TUCoPS :: General Information :: mob.txt

Hackers In The Mob?

 <-> Hackers in the MOB <->

     According  to Schmidt,  the dollar amounts are only part  of 
the story,  GTE Telemail,  an electronic mail system,  was broken 
into  by  at least four gangs of hackers,  he says.   "They  were 
raising hell.  The system got shut down one time for a day.  None 
of these people have been charged,  nor have any of the 414s been 
charged yet.

     "We have a major problem with hackers, phreaks and thieves," 
says  Schmidt,  who  estimates that 75% of criminal  hackers  are 
teenagers  and  the other 25% are adults using  teenagers  to  do 
their dirty work for them.

     "Adults are masterminding some of this activity.   There are 
industrial  spies,  people  playing  the stock  market  with  the 
information- just  about  any  theft or fraud you can do  with  a 
computer.   There  are no foreign agents or organized crime  yet, 
but it's inevitable," he says.   "I believe there are some people 
out there now with possible organized-crime connections.

     "It's an epidemic.   In practically every upper-middle class 
high school this is going on.   I know of a high-school  computer 
class  in a school in the north Dallas suburbs where the kids are 
trying  everything  they  can  think  of  to  get  into  the  CIA 

     "It's  a  strange culture," says SRI's Parker,  "a  rite  of 
passage  among technology-oriented youth.   The inner  circle  of 
hackers say they do it primarily for educational purposes and for 
curiosity.   They  want to find out what all those computers  are 
being used for.   There's a meritocracy in the culture,  each one 
trying to out do the other.   The one who provides the most phone 
numbers and passwords to computer systems rises to the top of the 

      "For  the most part it's malicious mischief,"  Parker says.  
"They rationalize that they're not really breaking any laws, just 
'visiting' computers.   But that's hard to believe when they also 
say  they've got to do their hacking before they turn 18 so  they 
don't come under adult jurisdiction.   After 18,  they have to do 
it vicariously through surrogates.   They are some grand old  men 
of  hacking who egg on the younger ones...  There have been  some 
cases  of  a  Fagin complex- a gang of kids led by  one  or  more 
adults- in Los Angeles."

      Who are the hackers and what secret knowledge do they have?

     A 17-year-old youth in Beverly Hills,  California, announced 
himself  to  other  hackers  on a bulletin  board  in  this  way: 
"Interests  include  exotic  weapons,   chemicals,  nerve  gases, 
proprietary information from Pacific Telephone..."

     Prized secret knowledge includes the two area codes in North 
America  that have not yet installed electronic switching  system 
central-office  equipment.   Using this information you can  call 
those  areas  and  use  a blue box to  blow  the  central  office 
equipment,  and  then call anywhere in the world without  charge.  
Other  secret information lets you avoid being traced when you do 

     A  knowledge of the phone systems lets hackers share one  of 
the  technological  privileges usually available  only  to  large 
corporate customers: long-distance conference calls connecting up 
to  59  hackers.   Schmidt  estimates  there are  three  or  four 
conference calls made every night.   The hackers swap more inside 
information during the phone calls.

     Thanks  to packet-switching networks and the fact that  they 
don't have to pay long-distance charfus,  time and distance  mean 
almost nothing to hackers.  Desktop microcompters hook into phone 
lines  via  modems  make it easy to obtain  copyrighted  software 
without human intervention.

     "Software piracy exists only because they can do it over the 
phone long distance without paying for it," Schmidt says.   "some 
stuff  gets sent through the mail,  but very little.   There  are 
bulletin  boards  that exist solely for the purpose  of  pirating 
software.   A program called ASCII Express Professional (AE  Pro) 
for  the  Apple  was  designed  specifically  for  modem-to-modem 
transfers.  You can make a copy of anything on that computer.  It 
can be copyrighted stuff- WordStar, anything.  There are probably 
about  three  dozen  boards  like  that.   Some  boards  exchange 
information on breaking onto mainframes.

     "In 1982 the FBI really didn't know what to do with all this 
information,"  Schmidt says.   "There isn't a national  computer-
crime  statue.   And  unless there's  $20,000  involved,  federal 
prosecutors won't touch it."

     Since then, the public and federal prosecutors' interest has 
picked  up.   The  film War Games and the arrest of 414 group  in 
Milwaukee  "created a lot of interest on Congress and with  other 
people," FBI instructor Lewis says. "But, for ourselves it didn't 
really have any impact."

     "We'd been providing the training already," says Jim  Barko, 
FBI  unit  chief  of  the EFCTU (economic  and  financial  crimes 
training  unit).   He says public interest may make it easier  to 
fight computer crime.   "There are more people interested in this 
particular  area  now as a problem.   War  Games  identified  the 
problem.   But  I think it was just circumstantial that the movie 
came out when it did."

     Despite  the help of knowledgeable informants like  Schmidt, 
tracking  down hackers can be frustrating business for  the  FBI.  
SRI's  Parker  explains  some  of the  pitfalls  of  going  after 
hackers:  "Some  FBI  agents  are very  discouraged  about  doing 
something  about  the hacking thing.   The cost of  investigation 
relative  to the seriousness of each case is just too  high,"  he 
says.   "Also, federal regulations from the Department of Justice 
make it almost impossible for the FBI to deal with a juvenile."

     An FBI agent cannot question a  juvenile without his parents 
or a  guardian being present.   The FBI  approach has been mostly 
to  support  lhe local police because local police are  the  only 
ones who can deal with juveniles.   Another difficulty the agency 
faces is the regulations about its jurisdiction.

     "There  has  to  be  an attack on  a  government  agency,  a 
government contractor or a government-insured institution for the 
FBI to have clear-cut jurisdiction," Parker says.

     The FBI gets called into a case only after a crime has  been 
detected by the complaining party.   The FBI has done a generally 
competent  job of investigating those crimes it was called in  to 
investigate,  in Parker's view.   But the federal agency's job is 
not  to  help  government or financial  institutions  attempt  to 
prevent  crimes,  nor is its function to detect the crimes in the 
first place.

     "We're  not  out detecting any type of crime,"  says  Lewis.  
"We   like  to  think  we  can  prevent  them.    We   can   make 
recommendations.  But  do  we detect bank robberies or  are  they 
reported  to  us?    Or  kidnapping- do  we  detect  those?    Or 
skyjacking?   There must be some evidence of crime,  a crime over 
which  the  FBI  has jurisdiction.   Then we open a  case."   And 
despite the spate of arrests and crackdowns last summer, it looks 
like the FBI will have its hands full in the future:  The hackers 
have  not  gone  away.   Like mice running  through  the  utility 
passages  of  a large office building,  they  create  damage  and 
inconvenience,  but  are  tolerated  as long  as  their  nuisance 
remains bearable.

     That status could change at any time, however.

     Meanwhile,  little  electronic "sting" operations similar to 
Abscam keep the element of danger on the hacker's game.   An  Air 
Force  telephone  network  called AUTOVON  (a  private  telephone 
system  connecting  computers on every Air Force installation  in 
the  world),  was reportedly cracked by a hacker last last  year.  
The  hacker  published  lists of AUTOVON dialups  on  a  bulletin 

     The  breach  came  to the attention `oo  the  Department  of 
Defense on late 1983, but apparently nothing was done to stop the 
hackers.   Then, in January, the AUTOVON number was answered in a 
sultry  female voice.   We wish to thank one and all for allowing 
us  to make a record of all calls for the past few  months.   You 
will be hearing from us real soon.  Have a happy New Year."

     That's a New Year's message calculated to give any hacker  a 

-End of file-



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