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that linked him to his handle, so he admitted to it.

Day had some other surprising questions up his sleeve.

`So, Mendax, what do you know about that white powder in the bedroom?'

Mendax couldn't recall any white powder in the bedroom. He didn't do

drugs, so why would there be any white powder anywhere? He watched two

police officers bringing two large red toolboxes in the house--they

looked like drug testing kits. Jesus, Mendax thought. I'm being set


The cops led the hacker into the bedroom and pointed to two neat lines

of white powder laid out on a bench.

Mendax smiled, relieved. `It's not what you think,' he said. The white

powder was glow-in-the-dark glue he had used to paint stars on the

ceiling of his child's bedroom.

Two of the cops started smiling at each other. Mendax could see

exactly what was going through their minds: It's not every cocaine or

speed user that can come up with a story like that.

One grinned at the other and exclaimed gleefully, `TASTE TEST!'

`That's not a good idea,' Mendax said, but his protests only made

things worse. The cops shooed him into another room and returned to

inspect the powder by themselves.

What Mendax really wanted was to get word through to Prime Suspect.

The cops had probably busted all three IS hackers at the same time,

but maybe not. While the police investigated the glue on their own,

Mendax managed to sneak a telephone call to his estranged wife and

asked her to call Prime Suspect and warn him. He and his wife might

have had their differences, but he figured she would make the call


When Mendax's wife reached Prime Suspect later that night, he replied,

`Yeah, there's a party going on over here too.'

Mendax went back in to the kitchen where an officer was tagging the

growing number of possessions seized by the police. One of the female

officers was struggling to move his printer to the pile. She smiled

sweetly at Mendax and asked if he would move it for her. He obliged.

The police finally left Mendax's house at about 3 a.m. They had spent

three and half hours and seized 63 bundles of his personal belongings,

but they had not charged him with a single crime.

When the last of the unmarked police cars had driven away, Mendax

stepped out into the silent suburban street. He looked around. After

making sure that no-one was watching him, he walked to a nearby phone

booth and rang Trax.

`The AFP raided my house tonight.' he warned his friend. `They just


Trax sounded odd, awkward. `Oh. Ah. I see.'

`Is there something wrong? You sound strange,' Mendax said.

`Ah. No ... no, nothing's wrong. Just um ... tired. So, um ... so the

feds could ... ah, be here any minute ...' Trax's voice trailed off.

But something was very wrong. The AFP were already at Trax's house,

and they had been there for 10 hours.

The IS hackers waited almost three years to be charged. The threat of

criminal charges hung over their heads like personalised Swords of

Damocles. They couldn't apply for a job, make a friend at TAFE or plan

for the future without worrying about what would happen as a result of

the AFP raids of 29 October 1991.

Finally, in July 1994, each hacker received formal charges--in the

mail. During the intervening years, all three hackers went through

monumental changes in their lives.

Devastated by the break-down of his marriage and unhinged by the AFP

raid, Mendax sank into a deep depression and consuming anger. By the

middle of November 1991, he was admitted to hospital.

He hated hospital, its institutional regimens and game-playing

shrinks. Eventually, he told the doctors he wanted out. He might be

crazy, but hospital was definitely making him crazier. He left there

and stayed at his mother's house. The next year was the worst of his


Once a young person leaves home--particularly the home of a

strong-willed parent--it becomes very difficult for him or her to

return. Short visits might work, but permanent residency often fails.

Mendax lived for a few days at home, then went walkabout. He slept in

the open air, on the banks of rivers and creeks, in grassy

meadows--all on the country fringes of Melbourne's furthest suburbs.

Sometimes he travelled closer to the city, overnighting in places like

the Merri Creek reserve.

Mostly, he haunted Sherbrooke Forest in the Dandenong Ranges National

Park. Because of the park's higher elevation, the temperature dropped

well below the rest of Melbourne in winter. In summer, the mosquitoes

were unbearable and Mendax sometimes woke to find his face swollen and

bloated from their bites.

For six months after the AFP raid, Mendax didn't touch a computer.

Slowly, he started rebuilding his life from the ground up. By the time

the AFP's blue slips--carrying 29 charges--arrived in July 1994, he

was settled in a new house with his child. Throughout his period of

transition, he talked to Prime Suspect and Trax on the phone

regularly--as friends and fellow rebels, not fellow hackers. Prime

Suspect had been going through his own set of problems.

While he hacked, Prime Suspect didn't do many drugs. A little weed,

not much else. There was no time for drugs, girls, sports or anything

else. After the raid, he gave up hacking and began smoking more dope.

In April 1992, he tried ecstasy for the first time--and spent the next

nine months trying to find the same high. He didn't consider himself

addicted to drugs, but the drugs had certainly replaced his addiction

to hacking and his life fell into a rhythm.

Snort some speed or pop an ecstasy tablet on Saturday night. Go to a

rave. Dance all night, sometimes for six hours straight. Get home

mid-morning and spend Sunday coming down from the drugs. Get high on

dope a few times during the week, to dull the edges of desire for the

more expensive drugs. When Saturday rolled around, do it all over

again. Week in, week out. Month after month.

Dancing to techno-music released him. Dancing to it on drugs cleared

his mind completely, made him feel possessed by the music. Techno was

musical nihilism; no message, and not much medium either. Fast,

repetitive, computer-synthesised beats, completely stripped of vocals

or any other evidence of humanity. He liked to go to techno-night at

The Lounge, a city club, where people danced by themselves, or in

small, loose groups of four or five. Everyone watched the video screen

which provided an endless stream of ever-changing, colourful

computer-generated geometric shapes pulsing to the beat.

Prime Suspect never told his mother he was going to a rave. He just

said he was going to a friend's for the night. In between the drugs,

he attended his computer science courses at TAFE and worked at the

local supermarket so he could afford his weekly $60 ecstasy tablet,

$20 rave entry fee and regular baggy of marijuana.

Over time, the drugs became less and less fun. Then, one Sunday, he

came down off some speed hard. A big crash. The worst he had ever

experienced. Depression set in, and then paranoia. He knew the police

were still watching him. They had followed him before.

At his police interviews, he learned that an AFP officer had followed

him to an AC/DC concert less than two weeks before he had been busted.

The officer told him the AFP wanted to know what sort of friends Prime

Suspect associated with--and the officer had been treated to the spectre

of seven other arm-waving, head-thumping, screaming teenagers just like

Prime Suspect himself.

Now Prime Suspect believed that the AFP had started following him

again. They were going to raid him again, even though he had given up

hacking completely. It didn't make sense. He knew the premonition was

illogical, but he couldn't shake it.

Something bad--very, very bad--was going to happen any day. Overcome

with a great sense of impending doom, he lapsed into a sort of

hysterical depression. Feeling unable to prevent the advent of the

dark, terrible event which would tear apart his life yet again, he

reached out to a friend who had experienced his own personal problems.

The friend guided him to a psychologist at the Austin Hospital. Prime

Suspect decided that there had to be a better way to deal with his

problems than wasting himself every weekend. He began counselling.

The counselling made him deal with all sorts of unresolved business.

His father's death. His relationship with his mother. How he had

evolved into an introvert, and why he was never comfortable talking to

people. Why he hacked. How he became addicted to hacking. Why he took

up drugs.

At the end, the 21-year-old Prime Suspect emerged drug-free and,

though still shaky, on the road to recovery. The worst he had to wait

for were the charges from the AFP.

Trax's recovery from his psychological instabilities wasn't as

definitive. From 1985, Trax had suffered from panic attacks, but he

didn't want to seek professional help--he just ran away from the

problem. The situation only became worse after he was involved in a

serious car accident. He became afraid to leave the house at night. He

couldn't drive. Whenever he was in a car, he had to fight an

overwhelming desire to fling the door open and throw himself out on to

the road. In 1989, his local GP referred Trax to a psychiatrist, who

tried to treat the phreaker's growing anxiety attacks with hypnosis

and relaxation techniques.

Trax's illness degenerated into full-fledged agoraphobia, a fear of

open spaces. When he rang the police in late October 1991--just days

before the AFP raid--his condition had deteriorated to the point where

he could not comfortably leave his own house.

Initially he rang the state police to report a death threat made

against him by another phreaker. Somewhere in the conversation, he

began to talk about his own phreaking and hacking. He hadn't intended

to turn himself in but, well, the more he talked, the more he had to

say. So many things had been weighing on his mind. He knew that Prime

Suspect had probably been traced from NorTel as a result of Mendax's

own near miss in that system. And Prime Suspect and Mendax had been so

active, breaking into so many systems, it was almost as if they wanted

to be caught.

Then there was Prime Suspect's plan to write a destructive worm, which

would wipe systems en route. It wasn't really a plan per se, more just

an idea he had toyed with on the phone. Nonetheless, it had scared

Trax. He began to think all three IS hackers were getting in too deep

and he wanted out.

He tried to stop phreaking, even going so far as to ask Telecom to

change his telephone number to a new exchange which he knew would not

allow him to make untraceable calls. Trax reasoned that if he knew he

could be traced, he would stop phreaking and hacking.

For a period, he did stop. But the addiction was too strong, and

before long he was back at it again, regardless of the risk. He ran a

hidden cable from his sister's telephone line, which was on the old

exchange. His inability to stop made him feel weak and guilty, and

even more anxious about the risks. Perhaps the death threat threw him

over the edge. He couldn't really understand why he had turned himself

in to the police. It had just sort of happened.

The Victoria Police notified the AFP. The AFP detectives must have

been slapping their heads in frustration. Here was Australia's next

big hacker case after The Realm, and they had expected to make a clean

bust. They had names, addresses, phone numbers. They had jumped

through legal hoops to get a telephone tap. The tap was up and

running, catching every target computer, every plot, every word the

hackers said to each other. Then one of their targets goes and turns

himself in to the police. And not even to the right police--he goes to

the Victoria Police. In one fell swoop, the hacker was going to take

down the entire twelve-month Operation Weather investigation.

The AFP had to move quickly. If Trax tipped off the other two IS

hackers that he had called the police, they might destroy their notes,

computer files--all the evidence the AFP had hoped to seize in raids.

When the AFP swooped in on the three hackers, Mendax and Prime Suspect

had refused to be interviewed on the night. Trax, however, had spent

several hours talking to the police at his house.

He told the other IS hackers that the police had threatened to take

him down to AFP headquarters--despite the fact that they knew leaving

his house caused him anxiety. Faced with that prospect, made so

terrifying by his psychiatric illness, he had talked.

Prime Suspect and Mendax didn't know how much Trax had told the

police, but they didn't believe he would dob them in completely. Apart

from anything else, he hadn't been privy to much of his colleagues'

hacking. They hadn't tried to exclude Trax, but he was not as

sophisticated a hacker and therefore didn't share in many of their


In fact, one thing Trax did tell the police was just how sophisticated

the other two IS hackers had become just prior to the bust. Prime

Suspect and Mendax were, he said, `hackers on a major scale, on a huge

scale--something never achieved before', and the AFP had sat up and

taken notice.

After the raids, Trax told Mendax that the AFP had tried to recruit

him as an informant. Trax said that they had even offered him a new

computer system, but he had been non-committal. And it seemed the AFP

was still keeping tabs on the IS hackers, Trax also told Mendax. The

AFP officers had heard Mendax had gone into hospital and they were

worried. There seemed to be a disturbing pattern evolving.

On the subject of the IS raids, Trax told Mendax that the AFP felt it

didn't have any choice. Their attitude was: you were doing so much, we

had to bust you. You were inside so many systems, it was getting out

of control.

In any case, by December 1991 Mendax had agreed to a police interview,

based on legal advice. Ken Day interviewed Mendax, and the hacker was

open with Day about what he had done. He refused, however, to

implicate either Trax or Prime Suspect. In February 1992, Prime

Suspect followed suit, with two interviews. He was also careful about

what he said regarding his fellow hackers. Mendax was interviewed a

second time, in February 1992, as was Trax in August.

After the raid, Trax's psychiatric condition remained unstable. He

changed doctors and began receiving home visits from a hospital

psychiatric service. Eventually, a doctor prescribed medication.

The three hackers continued to talk on the phone, and see each other

occasionally. One or the other might drop out of communication for a

period, but would soon return to the fold. They helped each other and

they maintained their deep anti-establishment sentiments.

After the charges arrived in the mail, they called each other to

compare notes. Mendax thought out loud on the phone to Prime Suspect,

`I guess I should get a lawyer'.

`Yeah. I got one. He's lining up a barrister too.'

`They any good?' Mendax asked.

`Dunno. I guess so. The solicitor works at Legal Aid, an in-house guy.

I've only met them a few times.'

`Oh,' Mendax paused. `What are their names?'

`John McLoughlin and Boris Kayser. They did Electron's case.'

Trax and Prime Suspect decided to plead guilty. Once they saw the

overwhelming evidence--data taps, telephone voice taps, data seized

during the raids, nearly a dozen statements by witnesses from the

organisations they had hacked, the 300-page Telecom report--they

figured they would be better off pleading. The legal brief ran to more

than 7000 pages. At least they would get some kudos with the judge for

cooperating in the police interviews and pleading early in the

process, thus saving the court time and money.

Mendax, however, wanted to fight the charges. He knew about Pad and

Gandalf's case and the message from that seemed to be pretty clear:

Plead and you go to prison, fight and you might get off free.

The DPP shuffled the charges around so much between mid-1994 and 1995

that all the original charges against Trax, issued on 20 July 1994,

were dropped in favour of six new charges filed on Valentines Day,

1995. At that time, new charges--largely for hacking a Telecom

computer--were also laid against Mendax and Prime Suspect.

By May 1995, the three hackers faced 63 charges in all: 31 for Mendax,

26 for Prime Suspect and six for Trax. In addition, NorTel claimed the

damages attributed to the hacker incident totalled about $160000--and

the company was seeking compensation from the responsible parties. The

Australian National University claimed another $4200 in damages.

Most of the charges related to obtaining illegal access to commercial

or other information, and inserting and deleting data in numerous

computers. The deleting of data was not malicious--it generally

related to cleaning up evidence of the hackers' activities. However,

all three hackers were also charged with some form of `incitement'. By

writing articles for the IS magazine, the prosecution claimed the

hackers had been involved in disseminating information which would

encourage others to hack and phreak.

On 4 May 1995 Mendax sat in the office of his solicitor, Paul

Galbally, discussing the committal hearing scheduled for the next day.

Galbally was a young, well-respected member of Melbourne's most

prestigious law family. His family tree read like a Who's Who of the

law. Frank Galbally, his father, was one of Australia's most famous

criminal barristers. His uncle, Jack Galbally, was a well-known

lawyer, a minister in the State Labor government of John Cain Sr and,

later, the Leader of the Opposition in the Victorian parliament. His

maternal grandfather, Sir Norman O'Bryan, was a Supreme Court judge,

as was his maternal uncle of the same name. The Galballys weren't so

much a family of lawyers as a legal dynasty.

Rather than rest on his family's laurels, Paul Galbally worked out of

a cramped, 1970s time-warped, windowless office in a William Street

basement, where he was surrounded by defence briefs--the only briefs

he accepted. He liked the idea of keeping people out of prison better

than the idea of putting them in it. Working closely with a defendant,

he inevitably found redeeming qualities which the prosecution would

never see. Traces of humanity, no matter how small, made his choice

seem worthwhile.

His choices in life reflected the Galbally image as champions of the

underdog, and the family shared a background with the working class.

Catholic. Irish. Collingwood football enthusiasts. And, of course, a

very large family. Paul was one of eight children, and his father had

also come from a large family.

The 34-year-old criminal law specialist didn't know anything about

computer crime when Mendax first appeared in his office, but the

hacker's case seemed both interesting and worthy. The unemployed,

long-haired youth had explained he could only offer whatever fees the

Victorian Legal Aid Commission was willing to pay--a sentence Galbally

heard often in his practice. He agreed.

Galbally & O'Bryan had a very good reputation as a criminal law firm.

Criminals, however, tended not to have a great deal of money. The

large commercial firms might dabble in some criminal work, but they

cushioned any resulting financial inconvenience with other, more

profitable legal work. Pushing paper for Western Mining Corporation

paid for glass-enclosed corner offices on the fiftieth floor.

Defending armed robbers and drug addicts didn't.

The 4 May meeting between Galbally and Mendax was only scheduled to

take an hour or so. Although Mendax was contesting the committal

hearing along with Prime Suspect on the following day, it was Prime

Suspect's barrister, Boris Kayser, who was going to be running the

show. Prime Suspect told Mendax he had managed to get full Legal Aid

for the committal, something Galbally and Mendax had not been able to

procure. Thus Mendax would not have his own barrister at the


Mendax didn't mind. Both hackers knew they would be committed to

trial. Their immediate objective was to discredit the prosecution's

damage claims--particularly NorTel's.

As Mendax and Galbally talked, the mood in the office was upbeat.

Mendax was feeling optimistic. Then the phone rang. It was Geoff

Chettle, the barrister representing the DPP. While Chettle talked,

Mendax watched a dark cloud pass across his solicitor's face. When he

finally put the phone down, Galbally looked at Mendax with his serious,

crisis management expression.

`What's wrong? What's the matter?' Mendax asked.

Galbally sighed before he spoke.

`Prime Suspect has turned Crown witness against you.'

There was a mistake. Mendax was sure of it. The whole thing was just

one big mistake. Maybe Chettle and the DPP had misunderstood something

Prime Suspect had said to them. Maybe Prime Suspect's lawyers had

messed up. Whatever. There was definitely a mistake.

At Galbally's office, Mendax had refused to believe Prime Suspect had

really turned. Not until he saw a signed statement. That night he told

a friend, `Well, we'll see. Maybe Chettle is just playing it up.'

Chettle, however, was not just playing it up.

There it was--a witness statement--in front of him. Signed by Prime


Mendax stood outside the courtroom at Melbourne Magistrates Court trying

to reconcile two realities. In the first, there was one of Mendax's four

or five closest friends. A friend with whom he had shared his deepest

hacking secrets. A friend he had been hanging out with only last week.

In the other reality, a six-page statement signed by Prime Suspect and

Ken Day at AFP Headquarters at 1.20 p.m. the day before. To compound

matters, Mendax began wondering if Prime Suspect may have been

speaking to the AFP for as long as six months.

The two realities were spinning through his head, dancing around each


When Galbally arrived at the court, Mendax took him to one side to go

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