Suelette dreyfus julian assange

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himself in print that way. He did that. That was him there in black in

white, for all the world to see. He had outsmarted the world's best

known hacker-catcher, and he had smeared the insult across the front

page of the most prestigious newspaper in America.

And Markoff reported that he had been in Spaf's system too! Phoenix

glowed happily. Better still, Markoff had quoted `Dave' on the

subject: `The caller said ... "It used to be the security guys chasing

the hackers. Now it's the hackers chasing the security people."'

The article went on: `Among the institutions believed to have been

penetrated by the intruder are the Los Alamos National Laboratories,

Harvard, Digital Equipment Corporation, Boston University and the

University of Texas.' Yes, that list sounded about right. Well, for

the Australians as a group anyway. Even if Phoenix hadn't masterminded

or even penetrated some of those himself, he was happy to take the

credit in the Times.

This was a red-letter day for Phoenix.

Electron, however, was furious. How could Phoenix be so stupid? He

knew that Phoenix had an ego, that he talked too much, and that his

tendency to brag had grown worse over time, fed by the skyrocketing

success of the Australian hackers. Electron knew all of that, but he

still couldn't quite believe that Phoenix had gone so far as to strut

and preen like a show pony for the New York Times.

To think that he had associated with Phoenix. Electron was disgusted.

He had never trusted Phoenix--a caution now proved wise. But he had

spent hours with him on the phone, with most of the information

flowing in one direction. But not only did Phoenix show no discretion

at all in dealing with the paper, he bragged about doing things that

Electron had done! If Phoenix had to talk--and clearly he should have

kept his mouth shut--he should have at least been honest about the

systems for which he could claim credit.

Electron had tried with Phoenix. Electron had suggested that he stop

talking to the security guys. He had continually urged caution and

discretion. He had even subtly withdrawn each time Phoenix suggested

one of his hair-brained schemes to show off to a security bigwig.

Electron had done this in the hope that Phoenix might get the hint.

Maybe, if Phoenix couldn't hear someone shouting advice at him, he

might at least listen to someone whispering it. But no. Phoenix was

far too thick for that.

The Internet--indeed, all hacking--was out of bounds for weeks, if not

months. There was no chance the Australian authorities would let a

front-page story in the Times go by un-heeded. The Americans would be

all over them. In one selfish act of hubris, Phoenix had ruined the

party for everyone else.

Electron unplugged his modem and took it to his father. During exams,

he had often asked his father to hide it. He didn't have the

self-discipline needed to stay away on his own and there was no other

way Electron could keep himself from jacking in--plugging his modem

into the wall. His father had become an expert at hiding the device,

but Electron usually still managed to find it after a few days,

tearing the house apart until he emerged, triumphant, with the modem

held high above his head. Even when his father began hiding the modem

outside the family home it would only postpone the inevitable.

This time, however, Electron vowed he would stop hacking until the

fallout had cleared--he had to. So he handed the modem to his father,

with strict instructions, and then tried to distract himself by

cleaning up his hard drive and disks. His hacking files had to go too.

So much damning evidence of his activities. He deleted some files and

took others on disks to store at a friend's house. Deleting files

caused Electron considerable pain, but there was no other way. Phoenix

had backed him into a corner.

Brimming with excitement, Phoenix rang Electron on a sunny March


`Guess what?' Phoenix was jumping around like an eager puppy at the

other end of the line. `We made the nightly news right across the US!'

`Uhuh,' Electron responded, unimpressed.

`This is not a joke!' We were on cable news all day too. I called Erik

and he told me.'

`Mmm,' Electron said.

`You know, we did a lot of things right. Like Harvard. We got into

every system at Harvard. It was a good move. Harvard gave us the fame

we needed.'

Electron couldn't believe what he was hearing. He didn't need any

fame--and he certainly didn't need to be busted. The

conversation--like Phoenix himself--was really beginning to annoy him.

`Hey, and they know your name,' Phoenix said coyly.

That got a reaction. Electron gulped his anger.

`Haha! Just joshing!' Phoenix practically shouted. `Don't worry! They

didn't really mention anyone's name.'

`Good,' Electron answered curtly. His irritation stewed


`So, do you reckon we'll make the cover of Time or Newsweek?'

Good grief! Didn't Phoenix ever give up? As if it wasn't enough to

appear on the 6 o'clock national news in a country crawling with

over-zealous law enforcement agencies. Or to make the New York Times.

He had to have the weeklies too.

Phoenix was revelling in his own publicity. He felt like he was on top

of the world, and he wanted to shout about it. Electron had felt the

same wave of excitement from hacking many high-profile targets and

matching wits with the best, but he was happy to stand on the peak by

himself, or with people like Pad and Gandalf, and enjoy the view

quietly. He was happy to know he had been the best on the frontier of

a computer underground which was fresh, experimental and, most of all,

international. He didn't need to call up newspaper reporters or gloat

about it in Clifford Stoll's face.

`Well, what do you reckon?' Phoenix asked impatiently.

`No,' Electron answered.

`No? You don't think we will?' Phoenix sounded disappointed.


`Well, I'll demand it!' Phoenix said laughing, `Fuck it, we want the

cover of Newsweek, nothing less.' Then, more seriously, `I'm trying to

work out what really big target would clinch it for us.'

`Yeah, OK, whatever,' Electron replied, distancing himself again.

But Electron was thinking, Phoenix, you are a fool. Didn't he see the

warning signs? Pad's warning, all the busts in the US, reports that

the Americans were hunting down the Brits. As a result of these news

reports of which Phoenix was so proud, bosses across the world would

be calling their computer managers into their offices and breathing

down their necks about their own computer security.

The brazen hackers had deeply offended the computer security industry,

spurring it into action. In the process, some in the industry had also

seen an opportunity to raise its own public profile. The security

experts had talked to the law enforcement agencies, who were now

clearly sharing information across national borders and closing in

fast. The conspirators in

the global electronic village were at the point of maximum


`We could hack Spaf again,' Phoenix volunteered.

`The general public couldn't give a fuck about Eugene Spafford,'

Electron said, trying to dampen Phoenix's bizarre enthusiasm. He was

all for thumbing one's nose at authority, but this was not the way to

do it.

`It'd be so funny in court, though. The lawyer would call Spaf and

say, "So, Mr Spafford, is it true that you are a world-renowned

computer security expert?" When he said, "Yes" I'd jump up and go, "I

object, your honour, this guy doesn't know jackshit, 'cause I hacked

his machine and it was a breeze!"'


`Hey, if we don't get busted in the next two weeks, it will be a

miracle,' Phoenix continued happily.

`I hope not.'

`This is a lot of fun!' Phoenix shouted sarcastically. `We're gonna

get busted! We're gonna get busted!'

Electron's jaw fell to the ground. Phoenix was mad. Only a lunatic

would behave this way. Mumbling something about how tired he was,

Electron said goodbye and hung up.
At 5.50 a.m. on 2 April 1990, Electron dragged himself out of bed and

made his way to the bathroom. Part way through his visit, the light

suddenly went out.

How strange. Electron opened his eyes wide in the early morning

dimness. He returned to his bedroom and began putting on some jeans

before going to investigate the problem.

Suddenly, two men in street clothes yanked his window open and jumped

through into the room shouting, `GET DOWN ON THE FLOOR!'

Who were these people? Half-naked, Electron stood in the middle of his

room, stunned and immobile. He had suspected the police might pay him

a visit, but didn't they normally wear uniforms? Didn't they announce


The two men grabbed Electron, threw him face down onto the floor and

pulled his arms behind his back. They jammed handcuffs on his

wrists--hard--cutting his skin. Then someone kicked him in the


`Are there any firearms in the house?' one of the men asked.

Electron couldn't answer because he couldn't breathe. The kick had

winded him. He felt someone pull him up from the floor and prop him in

a chair. Lights went on everywhere and he could see six or seven

people moving around in the hallway. They must have come into the

house another way. The ones in the hallway were all wearing bibs with

three large letters emblazoned across the front: AFP.

As Electron slowly gathered his wits, he realised why the cops had

asked about firearms. He had once joked to Phoenix on the phone about

how he was practising with his dad's .22 for when the feds came

around. Obviously the feds had been tapping his phone.

While his father talked with one of the officers in the other room and

read the warrant, Electron saw the police pack up his computer

gear--worth some $3000--and carry it out of the house. The only thing

they didn't discover was the modem. His father had become so expert at

hiding it that not even the Australian Federal Police could find it.

Several other officers began searching Electron's bedroom, which was

no small feat, given the state it was in. The floor was covered in a

thick layer of junk. Half crumpled music band posters, lots of

scribbled notes with passwords and NUAs, pens, T-shirts both clean and

dirty, jeans, sneakers, accounting books, cassettes, magazines, the

occasional dirty cup. By the time the police had sifted through it all

the room was tidier than when they started.

As they moved into another room at the end of the raid, Electron bent

down to pick up one of his posters which had fallen onto the floor. It

was a Police Drug Identification Chart--a gift from a friend's

father--and there, smack dab in the middle, was a genuine AFP

footprint. Now it was a collector's item. Electron smiled to himself

and carefully tucked the poster away.

When he went out to the living room, he saw a policemen holding a

couple of shovels and he wanted to laugh again. Electron had also once

told Phoenix that all his sensitive hacking disks were buried in the

backyard. Now the police were going to dig it up in search of

something which had been destroyed a few days before. It was too


The police found little evidence of Electron's hacking at his house,

but that didn't really matter. They already had almost everything they


Later that morning, the police put the 20-year-old Electron into an

unmarked car and drove him to the AFP's imposing-looking headquarters

at 383 Latrobe Street for questioning.

In the afternoon, when Electron had a break from the endless

questions, he walked out to the hallway. The boyish-faced Phoenix,

aged eighteen, and fellow Realm member Nom, 21, were walking with

police at the other end of the hall. They were too far apart to talk,

but Electron smiled. Nom looked worried. Phoenix looked annoyed.

Electron was too intimidated to insist on having a lawyer. What was

the point in asking for one anyway? It was clear the police had

information they could only have obtained from

tapping his phone. They also showed him logs taken from Melbourne

University, which had been traced back to his phone. Electron figured

the game was up, so he might as well tell them the whole story--or at

least as much of it as he had told Phoenix on the phone.

Two officers conducted the interview. The lead interviewer was

Detective Constable Glenn Proebstl, which seemed to be pronounced

`probe stool'--an unfortunate name, Electron thought. Proebstl was

accompanied by Constable Natasha Elliott, who occasionally added a few

questions at the end of various interview topics but otherwise kept to

herself. Although he had decided to answer their questions truthfully,

Electron thought that neither of them knew much about computers and

found himself struggling to understand what they were trying to ask.

Electron had to begin with the basics. He explained what the FINGER

command was--how you could type `finger' followed by a username, and

then the computer would provide basic information about the user's

name and other details.

`So, what is the methodology behind it ... finger ... then, it's

normally ... what is the normal command after that to try and get the

password out?' Constable Elliott finally completed her convoluted

attempt at a question.

The only problem was that Electron had no idea what she was talking


`Well, um, I mean there is none. I mean you don't use finger like that


`Right. OK,' Constable Elliott got down to business. `Well, have you

ever used that system before?'

`Uhm, which system?' Electron had been explaining commands for so long

he had forgotten if they were still talking about how he hacked the

Lawrence Livermore computer or some other site.

`The finger ... The finger system?'

Huh? Electron wasn't quite sure how to answer that question. There was

no such thing. Finger was a command, not a computer.

`Uh, yes,' he said.

The interview went the same way, jolting awkwardly through computer

technology which he understood far better than either officer.

Finally, at the end of a long day, Detective Constable Proebstl asked


`In your own words, tell me what fascination you find with accessing

computers overseas?'

`Well, basically, it's not for any kind of personal gain or anything,'

Electron said slowly. It was a surprisingly difficult question to

answer. Not because he didn't know the answer, but because it was a

difficult answer to describe to someone who had never hacked a

computer. `It's just the kick of getting in to a system. I mean, once

you are in, you very often get bored and even though you can still

access the system, you may never call back.

`Because once you've gotten in, it's a challenge over and you don't

really care much about it,' Electron continued, struggling. `It's a

hot challenge thing, trying to do things that other people are also

trying to do but can't.

`So, I mean, I guess it is a sort of ego thing. It's knowing that you

can do stuff that other people cannot, and well, it is the

challenge and the ego boost you get from doing something well ...

where other people try and fail.'

A few more questions and the day-long interview finally

finished. The police then took Electron to the Fitzroy police

station. He guessed it was the nearest location with a JP they could

find willing to process a bail application at that hour.

In front of the ugly brick building, Electron noticed a small group of

people gathered on the footpath in the dusky light. As the police car

pulled up, the group swung into a frenzy of activity, fidgeting in

over-the-shoulder briefcases, pulling out notebooks and pens, scooping

up big microphones with fuzzy shag covers, turning on TV camera


Oh NO! Electron wasn't prepared for this at all.

Flanked by police, Electron stepped out of the police car and blinked

in the glare of photographers' camera flashes and TV camera

searchlights. The hacker tried to ignore them, walking as briskly as

his captors would allow. Sound recordists and reporters tagged beside

him, keeping pace, while the TV cameramen and photographers weaved in

front of him. Finally he escaped into the safety of the watchhouse.

First there was paperwork, followed by the visit to the JP. While

shuffling through his papers, the JP gave Electron a big speech about

how defendants often claimed to have been beaten by the police.

Sitting in the dingy meeting room, Electron felt somewhat confused by

the purpose of this tangential commentary. However, the JP's next

question cleared things up: `Have you had any problems with your

treatment by the police which you would like to record at this time?'

Electron thought about the brutal kick he had suffered while lying on

his bedroom floor, then he looked up and found Detective Constable

Proebstl staring him in the eye. A slight smile passed across the

detective's face.

`No,' Electron answered.

The JP proceeded to launch into another speech which Electron found

even stranger. There was another defendant in the lock-up at the

moment, a dangerous criminal who had a disease the JP knew about, and

the JP could decide to lock Electron up with that criminal instead of

granting him bail.

Was this meant to be helpful warning, or just the gratification of

some kind of sadistic tendency? Electron was baffled but he didn't

have to consider the situation for long. The JP granted bail.

Electron's father came to the watchhouse, collected his son and signed

the papers for a $1000 surety--to be paid if Electron skipped town.

That night Electron watched as his name appeared on the late night


At home over the next few weeks, Electron struggled to come to terms

with the fact that he would have to give up hacking forever. He still

had his modem, but no computer. Even if he had a machine, he realised

it was far too dangerous to even contemplate hacking again.

So he took up drugs instead.
[ ]

Electron's father waited until the very last days of his illness, in

March 1991, before he went into hospital. He knew that once he went

in, he would not be coming out again.

There was so much to do before that trip, so many things to organise.

The house, the life insurance paperwork, the will, the funeral, the

instructions for the family friend who promised to watch over both

children when he was gone. And, of course, the children themselves.

He looked at his two children and worried. Despite their ages of 21

and 19, they were in many ways still very sheltered. He realised that

Electron's anti-establishment attitude and his sister's emotional

remoteness would remain unresolved difficulties at the time of his

death. As the cancer progressed, Electron's father tried to tell both

children how much he cared for them. He might have been somewhat

emotionally remote himself in the past, but with so little time left,

he wanted to set the record straight.

On the issue of Electron's problems with the police, however,

Electron's father maintained a hands-off approach. Electron had only

talked to his father about his hacking exploits occasionally, usually

when he had achieved what he considered to be a very noteworthy hack.

His father's view was always the same. Hacking is illegal, he told his

son, and the police will probably eventually catch you. Then you will

have to deal with the problem yourself. He didn't lecture his son, or

forbid Electron from hacking. On this issue he considered his son old

enough to make his own choices and live with the consequences.

True to his word, Electron's father had shown little sympathy for his

son's legal predicament after the police raid. He remained neutral on

the subject, saying only, `I told you something like this would happen

and now it is your responsibility'.

Electron's hacking case progressed slowly over the year, as did his

university accounting studies. In March 1991, he faced committal

proceedings and had to decide whether to fight his committal.

He faced fifteen charges, most of which were for obtaining

unauthorised access to computers in the US and Australia. A few were

aggravated offences, for obtaining access to data of a commercial

nature. On one count each, the DPP (the Office of the Commonwealth

Director of Public Prosecutions) said he altered and erased data.

Those two counts were the result of his inserting backdoors for

himself, not because he did damage to any files. The evidence was

reasonably strong: telephone intercepts and datataps on Phoenix's

phone which showed him talking to Electron about hacking; logs of

Electron's own sessions in Melbourne University's systems which were

traced back to his home phone; and Electron's own confession to the


This was the first major computer hacking case in Australia under the

new legislation. It was a test case--the test case for computer

hacking in Australia--and the DPP was going in hard. The case had

generated seventeen volumes of evidence, totalling some 25000 pages,

and Crown prosecutor Lisa West planned to call up to twenty expert

witnesses from Australia, Europe and the US.

Those witnesses had some tales to tell about the Australian hackers,

who had caused havoc in systems around the world. Phoenix had

accidentally deleted a Texas-based company's inventory of assets--the

only copy in existence according to Execucom Systems Corporation. The

hackers had also baffled security personnel at the US Naval Research

Labs. They had bragged to the New York Times. And they forced NASA to

cut off its computer network for 24 hours.

AFP Detective Sergeant Ken Day had flown halfway around the world to

obtain a witness statement from none other than NASA Langley computer

manager Sharon Beskenis--the admin Phoenix had accidentally kicked off

her own system when he was trying to get Deszip. Beskenis had been

more than happy to oblige and on 24 July 1990 she signed a statement

in Virginia, witnessed by Day. Her statement said that, as a result of

Directory: ~suelette -> underground

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