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              Chapter 6 -- Page 1 The New York Times




     Read about it

     Just another incredible scene

     There's no doubt about it


   -- from `Read About It', on 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 by Midnight



   Pad had an important warning for the Australian hackers: the computer

   security community was closing in on them. It was the end of February

   1990, not long after Phoenix and Electron had captured Zardoz and just

   missed out on Deszip. Pad didn't scream or shout the warning, that

   wasn't his style. But Electron took in the import of the warning loud

   and clear.


   `Feen, they know you did over Spaf's machine,' Pad told Phoenix. `They

   know it's been you in other systems also. They've got your handle.'


   Eugene Spafford was the kind of computer security expert who loses a

   lot of face when a hacker gets into his machine, and a wounded bull is

   a dangerous enemy.


   The security people had been able to connect and link up a series of

   break-ins with the hacker who called himself Phoenix because his style

   was so distinctive. For example, whenever he was creating a root

   shell--root access--for himself, he would always save it in the same

   filename and in the same location on the

   computer. In some instances, he even created accounts called `Phoenix'

   for himself. It was this consistency of style which had made things so

   much easier for admins to trace his movements.


   In his typical understated fashion, Pad suggested a change of style.

   And maybe, he added, it wasn't such a bad idea for the Australians to

   tone down their activities a bit. The undercurrent of the message was



   `They said that some security people had contacted Australian law

   enforcement, who were supposed to be "dealing with it",' Pad said.


   `Do they know my real name?' Phoenix asked, worried. Electron was also

   watching this conversation with some concern.


   `Don't know. Got it from Shatter. He's not always reliable,

   but ...'


   Pad was trying to soften the news by playing down Shatter's importance

   as a source. He didn't trust his fellow British hacker but Shatter had

   some good, if mysterious, connections. An enigmatic figure who seemed

   to keep one foot in the computer underworld and the other in the

   upright computer security industry, Shatter leaked information to Pad

   and Gandalf, and occasionally to the Australians.


   While the two British hackers sometimes discounted Shatter's advice,

   they also took the time to talk to him. Once, Electron had intercepted

   email showing Pengo had turned to Shatter for advice about his