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
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
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
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
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
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
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
`Do you use computers? Do you use the name Pad on computers?' they
Pad concluded the game was up. He answered their questions truthfully.
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 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
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
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
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
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
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