TUCoPS :: Cyber Law :: slohack4.txt

Part 4 - One person's response to the illegal SLO busts

       A Case for Mistaken Identity... Who's Privacy was Really Invaded?

By Jim Bigeloww

According to the San Luis Obispo County (California) Telegram-Tribune, dated  
Saturday, March 23, 1991, the San Luis Obispo Police raided the homes of two  
Cal Poly students and two other residents including one in Santa Margarita for  
alleged computer crimes, "hacking." The suspects had, through their computer  
modems, unknowingly tried to access a  computer owned by a group of local 
dermatologists. That same number had previously belonged to a popular local 
bulletin board, Cygnus XI. The police were alerted by the dermatologists and 
their computer technician who was afraid someone was trying to access their 
patient records. The police put a phone tap on the computer line for 10 days 
which showed over 200 calls placed to that number in one 24 hour period.  

Armed with a search warrant, police went to the house of the first suspect who 
later said he only called that number 3 times in a 24 hour period (I wonder who 
made the other 197 calls?).  Unfortunately he was not home... this cost him two 
broken doors as the police had to enter the house some way.  All computer 
equipment, disks and computer related equipment was "seized" and taken to 
police headquarters.  Follow-up articles reveal that the individual had not  
committed local crimes, that no charges would be filed and that the computers .
would be returned. Disks which were determined to contain illegally copied 
commercial software were to be turned over to Federal authorities.   
Like most personal home computer users I have interviewed, I didn't think much .
of this matter at first, but I am now becoming alarmed. I am a 64İyear old  
senior citizen, perhaps a paranoid senior.  I think most seniors are a bit  
paranoid. I am a strong supporter of law enforcement, an ex-peace officer, a  
retired parole agent, and as a senior I want law enforcement protection.
In this situation, according to the Tribune report, the police "had legitimate  
concern." But, apparently they didn't know what they were doing as the officer  
in charge stated "We are learning as we go."   
Accessing a modem is not easy. I, with five years of computer experience, find ?
it difficult and frustrating to set up  a computer and keep it operating, to  
understand a manual well enough to get the software to operate, to set the )
switches and jumpers on a modem, and then contact a BBS, and in the midst of  
their endless questions, coupled with my excitability and fumbling, answer them  
and get on line. I have many times tried to connect to BBS's only to be  
disconnected because I typed my name or code incorrectly. I have dialed wrong  
numbers and gotten a private phone.   
I do not want to be considered an enemy of law enforcement merely because I own  
a computer. I do not like to be called a "hacker," and especially because I  
contacted a BBS 3 times. The word, "hacker" originally applied to a computer  
user, now has become a dirty word. It implies criminality, a spy, double  
agents, espionage, stealing government secrets, stealing business codes, etc.  
Certainly, not that of a law abiding and law supporting, voting senior citizen,  
who has found a new hobby, a toy and a tool to occupy his mind. Computers are  
educational and can and do assist in providing community functions. I hope that  
the name "personal computer user" doesn't become a dirty word. 
The "hacker" problem seems to be viewed by law enforcement as one in which "we  
learn as we go." This is an extremely costly method as we blunder into a  
completely new era, that of computerization.  It causes conflicts between  
citizens and law enforcement. It is costly to citizens in that it causes great  
distress to us, to find ourselves possible enemies of the law, the loss of our  
computers and equipment, telephones and reputation by being publicly called  
hackers and criminals. It causes more problems when we attempt to regain our  
reputation and losses by suing the very agencies we have been so diligently  
supporting, for false arrest, confiscation of our most coveted possession and  
uninvited and forced entrance into our homes, causing great emotional  
disturbances (and older people are easily upset).   
I have a legal question I would like answered. Who is obligated in this  
incident: the owners and operators of Cygnus XI for failure to make a public  
announcement of the discontinuance of their services? or the phone company for  
issuing the number to a private corporation with a modem? the police for not  
knowing what they are doing? the computer user? It is not a problem of being  
more cautious, ethical, moral, lawİabiding. It is a matter of citizen rights.    
The "hacker" problem now applies not only to code breakers, secret and document  
stealers, but to me, even in my first attempts to connect with a BBS. Had I  
tried to contact Cygnus XI my attempts would have put me under suspicion of the  
police and made me liable for arrest, confiscation of my computer, equipment,  
disks, and subsequent prosecution. I am more than a little bewildered.
And, am I becoming a paranoid senior citizen, not only because of criminals,  
but of the police also? Am I running a clandestine operation by merely owning a  
computer and a modem, or am I a solid senior citizen, which may well imply that  
I don't own "one of those computers?" Frankly, I don't know. Even though my  
computer is returned, and I am not arrested or prosecuted, I wonder what  
condition it now is in after all the rough handling. (Police who break down  
doors do not seem to be overly gentle, and computers and their hard disk drives  
are very fragile instruments). Just who and how many have scrutinized my  
computer? its contents?  and why? my personal home business transactions? and  
perhaps I supplement my income with the aid of my computer (I am a writer)? my  
daily journal? my most private and innermost thoughts? my letters? my daily  
activities? (This is exactly why personal computers and their programs were  
designed, for personal use. My personal computer is an extension of my self, my  
mind, and my personal affairs.)   
Can the police confiscate all my software claiming it is stolen, merely because  
they don't find the originals? (I, at the suggestion of the software companies,  
make backup copies of the original disks, and then place the originals  
elsewhere for safekeeping.) Do I need to keep all receipts to "prove" to the  
police that I am innocent of holding bootleg software? Is there a new twist in  
the laws that applies to personal computer users? 
Also any encoding of my documents or safeguarding them with a password, such as  
my daily journal, my diary, I have read in other cases, is viewed by law  
enforcement as an attempt to evade prosecution and virtually incriminates me.  
("If it wasn't criminal why did the "suspect" encode it?") 
This recent incident arouses complex emotions for me. What will the future  
bring for the home and personal computer user? I do not care to fear the  
police. I do not want to have to register my computer with the government. Will  
it come to that in our country? I do not want to have to maintain an impeccable  
record of all of my computer usages and activities, imports and exports, or to  
be connected to a state police monitoring facility, that at all times monitors  
my computer usage. The year "1984" is behind us. Let's keep it that way.    
This matter is a most serious problem and demands the attention of all  
citizens. As for myself, I wasn't the one involved, but I find it disturbing  
enough to cause me to learn of it and do something about it.   


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