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   It hit the target. `Yes, it's L-U-R-C-H--full stop.'

  

   Lurch? Uhuh. An Addams Family fan.

  

   `Can you make sure everything is working? We don't want our service

   interrupted.' The Perth manager sounded quite anxious.

  

   Mendax tapped away on the keyboard randomly and then paused. `Well, it

   looks like everything is working just fine now,' he quickly reassured

   him. Just fine.

  

   `Oh, that's a relief!' the Perth manager exclaimed. `Thank you for

   that. Thank you. I just can't thank you enough for calling us!' More

   gratitude.

  

   Mendax had to extract himself. This was getting embarrassing.

  

   `Yes, well I'd better go now. More customers to call.' That should

   work. The Perth manager wanted a contact telephone number, as

   expected, if something went wrong--so Mendax gave him the one which

   was permanently busy.

  

   `Thank you again for your courteous service!' Uhuh. Anytime.

  

   Mendax hung up and tried the toll-free Minerva number. The password

   worked. He couldn't believe how easy it was to get in.

  

   He had a quick look around, following the pattern of most hackers

   breaking into a new machine. First thing to do was to check the

   electronic mail of the `borrowed' account. Email often contains

   valuable information. One company manager might send another

   information about other account names, password changes or even phone

   numbers to modems at the company itself. Then it was off to check the

   directories available for anyone to read on the main system--another

   good source of information. Final stop: Minerva's bulletin board of

   news. This included postings from the system operators about planned

   downtime or other service issues. He didn't stay long. The first visit

   was usually mostly a bit of reconnaissance work.

  

   Minerva had many uses. Most important among these was the fact that

   Minerva gave hackers an entry point into various X.25 networks. X.25

   is a type of computer communications network, much like the Unix-based

   Internet or the VMS-based DECNET. It has different commands and

   protocols, but the principle of an extensive worldwide data

   communications network is the same. There is, however, one important

   difference. The targets for hackers on the X.25 networks are often far

   more interesting. For example, most banks are on X.25. Indeed, X.25

   underpins many aspects of the world's financial markets. A number of

   countries' classified military computer sites only run on X.25. It is

   considered by many people to be more secure than the Internet or any

   DECNET system.

  

   Minerva allowed incoming callers to pass into the X.25

   network--something most Australian universities did not offer at the

   time. And Minerva let Australian callers do this without incurring a

   long-distance telephone charge.

  

   In the early days of Minerva, the OTC operators didn't seem to care

   much about the hackers, probably because it seemed impossible to get

   rid of them. The OTC operators managed the OTC X.25 exchange, which