Chapter 2-4
Hacker Crackdown

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Hackers are generally teenagers and college kids not
engaged in earning a living.  They often come from fairly
well-to-do middle-class backgrounds, and are markedly
anti-materialistic (except, that is, when it comes to
computer equipment).  Anyone motivated by greed for
mere money (as opposed to the greed for power,
knowledge and status) is swiftly written-off as a narrow-
minded breadhead whose interests can only be corrupt
and contemptible.  Having grown up in the 1970s and
1980s, the young Bohemians of the digital underground
regard straight society as awash in plutocratic corruption,
where everyone from the President down is for sale and
whoever has the gold makes the rules.

Interestingly, there's a funhouse-mirror image of this attitude
on the other side of the conflict.  The police are also
one of the most markedly anti-materialistic groups
in American society, motivated not by mere money
but by ideals of service, justice, esprit-de-corps,
and, of course, their own brand of specialized knowledge
and power.  Remarkably, the propaganda war between cops
and hackers has always involved angry allegations
that the other side is trying to make a sleazy buck.
Hackers consistently sneer that anti-phreak prosecutors
are angling for cushy jobs as telco lawyers and that
computer-crime police are aiming to cash in later
as well-paid computer-security consultants in the private sector.

For their part, police publicly conflate all
hacking crimes with robbing payphones with crowbars.
Allegations of "monetary losses" from computer intrusion
are notoriously inflated.  The act of illicitly copying
a document from a computer is morally equated with
directly robbing a company of, say, half a million dollars.
The teenage computer intruder in possession of this "proprietary"
document has certainly not sold it for such a sum, would likely
have little idea how to sell it at all, and quite probably
doesn't even understand what he has.  He has not made a cent
in profit from his felony but is still morally equated with
a thief who has robbed the church poorbox and lit out for Brazil.

Police want to believe that all hackers are thieves.
It is a tortuous and almost unbearable act for the American
justice system to put people in jail because they want
to learn things which are forbidden for them to know.
In an American context, almost any pretext for punishment
is better than jailing people to protect certain restricted
kinds of information.  Nevertheless, POLICING INFORMATION
is part and parcel of the struggle against hackers.

This dilemma is well exemplified by the remarkable
activities of "Emmanuel Goldstein," editor and publisher
of a print magazine known as 2600:  The Hacker Quarterly.
Goldstein was an English major at Long Island's State University
of New York in the '70s, when he became involved with the local
college radio station.  His growing interest in electronics
caused him to drift into Yippie TAP circles and thus into
the digital underground, where he became a self-described
techno-rat.  His magazine publishes techniques of computer
intrusion and telephone "exploration" as well as gloating
exposes of telco misdeeds and governmental failings.

Goldstein lives quietly and very privately in a large,
crumbling Victorian mansion in Setauket, New York.
The seaside house is decorated with telco decals, chunks of
driftwood, and the basic bric-a-brac of a hippie crash-pad.
He is unmarried, mildly unkempt, and survives mostly
on TV dinners and turkey-stuffing eaten straight out
of the bag.  Goldstein is a man of considerable charm
and fluency, with a brief, disarming smile and the kind
of pitiless, stubborn, thoroughly recidivist integrity
that America's electronic police find genuinely alarming.

Goldstein took his nom-de-plume, or "handle," from
a character in Orwell's 1984, which may be taken,
correctly, as a symptom of the gravity of his sociopolitical
worldview.  He is not himself a practicing computer
intruder, though he vigorously abets these actions,
especially when they are pursued against large
corporations or governmental agencies.  Nor is he a thief,
for he loudly scorns mere theft of phone service, in favor
of "exploring and manipulating the system."  He is probably
best described and understood as a DISSIDENT.

Weirdly, Goldstein is living in modern America
under conditions very similar to those of former
East European intellectual dissidents.  In other words,
he flagrantly espouses a value-system that is deeply
and irrevocably opposed to the system of those in power
and the police.  The values in 2600 are generally expressed
in terms that are ironic, sarcastic, paradoxical, or just
downright confused.  But there's no mistaking their
radically anti-authoritarian tenor.  2600 holds that
technical power and specialized knowledge, of any kind
obtainable, belong by right in the hands of those individuals
brave and bold enough to discover them--by whatever means necessary.
Devices, laws, or systems that forbid access, and the free
spread of knowledge, are provocations that any free
and self-respecting hacker should relentlessly attack.
The "privacy" of governments, corporations and other soulless
technocratic organizations should never be protected
at the expense of the liberty and free initiative
of the individual techno-rat.

However, in our contemporary workaday world, both governments
and corporations are very anxious indeed to police information
which is secret, proprietary, restricted, confidential,
copyrighted, patented, hazardous, illegal, unethical,
embarrassing, or otherwise sensitive.  This makes Goldstein
persona non grata, and his philosophy a threat.

Very little about the conditions of Goldstein's daily
life would astonish, say, Vaclav Havel.  (We may note
in passing that President Havel once had his word-processor
confiscated by the Czechoslovak police.)  Goldstein lives
by SAMIZDAT, acting semi-openly as a data-center
for the underground, while challenging the powers-that-be
to abide by their own stated rules:  freedom of speech
and the First Amendment.

Goldstein thoroughly looks and acts the part of techno-rat,
with shoulder-length ringlets and a piratical black
fisherman's-cap set at a rakish angle.  He often shows up
like Banquo's ghost at meetings of computer professionals,
where he listens quietly, half-smiling and taking thorough notes.

Computer professionals generally meet publicly,
and find it very difficult to rid themselves of Goldstein
and his ilk  without extralegal and unconstitutional actions.
Sympathizers, many of them quite respectable people
with responsible jobs, admire Goldstein's attitude and
surreptitiously pass him information.  An unknown but
presumably large proportion of Goldstein's  2,000-plus
readership are telco security personnel and police,
who are forced to subscribe to 2600  to stay abreast
of new developments in hacking.  They thus find themselves
PAYING THIS GUY'S RENT while grinding their teeth in anguish,
a situation that would have delighted Abbie Hoffman
(one of Goldstein's few idols).

Goldstein is probably the best-known public representative
of the hacker underground today, and certainly the best-hated.
Police regard him as a Fagin, a corrupter of youth, and speak
of him with untempered loathing.  He is quite an accomplished gadfly.
After the Martin Luther King Day Crash of 1990, Goldstein,
for instance, adeptly rubbed salt into the wound in the pages of 2600.
"Yeah, it was fun for the phone phreaks as we watched the network crumble,"
he admitted cheerfully.  "But it was also an ominous sign of what's
to come. . . .  Some AT&T people, aided by well-meaning but ignorant media,
were spreading the notion that many companies had the same software
and therefore could face the same problem someday.  Wrong.  This was
entirely an AT&T software deficiency.  Of course, other companies could
face entirely DIFFERENT software problems.  But then, so too could AT&T."

After a technical discussion of the system's failings,
the Long Island techno-rat went on to offer thoughtful
criticism to the gigantic multinational's hundreds of
professionally qualified engineers.  "What we don't know
is how a major force in communications like AT&T could
be so sloppy.  What happened to backups?  Sure,
computer systems go down all the time, but people
making phone calls are not the same as people logging
on to computers.  We must make that distinction.  It's not
acceptable for the phone system or any other essential
service to `go down.'  If we continue to trust technology
without understanding it, we can look forward to many
variations on this theme.

"AT&T owes it to its customers to be prepared to INSTANTLY
switch to another network if something strange and unpredictable
starts occurring.  The news here isn't so much the failure
of a computer program, but the failure of AT&T's entire structure."

The very idea of this. . . . this PERSON. . . .  offering
"advice" about "AT&T's entire structure" is more than
some people can easily bear.  How dare this near-criminal
dictate what is or isn't "acceptable" behavior from AT&T?
Especially when he's publishing, in the very same issue,
detailed schematic diagrams for creating various switching-network
signalling tones unavailable to the public.

"See what happens when you drop a `silver box' tone or two
down your local exchange or through different long distance
service carriers," advises 2600 contributor "Mr. Upsetter"
in "How To Build a Signal Box."  "If you experiment systematically
and keep good records, you will surely discover something interesting."

This is, of course, the scientific method, generally regarded
as a praiseworthy activity and one of the flowers of modern civilization.
One can indeed learn a great deal with this sort of structured
intellectual activity.  Telco employees regard this mode of "exploration"
as akin to flinging sticks of dynamite into their pond to see what lives
on the bottom.

2600 has been published consistently since 1984.
It has also run a bulletin board computer system,
printed 2600 T-shirts, taken fax calls. . . .
The Spring 1991 issue has an interesting announcement on page 45:
"We just discovered an extra set of wires attached to our fax line
and heading up the pole.  (They've since been clipped.)
Your faxes to us and to anyone else could be monitored."
In the worldview of 2600, the tiny band of techno-rat brothers
(rarely, sisters) are a beseiged vanguard of the truly free and honest.
The rest of the world is a maelstrom of corporate crime and high-level
governmental corruption, occasionally tempered with well-meaning
ignorance.  To read a few issues in a row is to enter a nightmare
akin to Solzhenitsyn's, somewhat tempered by the fact that 2600
is often extremely funny.

Goldstein did not become a target of the Hacker Crackdown,
though he protested loudly, eloquently, and publicly about it,
and it added considerably to his fame.  It was not that he is not
regarded as dangerous, because he is so regarded.  Goldstein has had
brushes with the law in the past:  in 1985, a 2600 bulletin board
computer was seized by the FBI, and some software on it was formally
declared "a burglary tool in the form of a computer program."
But Goldstein escaped direct repression in 1990, because his
magazine is printed on paper, and recognized as subject
to Constitutional freedom of the press protection.
As was seen in the Ramparts case, this is far from
an absolute guarantee.  Still, as a practical matter,
shutting down 2600 by court-order would create so much
legal hassle that it is simply unfeasible, at least
for the present.  Throughout 1990, both Goldstein
and his magazine were peevishly thriving.

Instead, the Crackdown of 1990 would concern itself
with the computerized version of forbidden data.
The crackdown itself, first and foremost, was about
BULLETIN BOARD SYSTEMS.  Bulletin Board Systems, most often
known by the ugly and un-pluralizable acronym "BBS," are
the life-blood of the digital underground.  Boards were
also central to law enforcement's tactics and strategy
in the Hacker Crackdown.

A "bulletin board system" can be formally defined as
a computer which serves as an information and message-
passing center for users dialing-up over the phone-lines
through the use of  modems.  A "modem," or modulator-
demodulator, is a device which translates the digital
impulses of computers into audible analog telephone
signals, and vice versa.  Modems connect computers
to phones and thus to each other.

Large-scale mainframe computers have been connected since the 1960s,
but PERSONAL computers, run by individuals out of their homes,
were first networked in the late 1970s.  The "board" created
by Ward Christensen and Randy Suess in February 1978,
in Chicago, Illinois, is generally regarded as the first
personal-computer bulletin board system worthy of the name.

Boards run on many different machines, employing many
different kinds of software.  Early boards were crude and buggy,
and their managers, known as "system operators" or "sysops,"
were hard-working technical experts who wrote their own software.
But like most everything else in the world of electronics,
boards became faster, cheaper, better-designed, and generally
far more sophisticated throughout the 1980s.  They also moved
swiftly out of the hands of pioneers and into those of the
general public.  By 1985 there were something in the
neighborhood of 4,000 boards in America.  By 1990 it was
calculated, vaguely, that there were about 30,000 boards in
the US, with uncounted thousands overseas.

Computer bulletin boards are unregulated enterprises.
Running a board is a rough-and-ready, catch-as-catch-can proposition.
Basically, anybody with a computer, modem, software and a phone-line
can start a board.  With second-hand equipment and public-domain
free software, the price of a board might be quite small--
less than it would take to publish a magazine or even a
decent pamphlet.  Entrepreneurs eagerly sell bulletin-board
software, and will coach nontechnical amateur sysops in its use.

Boards are not "presses."  They are not magazines,
or libraries, or phones, or CB radios, or traditional cork
bulletin boards down at the local laundry, though they
have some passing resemblance to those earlier media.
Boards are a new medium--they may even be a LARGE NUMBER of new media.

Consider these unique characteristics:  boards are cheap,
yet they  can have a national, even global reach.
Boards can be contacted from anywhere in the global
telephone network, at NO COST to the person running the board--
the caller pays the phone bill, and if the caller is local,
the call is free.  Boards do not involve an editorial elite
addressing a mass audience.  The "sysop" of a board is not
an exclusive publisher or writer--he is managing an electronic salon,
where individuals can address the general public, play the part
of the general public, and also  exchange private mail
with other individuals.  And the "conversation" on boards,
though fluid, rapid, and highly interactive, is not spoken,
but written.  It is also relatively anonymous, sometimes completely so.

And because boards are cheap and ubiquitous, regulations
and licensing requirements would likely be practically unenforceable.
It would almost be easier to "regulate," "inspect," and "license"
the content of private mail--probably more so, since the mail system
is operated by the federal government.  Boards are run by individuals,
independently, entirely at their own whim.

For the sysop, the cost of operation is not the primary
limiting factor.  Once the investment in a computer and
modem has been made, the only steady cost is the charge
for maintaining a phone line (or several phone lines).
The primary limits for sysops are time and energy.
Boards require upkeep.  New users are generally "validated"--
they must be issued individual passwords, and called at
home by voice-phone, so that their identity can be
verified.  Obnoxious users, who exist in plenty, must be
chided or purged.  Proliferating messages must be deleted
when they grow old, so that the capacity of the system
is not overwhelmed.  And software programs (if such things
are kept on the board)  must be examined for possible
computer viruses.  If there is a financial charge to use
the board (increasingly common, especially in larger and
fancier systems) then accounts must be kept, and users
must be billed.  And if the board crashes--a very common
occurrence--then repairs must be made.

Boards can be distinguished by the amount of effort
spent in regulating them.  First, we have the completely
open board, whose sysop is off chugging brews and
watching re-runs while his users generally degenerate
over time into peevish anarchy and eventual silence.
Second comes the supervised board, where the sysop
breaks in every once in a while to tidy up, calm brawls,
issue announcements, and rid the community of  dolts
and troublemakers.  Third is the heavily supervised
board, which sternly urges adult and responsible behavior
and swiftly edits any message considered offensive,
impertinent, illegal or irrelevant.  And last comes
the completely  edited "electronic publication," which
is presented to a silent audience which is not allowed
to respond directly in any way.

Boards can also be grouped by their degree of anonymity.
There is the completely anonymous board, where everyone
uses pseudonyms--"handles"--and even the sysop is unaware
of the user's true identity.  The sysop himself is likely
pseudonymous on a board of this type.  Second, and rather
more common, is the board where the sysop knows (or thinks
he knows) the true names and addresses of all users,
but the users don't know one another's names and may not know his.
Third is the board where everyone has to use real names,
and roleplaying and pseudonymous posturing are forbidden.

Boards can be grouped by their immediacy.  "Chat-lines"
are boards linking several users together over several
different phone-lines simultaneously, so that people
exchange messages at the very moment that they type.
(Many large boards feature "chat" capabilities along
with other services.)  Less immediate boards,
perhaps with a single phoneline, store messages serially,
one at a time.  And some boards are only open for business
in daylight hours or on weekends, which greatly slows response.
A NETWORK of boards, such as "FidoNet," can carry electronic mail
from board to board, continent to continent, across huge distances--
but at a relative snail's pace, so that a message can take several
days to reach its target audience and elicit a reply.

Boards can be grouped by their degree of community.
Some boards emphasize the exchange of private,
person-to-person electronic mail.  Others emphasize
public postings and may even purge people who "lurk,"
merely reading posts but refusing to openly participate.
Some boards are intimate and neighborly.  Others are frosty
and highly technical.  Some are little more than storage
dumps for software, where users "download" and "upload" programs,
but interact among themselves little if at all.

Boards can be grouped by their ease of access.  Some boards
are entirely public.  Others are private and restricted only
to personal friends of the sysop.  Some boards divide users by status.
On these boards, some users, especially beginners, strangers or children,
will be restricted to general topics, and perhaps forbidden to post.
Favored users, though, are granted the ability to post as they please,
and to stay "on-line" as long as they like, even to the disadvantage
of other people trying to call in.  High-status users can be given access
to hidden areas in the board, such as off-color topics, private discussions,
and/or valuable software.  Favored users may even become "remote sysops"
with the power to take remote control of the board through their own
home computers.  Quite often "remote sysops" end up doing all the work
and taking formal control of the enterprise, despite the fact that it's
physically located in someone else's house.  Sometimes several "co-sysops"
share power.

And boards can also be grouped by size.  Massive, nationwide
commercial networks, such as CompuServe, Delphi, GEnie and Prodigy,
are run on mainframe computers and are generally not considered "boards,"
though they share many of their characteristics, such as electronic mail,
discussion topics, libraries of software, and persistent and growing problems
with civil-liberties issues.  Some private boards have as many as
thirty phone-lines and quite sophisticated hardware.  And then
there are tiny boards.

Boards vary in popularity.  Some boards are huge and crowded,
where users must claw their way in against a constant busy-signal.
Others are huge and empty--there are few things sadder than a formerly
flourishing board where no one posts any longer, and the dead conversations
of vanished users lie about gathering digital dust.  Some boards are tiny
and intimate, their telephone numbers intentionally kept confidential
so that only a small number can log on.

And some boards are UNDERGROUND.

Boards can be mysterious entities.  The activities of
their users can be hard to differentiate from conspiracy.
Sometimes they ARE conspiracies.  Boards have harbored,
or have been accused of harboring, all manner of fringe groups,
and have abetted, or been accused of abetting, every manner
of frowned-upon, sleazy, radical, and criminal activity.
There are Satanist boards.  Nazi boards.  Pornographic boards.
Pedophile boards.  Drug- dealing boards.  Anarchist boards.
Communist boards. Gay and Lesbian boards (these exist in great profusion,
many of them quite lively with well-established histories).
Religious cult boards.  Evangelical boards.  Witchcraft
boards, hippie boards, punk boards, skateboarder boards.
Boards for UFO believers.  There may well be boards for
serial killers, airline terrorists and professional assassins.
There is simply no way to tell.  Boards spring up, flourish,
and disappear in large numbers, in most every corner of
the developed world.  Even apparently innocuous public
boards can, and sometimes do, harbor secret areas known
only to a few.  And even on the vast, public, commercial services,
private mail is very private--and quite possibly criminal.

Boards cover most every topic imaginable and some
that are hard to imagine.  They cover a vast spectrum
of social activity.  However, all board users do have
something in common:  their possession of computers
and phones.  Naturally, computers and phones are
primary topics of conversation on almost every board.

And hackers and phone phreaks, those utter devotees
of computers and phones, live by boards.  They swarm by boards.
They are bred by boards.  By the late 1980s, phone-phreak groups
and hacker groups, united by boards, had proliferated fantastically.

As evidence, here is a list of hacker groups compiled
by the editors of Phrack on August 8, 1988.

The Administration.
Advanced Telecommunications, Inc.
American Tone Travelers.
Anarchy Inc.
Apple Mafia.
The Association.
Atlantic Pirates Guild.

Bad Ass Mother Fuckers.
Bell Shock Force.
Black Bag.

C&M Productions.
Catholics Anonymous.
Chaos Computer Club.
Chief Executive Officers.
Circle Of Death.
Circle Of Deneb.
Club X.
Coalition of Hi-Tech
Corrupt Computing.
Cult Of The
Dead Cow.
Custom Retaliations.

Damage Inc.
D&B Communications.
The Danger Gang.
Dec Hunters.
Digital Gang.

Eastern Alliance.
The Elite Hackers Guild.
Elite Phreakers and Hackers Club.
The Elite Society Of America.
Executives Of Crime.
Extasyy Elite.

Fargo 4A.
Farmers Of Doom.
The Federation.
Feds R Us.
First Class.
Five O.
Five Star.
Force Hackers.
The 414s.

Hackers Of America.
High Mountain Hackers.
High Society.
The Hitchhikers.

IBM Syndicate.
The Ice Pirates.
Imperial Warlords.
Inner Circle.
Inner Circle II.
Insanity Inc.
International Computer Underground Bandits.

Justice League of America.

Kaos Inc.
Knights Of Shadow.
Knights Of The Round Table.

League Of Adepts.
Legion Of Doom.
Legion Of Hackers.
Lords Of Chaos.
Lunatic Labs, Unlimited.

Master Hackers.
The Marauders.

Metal Communications, Inc.
MetalliBashers, Inc.

Metro Communications.
Midwest Pirates Guild.

NASA Elite.
The NATO Association.
Neon Knights.

Nihilist Order.
Order Of The Rose.

Pacific Pirates Guild.
Phantom Access Associates.

PHido PHreaks.
The Phirm.
PhoneLine Phantoms.
Phone Phreakers Of America.
Phortune 500.

Phreak Hack Delinquents.
Phreak Hack Destroyers.

Phreakers, Hackers, And Laundromat Employees Gang (PHALSE Gang).
Phreaks Against Geeks.
Phreaks Against Phreaks Against Geeks.
Phreaks and Hackers of America.
Phreaks Anonymous World Wide.
Project Genesis.
The Punk Mafia.

The Racketeers.
Red Dawn Text Files.
Roscoe Gang.

Secret Circle of Pirates.
Secret Service.
707 Club.
Shadow Brotherhood.
Sharp Inc.
65C02 Elite.

Spectral Force.
Star League.

Team Hackers '86.
Team Hackers '87.

TeleComputist Newsletter Staff.
Tribunal Of Knowledge.

Triple Entente.
Turn Over And Die Syndrome (TOADS).

300 Club.
1200 Club.
2300 Club.
2600 Club.
2601 Club.


The United Soft WareZ Force.
United Technical Underground.

Ware Brigade.
The Warelords.

Contemplating this list is  an impressive, almost humbling business.
As a cultural artifact, the thing approaches poetry.

Underground groups--subcultures--can be distinguished
from independent cultures by their  habit of referring
constantly to the parent society.  Undergrounds by their
nature constantly  must maintain a membrane of differentiation.
Funny/distinctive clothes and hair, specialized jargon, specialized
ghettoized areas in cities, different hours of rising, working,
sleeping. . . .  The digital underground, which specializes in information,
relies very heavily on language to distinguish itself.  As can be seen
from this list, they make heavy use of parody and mockery.
It's revealing to see who they choose to mock.

First, large corporations.  We have the Phortune 500,
The Chief Executive Officers, Bellcore, IBM Syndicate,
SABRE (a computerized reservation service maintained
by airlines).  The common use of "Inc." is telling--
none of these groups are actual corporations,
but take clear delight in mimicking them.

Second, governments and police.  NASA Elite, NATO Association.
"Feds R Us" and "Secret Service" are fine bits of fleering boldness.
OSS--the Office of Strategic Services was the forerunner of the CIA.

Third, criminals.  Using stigmatizing pejoratives as a perverse
badge of honor is a time-honored tactic for subcultures:
punks, gangs, delinquents, mafias, pirates, bandits, racketeers.

Specialized orthography, especially the use of "ph" for "f"
and "z" for the plural "s," are instant recognition symbols.
So is the use of the numeral "0" for the letter "O"
--computer-software orthography generally features a
slash through the zero, making the distinction obvious.

Some terms are poetically descriptive of computer intrusion:
the Stowaways, the Hitchhikers, the PhoneLine Phantoms, Coast-to-Coast.
Others are simple bravado and vainglorious puffery.
(Note the insistent use of the terms "elite" and "master.")
Some terms are blasphemous, some obscene, others merely cryptic--
anything to puzzle, offend, confuse, and keep the straights at bay.

Many hacker groups further re-encrypt their names
by the use of acronyms:  United Technical Underground
becomes UTU, Farmers of Doom become FoD, the United SoftWareZ
Force becomes, at its own insistence, "TuSwF," and woe to the
ignorant rodent who capitalizes the wrong letters.

It should be further recognized that the members of these groups
are themselves pseudonymous.  If you did, in fact, run across
the "PhoneLine Phantoms," you would find them to consist of
"Carrier Culprit," "The Executioner," "Black Majik,"
"Egyptian Lover," "Solid State," and  "Mr Icom."
"Carrier Culprit" will likely be referred to by his friends
as "CC," as in, "I got these dialups from CC of PLP."  

It's quite possible that this entire list refers to as
few as a thousand people.  It is not a complete list
of underground groups--there has never been such a list,
and there never will be.  Groups rise, flourish, decline,
share membership, maintain a cloud of wannabes and
casual hangers-on.  People pass in and out, are ostracized,
get bored, are busted by police, or are cornered by telco
security and presented with huge bills.  Many "underground
groups" are software pirates, "warez d00dz," who might break
copy protection and pirate programs, but likely wouldn't dare
to intrude on a computer-system.

It is hard to estimate the true population of the digital
underground.  There is constant turnover.  Most hackers
start young, come and go, then drop out at age 22--
the age of college graduation.  And a large majority
of "hackers" access pirate boards, adopt a handle,
swipe software and perhaps abuse a phone-code or two,
while never actually joining the elite.

Some professional informants, who make it their business
to retail knowledge of the underground to paymasters in private
corporate security, have estimated the hacker population
at as high as fifty thousand.  This is likely highly inflated,
unless one counts every single teenage software pirate
and petty phone-booth thief.  My best guess is about 5,000 people.
Of these, I would guess that as few as a hundred are truly "elite"
--active computer intruders, skilled enough to penetrate
sophisticated systems and truly to worry corporate security
and law enforcement.

Another interesting speculation is whether this group
is growing or not.  Young teenage hackers are often
convinced that hackers exist in vast swarms and will soon
dominate the cybernetic universe.  Older and wiser
veterans, perhaps as wizened as 24 or 25 years old,
are convinced that the glory days are long gone, that the cops
have the underground's number now, and that kids these days
are dirt-stupid and just want to play Nintendo.

My own assessment is that computer intrusion, as a non-profit act
of intellectual exploration and mastery, is in slow decline,
at least in the United States; but that electronic fraud,
especially telecommunication crime, is growing by leaps and bounds.

One might find a useful parallel to the digital underground
in the drug  underground.  There was a time, now much-obscured
by historical revisionism, when Bohemians freely shared joints
at concerts, and hip, small-scale marijuana dealers might
turn people on just for the sake of enjoying a long stoned conversation
about the Doors and Allen Ginsberg.  Now drugs are increasingly verboten,
except in a high-stakes, highly-criminal world of highly addictive drugs.
Over years of disenchantment and police harassment, a vaguely ideological,
free-wheeling drug underground has relinquished the business of drug-dealing
to a  far more savage criminal hard-core.  This is not a pleasant prospect
to contemplate, but the analogy is fairly compelling.

What does an underground board look like?  What distinguishes
it from a standard board?  It isn't necessarily the conversation--
hackers often talk about common board topics, such as hardware, software,
sex, science fiction, current events, politics, movies, personal gossip.
Underground boards can best be distinguished by their files, or "philes,"
pre-composed texts which teach the techniques and ethos of the underground.
These are prized reservoirs of forbidden knowledge.  Some are anonymous,
but most proudly bear the handle of the "hacker" who has created them,
and his group affiliation, if he has one.

Here is a partial table-of-contents of philes from an underground board,
somewhere in the heart of middle America, circa 1991.  The descriptions
are mostly self-explanatory.

BANKAMER.ZIP    5406 06-11-91  Hacking Bank America
CHHACK.ZIP      4481 06-11-91  Chilton Hacking
CITIBANK.ZIP    4118 06-11-91  Hacking Citibank
CREDIMTC.ZIP    3241 06-11-91  Hacking Mtc Credit Company
DIGEST.ZIP      5159 06-11-91  Hackers Digest
HACK.ZIP       14031 06-11-91  How To Hack
HACKBAS.ZIP     5073 06-11-91  Basics Of Hacking
HACKDICT.ZIP   42774 06-11-91  Hackers Dictionary
HACKER.ZIP     57938 06-11-91  Hacker Info
HACKERME.ZIP    3148 06-11-91  Hackers Manual
HACKHAND.ZIP    4814 06-11-91  Hackers Handbook
HACKTHES.ZIP   48290 06-11-91  Hackers Thesis
HACKVMS.ZIP     4696 06-11-91  Hacking Vms Systems
MCDON.ZIP       3830 06-11-91  Hacking Macdonalds (Home Of The Archs)
P500UNIX.ZIP   15525 06-11-91  Phortune 500 Guide To Unix
RADHACK.ZIP     8411 06-11-91  Radio Hacking
TAOTRASH.DOC    4096 12-25-89  Suggestions For Trashing
TECHHACK.ZIP    5063 06-11-91  Technical Hacking

The files above are do-it-yourself manuals about computer intrusion.
The above is only a small section of a much larger library of hacking
and phreaking techniques and history.  We now move into a different
and perhaps surprising area.


ANARC.ZIP       3641 06-11-91  Anarchy Files
ANARCHST.ZIP   63703 06-11-91  Anarchist Book
ANARCHY.ZIP     2076 06-11-91  Anarchy At Home
ANARCHY3.ZIP    6982 06-11-91  Anarchy No 3
ANARCTOY.ZIP    2361 06-11-91  Anarchy Toys
ANTIMODM.ZIP    2877 06-11-91  Anti-modem Weapons
ATOM.ZIP        4494 06-11-91  How To Make An Atom Bomb
BARBITUA.ZIP    3982 06-11-91  Barbiturate Formula
BLCKPWDR.ZIP    2810 06-11-91  Black Powder Formulas
BOMB.ZIP        3765 06-11-91  How To Make Bombs
BOOM.ZIP        2036 06-11-91  Things That Go Boom
CHLORINE.ZIP    1926 06-11-91  Chlorine Bomb
COOKBOOK.ZIP    1500 06-11-91  Anarchy Cook Book
DESTROY.ZIP     3947 06-11-91  Destroy Stuff
DUSTBOMB.ZIP    2576 06-11-91  Dust Bomb
ELECTERR.ZIP    3230 06-11-91  Electronic Terror
EXPLOS1.ZIP     2598 06-11-91  Explosives 1
EXPLOSIV.ZIP   18051 06-11-91  More Explosives
EZSTEAL.ZIP     4521 06-11-91  Ez-stealing
FLAME.ZIP       2240 06-11-91  Flame Thrower
FLASHLT.ZIP     2533 06-11-91  Flashlight Bomb
FMBUG.ZIP       2906 06-11-91  How To Make An Fm Bug
OMEEXPL.ZIP     2139 06-11-91  Home Explosives
HOW2BRK.ZIP     3332 06-11-91  How To Break In
LETTER.ZIP      2990 06-11-91  Letter Bomb
LOCK.ZIP        2199 06-11-91  How To Pick Locks
MRSHIN.ZIP      3991 06-11-91  Briefcase Locks
NAPALM.ZIP      3563 06-11-91  Napalm At Home
NITRO.ZIP       3158 06-11-91  Fun With Nitro
PARAMIL.ZIP     2962 06-11-91  Paramilitary Info
PICKING.ZIP     3398 06-11-91  Picking Locks
PIPEBOMB.ZIP    2137 06-11-91  Pipe Bomb
POTASS.ZIP      3987 06-11-91  Formulas With Potassium
PRANK.TXT      11074 08-03-90  More Pranks To Pull On Idiots!
REVENGE.ZIP     4447 06-11-91  Revenge Tactics
ROCKET.ZIP      2590 06-11-91  Rockets For Fun
SMUGGLE.ZIP     3385 06-11-91  How To Smuggle

HOLY COW!  The damned thing is full of stuff about bombs!

What are we to make of this?

First, it should be acknowledged that spreading
knowledge about demolitions to teenagers is a highly and
deliberately antisocial act.  It is not, however, illegal.

Second, it should be recognized that most of these
philes were in fact WRITTEN by teenagers.  Most adult
American males who can remember their teenage years
will recognize that the notion of building a flamethrower
in your garage is an incredibly neat-o idea.  ACTUALLY,
building a flamethrower in your garage, however, is
fraught with discouraging difficulty.  Stuffing gunpowder
into a booby-trapped flashlight, so as to blow the arm off
your high-school vice-principal, can be a thing of dark
beauty to contemplate.  Actually committing assault by
explosives  will earn you the sustained attention of the
federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

Some people, however, will actually try these plans.
A determinedly murderous American teenager can probably
buy or steal a handgun far more easily than he can brew
fake "napalm" in the kitchen sink.  Nevertheless,
if temptation is spread before people, a certain number
will succumb, and a small minority will actually attempt
these stunts.  A large minority of that small minority
will either fail or, quite likely, maim themselves,
since these "philes" have not been checked for accuracy,
are not the product of professional experience,
and are often highly fanciful.  But the gloating menace
of these philes is not to be entirely dismissed.

Hackers may not be "serious" about bombing; if they were,
we would hear far more about exploding flashlights, homemade bazookas,
and gym teachers poisoned by chlorine and potassium.
However, hackers are VERY serious about forbidden knowledge.
They are possessed not merely by curiosity, but by
a positive LUST TO KNOW. The desire to know what
others don't is scarcely new.  But the INTENSITY
of this desire, as manifested by these young technophilic
denizens of the Information Age, may in fact BE new,
and may represent some basic shift in social values--
a harbinger of what the world may come to, as society
lays more and more value on the possession,
assimilation and retailing of INFORMATION
as a basic commodity of daily life.

There have always been young men with obsessive interests
in these topics.  Never before, however, have they been able
to network so extensively and easily, and to propagandize
their interests with impunity to random passers-by.
High-school teachers will recognize that there's always
one in a crowd, but when the one in a crowd escapes control
by jumping into the phone-lines, and becomes a hundred such kids
all together on a board, then trouble is brewing visibly.
The urge of authority to DO SOMETHING, even something drastic,
is hard to resist. And in 1990, authority did something.
In fact authority did a great deal.