly mind- boggling event that transpired a mere month

"Computers, Freedom and Privacy." Four hundred people from every conceivable
corner of America's electronic community. As a science fiction writer, I have
been to some weird gigs in my day, but this thing is truly BEYOND THE PALE.
Even "Cyberthon," Point Foundation's "Woodstock of Cyberspace" where Bay Area
psychedelia collided headlong with the emergent world of computerized virtual
reality, was like a Kiwanis Club gig compared to this astonishing do.

The "electronic community" had reached an apogee. Almost every principal in
this book is in attendance. Civil Libertarians. Computer Cops. The Digital
Underground. Even a few discreet telco people. Colorcoded dots for lapel tags
are distributed. Free Expression issues. Law Enforcement. Computer Security.
Privacy. Journalists. Lawyers. Educators. Librarians. Programmers. Stylish
punk-black dots for the hackers and phone phreaks. Almost everyone here seems
to wear eight or nine dots, to have six or seven professional hats.

It is a community. Something like Lebanon perhaps, but a digital nation. People
who had feuded all year in the national press, people who entertained the
deepest suspicions of one another's motives and ethics, are now in each others'
laps. "Computers, Freedom and Privacy" had every reason in the world to turn
ugly, and yet except for small irruptions of puzzling nonsense from the
convention's token lunatic, a surprising bonhomie reigned. CFP was like a
wedding-party in which two lovers, unstable bride and charlatan groom, tie the
knot in a clearly disastrous matrimony.

It is clear to both families--even to neighbors and random guests--that this is
not a workable relationship, and yet the young couple's desperate attraction can
brook no further delay. They simply cannot help themselves. Crockery will fly,
shrieks from their newlywed home will wake the city block, divorce waits in the
wings like a vulture over the Kalahari, and yet this is a wedding, and there is
going to be a child from it. Tragedies end in death; comedies in marriage. The
Hacker Crackdown is ending in marriage. And there will be a child.

From the beginning, anomalies reign. John Perry Barlow, cyberspace ranger, is
here. His color photo in THE NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE, Barlow scowling in a grim
Wyoming snowscape, with long black coat, dark hat, a Macintosh SE30 propped on a
fencepost and an awesome frontier rifle tucked under one arm, will be the single
most striking visual image of the Hacker Crackdown. And he is CFP's guest of
honor--along with Gail Thackeray of the FCIC! What on earth do they expect
these dual guests to do with each other? Waltz?

Barlow delivers the first address. Uncharacteristically, he is hoarse--the
sheer volume of roadwork has worn him down. He speaks briefly, congenially, in
a plea for conciliation, and takes his leave to a storm of applause.

Then Gail Thackeray takes the stage. She's visibly nervous. She's been on the
Well a lot lately. Reading those Barlow posts. Following Barlow is a challenge
to anyone. In honor of the famous lyricist for the Grateful Dead, she announces
reedily, she is going to read--A POEM. A poem she has composed herself.

It's an awful poem, doggerel in the rollicking meter of Robert W. Service's THE
CREMATION OF SAM MCGEE, but it is in fact, a poem. It's the BALLAD OF THE
ELECTRONIC FRONTIER! A poem about the Hacker Crackdown and the sheer
unlikelihood of CFP. It's full of in-jokes. The score or so cops in the
audience, who are sitting together in a nervous claque, are absolutely cracking-
up. Gail's poem is the funniest goddamn thing they've ever heard. The hackers
and civil-libs, who had this woman figured for Ilsa She-Wolf of the SS, are
staring with their jaws hanging loosely. Never in the wildest reaches of their
imagination had they figured Gail Thackeray was capable of such a totally off-
the-wall move. You can see them punching their mental CONTROL-RESET buttons.
Jesus! This woman's a hacker weirdo! She's JUST LIKE US! God, this changes

Al Bayse, computer technician for the FBI, had been the only cop at the CPSR
Roundtable, dragged there with his arm bent by Dorothy Denning. He was guarded
and tightlipped at CPSR Roundtable; a "lion thrown to the Christians."

At CFP, backed by a claque of cops, Bayse suddenly waxes eloquent and even
droll, describing the FBI's "NCIC 2000", a gigantic digital catalog of criminal
records, as if he has suddenly become some weird hybrid of George Orwell and
George Gobel. Tentatively, he makes an arcane joke about statistical analysis.
At least a third of the crowd laughs aloud.

"They didn't laugh at that at my last speech," Bayse observes. He had been
addressing cops--STRAIGHT cops, not computer people. It had been a worthy
meeting, useful one supposes, but nothing like THIS. There has never been
ANYTHING like this. Without any prodding, without any preparation, people in
the audience simply begin to ask questions. Longhairs, freaky people,
mathematicians. Bayse is answering, politely, frankly, fully, like a man
walking on air. The ballroom's atmosphere crackles with surreality. A female
lawyer behind me breaks into a sweat and a hot waft of surprisingly potent and
musky perfume flows off her pulse-points.

People are giddy with laughter. People are interested, fascinated, their eyes
so wide and dark that they seem eroticized. Unlikely daisy-chains form in the
halls, around the bar, on the escalators: cops with hackers, civil rights with
FBI, Secret Service with phone phreaks.

Gail Thackeray is at her crispest in a white wool sweater with a tiny Secret
Service logo. "I found Phiber Optik at the payphones, and when he saw my
sweater, he turned into a PILLAR OF SALT!" she chortles.

Phiber discusses his case at much length with his arresting officer, Don Delaney
of the New York State Police. After an hour's chat, the two of them look ready
to begin singing "Auld Lang Syne." Phiber finally finds the courage to get his
worst complaint off his chest. It isn't so much the arrest. It was the CHARGE.
Pirating service off 900 numbers. I'm a PROGRAMMER, Phiber insists. This lame
charge is going to hurt my reputation. It would have been cool to be busted for
something happening, like Section 1030 computer intrusion. Maybe some kind of
crime that's scarcely been invented yet. Not lousy phone fraud. Phooey.

Delaney seems regretful. He had a mountain of possible criminal charges against
Phiber Optik. The kid's gonna plead guilty anyway. He's a first timer, they
always plead. Coulda charged the kid with most anything, and gotten the same
result in the end. Delaney seems genuinely sorry not to have gratified Phiber
in this harmless fashion. Too late now. Phiber's pled already. All water
under the bridge. Whaddya gonna do?

Delaney's got a good grasp on the hacker mentality. He held a press conference
after he busted a bunch of Masters of Deception kids. Some journo had asked
him: "Would you describe these people as GENIUSES?" Delaney's deadpan answer,
perfect: "No, I would describe these people as DEFENDANTS." Delaney busts a kid
for hacking codes with repeated random dialling. Tells the press that NYNEX can
track this stuff in no time flat nowadays, and a kid has to be STUPID to do
something so easy to catch. Dead on again: hackers don't mind being thought of
as Genghis Khan by the straights, but if there's anything that really gets 'em
where they live, it's being called DUMB.

Won't be as much fun for Phiber next time around. As a second offender he's
gonna see prison. Hackers break the law. They're not geniuses, either. They're
gonna be defendants. And yet, Delaney muses over a drink in the hotel bar, he
has found it impossible to treat them as common criminals. Delaney knows
criminals. These kids, by comparison, are clueless--there is just no crook vibe
off of them, they don't smell right, they're just not BAD.

Delaney has seen a lot of action. He did Vietnam. He's been shot at, he has
shot people. He's a homicide cop from New York. He has the appearance of a man
who has not only seen the shit hit the fan but has seen it splattered across
whole city blocks and left to ferment for years. This guy has been around.

He listens to Steve Jackson tell his story. The dreamy game strategist has been
dealt a bad hand. He has played it for all he is worth. Under his nerdish SF-
fan exterior is a core of iron. Friends of his say Steve Jackson believes in
the rules, believes in fair play. He will never compromise his principles,
never give up. "Steve," Delaney says to Steve Jackson, "they had some balls,
whoever busted you. You're all right!" Jackson, stunned, falls silent and
actually blushes with pleasure.

Neidorf has grown up a lot in the past year. The kid is a quick study, you
gotta give him that. Dressed by his mom, the fashion manager for a national
clothing chain, Missouri college techie-frat Craig Neidorf out-dappers everyone
at this gig but the toniest East Coast lawyers. The iron jaws of prison clanged
shut without him and now law school beckons for Neidorf. He looks like a larval

Not a "hacker," our Mr. Neidorf. He's not interested in computer science. Why
should he be? He's not interested in writing C code the rest of his life, and
besides, he's seen where the chips fall. To the world of computer science he
and PHRACK were just a curiosity. But to the world of law.... The kid has
learned where the bodies are buried. He carries his notebook of press clippings
wherever he goes.

Phiber Optik makes fun of Neidorf for a Midwestern geek, for believing that
"Acid Phreak" does acid and listens to acid rock. Hell no. Acid's never done
ACID! Acid's into ACID HOUSE MUSIC. Jesus. The very idea of doing LSD. Our
PARENTS did LSD, ya clown.

Thackeray suddenly turns upon Craig Neidorf the full lighthouse glare of her
attention and begins a determined half- hour attempt to WIN THE BOY OVER. The
"Your experience would be very valuable--a real asset," she tells him with
unmistakeable sixty-thousand-watt sincerity. Neidorf is fascinated. He listens
with unfeigned attention. He's nodding and saying yes ma'am. Yes, Craig, you
too can forget all about money and enter the glamorous and horribly underpaid
world of PROSECUTING COMPUTER CRIME! You can put your former friends in prison-

You cannot go on dueling at modem's length indefinitely. You cannot beat one
another senseless with rolled-up press- clippings. Sooner or later you have to
come directly to grips. And yet the very act of assembling here has changed the
entire situation drastically. John Quarterman, author of THE MATRIX, explains
the Internet at his symposium. It is the largest news network in the world, it
is growing by leaps and bounds, and yet you cannot measure Internet because you
cannot stop it in place. It cannot stop, because there is no one anywhere in the
world with the authority to stop Internet. It changes, yes, it grows, it embeds
itself across the post-industrial, postmodern world and it generates community
wherever it touches, and it is doing this all by itself.

Phiber is different. A very fin de siecle kid, Phiber Optik. Barlow says he
looks like an Edwardian dandy. He does rather. Shaven neck, the sides of his
skull cropped hip-hop close, unruly tangle of black hair on top that looks
pomaded, he stays up till four a.m. and misses all the sessions, then hangs out
in payphone booths with his acoustic coupler gutsily CRACKING SYSTEMS RIGHT IN
PRETENDING to.... Unlike "Frank Drake." Drake, who wrote Dorothy Denning out of
nowhere, and asked for an interview for his cheapo cyberpunk fanzine, and then
started grilling her on her ethics. She was squirmin', too.... Drake,
scarecrow-tall with his floppy blond mohawk, rotting tennis shoes and black
leather jacket lettered ILLUMINATI in red, gives off an unmistakeable air of the
bohemian literatus. Drake is the kind of guy who reads British industrial
design magazines and appreciates William Gibson because the quality of the prose
is so tasty. Drake could never touch a phone or a keyboard again, and he'd
still have the nose-ring and the blurry photocopied fanzines and the sampled
industrial music. He's a radical punk with a desktop-publishing rig and an
Internet address. Standing next to Drake, the diminutive Phiber looks like he's
been physically coagulated out of phone-lines. Born to phreak.

Dorothy Denning approaches Phiber suddenly. The two of them are about the same
height and body-build. Denning's blue eyes flash behind the round window-frames
of her glasses. "Why did you say I was 'quaint?'" she asks Phiber, quaintly.

It's a perfect description but Phiber is nonplussed... "Well, I uh, you

"I also think you're quaint, Dorothy," I say, novelist to the rescue, the journo
gift of gab... She is neat and dapper and yet there's an arcane quality to her,
something like a Pilgrim Maiden behind leaded glass; if she were six inches high
Dorothy Denning would look great inside a china cabinet... The
Cryptographeress.... The Cryptographrix... whatever... Weirdly, Peter Denning
looks just like his wife, you could pick this gentleman out of a thousand guys
as the soulmate of Dorothy Denning. Wearing tailored slacks, a spotless fuzzy
varsity sweater, and a neatly knotted academician's tie.... This fineboned,
exquisitely polite, utterly civilized and hyperintelligent couple seem to have
emerged from some cleaner and finer parallel universe, where humanity exists to
do the Brain Teasers column in Scientific American. Why does this Nice Lady
hang out with these unsavory characters?

Because the time has come for it, that's why. Because she's the best there is
at what she does.

Donn Parker is here, the Great Bald Eagle of Computer Crime.... With his bald
dome, great height, and enormous Lincoln-like hands, the great visionary pioneer
of the field plows through the lesser mortals like an icebreaker.... His eyes
are fixed on the future with the rigidity of a bronze statue.... Eventually, he
tells his audience, all business crime will be computer crime, because
businesses will do everything through computers. "Computer crime" as a category
will vanish.

In the meantime, passing fads will flourish and fail and evaporate.... Parker's
commanding, resonant voice is sphinxlike, everything is viewed from some
eldritch valley of deep historical abstraction... Yes, they've come and they've
gone, these passing flaps in the world of digital computation.... The radio-
frequency emanation scandal... KGB and MI5 and CIA do it every day, it's easy,
but nobody else ever has.... The salami-slice fraud, mostly mythical...
"Crimoids," he calls them.... Computer viruses are the current crimoid champ, a
lot less dangerous than most people let on, but the novelty is fading and
there's a crimoid vacuum at the moment, the press is visibly hungering for
something more outrageous.... The Great Man shares with us a few speculations
on the coming crimoids.... Desktop Forgery! Wow.... Computers stolen just for
the sake of the information within them--data-napping! Happened in Britain a
while ago, could be the coming thing.... Phantom nodes in the Internet!

Parker handles his overhead projector sheets with an ecclesiastical air... He
wears a grey double-breasted suit, a light blue shirt, and a very quiet tie of
understated maroon and blue paisley... Aphorisms emerge from him with slow,
leaden emphasis... There is no such thing as an adequately secure computer when
one faces a sufficiently powerful adversary.... Deterrence is the most socially
useful aspect of security... People are the primary weakness in all information
systems... The entire baseline of computer security must be shifted upward....
Don't ever violate your security by publicly describing your security

People in the audience are beginning to squirm, and yet there is something about
the elemental purity of this guy's philosophy that compels uneasy respect....
Parker sounds like the only sane guy left in the lifeboat, sometimes. The guy
who can prove rigorously, from deep moral principles, that Harvey there, the one
with the broken leg and the checkered past, is the one who has to be, err....
that is, Mr. Harvey is best placed to make the necessary sacrifice for the
security and indeed the very survival of the rest of this lifeboat's crew....
Computer security, Parker informs us mournfully, is a nasty topic, and we wish
we didn't have to have it... The security expert, armed with method and logic,
must think--imagine--everything that the adversary might do before the adversary
might actually do it. It is as if the criminal's dark brain were an extensive
subprogram within the shining cranium of Donn Parker. He is a Holmes whose
Moriarty does not quite yet exist and so must be perfectly simulated.

CFP is a stellar gathering, with the giddiness of a wedding. It is a happy
time, a happy ending, they know their world is changing forever tonight, and
they're proud to have been there to see it happen, to talk, to think, to help.

And yet as night falls, a certain elegiac quality manifests itself, as the crowd
gathers beneath the chandeliers with their wineglasses and dessert plates.
Something is ending here, gone forever, and it takes a while to pinpoint it.

It is the End of the Amateurs.

Afterword: The Hacker Crackdown Three Years Later

Three years in cyberspace is like thirty years anyplace real. It feels as if a
generation has passed since I wrote this book. In terms of the generations of
computing machinery involved, that's pretty much the case.

The basic shape of cyberspace has changed drastically since 1990. A new U.S.
Administration is in power whose personnel are, if anything, only too aware of
the nature and potential of electronic networks. It's now clear to all players
concerned that the status quo is dead-and-gone in American media and
telecommunications, and almost any territory on the electronic frontier is up
for grabs. Interactive multimedia, cable-phone alliances, the Information
Superhighway, fiber-to- the-curb, laptops and palmtops, the explosive growth of
cellular and the Internet--the earth trembles visibly.

The year 1990 was not a pleasant one for AT&T. By 1993, however, AT&T had
successfully devoured the computer company NCR in an unfriendly takeover,
finally giving the pole-climbers a major piece of the digital action. AT&T
managed to rid itself of ownership of the troublesome UNIX operating system,
selling it to Novell, a netware company, which was itself preparing for a savage
market dust-up with operating-system titan Microsoft. Furthermore, AT&T acquired
McCaw Cellular in a gigantic merger, giving AT&T a potential wireless whip-hand
over its former progeny, the RBOCs. The RBOCs themselves were now AT&T's
clearest potential rivals, as the Chinese firewalls between regulated monopoly
and frenzied digital entrepreneurism began to melt and collapse headlong.

AT&T, mocked by industry analysts in 1990, was reaping awestruck praise by
commentators in 1993. AT&T had managed to avoid any more major software crashes
in its switching stations. AT&T's newfound reputation as "the nimble giant" was
all the sweeter, since AT&T's traditional rival giant in the world of
multinational computing, IBM, was almost prostrate by 1993. IBM's vision of the
commercial computer-network of the future, "Prodigy," had managed to spend $900
million without a whole heck of a lot to show for it, while AT&T, by contrast,
was boldly speculating on the possibilities of personal communicators and
hedging its bets with investments in handwritten interfaces. In 1990 AT&T had
looked bad; but in 1993 AT&T looked like the future.

At least, AT&T's ADVERTISING looked like the future. Similar public attention
was riveted on the massive $22 billion megamerger between RBOC Bell Atlantic and
cable-TV giant Tele- Communications Inc. Nynex was buying into cable company
Viacom International. BellSouth was buying stock in Prime Management,
Southwestern Bell acquiring a cable company in Washington DC, and so forth. By
stark contrast, the Internet, a noncommercial entity which officially did not
even exist, had no advertising budget at all. And yet, almost below the level
of governmental and corporate awareness, the Internet was stealthily devouring
everything in its path, growing at a rate that defied comprehension. Kids who
might have been eager computer-intruders a mere five years earlier were now
surfing the Internet, where their natural urge to explore led them into
cyberspace landscapes of such mindboggling vastness that the very idea of
hacking passwords seemed rather a waste of time.

By 1993, there had not been a solid, knock 'em down, panic-striking, teenage-
hacker computer-intrusion scandal in many long months. There had, of course,
been some striking and well- publicized acts of illicit computer access, but
they had been committed by adult white-collar industry insiders in clear pursuit
of personal or commercial advantage. The kids, by contrast, all seemed to be on
IRC, Internet Relay Chat.

Or, perhaps, frolicking out in the endless glass-roots network of personal
bulletin board systems. In 1993, there were an estimated 60,000 boards in
America; the population of boards had fully doubled since Operation Sundevil in
1990. The hobby was transmuting fitfully into a genuine industry. The board
community were no longer obscure hobbyists; many were still hobbyists and proud
of it, but board sysops and advanced board users had become a far more cohesive
and politically aware community, no longer allowing themselves to be obscure.

The specter of cyberspace in the late 1980s, of outwitted authorities trembling
in fear before teenage hacker whiz-kids, seemed downright antiquated by 1993.
Law enforcement emphasis had changed, and the favorite electronic villain of
1993 was not the vandal child, but the victimizer of children, the digital child
pornographer. "Operation Longarm," a child-pornography computer raid carried
out by the previously little-known cyberspace rangers of the U.S. Customs
Service, was almost the size of Operation Sundevil, but received very little
notice by comparison.

The huge and well-organized "Operation Disconnect," an FBI strike against
telephone rip-off con-artists, was actually larger than Sundevil. "Operation
Disconnect" had its brief moment in the sun of publicity, and then vanished
utterly. It was unfortunate that a law-enforcement affair as apparently well-
conducted as Operation Disconnect, which pursued telecom adult career criminals
a hundred times more morally repugnant than teenage hackers, should have
received so little attention and fanfare, especially compared to the abortive
Sundevil and the basically disastrous efforts of the Chicago Computer Fraud and
Abuse Task Force. But the life of an electronic policeman is seldom easy.

If any law enforcement event truly deserved full-scale press coverage (while
somehow managing to escape it), it was the amazing saga of New York State Police
Senior Investigator Don Delaney Versus the Orchard Street Finger-Hackers. This
story probably represents the real future of professional telecommunications
crime in America. The finger-hackers sold, and still sell, stolen long-distance
phone service to a captive clientele of illegal aliens in New York City. This
clientele is desperate to call home, yet as a group, illegal aliens have few
legal means of obtaining standard phone service, since their very presence in
the United States is against the law. The finger- hackers of Orchard Street
were very unusual "hackers," with an astonishing lack of any kind of genuine
technological knowledge. And yet these New York call-sell thieves showed a
street-level ingenuity appalling in its single-minded sense of larceny.

There was no dissident-hacker rhetoric about freedom-of- information among the
finger-hackers. Most of them came out of the cocaine-dealing fraternity, and
they retailed stolen calls with the same street-crime techniques of lookouts and
bagholders that a crack gang would employ. This was down-and-dirty, urban,
ethnic, organized crime, carried out by crime families every day, for cash on
the barrelhead, in the harsh world of the streets. The finger-hackers dominated
certain payphones in certain strikingly unsavory neighborhoods. They provided a
service no one else would give to a clientele with little to lose.

With such a vast supply of electronic crime at hand, Don Delaney rocketed from a
background in homicide to teaching telecom crime at FLETC in less than three
years. Few can rival Delaney's hands-on, street-level experience in phone
fraud. Anyone in 1993 who still believes telecommunications crime to be
something rare and arcane should have a few words with Mr Delaney. Don Delaney
has also written two fine essays, on telecom fraud and computer crime, in Joseph

PHRACK was still publishing in 1993, now under the able editorship of Erik
Bloodaxe. Bloodaxe made a determined attempt to get law enforcement and
corporate security to pay real money for their electronic copies of PHRACK, but,
as usual, these stalwart defenders of intellectual property preferred to pirate
the magazine. Bloodaxe has still not gotten back any of his property from the
seizure raids of March 1, 1990. Neither has the Mentor, who is still the
managing editor of Steve Jackson Games.

Nor has Robert Izenberg, who has suspended his court struggle to get his
machinery back. Mr. Izenberg has calculated that his $20,000 of equipment
seized in 1990 is, in 1993, worth $4,000 at most. The missing software, also
gone out his door, was long ago replaced. He might, he says, sue for the sake
of principle, but he feels that the people who seized his machinery have already
been discredited, and won't be doing any more seizures. And even if his
machinery were returned--and in good repair, which is doubtful--it will be
essentially worthless by 1995. Robert Izenberg no longer works for IBM, but has
a job programming for a major telecommunications company in Austin.

Steve Jackson won his case against the Secret Service on March 12, 1993, just
over three years after the federal raid on his enterprise. Thanks to the
delaying tactics available through the legal doctrine of "qualified immunity,"
Jackson was tactically forced to drop his suit against the individuals William
Cook, Tim Foley, Barbara Golden and Henry Kluepfel. (Cook, Foley, Golden and
Kluepfel did, however, testify during the trial.)

The Secret Service fought vigorously in the case, battling Jackson's lawyers
right down the line, on the (mostly previously untried) legal turf of the
Electronic Communications Privacy Act and the Privacy Protection Act of 1980.
The Secret Service denied they were legally or morally responsible for seizing
the work of a publisher. They claimed that (1) Jackson's gaming "books" weren't
real books anyhow, and (2) the Secret Service didn't realize SJG Inc was a
"publisher" when they raided his offices, and (3) the books only vanished by
accident because they merely happened to be inside the computers the agents were

The Secret Service also denied any wrongdoing in reading and erasing all the
supposedly "private" e-mail inside Jackson's seized board, Illuminati. The USSS
attorneys claimed the seizure did not violate the Electronic Communications
Privacy Act, because they weren't actually "intercepting" electronic mail that
was moving on a wire, but only electronic mail that was quietly sitting on a
disk inside Jackson's computer. They also claimed that USSS agents hadn't read
any of the private mail on Illuminati; and anyway, even supposing that they had,
they were allowed to do that by the subpoena.

The Jackson case became even more peculiar when the Secret Service attorneys
went so far as to allege that the federal raid against the gaming company had
actually IMPROVED JACKSON'S BUSINESS thanks to the ensuing nationwide publicity.

It was a long and rather involved trial. The judge seemed most perturbed, not
by the arcane matters of electronic law, but by the fact that the Secret Service
could have avoided almost all the consequent trouble simply by giving Jackson
his computers back in short order. The Secret Service easily could have looked
at everything in Jackson's computers, recorded everything, and given the
machinery back, and there would have been no major scandal or federal court
suit. On the contrary, everybody simply would have had a good laugh.
Unfortunately, it appeared that this idea had never entered the heads of the
Chicago-based investigators. They seemed to have concluded unilaterally, and
without due course of law, that the world would be better off if Steve Jackson
didn't have computers. Golden and Foley claimed that they had both never even
heard of the Privacy Protection Act. Cook had heard of the Act, but he'd
decided on his own that the Privacy Protection Act had nothing to do with Steve

The Jackson case was also a very politicized trial, both sides deliberately
angling for a long-term legal precedent that would stake-out big claims for
their interests in cyberspace. Jackson and his EFF advisors tried hard to
establish that the least e-mail remark of the lonely electronic pamphleteer
deserves the same somber civil-rights protection as that afforded THE NEW YORK
TIMES. By stark contrast, the Secret Service's attorneys argued boldly that the
contents of an electronic bulletin board have no more expectation of privacy
than a heap of postcards. In the final analysis, very little was firmly nailed
down. Formally, the legal rulings in the Jackson case apply only in the federal
Western District of Texas. It was, however, established that these were real
civil-liberties issues that powerful people were prepared to go to the
courthouse over; the seizure of bulletin board systems, though it still goes on,
can be a perilous act for the seizer. The Secret Service owes Steve Jackson
$50,000 in damages, and a thousand dollars each to three of Jackson's angry and
offended board users. And Steve Jackson, rather than owning the single-line
bulletin board system "Illuminati" seized in 1990, now rejoices in possession of
a huge privately-owned Internet node, "io.com," with dozens of phone- lines on
its own T-1 trunk.

Jackson has made the entire blow-by-blow narrative of his case available
electronically, for interested parties. And yet, the Jackson case may still not
be over; a Secret Service appeal seems likely and the EFF is also gravely
dissatisfied with the ruling on electronic interception.

The WELL, home of the American electronic civil libertarian movement, added two
thousand more users and dropped its aging Sequent computer in favor of a snappy
new Sun Sparcstation. Search-and-seizure dicussions on the WELL are now taking
a decided back-seat to the current hot topic in digital civil liberties,
unbreakable public-key encryption for private citizens.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation left its modest home in Boston to move inside
the Washington Beltway of the Clinton Administration. Its new executive
director, ECPA pioneer and longtime ACLU activist Jerry Berman, gained a
reputation of a man adept as dining with tigers, as the EFF devoted its
attention to networking at the highest levels of the computer and
telecommunications industry. EFF's pro-encryption lobby and anti-wiretapping
initiative were especially impressive, successfully assembling a herd of highly
variegated industry camels under the same EFF tent, in open and powerful
opposition to the electronic ambitions of the FBI and the NSA.

EFF had transmuted at light-speed from an insurrection to an institution. EFF
Co-Founder Mitch Kapor once again sidestepped the bureaucratic consequences of
his own success, by remaining in Boston and adapting the role of EFF guru and
gray eminence. John Perry Barlow, for his part, left Wyoming, quit the
Republican Party, and moved to New York City, accompanied by his swarm of
cellular phones. Mike Godwin left Boston for Washington as EFF's official legal
adviser to the electronically afflicted.

After the Neidorf trial, Dorothy Denning further proved her firm scholastic
independence-of-mind by speaking up boldly on the usefulness and social value of
federal wiretapping. Many civil libertarians, who regarded the practice of
wiretapping with deep occult horror, were crestfallen to the point of comedy
when nationally known "hacker sympathizer" Dorothy Denning sternly defended
police and public interests in official eavesdropping. However, no amount of
public uproar seemed to swerve the "quaint" Dr. Denning in the slightest. She
not only made up her own mind, she made it up in public and then stuck to her

In 1993, the stalwarts of the Masters of Deception, Phiber Optik, Acid Phreak
and Scorpion, finally fell afoul of the machineries of legal prosecution. Acid
Phreak and Scorpion were sent to prison for six months, six months of home
detention, 750 hours of community service, and, oddly, a $50 fine for conspiracy
to commit computer crime. Phiber Optik, the computer intruder with perhaps the
highest public profile in the entire world, took the longest to plead guilty,
but, facing the possibility of ten years in jail, he finally did so. He was
sentenced to a year in prison.

As for the Atlanta wing of the Legion of Doom, Prophet, Leftist and Urvile...
Urvile now works for a software company in Atlanta. He is still on probation
and still repaying his enormous fine. In fifteen months, he will once again be
allowed to own a personal computer. He is still a convicted federal felon, but
has not had any legal difficulties since leaving prison. He has lost contact
with Prophet and Leftist. Unfortunately, so have I, though not through lack of
honest effort.

Knight Lightning, now 24, is a technical writer for the federal government in
Washington DC. He has still not been accepted into law school, but having spent
more than his share of time in the company of attorneys, he's come to think that
maybe an MBA would be more to the point. He still owes his attorneys $30,000,
but the sum is dwindling steadily since he is manfully working two jobs. Knight
Lightning customarily wears a suit and tie and carries a valise. He has a
federal security clearance.

Unindicted PHRACK co-editor Taran King is also a technical writer in Washington
DC, and recently got married.

Terminus did his time, got out of prison, and currently lives in Silicon Valley
where he is running a full-scale Internet node, "netsys.com." He programs
professionally for a company specializing in satellite links for the Internet.

Carlton Fitzpatrick still teaches at the Federal Law Enforcement Training
Center, but FLETC found that the issues involved in sponsoring and running a
bulletin board system are rather more complex than they at first appear to be.

Gail Thackeray briefly considered going into private security, but then changed
tack, and joined the Maricopa County District Attorney's Office (with a salary).
She is still vigorously prosecuting electronic racketeering in Phoenix, Arizona.

The fourth consecutive Computers, Freedom and Privacy Conference will take place
in March 1994 in Chicago.

As for Bruce Sterling... well *8-). I thankfully abandoned my brief career as a
true-crime journalist and wrote a new science fiction novel, HEAVY WEATHER, and
assembled a new collection of short stories, GLOBALHEAD. I also write
nonfiction regularly, for the popular-science column in THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY

I like life better on the far side of the boundary between fantasy and reality;
but I've come to recognize that reality has an unfortunate way of annexing
fantasy for its own purposes. That's why I'm on the Police Liaison Committee
for EFF-Austin, a local electronic civil liberties group (eff- austin@tic.com).
I don't think I will ever get over my experience of the Hacker Crackdown, and I
expect to be involved in electronic civil liberties activism for the rest of my

It wouldn't be hard to find material for another book on computer crime and
civil liberties issues. I truly believe that I could write another book much
like this one, every year. Cyberspace is very big. There's a lot going on out
there, far more than can be adequately covered by the tiny, though growing,
cadre of network-literate reporters. I do wish I could do more work on this
topic, because the various people of cyberspace are an element of our society
that definitely require sustained study and attention.

But there's only one of me, and I have a lot on my mind, and, like most science
fiction writers, I have a lot more imagination than discipline. Having done my
stint as an electronic-frontier reporter, my hat is off to those stalwart few
who do it every day. I may return to this topic some day, but I have no real
plans to do so. However, I didn't have any real plans to write "Hacker
Crackdown," either. Things happen, nowadays. There are landslides in
cyberspace. I'll just have to try and stay alert and on my feet.

The electronic landscape changes with astounding speed. We are living through
the fastest technological transformation in human history. I was glad to have a
chance to document cyberspace during one moment in its long mutation; a kind of
strobe-flash of the maelstrom. This book is already out-of-date, though, and it
will be quite obsolete in another five years. It seems a pity.

However, in about fifty years, I think this book might seem quite interesting.
And in a hundred years, this book should seem mind-bogglingly archaic and
bizarre, and will probably seem far weirder to an audience in 2092 than it ever
seemed to the contemporary readership.

Keeping up in cyberspace requires a great deal of sustained attention.
Personally, I keep tabs with the milieu by reading the invaluable electronic
magazine Computer underground Digest (tk0jut2@mvs.cso.niu.edu with the subject
header: SUB CuD and a message that says:

SUB CuD your name your.full.internet@address).

I also read Jack Rickard's bracingly iconoclastic BOARDWATCH MAGAZINE for print
news of the BBS and online community. And, needless to say, I read WIRED, the
first magazine of the 1990s that actually looks and acts like it really belongs
in this decade. There are other ways to learn, of course, but these three
outlets will guide your efforts very well.

When I myself want to publish something electronically, which I'm doing with
increasing frequency, I generally put it on the gopher at Texas Internet
Consulting, who are my, well, Texan Internet consultants (tic.com). This book
can be found there. I think it is a worthwhile act to let this work go free.

From thence, one's bread floats out onto the dark waters of cyberspace, only to
return someday, tenfold. And of course, thoroughly soggy, and riddled with an
entire amazing ecosystem of bizarre and gnawingly hungry cybermarine life-forms.
For this author at least, that's all that really counts.

Thanks for your attention *8-)

Bruce Sterling bruces@well.sf.ca.us

New Years Day 1994, Austin Texas.