TUCoPS :: General Information :: washlod.txt

An article on the LOD busts

The Following Article appeared in the Sunday, June 24, 1990 edition of the
Washington Post, in the Business section. (Page H1,H6)

Crackdown on the `Legion of Doom' Ends an Era for Computer Hackers
By Willie Schatz (Washington Post Staff Writer)

     They first sprang into existence as cartoon characters whose sole purpose
was making life miserable for television's "Super Freinds."  They were the
Legion of Doom, and they were led by arch-criminal Lex Luthor.
     In the end of course, even the elite Legion proved no match for the likes
of Superman and went the way of most of his enemies--consigned to cartoon
     But the Legion of Doom was reincarnated in a different form in the early
1980s by a group of adventurers poised on the edge of the electronic age.  They
called themselves hackers, and their quarry was not a visitor from another
plant. The target for "Phiber Optik," "Acid Phreak" and "Knight Lightning," as
some members of the Legion called themselves, was --and still is-- the
     The telephone networks linking corporate and government computer systems
were their maze.  The Passwords and security screens that protected netoworks
from outsider's access were obstacles to outwit.  They schemed to get inside
these systems and browse through information files at will.
     It was a game, hacker versus hacker, played in unfettered spirit of
     "Hackers will do just about anything that doesn't involve crashing
[bringing down] a system," said a New York City member who goes by the computer
name of "Acid Phreak," but who would not further identify himself.  "Thats the
only taboo.  We don't sell military secrets.  We're jus tout to learn.  We
transfer data about records that we find in systems.  But we draw the line on
how we use that data.  We use it to play around, not to abuse it."
     And then, without much warning, it wasn't just a game anymore.
For a diverse group of men from New York City, Middletown, Md., and elsewhere,
the change announced itself in the past few months through a series of knocks
on the door by investigators bearing warrants. In raids that followed a
two-year, nationwide investigation of potential computer fraud, Secret Service
agents seized 42 computers, 23,000 computer disks, and other items from
hackers, including Acid Phreak and Phiber Optik.  The equipment will not be
returned to its owners until the service finishes examining it as evidence for
possible criminal violations.
     So far, the Secret Service sweep-- called Operation Sun Devil-- has
produced only two arrests.
     Other investigations linked to the Secret Service campaign have resulted
in serveral indictments of hackers, some of whoma re alleged to be members of
the Legion of Doom.  Those indicted have been charged with violations such as
useing a computer without authorization, interstate transportation of the
private information that was in the computer and fraudulently sending
unauthorized information across state lines.
     "We're authorized to enforce the computer fraud act, and we're doing it to
the best of our ability," said Gary Jenkins, assistant director of
investigations for the Secret Service.  "We're not interested in cases that
are at the lowest threshold of violating the law," such as accessing a
government computer without authorization, he said.  "They have to be major
criminal violators before we get involved."
     The law enforcer's view of the hacker contrasts sharply with the more
benign view of just a few years ago, view sthat the hacker community still
holds today.
     "The government's busting kids just for being curious," said the hacker
Acid Phreak. "Just because they're in [the system], they [atuhorities]
automatically assume they're criminals.  The government and some companies are
getting free lessions in computer security, but they're prosecuting us like
we're criminals.  It's like hacking's the worst thing since communism.
Meanwhile, there are real [computer] criminals out there making real money."
     Curious kids or criminals?  That the question even is being asked about
the Legion of Doom members and others shows the dimension of change that has
taken place.
     When Steven Levy wrote his 1984 book, "Hackers: Heroes of the Computer
Revolution," he said: "Hackers are computer programmers and designers who
regard computing as the most important thing in the world.  Beneath their often
unimposing exteriors, they were adventurers, visionaries, risk-takers, artists
... and the ones who most clearly saw why the computer was a truly
revolutionary tool."
     Among them flows "a common philoophy which seemed tied to the elegantly
flowing logic of the computer itself.  It was a philosphy of sharing, openess,
decentralization and getting your hands on the machine at any cost-- to improve
the machines, and to improve the world. ..."
     "It's okay to do anything in the name of learning as long as you don't
cause harm," a veteran hacker said.  "You have the right to access any
information that can be accessed [through your technique.]  We also feel if
they're not smart enough to stop us, we have the right to keep doing anything.
That may be technical arrogance, but it's always there."
     And there were results from the concentration of all this intellectual
     Hacking helped energize both the personal computer industry and the
software industry.  Steve Jobs and Wozniak, whose creation of the Apple
computer made the machine accessible to average people, gained most of their
knowledge from hacking.  The same holds true for Bill Gates, whose fascination
with software eventually led to the creation of Microsoft Corp., now the
world's leading producer of operating programs for IBM personal computers.
     But with the increasing dependence of business and society upon electronic
networks, the incursions of hackers became less and less tolerable.
     As early as 1984, a report by the House judiciary Committee called
attention to the "activities of so-called `hackers', who have been able to
access both private and public computer systems, sometimes with potentially
serious results."
     The report also quoted Wilbur Miller, then president of Drake University,
who told the committee, that there has been a tendency on the part of the
public to view such violations as "intellectual pranksterism."
     "This is simply not the case," Miller Added.  The ubiquity of computers
in virtually every dimension of our everyday lives underlines this point and
dictates our concern."
     Congress responded by passing the Counterfeit Access Device and Computer
Fraud and Abuse Act, which provided penalties of as much as three months in
jail for unauthorized access to computers.  A 1986 revision established
criminal penalties for six additional types of unauthorized computer access,
including entering government computers.
     The legislation, while not halting hacking, apparently has curbed it
severely.  The law authorized the Secret Service to investigate offenses, and
the agency has responded in ways that have spawned something of a backlash
among computer users.
     Mitchell Kapor, the inventor of Lotus 1-2-3, the world's most popular
financial software package, is expected t oannounce next month the formation of
a coalition that will establish a hackers' legal defense fund, lobby Congress
to change the 1984 law and help fight what Kapor said had the potential to be a
"witch hunt."

Birth of the Legion
     None of this was an issue when the creator of the Legion of Doom took as
his model, Lex Luthor and the cartoon Legion.  The computer group was loosely
based on the television characters, who had names such as Black Manta and
     "The name [Legion of Doom] has nothing to do with the group's intentions,"
said an 18-year-old New Yorker whose computer name is Phiber Optik.  The name
is a cartoon spoof, he said.
     "But it is a name that demands respect," he said.  "it's prupose was the
get the best minds of the time together and have them communicate with each
other.  The name doesn't demand any respoect now, though.  It accomplished much
more a few years ago."
     And the group, which he said never had more than 15 to 20 members
apparently has become much less particular about the quality of those members.
     "Now it's almost life if you say you're in, you are," said another Legion
member, a computer consultant whose eqquipment was seized by the Secret Service
as part of the Sun Devil investigations.  "We dont have the same standards.
     "And I think a lot of our goals have change," he added. "I know I won't be
able to hack the way I used to."
     Despite the absence of their hardware and software, however, the two are
far better off thhan one of their alleged Legion colleagues.

A Hackers Obession
     Leonard Rose Jr., a 31-year-old computer consultant and hacker from
Middletown, Md., whose computer name is "Terminus," had his house searched Feb.
2 as part of Operation Sun Devil. According to Rose, it required half a moving
truck and a 35-page inventory to account for the possessions removed by the
agency.  He also says the seizure has left him unable to operate his consulting
company, Netsys Inc.
     As a result of the search, Rose was indicted May 15 in Baltimore on five
counts of computer fraud, including electronically transmitting a computer
program that was the property of American Telephone & Telegraph Co., acharges
Rose has denied.  According to the indictment, Rose was "associated" with the
     Rose began his lifelong fascination with electronics when he was 5 years
old. His father, an engineer who tested solid-fuel rocket engines for Morton
Thiokol Corp., gave Rose old junk radios.  Rode would take them to the basement
of the family's Elkton, Md., house and disassemble them.  Then he started
building radios from scratch.
     After a six-year ARmy stint spent mostly in Korea, Rose moved to New
York's suburbs and began designing computer axial tomography (CAT) scanners
and magnetic resonance image (MRI) machines for major medical technological
companies.  While preforming those tasks, he established a bulletin board
called "APPLENET" that eventually attracted hundreds of subscribers.
     "I was a hacker in the original sense-- someone who loves computers and
can learn as much as can be learned about a computer," Rose said in an
     "I was obsessed. Hacking gave me the edge on my peers and co-workers.  The
higher the technology I worked on, the better my career would be.  Other people
didn't stand a chance when they were competing with me.  That was my goal and
that's what happened.  I think it was a psychological carryover from my days in
the cellar.  But I never let it take over my life.  I didn't lose perspective."
     His obsession had intensified by 1985, when he moved to Baltimore to take
a job with a local medical technology company and he and his Korean-born wife
had their first child.  Rose continued to hone his skills through the use of
more advanced computer equipment, and that expertise made Netsys succesful.
     The the Secret Service came.  Since its visit, Rose said, his client base
has dwindeled to one Baltimore-based accounting firm.

The Battle Continues ...
     For its part, the Secret Service says it isn't targeting any particular
group of hackers.
     "We don't really now who belongs to the Legion of Doom," said Dale Boll,
assistant special agent in charge of the Secret Service's fraud division.
"We've never given them much real credence... They haven't been a predisposed
target.  We focus on individuals comitting serious offenses."
     "We are not in the business of slowing down technological innovation or
stopping the Lewis and Clarks of the 21st century," said Earl Devaney, special
agent in charge of the fraud division.  "We're only looking for folks
committing federal crimes and oding malicious damage."
     "We think the deterrent effect of Operation Sun Devil has been very
beneficial," he added.  "A lot of hackers get lulled into a sense of anonymity
behind their computers.  There's a psychological sense they won't get caught.
But now they know they will."
     That thought may slwo them, but it apparently will not stop them.
     "After all this stuff, we know what not to do next time," Phiber Optik
said.  "And there will always be a next time."

  This article typed by Laughing Gas on 06/24/90.  Chaos, Inc News Services.

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