TUCoPS :: Cyber Law :: lodb.txt

Legion of Doom bust - 4/01/90

             " U.S. computer investigation targets Austinites "

  [ The above caption high-lighted the Saturday March 17, 1990 edition
  of the Austin American-Statesman [ Austin, Texas ].  The article has
  been copied in its entirety, and the main point for typing this up
  was because of the involvement of the LOD/H throughout the article. ]

      The U.S. Secret Service has seized computer equipment from two
 Austin homes and a local business in the past month as part of a federal
 investigation into electronic tampering with the nation's 911 emergency
      Armed Secret Service agents, accompanied by officers from the Austin
 Police Department, took the equipment in three March 1 raids that sources
 say are linked to a nationwide federal inquiry coordinated by the Secret
 Service and the U.S. attorney's office in Chicago.
      While federal officials have declined to comment on the investigation
  - which focuses on a bizarre mix of science fiction and allegations of
 high-tech thievery - the Austin American-Statesman has learned that the
 raids targeted Steve Jackson Games, a South Austin publisher of role-
 playing games, and the home of Loyd Blankenship, managing editor at the
      A second Austin home, whose resident was acquainted with Jackson
 officials, also was raided.
      Jackson said there is no reason for the company to be investigated
 .  Steve Jackson Games is a book and game publisher of fiction, he said,
 and it is not involved in any computer-related thefts.
      The agents, executing search warrants now sealed by a judge from
 public view, took computer equipment, including modems, printers, and
 monitors, as well as manuals, instruction books and other documents.  The
 equipment has been forwarded to federal officials in Chicago.
      The Secret Service, best-known for protecting the president, has
 jurisdiction in the case, government officials say, because damage to
 the nation's telephone system could harm the public's welfare.  In
 addition, the system is run by American Telephone & Telegraph Co., a
 company involved in the nation's defense.
      The 911 investigation already has resulted in the indictment of
 two computer "hackers" in Illinois and sources say federal authorities
 now are focusing on Austin's ties to a shadowy underground computer
 user's group known as the Legion of Doom.
      The hackers, who live in Georgia and Missouri, where indicted in
 Chicago.  they are believed to be members of the Legion of Doom and
 are charged with seven counts, including interstate transportation of
 stolen property, wire fraud, and violations of the Computer Fraud and
 Abuse Act of 1986.
      The government alleges that the defendants stole a computerized
 copy of Bell South's system that controls 911 emergency calls in nine
 states.  The information was then transferred to a computer bulletin
 board and published in a hacker publication known as Phrack!
      A trial in the case is scheduled to begin in June.
      U.S. agents also have seized the final drafts of a science
 fiction game written by the Austin-based game company.  Sources say
 the agents are trying to determine whether the game - a dark, futur-
 istic account of a world where technology has gone awry - is being
 used as a handbook for computer crime.  Steve Jackson, the owner of
 the local company and a well-known figure in the role-playing game
 industry, said neither he nor his company has been involved in
 tampering with the 911 system.
      No one in Austin has been indicted or arrested as a result of
 the investigation.  "It is an on-going investigation.  That is all
 I can say," said Steve Beauchamp, special agent-in-charge of the
 Secret Service Austin field office.  "Until we can put it all
 together, we just do not comment," he said.
      Bob Rogers, Jackson's Dallas attorney, said federal officials
 have assured him that neither Jackson nor Jackson Games is the tar-
 get of the probe.  The authorities would not tell Rogers whether the
 inquiry focused on other company employees.  As for the science fiction
 game, called Cyberpunk, Jackson said federal authorities have mistaken
 a fictional work for a technical manual [E.N. Why does this sound all
 too familiar?] .
      "It's not a manual for computer crime any more than a Reader's
 Digest story on how to burglar-proof your house is a manual for
 burglars," said Jackson, 36.  "It's kind of like the hints you get
 on safe-cracking from a James Bond movie."
      Blankenship, the author of the book, said his attorney has advised
 him not to comment on the book or the Secret Service investigation.
      Jackson said he guesses his company was linked to the 911 probe
 by its use of a computer bulletin board system, called Usenet.  The
 board, one of hundreds throughout the country, is a sort of electronic
 Town Square, where personal computer users from throughout the world
 can tap into the system via phone lines and a modem.
      The network, free and relatively unregulated, is an information
 exchange where users can post information, exchange electronic messages
 and debate with keyboards everything from poetry and politics to nuclear
      One of the world's largest networks - boasting more than 600,000
 users - Usenet was tapped by Chinese students in North America to
 organize support for students during the pro-democracy demonstrations
 last year.  The network also was infected in 1988 by a now-famous
 computer "virus" unleashed by college student Robert Morris.
      Jackson said his company has maintained a bulletin board on
 the Usenet network on which it posts advanced copies of its role-
 playing games.  The firm posts the games and requests that the users
 of the network comment on the text and propose improvements.
      The Jackson bulletin board, called Illuminati, greets users with
 the company's logo and a message that states: "Welcome to the World's
 Oldest and Largest Secret Conspiracy."
      Over the past several months, the company has been posting drafts
 of Cyberpunk for review.
      The resident of the second Austin home raided by the Secret Service
 was acquainted with Jackson and had made comments about the game on
 Usenet.  He asked to remain anonymous.
      Typical of Cyberpunk literature, the game is set in a bleak future,
 much like the world portrayed in Max Headroom, formerly a network
 television program.  Computers and technology control people's thoughts
 and actions and are viewed both as a means of oppression and as a method
 of escape.  Portions of Jackson's Cyberpunk viewed by the Austin American
 Statesman include a detailed discussion on penetrating government computer
 networks and a list of fictitious programs used to break into closed
 networks.  Bruce Sterling, an Austin science fiction writer and one of
 the world's best-known Cyberpunk writers, said Jackson's game and its
 computer-related discussions are hardly unusual for the genre.
      "Cyberpunk is thriller fiction."  Sterling said.  "It deals to a
 great extent with the romance of crime in the same way that mysteries
 or techno-thrillers do."  He said the detailed technical discussions
 in the Jackson games are what draws people to them.  "That's the
 charm of simulating something that's supposed to be accurate.  If
 it's cooked up out of thin air, the people who play these games are
 going to lose interest."
       Jackson, though, said he has been told by Secret Service agents
 that they view the game as a user's guide to computer mischief.  He
 said they made the comments where he went to the agency's Austin
 office in an unsuccessful attempt to reclaim some of his seized
 equipment.  "As they were reading over it, they kept making outraged
 comments," Jackson said. "When they read it, they became very, very
 upset.  "I said, 'This is science fiction.'  They said, 'No.  This
 is real.'"
       The text of the Cyberpunk games, as well as other computer
 equipment taken from Jackson's office, still has not been returned.
 The company now is working to rewrite portions of the book and is
 hoping to have it printed next month.  In addition to reviewing
 Cyberpunk, sources say federal authorities currently are investigating
 any links between local computer hackers and the Legion of Doom.  The
 sources say some of the 911 information that is the subject of Chicago
 indictments has been traced to Austin computers.
       Jackson's attorney said federal officials have told him that
 the 911 information pilfered from Bell South has surfaced on a computer
 bulletin board used at Steve Jackson games.  But the information
 apparently has not been traced to a user.  Jackson said that neither
 he nor any of his employees is a member of the Legion of Doom.
        Blankenship, however, did consult with the group in the
 course of researching the writing the Cyberpunk game, Jackson said.
 Further, the group is listed in the game's acknowledgments for its
 aid in providing technical information used in Cyberpunk.  For these
 reasons he believes Blankenship is a local target of the federal probe,
 though none of the investigators has yet confirmed his suspicion.
       "My opinion is that he is (being investigated)," Jackson said,
 "If that's the case, that's gross.
       "he had been doing research for what he hoped would be a mass-
 market book on the computer underground," Jackson said.
       The other Austin resident raided by the authorities, who asked
 to remain anonymous, acknowledged that he is the founding member of
 the Legion of Doom and that copies of the 911 system had surfaced on
 the group's local bulletin board.  The 20-year-old college student
 said the information hardly posed any threat to the 911 system.
 "It was nothing," he said.  "It was garbage, and it was boring."
       In the Chicago indictment accuses the group of a litany of
 electronic abuses, including: disrupting telephone service by
 changing the routing of telephone calls; stealing and modifying
 individual credit histories; stealing money and property from
 companies by altering computer information; and disseminating
 information about attacking computers to other computer hackers.
       The Austin Legion of Doom member said his group's worst
 crime is snooping through other people's computers.  "For the
 most part, that's all we do," he said.  "No one's out ripping
 off people's credit cards.  No one's out to make any money.
       "We're just out to have fun."
       The group member said the fact that the legion is shrouded
 in mystery adds to its mystique - and to the interest law
 enforcement agents have in cracking the ring.  "It's an entirely
 different world," the student said.  "It's a very strange little
 counter-culture.  "Everybody who exists in that world is familiar
 with the Legion of Doom," he said.  "Most people are in awe or are
 intimidated by it."

                                  (C)opied by Pizzia Man
                                   03/18/90Downloaded from Just Say Yes. 2 lines, More than 1500 filine!
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