Computer underground Digest Sat, Oct 19, 1991 Volume 3 : Issue 37 [orig 36] Moderators: Ji
Computer underground Digest Sat, Oct 19, 1991 Volume 3 : Issue 37 [orig 36]
Moderators: Jim Thomas and Gordon Meyer (TK0JUT2@NIU.BITNET)
**** SPECIAL ISSUE: "GERALDO AND THE MAD HACKERS'S KEY PARTY" ****
CONTENTS, #3.37 ( October 19, 1991) [originally numbered 3.36]
File 1: Summary of Geraldo's _Now it can be Told_
File 2: Excerpts from "Mad Hacker's Key Party"
File 3: Review_of_Now_It_Can_Be_Told_
File 4: Geraldo Rivera show on "Hacking"
File 5: The_RISKS_of_Geraldo
File 6: 2600 Magazine Exposes Security Holes (NEWSBYTE reprint)
Issues of CuD can be found in the Usenet alt.society.cu-digest news
group, on CompuServe in DL0 and DL4 of the IBMBBS SIG, DL1 of LAWSIG,
and DL0 and DL12 of TELECOM, on Genie, on the PC-EXEC BBS at (414)
789-4210, and by anonymous ftp from ftp.cs.widener.edu (184.108.40.206),
chsun1.spc.uchicago.edu, and dagon.acc.stolaf.edu. To use the U. of
Chicago email server, send mail with the subject "help" (without the
quotes) to email@example.com.
COMPUTER UNDERGROUND DIGEST is an open forum dedicated to sharing
information among computerists and to the presentation and debate of
diverse views. CuD material may be reprinted as long as the source
is cited. Some authors do copyright their material, and they should
be contacted for reprint permission. It is assumed that non-personal
mail to the moderators may be reprinted unless otherwise specified.
Readers are encouraged to submit reasoned articles relating to the
Computer Underground. Articles are preferred to short responses.
Please avoid quoting previous posts unless absolutely necessary.
DISCLAIMER: The views represented herein do not necessarily represent
the views of the moderators. Digest contributors assume all
responsibility for ensuring that articles submitted do not
violate copyright protections.
Date: 12 Oct 91 11:21:19 CDT
Subject: File 1-- Summary of Geraldo's _Now it can be Told_
On Sept 30, Geraldo Rivera's show focused on "hackers." Not
surprisingly, the commentary was closer to sensationalistic fiction
than fact. Those who saw the original airing described Rivera's
framing of the issue as reprehensible, and his comments about Craig
Neidorf were described as potentially slanderous. Even by Geraldo
standards, Craig could not have expected the grotesque insults to
which he was subjected and the bullying and inaccuracies that he
endured, according to observers, with reserved dignity.
We are indebted to an anonymous reader who provided us with excerpts
from the transcripts. They reveal a consistent pattern of
sensationalism--not surprising--but they also reflect that Rivera had
little interest in accuracy and instead resorted to fabrication
bordering on lies to depict Craig as a "Mad Hacker." His task was made
considerably easier by Alameda County (California) prosecutor Don
Ingraham, who contributed to the misconceptions of Craig and played
into the sensationalistic "mad hacker" motif that was the format of
Those who viewed the program report, and the transcripts confirm, that
the initial portion focused on the potential dangers of hacking to
national security, and skillfully juxtaposed film images of terrorism
and military violence with discussions and images of hackers.
Rivera continually referred to Craig as the "Mad Hacker," described
him as Ingraham's "arch-rival," and used the term "notorious hacker"
to remind the audience that his guest was not some run of the mill
evil-doer, but "mad," "notorious," and America's "most wanted" hacker.
Ingraham implied that Craig was responsible for breaking into and
endangering the nation's E911 system, but backed off slightly while
leaving the connection between E911 and national security intact.
Ingraham's analogy of rape and hacking was in poor taste, and he
seemed to join Rivera in competing for outlandish sound-byte of the
The media has played a major role in contributing to hacker hysteria
by grossly exaggerating the exploits of suspects and defendants.
Rivera has taken hyperbole to a new level by imputing dangers where
none exist, by fabricating facts, and by leaving the audience with the
impression that--in this case--Craig had actually broken into the E911
system. In a time which Constitutionally protected liberties are
threatened, when demogogues enact anti-crime legislation that expands
definitions of punishable behavior and increases penalties for
offenses, and when the public--still largely technophobic--does not
understand hacking, Geraldo's portrayal is recklessly dangerous and
unconscionably irresponsible. It is one thing to engage in
self-serving sleaze for ratings. It is quite another to distort truth
in ways that create false impressions and tarnish reputations by
name-calling. We suggest that Geraldo Rivera has far more in common,
both in his actions and in his consequences, with terrorists than do
hackers. Rivera, like terrorists, seems to have no hesitation in doing
violence if it serves his own narrow interests. On balance, society
can survive a "hacker menace" far more easily than it can survive
callous disregard of truth.
Date: Thu, 17 Oct 91 7:41:43 CDT
Subject: File 2-- Excerpts from "Mad Hacker's Key Party"
Excerpts from: _Now_It_Can_Be_Told_: "Mad Hackers' Key Party"
Hosted by Geraldo Rivera (Sept. 30, 1991)
Geraldo: I'm Geraldo rivera. And now, It can be told.
Geraldo: Joining us now via satellite from Oakland, CA is the
Assistant District Attorney Don Ingraham ... for Alameda County and he
has been prosecuting computer hackers for years.
Geraldo: Don, how do you respond to the feeling common among so many
hackers that what they're doing is a public service; they're exposing
the flaws in our security systems?
Don: Right, and just like the people who rape a coed on campus are
exposing the flaws in our nation's higher education security. It's
absolute nonsense. They are doing nothing more than showing off to
each other, and satisfying their own appetite to know something that
is not theirs to know.
Geraldo: Don, you stand by, Craig as well. And when we come back
we'll hear more from prosecutor Ingraham and from, I guess his
archrival here, the Mad Hacker Craig Neidorf.
Geraldo: We're back with Craig Neidorf, a former University of
Missouri student who ran a widely distributed electronic newsletter
for computer hackers. He is so proud of being America's
Most Wanted computer hacker that he has put together this very
Geraldo: Knight Lightning I guess that was your code?
KL: It was my editor handle.
Geraldo: That's your handle. OK. And from Oakland, CA we are
talking with the Assistant District Attorney Don Ingraham, who is hard
driven, you might say, to put people like Craig behind bars. Don, do
you think Craig's lucky that he's not behind bars right now?
Don: Yes, I think he's extraordinarily lucky. He was part of a
conspiracy, in my opinion, to take property that wasn't his and share
it with others. They charged him with interstate transport of stolen
property - couldn't make the threshold -and it came out that it had
been compromised by, unfortunately, released by another Bellcore
subsidiary. But was certainly not through any doing of HIS that he is
a free man.
Geraldo: So you think that his activities stink, then.
Don: Absolutely. No Question about it.
Geraldo: Craig, you wanna respond? Are you doing something for the
greater good of society?
KL: Well I was merely publishing a newsletter. I didn't go out and
find this document. Rather it was sent to me. In many ways it could
be compared to Daniel Ellsberg sending the Pentagon Papers to the New
Geraldo: Do you figure it that way Don? Is he like Daniel Ellsberg?
Don: No, Ellsberg went to court to deal with it. Daniel Ellsberg's
release of the Pentagon Papers is the subject of a published court
decision to point out it was a matter of national security and
national interest. The E911 codes, which is the citizen's link to the
police department are not a matter of national security. They're a
matter of the central service to the community.......
Geraldo: You broke into the 911 system? He broke into the 911
KL: No, that's not correct. I never entered any 911 telephone
Don: I didn't say he entered into it. What I said was that he and
Riggs conspired together to take a code that they knew was necessary
to 911 and to take it apart to see how it worked. They never had the
owner's permission, they never asked for it.
Geraldo: Alright, lemme ask you this....
KL: The court found that there was no conspiracy here.
Geraldo: You were acquitted. You were vindicated at least from
criminal responsibility. Lemme just quickly ask you this: hackers
have been inside the White House computer.
KL: Yes they have.
Geraldo: And they've been inside the Pentagon computer.
Geraldo: And if Saddam Hussein hired some hackers whether they're
from Holland or any other place, he could've gotten into these
KL: Presumably, he could've.
Geraldo: And gotten some valuable information.
KL: It's definitely possible.
Geraldo: And you still think hackers are performing a public service?
KL: That's not what I said. I think that those kind of activities
are wrong. But by the same token, the teenagers, or some of the
people here that are not performing malicious acts, while they should
be punished should not be published as extreme as the law currently
Geraldo: You're response to that Don?
Don: I don't think they're being punished very much at all. We're
having trouble even taking away their gear. I don't know one of them
has done hard time in a prison. The book, Hafner's book on
_Cyberpunk_, points out that even Mitnick who is a real electronic
Hannibal Lecter ... did not get near any of the punishment that what
he was doing entitled him to.
Geraldo: An electronic Hannibal Lecter. OK, stand by,
we'll be back with more of this debate in a moment...
Geraldo: Back with Craig Neidorf and prosecutor Don Ingraham. Craig,
do you think hackers are voyeurs or are they potentially terrorists?
KL: I think they resemble voyeurs more than terrorists. They are
often times looking at places where they don't belong, but most
hackers do not intend to cause any damage.
Geraldo: Do you buy that Don?
Don: If they stopped at voyeurism they would be basically
sociopathic, but not doing near the harm they do now. But they don't
stop at looking, that's the point. They take things out and share
them with others, and they are not being accountable and being
responsible as to whom they are sharing this information. That is the
Geraldo: Can they find out my credit rating? I know that's not a
national security issue, but I'm concerned about it.
Don: Piece of cake.
Geraldo: No problem.
Geraldo: Go ahead. Assuming I have a credit rating...hahahah....
Don: Assume that the credit is not carried by someone who is using
Geraldo: But you think Craig it's not problem.
KL: I think it's no problem.
Geraldo: Give me quickly the worst case scenario. Say Abu Nidal had
you working for him.
KL: I'm sorry?
Geraldo: Abu Nidal, notorious .....
KL: As far as your credit rating?
Geraldo: No, not as far as my credit rating.. The world, national
KL: Well, hackers have gotten into computer systems owned by the
government before. At this point they've never acknowledged that it
was anything that was ever classified. But even some unclassified
information could be used to the detriment of our country.
Geraldo: Like the counter-terrorist strategy on January 15th, the day
of the deadline expired in the Persian Gulf.
KL: Perhaps if Saddam Hussein had somehow known for sure that we were
going to launch an attack, it might have benefited him in some way,
but I'm really not sure.
Geraldo: Don, worst case scenario, 30 seconds?
Don: They wipe out our communications system. Rather easily done.
Nobody talks to anyone else, nothing moves, patients don't get their
medicine. We're on our knees.
Geraldo: What do you think of Craig, quickly, and people like him?
Don: What do I think of Craig? I have a lot of respect for Craig, I
think he's probably going to be an outstanding lawyer someday. But he
is contributing to a disease, and a lack of understanding ethically,
that is causing a lot of trouble.
Geraldo: One word answer. As the computer proliferate won't hackers
also proliferate? Won't there be more and more people like you to
Knight Lightning: I think we're seeing a new breed of hacker. And
some of them will be malicious.
Geraldo: Some of them will be malicious. Yes, well, that's it...for
now. I'm Geraldo Rivera.
[End of Program]
Date: Wed, 16 Oct 91 18:42:51 MDT
From: ahawks@ISIS.CS.DU.EDU.CS.DU.EDU(Andy Hawks)
Subject: File 3-- Review_of_Now_It_Can_Be_Told_
If you look past the obvious sensationalism (hey, what do you expect
from Geraldo?) the ''Now It can Be Told'' program on hackers was
actually quite good, and quite informative.
However, as expected, the program served to enhance the stereotypes
that hackers are always destroyers of information. Words such as
terrorist, thief, mad hacker, notorious, sociopath, et al were often
substituted for ''hacker''.
>From a hacker's point of view, the show was great. First we see
''home video'' of Dutch hackers hacking into US Department of Defense
(military) computers. Emmanuel Goldstein (editor of 2600) is present
among them, and describes in-depth what they are doing, and how they
are getting into these computers.
The Dutch hackers success rate was astounding! Goldstein says that
they "literally picked a computer at random among a list and used
various means to get in". First, they fail with a login of guest.
Then, they succeeded in gaining superuser privileges with the sync
login and proceeded to create a new account under the name Dan Quayle,
and gave him superuser privileges.
I thought Emmanuel Goldstein was an excellent defender of the hacker's
position, successfully refuting Cliff Stoll's comment that compared
hackers to thieves breaking into someone's house
(yaaaaaawwwwwwwnnnnnnnnn.......) by stating hackers are not interested
in personnel files - they're interested in huge databases and computer
systems. Hopefully, (however doubtful) Emmanuel Goldstein has forever
put the "breaking into a house" argument to rest.
Next we see a scene that is truly cyberpunk: Japanese Kanji
characters in neon colors spread over the screen as we hear a voice
say "My handle is Phiber Optik. I'm a computer hacker from the East
Coast.", standing on a dimly lit street in the middle of the night.
The Phiber Optik portion of the program is interesting, and shows (for
the first time?) hacking from a pay-phone with a laptop. (Note: if
you freeze-frame at the right moment, you can see Emmanuel Goldstein
and a g-man type in sunglasses [??] during this segment.)
Phiber Optik: "The Hacker's goal is to become one with the machine"
The next segment features an anonymous hacker (most likely Phiber) who
says "we'd just be coexisting with the other users of the machine" and
states once again that hackers are not interested in personal files.
We also learn that this hackers has most likely entered the White
What follows the hacker profiles is a segment on computer-terrorism,
which focuses on viruses, interception, ''computer guns'', and
Emmanuel Goldstein: "The computer is a tool. And any tool can be
used as a weapon."
A. Hacker: "I wouldn't so much call it a weapon as an extension of
one's own mind;"
This segment somewhat vaguely attempts to separate hackers from
terrorists, but since the distinction is not made clear, it is obvious
that the makers of the show think that some hackers would qualify
under this category. Krista Bradford hints that these activities are
done by our own government, as well.
A neat demonstration is given by Winn Schwartau, an information
security expert, who demonstrates TEMPEST technology (picking up the
radio waves from a monitor, and being able to display what's being
typed up to 1.5 miles away). In this fake scenario, credit
information is being intercepted. It is most unlikely that hackers
would use this type of interception, since it requires a lot of
expensive equipment. (In case your interested, the frequency the
signal was picked up on is 19.9217)
Intermixed in this segment are clips from Die Hard II (remember, the
terrorists take over the airport computers).
The third segment involves a 'debate' between Craig Neidorf (Knight
Lightning of Phrack fame) and Don Ingraham, an assistant District
Attorney in California. Geraldo informs us that Craig Neidorf is a
''mad hacker'' who is proud of his hacking achievements.
Geraldo holds up an interesting portfolio that CRaig Neidorf has
created, which hackers might find interesting, if you can get your
hands on it.
Geraldo engages in his usual sensationalism. He wrongly assumes that
Craig Neidorf 'broke into' the 911 system. He wants to confirm that
hackers have broken into the White House and Pentagon, and tries to
put terror into the hearts of the masses. One of the great shames of
this program is that the host is nothing more than a sensationalist
seeking to get ratings, and doesn't care one bit about the truth,
which only serves to further the stereotypes all hackers have been
Don Ingraham is there, basically representing the Operation Sundevil
opinion. He thinks that hackers have not been punished enough, and
that their crimes are very serious. It is obvious that Mr. Ingraham
has never even considered for a moment the idea that hackers are only
interested in knowledge and most of them would not knowingly harm
systems or files. He ought to take a look at the other side before
forming his ignorant opinions.
In my opinion, Craig Neidorf does not represent the common hacker as
well as he is capable of in this program. But, obviously he was
constrained by the format of the show and the ignorance he was forced
to deal with on behalf of the host and Mr. Ingraham. He is not given
opportunity to explain that not all hackers are malicious, and the
subject of hackers informing system administrators of security flaws
in their systems is not even brought up.
In summary, the Now It Can Be Told program contained sensationalist
aspects that was to be expected. However, from a hacker's point of
view it was interesting to see the exploits of other hackers. Most
interesting was the cyberpunk atmosphere of Phiber Optik hacking, as
well as the home video of the Dutch hackers and their exploits. It
was encouraging to hear Emmanuel Goldstein's opinions on hackers and
he did well to represent them; he did not make them out to be saints,
yet he defended them from the stereotype of being destructive. Cliff
Stoll got one or two sentences in, which is all he deserved, IMHO. He
only spews out the rhetoric we've all heard time and time again. The
segment on computer terrorism was interesting, but not of much use to
hackers; the demonstration on eavesdroppping was especially worth
watching. The final segment, the 'debate' between Craig Neidorf and
Don Ingraham was not as interesting as it could've (SHOULD'VE) been.
Geraldo succeeded in disallowing Craig Neidorf to make the points it
appeared he wished to make, and Mr. Ingraham succeeded in perpetuating
stereotypes of hackers.
Craig Neidorf ended the show by saying "We're seeing a new breed of
hacker." And if you look past the obvious sensationalism of Now It Can
Be Told, that new breed of hacker was well profiled.
Date: Fri, 18 Oct 91 2:33:25 CDT
From: bei@DOGFACE.AUSTIN.TX.US(Bob Izenberg)
Subject: File 4-- Geraldo Rivera show on "Hacking"
a piece of tripe! Sorry, this just
isn't journalism. It's barely in the back-fence gossip class. Here's
my favorite part:
> KL: Well I was merely publishing a newsletter. I didn't go out and
> find this document. Rather it was sent to me. In many ways it could
> be compared to Daniel Ellsberg sending the Pentagon Papers to the New
> York Times.
> Geraldo: Do you figure it that way Don? Is he like Daniel Ellsberg?
> Don: No, Ellsberg went to court to deal with it. Daniel Ellsberg's
> release of the Pentagon Papers is the subject of a published court
> decision to point out it was a matter of national security and
> national interest. The E911 codes, which is the citizen's link to the
> police department are not a matter of national security. They're a
> matter of the central service to the community.......
Right, not a matter of national security. It's not the size of the
sacred cow that you gore, it's how loud it bellows that gets
> Don: I don't think they're being punished very much at all. We're
> having trouble even taking away their gear.
Yeah, that due process sure gets in the way.
> I don't know one of them
> has done hard time in a prison.
Maybe he doesn't know John Draper, who in addition to his tone stuff
played with Apple ][s quite a bit... He and others did some very
interesting things with the DTMF capabilities of the early MicroModem
> The book, Hafner's book on
> _Cyberpunk_, points out that even Mitnick who is a real electronic
> Hannibal Lecter ... did not get near any of the punishment that what
> he was doing entitled him to.
Judge, jury and executioner... Somebody might want to tell this
gentleman that he's in the 20th century, and is not a judge.
> Don: If they stopped at voyeurism they would be basically
> sociopathic, but not doing near the harm they do now. But they don't
> stop at looking, that's the point. They take things out and share
> them with others, and they are not being accountable and being
> responsible as to whom they are sharing this information. That is the
If, if, if. It's the potential crime that he's interested in. Off
with their heads! Sentence first, trial later, and the crime done
last if done at all.
> Geraldo: Can they find out my credit rating? I know that's not a
> national security issue, but I'm concerned about it.
> Don: They wipe out our communications system. Rather easily done.
> Nobody talks to anyone else, nothing moves, patients don't get their
> medicine. We're on our knees.
Worst case scenario: They disable all billing mechanisms, letting
everyone make free calls (if only for a day) and the phone company
forgets all about being a public utility, closes its doors and gets
nationalized ten minutes later. Bob Allen goes up the river, along
with his MCI and Sprint counterparts, or moves on to a real job
destroying the environment for Union Carbide or somebody... PUCs all
over the country have 75% work force cuts, with their biggest
time-waster (and source of perqs) gone. But, worst case for whom?
Cheech and Chong had this boy pegged. What a job they could do on
"Gerondo Revolver" now... ;-)
Date: Wed, 16 Oct 91 18:41:23 MDT
From: ahawks@ISIS.CS.DU.EDU.CS.DU.EDU(Andy Hawks)
Subject: File 5-- The_RISKS_of_Geraldo
I'm sure many of you saw or have heard/read about Geraldo Rivera's Now
It Can Be Told Program which featured a show on hackers a couple of
weeks or so ago.
Well, by airing this program, it appears that Geraldo (or actually the
producers/editors of the show) have put at least one military computer
One segment of the program featured a "home video" of Dutch teenagers
hacking. This home video would occasionally focus in on the computer
screen as the hackers hacked. As reporter Krista Bradford describes
what is going on, the screen shows:
| 221 Goodbye.
| telnet tracer.army.mil
| Trying 220.127.116.11....
| Connected to tracer.army.mil
| Escape character is '^]'.
| Xenix K3-4 (tracer.army.mil)
Then we learn that previously, the hackers have gained superuser
privileges to the system. As Krista Bradford is describing the
superuser access, we see the computer screen again and the hackers are
attempting to login to the same site with the 'sync' login (so, this
is apparently how they gained superuser access).
Later in the show (about 1 minute or so after the hackers have gained
superuser privileges) Emmanuel Goldstein (2600) states that the
hackers proceeded to create a new account. The account they create is
'dquayle' (Dan Quayle) and has superuser privileges. Then, the
screen focuses in on the new record in /etc/passwd for 'dquayle', and
Mr. Goldstein tells us that the new account has no password (the
screen focuses in on: "dquayle::")
Thus, anyone who has telnet access could've repeated this same
process, logging in to this tracer.army.mil site with the username
'dquayle' (and no password) and would have gained superuser access.
It is obvious that in this situation, whoever allowed the show to be
aired in its final form had no knowledge of the Internet, otherwise
this definite "how to hack" security breach would have been omitted.
Thanks Geraldo, for showing all of us how to hack into military
(Note: I avoided sending this in for submission earlier to prevent
any other hackers from repeating the same experiment. Hopefully,
tracer.army.mil has now had enough time to plug up the obvious hole.)
Date: Sat, 19 Oct 91 11:12:11 CDT
From: firstname.lastname@example.org(John McMullen)
Subject: File 6-- 2600 Magazine Exposes Security Holes (NEWSBYTE reprint)
2600 Magazine Exposes Security Holes 10/18/91
ARMONK, NEW YORK, U.S.A., 1991 OCT 18 (NB) -- Supported by videotape
examples, Emmanuel Goldstein, editor and publisher of 2600 Magazine:
The Hacker Quarterly, told those in attendance at an October 17th New
York City press conference that "the American public is often lulled
into a false sense of security; a security that is often not supported
by the facts of specific cases."
The videotapes, produced by 2600 and provided to the press show both
the intrusion of a Dutch "hacker" in to United States Military
computers and what Goldstein alleges is the fallability of a brand of
mechanical, pushbutton locks used by, among others, New York State
University sites, Federal Express, United Parcel Service, JFK
International Airport, IBM and NASA.
Goldstein told Newsbytes "We invested considerable time and money to
wake people up to the fact that we have a false sense of security when
it comes not only to computer networks but to physical safety as
The tape of the Dutch "hacker" was made by Goldstein while in Europe.
and shows the intrusion into a Unites States Army computer system. The
intruder was able to set up a fictitious account called "danquayle"
and, once into the system, was able to obtain "root" privileges thus
giving him total control of the workings of the system.
A portion of this tape had previously been shown with Goldstein's
approval on an episode of the Gerald Rivera television show "Now It
Can Be Told". Goldstein told Newsbytes that one reason for his release
of the entire tape to the press was his feeling that the Rivera
episode entitled "The Mad Hacker's Key Party" had distorted the
message of the tape - "This was not a case of a terrorist break-in but
was rather simply a demonstration of the lack of security of our
systems. To find root accounts with password like "Kuwait" and lack of
sophisticated security in our military computers should be of real
concern and should not be lost in an explotation of the 'hacker'
A background paper provided at the conference by 2600 explains the
entire intrusion effort in detail and states "The purpose of this
demonstration is to show just how easy it really was. Great care was
taken to ensure that no damage or alteration of data occurred on this
particular system. No military secrets were taken and no files were
saved to a disk by the hackers. What is frightening is that nobody
knows who else has access to this information or what their
motivations might be. This is a warning that cannot be taken lightly."
The second videotape show Goldstein and other 2600 staff opening
seemingly at will locks manufactured by Simplex Security Systems. The
locks of the mechanical pushbutton combination variety were shown to
be installed at the State of New York University at Stony Brook, JFK
International Airport and on Federal Express and United Parcel pick-up
boxes throughout the New York Metropolitan area.
In the film, Goldstein is shown filling out a Federal Express envelope
for delivery to 2600 Magazine and inserting in the Fedex dropbox. He
then lifts the weather protection cover on the box's lock and keys a
combination that allows him to open the lock and remove his envelope.
Scott Skinner, a SUNY student and 2600 staff member told Newsbytes
that it had actually taken the staff 10 minutes to determine the
proper code combinations to open the lock.
Skinner explained, "While Simplex prefers people to think that there
is an endless number of permutations to the lock, there are actually
only 1,085. In most cases, even this number is greatly reduced -- if
one knows that only three buttons are being used, it reduces the
possibilities to 135. Additionally, we found that, once we had the
combination to one Federal Express dropbox, it worked in every other
one that we tried in the New York area."
Goldstein told Newsbytes "When we contacted Simplex, they first denied
that the locks were unsafe and then said that the permutations were
much greater. After some discussion, they admitted that the 1,085
figure was correct but said that it would take a person with a
complete listing of the combinations over four hours to try them all.
Our experience obviously shows that they may be opened in a much
shorter time than that."
Goldstein also pointed out that, "although a $5 Master combination
lock may be broken by a crowbar, it is a much more secure combination
device. It has 64,000 combinations compared to the 1,085 with the
Goldstein continued, "One of the real problems is that, should a
person have the misfortune to be robbed, entry due to a failure of the
Simplex lock gives no evidence of a forcible break-in and police and
insurance companies often put the blame on the homeowner or office
manager for 'giving away the combination.' It really can create a
Skinner told Newsbytes "I'm really concerned about this. I'm a student
at SUNY, Stony Brook and all our dormitories use these locks as the
only means of security. I've shown the problem to Scott Law who is
responsible for residence security but he has discounted the problem
and said that the locks were installed at the recommendation of the
campus locksmith. The locksmith, Garry Lenox contradicts Law and says
that he recommended against these locks years ago and said that they
were not secure for dormitory use." Skinner said that he will write an
article for the college newspaper in an attempt to raise consciousness
about this problem.
Goldstein also said that he intends to publish the list of valid
combinations in an up-coming issue of 2600 to demonstrate to the
public the problems with the lock. He further said that he will raise
the issue on his weekly radio show, "Off The Hook", heard on New
In response to a Newsbytes question concerning how the 2600 staff
happened to become involved in a problem with locks, Goldstein said,
"We're hackers and when we see something with buttons on it, whether
it's a computer or not, we tend to try it. While the average person
tends to accept that things are secure just because he is told that
they are, hackers will usually try them out. It's because of this
'trying out' that we can point out the problems with both the US
military computer security and this lock -- and we feel that, in both
cases, we have performed a service. People should be aware when they
are at risk so that they may take action to correct it."
(Barbara E. McMullen & John F. McMullen/Press Contact: Emmanuel
Goldstein, 2600 Magazine., 516-751-2749/19911018)
End of Computer Underground Digest #3.37
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank