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   were busy thinking about their research and not the security

   implications.

  

   `Some of the stuff might have been illegal,' Pad told his captive

   audience. `And then they find out some of you guys have been in there

   ...'

  

   `Shit,' Phoenix said.

  

   `So, well, if it APPEARED like someone was inside trying to get at

   those secrets ...' Pad paused. `Then you can guess what happened. It

   seems they really want to get whoever was inside their machines.'

  

   There was momentary silence while the other hackers digested all that

   Pad had told them. As a personality on Altos, Pad remained ever so

   slightly withdrawn from the other hackers, even the Australians whom

   he considered mates. This reserved quality gave his warning a certain

   sobriety, which seeped into the very fabric of Altos that day.

  

   Eventually, Electron responded to Pad's warning by typing a comment

   directed at Phoenix: `I told you talking to security guys is nothing

   but trouble.'

  

   It irritated Electron more and more that Phoenix felt compelled to

   talk to white hats in the security industry. In Electron's view,

   drawing attention to yourself was just a bad idea all around and he

   was increasingly annoyed at watching Phoenix feed his ego. He had made

   veiled references to Phoenix's bragging on Altos many times, saying

   things like `I wish people wouldn't talk to security guys'.

  

   Phoenix responded to Electron on-line somewhat piously. `Well, I will

   never talk to security guys seriously again.'

  

   Electron had heard it all before. It was like listening to an

   alcoholic swear he would never touch another drink. Bidding the others

   goodbye, Electron logged off. He didn't care to listen to Phoenix any

   more.

  

   Others did, however. Hundreds of kilometres away, in a special room

   secreted away inside a bland building in Canberra, Sergeant Michael

   Costello and Constable William Apro had been methodically capturing

   each and every electronic boast as it poured from Phoenix's phone. The

   two officers recorded the data transmissions passing in and out of his

   computer. They then played this recording into their own modem and

   computer and created a text file they could save and use as evidence

   in court.

  

   Both police officers had travelled north from Melbourne, where they

   worked with the AFP's Computer Crime Unit. Settling into their

   temporary desks with their PC and laptop, the officers began their

   secret eavesdropping work on 1 February 1990.

  

   It was the first time the AFP had done a datatap. They were happy to

   bide their time, to methodically record Phoenix hacking into Berkeley,

   into Texas, into NASA, into a dozen computers around the world. The

   phone tap warrant was good for 60 days, which was more than enough

   time to secrete away a mountain of damning evidence against the

   egotistical Realm hacker. Time was on their side.

  

   The officers worked the Operation Dabble job in shifts. Constable Apro