Suelette dreyfus julian assange

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connection--that he accidentally connected to this machine somehow,

that it wasn't really at the address he had tried based on the DEFCON

scan of Citibank's network.

How else could it have happened? Surely Citibank wouldn't have a

computer full of credit cards which spilled its guts every time

someone rang up to say `hello'? There would be tonnes of security on a

machine like that. This machine didn't even have a password. It didn't

even need a special character command, like a secret handshake.

Freak connections happened now and then on X.25

networks. They had the same effect as a missed voice phone

connection. You dial a friend's number--and you dial it correctly--but

somehow the call gets screwed up in the tangle of wires and exchanges

and your call gets put through to another number entirely. Of course,

once something like that happens to an X.25 hacker, he immediately

tries to figure out what the hell is going on, to search every shred

of data from the machine looking for the system's real address.

Because it was an accident, he suspects he will never find the machine


Force stayed home from school for two days to keep the connection

alive and to piece together how he landed on the doorstep of this

computer. During this time, the Citibank computer woke up a few times,

dumped a bit more information, and then went back to sleep. Keeping

the connection alive meant running a small risk of discovery by an

admin at his launch point, but the rewards in this case far exceeded

the risk.

It wasn't all that unusual for Force to skip school to hack. His

parents used to tell him, `You better stop it, or you'll have to wear

glasses one day'. Still, they didn't seem to worry too much, since

their son had always excelled in school without much effort. At the

start of his secondary school career he had tried to convince his

teachers he should skip year 9. Some objected. It was a hassle, but he

finally arranged it by quietly doing the coursework for year 9 while

he was in year 8.

After Force had finally disconnected from the CitiSaudi computer and

had a good sleep, he decided to check on whether he could reconnect to

the machine. At first, no-one answered, but when he tried a little

later, someone answered all right. And it was the same talkative

resident who answered the door the first time. Although it only seemed

to work at certain hours of the day, the Citibank network address was

the right one. He was in again.

As Force looked over the captures from his Citibank hack, he noticed

that the last section of the data dump didn't contain credit card

numbers like the first part. It had people's names--Middle Eastern

names--and a list of transactions. Dinner at a restaurant. A visit to

a brothel. All sorts of transactions. There was also a number which

looked like a credit limit, in come cases a very, very large limit,

for each person. A sheik and his wife appeared to have credit limits

of $1 million--each. Another name had a limit of $5 million.

There was something strange about the data, Force thought. It was not

structured in a way which suggested the Citibank machine was merely

transmitting data to another machine. It looked more like a text file

which was being dumped from a computer to a line printer.

Force sat back and considered his exquisite discovery. He decided this

was something he would share only with a very few close, trusted

friends from The Realm. He would tell Phoenix and perhaps one other

member, but no-one else.

As he looked through the data once more, Force began to feel a little

anxious. Citibank was a huge financial institution, dependent on the

complete confidence of its customers. The corporation would lose a lot

of face if news of Force's discovery got out. It might care enough to

really come after him. Then, with the sudden clarity of the lightning

strike photo which hung on his wall, a single thought filled his mind.

I am playing with fire.

[ ]

`Where did you get those numbers?' Par asked Force next time they were

both on Altos.

Force hedged. Par leaped forward.

`I checked those numbers for you. They're valid,' he told Force. The

American was more than intrigued. He wanted that network address. It

was lust. Next stop, mystery machine. `So, what's the address?'

That was the one question Force didn't want to hear. He and Par had a

good relationship, sharing information comfortably if occasionally.

But that relationship only went so far. For all he knew, Par might

have a less than desirable use for the information. Force didn't know

if Par carded, but he felt sure Par had friends who might be into it.

So Force refused to tell Par where to find the mystery machine.

Par wasn't going to give up all that easily. Not that he would use the

cards for free cash, but, hey, the mystery machine seemed like a very

cool place to check out. There would be no peace for Force until Par

got what he wanted. Nothing is so tempting to a hacker as the faintest

whiff of information about a system he wants, and Par hounded Force

until the Australian hacker relented just a bit.

Finally Force told Par roughly where DEFCON had been scanning for

addresses when it stumbled upon the CitiSaudi machine. Force wasn't

handing over the street address, just the name of the suburb. DEFCON

had been accessing the Citibank network through Telenet, a large

American data network using X.25 communications protocols. The

sub-prefixes for the Citibank portion of the network were 223 and 224.

Par pestered Force some more for the rest of the numbers, but the

Australian had dug his heels in. Force was too careful a player, too

fastidious a hacker, to allow himself to get mixed up in the things

Par might get up to.

OK, thought the seventeen-year-old Par, I can do this without you. Par

estimated there were 20000 possible addresses on that network, any one

of which might be the home of the mystery machine. But he assumed the

machine would be in the low end of the network, since the lower

numbers were usually used first and the higher numbers were generally

saved for other, special network functions. His assumptions narrowed

the likely search field to about 2000 possible addresses.

Par began hand-scanning on the Citibank Global Telecommunications

Network (GTN) looking for the mystery machine. Using his knowledge of

the X.25 network, he picked a number to start with. He typed 22301,

22302, 22303. On and on, heading toward 22310000. Hour after hour,

slowly, laboriously, working his way through all the options, Par

scanned out a piece, or a range, within the network. When he got bored

with the 223 prefix, he tried out the 224 one for a bit of variety.

Bleary-eyed and exhausted after a long night at the computer, Par felt

like calling it quits. The sun had splashed through the windows of his

Salinas, California, apartment hours ago. His living room was a mess,

with empty, upturned beer cans circling his Apple IIe. Par gave up for

a while, caught some shut-eye. He had gone through the entire list of

possible addresses, knocking at all the doors, and nothing had

happened. But over the next few days he returned to scanning the

network again. He decided to be more methodical about it and do the

whole thing from scratch a second time.

He was part way through the second scan when it happened. Par's

computer connected to something. He sat up and peered toward the

screen. What was going on? He checked the address. He was sure he had

tried this one before and nothing had answered. Things were definitely

getting strange. He stared at his computer.

The screen was blank, with the cursor blinking silently at the top.

Now what? What had Force done to get the computer to sing its song?

Par tried pressing the control key and a few different letters.

Nothing. Maybe this wasn't the right address after all. He

disconnected from the machine and carefully wrote down the address,

determined to try it again later.

On his third attempt, he connected again but found the same irritating

blank screen. This time he went through the entire alphabet with the

control key.

Control L.

That was the magic keystroke. The one that made CitiSaudi give up its

mysterious cache. The one that gave Par an adrenalin rush, along with

thousands and thousands of cards. Instant cash, flooding his screen.

He turned on the screen capture so he could collect all the

information flowing past and analyse it later. Par had to keep feeding

his little Apple IIe more disks to store all the data coming in

through his 1200 baud modem.

It was magnificent. Par savoured the moment, thinking about how much

he was going to enjoy telling Force. It was going to be sweet. Hey,

Aussie, you aren't the only show in town. See ya in Citibank.

An hour or so later, when the CitiSaudi data dump had finally

finished, Par was stunned at what he found in his capture. These

weren't just any old cards. These were debit cards, and they were held

by very rich Arabs. These people just plopped a few million in a bank

account and linked a small, rectangular piece of plastic to that

account. Every charge came directly out of the bank balance. One guy

listed in the data dump bought a $330,000 Mercedes Benz in

Istanbul--on his card. Par couldn't imagine being able to throw down a

bit of plastic for that. Taking that plastic out for a spin around the

block would bring a whole new meaning to the expression, `Charge it!'

When someone wins the lottery, they often feel like sharing with their

friends. Which is exactly what Par did. First, he showed his

room-mates. They thought it was very cool. But not nearly so cool as

the half dozen hackers and phreakers who happened to be on the

telephone bridge Par frequented when the master of X.25 read off a

bunch of the cards.

Par was a popular guy after that day. Par was great, a sort of Robin

Hood of the underground. Soon, everyone wanted to talk to him. Hackers

in New York. Phreakers in Virginia. And the Secret Service in San


[ ]
Par didn't mean to fall in love with Theorem. It was an accident, and

he couldn't have picked a worse girl to fall for. For starters, she

lived in Switzerland. She was 23 and he was only seventeen. She also

happened to be in a relationship--and that relationship was with

Electron, one of the best Australian hackers of the late 1980s. But

Par couldn't help himself. She was irresistible, even though he had

never met her in person. Theorem was different. She was smart and

funny, but refined, as a European woman can be.

They met on Altos in 1988.

Theorem didn't hack computers. She didn't need to, since she could

connect to Altos through her old university computer account. She had

first found Altos on 23 December 1986. She remembered the date for two

reasons. First, she was amazed

at the power of Altos--that she could have a live conversation on-line

with a dozen people in different countries at the same time. Altos was

a whole new world for her. Second, that was the day she met Electron.

Electron made Theorem laugh. His sardonic, irreverent humour hit a

chord with her. Traditional Swiss society could be stifling and

closed, but Electron was a breath of fresh air. Theorem was Swiss but

she didn't always fit the mould. She hated skiing. She was six feet

tall. She liked computers.

When they met on-line, the 21-year-old Theorem was at a crossroad in

her youth. She had spent a year and a half at university studying

mathematics. Unfortunately, the studies had not gone well. The truth

be told, her second year of university was in fact the first year all

over again. A classmate had introduced her to Altos on the

university's computers. Not long after she struck up a relationship

with Electron, she dropped out of uni all together and enrolled in a

secretarial course. After that, she found a secretarial job at a

financial institution.

Theorem and Electron talked on Altos for hours at a time. They talked

about everything--life, family, movies, parties--but not much about

what most people on Altos talked about--hacking. Eventually, Electron

gathered up the courage to ask Theorem for her voice telephone number.

She gave it to him happily and Electron called her at home in

Lausanne. They talked. And talked. And talked. Soon they were on the

telephone all the time.

Seventeen-year-old Electron had never had a girlfriend. None of the

girls in his middle-class high school would give him the time of day

when it came to romance. Yet here was this bright, vibrant girl--a

girl who studied maths--speaking to him intimately in a melting French

accent. Best of all, she genuinely liked him. A few words from his

lips could send her into silvery peals of laughter.

When the phone bill arrived, it was $1000. Electron surreptitiously

collected it and buried it at the bottom of a drawer in his bedroom.

When he told Theorem, she offered to help pay for it. A cheque for

$700 showed up not long after. It made the task of explaining

Telecom's reminder notice to his father much easier.

The romantic relationship progressed throughout 1987 and the first

half of 1988. Electron and Theorem exchanged love letters and tender

intimacies over 16000 kilometres of computer networks, but the

long-distance relationship had some bumpy periods. Like when she had

an affair over several months with Pengo. A well-known German hacker

with links to the German hacking group called the Chaos Computer Club,

Pengo was also a friend and mentor to Electron. Pengo was, however,

only a short train ride away from Theorem. She became friends with

Pengo on Altos and eventually visited him. Things progressed from


Theorem was honest with Electron about the affair, but there was

something unspoken, something below the surface. Even after the affair

ended, Theorem was sweet on Pengo the way a girl remains fond of her

first love regardless of how many other men she has slept with since


Electron felt hurt and angry, but he swallowed his pride and forgave

Theorem her dalliance. Eventually, Pengo disappeared from the scene.

Pengo had been involved with people who sold US military

secrets--taken from computers--to the KGB. Although his direct

involvement in the ongoing international computer espionage had been

limited, he began to worry about the risks. His real interest was in

hacking, not spying. The Russian connection simply enabled him to get

access to bigger and better computers. Beyond that, he felt no loyalty

to the Russians.

In the first half of 1988, he handed himself in to the German

authorities. Under West German law at the time, a citizen-spy who

surrendered himself before the state discovered the crime, and thus

averted more damage to the state, acquired immunity from prosecution.

Having already been busted in December 1986 for using a stolen NUI,

Pengo decided that turning himself in would be his best hope of taking

advantage of this legal largesse.

By the end of the year, things had become somewhat hairy for Pengo and

in March 1989 the twenty-year-old from Berlin was raided again, this

time with the four others involved in the spy ring. The story broke

and the media exposed Pengo's real name. He didn't know if he would

eventually be tried and convicted of something related to the

incident. Pengo had a few things on his mind other than the six-foot

Swiss girl.

With Pengo out of the way, the situation between Theorem and the

Australian hacker improved. Until Par came along.

Theorem and Par began innocently enough. Being one of only a few girls

in the international hacking and phreaking scene and, more

particularly, on Altos, she was treated differently. She had lots of

male friends on the German chat system, and the boys told her things

in confidence they would never tell each other. They sought out her

advice. She often felt like she wore many hats--mother, girlfriend,

psychiatrist--when she spoke with the boys on Altos.

Par had been having trouble with his on-line girlfriend, Nora, and

when he met Theorem he turned to her for a bit of support. He had

travelled from California to meet Nora in person in New York. But when

he arrived in the sweltering heat of a New York summer, without

warning, her conservative Chinese parents didn't take kindly to his

unannounced appearance. There were other frictions between Nora and

Par. The relationship had been fine on Altos and on the phone, but

things were just not clicking in person.

He already knew that virtual relationships, forged over an electronic

medium which denied the importance of physical chemistry, could

sometimes be disappointing.

Par used to hang out on a phone bridge with another Australian member

of The Realm, named Phoenix, and with a fun girl from southern

California. Tammi, a casual phreaker, had a great personality and a

hilarious sense of humour. During those endless hours chatting, she

and Phoenix seemed to be in the throes of a mutual crush. In the

phreaking underground, they were known as a bit of a virtual item. She

had even invited Phoenix to come visit her sometime. Then, one day,

for the fun of it, Tammi decided to visit Par in Monterey. Her

appearance was a shock.

Tammi had described herself to Phoenix as being a blue-eyed, blonde

California girl. Par knew that Phoenix visualised her as a

stereotypical bikini-clad, beach bunny from LA. His perception rested

on a foreigner's view of the southern California culture. The land of

milk and honey. The home of the Beach Boys and TV series like

`Charlie's Angels'.

When Tammi arrived, Par knew instantly that she and Phoenix would

never hit it off in person. Tammi did in fact have both blonde hair

and blue eyes. She had neglected to mention, however, that she weighed

about 300 pounds, had a rather homely face and a somewhat down-market

style. Par really liked Tammi, but he couldn't get the ugly phrase

`white trash' out of his thoughts. He pushed and shoved, but the

phrase was wedged in his mind. It fell to Par to tell Phoenix the

truth about Tammi.

So Par knew all about how reality could burst the foundations of a

virtual relationship.

Leaving New York and Nora behind, Par moved across the river to New

Jersey to stay with a friend, Byteman, who was one of a group of

hackers who specialised in breaking into computer systems run by Bell

Communications Research (Bellcore). Bellcore came into existence at

the beginning of 1984 as a result of the break-up of the US telephone

monopoly known as Bell Systems. Before the break-up, Bell Systems'

paternalistic holding company, American Telephone and Telegraph

(AT&T), had

fostered the best and brightest in Bell Labs, its research arm. Over

the course of its history, Bell Labs boasted at least seven

Nobel-prize winning researchers and numerous scientific achievements.

All of which made Bellcore a good target for hackers trying to prove

their prowess.

Byteman used to chat with Theorem on Altos, and eventually he called

her, voice. Par must have looked pretty inconsolable, because one day

while Byteman was talking to Theorem, he suddenly said to her, `Hey,

wanna talk to a friend of mine?' Theorem said `Sure' and Byteman

handed the telephone to Par. They talked for about twenty minutes.

After that they spoke regularly both on Altos and on the phone. For

weeks after Par returned to California, Theorem tried to cheer him up

after his unfortunate experience with Nora. By mid-1988, they had

fallen utterly and passionately in love.

Electron, an occasional member of Force's Realm group, took the news

very badly. Not everyone on Altos liked Electron. He could be a little

prickly, and very cutting when he chose to be, but he was an ace

hacker, on an international scale, and everyone listened to him.

Obsessive, creative and quick off the mark, Electron had respect,

which is one reason Par felt so badly.

When Theorem told Electron the bad news in a private conversation

on-line, Electron had let fly in the public area, ripping into the

American hacker on the main chat section of Altos, in front of


Par took it on the chin and refused to fight back. What else could he

do? He knew what it was like to hurt. He felt for the guy and knew how

he would feel if he lost Theorem. And he knew that Electron must be

suffering a terrible loss of face. Everyone saw Electron and Theorem

as an item. They had been together for more than a year. So Par met

Electron's fury with grace and quiet words of consolation.

Par didn't hear much from Electron after that day. The Australian

still visited Altos, but he seemed more withdrawn, at least whenever

Par was around. After that day, Par ran into him once, on a phone

bridge with a bunch of Australian hackers.

Phoenix said on the bridge, `Hey, Electron. Par's on the bridge.'

Electron paused. `Oh, really,' he answered coolly. Then he went


Par let Electron keep his distance. After all, Par had what really

counted--the girl.

Par called Theorem almost every day. Soon they began to make plans for

her to fly to California so they could meet in person. Par tried not

to expect too much, but he found it difficult to stop savouring the

thought of finally seeing Theorem face to face. It gave him


Yeah, Par thought, things are really looking up.

The beauty of Altos was that, like Pacific Island or any other local

BBS, a hacker could take on any identity he wanted. And he could do it

on an international scale. Visiting Altos was like attending a

glittering masquerade ball. Anyone could recreate himself. A socially

inept hacker could pose as a character of romance and adventure. And a

security official could pose as a hacker.

Which is exactly what Telenet security officer Steve Mathews did on 27

October 1988. Par happened to be on-line, chatting away with his

friends and hacker colleagues. At any given moment, there were always

a few strays on Altos, a few people who weren't regulars. Naturally,

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