Page 196


Undergound. Go to Table of Contents.

   would ever really comprehend because they had never experienced it.

   The rest of the courtroom was out of the loop, and Pad and Gandalf

   stared out from the dock as if looking through a two-way mirror from a

   secret, sealed room.

  

   Pad's big worry had been this third charge--the one which he faced

   alone. At his plea hearing, he had admitted to causing damage to a

   system owned by what was, in 1990, called the Polytechnic of Central

   London. He hadn't damaged the machine by, say, erasing files, but the

   other side had claimed that the damages totalled about [sterling]250

   000.

  

   The hacker was sure there was zero chance the polytechnic had spent

   anything near that amount. He had a reasonable idea of how long it

   would take someone to clean up his intrusions. But if the prosecution

   could convince a judge to accept that figure, the hacker might be

   looking at a long prison term.

  

   Pad had already braced himself for the possibility of prison. His

   lawyer warned him before the sentencing date that there was a

   reasonable likelihood the two 8lgm hackers would be sent down. After

   the Wandii case, the public pressure to `correct' a `wrong' decision

   by the Wandii jury was enormous. The police had described Wandii's

   acquittal as `a licence to hack'--and The Times, had run the

   statement.12 It was likely the judge, who had presided over Wandii's

   trial, would want to send a loud and clear message to the hacking

   community.

  

   Pad thought that perhaps, if he and Gandalf had pleaded not guilty

   alongside Wandii, they would have been acquitted. But there was no way

   Pad would have subjected himself to the kind of public humiliation

   Wandii went through during the `addicted to computers' evidence. The

   media appeared to want to paint the three hackers as pallid, scrawny,

   socially inept, geeky geniuses, and to a large degree Wandii's lawyers

   had worked off this desire. Pad didn't mind being viewed as highly

   intelligent, but he wasn't a geek. He had a casual girlfriend. He went

   out dancing with friends or to hear bands in Manchester's thriving

   alternative music scene. He worked out his upper body with weights at

   home. Shy--yes. A geek--no.

  

   Could Pad have made a case for being addicted to hacking? Yes,

   although he never believed that he had been. Completely enthralled,

   entirely entranced? Maybe. Suffering from a passing obsession?

   Perhaps. But addicted? No, he didn't think so. Besides, who knew for

   sure if a defence of addiction could have saved him from the

   prosecution's claim anyway?

  

   Exactly where the quarter of a million pound claim came from in the

   first place was a mystery to Pad. The police had just said it to him,

   as if it was fact, in the police interview. Pad hadn't seen any proof,

   but that hadn't stopped him from spending a great deal of time feeling

   very stressed about how the judge would view the matter.

  

   The only answer seemed to be some good, independent technical advice.

   At the request of both Pad and Gandalf's lawyers, Dr Peter Mills, of

   Manchester University, and Dr Russell Lloyd, of London Business

   School, had examined a large amount of technical evidence presented in

   the prosecution's papers. In an independent report running to more

   than 23 pages, the experts stated that the hackers had caused less

   havoc than the prosecution alleged. In addition, Pad's solicitor asked