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                  Chapter 2 -- The Corner Pub

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     You talk of times of peace for all

     and then prepare for war

    

   -- from `Blossom of Blood' on Species Deceases by Midnight Oil

  

   It is not surprising the SPAN security team would miss the mark. It is

   not surprising, for example, that these officials should to this day

   be pronouncing the `Oilz' version of the WANK worm as `oil zee'. It is

   also not surprising that they hypothesised the worm's creator chose

   the word `Oilz' because the modifications made to the last version

   made it slippery, perhaps even oily.

  

   Likely as not, only an Australian would see the worm's link to the

   lyrics of Midnight Oil.

  

   This was the world's first worm with a political message, and the

   second major worm in the history of the worldwide computer networks.

   It was also the trigger for the creation of FIRST, the Forum of

   Incident Response and Security Teams.2 FIRST was an international

   security alliance allowing governments, universities and commercial

   organisations to share information about computer network security

   incidents. Yet, NASA and the US Department of Energy were half a world

   away from finding the creator of the WANK worm. Even as investigators

   sniffed around electronic trails leading to France, it appears the

   perpetrator was hiding behind his computer and modem in Australia.

  

   Geographically, Australia is a long way from anywhere. To Americans,

   it conjures up images of fuzzy marsupials, not computer hackers.

   American computer security officials, like those at NASA and the US

   Department of Energy, had other barriers as well. They function in a

   world of concretes, of appointments made and kept, of real names,

   business cards and official titles. The computer underground, by

   contrast, is a veiled world populated by characters slipping in and

   out of the half-darkness. It is not a place where people use their

   real names. It is not a place where people give out real personal

   details.

  

   It is, in fact, not so much a place as a space. It is ephemeral,

   intangible--a foggy labyrinth of unmapped, winding streets through

   which one occasionally ascertains the contours of a fellow traveller.

  

   When Ron Tencati, the manager in charge of NASA SPAN security, realised

   that NASA's computers were being attacked by an intruder, he rang the

   FBI. The US Federal Bureau of Investigation's Computer Crime Unit fired

   off a stream of questions. How many computers had been attacked? Where

   were they? Who was behind the attack? The FBI told Tencati, `keep us

   informed of the situation'. Like the CIAC team in the Department of

   Energy, it appears the FBI didn't have much knowledge of VMS, the

   primary computer operating system used in SPAN.

  

   But the FBI knew enough to realise the worm attack was potentially

   very serious. The winding electronic trail pointed vaguely to a

   foreign computer system and, before long, the US Secret Service was

   involved. Then the French secret service, the Direction de la