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   to Anthrax.

  

   System X called up each of the military telephone exchanges in that

   list. It logged in using the computer-generated name and password.

   Once inside, a program in System X polled the exchange for important

   statistics, such as the number of calls coming in and out of the base.

   This information was then stored on System X. Whenever someone wanted

   a report on something, for example, the military sites with the most

   incoming calls over the past 24 hours, he or she would simply ask

   System X to compile the information. All of this was done

   automatically.

  

   Anthrax had read some email suggesting that changes to an exchange,

   such as adding new telephone lines on the base, had been handled

   manually, but this job was soon to be done automatically by System X.

   It made sense. The maintenance time spent by humans would be cut

   dramatically.

  

   A machine which gathers statistics and services phone exchanges

   remotely doesn't sound very sexy on the face of it, until you begin to

   consider what you could do with something like that. You could sell it

   to a foreign power interested in the level of activity at a certain

   base at a particular time. And that is just the beginning.

  

   You could tap any unencrypted line going in or out of any of the 100

   or so exchanges and listen in to sensitive military discussions. Just

   a few commands makes you a fly on the wall of a general's conversation

   to the head of a base in the Philippines. Anti-government rebels in

   that country might pay a pretty penny for getting intelligence on the

   US forces.

  

   All of those options paled next to the most striking power wielded by

   a hacker who had unlimited access to System X and the 100 or so

   telephone exchanges. He could take down that US military voice

   communications system almost overnight, and he could do it

   automatically. The potential for havoc creation was breathtaking. It

   would be a small matter for a skilled programmer to alter the

   automated program used by System X. Instead of using its dozen or more

   modems to dial all the exchanges overnight and poll them for

   statistics, System X could be instructed to call them overnight and

   reprogram the exchanges.

  

   What if every time General Colin Powell picked up his phone, he was be

   automatically patched through to some Russian general's office? He

   wouldn't be able to dial any other number from his office phone. He'd

   pick up his phone to dial and there would be the Russian at the other

   end. And what if every time someone called into the general's number,

   they ended up talking to the stationery department? What if none of the

   phone numbers connected to their proper telephones?  No-one would be

   able to reach one another. An important part of the US military machine

   would be in utter disarray. Now, what if all this happened in the first

   few days of a war? People trying to contact each other with vital

   information wouldn't be able to use the telephone exchanges reprogrammed

   by System X.

  

   THAT was power.

  

   It wasn't like Anthrax screaming at his father until his voice turned

   to a whisper, all for nothing. He could make people sit up and take

   notice with this sort of power.