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Party Line junkie, had recently been released from

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Bill, a Swedish Party Line junkie, had recently been released from

prison, where he had served time for beating up a Vietnamese boy at a

railway station. He had a bad attitude and he often greeted the party

line by saying, `Are there any coons on the line today?' His attitude

to women wasn't much better. He relentlessly hit on the women who

frequented the line. One day, he made a mistake. He gave out his phone

number to a girl he was trying to pick up. The operator copied it down

and when her friend Anthrax came on later that day, she passed it on

to him.

Anthrax spent a few weeks social engineering various people, including

utilities and relatives whose telephone numbers appeared on Bill's

phone accounts, to piece together the details of his life. Bill was a

rough old ex-con who owned a budgie and was dying of cancer. Anthrax

phoned Bill in the hospital and proceeded to tell him all sorts of

personal details about himself, the kind of details which upset a


Not long after, Anthrax heard that Bill had died. The hacker felt as

though he had perhaps gone a bit too far.

[ ]
The tension at home had eased a little by the time Anthrax left to

attend university. But when he returned home during holidays he found

his father even more unbearable. More and more, Anthrax rebelled

against his father's sniping comments and violence. Eventually, he

vowed that the next time his father tried to break his arm he would

fight back. And he did.

One day Anthrax's father began making bitter fun of his younger son's

stutter. Brimming with biting sarcasm, the father mimicked Anthrax's


`Why are you doing that?' Anthrax yelled. The bait had worked once


It was as though he became possessed with a spirit not his own. He

yelled at his father, and put a fist into the wall. His father grabbed

a chair and thrust it forward to keep Anthrax at bay, then reached

back for the phone. Said he was calling the police. Anthrax ripped the

phone from the wall. He pursued his father through the house, smashing

furniture. Amid the crashing violence of the fight, Anthrax suddenly

felt a flash of fear for his mother's clock--a much loved, delicate

family heirloom. He gently picked it up and placed it out of harm's

way. Then he heaved the stereo into the air and threw it at his

father. The stereo cabinet followed in its wake. Wardrobes toppled

with a crash across the floor.

When his father fled the house, Anthrax got a hold of himself and

began to look around. The place was a disaster area. All those things

so tenderly gathered and carefully treasured by his mother, the things

she had used to build her life in a foreign land of white people

speaking an alien tongue, lay in fragments scattered around the house.

Anthrax felt wretched. His mother was distraught at the destruction

and he was badly shaken by how much it upset her. He promised to try

and control his temper from that moment on. It proved to be a constant

battle. Mostly he would win, but not always. The battle still simmered

below the surface.

Sometimes it boiled over.
[ ]

Anthrax considered the possibilities of who else would be using his

login patch. It could be another hacker, perhaps someone who was

running another sniffer that logged Anthrax's previous login. But it

was more likely to be a security admin. Meaning he had been found out.

Meaning that he might be being traced even as he leap-frogged through

System X to the telecommunications company's computer.

Anthrax made his way to the system admin's mailboxes. If the game was

up, chances were something in the mailbox would give it away.

There it was. The evidence. They were onto him all right, and they

hadn't wasted any time. The admins had mailed CERT, the Computer

Emergency Response Team at Carnegie Mellon University, reporting a

security breach. CERT, the nemesis of every Internet hacker, was bound

to complicate matters. Law enforcement would no doubt be called in


It was time to get out of this system, but not before leaving in a

blaze of glory. A prank left as a small present.

CERT had written back to the admins acknowledging the incident and

providing a case number. Posing as one of the admins, Anthrax drafted

a letter to CERT. To make the thing look official, he added the case

number `for reference'. The letter went something like this:

`In regard to incident no. XXXXX, reported on this date, we have since

carried out some additional investigations on the matter. We have

discovered the security incident was caused by a disgruntled employee

who was fired for alcoholism and decided to retaliate against the

company in this manner.

`We have long had a problem with alcohol and drug abuse due to the

stressful nature of the company environment. No further investigation

is necessary.'

At his computer terminal, Anthrax smiled. How embarrassing was that

going to be? Try scraping that mud off. He felt very pleased with


Anthrax then tidied up his things in the company's computer, deleted

the sniffer and moved out.

Things began to move quickly after that. He logged into System X later

to check the sniffer records, only to find that someone had used his

login patch password on that system as well. He became very nervous.

It was one thing goofing around with a commercial site, and quite

another being tracked from a military computer.

A new process had been added to System X, which Anthrax recognised. It

was called `-u'. He didn't know what it did, but he had seen it before

on military systems. About 24 hours after it appeared, he found

himself locked out of the system. He had tried killing off the -u

process before. It disappeared for a split-second and reappeared. Once

it was in place, there was no way to destroy it.

Anthrax also unearthed some alarming email. The admin at a site

upstream from both System X and the company's system had been sent a

warning letter: `We think there has been a security incident at your

site'. The circle was closing in on him. It was definitely time to get

the hell out. He packed up his things in a hurry. Killed off the

remaining sniffer. Moved his files. Removed the login patch. And

departed with considerable alacrity.

After he cut his connection, Anthrax sat wondering about the admins.

If they knew he was into their systems, why did they leave the

sniffers up and running? He could understand leaving the login patch.

Maybe they wanted to track his movements, determine his motives, or

trace his connection. Killing the patch would have simply locked him

out of the only door the admins could watch. They wouldn't know if he

had other backdoors into their system. But the sniffer? It didn't make

any sense.

It was possible that they simply hadn't seen the sniffer. Leaving it

there had been an oversight. But it was almost too glaring an error to

be a real possibility. If it was an error, it implied the admins

weren't actually monitoring the connections in and out of their

systems. If they had been watching the connections, they would

probably have seen the sniffer. But if they weren't monitoring the

connections, how on earth did they find out his special password for

the login patch? Like all passwords on the system, that one was

encrypted. There were only two ways to get that password. Monitor the

connection and sniff it, or break the encryption with a brute-force


Breaking the encryption would probably have taken millions of dollars

of computer time. He could pretty well rule that option out. That left

sniffing it, which would have alerted them to his own sniffer. Surely

they wouldn't have left his sniffer running on purpose. They must have

known he would learn they were watching him through his sniffer. The

whole thing was bizarre.

Anthrax thought about the admins who were chasing him. Thought about

their moves, their strategies. Wondered why. It was one of the

unsolved mysteries a hacker often faced--an unpleasant side of

hacking. Missing the answers to certain questions, the satisfaction of

a certain curiosity. Never being able to look over the fence at the

other side.


Chapter 11 -- The Prisoner's Dilemma


Harrisburg Oh Harrisburg

The plant is melting down

The people out in Harrisbug

Are getting out of town

And when this stuff gets in

You cannot get it out

-- from `Harrisburg', on Red Sails in the Sunset by Midnight Oil

Anthrax thought he would never get caught. But in some strange way, he

also wanted to get caught. When he thought about being busted, he

found himself filled with a strange emotion--impatience. Bring on the

impending doom and be done with it. Or perhaps it was frustration at

how inept his opponents seemed to be. They kept losing his trail and

he was impatient with their incompetence. It was more fun outwitting a

worthy opponent.

Perhaps he didn't really want to be caught so much as tracked. Anthrax

liked the idea of the police tracking him, of the system

administrators pursuing him. He liked to follow the trail of their

investigations through other people's mail. He especially liked being

on-line, watching them trying to figure out where he was coming from.

He would cleverly take control of their computers in ways they

couldn't see. He watched every character they typed, every spelling

error, every mistyped command, each twist and turn taken in the vain

hope of catching him.

He hadn't been caught back in early 1991, when it seemed everyone was

after him. In fact Anthrax nearly gave up hacking and phreaking

completely in that year after what he later called `The Fear of God'


Late at night, on a university computer system, he bumped into another

hacker. It wasn't an entirely uncommon experience. Once in a while,

hackers recognised another of their kind. Strange connections to

strange places in the middle of the night. Inconsistencies in process

names and sizes. The clues were visible for those who knew how to find


The two hackers danced around each other, trying to determine who the

other was without giving away too much information. Finally the

mystery hacker asked Anthrax, `Are you a disease which affects sheep?'

Anthrax typed the simple answer back. `Yes.'

The other hacker revealed himself as Prime Suspect, one of the

International Subversives. Anthrax recognised the name. He had seen

Prime Suspect around on the BBSes, had read his postings. Before

Anthrax could get started on a friendly chat, the IS hacker jumped in

with an urgent warning.

He had unearthed emails showing the Feds were closing in on Anthrax.

The mail, obtained from system admins at Miden Pacific, described the

systems Anthrax had been visiting. It showed the phone connections he

had been using to get to them, some of which Telecom had traced back

to his phone. One of the admins had written, `We're on to him. I feel

really bad. He's seventeen years old and they are going to bust him

and ruin his life.' Anthrax felt a cold chill run down his spine.

Prime Suspect continued with the story. When he first came across the

email, he thought it referred to himself. The two hackers were the

same age and had evidently been breaking into the same systems. Prime

Suspect had freaked out over the mail. He took it back to the other

two IS hackers, and they talked it through. Most of the description

fitted, but a few of the details didn't seem to make sense. Prime

Suspect wasn't calling from a country exchange. The more they worked

it through, the clearer it became that the email must have been

referring to someone else. They ran through the list of other options

and Anthrax's name came up as a possibility. The IS hackers had all

seen him around a few systems and BBSes. Trax had even spoken to him

once on a conference call with another phreaker. They pieced together

what they knew of him and the picture fitted. The AFP were onto

Anthrax and they seemed to know a lot about him. They had traced his

telephone connection back to his house. They knew his age, which

implied they knew his name. The phone bills were in his parents'

names, so there may have been some personal surveillance of him. The

Feds were so close they were all but treading on his heels. The IS

hackers had been keeping an eye out for him, to warn him, but this was

the first time they had found him.

Anthrax thanked Prime Suspect and got out of the system. He sat frozen

in the night stillness. It was one thing to contemplate getting caught,

to carry mixed emotions on the hypothetical situation. It was another to

have the real prospect staring you in the face. In the morning, he

gathered up all his hacking papers, notes, manuals--everything. Three

trunks' worth of material. He carried it all to the back garden, lit a

bonfire and watched it burn. He vowed to give up hacking forever.

And he did give it up, for a time. But a few months later he somehow

found himself back in front of his computer screen, with his modem

purring. It was so tempting, so hard to let go. The police had never

shown up. Months had come and gone, still nothing. Prime Suspect must

have been wrong. Perhaps the AFP were after another hacker entirely.

Then, in October 1991, the AFP busted Prime Suspect, Mendax and Trax.

But Anthrax continued to hack, mostly on his own as usual, for another

two years. He reminded himself that the IS hackers worked in a team.

If the police hadn't nailed him when they busted the others, surely

they would never find him now. Further, he had become more skilled as

a hacker, better at covering his tracks, less likely to draw attention

to himself. He had other rationalisations too. The town where he lived

was so far away, the police would never bother travelling all the way

into the bush. The elusive Anthrax would remain at large forever, the

unvanquished Ned Kelly of the computer underground.
[ ]
Mundane matters were on Anthrax's mind on the morning of 14 July 1994.

The removalists were due to arrive to take things from the half-empty

apartment he had shared with another student. His room-mate had

already departed and the place was a clutter of boxes stuffed with

clothes, tapes and books.

Anthrax sat in bed half-asleep, half-watching the `Today' show when he

heard the sound of a large vehicle pulling up outside. He looked out

the window expecting to see the removalists. What he saw instead was

at least four men in casual clothes running toward the house.

They were a little too enthusiastic for removalists and they split up

before getting to the door, with two men forking off toward opposite

sides of the building. One headed for the car port. Another dove

around the other side of the building. A third banged on the front

door. Anthrax shook himself awake.

The short, stocky guy at the front door was a worry. He had puffy,

longish hair and was wearing a sweatshirt and acid-wash jeans so tight

you could count the change in his back pocket. Bad ideas raced through

Anthrax's head. It looked like a home invasion. Thugs were going to

break into his home, tie him up and terrorise him before stealing all

his valuables.

`Open up. Open up,' the stocky one shouted, flashing a police badge.

Stunned, and still uncomprehending, Anthrax opened the door. `Do you

know who WE are?' the stocky one asked him.

Anthrax looked confused. No. Not sure.

`The Australian Federal Police.' The cop proceeded to read out the

search warrant.

What happened from this point forward is a matter of some debate. What

is fact is that the events of the raid and what

followed formed the basis of a formal complaint by Anthrax to the

Office of the Ombudsman and an internal investigation within the AFP.

The following is simply Anthrax's account of how it happened.

The stocky one barked at Anthrax, `Where's your computer?'

`What computer?' Anthrax looked blankly at the officer. He didn't have

a computer at his apartment. He used the uni's machines or friend's


`Your computer. Where is it? Which one of your friends has it?'

`No-one has it. I don't own one.'

`Well, when you decide to tell us where it is, you let us know.'

Yeah. Right. If Anthrax did have a hidden computer at uni, revealing

its location wasn't top of the must-do list.

The police pawed through his personal letters, quizzed Anthrax about

them. Who wrote this letter? Is he in the computer underground? What's

his address?

Anthrax said `no comment' more times than he could count. He saw a few

police moving into his bedroom and decided it was time to watch them

closely, make sure nothing was planted. He stood up to follow them in

and observe the search when one of the cops stopped him. Anthrax told

them he wanted a lawyer. One of the police looked on with disapproval.

`You must be guilty,' he told Anthrax. `Only guilty people ask for

lawyers. And here I was feeling sorry for you.'

Then one of the other officers dropped the bomb. `You know,' he began

casually, `we're also raiding your parents' house ...'

Anthrax freaked out. His mum would be hysterical. He asked to call his

mother on his mobile, the only phone then working in the apartment.

The police refused to let him touch his mobile. Then he asked to call

her from the pay phone across the street. The police refused again.

One of the officers, a tall, lanky cop, recognised a leverage point if

ever he saw one. He spread the guilt on thick.

`Your poor sick mum. How could you do this to your poor sick mum?

We're going to have to take her to Melbourne for questioning, maybe

even to charge her, arrest her, take her to jail. You make me sick. I

feel sorry for a mother having a son like you who is going to cause

her all this trouble.'

From that moment on, the tall officer took every opportunity to talk

about Anthrax's `poor sick mum'. He wouldn't let up. Not that he

probably knew the first thing about scleroderma, the creeping fatal

disease which affected her. Anthrax often thought about the pain his

mother was in as the disease worked its way from her extremities to

her internal organs. Scleroderma toughened the skin on the fingers and

feet, but made them overly sensitive, particularly to changes in

weather. It typically affected women native to hot climates who moved

to colder environments.

Anthrax's mobile rang. His mother. It had to be. The police wouldn't

let him answer it.

The tall officer picked up the call, then turned to the stocky cop and

said in a mocking Indian accent, `It is some woman with an Indian

accent'. Anthrax felt like jumping out of his chair and grabbing the

phone. He felt like doing some other things too, things that would

have undoubtedly landed him in prison then and there.

The stocky cop nodded to the tall one, who handed the mobile to


At first, he couldn't make sense of what his mother was saying. She

was a terrified mess. Anthrax tried to calm her down. Then she tried

to comfort him.

`Don't worry. It will be all right,' she said it, over and over. No

matter what Anthrax said, she repeated that phrase, like a chant. In

trying to console him, she was actually calming herself. Anthrax

listened to her trying to impose order on the chaos around her. He

could hear noises in the background and he guessed it was the police

rummaging through her home. Suddenly, she said she had to go and hung


Anthrax handed the phone back to the police and sat with his head in

his hands. What a wretched situation. He couldn't believe this was

happening to him. How could the police seriously consider taking his

mother to Melbourne for questioning? True, he phreaked from her home

office phone, but she had no idea how to hack or phreak. As for

charging his mother, that would just about kill her. In her mental and

physical condition, she would simply collapse, maybe never to get up


He didn't have many options. One of the cops was sealing up his mobile

phone in a clear plastic bag and labelling it. It was physically

impossible for him to call a lawyer, since the police wouldn't let him

use the mobile or go to a pay phone. They harangued him about coming

to Melbourne for a police interview.

`It is your best interest to cooperate,' one of the cops told him. `It

would be in your best interest to come with us now.'

Anthrax pondered that line for a moment, considered how ludicrous it

sounded coming from a cop. Such a bald-faced lie told so

matter-of-factly. It would have been humorous if the situation with

his mother hadn't been so awful. He agreed to an interview with the

police, but it would have to be done on another day.

The cops wanted to search his car. Anthrax didn't like it, but there

was nothing incriminating in the car anyway. As he walked outside in

the winter morning, one of the cops looked down at Anthrax's feet,

which were bare in accordance with the Muslim custom of removing shoes

in the house. The cop asked if he was cold.

The other cop answered for Anthrax. `No. The fungus keeps them warm.'

Anthrax swallowed his anger. He was used to racism, and plenty of it,

especially from cops. But this was over the top.

In the town where he attended uni, everyone thought he was Aboriginal.

There were only two races in that country town--white and Aboriginal.

Indian, Pakistani, Malay, Burmese, Sri Lankan--it didn't matter. They

were all Aboriginal, and were treated accordingly.

Once when he was talking on the pay phone across from his house, the

police pulled up and asked him what he was doing there. Talking on the

phone, he told them. It was pretty obvious. They asked for

identification, made him empty his pockets, which contained his small

mobile phone. They told him his mobile must be stolen, took it from

him and ran a check on the serial number. Fifteen minutes and many

Directory: ~suelette -> underground

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