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help him out? Sure, no problem. They had shared an inexpensive motel

room in Sale, paid for by Gill.

Being so close to Christmas, Stuart told Craig he had brought him two

presents. Craig opened the first--a John Travolta fitness book. When

Craig opened the second gift, he was a little stunned. It was a red

G-string for men. Craig didn't have a girlfriend at the time--perhaps

Stuart was trying to help him get one.

`Oh, ah, thanks,' Craig said, a bit confused.

`Glad you like it,' Stuart said. `Go on. Try it on.'

`Try it on?' Craig was now very confused.

`Yeah, mate, you know, to see if it fits. That's all.'

`Oh, um, right.'

Craig hesitated. He didn't want to seem rude. It was a weird request,

but never having been given a G-string before, he didn't know the

normal protocol. After all, when someone gives you a jumper, it's

normal for them to ask you to try it on, then and there, to see if it

fits.


Craig tried it on. Quickly.

`Yes, seems to fit,' Stuart said matter of factly, then turned away.

Craig felt relieved. He changed back into his clothing.

That night, and on many others during their trips or during Craig's

overnight visits to Stuart's uncle's house, Craig lay in bed wondering

about his secretive new friend.

Stuart was definitely a little weird, but he seemed to like women so

Craig figured he couldn't be interested in Craig that way. Stuart

bragged that he had a very close relationship with a female newspaper

reporter, and he always seemed to be chatting up the girl at the video

store.

Craig tried not to read too much into Stuart's odd behaviour, for the



young man was willing to forgive his friend's eccentricities just to

be part of the action. Soon Stuart asked Craig for access to

PI--unrestricted access.

The idea made Craig uncomfortable, but Stuart was so persuasive. How

would he be able to continue his vital intelligence work without

access to Victoria's most important hacking board? Besides, Stuart

Gill of Hackwatch wasn't after innocent-faced hackers like Craig

Bowen. In fact, he would protect Bowen when the police came down on

everyone. What Stuart really wanted was the carders--the fraudsters.

Craig didn't want to protect people like that, did he?

Craig found it a little odd, as usual, that Stuart seemed to be after

the carders, yet he had chummed up with Ivan Trotsky. Still, there

were no doubt secrets Stuart couldn't reveal--things he wasn't allowed

to explain because of his intelligence work.

Craig agreed.

What Craig couldn't have known as he pondered Stuart Gill from the

safety of his boyish bedroom was exactly how much innocence the

underground was still to lose. If he had foreseen the next few

years--the police raids, the Ombudsman's investigation, the stream of

newspaper articles and the court cases--Craig Bowen would, at that

very moment, probably have reached over and turned off his beloved PI

and Zen forever.

_________________________________________________________________
Chapter 3 -- The American Connection

_________________________________________________________________

US forces give the nod

It's a setback for your country

-- from `US Forces', on 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 by Midnight Oil1

Force had a secret. The Parmaster wanted it.

Like most hackers, The Parmaster didn't just want the secret, he

needed it. He was in that peculiar state attained by real hackers

where they will do just about anything to obtain a certain piece of

information. He was obsessed.

Of course, it wasn't the first time The Parmaster craved a juicy piece

of information. Both he and Force knew all about infatuation. That's

how it worked with real hackers. They didn't just fancy a titbit here

and there. Once they knew information about a particular system was

available, that there was a hidden entrance, they chased it down

relentlessly. So that was exactly what Par was doing. Chasing Force

endlessly, until he got what he wanted.

It began innocently enough as idle conversation between two giants in

the computer underground in the first half of 1988. Force, the

well-known Australian hacker who ran the exclusive Realm BBS in

Melbourne, sat chatting with Par, the American master of X.25

networks, in Germany. Neither of them was physically in Germany, but

Altos was.

Altos Computer Systems in Hamburg ran a conference feature called

Altos Chat on one of its machines. You could call up from anywhere on

the X.25 data communications network, and the company's computer would

let you connect. Once connected, with a few brief keystrokes, the

German machine would drop you into a real-time, on-screen talk session

with anyone else who happened to be on-line. While the rest of the

company's computer system grunted and toiled with everyday labours,

this corner of the machine was reserved for live on-line chatting. For

free. It was like an early form of the Internet Relay Chat. The

company probably hadn't meant to become the world's most prestigious

hacker hang-out, but it soon ended up doing so.

Altos was the first significant international live chat channel, and

for most hackers it was an amazing thing. The good hackers had cruised

through lots of computer networks around the world. Sometimes they

bumped into one another on-line and exchanged the latest gossip.

Occasionally, they logged into overseas BBSes, where they posted

messages. But Altos was different. While underground BBSes had a

tendency to simply disappear one day, gone forever, Altos was always

there. It was live. Instantaneous communications with a dozen other

hackers from all sorts of exotic places. Italy. Canada. France.

England. Israel. The US. And all these people not only shared an

interest in computer networks but also a flagrant contempt for

authority of any type. Instant, real-time penpals--with attitude.

However, Altos was more exclusive than the average underground BBS.

Wanna-be hackers had trouble getting into it because of the way X.25

networks were billed. Some systems on the network took reverse-charge

connections--like a 1-800 number--and some, including Altos, didn't.

To get to Altos you needed a company's NUI (Network User Identifier),

which was like a calling card number for the X.25 network, used to

bill your time on-line. Or you had to have access to a system like

Minerva which automatically accepted billing for all the connections

made.

X.25 networks are different in various ways from the Internet, which



developed later. X.25 networks use different communication protocols

and, unlike the Internet at the user-level, they only use addresses

containing numbers not letters. Each packet of information travelling

over a data network needs to be encased in a particular type of

envelope. A `letter' sent across the X.25 network needs an X.25

`stamped' envelope, not an Internet `stamped' envelope.

The X.25 networks were controlled by a few very large players,

companies such as Telenet and Tymnet, while the modern Internet is, by

contrast, a fragmented collection of many small and medium-sized

sites.


Altos unified the international hacking world as nothing else had

done. In sharing information about their own countries' computers and

networks, hackers helped each other venture further and further

abroad. The Australians had gained quite a reputation on Altos. They

knew their stuff. More importantly, they possessed DEFCON, a program

which mapped out uncharted networks and scanned for accounts on

systems within them. Force wrote DEFCON based on a simple automatic

scanning program provided by his friend and mentor, Craig Bowen

(Thunderbird1).

Like the telephone system, the X.25 networks had a large number of

`phone numbers', called network user addresses (NUAs). Most were not

valid. They simply hadn't been assigned to anyone yet. To break into

computers on the network, you had to find them first, which meant

either hearing about a particular system from a fellow hacker or

scanning. Scanning--typing in one possible address after another--was

worse than looking for a needle in a haystack. 02624-589004-0004. Then

increasing the last digit by one on each attempt. 0005. 0006. 0007.

Until you hit a machine at the other end.

Back in 1987 or early 1988, Force had logged into Pacific Island for a

talk with Craig Bowen. Force bemoaned the tediousness of hand

scanning.

`Well, why the hell are you doing it manually?' Bowen responded. `You

should just use my program.' He then gave Force the source code for

his simple automated scanning program, along with instructions.

Force went through the program and decided it would serve as a good

launchpad for bigger things, but it had a major limitation. The

program could only handle one connection at a time, which meant it

could only scan one branch of a network at a time.

Less than three months later, Force had rewritten Bowen's program into

the far more powerful DEFCON, which became the jewel in the crown of

the Australian hackers' reputation. With DEFCON, a hacker could

automatically scan fifteen or twenty network addresses simultaneously.

He could command the computer to map out pieces of the Belgian,

British and Greek X.25 communications networks, looking for computers

hanging off the networks like buds at the tips of tree branches.

Conceptually, the difference was a little like using a basic PC, which

can only run one program at a time, as opposed to operating a more

sophisticated one where you can open many windows with different

programs running all at once. Even though you might only be working in

one window, say, writing a letter, the computer might be doing

calculations in a spreadsheet in another window in the background. You

can swap between

different functions, which are all running in the background

simultaneously.

While DEFCON was busy scanning, Force could do other things, such as

talk on Altos. He continued improving DEFCON, writing up to four more

versions of the program. Before long, DEFCON didn't just scan twenty

different connections at one time; it also automatically tried to

break into all the computers it found through those connections.

Though the program only tried basic default passwords, it had a fair

degree of success, since it could attack so many network addresses at

once. Further, new sites and mini-networks were being added so quickly

that security often fell by the wayside in the rush to join in. Since

the addresses were unpublished, companies often felt this obscurity

offered enough protection.

DEFCON produced lists of thousands of computer sites to raid. Force

would leave it scanning from a hacked Prime computer, and a day or two

later he would have an output file with 6000 addresses on different

networks. He perused the list and selected sites which caught his

attention. If his program had discovered an interesting address, he

would travel over the X.25 network to the site and then try to break

into the computer at that address. Alternatively, DEFCON might have

already successfully penetrated the machine using a default password,

in which case the address, account name and password would all be

waiting for Force in the log file. He could just walk right in.

Everyone on Altos wanted DEFCON, but Force refused to hand over the

program. No way was he going to have other hackers tearing up virgin

networks. Not even Erik Bloodaxe, one of the leaders of the most

prestigious American hacking group, Legion of Doom (LOD), got DEFCON

when he asked for it. Erik took his handle from the name of a Viking

king who ruled over the area now known as York, England. Although Erik

was on friendly terms with the Australian hackers, Force remained

adamant. He would not let the jewel out of his hands.

But on this fateful day in 1988, Par didn't want DEFCON. He wanted the

secret Force had just discovered, but held so very close to his chest.

And the Australian didn't want to give it to him.

Force was a meticulous hacker. His bedroom was remarkably tidy, for a

hacker's room. It had a polished, spartan quality. There were a few

well-placed pieces of minimalist furniture:

a black enamel metal single bed, a modern black bedside

table and a single picture on the wall--a photographic poster of

lightning, framed in glass. The largest piece of furniture was a

blue-grey desk with a return, upon which sat his computer, a printer

and an immaculate pile of print-outs. The bookcase, a tall modern

piece matching the rest of the furniture, contained an extensive

collection of fantasy fiction books, including what seemed to be

almost everything ever written by David Eddings. The lower shelves

housed assorted chemistry and programming books. A chemistry award

proudly jutted out from the shelf housing a few Dungeons and Dragons

books.


He kept his hacking notes in an orderly set of plastic folders, all

filed in the bottom of his bookcase. Each page of notes, neatly

printed and surrounded by small, tidy handwriting revealing updates

and minor corrections, had its own plastic cover to prevent smudges or

stains.

Force thought it was inefficient to hand out his DEFCON program and



have ten people scan the same network ten different times. It wasted

time and resources. Further, it was becoming harder to get access to

the main X.25 sites in Australia, like Minerva. Scanning was the type

of activity likely to draw the attention of a system admin and result

in the account being killed. The more people who scanned, the more

accounts would be killed, and the less access the Australian hackers

would have. So Force refused to hand over DEFCON to hackers outside

The Realm, which is one thing that made it such a powerful group.

Scanning with DEFCON meant using Netlink, a program which legitimate

users didn't often employ. In his hunt for hackers, an admin might

look for people running Netlink, or he might just examine which

systems a user was connecting to. For example, if a hacker connected

directly to Altos from Minerva without hopping through a respectable

midpoint, such as another corporate machine overseas, he could count

on the Minerva admins killing off the account.

DEFCON was revolutionary for its time, and difficult to reproduce. It

was written for Prime computers, and not many hackers knew how to

write programs for Primes. In fact, it was exceedingly difficult for

most hackers to learn programming of any sort for large, commercial

machines. Getting the system engineering manuals was tough work and

many of the large companies guarded their manuals almost as trade

secrets. Sure, if you bought a $100000 system, the company would give

you a few sets of operating manuals, but that was well beyond the

reach of a teenage hacker. In general, information was hoarded--by the

computer manufacturers, by the big companies which bought the systems,

by the system administrators and even by the universities.

Learning on-line was slow and almost as difficult. Most hackers used

300 or 1200 baud modems. Virtually all access to these big, expensive

machines was illegal. Every moment on-line was a risky proposition.

High schools never had these sorts of expensive machines. Although

many universities had systems, the administrators were usually miserly

with time on-line for students. In most cases, students only got

accounts on the big machines in their second year of computer science

studies. Even then, student accounts were invariably on the

university's oldest, clunkiest machine. And if you weren't a comp-sci

student, forget it. Indulging your intellectual curiosity in VMS

systems would never be anything more than a pipe dream.

Even if you did manage to overcome all the roadblocks and develop some

programming experience in VMS systems, for example, you might only be

able to access a small number of machines on any given network. The

X.25 networks connected a large number of machines which used very

different operating systems. Many, such as Primes, were not in the

least bit intuitive. So if you knew VMS and you hit a Prime machine,

well, that was pretty much it.

Unless, of course, you happened to belong to a clan of hackers like

The Realm. Then you could call up the BBS and post a message. `Hey, I

found a really cool Primos system at this address. Ran into problems

trying to figure the parameters of the Netlink command. Ideas anyone?'

And someone from your team would step forward to help.

In The Realm, Force tried to assemble a diverse group of Australia's

best hackers, each with a different area of expertise. And he happened

to be the resident expert in Prime computers.

Although Force wouldn't give DEFCON to anyone outside The Realm, he

wasn't unreasonable. If you weren't in the system but you had an

interesting network you wanted mapped, he would scan it for you. Force

referred to scans for network user addresses as `NUA sprints'. He

would give you a copy of the NUA sprint. While he was at it, he would

also keep a copy for The Realm. That was efficient. Force's pet

project was creating a database of systems and networks for The Realm,

so he simply added the new information to its database.

Force's great passion was mapping new networks, and new mini-networks

were being added to the main X.25 networks all the time. A large

corporation, such a BHP, might set up its own small-scale network

connecting its offices in Western Australia, Queensland, Victoria and

the United Kingdom. That mini-network might be attached to a

particular X.25 network, such as Austpac. Get into the Austpac network

and chances were you could get into any of the company's sites.

Exploration of all this uncharted territory consumed most of Force's

time. There was something cutting-edge, something truly adventurous

about finding a new network and carefully piecing together a picture

of what the expanding web looked like. He drew detailed pictures and

diagrams showing how a new part of the network connected to the rest.

Perhaps it appealed to his sense of order, or maybe he was just an

adventurer at heart. Whatever the underlying motivation, the maps

provided The Realm with yet another highly prized asset.

When he wasn't mapping networks, Force published Australia's first

underground hacking journal, Globetrotter. Widely read in the

international hacking community, Globetrotter reaffirmed Australian

hackers' pre-eminent position in the international underground.

But on this particular day, Par wasn't thinking about getting a copy

of Globetrotter or asking Force to scan a network for him. He was

thinking about that secret. Force's new secret. The secret Parmaster

desperately wanted.

Force had been using DEFCON to scan half a dozen networks while he

chatted to Par on Altos. He found an interesting connection from the

scan, so he went off to investigate it. When he connected to the

unknown computer, it started firing off strings of numbers at Force's

machine. Force sat at his desk and watched the characters rush by on

his screen.

It was very odd. He hadn't done anything. He hadn't sent any commands

to the mystery computer. He hadn't made the slightest attempt to break

into the machine. Yet here the thing was throwing streams of numbers.

What kind of computer was this? There might have been some sort of

header which would identify the computer, but it had zoomed by so fast

in the unexpected data dump that Force had missed it.

Force flipped over to his chat with Par on Altos. He didn't completely

trust Par, thinking the friendly American sailed a bit close to the

wind. But Par was an expert in X.25 networks and was bound to have

some clue about these numbers. Besides, if they turned out to be

something sensitive, Force didn't have to tell Par where he found

them.

`I've just found a bizarre address. It is one strange system. When I



connected, it just started shooting off numbers at me. Check these

out.'


Force didn't know what the numbers were, but Par sure did. `Those look

like credit cards,' he typed back.

`Oh.' Force went quiet.

Par thought the normally chatty Australian hacker seemed astonished.

After a short silence, the now curious Par nudged the conversation

forward. `I have a way I can check out whether they really are valid

cards,' he volunteered. `It'll take some time, but I should be able to

do it and get back to you.'

`Yes.' Force seemed hesitant. `OK.'

On the other side of the Pacific from Par, Force thought about this

turn of events. If they were valid credit cards, that was very cool.

Not because he intended to use them for credit card fraud in the way

Ivan Trotsky might have done. But Force could use them for making

long-distance phone calls to hack overseas. And the sheer number of

cards was astonishing. Thousand and thousands of them. Maybe 10000.

All he could think was, Shit! Free connections for the rest of my

life.

Hackers such as Force considered using cards to call overseas computer



systems a little distasteful, but certainly acceptable. The card owner

would never end up paying the bill anyway. The hackers figured that

Telecom, which they despised, would probably have to wear the cost in

the end, and that was fine by them. Using cards to hack was nothing

like ordering consumer goods. That was real credit card fraud. And

Force would never sully his hands with that sort of behaviour.

Force scrolled back over his capture of the numbers which had been

injected into his machine. After closer inspection, he saw there were

headers which appeared periodically through the list. One said,

`CitiSaudi'.

He checked the prefix of the mystery machine's network address again.

He knew from previous scans that it belonged to one of the world's

largest banks. Citibank.

The data dump continued for almost three hours. After that, the

Citibank machine seemed to go dead. Force saw nothing but a blank

screen, but he kept the connection open. There was no way he was going

to hang up from this conversation. He figured this had to be a freak


Directory: ~suelette -> underground

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