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Undergound. Go to Table of Contents.

   Hackers in the period 1988-90 depended on each other for information.

   They honed their skills in a community which shared intelligence and

   they grew to rely on the pool of information.


   Months later, Force grudgingly allowing Electron to rejoin The Realm,

   but the relationship remained testy. When Electron finally logged in

   again, he found a file in the BBS entitled `Scanner stolen from the

   Electron'. Force had found a copy of Electron's VMS scanner on an

   overseas computer while Electron was in exile and had felt no qualms

   about pinching it for The Realm.


   Except that it wasn't a scanner. It was a VMS Trojan. And there was a

   big difference. It didn't scan for the addresses of computers on a

   network. It snagged passwords when people connected from their VMS

   computers to another machine over an X.25 network. Powerspike cracked

   up laughing when Electron told him. `Well,' he told Powerspike, `Mr

   Bigshot Force might know something about Prime computers, but he

   doesn't know a hell of a lot about VMS.'


   Despite Electron's general fall from grace, Phoenix talked to the

   outcast because they shared the obsession. Electron was on a steep

   learning curve and, like Phoenix, he was moving fast--much faster than

   any of the other Melbourne hackers.


   When Phoenix admitted talking to Electron regularly, Force tried to

   pull him away, but without luck. Some of the disapproval was born of

   Force's paternalistic attitude toward the Australian hacking scene. He

   considered himself to be a sort of godfather in the hacking community.

   But Force was also increasingly concerned at Phoenix's ever more

   flagrant taunting of computer security bigwigs and system admins. In

   one incident, Phoenix knew a couple of system admins and security

   people were waiting on a system to trap him by tracing his network

   connections. He responded by sneaking into the computer unnoticed and

   quietly logging off each admin. Force laughed about it at the time,

   but privately the story made him more than a little nervous.


   Phoenix enjoyed pitting himself against the pinnacles of the computer

   security industry. He wanted to prove he was better, and he frequently

   upset people because often he was. Strangely, though, Force's protégé

   also thought that if he told these experts about a few of the holes in

   their systems, he would somehow gain their approval. Maybe they would

   even give him inside information, like new penetration techniques,

   and, importantly, look after him if things got rough. Force wondered

   how Phoenix could hold two such conflicting thoughts in his mind at

   the same time without questioning the logic of either.


   It was against this backdrop that Gavin came to Force with his urgent

   warning in late 1989. Gavin had learned that the Australian Federal

   Police were getting complaints about hackers operating out of

   Melbourne. The Melbourne hacking community had become very noisy and

   was leaving footprints all over the place as its members traversed the

   world's data networks.


   There were other active hacking communities outside Australia--in the

   north of England, in Texas, in New York. But the Melbourne hackers

   weren't just noisy--they were noisy inside American computers. It

   wasn't just a case of American hackers breaking into American systems.

   This was about foreign nationals penetrating American computers. And

   there was something else which made the Australian hackers a target.

   The US Secret Service knew an Australian named Phoenix had been inside