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   anywhere in the world, and the university would foot the phone bill.

   In the late 1980s, before the days of cheap, accessible Internet

   connections, the university dial-out meant a hacker could access

   anything from an underground BBS in Germany to a US military system in

   Panama. The password put the world at his fingertips.

  

   A hacker aspiring to move into PI's Inner Sanctum wouldn't give out

   the current dial-out password in the public discussion areas. Most

   likely, if he was low in the pecking order, he wouldn't have such

   precious information. Even if he had managed to stumble across the

   current password somehow, it was risky giving it out publicly. Every

   wanna-be and his dog would start messing around with the university's

   modem account. The system administrator would wise up and change the

   password and the hacker would quickly lose his own access to the

   university account. Worse, he would lose access for other hackers--the

   kind of hackers who ran H.A.C.K., Elite and the Inner Sanctum. They

   would be really cross. Hackers hate it when passwords on accounts they

   consider their own are changed without warning. Even if the password

   wasn't changed, the aspiring hacker would look like a guy who couldn't

   keep a good secret.

  

   Posting an old password, however, was quite a different matter. The

   information was next to useless, so the hacker wouldn't be giving much

   away. But just showing he had access to that sort of information

   suggested he was somehow in the know. Other hackers might think he had

   had the password when it was still valid. More importantly, by showing

   off a known, expired password, the hacker hinted that he might just

   have the current password. Voila! Instant respect.

  

   Positioning oneself to win an invite into the Inner Sanctum was a game

   of strategy; titillate but never go all the way. After a while,

   someone on the inside would probably notice you and put in a word with

   Bowen. Then you would get an invitation.

  

   If you were seriously ambitious and wanted to get past the first inner

   layer, you then had to start performing for real. You couldn't hide

   behind the excuse that the public area might be monitored by the

   authorities or was full of idiots who might abuse valuable hacking

   information.

  

   The hackers in the most elite area would judge you on how much

   information you provided about breaking into computer or phone

   systems. They also looked at the accuracy of the information. It was

   easy getting out-of-date login names and passwords for a student

   account on Monash University's computer system. Posting a valid

   account for the New Zealand forestry department's VMS system intrigued

   the people who counted considerably more.

  

   The Great Rite of Passage from boy to man in the computer underground

   was Minerva. OTC, Australia's then government-owned Overseas

   Telecommunications Commission,3 ran Minerva, a system of three Prime

   mainframes in Sydney. For hackers such as Mendax, breaking into

   Minerva was the test.

  

   Back in early 1988, Mendax was just beginning to explore the world of

   hacking. He had managed to break through the barrier from public to

   private section of PI, but it wasn't enough. To be recognised as

   up-and-coming talent by the aristocracy of hackers such as The Force

   and The Wizard, a hacker had to spend time inside the Minerva system.

   Mendax set to work on breaking