Computer underground Digest Sun Nov 29, 1992 Volume 4 : Issue 61 Editors: Jim Thomas and G

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Computer underground Digest Sun Nov 29, 1992 Volume 4 : Issue 61 Editors: Jim Thomas and Gordon Meyer (TK0JUT2@NIU.BITNET) Archivist: Brendan Kehoe Shadow-Archivists: Dan Carosone / Paul Southworth Ralph Sims / Jyrki Kuoppala Boffo Idolater: Etaion Shrdlu, Junior CONTENTS, #4.61 (Nov 29, 1992) File 1--Crackdown on Reality (Review of THE HACKER CRACKDOWN) File 2--Some thoughts on "The Hacker Crackdown" File 3--The Hacker Crackdown File 4--Hacker Crackdown Review File 5--Remembering the Hacker Crackdown File 6--Bruce Sterling & Cyberhemian Rhapsodies Cu-Digest is a weekly electronic journal/newsletter. Subscriptions are available at no cost from The editors may be contacted by voice (815-753-6430), fax (815-753-6302) or U.S. mail at: Jim Thomas, Department of Sociology, NIU, DeKalb, IL 60115. 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Digest contributors assume all responsibility for ensuring that articles submitted do not violate copyright protections. ---------------------------------------------------------------------- Date: Tue, 6 Oct 92 19:55:56 MDT From: ahawks@NYX.CS.DU.EDU(gogo is insane) Subject: File 1--Crackdown on Reality (Review of THE HACKER CRACKDOWN) CRACKING DOWN ON REALITY A review of Bruce Sterling's THE HACKER CRACKDOWN: LAW AND DISORDER ON THE ELECTRONIC FRONTIER by Andy Hawks ( THE HACKER CRACKDOWN: LAW AND DISORDER ON THE ELECTRONIC FRONTIER by Bruce Sterling Bantam Books, 1992 Non-fiction, 328 pp., $23 (hard-cover) ISBN 0-553-08058-X My eyeballs are squirming. Squirming out of their sockets. Wanna know why? Ok, I'll tell you, but be warned - it is not a pleasant experience to have your eyeballs squirm. "Theoretically, the task force had a perfect legal right to raid any of these people, and legally < could have seized the machines of anybody who < subscribed to Phrack." < Well, I told you so. You can't say I didn't warn you. And, by the way, please stop looking at me while your eyeballs are squirming. There is no doubt in my mind that T.S. Eliot was reading Bruce Sterling's new non-fiction book entitled THE HACKER CRACKDOWN: LAW AND DISORDER ON THE ELECTRONIC FRONTIER when he said "Human kind Can not bear very much reality." No doubt, no doubt. I subscribe to Phrack, and I'm sure many of you do as well, or have at least pondered and wandered your way through an issue or two if you have even any remote connection to the cyberspace underground. In case you're lost, I'll fill you in. Phrack is a magazine, but you can't buy it at your local newsstand. Phrack might be considered in some circles to be the keystone of what we commonly call the computer underground - that dark, mysterious, anarchistic domain of rebellion occupied by a stereotypically benign group of goggled white faces, 140 IQs, and Mt. Dew addicts - the hacker. Phrack is also one of the many landmarks Bruce Sterling points out on his wonderfully lucid trip through this unreal domain dominated by fear, greed, and power. Knowledge is power. Information is knowledge. Information wants to be free. Such is the ethos of the hacker. And thus we have laid out before us the battleground upon which an incredible struggle of superegos is waged. On the one hand we have the computer hacker, the teenage boy with a heightened sense of curiosity and the initiative enough to take some action to satisfy this incredible hunger. On the other end of the keyboard we have the government, the CEOs, the powers that be. Computer hacking is just another example of social deviance, rebellion, and a desire to make one's reality fit one's personal wishes and desires. This is natural. Yet somewhere along the line, this natural tendency to rebel took on new meaning, acquired a scope of infinite importance, and was thrust into a world where the ability to obtain immense power via hacking was real, concrete, and threatening. It is this deviance and rebellion that Bruce Sterling shows us in THE HACKER CRACKDOWN. Hackers are not an easy thing to explain mind you, and to delve into the world of the computer underground is to find one's self in a surreal painting filled with confusion and delusion concerning the basic moral, ethical, legal, and philosophical questions that plague modern society - the information society. It has been attempted before. Cliff Stoll, whom I liken to "Sherlock Holmes on acid living in Berkeley" because of his extremely inventive and non-conventional line of thought, has shown us the computer underground via his first-hand encounters with "the other side" and asks himself who "the other side" really is. Cliff Stoll's THE CUCKOO'S EGG is rich in adventure and "car-chases in cyberspace", yet it fails at even attempting to put "the hacker problem" in perspective. In retrospect, the egg is fried. (But fried eggs, though not the most wonderfully healthy breakfast choice, are still tasty). On the other hand, we have Steven Levy and his classic among the computer literate, HACKERS. Yet in the constantly changing technocratic society we seem to reside in, Levy may be found sitting out on the porchbench, telling his grandson who has just hacked into Bellcore, "Why, in my day, you wouldn't be a hacker, you'd simply be a criminal! In my day, we didn't want to free information, we wanted to create information! Now go away, ya bastard kid....", as he mumbles off into the sunset. Levy's book is certainly a necessary part of the hacker tradition, but it's just that - tradition. Levy seems to fail to acknowledge, let alone accept, the *evolution* of the hacker spirit as relevant to today's world. Levy and his followers are the system administrators found on countless virtual communities arguing for the term 'cracker' to describe today's 'hacker', saying that today's 'cracker' is not worthy of the term hacker since they lack in innovation and excel at regurgitating. Well, all I would have to say to that is read Sterling's THE HACKER CRACKDOWN. Then we have a more recent contribution to the book of myths and facts surrounding hackers, CYBERPUNK: OUTLAWS AND HACKERS ON THE COMPUTER FRONTIER by Katie Hafner and John Markoff. Now, cyberpunk! There's a word! In the similarly titled HACKER CRACKDOWN, Bruce Sterling, commonly considered to be the co-creator of the cyberpunk literary genre along with his pal William Gibson, addresses the evolution and transformation of the word he helped create - cyberpunk - from a fictional character to a reality hacker. CYBERPUNK by Hafner & Markoff is unique in that it takes three very real, very human people and attempts to turn them into post-modern science-fictional characters, such as Case in William Gibson's legendary NEUROMANCER. Throwing "cyberpunk" for all it's literary and cultural significance into the realm of the computer underground greatly twists its landscape, contorts the stereotypes, and leads us into the near/now-future future with a trippy view of "things to come". And then of course came the crackdown. We have myth, we have legend, we have history, and we have entertainment, but until now, the literary accounts of the computer underground have lacked clear focus, cultural significance, and unbiased sociological and psychological viewpoints. Bruce Sterling cracks down on the post-modern realities of a world based around curiosity and a need for information. For what it's worth let me say that after having read a few of Sterling's accounts about writing this book (featured in various publications such as Electronic Frontier Foundation newsletters and e-magazines, Steve Brown's wonderful Science Fiction Eye magazine to which Bruce Sterling contributes regularly, and various other resources), my opinions of Mr. Sterling are very enthusiastic. For a long time I have admired Bruce Sterling for his wonderful and integral contributions to the cyberpunk literary genre of science fiction. Let's face it, his MIRRORSHADES anthology helped revolutionize the otherwise complacent and all-too-familiar world of science fiction. I am a humungous fan of literary cyberpunk and some of Sterling's books hold a high place on my bookshelf, next to many literary classics. I have always thought of William Gibson and Bruce Sterling as men of a truly amazing vision, and with his first non-fiction work, THE HACKER CRACKDOWN, Bruce Sterling extends that vision into a phenomena of our society very analogous to the societies proposed in cyberpunk fiction. In THE HACKER CRACKDOWN, Sterling acts less as social critic and more of social observer. Rather than spew forth opinions regarding hackers that we've all heard ad nauseam, he puts everything regarding the hacker underground into perspective. Basically, he makes sense of those events in the underground that previously resulted only in head-scratching confusion. From Abbie Hoffman to the U.S. Secret Service, from AT&T to LoD, from the WELL to the courtroom, from the dawn of cyberspace to Terminus, Bruce Sterling provides the reader with a firm grasp of the events that are shaping our world and that will have an incredible influence on the emerging information society of the twenty-first century. Included in the book is almost every event you could deem even remotely significant to the hurricane instability of cyberspace: the genesis and evolution of cyberspace from the telegraph to globally-linked real-time virtual communities, the AT&T crash on Martin Luther King Day in 1990, Abbie Hoffman and YIPL/TAP, BBSes and text philes (phreak/hack/anarchy/credit-card fraud/etc.), the hacker "elite" of the mid 80's, the various Legion of Doom activities and cases, the E991/Phrack case, Operation Sundevil, Steve Jackson Games, RPGs, cyberpunk fiction, the U.S. Secret Service, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the WELL, the Grateful Dead, Phiber Optik and Acid Phreak, Craig Neidorf, Shadowhack, NuPrometheus League, the Atlanta Three, Mentor, Phoenix Project, Metal Shop, Pirate's Cove, Computers Freedom and Privacy, and civil liberties. It's all here. Aside from the extreme volume of information that's bound to impress even the most comprehensively informed hacker, Sterling, throughout THE HACKER CRACKDOWN and in other statements he's made, subliminally asks some vital questions about the ethics, morality, and philosophies behind the very idea of cyberspace, forcing the reader to (God forbid) *think* about the events in cyberspace in the last decade, to think about the creation and evolution of this surreal civilization. Bruce Sterling destroys the myths and presents the facts. All the facts. To quote U2 THE HACKER CRACKDOWN is "even better than the real thing." Bruce Sterling, at least for now, wins the prize. THE HACKER CRACKDOWN, in this reader's view, is the definitive word on cyberspace. I'd like to read it again, but my eyes are still squirming. But on second thought, having your eyes squirm around in your brain is a small price to pay for reading THE HACKER CRACKDOWN. ------------------------------ Date: Sun, 1 Nov 92 14:06:05 CST From: bei@DOGFACE.AUSTIN.TX.US(Bob Izenberg) Subject: File 2--Some thoughts on "The Hacker Crackdown" My first exposure to Bruce Sterling's book "The Hacker Crackdown" was a draft of the second chapter. I read it, and found at the end that I could not warm to the self-important tone of the crackers and prosecutors who were its subject. Names and pseudonyms... These people hadn't a straight word to say. The book is out now. I saw my first copy in a book store here in Austin. I saw my name in the index. I did not throw the book across the store in dismay at seeing my name in print... It was a close thing, though. Having read it twice now, I find that I liked the book more than I expected to after reading that early chapter. If you've been reading Computer underground Digest for awhile, you may find the second and fourth chapters to be old news. Skip to the third chapter... "Law and Order". Here Sterling warms to his subject, and I found myself wondering if his fascination with the computer cops stems from their physical presence... An interesting position for an author writing about goings-on in a virtual community to be in. Certainly there is more detail for a writer here: A physical place, a sense of community... All the things that don't exist in a world defined by the boundaries of a CRT screen. I'd really like to see this book re-done as hypertext. The sometimes awkward bridges that Sterling constructs to get the reader across topical or temporal chasms could then be left out. Bob ------------------------------ Date: Tue, 10 Nov 92 15:01:36 EST From: Rich=Gautier%SETA%DRC@S1.DRC.COM Subject: File 3--The Hacker Crackdown Amen! Every hacker/phreak, law enforcement weenie, security professional, law maker, (and probably a whole bunch of other people!) should be FORCED to read this latest book. "The Hacker Crackdown" by Bruce Sterling is an IMPRESSIVE overview of everything from cops to bad guys to civil liberty workers in the never ending battlefield of cyberspace. Right after the author forgives himself for using the word 'HACKER' in the title, the book grabs your attention, and it doesn't let go at all. The book provides the reader with a sociological, historical and analytical view from one of the most revered men in cyberspace, Bruce Sterling. His insights will have you, too, saying "Amen!" to at least some of what he has to say in this book. It should provide interesting reading to all audiences on both (all three) sides of the battlefield in the never ending war for power and control in the area of computer and telephone security. He starts the book out with a history of the system itself. It doesn't bore you like you thought it would, and suddenly you are gripped by the history of the underground, the digital underground. This chapter alone could make the book worthwhile. For hackers, it would be a fun look back into the good ole days. For security folks, it is a great peek into the views and sociological drive of the underground enemy. It also covers the history of Operation Sundevil, and all the unpleasantness that seems to have followed. This part of the book will take you, in Clifford Stoll-like style (wonder if this is where he picked up his writing style). One long stream of data later, and you're into the next section of the book, "Law and Order". If you aren't one of the people pictured herein, you may find yourself learning a great deal more than you hoped. Only someone with ties to both sides of this great battle could bring the insight that is so needed here. Although I preferred the first two sections of the book, I actually found myself liking to find out what the real drive of the "money-hungry prosecution" was. The last part of the book, I guess you could call the END RESULT of the whole history lesson in the first three parts of the book. Civil Liberty as an ACTUAL issue. Even the hackers, (excuse the term) should be glad that some of the things they have been screaming about for YEARS, actually have a public voice now. This section also includes the famous Phrack with the edited E911 document in it. (Just in case you missed it). All in all, a good buy...I highly recommend it. I read it from my Public Library, and I intend to go out and buy me my own personal copy as soon as I can. ------------------------------ Date: 9 Nov 1992 16:57:51 U From: "Steve" Subject: File 4--Hacker Crackdown Review That "truth is often stranger than fiction" is a time worn and often over-used cliche. If anyone has ever doubted its veracity, however, all they need do to confirm the accuracy of the phrase is read _The Hacker Crackdown_ by Bruce Sterling. It's probably a wise marketing decision that the book is being hawked as Sterling's first volume of non-fiction. Even the likes of a Clancy or a Le Carre would gasp in disbelief at many of the twists and turns in this complex tale. As a part-time dweller in cyberspace, one learns to expect the unexpected. It is all too easy to assume that you really have a handle on what is happening in, as Sterling calls it, "the un-real estate" of the networks. In that regard, _Hacker Crackdown_ can do serious damage to one's ego. When I read the teasers on the book's jacket, I actually laughed when I got to the quote from Lex Luthor, "I learned a lot from this book that I didn't know." Having read quite a few of Lex's postings on MindVox, I assumed that this was a touch of hacker humor that the publisher had bought into. Little did I know how much I was about to learn from _The Hacker Crackdown_. Having been involved, at one level or another, in the electronic information business all of my adult life, and after hanging out on the nets for the past few years, I had, however foolishly, come to consider myself as being relatively "clued." Even though I regularly communicate with a number of the people written about in the book, I found that I only knew bits and pieces of the story. And to compound my arrogant assumption, most of what I did know was woefully incomplete and often could not be linked to the other parts of the whole. In this sense, _Hacker Crackdown_ was a genuine wake-up call. It can be a rude awakening to spend a pleasant weekend having a really enjoyable read only to find out that you're actually just another "clueless computer geek." Make no mistake, _The Hacker Crackdown_ is a terrific read, but beyond that it is the product of a determined effort by Sterling to report in an organized and coherent fashion the most confounding, bewildering, and downright puzzling collection of rumors and facts imaginable. To make his task even more challenging, he found himself dealing with an equally unstable collection of subjects that ranged from socially maladjusted hackers and phone phreaks, to the paranoid fringes of law enforcement, to the "Big Brother" attitudes and often ham-fisted behavior of corporations that deal in information...No small task to be sure! In this effort he not only succeeds, but succeeds brilliantly. In telling the story of the crackdown, Sterling leads us from event to event while maintaining an understandable chronology. Many of the principle offenses and incidents that occur in this incredibly complex chain of happenings are separated by months and, in some cases, more than a year. If there is an aspect of the book that makes it a challenge, it is in gaining a true grasp on the actual sequence of events as they relate to the various elements of the bigger picture of cyberspace circa 1990-1991. It is, in fact, a tangled morass that is at best difficult to follow even with Sterling acting as guide and pathfinder. If there is a side of _The Hacker Crackdown_ that will ultimately slow its distribution, it is that it could prove to be near inaccessable for the uninitiated. Having said that, let me point to what is in my opinion the best that _Hacker Crackdown_ offers the reader. Referring to the subjects of the book (all of them...not just the hackers) as a strange and diverse group may be the biggest understatement I'll put in print this year. They are, in fact, almost incomprehensible to those who live, for lack of a better term, within the accepted social norms. Sterling has accomplished what megabytes of e-mail and hours of conversation had not managed to do...He has given these characters a human face. Somewhere in the middle of this highly technical narrative, a great number of these folks ceased being handles on a node and started taking on a form...a very human form. It would be impossible to mention them all in a short review, so I'll make examples of just a few. Perhaps the most glaring of these is Terminus. He's a regular contributor on MindVox, and has become good friends with a mutual acquaintance. As a result of this, I've had the chance to hear a lot of what he has to say. I think I had prejudged Terminus, because he had been unfortunate enough to have been caught and prosecuted. In _Hacker Crackdown_ we are made privy to a side of Terminus that just doesn't register in e-mail or in his postings on Vox. Although it is made clear that he probably committed transgressions, it is also equally clear that he is not evil, that he bore no malice toward anyone, and that he certainly should not have gone to prison. Granted that is a personal judgment, but it is one that rises from the picture of Terminus painted by Sterling. Whether Sterling feels that way or not is immaterial as his writing left me, the reader, with that conviction. Not all of the creatures that arose from the printed page were as pleasant as Terminus. The best example of this is Emmanuel Goldstein. Another early contributor to Vox and the publisher of 2600, Emmanuel Goldstein has always been a highly enigmatic figure. Sterling's portrait of Goldstein appears to be brutally honest. To put it politely, it is an image of an individual that you would not want to have for a next-door neighbor. To be fair to Emmanuel, there are not many that are mentioned in _The Hacker Crackdown_, including the Feds that would be high on my list of desireable neighbors. Then there is Gail Thackeray...Recipient of endless name-calling in hacker chatter. Yet, the Gail Thackeray we meet in _Hacker Crackdown_ is a sympathetic persona that I found very likeable. If she has a fault, as Sterling draws her, it is her obsessive nature and her need for results...two very hacker-like qualities. The more I read, the more I found myself thinking, "Hey, this is a person I would hire in a minute!" Suddenly, the hated Gail Thackeray had be come someone I could admire and probably call friend. (Let's do lunch Gail!) The last person I wish to mention, but certainly not the least significant, is the homeless man in Phoenix. Sterling paints him as an icon of the future-disenfranchised. Whether he is addressing some looming caste-based society where only those that have one foot in cyberspace and the other in the real world will emerge pre-eminent must be addressed by the individual reader. It is, however, a truly chilling scene he draws of his encounter with this lost soul set against the steel and glass backdrop of modern Phoenix. Although Phoenix just happened to be where the chance meeting occurred, it is ironic that the information society may have to rise from the ashes as did the bird of legend. Bruce Sterling - Prophet of Doom - I doubt it, but it is food for thought. ------------------------------ Date: Tue, 17 Oct 92 21:30:20 CDT From: Jim Thomas Subject: File 5--Remembering the Hacker Crackdown Sheldon Zenner, the defense attorney for Craig Neidorf in the June, 1990 "Phrack" trial, began and ended his opening comments with a reminder that wisdom often accompanies reflection on past mistakes: MR ZENNER: What I would have written on there if I could is something I got in a fortune cookie that said: "To remember is to understand". I have never forgotten that. To remember what it was to be a struggling lawyer makes a good judge. To remember what it was to be a student makes a good teacher. To remember what it was to be a child makes a good parent. ************* To remember is to understand. To remember what it's like to be 14, or 15, or 16, or 17, or 18, or 19. To remember what it's like to do some stupid things. But stupid things, doing stupid things isn't illegal...and a good thing for all of us, I suspect. Recent allegations that the U.S. Secret Service has been involved in disruption of public gatherings, surveillance of private citizens beyond the scope of their authority, and perhaps disseminating information to employers of those surveilled, suggests that some agents have forgotten the lessons of Sun Devil, of restrictions on covert surveillance common during the 1960s, and of resistance to abuses of government authority. To remember that Constitutional protections extend to cyberspace is to understand that freedom should be protected, not subverted, by some over-zealous law enforcement agents. In The Hacker Crackdown (THC), science fiction writer Bruce Sterling (Islands in the Net, co-author of The Difference Engine) forces us to remember, to remember so that we understand. Drawing from interviews with hackers and law enforcement officials, participation in the activities of each, and available documents, Sterling pulls together a concise summary of the context and the events of the U.S. Secret Service (USSS) "hacker raids" of early 1990. For both the "hacker" community and law enforcement, the crackdowns represented a coming of age. Both sides won a little and lost a little, and both sides were responsible for helping shed a little more light on the nature of cyberspace and the responsibilities and rights of those within it. Sterling refreshes our collective memories and provides new insights and understandings. The losses of the indiscriminate "hacker crackdown" of the 1990s exemplified by the "Bill Cook cases" of Phrack and Len Rose and by Operation Sun Devil, have not been calculated: Lost equipment, attorney fees, lost time, lost revenues, embarrassment and loss of credibility for some prosecutors and the US Secret Service (not to mention the potential losses to taxpayers if the Steve Jackson suit against them is successful), delay of publication of Steve Jackson's GURPS, needless drain on federal resources and taxpayer dollars, and emotional and psychological anguish, computer users raided with no subsequent indictments, and lives shattered. All this resulted in relatively small pay-off of a few minor guilty pleas raise the question: WAS THE HACKER CRACKDOWN worth it? My reading of THC suggests that the answer is a complex "yes." Part of the inevitable process of establishing and protecting rights lies in the continuous struggle against abuses. Struggles over rights reflect the social tension between freedom and control and helps shape the boundaries of responsibility, the limits of public and government behavior, and the form and content of what is to be protected and how. The government crackdown on hackers can be seen as part of this process. Sterling attempts to show the complexity of this struggle. _The Hacker Crackdown_ provides a comprehensive background of the events of 1990 that most in the computer community consider a fiasco. Sterling avoids taking sides as he describes the context of technological and social changes underlying the "hacker" phenomenon and law enforcement responses to. His depictions of the participants are sometimes flattering, other times not, and he attempts to depict the subjective and human element that guides adversaries and others in the pursuit of their goals. Most law enforcement agents, Sterling reminds us, are dedicated and competent. Others are less so, and some are simply incompetent. Likewise, some "hackers" are criminals, some are simply curious while others are obnoxious delinquents, and a few, such as 2600's Emmanuel Goldstein, are best understood as dissidents in the tradition of European gadflies who tweak authority. Those in the computer community tend to see law enforcement and telecommunications security personnel in the same one-dimensional cartoon stereotypes as those agents perceive the "criminals" they chase. One of the subtlest and most pernicious consequences of the anti-hacker images is the creation of myths, misunderstanding, and fear of those who display considerable techno-competence. An equally inaccurate image is the view held by many in the computer community all law enforcement agents are techno-illiterate, ill-intentioned, and fail to understand the computer culture. There is sufficient evidence that both sides have cause for their views. However, as Sterling cogently illustrates, both views are simplistic and belie the reality of complex and sometimes confused agendas, generally well-intended actions gone awry, and legitimate misunderstandings arising that cloud the perceptions and actions of all parties. One value of Sterling's tome is its attempt to lay bare these intricacies of motive and action. Fear of the unknown is a subtle theme in Sterling's interpretation of law enforcement responses to "hackers." Buried in the middle of the volume (pp. 188-191), Sterling shares his encounter with a large homeless man whose contact with reality was suspect. From this encounter, he realizes the intertwining of fear and surprise, and how both shape our perception of "what's going on." This provides the central metaphor for THC: Lack of understanding contributes to fear, and fear leads to excess. Sterling begins with a helpful summary of the history of the telephone system from its earliest days of implemention and marketing battles through the emergence of AT&T as the primary telephony corporate monolith. Sterling reminds readers that today's hackers had their counterpart in earlier explorers and mischief-makers, and he suggests that all that is currently new is the technology by which contemporary techophiles operate. By providing a social context for "hacking," Sterling removes the techno-mystique surrounding it. After all, he reminds us, when the telephone was first introduced, it inspired fear amongst some, was seen as limited in scope, and the technology was understood by few. And even the Futurians, a group of famous science fiction writings in New York in the 1930s, felt the power of the USSS when their wackyness was suspected by neighbors as masking a counterfeiting ring. To remember the history of technology and its relationship to law enforcement is to understand, and understanding reduces our fear of the unknown. >From THC, we understand that most hackers are little more than curious, white, middle-class teenagers with considerable computer proficiency. We learn that Gail Thackeray, considered the mastermind behind Sun Devil, is just a normal person and, behind the scenes, attempted to bring an awareness of Constitutional rights to law enforcement agents. We learn that the USSS is comprised of technologically competent people, but none of them seemed present or involved in Sun Devil or the Bill Cook incidents. We learn the background behind the formation of EFF, we are reminded of forgotten Sun Devil victims such as Charlie Boykin and Rich Andrews and others who were caught up in the crackdown, and we are reminded that Craig Neidorf's success in his trial was the result of numerous backstage players, including John Nagle (who discovered the public nature of the supposedly confidential documents Neidorf was accused of reprinting) and Dorothy Denning, a computer security expert. Readers of CuD or EFFector Online will find little new information in THC. This is of no consequence. The major contribution of THC is that it places events in chronological order and provides a unifying theme not possible when information leaks out sporadically. Sterling crafts the individual tiles into a rich mosaic that depicts the primary actors and events that eventually brought them together in the crackdowns. Sterling helps us to remember in order that we understand. In any work, one can find points to criticize, and although the quibbles one might have with THC are minor and in no way detract from the significance, they do suggest strategies for a paperback re-write. These include a few minor factual discrepancies (indicating in one passage that Sun Devil occured on May 9, and in another on May 8); An occasional tendency to engage in seemingly gratuitous attention to secondary topics such as a long account of The Well public access system; an over-long discussion of the proficiency of the Secret Service that digresses needlessly; and far too much significance given to the role of the Martin Luther Day AT&T crash as a catalyst in the crackdowns. Some "hackers" also took minor issue with some of the technical details, such as referring on occasion to "switching stations" ("there's no such thing," said one). However, some of the digressions work: Sterling's account of his own serendipitous attempt at "trashing" (mucking through others' trash in search of useful information) provides a poignant and vicarious experience for the reader as Sterling reconstructs a series of letters written by a woman to her former boyfriend. The 35,000 copies of first printing of THC are virtually gone, suggesting a second, smaller, printing will follow. Presumably the eventual paperback version will allow for revisions that might include the following: Sterling's journey through the events of the crackdown is limited to 1990. An epilogue would be helpful. It would also be valuable to make more visible the many other nameless individuals who were raided and never indicted as a way of making more clear the extent and futility of the operations. And, one glaring void struck CuD editors: Cu Digest receives just a passing reference in a quote from a law enforcement agent. CuD was, after all, a direct result of the Phrack and Len Rose cases, and it was a primary source of news for many during those events, and it made available trial transcripts, documents, and detailed the USSS's use of an informant in the Sun Devil operation. These cavils aside, Sterling's ambitious attempt at the re-creation of Sun Devil events is successful. In emphasizing the emergence of the "civil libertarians" from the chaos of the crackdown, he reminds us that the struggle for rights is as long as history, and that to see the crackdown as little more than law enforcement excess is to fail to understand its significance. Sterling's balanced discourse does not provide the reader with answers, but in demanding that we remember, he prompts us to greater understanding. The central message of The Hacker Crackdown may be summarized by Sterling's experience with the homeless Stanley, and the message should be read carefully by all sides: In retrospect, it astonishes me to realize how quickly poor Stanley became a perceived threat. Surprise and fear are closely allied feelings. And the world of computing is full of surprises...To know Stanely is to know his demon. If you know the other guy's demon, then maybe you'll come to know some of your own. You'll be able to separate reality from illusion. And then you won't do your cause, and yourself, more harm than good (pp 190, 191). ******************* After the above was written, allegations that the Secret Service may have been instrumental in breaking up a 2600 meeting in Washington, D.C. have emerged. If they prove to be true, it suggests that a new chapter to THC might be written to address the failure of some law enforcement agents to remember or to understand. If the allegations are true, perhaps a witch-hunting metaphor might be more appropriate to describe the attitude of some federal agents' views of hackers. Sterling makes one crucial point in his book worth emphasizing: The emergence of the "civil libertarians" from the events of 1990 was the result of a number of individuals and groups joining together out of a dedication for civil liberties. The current activities of these groups--such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (CPSR)--are part of the legacy of Sun Devil. Supporting these and similar groups is one way to protect against those few agents who fail to understand that the electronic frontier, like the rest of society, is subject to Constitutional protections and not a frontier town where a few gun-slingers can take the law into their own hands. ------------------------------ Date: Sat, 3 Oct 92 05:29:48 GMT From: (scooby dooby doo) Subject: File 6--Bruce Sterling & Cyberhemian Rhapsodies "What a Long, Strange Trip It's Been", the all-too familiar statement by the Grateful Dead, has probably been heard countless times in the echoes of cyberspace. Probably moreso than in any other forum aside from Classic-Rock radio stations, and this is no accident. Cyberspace has indeed been a long, strange trip, but more appropriately we might rephrase the statement to read "what a long strange trip it's going to be if we don't take a step back and look at ourselves, damnit." Bruce Sterling, noted cyberpunk author and purveyor of sociological possible futures and realities, has begun to take that step back, as evident in his recent contribution to SF Eye #10, also appearing in EFFector OnLine #3.06. He writes passionately about the current states of cyber-realities, about where we seem to be headed, his contributions and role in the whole grand scheme of things, and all within the deeply moving realm of Sterling's philosophical mind where moral questions remain unresolved about all these issues. And well they should. Cyberspace, bohemia that it is, is still fairly analogous to any other notable social movement in history. In one area of the movement, you have the deeply frightening individuals who proclaim to have all the answers. On the other end of the spectrum you have, in this case the "cyberpunk" hackers, those individuals basically saying "fuck the answers and fuck the questions". Rarely, though, do you find those individuals in the midst of the movement willing to step back and say "what's it all about....what kind of trip are we on, anyways?" This is what Sterling has done in the article, basically presenting on paper (or monitor) philosophical questions applicable to any society: "What is a 'crime'? What is a moral offense? What actions are evil and dishonorable?" Obviously, if a society does not answer these questions, if it does not agree upon (at least to some basic extent) these issues, the society will die. It is my impression that Mr. Sterling is saying: 'We, the residents of cyberspace, whether we liken ourselves as punks, hackers, hippies, administrators, frontiersman, virus writers, programmers, information freaks, our simply by-standers, we are all residents of a very large community. We coexist fairly complacently, yet we coexist without the degree of self-analysis and self-criticism present in most other successful societies.' Now, of course this is my interpretation of the article, and in fact I'm probably off in my own little corner of this reality, but, suffice to say, whether or not this was Sterling's intent, these are facts we must face up to. Bruce Sterling has been fairly outspoken on the question of information as commodity, and the idea of knowledge as power. What we, the citizens of cyberspace, fail to realize is that we as a collective group have the means of storing, analyzing, regurgitating more information than ever before. Thus, we should be the richest, most powerful community in the world. But of course, being a *fairly* democratic reality, whoever might wish to obtain this power is struck down by the opposite extreme. Ie: Joe Hacker consciously or unconsciously believes he has power via his skills at penetrating information until he is taken off to jail by Ms. S.S. Agent. Ms. S. S. Agent believes she has power until the hacker community strikes back at her individualy, or grows to the point where their values and morals infiltrate the norms of the cyber-society to the point where they are acceptable to some degree. And so, the debate rages back and forth constantly, to no end. One of the victims is information. Bruce Sterling wrote a little note to me in his wonderful collection of short stories, _Globalhead_, that says "Information *wants* to be free". Information is the battleground upon which we, the entire cyberspace student body, wage our war. Sterling writes that he is distrustful of a society that seeks to control, encrypt, restrict information, likening the results to building a sand castle. What a wonderful metaphor, since on the surface the fortress we have created seems impenetrable, yet it quickly crumbles under its own weight when the uncontrollable forces of nature have their way. Information is infinite in scope. It has no end, thus there is no possible way a society can really control information to any degree of success. Certain information can not be used as commodity, for, as I believe Bruce Sterling has himself stated before, if I give you information, I am not really losing anything, but you are gaining. In monetary terms, it's like giving someone a $20 bill and somehow keeping the bill for yourself. Thus, information is infinite and would quickly devalue in a world where it is abundant. In our society, we do not realize the abundance of information. Each new day, new resources are available to receive various types information at a relatively low cost: new television stations, newspapers, magazines, radio stations, underground zines, BBSes, FTP sites, Usenet newsgroups.... When the majority of the inhabitants of the entire global virtual community realize this, we can begin to step forward back into the realm of cyberspace. We will have analyzed "the hacker problem", seen it as a necessary subset of our new society, and to accept it, not criticize it, for what it is. We will have set forth standards of behavior, folkways and mores, manifestos and constitutions, applicable to a society of the future, the society of the infinite realm of cyberspace. There is no doubt in my mind that the civilization of cyberspace is going to be a long, strange trip. It already has been, and it will continue to be. As it stands now, there are few worthy pieces of e-literature we can look to as timeless watermarks of this infant realm, but I would certainly have to place Bruce Sterling's contributions as integral to the healthy development of this society. ------------------------------ End of Computer Underground Digest #4.61 ************************************


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