TUCoPS :: Cyber Law :: hackunit.txt

Hackers Unite! (from Newsweek)

/* All comments by Digital Derelict. */

                     Hackers of the World, Unite!

                     From Newsweek, July 2, 1990

                          By John Schwartz

                         Typed by Mortimer

                    A production of Hanford BBS.

                 /* Comments by Digital Derelict */

        It is not your average keynote speech.  It's more like a call to
 arms.  A couple of hundred software developers sit entralled by Mitch
 Kapor, who dropped by their recent Ann Arbor in his private jet - one of
 the nifty things you can buy for yourself if you happen to be the guy who
 wrote Lotus 1-2-3.  The once portly computer star has shed 25 pounds
 lately through a determined combination of exercise and diet.  He's
 doffed his jacket and slipped on a convention T shirt over his shirt and
 tie.  While this fashion statement might be confused, his message is not:
 There's a threat out there.  Not computer viruses.  Not nasty hackers.
 It's the Feds.

/* This is something that publications like PHRACK INC. (rest in peace),
   LOD/H (also shut down), and any BBSers that have bothered to pull their
   head(s) out have been saying for a decade.  Amazing how fast news travels,
   huh?                                                                 */

        Kapor first asks which members of the audience use electronic
 "bulletin boards" and conference systems.  Almost all the hands go up.
 Kapor then puts the scare into them with tales from the "hacker dragnet".
 Law-enforcement agencies have stepped up efforts against computer crime
 [fun timeline at the end].  Kapor believes that they have gone too far.
 He cites police raids on teenagers' homes, with guns drawn and family
 members forcibly restrained.  He tells of widespread equipment seizures,
 and the raid that nearly shut down Steve Jackson Games, a small Austin,
 Texas, producer of fantasy role-playing games - even though it was not a
 target of the investigation.

/* Actually, what happened was that an employee of SJ Games was formerly
   affiliated with The Phoenix Project, a perfectly legal BBS that was shut
   down by the Pigs -* er, the Feds the instant that the sysop (it is not
   clear which, but The Mentor was one) announced that they were going to start
   using an E-Mail encryption routine.  The Mentor had invited a few Feds to
   come and join them in discussions on the board to prove that it wasn't
   anything to be afraid of, thus the immediate response.  As far as this
   author knows, the equipment was never returned, no charges were pressed, and
   it had nothing to do with an investigation.  It was allegedly affiliated
   with LoD (publishers of LoD/H Technical Journal), which is the current
   target of this new McCarthyism.  LoD was allegedly connected with the E911
   case, where The Prophet leaked the contents of the E911 document to Knight
   Lightning, publisher of PHRACK. If this is a valid excuse for nearly
   shutting down the publishers of the 'GURPS' RPG series, the Feds as
   far gone as I suspected. The year '1984' comes to mind.              */

        And he talks about a student indicted on charges stemming from
 publishing a private telephone-company statement in  his electronic
 newsletter; Kapor says that the prosecution may violate freedom of press.
 "The first thing that happens is the government goes around busting a
 bunch of teenagers," Kapor complains," and calls them criminals."  The
 threat, he warns, extends to virtually anyone who links his computer
 to others.

        Law-enforcement officials accuse Kapor of romanticizing crooks who
 are violating the rights of their victims, and most people still think
 that hackers are a bigger threat than the cops.

/* The same 'law-enforcement' (read: police-brutality) officials also hold
   that a student fired first at the Kent State Massacre.               */

        But the crackdown has spurred Kapor and such industry legends as
 Apple Computer cofounder Steve Wozniak to band together behind the new
 generation.  Their goal: to protect the flow of information and innovation
 that helped bring about the personal-computer revolution.

/* Unfortunately, Apple Computers' current top executives are working in the
   opposite direction.  More to come on this.                           */

        Within the next few weeks they will officially announce a new
 foundation, yet unnamed, intended to combat computer phobia and provide
 legal aid for some of those snared in the dragnet.  The computer-rights
 movement has gained support on Capitol Hill, where Sen. Patrick Leahy,
 Democrat of Vermont, has planned upcoming hearings on how far law
 enforcement should go.  While advocating some punishment for lawbreakers,
 Leahy adds, "We cannot unduly inhibit the inquisitive 13-year-old who, if
 left to experiment today, may tomorrow develop the telecommunications or
 computer technology to lead the United States into the 21st century.
 He represents our future and our best hope to remain a technologically
 competitive nation."

/* Interestingly enough, Dr. Timothy Leary (correct me on the spelling) of
   'turn on, tune in, drop out' fame holds the same position.           */

        It's not that Kapor thinks he's defending choirboys.  Although
 some hackers insist they should be able to traipse digitally wherever
 they please, Kapor says that trespassers should be prosecuted - "I don't
 want people breaking in where they don't belong."  But he says the
 zealousness of the investigations is out for proportion to the threat.

/* Somebody should tell this reporter what 'McCarthyism' and 'witch-hunts'
   are.  There always must be an enemy.  Now that the commies aren't the
   'evil empire,' the government is being forced to invent new threats. */

        To Kapor, there is more at stake than keeping a bunch of teenagers
 out of jail.  He cites the case of Craig Neidorf, the University of Missuori
 student indicted after his electronic newsletter, Phrack, featured the
 private telephone-company document.  If the government is right in
 Neidorf's case, says Kapor attorney Terry Gross, The New York Times could
 have had its printing presses confiscated for publishing the Pentagon

/* Read that sentence again.  Carefully.                                */

        "Its very, very clear First Amendment implications should threaten
 all traditional media," says Gross - whose firm, Rabinowitz, Boudin,
 Standard, Krinsky and Lieberman, represented Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel

        Not everyone is singing along with Mitch.  Software companies, long
 angry over "piracy" (passing around bootleg copies of programs), are glad
 to see the authorities cracking down.  Ken Wasch, executive director of
 the Software Publishers Association, calls Kapor a friend, but says, "For
 Mitch to believe that there is a government-sponsored witch hunt going on
 is completely without foundation."

/* I had to have three people pin me while one beat me senseless in order to
   stop laughing after reading this!  This is the same person who (with help
   from [Cr]Apple Computers) is advocating laws in Europe (and soon the USA)
   to OUTLAW all hardware, software, and publications that could in ANY WAY
   aid or instruct a person in breaking copy protection (which is a ridiculous
   concept in the first place) or altering commercial software.  This means no
   Central Points Option Boards. This means that a PC-Magazine article telling
   you how to twiddle a bit would land you in jail.  This means that a copy of
   'Gamemaster,' Copy-II [insert computer type here, e.g. Copy-II-PC], Option
   Board control software, or character editors would be outlawed.      */

        Gail Thackeray, an Arizona assistant attorney general who deals with
 high-tech crime, insists the authorities are being mindful of civil rights.
 She predicts that when the facts come out at the various trials, the cops
 will be vindicated: "Some of these people who are loudest on the bandwagon
 may just slink back into the background."

/* After Men In Black show up with pistols pulled and threaten them.  It's
   happened.                                                            */

        Thackeray dismisses claims that prosecution will shut down legitamite
 computer networks;...

/* It already has.  Large, public, dial-up UNIX boxes have been seized as
   'evidence' and never returned without being used in trials because 6K of
   their 15-megs-a-night of Internet mail happened to be that rewritten E911
   leak.  Interestingly enough, the document, supposedly valued at ~$79K,
   contains mostly public information and certainly NOTHING that would enable
   a so-called 'hacker' to gain access to the system.                   */

 ...she speaks approvingly of one former hacker who told agents that he had
 quit as word spread of the raids.  "That's not, to me, a constitutionally
 suspect chilling effect," she says.  "That's what we in law enforcement
 call a 'deterrent'."

/* I suppose Kent State was a 'deterrent' against free thought. I suppose
   McCarthyism was a 'deterrent' against proposing reform in our corrupt
   government. How stupid does she take us to be?                       */

        If Kapor's stance seems surprising, he's used to surprising
 people.  His 1-2-3 bundle of business tools was an overnight hit, making
 him a multimillionaire.  Once his Lotus Development Corp. became a giant,
 he shocked the industry again by walking away; Lotus, he says, had
 outgrown its innovative beginnings.  "Most of what you do in business is
 business," he explains.  "I'm interested in business as a medium for
 creating products."  He is now creating products again at his new firm,
 Cambridge Mass.-based On Technology.

        Kapor developed the idea for the computer foundation with John
 Perry Barlow, a writer and self-described "professional techno-crank."
 Barlow says hackers typically try to sound more dangerous than they
 really are, a kind of digital vogueing.  He says most live by a "hacker
 ethic" described by a Phrack essay.  The piece tells prospective hackers
 to do no harm, because "The thrill of the hack is not in breaking the
 law, it is in the pursuit of knowledge."  Barlow says if this weren't the
 case, there would be even more damage to computers.

/* This is very true.  If the people out there would use their knowledge for
   'bad,' the Internet would go to pot.  Corporate systems would crash daily
   and NOT because of a root spilling his coffee on a circuitboard.     */

        With the outlines of the organization sketched out, Kapor began
 calling on friends in the industry.  While some have been reluctant,
 there was one instant convert: Apple cofounder Wozniak.  Like Kapor,
 Wozniak walked away from his company when it grew too far past its funky
 beginnings.  He has since put on rock concerts, gone back for his college
 degree and taken stabs at high-tech ventures.  Wozniak says a little
 mischief is important to the quest for knowledge.  He credits his college
 experience building "blue boxes" (devices for making free phone calls)
 with honing his hardware-design skills.  He compares electronic trespass
 to driving a few miles over the speed limit.  There are people who never
 break any such rules, he says, but adds "do you think I'd want my son to
 turn out like that, or marry one?  I'd still support him... but I kinda
 hope he has a a more fun life."  "Woz" pledged to match Kapor's
 contribution, which helped put the initial funding over $150,000.

        Kapor, captain of his high school math team, has thrown in his lot
 with the nerds.  He and his allies are attempting nothing less than to
 keep the ideals of the computer revolution alive.  They hope to turn
 around a public increasingly resentful of computers and the people who
 are adept at using them.  "You've got a lot of people who don't understand
 the present," Barlow says, "and in the absence of understanding, /* and in
 the face of intense government propaganda */ default to fear...The real
 disease here is future shock."  Somebody has to stick up for the pencil-
 necked and the pimply.  Luckily for them, the men who have chosen to do so
 are filthy rich.

                      Great Moments in Mischief
                   [The fun timeline, as promised!]

        The word "hacker" once meant any dedicated programmer; lately it's
 taken on a criminal tone.  Some events that got us from there to here:

 September 1970: John Draper makes free calls with a cereal-box whistle
        that matches AT&T's tones.  Hence his nom de hack: Captain
        Crunch. [Wasn't it Cap'n Crunch?]

1986: The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act passes, toughening police powers
        against hackers.

 February 1990: Four indictments in an alleged scheme authorities say
        endangered 911 service.  They cite a group calling itself "Legion
        of Doom." /* The Feds are trying to slap a ~$130000 fine and several
        years in jail on each of them */
 February 1990: Federal investigators confiscate Knight Lightning's (pub-
        lisher of PHRACK) laser printer as evidence in the E911 trial.
        Somehow I have a feeling that it's sitting on the desk of the local
        sherriff, churning out smut textfiles.  Another item that was seized as
        'evidence' was a story-in-progress that was due in less than a month.
        They marked a Cyberpunk novel for confiscation as well, but overlooked
 May 1990: Robert T. Morris Jr. is found guilty of setting loose a "worm"
        program that stilled thousands of linked computers in November
        1988.  His sentence includes no jail time.
/*                          ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^                      */
 May 1990: Operation Sundevil, one of several antihacker investigations,
        seizes 42 computers and 23,000 floppy disks in 14 cities with four
 June 1990: Government investigators have still refused to give back the systems
        that they seized as [totally irrelevant] 'evidence' in cases that
        never have and never will go to trial.  The few systems that _are_
        returned are very seldom in working order.

 June 1990: Steve Jackson Games is on the verge of going out of business.  When
        the 'public slavedrivers-*, er, SERVANTS' seized their systems they
        also seized work-in-progress (GURPS Cyberpunk RPG modules) and the
        food from the fridge.  Definitely solid evidence there.

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