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himself. This was no time to cry over spilled milk. He had to get

Deszip out of the machine quickly, before anyone noticed he was there.

But as Phoenix began typing in commands, his screen appeared to freeze

up. He checked. It wasn't his computer. Something was wrong at the

other end. He was still logged into Spaf's machine. The connection

hadn't been killed. But when he typed commands, the computer in West

Lafayette, Indiana, didn't respond. Spaf's machine just sat there,

deaf and dumb.

Phoenix stared at his computer, trying to figure out what was

happening. Why wouldn't Spaf's machine answer? There were two

possibilities. Either the network--the connection between the first

machine he penetrated at Purdue and Spaf's own machine--had gone down

accidentally. Or someone had pulled the plug.

Why pull the plug? If they knew he was in there, why not just kick him

out of the machine? Better still, why not kick him out of Purdue all

together? Maybe they wanted to keep him on-line to trace which machine

he was coming from, eventually winding backwards from system to

system, following his trail.

Phoenix was in a dilemma. If the connection had crashed by accident,

he wanted to stay put and wait for the network to come back up again.

The FTP hole in Spaf's machine was an incredible piece of luck.

Chances were that someone would find

evidence of his break-in after he left and plug it. On the

other hand, he didn't want the people at Purdue tracing his

connections.

He waited a few more minutes, trying to hedge his bets. Feeling nervy

as the extended silence emanating from Spaf's machine wore on, Phoenix

decided to jump. With the lost treasures of Aladdin's cave fading in

his mind's eye like a mirage, Phoenix killed his connection.

Electron and Phoenix talked on the phone, moodily contemplating their

losses. It was a blow, but Electron reminded himself that getting

Deszip was never going to be easy. At least they had the passphrase to

unlock the encrypted Deszip taken from Dartmouth.

Soon, however, they discovered a problem. There had to be one,

Electron thought. They couldn't just have something go off without a

hitch for a change. That would be too easy. The problem this time was

that when they went searching for their copy from Dartmouth, which had

been stored several months before, it had vanished. The Dartmouth

system admin must have deleted it.

It was maddening. The frustration was unbearable. Each time they had

Deszip just within their grasp, it slipped away and

disappeared. Yet each time they lost their grip, it only deepened

their desire to capture the elusive prize. Deszip was fast becoming an

all-consuming obsession for Phoenix and Electron.

Their one last hope was the second copy of the encrypted Dartmouth

Deszip file they had given to Gandalf, but that hope did not burn

brightly. After all, if the Australians' copy had been deleted, there

was every likelihood that the Brit's copy had suffered the same fate.

Gandalf's copy hadn't been stored on his own computer. He had put it

on some dark corner of a machine in Britain.

Electron and Phoenix logged onto Altos and waited for Pad or Gandalf

to show up.

Phoenix typed .s for a list of who was on-line. He saw that Pad was

logged on:

No Chan User

0 Guest


1 Phoenix

2 Pad


Guest 0 was Electron. He usually logged on as Guest, partly because he

was so paranoid about being busted and because he believed operators

monitored his connections if they knew it was Electron logging in.

They seemed to take great joy in sniffing the password to his own

account on Altos. Then, when he had logged off, they logged in and

changed his password so he couldn't get back under the name Electron.

Nothing was more annoying. Phoenix typed, `Hey, Pad. How's it going?'

Pad wrote back, `Feeny! Heya.'

`Do you and Gand still have that encrypted copy of Deszip we gave you

a few months ago?'

`Encrypted copy ... hmm. Thinking.' Pad paused. He and Gandalf hacked

dozens of computer systems regularly. Sometimes it was difficult to

recall just where they had stored things.

`Yeah, I know what you mean. I don't know. It was on a system on

JANET,' Pad said. Britain's Joint Academic Network was the equivalent

of Australia's AARNET, an early Internet based largely on a backbone

of universities and research centres.

`I can't remember which system it was on,' Pad continued.

If the Brits couldn't recall the institution, let alone the machine

where they had hidden Deszip, it was time to give up

all hope. JANET comprised hundreds, maybe thousands, of machines. It

was far too big a place to randomly hunt around for a file which

Gandalf would no doubt have tried to disguise in the first place.

`But the file was encrypted, and you didn't have the password,' Pad

wrote. `How come you want it?'

`Because we found the password. ' That was the

etiquette on Altos. If you wanted to suggest an action, you put it in

< >.

`Gr8!' Pad answered.

That was Pad and Gandalf's on-line style. The number eight was the

British hackers' hallmark, since their group was called 8lgm, and they

used it instead of letters. Words like `great', `mate' and `later'

became `gr8', `m8' and `l8r'.

When people logged into Altos they could name a `place' of origin for

others to see. Of course, if you were logging from a country which had

laws against hacking, you wouldn't give your real country. You'd just

pick a place at random. Some people logged in from places like

Argentina, or Israel. Pad and Gandalf logged in from 8lgm.

`I'll try to find Gandalf and ask him if he knows where we stashed the

copy,' Pad wrote to Phoenix.

`Good. Thanks.'

While Phoenix and Electron waited on-line for Pad to return, Par

showed up on-line and joined their conversation. Par didn't know who

Guest 0 was, but Guest certainly knew who Par was. Time hadn't healed

Electron's old wounds when it came to Par. Electron didn't really

admit to himself the bad blood was still there over Theorem. He told

himself that he couldn't be bothered with Par, that Par was just a

phreaker, not a real hacker, that Par was lame.

Phoenix typed, `Hey, Par. How's it going?'

`Feenster!' Par replied. `What's happening?'

`Lots and lots.'

Par turned his attention to the mystery Guest 0. He didn't want to

discuss private things with someone who might be a security guy

hanging around the chat channel like a bad smell.

`Guest, do you have a name?' Par asked.

`Yeah. It's "Guest--#0".'

`You got any other names?'

There was a long pause.

Electron typed, `I guess not.'

`Any other names besides dickhead that is?'

Electron sent a `whisper'--a private message--to Phoenix telling him

not to tell Par his identity.

`OK. Sure,' Phoenix whispered back. To show he would play along with

whatever Electron had in mind, Phoenix added a sideways smiley face at

the end: `:-)'.

Par didn't know Electron and Phoenix were whispering to each other. He

was still waiting to find out the identity of Guest. `Well, speak up,

Guest. Figured out who you are yet?'

Electron knew Par was on the run at the time. Indeed, Par had been on

the run from the US Secret Service for more than six months by the

beginning of 1990. He also knew Par was highly paranoid.

Electron took aim and fired.

`Hey, Par. You should eat more. You're looking underFED these days.'

Par was suddenly silent. Electron sat at his computer, quietly

laughing to himself, halfway across the world from Par. Well, he

thought, that ought to freak out Par a bit. Nothing like a subtle hint

at law enforcement to drive him nuts.

`Did you see THAT?' Par whispered to Phoenix. `UnderFED. What did he

mean?'


`I dunno,' Phoenix whispered back. Then he forwarded a copy of Par's

private message on to Electron. He knew it would make him laugh.

Par was clearly worried. `Who the fuck are you?' he whispered to

Electron but Guest 0 didn't answer.

With growing anxiety, Par whispered to Phoenix, `Who IS this guy? Do

you know him?'

Phoenix didn't answer.

`Because, well, it's weird. Didn't you see? FED was in caps. What the

fuck does that mean? Is he a fed? Is he trying to give me a message

from the feds?'

Sitting at his terminal, on the other side of Melbourne from Electron,

Phoenix was also laughing. He liked Par, but the American was an easy

target. Par had become so paranoid since he went on the run across the

US, and Electron knew just the right buttons to push.

`I don't know,' Phoenix whispered to Par. `I'm sure he's not really a

fed.'


`Well, I am wondering about that comment,' Par whispered back.

`UnderFED. Hmm. Maybe he knows something. Maybe it's some kind of

warning. Shit, maybe the Secret Service knows where I am.'

`You think?' Phoenix whispered to Par. `It might be a warning of some

kind?' It was too funny.

`Can you check his originating NUA?' Par wanted to know what network

address the mystery guest was coming from. It might give him a clue as

to the stranger's identity.

Phoenix could barely contain himself. He kept forwarding the private

messages on to Electron. Par was clearly becoming more agitated.

`I wish he would just tell me WHO he was,' Par whispered. `Shit. It is

very fucking weird. UnderFED. It's spinning me out.'

Then Par logged off.

Electron typed, `I guess Par had to go. ' Then, chuckling to

himself, he waited for news on Gandalf's Deszip copy.

If Pad and Gandalf hadn't kept their copy of Deszip, the Australians

would be back to square one, beginning with a hunt for a system which

even had Deszip. It was a daunting task and by the time Pad and

Gandalf finally logged back into Altos, Phoenix and Electron had

become quite anxious.

`How did you go?' Phoenix asked. `Do you still have Deszip?'

`Well, at first I thought I had forgotten which system I left it on

...'

Electron jumped in, `And then?'



`Then I remembered.'

`Good news?' Phoenix exclaimed.

`Well, no. Not exactly,' Gandalf said. `The account is dead.'

Electron felt like someone had thrown a bucket of cold water on him.

`Dead? Dead how?' he asked.

`Dead like someone changed the password. Not sure why. I'll have to

re-hack the system to get to the file.'

`Fuck, this Deszip is frustrating,' Electron wrote.

`This is getting ridiculous,' Phoenix added.

`I don't even know if the copy is still in there,' Gandalf replied. `I

hid it, but who knows? Been a few months. Admins might have deleted

it.'


`You want some help hacking the system again, Gand?' Phoenix asked.

`Nah, It'll be easy. It's a Sequent. Just have to hang around until

the ops go home.'

If an op was logged on and saw Gandalf hunting around, he or she might

kick Gandalf off and investigate the file which so interested the

hacker. Then they would lose Deszip all over again.

`I hope we get it,' Pad chipped in. `Would be gr8!'

`Gr8 indeed. Feen, you've got the key to the encryption?' Gandalf

asked.

`Yeah.'


`How many characters is it?' It was Gandalf's subtle way of asking for

the key itself.

Phoenix wasn't sure what to do. He wanted to give the British hackers

the key, but he was torn. He needed Pad and Gandalf's help to get the

copy of Deszip, if it was still around. But he knew Electron was

watching the conversation, and Electron was always so paranoid. He

disliked giving out any information, let alone giving it over Altos,

where the conversations were possibly logged by security people.

`Should I give him the key?' Phoenix whispered to Electron.

Gandalf was waiting. To fend him off, Phoenix said, `It's 9 chars.'

Chars was short for characters. On Altos the rule was to abbreviate

where ever possible.

`What is the first char?'

`Yeah. Tell him,' Electron whispered to Phoenix.

`Well, the key is ...'

`You're going to spew when you find out, Gand,' Electron interrupted.

`Yes ... go on,' Gandalf said. `I am listening.'

`You won't believe it. The key is ... Dartmouth.'

`WHAT???? WHAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!' Gandalf exclaimed.

`No!!! IT's NOT TRUE! Bollox! You are KIDDING?'

The British hacker was thumping himself on the head. The name of the

frigging university! What a stupid password!

Phoenix gave an on-line chuckle. `Hehe. Yeah. So hard to guess. We

could have had Deszip for all these months ...'

`Jesus. I hope it's still on that JANET system,' Gandalf said. Now

that he actually had the password, finding the file became even more

urgent.

`Pray. Pray. Pray,' Phoenix said. `Yeah, you should have seen the



licence text on Deszip--it was by NASA.'

`You've seen it? You saw Deszip's source code?'

`No,' Phoenix answered. `When I went back to the BEAR machine to check

if Deszip was still there, the program was gone. But the licence

agreement and other stuff was there. Should have read the licence ...

truly amazing. It basically went on and on about how the people who

wrote it didn't want people like us to get a hold of it. Hehe.'

Electron was growing impatient. `Yeah. So, Gand, when you gonna go

check that JANET system?'

`Now. Fingers crossed, m8! See ya l8r ...' Then he was gone.

The waiting was driving Electron nuts. He kept thinking about Deszip,

about how he could have had it months and months ago. That program was

such a prize. He was salivating at the thought of getting it after all

this time pursuing it around the globe, chasing its trail from system

to system, never quite getting close enough to grab it.

When Gandalf showed up again, Pad, Phoenix and Electron were all over

him in an instant.

`WE FUCKING GOT IT GUYS!!!!!' Gandalf exclaimed.

`Good job m8!' Pad said.

`YES!' Electron added. `Have you decrypted it yet?'

`Not yet. Crypt isn't on that machine. We can either copy Crypt onto

that machine or copy the file onto another computer which already has

Crypt on it,' Gandalf said.

`Let's move it. Quick ... quick ... this damn thing has a habit of

disappearing,' Electron said.

`Yeah, this is the last copy ... the only one I got.'

`OK. Think ... think ... where can we copy it to?' Electron said.

`Texas!' Gandalf wanted to copy it to a computer at the University of

Texas at Austin, home of the LOD hacker Erik Bloodaxe.

Irrepressible, Gandalf came on like a steam roller if he liked

you--and cut you down in a flash if he didn't. His rough-and-tumble

working-class humour particularly appealed to Electron. Gandalf seemed

able to zero in on the things which worried you most--something so

deep or serious it was often unsaid. Then he would blurt it out in

such crass, blunt terms you couldn't help laughing. It was his way of

being in your face in the friendliest possible manner.

`Yeah! Blame everything on Erik!' Phoenix joked. `No, seriously. That

place is crawling with security now, all after Erik. They are into

everything.'

Phoenix had heard all about the security purge at the university from

Erik. The Australian called Erik all the time, mostly by charging the

calls to stolen AT&T cards. Erik hadn't been raided by the Secret

Service yet, but he had been tipped off and was expecting a visit any

day.


`It probably won't decrypt anyway,' Electron said.

`Oh, phuck off!' Gandalf shot back. `Come on! I need a site NOW!'

`Thinking ...' Phoenix said. `Gotta be some place with room--how big

is it?'


`It's 900 k compressed--probably 3 meg when we uncompress it. Come on,

hurry up! How about a university?'

`Princeton, Yale could do either of those.' Electron suggested. `What

about MIT--you hacked an account there recently, Gand?'

`No.'

All four hackers racked their minds for a safe haven. The world was



their oyster, as British and Australian hackers held a real-time

conversation in Germany about whether to hide their treasure in

Austin, Texas; Princeton, New Jersey; Boston, Massachusetts; or New

Haven, Connecticut.

`We only need somewhere to stash it for a little while, until we can

download it,' Gandalf said. `Got to be some machine where we've got

root. And it's got to have anon FTP.'

Anon FTP, or anonymous file transfer protocol, on a host machine would

allow Gandalf to shoot the file from his JANET machine across the

Internet into the host. Most importantly, Gandalf could do so without

an account on the target machine. He could simply login as

`anonymous', a method of access which had more limitations than simply

logging in with a normal account. He would, however, still be able to

upload the file.

`OK. OK, I have an idea,' Phoenix said. `Lemme go check

it out.'


Phoenix dropped out of Altos and connected to the University of Texas.

The physical location of a site didn't matter. His head was spinning

and it was the only place he could think of. But he didn't try to

connect to Happy, the machine he often used which Erik had told him

about. He headed to one of the other university computers, called

Walt.


The network was overloaded. Phoenix was left dangling, waiting to

connect for minutes on end. The lines were congested. He logged back

into Altos and told Pad and Electron. Gandalf was nowhere to be seen.

`Damn,' Electron said. Then, `OK, I might have an idea.'

`No, wait!' Phoenix cut in. `I just thought of a site! And I have root

too! But it's on NASA ...'

`Oh that's OK. I'm sure they won't mind a bit. '

`I'll go make sure it's still OK. Back in a bit,' Phoenix typed.

Phoenix jumped out of Altos and headed toward NASA. He telnetted into

a NASA computer called CSAB at the Langley Research Center in Hampton,

Virginia. He had been in and out of NASA quite a few times and had

recently made himself a root account on CSAB. First, he had to check

the account was still alive, then he had to make sure the system

administrator wasn't logged in.

Whizzing past the official warning sign about unauthorised access in

US government computers on the login screen, Phoenix typed in his user

name and password.

It worked. He was in. And he had root privileges.

He quickly looked around on the system. The administrator was on-line.

Damn.


Phoenix fled the NASA computer and sprinted back into Altos. Gandalf

was there, along with the other two, waiting for him.

`Well?' Electron asked.

`OK. All right. The NASA machine will work. It has anon FTP. And I

still have root. We'll use that.'

Gandalf jumped in. `Hang on--does it have Crypt?'

`Argh! Forget to check. I think it must.'

`Better check it, m8!'

`Yeah, OK.'

Phoenix felt exasperated, rushing around trying to find sites that

worked. He logged out of Altos and coursed his way back into the NASA

machine. The admin was still logged on, but Phoenix was running out of

time. He had to find out if the computer had Crypt on it. It did.

Phoenix rushed back to Altos. `Back again. We're in business.'

`Yes!' Electron said, but he quickly jumped in with a word of warning.

`Don't say the exact machine at NASA or the account out loud. Whisper

it to Gandalf. I think the ops are listening in on my connection.'

`Well,' Phoenix typed slowly, `there's only one problem. The admin is

logged on.'

`Arghhh!' Electron shouted.

`Just do it,' Pad said. `No time to worry.'

Phoenix whispered the Internet IP address of the NASA machine to

Gandalf.

`OK, m8, I'll anon FTP it to NASA. I'll come back here and tell you

the new filename. Then you go in and decrypt it and uncompress the

file. W8 for me here.'

Ten minutes later, Gandalf returned. `Mission accomplished. The file

is there!'

`Now, go go Pheeny!' Electron said.

`Gand, whisper the filename to me,' Phoenix said.

`The file's called "d" and it's in the pub directory,' Gandalf

whispered.

`OK, folks. Here we go!' Phoenix said as he logged off.

Phoenix dashed to the NASA computer, logged in and looked for the file

named `d'. He couldn't find it. He couldn't even find the pub

directory. He began hunting around the rest of the file system. Where

was the damn thing?

Uh oh. Phoenix noticed the system administrator, Sharon Beskenis, was

still logged in. She was connected from Phoebe, another NASA machine.

There was only one other user besides himself logged into the CSAB

machine, someone called Carrie. As if that wasn't bad enough, Phoenix

realised his username stood out a like a sore thumb. If the admin

looked at who was on-line she would see herself, Carrie and a user

called `friend', an account he had created for himself. How many

legitimate accounts on NASA computers had that name?

Worse, Phoenix noticed that he had forgotten to cover his login trail.

`Friend' was telnetting into the NASA computer from the University of

Texas. No, no, he thought, that would definitely have to go. He

disconnected from NASA, bounced back to the university and then logged

in to NASA again. Good grief. Now the damn NASA machine showed two

people logged in as `friend'. The computer hadn't properly killed his

previous login. Stress.

Phoenix tried frantically to clear out his first login by killing its

process number. The NASA computer responded that there was no such

process number. Increasingly nervous, Phoenix figured he must have

typed in the wrong number. Unhinged, he grabbed one of the other

process numbers and killed that.

Christ! That was the admin's process number. Phoenix had just

disconnected Sharon from her own machine. Things were not going well.

Now he was under serious pressure. He didn't dare logout, because

Sharon would no doubt find his `friend' account, kill it and close up

the security hole he had originally used to get in. Even if she didn't

find Deszip on her own machine, he might not be able to get back in

again to retrieve it.

After another frenzied minute hunting around the machine, Phoenix

finally unearthed Gandalf's copy of Deszip. Now, the moment of truth.

He tried the passphrase. It worked! All he had to do


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