11.7 The Other Side of the Coin
Big Dummy's Guide to the Internet

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     All is not fun and games on the Net.  Like any community, the Net
has its share of obnoxious characters who seem to exist only to make
your life miserable (you've already met some of them in chapter 4). 
There are people who seem to spend a bit more time on the Net than many
would find healthy.  It also has its criminals.  Clifford Stoll writes in
"The Cuckoo's Egg" how he tracked a team of German hackers who were
breaking into U.S. computers and selling the information they found to
the Soviets.  Robert Morris, a Cornell University student, was convicted
of unleashing a "worm" program that effectively disabled several thousand
computers connected to the Internet. 
     Of more immediate concern to the average Net user are crackers
who seek to find other's passwords to break into Net systems and people
who infect programs on ftp sites with viruses.
    There is a widely available program known as "Crack" that can
decipher user passwords composed of words that might be found in a
dictionary (this is why you shouldn't use such passwords).  Short of
that, there are the annoying types who take a special thrill in trying to
make you miserable.  The best advice in dealing with them is to count to
10 and then ignore them -- like juveniles everywhere, most of their fun
comes in seeing how upset you can get.
    Meanwhile, two Cornell University students pleaded guilty in 1992 to
uploading virus-infected Macintosh programs to ftp sites.  If you plan
to try out large amounts of software from ftp sites, it might be wise to
download or buy a good anti-viral program.
    But can law enforcement go too far in seeking out the criminals? 
The Electronic Frontier Foundation was founded in large part in
response to a series of government raids against an alleged gang of
hackers.  The raids resulted in the near bankruptcy of one game
company never alleged to have had anything to do with the hackers,
when the government seized its computers and refused to give them
back.  The case against another alleged participant collapsed in court
when his attorney showed the "proprietary" and supposedly hacked
information he printed in an electronic newsletter was actually
available via an 800 number for about $13 -- from the phone company
from which that data was taken.