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knows about his hacking convictions, recently gave him a pay rise. In

mid-1994, he gave up drugs for good. In 1995 he moved into a shared

house with some friends, and in August 1996 he stopped smoking


Without hacking, there seems to be time in his life to do new things.

He took up sky-diving. A single jump gives him a high which lasts for

days, sometimes up to a week. Girls have captured his interest. He's

had a few girlfriends and thinks he would like to settle into a

serious relationship when he finds the right person.

Recently, Prime Suspect has been studying martial arts. He tries to

attend at least four classes a week, sometimes more, and says he has a

special interest in the spiritual and philosophical sides of martial

arts. Most days, he rises at 5 a.m., either to jog or to meditate.


In 1992 Mendax and Trax teamed up with a wealthy Italian real-estate

investor, purchased La Trobe University's mainframe computer

(ironically, a machine they had been accused of hacking) and started a

computer security company. The company eventually dissolved when the

investor disappeared following actions by his creditors.

After a public confrontation in 1993 with Victorian Premier Jeff

Kennett, Mendax and two others formed a civil rights organisation to

fight corruption and lack of accountability in a Victorian government

department. As part of this ongoing effort, Mendax acted as a conduit

for leaked documents and became involved in a number of court cases

against the department during 1993-94. Eventually, he gave evidence in

camera to a state parliamentary committee examining the issues, and

his organisation later facilitated the appearance of more than 40

witnesses at an investigation by the Auditor-General.

Mendax volunteers his time and computer expertise for several other

non-profit community organisations. He believes strongly in the

importance of the non-profit sector, and spends much of his free time

as an activist on different community projects. Mendax has provided

information or assistance to law-enforcement bodies, but not against

hackers. He said, `I couldn't ethically justify that. But as for

others, such as people who prey on children or corporate spies, I am

not concerned about using my skills there.'

Still passionate about coding, Mendax donates his time to various

international programming efforts and releases some of his programs

for free on the Internet. His philosophy is that most of the lasting

social advances in the history of man have been a direct result of new


NorTel and a number of other organisations he was accused of hacking

use his cryptography software--a fact he finds rather ironic.


Anthrax moved to Melbourne, where he is completing a university course

and working on freelance assignments in the computer networking area

of a major corporation.

His father and mother are divorcing. Anthrax doesn't talk to his

father at all these days.

Anthrax's mother's health has stabilised somewhat since the completion

of the court case, though her condition still gives her chronic pain.

Despite some skin discolouration caused by the disease, she looks

well. As a result of her years of work in the local community, she has

a loyal group of friends who support her through bad bouts of the

illness. She tries to live without bitterness and continues to have a

good relationship with both her sons.

Anthrax is no longer involved in the Nation of Islam, but he is still

a devout Muslim. An acquaintance of his, an Albanian who ran a local

fish and chips shop, introduced him to a different kind of Islam. Not

long after, Anthrax became a Sunni Muslim. He doesn't drink alcohol or

gamble, and he attends a local mosque for Friday evening prayers. He

tries to read from the Qu'raan every day and to practise the tenets of

his religion faithfully.

With his computer and business skills now sought after by industry, he

is exploring the possibility of moving to a Muslim country in Asia or

the Middle East. He tries to promote the interests of Islam worldwide.

Most of his pranking needs are now met by commercial CDs--recordings

of other people's pranking sold through underground magazines and

American mail order catalogues. Once in a long while, he still rings

Mr McKenny in search of the missing shovel.

Anthrax felt aggrieved at the outcome of his written complaint to the

Office of the Ombudsman. In the complaint, Anthrax gave an account of

how he believed the AFP had behaved inappropriately throughout his

case. Specifically, he alleged that the AFP had pressured his mother

with threats and had harassed him, taken photographs of him without

his permission, given information to his university about his case

prior to the issue of a summons and the resolution of his case, and

made racist comments toward him during the raid.

In 1995-96, a total of 1157 complaints were filed against the AFP, 683

of which were investigated by the Commonwealth Ombudsman. Of the

complaint investigations completed and reviewed, only 6 per cent were

substantiated. Another 9 per cent were deemed to be `incapable of

determination', about 34 per cent were `unsubstantiated', and in more

than a quarter of all cases the Ombudsman either chose not to

investigate or not to continue to investigate a complaint.

The Office of the Ombudsman referred Anthrax's matter to the AFP's

Internal Investigations office. Although Anthrax and his mother both

gave statements to the investigating officers, there was no other

proof of Anthrax's allegations. In the end, it came down to Anthrax

and his mother's words against those of the police.

The AFP's internal investigation concluded that Anthrax's complaints

could either not be substantiated or not be determined, in part due to

the fact that almost two years had passed since the original raid. For

the most part, the Ombudsman backed the AFP's finding. No

recommendation was made for the disciplining of any officers.

Anthrax's only consolation was a concern voiced by the Ombudsman's

Office. Although the investigating officer agreed with the AFP

investigators that the complaint could not be substantiated, she

wrote, `I am concerned that your mother felt she was compelled to

pressure you into attending an interview based on a fear that she

would be charged because her phone was used to perpetrate the


Anthrax remains angry and sceptical about his experience with the

police. He believes a lot of things need to be changed about the way

the police operate. Most of all, he believes that justice will never

be assured in a system where the police are allowed to investigate



After Pad and Gandalf were released from prison, they started up a

free security advisory service on the Internet. One reason they began

releasing 8lgm advisories, as they were known, was to help admins

secure their own systems. The other reason was to thumb their noses at

the conservatives in the security industry.

Many on the Internet considered the 8lgm advisories to be the best

available at the time--far better than anything CERT had ever

produced. Pad and Gandalf were sending their own message back to the

establishment. The message, though never openly stated, was something

like this: `You busted us. You sent us to prison. But it didn't

matter. You can't keep information like this secret. Further, we are

still better than you ever were and, to prove it, we are going to beat

you at your own game.'

Believing that the best way to keep a hacker out of your system is to

secure it properly in the first place, the two British hackers

rejected security gurus who refused to tell the world about new

security holes. Their 8lgm advisories began marginalising the

traditional industry security reports, and helped to push the industry

toward its current, more open attitude.

Pad and Gandalf now both work, doing computer programming jobs on

contract, sometimes for financial institutions. Their clients like

them and value their work. Both have steady girlfriends.

Pad doesn't hack any more. The reason isn't the risk of getting caught

or the threat of prison. He has stopped hacking because he has

realised what a headache it is for a system administrator to clean up

his or her computer after an attack. Searching through logs. Looking

for backdoors the hacker might have left behind. The hours, the

hassle, the pressure--he thinks it is wrong to put anyone through

that. Pad understands far better now how much strain a hacker

intrusion can cause another human being.

There is another reason Pad has given up hacking: he has simply

outgrown the desire. He says that he has better things to do with his

time. Computers are a way for him to earn a living, not a way to spend

his leisure time. After a trip overseas he decided that real

travel--not its electronic cousin--was more interesting than hacking.

He has also learned to play the guitar, something he believes he would

have done years ago if he hadn't spent so much time hacking.

Gandalf shares Pad's interest in travelling. One reason they like

contract work is because it lets them work hard for six months, save

some money, and then take a few months off. The aim of both ex-hackers

for now is simply to sling backpacks over their shoulders and bounce

around the globe.

Pad still thinks that Britain takes hacking far too seriously and he

is considering moving overseas permanently. The 8lgm court case made

him wonder about the people in power in Britain--the politicians, the

judges, the law enforcement officers. He often thinks: what kind of

people are running this show?


In 1993, the Victorian Ombudsman1 and the Victoria Police2 both

investigated the leaking of confidential police information in

association with Operation Iceberg--a police investigation into

allegations of corruption against Assistant Commissioner of Police

Frank Green. Stuart Gill figured prominently in both reports.

The Victoria Police report concluded that `Gill was able to infiltrate

the policing environment by skilfully manipulating himself and

information to the unsuspecting'. The Ombudsman concluded that a

`large quantity of confidential police information, mainly from the

ISU database, was given to ... Gill by [Victoria Police officer]


The police report stated that Inspector Chris Cosgriff had

deliberately leaked confidential police information to Gill, and

reported that he was `besotted with Gill'. Superintendent Tony Warren,

ex-Deputy Commissioner John Frame and ex-Assistant Commissioner

Bernice Masterston were also criticised in the report.

The Ombudsman concluded that Warren and Cosgriff's relationship with

Gill was `primarily responsible for the release of confidential

information'. Interestingly, however, the Ombudsman also stated,

`Whilst Mr Gill may have had his own agenda and taken advantage of his

relationship with police, [the] police have equally used and in some

cases misused Mr Gill for their own purposes'.

The Ombudsman's report further concluded that there was no evidence of

criminal conduct by Frank Green, and that the `allegations made over

the years against Mr Green should have been properly and fully

investigated at the time they were made'.

As his court case played in the media, Phoenix was speeding on his

motorcycle through an inner-city Melbourne street one rainy night when

he hit a car. The car's driver leapt from the front seat and found a

disturbing scene. Phoenix was sprawled across the road. His helmet had

a huge crack on the side, where his head had hit the car's petrol

tank, and petrol had spilled over the motorcycle and its rider.

Miraculously, Phoenix was unhurt, though very dazed. Some bystanders

helped him and the distraught driver to a nearby halfway house. They

called an ambulance, and then made the two traumatised young men some

tea in the kitchen. Phoenix's mother arrived, called by a bystander at

Phoenix's request. The ambulance workers confirmed that Phoenix had

not broken any bones but they recommended he go to hospital to check

for possible concussion.

Still both badly shaken, Phoenix and the driver exchanged names and

phone numbers. Phoenix told the driver he did technical work for a

0055 telephone service, then said, `You might recognise me. I'm

Phoenix. There's this big computer hacking case going on in

court--that's my case'.

The driver looked at him blankly.

Phoenix said, `You might have seen me on the TV news.'

No, the driver said, somewhat amazed at the strange things which go

through the dazed mind of a young man who has so narrowly escaped


Some time after Phoenix's close brush with death, the former hacker

left his info-line technician's job and began working in the

information technology division of a large Melbourne-based

corporation. Well paid in his new job, Phoenix is seen, once again, as

the golden-haired boy. He helped to write a software program which

reduces waste in one of the production lines and reportedly saved the

company thousands of dollars. Now he travels abroad regularly, to

Japan and elsewhere.

He had a steady girlfriend for a time, but eventually she broke the

relationship off to see other people. Heartbroken, he avoided dating

for months. Instead, he filled his time with his ever-increasing

corporate responsibilities.

His new interest is music. He plays electric guitar in an amateur


A few weeks after his sentencing, Electron had another psychotic

episode, triggered by a dose of speed. He was admitted to hospital

again, this time at Larundel. After a short stay, he was released and

underwent further psychiatric care.

Some months later, he did speed again, and suffered another bout of

psychosis. He kept reading medical papers on the Internet about his

condition and his psychiatrists worried that his detailed research

might interfere with their ability to treat him.

He moved into special accommodation for people recovering from mental

instabilities. Slowly, he struggled to overcome his illness. When

people came up to him and said things like, `What a nice day it is!'

Electron willed himself to take their words at face value, to accept

that they really were just commenting on the weather, nothing more.

During this time, he quit drugs, alcohol and his much-hated accounting

course. Eventually he was able to come off his psychiatric medicines

completely. He hasn't taken drugs or had alcohol since December 1994.

His only chemical vice in 1996 was cigarettes. By the beginning of

1997 he had also given up tobacco.

Electron hasn't talked to either Phoenix or Nom since 1992.

In early 1996, Electron moved into his own flat with his steady

girlfriend, who studies dance and who also successfully overcame

mental illness after a long, hard struggle. Electron began another

university course in a philosophy-related field. This time university

life agreed with him, and his first semester transcript showed honours

grades in every class. He is considering moving to Sydney for further


Electron worked off his 300 hours of community service by painting walls

and doing minor handyman work at a local primary school. Among the small

projects the school asked him to complete was the construction of a

retaining wall. He designed and dug, measured and fortified. As he

finished off the last of his court-ordered community service hours on

the wall, he discovered that he was rather proud of his creation. Even

now, once in a while, he drives past the school and looks at the wall.

It is still standing.

[ ]

There are still hacking cases in Australia. About the same time as

Mendax's case was being heard in Victoria, The Crawler pleaded guilty

to 23 indictable offences and thirteen summary offences--all hacking

related charges--in Brisbane District Court. On 20 December 1996, the

21-year-old Queenslander was given a three-year suspended prison

sentence, ordered to pay $5000 in reparations to various

organisations, and made to forfeit his modem and two computers. The

first few waves of hackers may have come and gone, but hacking is far

from dead. It is merely less visible.

Law enforcement agencies and the judiciaries of several countries have

tried to send a message to the next generation of would-be hackers.

The message is this: Don't hack.

But the next generation of elite hackers and phreakers have heard a

very different message, a message which says: Don't get caught.

The principle of deterrence has not worked with hackers at this level.

I'm not talking here about the codes-kids--the teeny-bopper, carding,

wanna-be nappies who hang out on IRC (Internet relay chat). I'm

talking about the elite hackers. If anything, law enforcement

crackdowns have not only pushed them further underground, they have

encouraged hackers to become more sophisticated than ever before in

the way they protect themselves. Adversity is the mother of invention.

When police officers march through the front door of a hacker's home

today, they may be better prepared than their predecessors, but they

will also be facing bigger hurdles. Today, top hackers encrypt

everything sensitive. The data on their hard drives, their live data

connections, even their voice conversations.

So, if hackers are still hacking, who are their targets?

It is a broad field. Any type of network provider--X.25, cellular

phone or large Internet provider. Computer vendors--the manufacturers

of software and hardware, routers, gateways, firewalls or phone

switches. Military institutions, governments and banks seem to be a

little less fashionable these days, though there are still plenty of

attacks on these sorts of sites.

Attacks on security experts are still common, but a new trend is the

increase in attacks on other hackers' systems. One Australian hacker

joked, `What are the other hackers going to do? Call the Feds? Tell

the AFP, "Yes, officer, that's right, some computer criminal broke

into my machine and stole 20000 passwords and all my exploitation code

for bypassing firewalls".'

For the most part, elite hackers seem to work alone, because of the

well-advertised risks of getting caught. There are still some

underground hacking communities frequented by top hackers, most notably

UPT in Canada and a few groups like the l0pht in the US, but such groups

are far less common, and more fragmented than they used to be.

These hackers have reached a new level of sophistication, not just in

the technical nature of their attacks, but in their strategies and

objectives. Once, top hackers such as Electron and Phoenix were happy

to get copies of Zardoz, which listed security holes found by industry

experts. Now top hackers find those holes themselves--by reading line

by line through the proprietary source code from places like DEC, HP,

CISCO, Sun and Microsoft.

Industrial espionage does not seem to be on the agenda, at least with

anyone I interviewed. I have yet to meet a hacker who has given

proprietary source code to a vendor's competitor. I have, however, met

a hacker who found one company's proprietary source code inside the

computer of its competitor. Was that a legal copy of the source code?

Who knows? The hacker didn't think so, but he kept his mouth shut

about it, for obvious reasons.

Most of the time, these hackers want to keep their original bugs as

quiet as possible, so vendors won't release patches.

The second popular target is source code development machines. The top

hackers have a clear objective in this area: to install their own

backdoors before the product is released. They call it `backdooring' a

program or an operating system. The word `backdoor' is now used as

both a noun and a verb in the underground. Hackers are very nervous

discussing this subject, in part because they don't want to see a

computer company's stock dive and people lose their jobs.

What kind of programs do these hackers want to backdoor? Targets

mentioned include at least one major Internet browser, a popular game,

an Internet packet filter and a database product used by law

enforcement agencies.

A good backdoor is a very powerful device, creating a covert channel

through even the most sturdy of firewalls into the heart of an

otherwise secure network. In a net browser, a backdoor would in theory

allow a hacker to connect directly into someone's home computer every

time he or she wandered around the World Wide Web. However, don't

expect hackers to invade your suburban home just yet. Most elite

hackers couldn't care less about the average person's home computer.

Perhaps you are wondering who might be behind this sort of attack.

What sort of person would do this? There are no easy answers to that

question. Some hackers are good people, some are bad, just like any

group of people. The next generation of elite hackers are a diverse

bunch, and relaying their stories would take another book entirely.

However, I would like to introduce you to just one, to give you a

window into the future.


A European living outside Australia, SKiMo has been hacking for at

least four years, although he probably only joined the ranks of

world-class hackers in 1995 or 1996. Never busted. Young--between the

age of 18 and 25--and male. From a less than picture-perfect family.

Fluent in English as a second language. Left-leaning in his

politics--heading toward environmentally green parties and anarchy

rather than traditional labour parties. Smokes a little dope and

drinks alcohol, but doesn't touch the hard stuff.

His musical tastes include early Pink Floyd, Sullen, Dog Eat Dog,

Biohazard, old Ice-T, Therapy, Alanis Morissette, Rage Against the

Machine, Fear Factory, Life of Agony and Napalm Death. He reads

Stephen King, Stephen Hawking, Tom Clancy and Aldous Huxley. And any

good books about physics, chemistry or mathematics.

Directory: ~suelette -> underground

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