Suelette dreyfus julian assange

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Shy in person, he doesn't like organised team sports and is not very

confident around girls. He has only had one serious girlfriend, but

the relationship finished. Now that he hacks and codes about four to

five hours per day on average, but sometimes up to 36 hours straight,

he doesn't have time for girls.

`Besides,' he says, `I am rather picky when it comes to girls. Maybe

if the girl shared the same interests ... but those ones are hard to

find.' He adds, by way of further explanation, `Girls are different

from hacking. You can't just brute force them if all else fails.'

SKiMo has never intentionally damaged a computer system, nor would he.

Indeed, when I asked him, he was almost offended by the question.

However, he has accidentally done damage on a few occasions. In at

least one case, he returned to the system and fixed the problem


Bored out of his mind for most of his school career, SKiMo spent a

great deal of time reading books in class--openly. He wanted to send

the teacher a message without actually jacking up in class.

He got into hacking after reading a magazine article about people who

hacked answering machines and VMBs. At that time, he had no idea what

a VMB was, but he learned fast. One Sunday evening, he sat down with

his phone and began scanning. Soon he was into phreaking, and visiting

English-speaking party lines. Somehow, he always felt more comfortable

speaking in English, to native English-speakers, perhaps because he

felt a little like an outsider in his own culture.

`I have always had the thought to leave my country as soon as I can,'

he said.

From the phreaking, it was a short jump into hacking.

What made him want to hack or phreak in the first place? Maybe it was

the desire to screw over the universally hated phone company, or

`possibly the sheer lust for power' or then again, maybe he was simply

answering his desire `to explore an intricate piece of technology'.

Today, however, he is a little clearer on why he continues to hack.

`My first and foremost motivation is to learn,' he said.

When asked why he doesn't visit his local university or library to

satisfy that desire, he answered, `in books, you only learn theory. It

is not that I dislike the theory but computer security in real life is

much different from theory'. Libraries also have trouble keeping pace

with the rate of technological change, SKiMo said. `Possibly, it is

also just the satisfaction of knowing that what I learn is

proprietary--is "inside knowledge",' he added. There could, he said,

be some truth in the statement that he likes learning in an

adrenalin-inducing environment.

Is he addicted to computers? SKiMo says no, but the indications are

there. By his own estimate, he has hacked between 3000 and 10000

computers in total. His parents--who have no idea what their son was

up to day and night on his computer--worry about his behaviour. They

pulled the plug on his machine many times. In SKiMo's own words, `they

tried everything to keep me away from it'.

Not surprisingly, they failed. SKiMo became a master at hiding his

equipment so they couldn't sneak in and take it away. Finally, when he

got sick of battling them over it and he was old enough, he put his

foot down. `I basically told them, "Diz is ma fuckin' life and none o'

yer business, Nemo"--but not in those words.'

SKiMo says he hasn't suffered from any mental illnesses or

instabilities--except perhaps paranoia. But he says that paranoia is

justified in his case. In two separate incidents in 1996, he believed

he was being followed. Try as he might, he couldn't shake the tails

for quite some time. Perhaps it was just a coincidence, but he can

never really be sure.

He described one hacking attack to me to illustrate his current

interests. He managed to get inside the internal network of a German

mobile phone network provider, DeTeMobil (Deutsche Telekom). A former

state-owned enterprise which was transformed into a publicly listed

corporation in January 1995, Deutsche Telekom is the largest

telecommunications company in Europe and ranks number three in the

world as a network operator. It employs almost a quarter of a million

people. By revenue, which totalled about $A37 billion in 1995, it is

one of the five largest companies in Germany.

After carefully researching and probing a site, SKiMo unearthed a

method of capturing the encryption keys generated for DeTeMobil's

mobile phone conversations.

He explained: `The keys are not fixed, in the sense that they are

generated once and then stored in some database. Rather, a key is

generated for each phone conversation by the company's AUC

[authentication centre], using the "Ki" and a random value generated

by the AUC. The Ki is the secret key that is securely stored on the

smart card [inside the cellphone], and a copy is also stored in the

AUC. When the AUC "tells" the cellphone the key for that particular

conversation, the information passes through the company's MSC [mobile

switching centre].

`It is possible to eavesdrop on a certain cellphone if one actively

monitors either the handovers or the connection set-up messages from

the OMC [operations and maintenance centre] or if one knows the Ki in

the smart card.

`Both options are entirely possible. The first option, which relies on

knowing the A5 encryption key, requires the right equipment. The

second option, using the Ki, means you have to know the A3/A8

algorithms as well or the Ki is useless. These algorithms can be

obtained by hacking the switch manufacturer, i.e. Siemens, Alcatel,

Motorola ...

`As a call is made from the target cellphone, you need to feed the A5

key into a cellphone which has been modified to let it eavesdrop on

the channel used by the cellphone. Normally, this eavesdropping will

only produce static--since the conversation is encrypted. However,

with the keys and equipment, you can decode the conversation.'

This is one of the handover messages, logged with a CCITT7 link

monitor, that he saw:

13:54:46"3 4Rx< SCCP 12-2-09-1 12-2-04-0 13 CR


BSSMAP GSM 08.08 Rev 3.9.2 (BSSM) HaNDover REQuest (HOREQ)

-------0 Discrimination bit D BSSMAP

0000000- Filler

00101011 Message Length 43

00010000 Message Type 0x10

Channel Type

00001011 IE Name Channel type

00000011 IE Length 3

00000001 Speech/Data Indicator Speech

00001000 Channel Rate/Type Full rate TCH channel Bm

00000001 Speech Encoding Algorithm GSM speech algorithm Ver 1

Encryption Information

00001010 IE Name Encryption information

00001001 IE Length 9

00000010 Algorithm ID GSM user data encryption V. 1

******** Encryption Key C9 7F 45 7E 29 8E 08 00

Classmark Information Type 2

00010010 IE Name Classmark information type 2

00000010 IE Length 2

-----001 RF power capability Class 2, portable

---00--- Encryption algorithm Algorithm A5

000----- Revision level

-----000 Frequency capability Band number 0

----1--- SM capability present

-000---- Spare

0------- Extension

Cell Identifier

00000101 IE Name Cell identifier

00000101 IE Length 5

00000001 Cell ID discriminator LAC/CI used to ident cell

******** LAC 4611

******** CI 3000


00000110 IE Name Priority

00000001 IE Length 1

-------0 Preemption allowed ind not allowed

------0- Queueing allowed ind not allowed

--0011-- Priority level 3

00------ Spare

Circuit Identity Code

00000001 IE Name Circuit identity code

00000000 PCM Multiplex a-h 0

---11110 Timeslot in use 30

101----- PCM Multiplex i-k 5

Downlink DTX flag

00011001 IE Name Downlink DTX flag

-------1 DTX in downlink direction disabled

0000000- Spare

Cell Identifier

00000101 IE Name Cell identifier

00000101 IE Length 5

00000001 Cell ID discriminator LAC/CI used to ident cell

******** LAC 4868

******** CI 3200

The beauty of a digital mobile phone, as opposed to the analogue

mobile phones still used by some people in Australia, is that a

conversation is reasonably secure from eavesdroppers. If I call you on

my digital mobile, our conversation will be encrypted with the A5

encryption algorithm between the mobile phone and the exchange. The

carrier has copies of the Kis and, in some countries, the government

can access these copies. They are, however, closely guarded secrets.

SKiMo had access to the database of the encrypted Kis and access to

some of the unencrypted Kis themselves. At the time, he never went to

the trouble of gathering enough information about the A3 and A8

algorithms to decrypt the full database, though it would have been

easy to do so. However, he has now obtained that information.

To SKiMo, access to the keys generated for each of thousands of German

mobile phone conversations was simply a curiosity--and a trophy. He

didn't have the expensive equipment required to eavesdrop. To an

intelligence agency, however, access could be very valuable,

particularly if some of those phones belonged to people such as

politicians. Even more valuable would be ongoing access to the OMC, or

better still, the MSC. SkiMo said he would not provide this to any

intelligence agency.

While inside DeTeMobil, SKiMo also learned how to interpret some of

the mapping and signal-strength data. The result? If one of the

company's customers has his mobile turned on, SKiMo says he can

pinpoint the customer's geographic location to within one kilometre.

The customer doesn't even have to be talking on the mobile. All he has

to do is have the phone turned on, waiting to receive calls.

SKiMo tracked one customer for an afternoon, as the man travelled

across Germany, then called the customer up. It turned out they spoke

the same European language.

`Why are you driving from Hamburg to Bremen with your phone on

stand-by mode?' SKiMo asked.

The customer freaked out. How did this stranger at the end of the

phone know where he had been travelling?

SKiMo said he was from Greenpeace. `Don't drive around so much. It

creates pollution,' he told the bewildered mobile customer. Then he

told the customer about the importance of conserving energy and how

prolonged used of mobile phones affected certain parts of one's brain.

Originally, SKiMo broke into the mobile phone carriers' network

because he wanted `to go completely cellular'--a transition which he

hoped would make him both mobile and much harder to trace. Being able

to eavesdrop on other people's calls-- including those of the

police--was going to be a bonus.

However, as he pursued this project, he discovered that the code from

a mobile phone manufacturer which he needed to study was `a

multi-lingual project'. `I don't know whether you have ever seen a

multi-lingual project,' SKiMo says, `where nobody defines a common

language that all programmers must use for their comments and function

names? They look horrible. They are no fun to read.' Part of this one

was in Finnish.

SKiMo says he has hacked a number of major vendors and, in several

cases, has had access to their products' source codes.

Has he had the access to install backdoors in primary source code for

major vendors? Yes. Has he done it? He says no. On other hand, I asked

him who he would tell if he did do it. `No-one,' he said, `because

there is more risk if two people know than if one does.'

SKiMo is mostly a loner these days. He shares a limited amount of

information about hacking exploits with two people, but the

conversations are usually carefully worded or vague. He substitutes a

different vendor's names for the real one, or he discusses technical

computer security issues in an in-depth but theoretical manner, so he

doesn't have to name any particular system.

He doesn't talk about anything to do with hacking on the telephone.

Mostly, when he manages to capture a particularly juicy prize, he

keeps news of his latest conquest to himself.

It wasn't always that way. `When I started hacking and phreaking, I

had the need to learn very much and to establish contacts which I

could ask for certain things--such as technical advice,' SKiMo said.

`Now I find it much easier to get that info myself than asking anyone

for it. I look at the source code, then experiment and discover new

bugs myself.'

Asked if the ever-increasing complexity of computer technology hasn't

forced hackers to work in groups of specialists instead of going solo,

he said in some cases yes, but in most cases, no. `That is only true

for people who don't want to learn everything.'

SKiMo can't see himself giving up hacking any time in the near future.

Who is on the other side these days?

In Australia, it is still the Australian Federal Police, although the

agency has come a long way since the early days of the Computer Crimes

Unit. When AFP officers burst in on Phoenix, Nom and Electron, they

were like the Keystone Cops. The police were no match for the

Australian hackers in the subsequent interviews. The hackers were so

far out in front in technical knowledge it was laughable.

The AFP has been closing that gap with considerable alacrity. Under

the guidance of officers like Ken Day, they now run a more technically

skilled group of law enforcement officers. In 1995-96, the AFP had

about 2800 employees, although some 800 of these worked in `community

policing'--serving as the local police in places like the ACT and

Norfolk Island. The AFP's annual expenditure was about $270 million in

that year.

As an institution, the AFP has recently gone through a major

reorganisation, designed to make it less of a command-and-control

military structure and more of an innovative, service oriented


Some of these changes are cosmetic. AFP officers are now no longer

called `constable' or `detective sergeant'--they are all just `federal

agents'. The AFP now has a `vision' which is `to fight crime and

win'.3 Its organisational chart had been transformed from a

traditional, hierarchical pyramid of square boxes into a collection of

little circles linked to bigger circles--all in a circle shape. No

phallo-centric structures here. You can tell the politically correct

management consultants have been visiting the AFP.

The AFP has, however, also changed in more substantive ways. There are

now `teams' with different expertise, and AFP investigators can draw

on them on an as-needed basis. In terms of increased efficiency, this

fluidity is probably a good thing.

There are about five permanent officers in the Melbourne computer

crimes area. Although the AFP doesn't release detailed budget

breakdowns, my back-of-the-envelope analysis suggested that the AFP

spends less than $1 million per year on the Melbourne computer crimes

area in total. Sydney also has a Computer Crimes Unit.

Catching hackers and phreakers is only one part of the unit's job.

Another important task is to provide technical computer expertise for

other investigations.

Day still runs the show in Melbourne. He doesn't think or act like a

street cop. He is a psychological player, and therefore well suited to

his opponents. According to a reliable source outside the underground,

he is also a clean cop, a competent officer, and `a nice guy'.

However, being the head of the Computer Crimes Unit for so many years

makes Day an easy target in the underground. In particular, hackers

often make fun of how seriously he seems to take both himself and his

job. When Day appeared on the former ABC show `Attitude', sternly

warning the audience off hacking, he told the viewers, `It's not a

game. It's a criminal act'.

To hackers watching the show, this was a matter of opinion. Not long

after the episode went to air, a few members of Neuro-cactus, an

Australian group of hackers and phreakers which had its roots in

Western Australia, decided to take the mickey out of Day. Two members,

Pick and Minnow, clipped Day's now famous soundbite. Before long, Day

appeared to be saying, `It's not a criminal act. It's a game'--to the

musical theme of `The Bill'. The Neuro-cactus crowd quickly spread

their lampoon across the underground via an illicit VMB connected to

its own toll-free 008 number.

Although Day does perhaps take himself somewhat seriously, it can't be

much fun for him to deal with this monkey business week in and week

out. More than one hacker has told me with great excitement, `I know

someone who is working on getting Day's home number'. The word is that

a few members of the underground already have the information and have

used it. Some people think it would be hilarious to call up Day at

home and prank him. Frankly, I feel a bit sorry for the guy. You can

bet the folks in traffic operations don't have to put up with this


But that doesn't mean I think these pranksters should be locked up


If we, as a society, choose not to lock hackers up, then what should

we do with them?

Perhaps a better question is, do we really need to do anything with


One answer is to simply ignore look-see hacking. Society could decide

that it makes more sense to use valuable police resources to catch

dangerous criminals--forgers, embezzlers, white-collar swindlers,

corporate spies and malicious hackers--than to chase look-see hackers.

The law must still maintain the capacity to punish hard where someone

has strayed into what society deems serious crime. However, almost any

serious crime committed by a hacker could be committed by a non-hacker

and prosecuted under other legislation. Fraud, wilful damage and

dealing in stolen property are crimes regardless of the medium--and

should be punished appropriately.

Does it make sense to view most look-see hackers--and by that I mean

hackers who do not do malicious damage or commit fraud--as criminals?

Probably not. They are primarily just a nuisance and should be treated

as such. This would not be difficult to do. The law-makers could

simply declare look-see hacking to be a minor legal infringement. In

the worst-case scenario, a repeat offender might have to do a little

community service. But such community service needs to be managed

properly. In one Australian case, a corrections officer assigned a

hacker to dig ditches with a convicted rapist and murderer.

Many hackers have never had a job--in part because of the high youth

unemployment in some areas--and so their community service might be

their first `position'. The right community service placement must

involve hackers using their computer skills to give something back to

society, preferably in some sort of autonomous, creative project. A

hacker's enthusiasm, curiosity and willingness to experiment can be

directed toward a positive outcome if managed properly.

In cases where hacking or phreaking has been an addiction, the problem

should be treated, not criminalised. Most importantly, these hackers

should not have convictions recorded against them, particularly if

they're young. As Paul Galbally said to the court at Mendax's

sentencing, `All the accused are intelligent--but their intelligence

outstretched their maturity'. Chances are, most will be able to

overcome or outgrow their addiction.

In practice, most Australia's judges have been reasonably fair in

their sentencing, certainly compared to judges overseas. None of the

Australian hackers detailed in this work received a prison sentence.

Part of this is due to happenstance, but part is also due to the sound

judgments of people like Judge Lewis and Judge Kimm. It must be very

tempting, sitting on the bench every day, to shoot from the hip

interpreting new laws.

As I sat in court listening to each judge, it quickly became clear

that these judges had done their homework. With psychologist Tim

Watson-Munro on the stand, Judge Lewis rapidly zeroed in on the

subject of `free will'--as applied to addiction--regarding Prime

Suspect. In Trax's case, Judge Kimm asked pointed questions which he

could only have formulated after serious study of the extensive legal

brief. Their well-informed judgments suggested a deeper understanding

both of hacking as a crime, and of the intent of the largely untested

computer crime legislation.

However, a great deal of time and money has been wasted in the pursuit

of look-see hackers, largely because this sort of hacking is treated

as a major crime. Consider the following absurd situation created by

Australia's federal computer criminal legislation.

A spy breaks into a computer at the Liberal Party's headquarters and

reads the party's top-secret election strategy, which he may want to

pass on to the Labor Party. He doesn't insert or delete any data in

the process, or view any commercial information. The penalty under

this legislation? A maximum of six months in prison.

That same spy decides he wants to get rich quick. Using the local

telephone system, he hacks into a bank's computer with the intention

of defrauding the financial institution. He doesn't view any

commercial or personal information, or delete or insert any files. Yet

the information he reviews--about the layout of a bank building, or

how to set off its fire alarm or sprinkler system--proves vital in his

plan to defraud the bank. His penalty: a maximum of two years prison.

Our spy now moves onto bigger and better things. He penetrates a

Department of Defence computer with the intention of obtaining

information about Australia's military strategies and passing it on to

the Malaysians. Again, he doesn't delete or insert any data--he just

reads every sensitive planning document he can find. Under the federal

anti-hacking laws, the maximum penalty he would receive would also be

two years prison.

Meanwhile, a look-see hacker breaks into a university computer without

doing any damage. He doesn't delete any files. He FTPs a public-domain

file from another system and quietly tucks it away in a hidden, unused

corner of the university machine. Maybe he writes a message to someone

Directory: ~suelette -> underground

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