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copy of the WANK worm. In Brand's machine, they also found a

description of how someone had broken into SPAN looking for the WANK

worm code, but hadn't found it. `That was me breaking into SPAN to

look around,' Gandalf laughed, relaying the tale to Pad.

Despite their growing library of worm code, Pad had no intention of

writing any such worm. They simply wanted the code to study what

penetration methods the worms had used and perhaps to learn something

new. The British hackers prided themselves on never having done

anything destructive to systems they hacked. In places where they knew

their activities had been discovered--such as at the Universities of

Bath, Edinburgh, Oxford and Strathclyde--they wrote notes to the

admins signed 8lgm. It wasn't only an ego thing--it was also a way of

telling the admins that they weren't going to do anything nasty to the


At one university, the admins thought 8lgm was some kind

of weird variation on a Belgian word and that the hackers who visited

their systems night after night were from Belgium. At another uni, the

admins made a different guess at the meaning. In the morning, when

they came into work and saw that the hackers had been playing in their

system all night, they would sigh to each other, `Our eight little

green men are at it again'.

At the University of Lancaster, the hackers wrote a message to the

admins which said: `Don't do anything naughty. We have a good image

around the world, so please don't tarnish it or start making up

stories about us messing up systems. Don't hold your breath for us to

hack you, but keep us in mind.' Wherever they went, their message was

the same.

Nonetheless Pad visualised a scenario where Spaf whipped up the

computer security and law enforcement people into a frenzied panic and

tried to pin all sorts of things on the British hackers, none of which

they had done. The underground saw Spaf as being rabid in his attack

on hackers, based largely on his response to the RTM worm. And Gandalf

had hacked Spaf's machine.

The crackdown on the Australians, combined with the discovery of the

Spaf file, had a profound effect on Pad. Always cautious anyway, he

decided to give up hacking. It was a difficult decision, and weaning

himself from exploring systems night after night was no easy task.

However, in the face of what had happened to Electron and Phoenix,

continuing to hack didn't seem worth the risk.

When Pad gave up hacking, he bought his own NUI so he could access

places like Altos legitimately. The NUI was expensive--about

[sterling]10 an hour--but he was never on for long. Leisurely chats of

the type he once enjoyed in Altos were out of the question, but at

least he could mail letters to his friends like Theorem and Gandalf.

There would have been easier ways to maintain his friendship with

Gandalf, who lived in Liverpool, only an hour's drive away. But it

wouldn't be the same. Pad and Gandalf had never met, or even talked on

the phone. They talked on-line, and via email. That was the way they


Pad also had other reasons for giving up hacking. It was an expensive

habit in Britain because British Telecom time-charged for local phone

calls. In Australia, a hacker could stay on-line for hours, jumping

from one computer to another through the data network, all for the

cost of one local call. Like the Australians, Pad could launch his

hacking sessions from a local uni or X.25 dial-up. However, an

all-night hacking session based on a single phone call might still

cost him [sterling]5 or more in timed-call charges--a considerable

amount of money for an unemployed young man. As it was, Pad had

already been forced to stop hacking for brief periods when he ran out

of his dole money.

Although Pad didn't think he could be prosecuted for hacking under

British law in early 1990, he knew that Britain was about to enact its

own computer crime legislation--the Computer Misuse Act 1990--in

August. The 22-year-old hacker decided that it was better to quit

while he was ahead.

And he did, for a while at least. Until July 1990, when Gandalf, two

years his junior, tempted him with one final hack before the new Act

came into force. Just one last fling, Gandalf told him. After that

last fling in July, Pad stopped hacking again.

The Computer Misuse Act passed into law in August 1990, following two

law commission reviews on the subject. The Scottish Law Commission

issued a 1987 report proposing to make unauthorised data access

illegal, but only if the hacker tried to `secure advantage, or cause

damage to another person'--including reckless damage.2 Simple look-see

hacking would not be a crime under the report's recommendations.

However, in 1989 The Law Commission of England and Wales issued its

own report proposing that simple unauthorised access should be a crime

regardless of intent--a recommendation which was eventually included

in the law.

Late in 1989, Conservative MP Michael Colvin introduced a private

member's bill into the British parliament. Lending her support to the

bill, outspoken hacker-critic Emma Nicholson, another Conservative MP,

fired public debate on the subject and ensured the bill passed through

parliament successfully.

In November 1990, Pad was talking on-line with Gandalf, and his friend

suggested they have one more hack, just one more, for old time's sake.

Well, thought Pad, one more--just a one-off thing--wouldn't hurt.

Before long, Pad was hacking regularly again, and when Gandalf tried

to give it up, Pad was there luring him to return to his favourite

pastime. They were like two boys at school, getting each other into

trouble--the kind of trouble which always comes in pairs. If Pad and

Gandalf hadn't known each other, they probably would both have walked

away from hacking forever in 1990.

As they both got back into the swing of things, they tried to make

light of the risk of getting caught. `Hey, you know,' Gandalf joked

on-line more than once, `the first time we actually meet each other in

person will probably be in a police station.'

Completely irreverent and always upbeat, Gandalf proved to be a true

friend. Pad had rarely met such a fellow traveller in the real world,

let alone on-line. What others--particularly some American

hackers--viewed as prickliness, Pad saw as the perfect sense of

humour. To Pad, Gandalf was the best m8 a fellow could ever have.

During the time Pad avoided hacking, Gandalf had befriended another,

younger hacker named Wandii, also from the north of England. Wandii

never played much of a part in the international computer underground,

but he did spend a lot of time hacking European computers. Wandii and

Pad got along pleasantly but they were never close. They were

acquaintances, bound by ties to Gandalf in the underground.

By the middle of June 1991, Pad, Gandalf and Wandii were peaking. At

least one of them--and often more--had already broken into systems

belonging to the European Community in Luxembourg, The Financial Times

(owners of the FTSE 100 share index), the British Ministry of Defence,

the Foreign Office, NASA, the investment bank SG Warburg in London,

the American computer database software manufacturer Oracle, and more

machines on the JANET network than they could remember. Pad had also

penetrated a classified military network containing a NATO system.

They moved through British Telecom's Packet Switched Stream Network

(PSS), which was similar to the Tymnet X.25 network, with absolute


Gandalf's motto was, `If it moves, hack it'.

[ ]

On 27 June 1991, Pad was sitting in the front room of his parent's

comfortable home in greater Manchester watching the last remnants of

daylight disappear on one of the longest days of the year. He loved

summer, loved waking up to streaks of sunlight sneaking through the

cracks in his bedroom curtain. He often thought to himself, it doesn't

get much better than this.

Around 11 p.m. he flicked on his modem and his Atari 520 ST computer

in the front sitting room. There were two Atari computers in the

house--indicative of his deep enthusiasm for computers since neither

his siblings nor his parents had any interest in programming. Most of

the time, however, Pad left the older Atari alone. His elder brother,

an aspiring chemist, used it for writing his PhD thesis.

Before dialling out, Pad checked that no-one was on the house's single

phone line. Finding it free, he went to check his email on Lutzifer. A

few minutes after watching his machine connect to the German board, he

heard a soft thud, followed by a creaking. Pad stopped typing, looked

up from his machine and listened. He wondered if his brother, reading

in their bedroom upstairs, or his parents, watching telly in the back

lounge room, could hear the creaking.

The sound became more pronounced and Pad swung around and looked

toward the hallway. In a matter of seconds, the front door frame had

been cracked open, prising the door away from its lock. The wood had

been torn apart by some sort of car jack, pumped up until the door

gave way.

Suddenly, a group of men burst through from the front doorstep, dashed

down the long hallway and shot up the carpeted stairs to Pad's


Still sitting at his computer downstairs, Pad swiftly flicked his

modem, and then his computer, off--instantly killing his connection

and everything on his screen. He turned back toward the door leading

to the sitting room and strained to hear what was happening upstairs.

If he wasn't so utterly surprised, he would almost have laughed. He

realised that when the police had dashed up to his bedroom, they had

been chasing every stereotype about hackers they had probably ever

read. The boy. In his bedroom. Hunched over his computer. Late at


They did find a young man in the bedroom, with a computer. But it was

the wrong one, and for all intents and purposes the wrong computer. It

took the police almost ten minutes of quizzing Pad's brother to work

out their mistake.

Hearing a commotion, Pad's parents had rushed into the hallway while

Pad peered from the doorway of the front sitting room. A uniformed

police officer ushered everyone back into the room, and began asking

Pad questions.

`Do you use computers? Do you use the name Pad on computers?' they


Pad concluded the game was up. He answered their questions truthfully.

Hacking was not such a serious crime after all, he thought. It wasn't

as if he had stolen money or anything. This would be a drama, but he

was easy-going. He would roll with the punches, cop a slap on the

wrist and soon the whole thing would be over and done with.

The police took Pad to his bedroom and asked him questions as they

searched the room. The bedroom had a comfortably lived-in look, with a

few small piles of clothes in the corner, some shoes scattered across

the floor, the curtains hanging crooked, and a collection of music

posters--Jimi Hendrix and The Smiths--taped to the wall.

A group of police hovered around his computer. One of them began to

search through Pad's books on the shelves above the PC, checking each

one as he pulled it down. A few well-loved Spike Milligan works. Some

old chess books from when he was captain of the local chess team.

Chemistry books, purchased by Pad long before he took any classes in

the subject, just to satisfy his curiosity. Physics books. An

oceanography textbook. A geology book bought after a visit to a cave

excited his interest in the formation of rocks. Pad's mother, a

nursing sister, and his father, an electronics engineer who tested

gyros on aircraft, had always encouraged their children's interest in

the sciences.

The policeman returned those books to the shelves, only picking out

the computer books, textbooks from programming and maths classes Pad

had taken at a Manchester university. The officer carefully slid them

inside plastic bags to be taken away as


Then the police picked through Pad's music tapes--The Stone Roses,

Pixies, New Order, The Smiths and lots of indie music from the

flourishing Manchester music scene. No evidence of anything but an

eclectic taste in music there.

Another policeman opened Pad's wardrobe and peered inside. `Anything

in here of interest?' he asked.

`No,' Pad answered. `It's all over here.' He pointed to the box of

computer disks.

Pad didn't think there was much point in the police tearing the place

to pieces, when they would ultimately find everything they wanted

anyway. Nothing was hidden. Unlike the Australian hackers, Pad hadn't

been expecting the police at all. Although part of the data on his

hard drive was encrypted, there was plenty of incriminating evidence

in the un-encrypted files.

Pad couldn't hear exactly what his parents were talking about with the

police in the other room, but he could tell they were calm. Why

shouldn't they be? It wasn't as if their son had done anything

terrible. He hadn't beaten someone up in a fist fight at a pub, or

robbed anyone. He hadn't hit someone while drunk driving. No, they

thought, he had just been fiddling around with computers. Maybe poking

around where he shouldn't have been, but that was hardly a serious

crime. They needn't worry. It wasn't as if he was going to prison or

anything. The police would sort it all out. Maybe some sort of

citation, and the matter would be over and done. Pad's mother even

offered to make cups of tea for the police.

One of the police struck up a conversation with Pad off to the side as

he paused to drink his tea. He seemed to know that Pad was on the

dole, and with a completely straight face, he said, `If you wanted a

job, why didn't you just join the police?'

Pad paused for a reality check. Here he was being raided by nearly a

dozen law enforcement officers--including representatives from BT and

Scotland Yard's computer crimes unit--for hacking hundreds of

computers and this fellow wanted to know why he hadn't just become a


He tried not to laugh. Even if he hadn't been busted, there is no way

he would ever have contemplated joining the police. Never in a million

years. His family and friends, while showing a pleasant veneer of

middle-class orderliness, were fundamentally anti-establishment. Many

knew that Pad had been hacking, and which sites he had penetrated.

Their attitude was: Hacking Big Brother? Good on you.

His parents were torn, wanting to encourage Pad's interest in

computers but also worrying their son spent an inordinate amount of

time glued to the screen. Their mixed feelings mirrored Pad's own

occasional concern.

While deep in the throes of endless hacking nights, he would suddenly

sit upright and ask himself, What am I doing here, fucking around on a

computer all day and night? Where is this heading? What about the rest

of life? Then he would disentangle himself from hacking for a few days

or weeks. He would go down to the university pub to drink with his

mostly male group of friends from his course.

Tall, with short brown hair, a slender physique and a handsomely

boyish face, the soft-spoken Pad would have been considered attractive

by many intelligent girls. The problem was finding those sort of

girls. He hadn't met many when he was studying at university--there

were few women in his maths and computer classes. So he and his

friends used to head down to the Manchester nightclubs for the social

scene and the good music.

Pad went downstairs with one of the officers and watched as the police

unplugged his 1200 baud modem, then tucked it into a plastic bag. He

had bought that modem when he was eighteen. The police unplugged

cables, bundled them up and slipped them into labelled plastic bags.

They gathered up his 20 megabyte hard drive and monitor. More plastic

bags and labels.

One of the officers called Pad over to the front door. The jack was

still wedged across the mutilated door frame. The police had broken

down the door instead of knocking because they wanted to catch the

hacker in the act--on-line. The officer motioned for Pad to follow


`Come on,' he said, leading the hacker into the night. `We're taking

you to the station.'

Pad spent the night in a cell at the Salford Crescent police

station, alone. No rough crims, and no other hackers either.

He settled into one of the metal cots lined against the perimeter of

the cell, but sleep evaded him. Pad wondered if Gandalf had been

raided as well. There was no sign of him, but then again, the police

would hardly be stupid enough to lock up the two hackers together. He

tossed and turned, trying to push thoughts from his head.

Pad had fallen into hacking almost by accident. Compared to others in

the underground, he had taken it up at a late age--around nineteen.

Altos had been the catalyst. Visiting BBSes, he read a file describing

not only what Altos was, but how to get there--complete with NUI.

Unlike the Australian underground, the embryonic British underground

had no shortage of NUIs. Someone had discovered a stack of BT NUIs and

posted them on BBSes across England.

Pad followed the directions in the BBS file and soon found himself in

the German chat channel. Like Theorem, he marvelled at the brave new

live world of Altos. It was wonderful, a big international party.

After all, it wasn't every day he got to talk with Australians, Swiss,

Germans, Italians and Americans. Before long, he had taken up hacking

like so many other Altos regulars.

Hacking as a concept had always intrigued him. As a teenager, the film

War Games had dazzled him. The idea that computers could communicate

with each over telephone lines enthralled the sixteen-year-old,

filling his mind with new ideas. Sometime after that he saw a

television report on a group of hackers who claimed that they had used

their skills to move satellites around in space--the same story which

had first caught Electron's imagination.

Pad had grown up in Greater Manchester. More than a century before,

the region had been a textile boom-town. But the thriving economy did

not translate into great wealth for the masses. In the early 1840s,

Friedrich Engels had worked in his father's cotton-milling factory in

the area, and the suffering

he saw in the region influenced his most famous work, The Communist

Manifesto, published in 1848.

Manchester wore the personality of a working-class town, a place where

people often disliked the establishment and

distrusted authority figures. The 1970s and 1980s had not been kind to

most of Greater Manchester, with unemployment and urban decay

disfiguring the once-proud textile hub. But this decay only appeared

to strengthen an underlying resolve among many from the working

classes to challenge the symbols of power.

Pad didn't live in a public housing high-rise. He lived in a suburban

middle-class area, in an old, working-class town removed from the

dismal inner-city. But like many people from the north, he disliked

pretensions. Indeed, he harboured a healthy degree of good-natured

scepticism, perhaps stemming from a culture of mates whose favourite

pastime was pulling each other's leg down at the pub.

This scepticism was in full-gear as he watched the story of how

hackers supposedly moved satellites around in space, but somehow the

idea slipped through the checkpoints and captured his imagination,

just as it had done with Electron. He felt a desire to find out for

himself if it was true and he began pursuing hacking in enthusiastic

bursts. At first it was any moderately interesting system. Then he

moved to the big-name systems--computers belonging to large

institutions. Eventually, working with the Australians, he learned to

target computer security experts. That was, after all, where the

treasure was stored.

In the morning at the police station, a guard gave Pad something to

eat which might have passed for food. Then he was escorted into an

interview room with two plain-clothed officers and a BT


Did he want a lawyer? No. He had nothing to hide. Besides, the police

had already seized evidence from his house, including unencrypted data

logs of his hacking sessions. How could he argue against that? So he

faced his stern inquisitors and answered their questions willingly.

Suddenly things began to take a different turn when they began asking

about the `damage' he had done inside the Greater London Polytechnic's

computers. Damage? What damage? Pad certainly hadn't damaged anything.

Yes, the police told him. The damage totalling almost a quarter of a

million pounds.

Pad gasped in horror. A quarter of a million pounds? He thought back

to his many forays into the system. He had been a little mischievous,

changing the welcome message to `Hi' and signing it 8lgm. He had made

a few accounts for himself so he could log in at a later date. That

seemed to be nothing special, however, since he and Gandalf had a

habit of making accounts called 8lgm for themselves in JANET systems.

He had also erased logs of his activities to cover his tracks, but

again, this was not unusual, and he had certainly never deleted any

computer users' files. The whole thing had just been a bit of fun, a

bit of cat and mouse gaming with the system admins. There was nothing

he could recall which would account for that kind of damage. Surely

they had the wrong hacker?

No, he was the right one all right. Eighty investigators from BT,

Scotland Yard and other places had been chasing the 8lgm hackers for

two years. They had phone traces, logs seized from his computer and

logs from the hacked sites. They knew it was him.

For the first time, the true gravity of the situation hit Pad. These

people believed in some way that he had committed serious criminal

damage, that he had even been malicious.

After about two hours of questioning, they put Pad back in his cell.

More questions tomorrow, they told him.

Later that afternoon, an officer came in to tell Pad his mother and

Directory: ~suelette -> underground

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