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Hacker Crackdown Part 2

It only took four seconds for a switch to get well. There was no PHYSICAL damage of any kind to the switches, after all. Physically, they were working perfectly. This situation was "only" a software problem.

But the 4ESS switches were leaping up and down every four to six seconds, in a virulent spreading wave all over America, in utter, manic, mechanical stupidity. They kept KNOCKING one another down with their contagious "OK" messages.

It took about ten minutes for the chain reaction to cripple the network. Even then, switches would periodically luck-out and manage to resume their normal work. Many calls-- millions of them--were managing to get through. But millions weren't.

The switching stations that used System 6 were not directly affected. Thanks to these old-fashioned switches, AT&T's national system avoided complete collapse. This fact also made it clear to engineers that System 7 was at fault.

Bell Labs engineers, working feverishly in New Jersey, Illinois, and Ohio, first tried their entire repertoire of standard network remedies on the malfunctioning System 7. None of the remedies worked, of course, because nothing like this had ever happened to any phone system before.

By cutting out the backup safety network entirely, they were able to reduce the frenzy of "OK" messages by about half. The system then began to recover, as the chain reaction slowed. By 11:30 pm on Monday January 15, sweating engineers on the midnight shift breathed a sigh of relief as the last switch cleared-up.

By Tuesday they were pulling all the brand-new 4ESS software and replacing it with an earlier version of System 7.

If these had been human operators, rather than computers at work, someone would simply have eventually stopped screaming. It would have been OBVIOUS that the situation was not "OK," and common sense would have kicked in. Humans possess common sense --at least to some extent. Computers simply don't.

On the other hand, computers can handle hundreds of calls per second. Humans simply can't. If every single human being in America worked for the phone company, we couldn't match the performance of digital switches: direct-dialling, three-way calling, speed-calling, call-waiting, Caller ID, all the rest of the cornucopia of digital bounty. Replacing computers with operators is simply not an option any more.

And yet we still, anachronistically, expect humans to be running our phone system. It is hard for us to understand that we have sacrificed huge amounts of initiative and control to senseless yet powerful machines. When the phones fail, we want somebody to be responsible. We want somebody to blame.

When the Crash of January 15 happened, the American populace was simply not prepared to understand that enormous landslides in cyberspace, like the Crash itself, can happen, and can be nobody's fault in particular. It was easier to believe, maybe even in some odd way more reassuring to believe, that some evil person, or evil group, had done this to us. "Hackers" had done it. With a virus. A trojan horse. A software bomb. A dirty plot of some kind. People believed this, responsible people. In 1990, they were looking hard for evidence to confirm their heartfelt suspicions.

And they would look in a lot of places.

Come 1991, however, the outlines of an apparent new reality would begin to emerge from the fog.

On July 1 and 2, 1991, computer-software collapses in telephone switching stations disrupted service in Washington DC, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Once again, seemingly minor maintenance problems had crippled the digital System 7. About twelve million people were affected in the Crash of July 1, 1991.

Said the New York Times Service: "Telephone company executives and federal regulators said they were not ruling out the possibility of sabotage by computer hackers, but most seemed to think the problems stemmed from some unknown defect in the software running the networks."

And sure enough, within the week, a red-faced software company, DSC Communications Corporation of Plano, Texas, owned up to "glitches" in the "signal transfer point" software that DSC had designed for Bell Atlantic and Pacific Bell. The immediate cause of the July 1 Crash was a single mistyped character: one tiny typographical flaw in one single line of the software. One mistyped letter, in one single line, had deprived the nation's capital of phone service. It was not particularly surprising that this tiny flaw had escaped attention: a typical System 7 station requires TEN MILLION lines of code.

On Tuesday, September 17, 1991, came the most spectacular outage yet. This case had nothing to do with software failures-- at least, not directly. Instead, a group of AT&T's switching stations in New York City had simply run out of electrical power and shut down cold. Their back-up batteries had failed. Automatic warning systems were supposed to warn of the loss of battery power, but those automatic systems had failed as well.

This time, Kennedy, La Guardia, and Newark airports all had their voice and data communications cut. This horrifying event was particularly ironic, as attacks on airport computers by hackers had long been a standard nightmare scenario, much trumpeted by computer-security experts who feared the computer underground. There had even been a Hollywood thriller about sinister hackers ruining airport computers--DIE HARD II. Now AT&T itself had crippled airports with computer malfunctions--not just one airport, but three at once, some of the busiest in the world.

Air traffic came to a standstill throughout the Greater New York area, causing more than 500 flights to be cancelled, in a spreading wave all over America and even into Europe. Another 500 or so flights were delayed, affecting, all in all, about 85,000 passengers. (One of these passengers was the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.) Stranded passengers in New York and New Jersey were further infuriated to discover that they could not even manage to make a long distance phone call, to explain their delay to loved ones or business associates. Thanks to the crash, about four and a half million domestic calls, and half a million international calls, failed to get through.

The September 17 NYC Crash, unlike the previous ones, involved not a whisper of "hacker" misdeeds. On the contrary, by 1991, AT&T itself was suffering much of the vilification that had formerly been directed at hackers. Congressmen were grumbling. So were state and federal regulators. And so was the press.

For their part, ancient rival MCI took out snide full- page newspaper ads in New York, offering their own long-distance services for the "next time that AT&T goes down."

"You wouldn't find a classy company like AT&T using such advertising," protested AT&T Chairman Robert Allen, unconvincingly. Once again, out came the full-page AT&T apologies in newspapers, apologies for "an inexcusable culmination of both human and mechanical failure." (This time, however, AT&T offered no discount on later calls. Unkind critics suggested that AT&T were worried about setting any precedent for refunding the financial losses caused by telephone crashes.) Industry journals asked publicly if AT&T was "asleep at the switch." The telephone network, America's purported marvel of high-tech reliability, had gone down three times in 18 months. FORTUNE magazine listed the Crash of September 17 among the "Biggest Business Goofs of 1991," cruelly parodying AT&T's ad campaign in an article entitled "AT&T Wants You Back (Safely On the Ground, God Willing)."

Why had those New York switching systems simply run out of power? Because no human being had attended to the alarm system. Why did the alarm systems blare automatically, without any human being noticing? Because the three telco technicians who SHOULD have been listening were absent from their stations in the power-room, on another floor of the building--attending a training class. A training class about the alarm systems for the power room!

"Crashing the System" was no longer "unprecedented" by late 1991. On the contrary, it no longer even seemed an oddity. By 1991, it was clear that all the policemen in the world could no longer "protect" the phone system from crashes. By far the worst crashes the system had ever had, had been inflicted, by the system, upon ITSELF. And this time nobody was making cocksure statements that this was an anomaly, something that would never happen again. By 1991 the System's defenders had met their nebulous Enemy, and the Enemy was--the System.

PART TWO: THE DIGITAL UNDERGROUND.

The date was May 9, 1990. The Pope was touring Mexico City. Hustlers from the Medellin Cartel were trying to buy black-market Stinger missiles in Florida. On the comics page, Doonesbury character Andy was dying of AIDS. And then.... a highly unusual item whose novelty and calculated rhetoric won it headscratching attention in newspapers all over America.

The US Attorney's office in Phoenix, Arizona, had issued a press release announcing a nationwide law enforcement crackdown against "illegal computer hacking activities." The sweep was officially known as "Operation Sundevil."

Eight paragraphs in the press release gave the bare facts: twenty-seven search warrants carried out on May 8, with three arrests, and a hundred and fifty agents on the prowl in "twelve" cities across America. (Different counts in local press reports yielded "thirteen," "fourteen," and "sixteen" cities.) Officials estimated that criminal losses of revenue to telephone companies "may run into millions of dollars." Credit for the Sundevil investigations was taken by the US Secret Service, Assistant US Attorney Tim Holtzen of Phoenix, and the Assistant Attorney General of Arizona, Gail Thackeray.

The prepared remarks of Garry M. Jenkins, appearing in a U.S. Department of Justice press release, were of particular interest. Mr. Jenkins was the Assistant Director of the US Secret Service, and the highest-ranking federal official to take any direct public role in the hacker crackdown of 1990.

"Today, the Secret Service is sending a clear message to those computer hackers who have decided to violate the laws of this nation in the mistaken belief that they can successfully avoid detection by hiding behind the relative anonymity of their computer terminals.(...) "Underground groups have been formed for the purpose of exchanging information relevant to their criminal activities. These groups often communicate with each other through message systems between computers called 'bulletin boards.'

"Our experience shows that many computer hacker suspects are no longer misguided teenagers, mischievously playing games with their computers in their bedrooms. Some are now high tech computer operators using computers to engage in unlawful conduct."

Who were these "underground groups" and "high-tech operators?" Where had they come from? What did they want? Who WERE they? Were they "mischievous?" Were they dangerous? How had "misguided teenagers" managed to alarm the United States Secret Service? And just how widespread was this sort of thing?

Of all the major players in the Hacker Crackdown: the phone companies, law enforcement, the civil libertarians, and the "hackers" themselves--the "hackers" are by far the most mysterious, by far the hardest to understand, by far the WEIRDEST.

Not only are "hackers" novel in their activities, but they come in a variety of odd subcultures, with a variety of languages, motives and values.

The earliest proto-hackers were probably those unsung mischievous telegraph boys who were summarily fired by the Bell Company in 1878.

Legitimate "hackers," those computer enthusiasts who are independent-minded but law-abiding, generally trace their spiritual ancestry to elite technical universities, especially M.I.T. and Stanford, in the 1960s.

But the genuine roots of the modern hacker UNDERGROUND can probably be traced most successfully to a now much-obscured hippie anarchist movement known as the Yippies. The Yippies, who took their name from the largely fictional "Youth International Party," carried out a loud and lively policy of surrealistic subversion and outrageous political mischief. Their basic tenets were flagrant sexual promiscuity, open and copious drug use, the political overthrow of any powermonger over thirty years of age, and an immediate end to the war in Vietnam, by any means necessary, including the psychic levitation of the Pentagon.

The two most visible Yippies were Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin. Rubin eventually became a Wall Street broker. Hoffman, ardently sought by federal authorities, went into hiding for seven years, in Mexico, France, and the United States. While on the lam, Hoffman continued to write and publish, with help from sympathizers in the American anarcho-leftist underground. Mostly, Hoffman survived through false ID and odd jobs. Eventually he underwent facial plastic surgery and adopted an entirely new identity as one "Barry Freed." After surrendering himself to authorities in 1980, Hoffman spent a year in prison on a cocaine conviction.

Hoffman's worldview grew much darker as the glory days of the 1960s faded. In 1989, he purportedly committed suicide, under odd and, to some, rather suspicious circumstances.

Abbie Hoffman is said to have caused the Federal Bureau of Investigation to amass the single largest investigation file ever opened on an individual American citizen. (If this is true, it is still questionable whether the FBI regarded Abbie Hoffman a serious public threat--quite possibly, his file was enormous simply because Hoffman left colorful legendry wherever he went). He was a gifted publicist, who regarded electronic media as both playground and weapon. He actively enjoyed manipulating network TV and other gullible, image-hungry media, with various weird lies, mindboggling rumors, impersonation scams, and other sinister distortions, all absolutely guaranteed to upset cops, Presidential candidates, and federal judges. Hoffman's most famous work was a book self-reflexively known as STEAL THIS BOOK, which publicized a number of methods by which young, penniless hippie agitators might live off the fat of a system supported by humorless drones. STEAL THIS BOOK, whose title urged readers to damage the very means of distribution which had put it into their hands, might be described as a spiritual ancestor of a computer virus.

Hoffman, like many a later conspirator, made extensive use of pay-phones for his agitation work--in his case, generally through the use of cheap brass washers as coin-slugs.

During the Vietnam War, there was a federal surtax imposed on telephone service; Hoffman and his cohorts could, and did, argue that in systematically stealing phone service they were engaging in civil disobedience: virtuously denying tax funds to an illegal and immoral war.

But this thin veil of decency was soon dropped entirely. Ripping-off the System found its own justification in deep alienation and a basic outlaw contempt for conventional bourgeois values. Ingenious, vaguely politicized varieties of rip-off, which might be described as "anarchy by convenience," became very popular in Yippie circles, and because rip-off was so useful, it was to survive the Yippie movement itself.

In the early 1970s, it required fairly limited expertise and ingenuity to cheat payphones, to divert "free" electricity and gas service, or to rob vending machines and parking meters for handy pocket change. It also required a conspiracy to spread this knowledge, and the gall and nerve actually to commit petty theft, but the Yippies had these qualifications in plenty. In June 1971, Abbie Hoffman and a telephone enthusiast sarcastically known as "Al Bell" began publishing a newsletter called YOUTH INTERNATIONAL PARTY LINE. This newsletter was dedicated to collating and spreading Yippie rip-off techniques, especially of phones, to the joy of the freewheeling underground and the insensate rage of all straight people.

As a political tactic, phone-service theft ensured that Yippie advocates would always have ready access to the long- distance telephone as a medium, despite the Yippies' chronic lack of organization, discipline, money, or even a steady home address.

PARTY LINE was run out of Greenwich Village for a couple of years, then "Al Bell" more or less defected from the faltering ranks of Yippiedom, changing the newsletter's name to TAP or TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE PROGRAM. After the Vietnam War ended, the steam began leaking rapidly out of American radical dissent. But by this time, "Bell" and his dozen or so core contributors had the bit between their teeth, and had begun to derive tremendous gut-level satisfaction from the sensation of pure TECHNICAL POWER.

TAP articles, once highly politicized, became pitilessly jargonized and technical, in homage or parody to the Bell System's own technical documents, which TAP studied closely, gutted, and reproduced without permission. The TAP elite revelled in gloating possession of the specialized knowledge necessary to beat the system.

"Al Bell" dropped out of the game by the late 70s, and "Tom Edison" took over; TAP readers (some 1400 of them, all told) now began to show more interest in telex switches and the growing phenomenon of computer systems.

In 1983, "Tom Edison" had his computer stolen and his house set on fire by an arsonist. This was an eventually mortal blow to TAP (though the legendary name was to be resurrected in 1990 by a young Kentuckian computer-outlaw named "Predat0r.") Ever since telephones began to make money, there have been people willing to rob and defraud phone companies. The legions of petty phone thieves vastly outnumber those "phone phreaks" who "explore the system" for the sake of the intellectual challenge. The New York metropolitan area (long in the vanguard of American crime) claims over 150,000 physical attacks on pay telephones every year! Studied carefully, a modern payphone reveals itself as a little fortress, carefully designed and redesigned over generations, to resist coin-slugs, zaps of electricity, chunks of coin-shaped ice, prybars, magnets, lockpicks, blasting caps. Public pay-phones must survive in a world of unfriendly, greedy people, and a modern payphone is as exquisitely evolved as a cactus.

Because the phone network pre-dates the computer network, the scofflaws known as "phone phreaks" pre-date the scofflaws known as "computer hackers." In practice, today, the line between "phreaking" and "hacking" is very blurred, just as the distinction between telephones and computers has blurred. The phone system has been digitized, and computers have learned to "talk" over phone-lines. What's worse--and this was the point of the Mr. Jenkins of the Secret Service--some hackers have learned to steal, and some thieves have learned to hack.

Despite the blurring, one can still draw a few useful behavioral distinctions between "phreaks" and "hackers." Hackers are intensely interested in the "system" per se, and enjoy relating to machines. "Phreaks" are more social, manipulating the system in a rough-and-ready fashion in order to get through to other human beings, fast, cheap and under the table.

Phone phreaks love nothing so much as "bridges," illegal conference calls of ten or twelve chatting conspirators, seaboard to seaboard, lasting for many hours--and running, of course, on somebody else's tab, preferably a large corporation's.

As phone-phreak conferences wear on, people drop out (or simply leave the phone off the hook, while they sashay off to work or school or babysitting), and new people are phoned up and invited to join in, from some other continent, if possible. Technical trivia, boasts, brags, lies, head-trip deceptions, weird rumors, and cruel gossip are all freely exchanged.

The lowest rung of phone-phreaking is the theft of telephone access codes. Charging a phone call to somebody else's stolen number is, of course, a pig-easy way of stealing phone service, requiring practically no technical expertise. This practice has been very widespread, especially among lonely people without much money who are far from home. Code theft has flourished especially in college dorms, military bases, and, notoriously, among roadies for rock bands. Of late, code theft has spread very rapidly among Third Worlders in the US, who pile up enormous unpaid long-distance bills to the Caribbean, South America, and Pakistan.

The simplest way to steal phone-codes is simply to look over a victim's shoulder as he punches-in his own code-number on a public payphone. This technique is known as "shoulder- surfing," and is especially common in airports, bus terminals, and train stations. The code is then sold by the thief for a few dollars. The buyer abusing the code has no computer expertise, but calls his Mom in New York, Kingston or Caracas and runs up a huge bill with impunity. The losses from this primitive phreaking activity are far, far greater than the monetary losses caused by computer-intruding hackers.

In the mid-to-late 1980s, until the introduction of sterner telco security measures, COMPUTERIZED code theft worked like a charm, and was virtually omnipresent throughout the digital underground, among phreaks and hackers alike. This was accomplished through programming one's computer to try random code numbers over the telephone until one of them worked. Simple programs to do this were widely available in the underground; a computer running all night was likely to come up with a dozen or so useful hits. This could be repeated week after week until one had a large library of stolen codes.

Nowadays, the computerized dialling of hundreds of numbers can be detected within hours and swiftly traced. If a stolen code is repeatedly abused, this too can be detected within a few hours. But for years in the 1980s, the publication of stolen codes was a kind of elementary etiquette for fledgling hackers. The simplest way to establish your bona-fides as a raider was to steal a code through repeated random dialling and offer it to the "community" for use. Codes could be both stolen, and used, simply and easily from the safety of one's own bedroom, with very little fear of detection or punishment.

Before computers and their phone-line modems entered American homes in gigantic numbers, phone phreaks had their own special telecommunications hardware gadget, the famous "blue box." This fraud device (now rendered increasingly useless by the digital evolution of the phone system) could trick switching systems into granting free access to long-distance lines. It did this by mimicking the system's own signal, a tone of 2600 hertz.

Steven Jobs and Steve Wozniak, the founders of Apple Computer, Inc., once dabbled in selling blue-boxes in college dorms in California. For many, in the early days of phreaking, blue-boxing was scarcely perceived as "theft," but rather as a fun (if sneaky) way to use excess phone capacity harmlessly. After all, the long-distance lines were JUST SITTING THERE.... Whom did it hurt, really? If you're not DAMAGING the system, and you're not USING UP ANY TANGIBLE RESOURCE, and if nobody FIND OUT what you did, then what real harm have you done? What exactly HAVE you "stolen," anyway? If a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it, how much is the noise worth? Even now this remains a rather dicey question.

Blue-boxing was no joke to the phone companies, however. Indeed, when RAMPARTS magazine, a radical publication in California, printed the wiring schematics necessary to cr ng mail, gossipping, and linking to arcane and distant networks.

Boykin received no pay for running Killer. He considered it good publicity for the AT&T 3B2 system (whose sales were somewhat less than stellar), but he also simply enjoyed the vibrant community his skill had created. He gave away the bulletin-board UNIX software he had written, free of charge.

In the UNIX programming community, Charlie Boykin had the reputation of a warm, open-hearted, level-headed kind of guy. In 1989, a group of Texan UNIX professionals voted Boykin "System Administrator of the Year." He was considered a fellow you could trust for good advice.

In September 1988, without warning, the E911 Document came plunging into Boykin's life, forwarded by Richard Andrews. Boykin immediately recognized that the Document was hot property. He was not a voice-communications man, and knew little about the ins and outs of the Baby Bells, but he certainly knew what the 911 System was, and he was angry to see confidential data about it in the hands of a nogoodnik. This was clearly a matter for telco security. So, on September 21, 1988, Boykin made yet ANOTHER copy of the E911 Document and passed this one along to a professional acquaintance of his, one Jerome Dalton, from AT&T Corporate Information Security. Jerry Dalton was the very fellow who would later raid Terminus's house.

From AT&T's security division, the E911 Document went to Bellcore.

Bellcore (or BELL COmmunications REsearch) had once been the central laboratory of the Bell System. Bell Labs employees had invented the UNIX operating system. Now Bellcore was a quasi-independent, jointly owned company that acted as the research arm for all seven of the Baby Bell RBOCs. Bellcore was in a good position to co-ordinate security technology and consultation for the RBOCs, and the gentleman in charge of this effort was Henry M. Kluepfel, a veteran of the Bell System who had worked there for twenty-four years.

On October 13, 1988, Dalton passed the E911 Document to Henry Kluepfel. Kluepfel, a veteran expert witness in telecommunications fraud and computer-fraud cases, had certainly seen worse trouble than this. He recognized the document for what it was: a trophy from a hacker break-in.

However, whatever harm had been done in the intrusion was presumably old news. At this point there seemed little to be done. Kluepfel made a careful note of the circumstances and shelved the problem for the time being.

Whole months passed.

February 1989 arrived. The Atlanta Three were living it up in Bell South's switches, and had not yet met their comeuppance. The Legion was thriving. So was PHRACK magazine. A good six months had passed since Prophet's AIMSX break-in. Prophet, as hackers will, grew weary of sitting on his laurels. "Knight Lightning" and "Taran King," the editors of PHRACK, were always begging Prophet for material they could publish. Prophet decided that the heat must be off by this time, and that he could safely brag, boast, and strut.

So he sent a copy of the E911 Document--yet another one-- from Rich Andrews' Jolnet machine to Knight Lightning's BITnet account at the University of Missouri.

Let's review the fate of the document so far.

0. The original E911 Document. This in the AIMSX system on a mainframe computer in Atlanta, available to hundreds of people, but all of them, presumably, BellSouth employees. An unknown number of them may have their own copies of this document, but they are all professionals and all trusted by the phone company.

1. Prophet's illicit copy, at home on his own computer in Decatur, Georgia.

2. Prophet's back-up copy, stored on Rich Andrew's Jolnet machine in the basement of Rich Andrews' house near Joliet Illinois.

3. Charles Boykin's copy on "Killer" in Dallas, Texas, sent by Rich Andrews from Joliet.

4. Jerry Dalton's copy at AT&T Corporate Information Security in New Jersey, sent from Charles Boykin in Dallas.

5. Henry Kluepfel's copy at Bellcore security headquarters in New Jersey, sent by Dalton.

6. Knight Lightning's copy, sent by Prophet from Rich Andrews' machine, and now in Columbia, Missouri.

We can see that the "security" situation of this proprietary document, once dug out of AIMSX, swiftly became bizarre. Without any money changing hands, without any particular special effort, this data had been reproduced at least six times and had spread itself all over the continent. By far the worst, however, was yet to come.

In February 1989, Prophet and Knight Lightning bargained electronically over the fate of this trophy. Prophet wanted to boast, but, at the same time, scarcely wanted to be caught.

For his part, Knight Lightning was eager to publish as much of the document as he could manage. Knight Lightning was a fledgling political-science major with a particular interest in freedom-of-information issues. He would gladly publish most anything that would reflect glory on the prowess of the underground and embarrass the telcos. However, Knight Lightning himself had contacts in telco security, and sometimes consulted them on material he'd received that might be too dicey for publication.

Prophet and Knight Lightning decided to edit the E911 Document so as to delete most of its identifying traits. First of all, its large "NOT FOR USE OR DISCLOSURE" warning had to go. Then there were other matters. For instance, it listed the office telephone numbers of several BellSouth 911 specialists in Florida. If these phone numbers were published in PHRACK, the BellSouth employees involved would very likely be hassled by phone phreaks, which would anger BellSouth no end, and pose a definite operational hazard for both Prophet and PHRACK.

So Knight Lightning cut the Document almost in half, removing the phone numbers and some of the touchier and more specific information. He passed it back electronically to Prophet; Prophet was still nervous, so Knight Lightning cut a bit more. They finally agreed that it was ready to go, and that it would be published in PHRACK under the pseudonym, "The Eavesdropper."

And this was done on February 25, 1989.

The twenty-fourth issue of PHRACK featured a chatty interview with co-ed phone-phreak "Chanda Leir," three articles on BITNET and its links to other computer networks, an article on 800 and 900 numbers by "Unknown User," "VaxCat's" article on telco basics (slyly entitled "Lifting Ma Bell's Veil of Secrecy,)" and the usual "Phrack World News."

The News section, with painful irony, featured an extended account of the sentencing of "Shadowhawk," an eighteen- year-old Chicago hacker who had just been put in federal prison by William J. Cook himself.

And then there were the two articles by "The Eavesdropper." The first was the edited E911 Document, now titled "Control Office Administration Of Enhanced 911 Services for Special Services and Major Account Centers." Eavesdropper's second article was a glossary of terms explaining the blizzard of telco acronyms and buzzwords in the E911 Document.

The hapless document was now distributed, in the usual PHRACK routine, to a good one hundred and fifty sites. Not a hundred and fifty PEOPLE, mind you--a hundred and fifty SITES, some of these sites linked to UNIX nodes or bulletin board systems, which themselves had readerships of tens, dozens, even hundreds of people.

This was February 1989. Nothing happened immediately. Summer came, and the Atlanta crew were raided by the Secret Service. Fry Guy was apprehended. Still nothing whatever happened to PHRACK. Six more issues of PHRACK came out, 30 in all, more or less on a monthly schedule. Knight Lightning and co-editor Taran King went untouched.

PHRACK tended to duck and cover whenever the heat came down. During the summer busts of 1987--(hacker busts tended to cluster in summer, perhaps because hackers were easier to find at home than in college)--PHRACK had ceased publication for several months, and laid low. Several LoD hangers-on had been arrested, but nothing had happened to the PHRACK crew, the premiere gossips of the underground. In 1988, PHRACK had been taken over by a new editor, "Crimson Death," a raucous youngster with a taste for anarchy files.

1989, however, looked like a bounty year for the underground. Knight Lightning and his co-editor Taran King took up the reins again, and PHRACK flourished throughout 1989. Atlanta LoD went down hard in the summer of 1989, but PHRACK rolled merrily on. Prophet's E911 Document seemed unlikely to cause PHRACK any trouble. By January 1990, it had been available in PHRACK for almost a year. Kluepfel and Dalton, officers of Bellcore and AT&T security, had possessed the document for sixteen months--in fact, they'd had it even before Knight Lightning himself, and had done nothing in particular to stop its distribution. They hadn't even told Rich Andrews or Charles Boykin to erase the copies from their UNIX nodes, Jolnet and Killer.

But then came the monster Martin Luther King Day Crash of January 15, 1990.

A flat three days later, on January 18, four agents showed up at Knight Lightning's fraternity house. One was Timothy Foley, the second Barbara Golden, both of them Secret Service agents from the Chicago office. Also along was a University of Missouri security officer, and Reed Newlin, a security man from Southwestern Bell, the RBOC having jurisdiction over Missouri.

Foley accused Knight Lightning of causing the nationwide crash of the phone system.

Knight Lightning was aghast at this allegation. On the face of it, the suspicion was not entirely implausible--though Knight Lightning knew that he himself hadn't done it. Plenty of hot-dog hackers had bragged that they could crash the phone system, however. "Shadowhawk," for instance, the Chicago hacker whom William Cook had recently put in jail, had several times boasted on boards that he could "shut down AT&T's public switched network."

And now this event, or something that looked just like it, had actually taken place. The Crash had lit a fire under the Chicago Task Force. And the former fence-sitters at Bellcore and AT&T were now ready to roll. The consensus among telco security--already horrified by the skill of the BellSouth intruders--was that the digital underground was out of hand. LoD and PHRACK must go.

Chapter end

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