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was uncompress Deszip and get it out of there. He typed, `uncompress

deszip.tar.z', but he didn't like how the NASA computer answered his

command:


corrupt input

Something was wrong, terribly wrong. The file appeared to be partially

destroyed. It was too painful a possibility to contemplate. Even if

only a small part of the main Deszip program had been damaged, none of

it would be useable.

Rubbing sweat from his palms, Phoenix hoped that maybe the file had

just been damaged as he attempted to uncompress it. He had kept the

original, so he went back to that and tried decrypting and

uncompressing it again. The NASA computer gave him the same ugly

response. Urgently, he tried yet again, but this time attempted to

uncompress the file in a different way. Same problem.

Phoenix was at his wits' end. This was too much. The most he could

hope was that the file had somehow become corrupted in the transfer

from Gandalf's JANET machine. He logged out of NASA and returned to

Altos. The other three were waiting impatiently for him.

Electron, still logged in as the mystery Guest, leaped in. `Did it

work?'

`No. Decrypted OK, but the file was corrupted when I tried to



decompress it.'

`Arghhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!' Gandalf exclaimed.

`Fuckfuckfuck,' Electron wrote. `Doomed to fail.'

`Sigh Sigh Sigh,' Pad typed.

Gandalf and Electron quizzed Phoenix in detail about each command he

had used, but in the end there seemed only one hope. Move a copy of

the decryption program to the JANET computer in the UK and try

decrypting and uncompressing Deszip there.

Phoenix gave Gandalf a copy of Crypt and the British hacker went to

work on the JANET computer. A little later he rendezvoused on Altos

again.

Phoenix was beside himself by this stage. `Gand! Work???'



`Well, I decrypted it using the program you gave me ...'

`And And And???' Electron was practically jumping out of his seat at

his computer.

`Tried to uncompress it. It was taking a LONG time. Kept

going--expanded to 8 megabytes.'

`Oh NO. Bad Bad Bad,' Phoenix moaned. `Should only be 3 meg. If it's

making a million files, it's fucked.'

`Christ,' Pad typed. `Too painful.'

`I got the makefile--licensing agreement text etc., but the Deszip

program itself was corrupted,' Gandalf concluded.

`I don't understand what is wrong with it. ' Phoenix wrote.

`AgonyAgonyAgony,' Electron groaned. `It'll never never never work.'

`Can we get a copy anywhere else?' Gandalf asked.

`That FTP bug has been fixed at Purdue,' Pad answered. `Can't use that

to get in again.'

Disappointment permeated the atmosphere on Altos.

There were, of course, other possible repositories for Deszip. Phoenix

and Electron had already penetrated a computer at Lawrence Livermore

National Labs in California. They had procured root on the gamm5

machine and planned to use it as a launchpad for penetrating security

expert Russell Brand's computer at LLNL, called Wuthel. They were sure

Brand had Deszip on his computer.

It would require a good deal of effort, and possibly another

roller-coaster ride of desire, expectation and possible

disappointment. For now, the four hackers resolved to sign off,

licking their wounds at their defeat in the quest for Deszip.

`Well, I'm off. See you l8r,' Pad said.

`Yeah, me too,' Electron added.

`Yeah, OK. L8r, m8s!' Gandalf said.

Then, just for fun, he added in typical Gandalf style, `See you in

jail!'

_________________________________________________________________


Chapter 6 -- Page 1 The New York Times

_________________________________________________________________

Read about it

Just another incredible scene

There's no doubt about it

-- from `Read About It', on 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 by Midnight

Oil

Pad had an important warning for the Australian hackers: the computer



security community was closing in on them. It was the end of February

1990, not long after Phoenix and Electron had captured Zardoz and just

missed out on Deszip. Pad didn't scream or shout the warning, that

wasn't his style. But Electron took in the import of the warning loud

and clear.

`Feen, they know you did over Spaf's machine,' Pad told Phoenix. `They

know it's been you in other systems also. They've got your handle.'

Eugene Spafford was the kind of computer security expert who loses a

lot of face when a hacker gets into his machine, and a wounded bull is

a dangerous enemy.

The security people had been able to connect and link up a series of

break-ins with the hacker who called himself Phoenix because his style

was so distinctive. For example, whenever he was creating a root

shell--root access--for himself, he would always save it in the same

filename and in the same location on the

computer. In some instances, he even created accounts called `Phoenix'

for himself. It was this consistency of style which had made things so

much easier for admins to trace his movements.

In his typical understated fashion, Pad suggested a change of style.

And maybe, he added, it wasn't such a bad idea for the Australians to

tone down their activities a bit. The undercurrent of the message was

serious.


`They said that some security people had contacted Australian law

enforcement, who were supposed to be "dealing with it",' Pad said.

`Do they know my real name?' Phoenix asked, worried. Electron was also

watching this conversation with some concern.

`Don't know. Got it from Shatter. He's not always reliable,

but ...'


Pad was trying to soften the news by playing down Shatter's importance

as a source. He didn't trust his fellow British hacker but Shatter had

some good, if mysterious, connections. An enigmatic figure who seemed

to keep one foot in the computer underworld and the other in the

upright computer security industry, Shatter leaked information to Pad

and Gandalf, and occasionally to the Australians.

While the two British hackers sometimes discounted Shatter's advice,

they also took the time to talk to him. Once, Electron had intercepted

email showing Pengo had turned to Shatter for advice about his

situation after the raid in Germany. With some spare time prior to his

trial, Pengo asked Shatter whether it was safe to travel to the US on

a summer holiday in 1989. Shatter asked for Pengo's birthdate and

other details. Then he returned with an unequivocal answer: Under no

circumstances was Pengo to travel to the US.

Subsequently, it was reported that officials in the US Justice

Department had been examining ways to secretly coax Pengo onto

American soil, where they could seize him. They would then force him

to face trial in their own courts.

Had Shatter known this? Or had he just told Pengo not to go to the US

because it was good commonsense? No-one was quite sure, but people

took note of what Shatter told them.

`Shatter definitely got the info right about Spaf's machine. 100%

right,' Pad continued. `He knew exactly how you hacked it. I couldn't

believe it. Be careful if you're still hacking m8, especially on the

Inet.' The `Inet' was shorthand for the Internet.

The Altos hackers went quiet.

`It's not just you,' Pad tried to reassure the Australians. `Two

security people from the US are coming to the UK to try and find out

something about someone named Gandalf. Oh, and Gand's mate, who might

be called Patrick.'

Pad had indeed based his handle on the name Patrick, or Paddy, but

that wasn't his real name. No intelligent hacker would use his real

name for his handle. Paddy was the name of one of his favourite

university lecturers, an Irishman who laughed a good deal. Like Par's

name, Pad's handle had coincidentally echoed a second meaning when the

British hacker moved into exploring X.25 networks. An X.25 PAD is a

packet assembler disassembler, the interface between the X.25 network

and a modem or terminal server. Similarly, Gandalf, while being first

and foremost the wizard from The Lord of The Rings, also happened to

be a terminal server brand name.

Despite the gravity of the news that the security community was

closing the net around them, none of the hackers lost their wicked

sense of humour.

`You know,' Pad went on, `Spaf was out of the country when his machine

got hacked.'

`Was he? Where?' asked Gandalf, who had just joined the conversation.

`In Europe.'

Electron couldn't resist. `Where was Spaf, Gandalf asks as he hears a

knock on his door ...'

`Haha,' Gandalf laughed.

` ' Electron went on, hamming it up.

`Oh! Hello there, Mr Spafford,' Gandalf typed, playing along.

`Hello, I'm Gene and I'm mean!'

Alone in their separate homes on different corners of the globe, the

four hackers chuckled to themselves.

`Hello, and is this the man called Patrick?' Pad jumped in.

`Well, Mr Spafford, it seems you're a right fucking idiot for not

patching your FTP!' Gandalf proclaimed.

`Not to mention the CHFN bug--saved by a Sequent! Or you'd be very

fucking embarrassed,' Phoenix added.

Phoenix was laughing too, but he was a little nervous about Pad's

warning and he turned the conversation back to a serious note.

`So, Pad, what else did Shatter tell you?' Phoenix asked

anxiously.

`Not much. Except that some of the security investigations might be

partly because of UCB.'

UCB was the University of California at Berkeley. Phoenix had been

visiting machines at both Berkeley and LLNL so much recently that the

admins seemed to have not only noticed him, but they had pinpointed

his handle. One day he had telnetted into dewey.soe.berkeley.edu--the

Dewey machine as it was known--and had been startled to find the

following message of the day staring him in the face:

Phoenix,

Get out of Dewey NOW!

Also, do not use any of the `soe' machines.

Thank you,

Daniel Berger

Phoenix did a double take when he saw this public warning. Having been

in and out of the system so many times, he just zoomed past the words

on the login screen. Then, in a delayed reaction, he realised the

login message was addressed to him.

Ignoring the warning, he proceeded to get root on the Berkeley machine

and look through Berger's files. Then he sat back, thinking about the

best way to deal with the problem. Finally, he decided to send the

admin a note saying he was leaving the system for good.

Within days, Phoenix was back in the Dewey machine, weaving in and out

of it as if nothing had happened. After all, he had broken into the

system, and managed to get root through his own wit. He had earned the

right to be in the computer. He might send the admin a note to put him

at ease, but Phoenix wasn't going to give up accessing Berkeley's

computers just because it upset Daniel Berger.

`See,' Pad continued, `I think the UCB people kept stuff on their

systems that wasn't supposed to be there. Secret things.'

Classified military material wasn't supposed to be stored

on non-classified network computers. However, Pad guessed that

sometimes researchers broke rules and took short cuts because they

were busy thinking about their research and not the security

implications.

`Some of the stuff might have been illegal,' Pad told his captive

audience. `And then they find out some of you guys have been in there

...'

`Shit,' Phoenix said.



`So, well, if it APPEARED like someone was inside trying to get at

those secrets ...' Pad paused. `Then you can guess what happened. It

seems they really want to get whoever was inside their machines.'

There was momentary silence while the other hackers digested all that

Pad had told them. As a personality on Altos, Pad remained ever so

slightly withdrawn from the other hackers, even the Australians whom

he considered mates. This reserved quality gave his warning a certain

sobriety, which seeped into the very fabric of Altos that day.

Eventually, Electron responded to Pad's warning by typing a comment

directed at Phoenix: `I told you talking to security guys is nothing

but trouble.'

It irritated Electron more and more that Phoenix felt compelled to

talk to white hats in the security industry. In Electron's view,

drawing attention to yourself was just a bad idea all around and he

was increasingly annoyed at watching Phoenix feed his ego. He had made

veiled references to Phoenix's bragging on Altos many times, saying

things like `I wish people wouldn't talk to security guys'.

Phoenix responded to Electron on-line somewhat piously. `Well, I will

never talk to security guys seriously again.'

Electron had heard it all before. It was like listening to an

alcoholic swear he would never touch another drink. Bidding the others

goodbye, Electron logged off. He didn't care to listen to Phoenix any

more.

Others did, however. Hundreds of kilometres away, in a special room



secreted away inside a bland building in Canberra, Sergeant Michael

Costello and Constable William Apro had been methodically capturing

each and every electronic boast as it poured from Phoenix's phone. The

two officers recorded the data transmissions passing in and out of his

computer. They then played this recording into their own modem and

computer and created a text file they could save and use as evidence

in court.

Both police officers had travelled north from Melbourne, where they

worked with the AFP's Computer Crime Unit. Settling into their

temporary desks with their PC and laptop, the officers began their

secret eavesdropping work on 1 February 1990.

It was the first time the AFP had done a datatap. They were happy to

bide their time, to methodically record Phoenix hacking into Berkeley,

into Texas, into NASA, into a dozen computers around the world. The

phone tap warrant was good for 60 days, which was more than enough

time to secrete away a mountain of damning evidence against the

egotistical Realm hacker. Time was on their side.

The officers worked the Operation Dabble job in shifts. Constable Apro

arrived at the Telecommunications Intelligence Branch of the AFP at 8

p.m. Precisely ten hours later, at 6 the next morning, Sergeant

Costello relieved Apro, who knocked off for a good sleep. Apro

returned again at 8 p.m. to begin the night shift.

They were there all the time. Twenty-four hours a day. Seven days a

week. Waiting and listening.

It was too funny. Erik Bloodaxe in Austin, Texas, couldn't stop

laughing. In Melbourne, Phoenix's side hurt from laughing so much.

Phoenix loved to talk on the phone. He often called Erik, sometimes

every day, and they spoke for ages. Phoenix didn't worry about cost;

he wasn't paying for it. The call would appear on some poor sod's bill

and he could sort it out with the phone company.

Sometimes Erik worried a little about whether Phoenix wasn't going to

get himself in a jam making all these international calls. Not that he

didn't like talking to the Australian; it was a hoot. Still, the

concern sat there, unsettled, in the back of his mind. A few times he

asked Phoenix about it.

`No prob. Hey, AT&T isn't an Australian company,' Phoenix would say.

`They can't do anything to me.' And Erik had let it rest at that.

For his part, Erik didn't dare call Phoenix, especially not since his

little visit from the US Secret Service. On 1 March 1990, they burst

into his home, with guns drawn, in a dawn raid. The agents searched

everywhere, tearing the student house apart, but they didn't find

anything incriminating. They did take Erik's $59 keyboard terminal

with its chintzy little 300 baud modem, but they didn't get his main

computer, because Erik knew they were coming.

The Secret Service had subpoenaed his academic records, and Erik had

heard about it before the raid. So when the Secret Service arrived,

Erik's stuff just wasn't there. It hadn't been there for a few weeks,

but for Erik, they had been hard weeks. The hacker found himself

suffering withdrawal symptoms, so he bought the cheapest home computer

and modem he could find to tide him over.

That equipment was the only computer gear the Secret Service

discovered, and they were not happy special agents. But without

evidence, their hands were tied. No charges were laid.

Still, Erik thought he was probably being watched. The last thing he

wanted was for Phoenix's number to appear on his home phone bill. So

he let Phoenix call him, which the Australian did all the time. They

often talked for hours when Erik was working nights. It was a slack

job, just changing the back-up tapes on various computers and making

sure they didn't jam. Perfect for a student. It left Erik hours of

free time.

Erik frequently reminded Phoenix that his phone was probably tapped,

but Phoenix just laughed. `Yeah, well don't worry about it, mate. What

are they going to do? Come and get me?'

After Erik put a hold on his own hacking activities, he lived

vicariously, listening to Phoenix's exploits. The Australian called

him with a technical problem or an interesting system, and then they

discussed various strategies for getting into the machine. However,

unlike Electron's talks with Phoenix, conversations with Erik weren't

only about hacking. They chatted about life, about what Australia was

like, about girls, about what was in the newspaper that day. It was

easy to talk to Erik. He had a big ego, like most hackers, but it was

inoffensive, largely couched in his self-effacing humour.

Phoenix often made Erik laugh. Like the time he got Clifford Stoll, an

astronomer, who wrote The Cuckoo's Egg. The book described his pursuit

of a German hacker who had broken into the computer system Stoll

managed at Lawrence Berkeley Labs near San Francisco. The hacker had

been part of the same hacking ring as Pengo. Stoll took a hard line on

hacking, a position which did not win him popularity in the

underground. Both Phoenix and Erik had read Stoll's book, and one day

they were sitting around chatting about it.

`You know, it's really stupid that Cliffy put his email address in his

book,' Phoenix said. `Hmm, why don't I go check?'

Sure enough, Phoenix called Erik back about a day later. `Well, I got

root on Cliffy's machine,' he began slowly, then he burst out

laughing. `And I changed the message of the day. Now it reads, "It

looks like the Cuckoo's got egg on his face"!'

It was uproariously funny. Stoll, the most famous hacker-catcher in

the world, had been japed! It was the funniest thing Erik had heard in

weeks.

But it was not nearly so amusing as what Erik told Phoenix later about



the New York Times. The paper had published an article on 19 March

suggesting a hacker had written some sort of virus or worm which was

breaking into dozens of computers.

`Listen to this,' Erik had said, reading Phoenix the lead paragraph,

`"A computer intruder has written a program that has entered dozens of

computers in a nationwide network in recent weeks, automatically

stealing electronic documents containing users' passwords and erasing

files to help conceal itself."'

Phoenix was falling off his chair he was laughing so hard. A program?

Which was automatically doing this? No. It wasn't an automated

program, it was the Australians! It was the Realm hackers! God, this

was funny.

`Wait--there's more! It says, "Another rogue program shows a

widespread vulnerability". I laughed my ass off,' Erik said,

struggling to get the words out.

`A rogue program! Who wrote the article?'

`A John Markoff,' Erik answered, wiping his eyes. `I called him up.'

`You did? What did you say?' Phoenix tried to gather himself together.

`"John," I said, "You know that article you wrote on page 12 of the

Times? It's wrong! There's no rogue program attacking the Internet."

He goes, "What is it then?" "It's not a virus or a worm," I said.

"It's PEOPLE."'

Erik started laughing uncontrollably again.

`Then Markoff sounds really stunned, and he goes, "People?" And I

said, "Yeah, people." Then he said, "How do you know?" And I said,

"Because, John, I KNOW."'

Phoenix erupted in laughter again. The Times reporter obviously had

worms on his mind, since the author of the famous Internet worm,

Robert T. Morris Jr, had just been tried and convicted in the US. He

was due to be sentenced in May.

US investigators had tracked the hacker's connections, looping through

site after site in a burrowing manner which they assumed belonged to a

worm. The idea of penetrating so many sites all in such a short time

clearly baffled the investigators, who concluded it must be a program

rather than human beings launching the attacks.

`Yeah,' Erik continued, `And then Markoff said, "Can you get me to

talk to them?" And I said I'd see what I could do.'

`Yeah,' Phoenix said. `Go tell him, yes. Yeah, I gotta talk to this

idiot. I'll set him straight.'

Page one, the New York Times, 21 March 1990: `Caller Says he Broke

Computers' Barriers to Taunt the Experts', by John Markoff.

True, the article was below the crease--on the bottom half of the

page--but at least it was in column 1, the place a reader turns to

first.


Phoenix was chuffed. He'd made the front page of the New York Times.

`The man identified himself only as an Australian named Dave,' the

article said. Phoenix chuckled softly. Dave Lissek was the pseudonym

he'd used. Of course, he wasn't the only one using the name Dave. When

Erik first met the Australians on Altos, he marvelled at how they all

called themselves Dave. I'm Dave, he's Dave, we're all Dave, they told

him. It was just easier that way, they said.

The article revealed that `Dave' had attacked Spaf's and Stoll's

machines, and that the Smithsonian Astronomical Observatory at Harvard

University--where Stoll now worked--had pulled its computers off the

Internet as a result of the break in. Markoff had even included the

`egg on his face' story Phoenix had described to him.

Phoenix laughed at how well he had thumbed his nose at Cliffy Stoll.

This article would show him up all right. It felt so good, seeing


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