AOH :: P37-10.TXT

PWN Special Report VI on WeenieFest '92

           PWN ^*^ PWN ^*^ PWN { WeenieFest'92 } PWN ^*^ PWN ^*^ PWN
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           PWN         P h r a c k   W o r l d   N e w s         PWN
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           PWN            Special Edition Issue Five             PWN
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           PWN                  "WeenieFest '92"                 PWN
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           PWN           ~A Meeting With John Markoff~           PWN
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           PWN               Written by Count Zero               PWN
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           PWN ^*^ PWN ^*^ PWN { WeenieFest'92 } PWN ^*^ PWN ^*^ PWN

                  WeenieFest '92:  A Meeting With John Markoff
     Co-Author of CYBERPUNK:  Outlaws and Hackers on the Computer Frontier

                           ..oooOO Count Zero OOooo..


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   "Boston Computer Society General Meeting, Wednesday, January 22, 7:30pm.
    Katie Hafner, co-author with husband John Markoff of _Cyberpunk_, talks
    about computer ethics [ya, right] and computer crimes.  _Cyberpunk_
    details the stories of three computer hackers:  Kevin Mitnick, an expert
    phone phreak, who carried his hacking to obsession [isn't that a perfume?]
    and addiction-wreaking havoc [holy SHIT!] with computer networks and
    top-secret research; Pengo, from Germany, who penetrated US military
    computers and sold information to the Soviet Union; and Robert Morris,
    a Harvard and Cornell graduate, who released a virus [WORM!] program that
    crippled thousands of computers on Internet.  This discussion may change
    how you think about computer accessibility [sure changed MY life..jeesh]."

     That's how the advertisement appeared in the Boston Computer Society's
UPDATE mag (without my bracketed snide comments, of course).  Knight Lightning
informed me of this meeting via electronic mail, and I read it the DAY it was
happening.  I had read about half of the book CYBERPUNK, and I know most of you
have already checked it out.  Yes, it is a piece of shit.  A great deal of the
info is *fabricated*, and the authors attempt to explain hacking as a "social
disorder"...on par with juvenile delinquency.

     True, a lot of hacking is just kids screwing around, but there is MORE to
the scene than just that.  What about the violation of civil liberties going on
by the federal government and its agents?  What about privacy on the nets?
What about the REAL DRIVE behind most of the hacking going on today... the
search for TECH KNOWLEDGE?  These topics were NOT covered adequately in the

     Seeing this meeting as a GREAT opportunity to grill Ms. Hafner and to hear
what members of the BCS had to say, I attempted to quickly mobilize the entire
RDT crew into attending.  Alas, I was the *only* person able to make it.  "What
the hell," I figured, "I'm sure there'll be plenty of other people there who'll
make the discussion lively and *heated*."  Boy, was I wrong...

     For starters, Ms. Hafner was unable to attend.  Instead, her husband and
co-author, John Markoff showed up.  I had never been to a BCS meeting before,
and figured that the members would be relatively intelligent about computers
and computer ethics.  Well, about 80 people filled the lecture hall, and ALL of
them were older than me (and I'm 24 by the way).  Looked like mostly yuppie
trash ("Gee, I just bought this 486...I wonder what it does.  Guess I'll join
the BCS!") and some old professor-types.  Suddenly, I felt a chill...
*Weenie-alert*  Two bozos behind me were trying to discuss how to write an

         "Bob, my computer is all messed up.  Doesn't work."
         "Gee, well, maybe you need one of those set device equals things!"

NOTE: ALL quotes are REAL...Yes, truth is stranger than fiction...

   Oh well...Finally, John Markoff came on-stage looking a lot like Dustin
Hoffman.  He started out by talking for 15 minutes on the definitions
of "hacker," "cracker," and "cyberpunk."  This is when my migraine started (a
small throbbing pulse in my left temple).  He discussed the origin of the term
"cyberpunk" and made MANY references to *BILL* Gibson.  Guess he wanted to
stroke himself and make his "personal" relationship with Gibson known to all.
Then, he talked in DETAIL about how HE figured out who set loose the Internet
worm.  "I told them to 'finger RTM'... and the name Robert T. Morris popped
up."  Boy, some SERIOUS tech wizardry going on there.  Markoff patted himself
on the back for about 10 minutes more.  He also seemed proud of his dealings
with Cliff Stoll (as he plugged THE CUCKOO'S EGG about 5 times).  Stroke,
stroke, stroke.  He seemed really *proud* at having discovered all this info
about the computer underground (even though his book is ONLY about *THREE* case

                  "We wanted to get inside these cultures..."

     Well his book was basically just a REPORT of WHAT HAPPENED (not even
factual half the time)...  NOT about the CULTURE...  NOT about what really made
these people tick...  NOT about what REALLY ATTRACTS people to the computer
underground.  He was just a *reporter*, looking for a scoop.  Nothing more.

     After describing his book, he opened up the presentation to discussion.
The FIRST question was by some BCS dork:

        "Do you know anything about the printer-ROM virus used in the
         Iraqi computer systems?"

I got a sick feeling in my stomach.  Markoff talked about this for 10 minutes
with comments by other BCS members thrown in.  ARRRGH.  Anyway, the NEXT
question was a real winner:

         "What about those computers that took the Turing test recently..
          did they pass?  Could you explain what a Turing test is?"

So maybe the BCS people WERE NOT that up on things.  Maybe none of them read
the book.  Maybe none of them have ever read Phrack or 2600.  Maybe ALL of them
have their heads shoved up their butts?

     Finally, I made my move.  I asked him:

  "What do you think of the punishments given to convicted 'cyberpunks'?
   Do you think they're fair?  What about seizure of equipment without
   charges, taking examples from Operation Sundevil?"

  Markoff:  "I think the government is just using scare tactics.  It's a shame
             that equipment is seized.  It's unconstitutional."

     Yep, that is all he had to say about it.  No comments on the POLICE STATE
that's evolving on the nets.  Nothing about what's being done to *protect*
computer users' free speech.  Next question of mine:

      "What do you think really drives 'cyberpunks' 'serious' do you
       think the *crime* of *hacking* is?"

   Markoff:  "It's just juvenile delinquency.  Most of it has nothing to do
              with tech wizardry.  It's mostly con-artists.  I hope there is
              a 'fad element' to this cyberpunk thing.  Hopefully they'll
              grow out of it."

     Yeah, this guy certainly has his damn FINGER on the PULSE of the
underground.  We're just a bunch of delinquent, juvenile con-artists.  We'll
grow out of it.  Really.  Man, I was steamed.  What he said was full of
*half-truths* leaving out IMPORTANT things, like the drive for exploration of
highly complicated networks and machinery, but I wasn't going to pick a fight
with this guy.  I calmed down and asked the next question on my list:

     "What do you think of publications like Phrack and 2600?  How do you feel
      about the E911 bust that tried to suppress Phrack?"

 Markoff:  "I don't buy their 'exploration' excuse.  I don't want people
            testing the locks on MY computer.  It's just juvenile delinquency."

     How insightful.  Completely ignored my question about the E911 affair.  So
much for understanding the underground.  Ya, we all read stuff like Phrack
and 2600 JUST so we can FUCK UP things.

     ***ONE interesting thing he mentioned was that MOST hacker-related crimes
are INSIDE JOBS.  Trusted people working on the INSIDE.  Well, that was the
ONLY thing he said that I totally agreed with.  At least Markoff isn't trying
to start a "Cyberpunk Witch-Hunt"...not like OTHER people (i.e., Geraldo, Don
Ingram, etc.).

     This gets REAL funny now.  Other BCS members seemed to have NO interest in
talking about hacking/phreaking/civil liberties/hacker ethic/etc.  ONE guy
            "Is piracy a big problem in the US?"

Another asked:

            "Do pirate bulletin boards still exist?"

Some *insightful* BCS member said:

        "Yeah, but it's dangerous.  Lawyers call up and check to see if you
         have copyrighted software.  You can go to jail for it!"

    Markoff:  "Yes, piracy is still rampant.  I can't give you any numbers
               <cheesy smile here> but I know many exist."

BCS member responds:

            "You mean I can just call a number and get Pagemaker for free?"

     At this point, I vomited least my BRAIN did.  Many other
stupid questions were asked, but I won't torture you further ("What about the
IBM/Apple merger?"...that sort of thing).  I managed to get in ONE LAST

     "What do you think of 'reformed cyberpunks'...for nstance, the security
      consulting company 'Comsec' formed by ex-LOD members?"

  Markoff:  "I think that any company that hires them should know what they're
             getting into.  I'm skeptical.  *I* wouldn't hire them."

     You should know that at this point MOST of the BCS dorks laughed out loud,
in annoying, weenie-like chuckles of mirth.  It took all of my strength not to
get up and crack skulls.  So much for intelligent discussions.  Actually,
throughout MOST of the meeting, people were laughing for no apparent reason.
Guess they knew something I didn't?

     In the final analysis, the meeting confirmed my suspicions that Markoff is
just a reporter trying to make a buck.  Cashing in on half-truths.  Not at all
interested in the "cyberpunk's" point of view.  Not interested in the ETHICS
and MORAL RAMIFICATIONS of hacker busts.  He's just reporting the "news."  At
least he wasn't trying to stir up a "witch-hunt"...but then again, he isn't
contributing much to the awareness of the underground and what it "really"
means...hacking is NOT a is NOT something to "grow out of"...
it means freedom of speech...freedom to explore (to an extent..heh) and the
DESIRE to explore.  MUCH more than juvenile delinquency.  I hope someone writes
a book from that perspective someday.

   I also got an insight into the BCS community.  Clueless.  Need I say more?

I hope you enjoyed this file.  Look for more "Special Reports" in the near

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