Page 015

Undergound. Go to Table of Contents.

   While each hacker has a distinct story, there are common themes which

   appear throughout many of the stories. Rebellion against all symbols

   of authority. Dysfunctional families. Bright children suffocated by

   ill-equipped teachers. Mental illness or instability. Obsession and



   I have endeavoured to track what happened to each character in this

   work over time: the individual's hacking adventures, the police raid

   and the ensuing court case. Some of those court cases have taken years

   to reach completion.


   Hackers use `handles'--on-line nicknames--that serve two purposes.

   They shield the hacker's identity and, importantly, they often make a

   statement about how the hacker perceives himself in the underground.

   Hawk, Crawler, Toucan Jones, Comhack, Dataking, Spy, Ripmax, Fractal

   Insanity, Blade. These are all real handles used in Australia.


   In the computer underground, a hacker's handle is his name. For this

   reason, and because most hackers in this work have now put together

   new lives for themselves, I have chosen to use only their handles.

   Where a hacker has had more than one handle, I have used the one he



   Each chapter in this book is headed with a quote from a Midnight Oil

   song which expresses an important aspect of the chapter. The Oilz are

   uniquely Australian. Their loud voice of protest against the

   establishment--particularly the military-industrial

   establishment--echoes a key theme in the underground, where music in

   general plays a vital role.


   The idea for using these Oilz extracts came while researching Chapter

   1, which reveals the tale of the WANK worm crisis in NASA. Next to the

   RTM worm, WANK is the most famous worm in the history of computer

   networks. And it is the first major worm bearing a political message.

   With WANK, life imitated art, since the term computer `worm' came from

   John Brunner's sci-fi novel, The Shockwave Rider, about a politically

   motivated worm.


   The WANK worm is also believed to be the first worm written by an

   Australian, or Australians.


   This chapter shows the perspective of the computer system

   administrators--the people on the other side from the hackers. Lastly,

   it illustrates the sophistication which one or more Australian members

   of the worldwide computer underground brought to their computer



   The following chapters set the scene for the dramas which unfold and

   show the transition of the underground from its early days, its loss

   of innocence, its closing ranks in ever smaller circles until it

   reached the inevitable outcome: the lone hacker. In the beginning, the

   computer underground was a place, like the corner pub, open and

   friendly. Now, it has become an ephemeral expanse, where hackers

   occasionally bump into one another but where the original sense of

   open community has been lost.