TUCoPS :: Cyber Law :: psbust.txt

About the Private Sector bust

               2600 Magazine's story on the Private Sector Bust
                          Uploaded by Elric of Imrryr
                            Lunatic Labs Unlimited

Typed By Shooting Shark : The following article appeared in the August, 1985
issue of 2600 Magazine. Subscriptions to 2600 are $12 a year for individuals.
Make checks payable to 2600 Enterprises, Inc.  Write to: 2600, Box 752, Middle
Island, NY 11953-0752.  Their phone number is 516-751-2600.  Text of article

2600 Bulletin Board is Implicated in Raid on Jersey Hackers

     On July 12, 1985, law enforcement officials seized the Private Sector BBS,
the official computer bulletin board of 2600 magazine, for "complicity in
computer theft," under the newly passed, and yet untested, New Jersey Statute
2C:20-25.  Police had uncovered in April a credit carding ring operated around
a Middlesex County electronic bulletin board, and from  there investigated
other North Jersey bulletin boards.  Not understanding subject matter of the
Private Sector BBS, police assumed that the sysop was  involved in illegal
activities.  Six other computers were also seized in this investigation,
including those of Store Manager [perhaps they mean Swap Shop  Manager? -
Shark] who ran a BBS of his own, Beowolf, Red Barchetta, the Vampire, NJ Hack
Shack, sysop of the NJ Hack Shack BBS, and that of the sysop of the Treasure
Chest BBS.

     Immediately after this action, members of 2600 contacted the media, who
were completely unaware of any of the raids.  They began to bombard the
Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office with questions and a press conference  was
announced for July 16.  The system operator of the Private Sector BBS attempted
to attend along with reporters from 2600.  They were effectively  thrown off
the premises.  Threats were made to charge them with trespassing and other
crimes.  An officer who had at first received them civilly was  threatened with
the loss of his job if he didn't get them removed promptly.  Then the car was
chased out of the parking lot.  Perhaps prosecutor Alan Rockoff was afraid that
he presence of some technically literate reporters would ruin the effect of his
press release on the public. As it happens, he didn't need our help.

     The next day the details of the press conference were reported to the
public by the press.  As Rockoff intended, paranoia about hackers ran rampant.
Headlines got as ridiculous as hackers ordering tank parts by telephone from
TRW and moving satellites with their home computers in order to make free phone
calls.  These and even more exotic stories were reported by otherwise
respectable media sources. The news conference understandably made the front
page of most of the major newspapers in the US, and was a major news item as
far away as Australia and in the United Kingdom due to the sensationalism of
the claims.  We will try to explain why these claims may have been made in this

     On July 18 the operator of The Private Sector was formally charged
with"computer conspiracy" under the above law, and released in the custody of
his parents.  The next day the American Civil Liberties Union took over his
defense.  The ACLU commented that it would be very hard for Rockoff to prove a
conspiracy just "because the same information, construed by the prosecutor to
be illegal, appears on two bulletin boards." especially as Rockoff admitted
that "he did not believe any of the defendants knew each other."  The ACLU
believes that the system operator's rights were violated, as he was assumed to
be involved in an illegal activity just because of other people under
investigation who happened to have posted messages on his board.

    In another statement which seems to confirm Rockoff's belief in guilt by
association, he announced the next day that "630 people were being investigated
to determine if any used their computer equipment fraudulently."  We believe
this is only the user list of the NJ Hack Shack, so the actual list of those to
be investigated may turn out to be almost 5 times that.  The sheer overwhelming
difficulty of this task may kill this investigation, especially as they find
that many hackers simply leave false information.  Computer hobbyists all
across the country have already been called by the Bound Brook, New Jersey
office of the FBI.  They reported that the FBI agents used scare tactics in
order to force confessions or to provoke them into turning in others.  We would
like to remind those who get called that there is nothing inherently wrong or
illegal in calling any ANY BBS, nor in talking about ANY activity.  The FBI
would not comment on the case as it is an "ongoing investigation" and in the
hands of the local prosecutor.  They will soon find that many on the Private
Sector BBS's user list are data processing managers, telecommunications
security people, and others who are interested in the subject of the BBS,
hardly the underground community of computer criminals depicted at the news
conference.  The Private Sector BBS was a completely open BBS, and police and
security people were even invited on in order to participate.  The BBS was far
from the "elite" type of underground telecom boards that Rockoff attempted to

     Within two days, Rockoff took back almost all of the statements he had
made at the news conference, as AT&T and the DoD [Department of Defense -
Shark] discounted the claims he had made.  He was understandably unable to find
real proof of Private Sector's alleged illegal activity, and was faced with
having to return the computer equipment with nothing to show for his effort.
Rockoff panicked, and on July 31, the system operator had a new charge against
him, "wiring up his computer as a blue box."  Apparently this was referring to
his Novation Applecat modem which is capable of generating any hertz tone over
the phone line.  By this stretch of imagination an Applecat could produce a
2600 hertz tone as well as the MF which is necessary for "blue boxing."
However, each and every other owner of an Applecat or any other modem that can
generate its own tones therefore has also "wired up his computer as a blue box"
by merely installing the modem. This charge is so ridiculous that Rockoff
probably will never bother to press it.  However, the wording of WIRING UP THE
COMPUTER gives rockoff an excuse to continue to hold onto the computer longer
in his futile search for illegal activity.

     "We have requested that the prosecutors give us more specific
information," said Arthur Miller, the lawyer for The Private Sector. "The
charges are so vague that we can't really present a case at this point."
Miller will appear in court on August 16 to obtain this information.  He is
also issuing a demand for the return of the equipment and, if the prosecutors
don't cooperate, will commence court proceedings against them.  "They haven't
been particularly cooperative," he said.

     Rockoff probably will soon reconsider taking Private Sector's case to
court, as he will have to admit he just didn't know what he was doing when he
seized the BBS.  The arrest warrant listed only "computer conspiracy" against
Private Sector, which is much more difficult to prosecute than the multitude of
charges against some of the other defendants, which include credit card fraud,
toll fraud, the unauthorized entry into computers, and numerous others.

     Both Rockoff and the ACLU mentioned the Supreme Court in their press
releases, but he will assuredly take one of his stronger cases to test the new
New Jersey computer crime law.  by seizing the BBS just because of supposed
activities discussed on it, Rockoff raises constitutional questions.  Darrell
Paster, a lawyer who centers much of his work on computer crime, says the New
Jersey case is "just another example of local law enforcement getting on the
bandwagon of crime that has come into vogue to prosecute, and they have
proceeded with very little technical understanding, and in the process they
have abused many people's constitutional rights.  What we have developing is a
mini witch hunt which is analogous to some of the arrests at day care centers,
where they sweep in and arrest everybody, ruin reputations, and then find that
there is only one or two guilty parties."  We feel that law enforcement, not
understanding the information on the BBS, decided to strike first and ask
questions later.

     2600 magazine and the sysops of the Private Sector BBS stand fully behind
the system operator.  As soon as the equipment is returned, the BBS will go
back up.  We ask all our readers to do their utmost to support us in our
efforts, and to educate as many of the public as possible that a hacker is not
a computer criminal.  We are all convinced of our sysop's innocence, and await
Rockoff's dropping of the charges.

NOTE:  Readers will notice that our reporting of the events are quite different
than those presented in the media and by the Middlesex County Prosecutor.  We
can only remind you that we are much closer to the events at hand than the
media is, and that we are much more technologically literate than the Middlesex
County Prosecutor's Office.  The Middlesex County Prosecutor has already taken
back many of his statements, after the contentions were disproven by AT&T and
the DoD.  One problem is that the media and the police tend to treat the seven
cases as one case, thus the charges against and activities of some of the
hackers has been extended to all of the charged.  We at 2600 can only speak
about the case of Private Sector.

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