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Undergound. Go to Table of Contents.

   was like a telephone exchange for the X.25 data network. This exchange

   was the data gateway for Minerva and other systems connected to that

   data network.


   Australia's early hackers had it easy, until Michael Rosenberg



   Rosenberg, known on-line simply as MichaelR, decided to clean up

   Minerva. An engineering graduate from Queensland University, Michael

   moved to Sydney when he joined OTC at age 21. He was about the same

   age as the hackers he was chasing off his system. Rosenberg didn't

   work as an OTC operator, he managed the software which ran on Minerva.

   And he made life hell for people like Force. Closing up security

   holes, quietly noting accounts used by hackers and then killing those

   accounts, Rosenberg almost single-handedly stamped out much of the

   hacker activity in OTC's Minerva.


   Despite this, the hackers--`my hackers' as he termed the regulars--had

   a grudging respect for Rosenberg. Unlike anyone else at OTC, he was

   their technical equal and, in a world where technical prowess was the

   currency, Rosenberg was a wealthy young man.


   He wanted to catch the hackers, but he didn't want to see them go to

   prison. They were an annoyance, and he just wanted them out of his

   system. Any line trace, however, had to go through Telecom, which was

   at that time a separate body from OTC. Telecom, Rosenberg was told,

   was difficult about these things because of strict privacy laws. So,

   for the most part, he was left to deal with the hackers on his own.

   Rosenberg could not secure his system completely since OTC didn't

   dictate passwords to their customers. Their customers were usually

   more concerned about employees being able to remember passwords easily

   than worrying about warding off wily hackers. The result: the

   passwords on a number of Minerva accounts were easy pickings.


   The hackers and OTC waged a war from 1988 to 1990, and it was fought

   in many ways.


   Sometimes an OTC operator would break into a hacker's on-line session

   demanding to know who was really using the account. Sometimes the

   operators sent insulting messages to the hackers--and the hackers gave

   it right back to them. They broke into the hacker's session with `Oh,

   you idiots are at it again'. The operators couldn't keep the hackers

   out, but they had other ways of getting even.


   Electron, a Melbourne hacker and rising star in the Australian

   underground, had been logging into a system in Germany via OTC's X.25

   link. Using a VMS machine, a sort of sister system to Minerva, he had

   been playing a game called Empire on the Altos system, a popular

   hang-out for hackers. It was his first attempt at Empire, a complex

   war game of strategy which attracted players from around the world.

   They each had less than one hour per day to conquer regions while

   keeping production units at a strategic level. The Melbourne hacker

   had spent weeks building his position. He was in second place.


   Then, one day, he logged into the game via Minerva and the German

   system, and he couldn't believe what he saw on the screen in front of

   him. His regions, his position in the game, all of it--weeks of

   work--had been wiped out. An OTC operator had used an X.25

   packet-sniffer to monitor the hacker's login and capture his password to

   Empire. Instead of trading the usual insults, the operator had waited