------------------------------------------------------------- page 1
Underground - hacking, madness andobsession on the electronic frontier
About the RTF Version..........................................................................................................................1
Underground: Front Page.....................................................................................................................2
Underground: READER AND CRITICAL ACCLAIM...........................................................................3
Underground: PREFACE TO THE ELECTRONIC EDITION................................................................7
Underground: RESEARCHER'S INTRODUCTION............................................................................10
Underground: Chapter 1 --10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.........................................................................16
Underground: Chapter 2 -- The Corner Pub.....................................................................................48
Underground: Chapter3 --The American Connection...................................................................72
Underground: Chapter4 -- The Fugitive...........................................................................................94
Underground: Chapter5 --The Holy Grail.......................................................................................125
Underground: Chapter 6 -- Page 1 The New York Times................................................................161
Underground: Chapter7 -- Judgement Day....................................................................................182
Underground: Chapter8 -- The International Subversives...........................................................207
Underground: Chapter9 -- Operation Weather..............................................................................231
Underground: Chapter 10 --Anthrax -- The Outsider....................................................................259
Underground: Chapter 11 -- The Prisoner's Dilemma......................................................................281
Underground: Underground -- Glossary and Abbreviations..........................................................321
About the RTF Version
The original text version was made freely available online by its author,Suelette Dreyfus and
researcher, Julian Assange.
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Underground: Front Page
SUELETTE DREYFUS JULIAN ASSANGE
Hacking, madness and obsession on the electronic frontier
`Gripping, eminently readable.. Dreyfushas uncovered one of this country's best kept secrets
andin doing so hascreated a highly intense and enjoyable read' -- Rolling Stone
By Suelette Dreyfus with Research by Julian Assange
First Published 1997 by Mandarin
a part of Reed Books Australia
35 Cotham Road, Kew 3101
a subsidiary of Random House books Australia
a division of Random House International Pty Limited
Copyright (c) 1997, 2001 Suelette Dreyfus & JulianAssange
All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright above, no part of this publication
may be reproduced, stored inor introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted inany form or
by any means(electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording orotherwise), without the prior
written permission of both the copyright owner and the publisher.
Typeset in New Baskerville by J&M Typesetting
Printed and boundin Australia by Australian Print Group
National Library of Australia
Underground: tales of hacking, madness & obsessionon the electronic frontier
ISBN 1 86330 595 5
1. Computer hackers--Australia--Biography. 2. Computer crimes--Australia. 3. Computer
security--Australia. I. Assange, Julian. II. Title.
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Underground: READER AND CRITICAL ACCLAIM
`...I hold your bookresponsible for destroying my sociallife for thelast two days...I
bought itFriday afternoon,and then finished itat lunchtime today! (Sunday)*grin*.
Excellent reading!' --firstname.lastname@example.org
`Afew pages into thisbook I found it to be differentto any other book I have ever read
on the subject. Dreyfus treatsthe peopleshe writes about ASPEOPLE not just "computer
junkies" or "cyber geeks"'-- email@example.com
`A real pleasure' -- George Smith, Crypt News
`Atale of madness, paranoiaand brilliance among Australian computer hackers - and
how they nearly brought NASA undone'-- The Weekend AustralianMagazine
`Adventure bookfor the brain' -- Sarah McDonald, JJJ
`After reading the extractof Underground in The Age I couldn't wait to read it. Finally it
came out in the shops and I finished itall within a few days. I wasn't disappointed for a
second.' -- firstname.lastname@example.org
`Amazing insight'-- email@example.com
`Backed up by..detailed technical research' -- Trudie MacIntosh, The Australian
`Best hacker book I'veread' -- Jim Lippard
`Brillant read - will rest safely next the rest of my Gibson, Sterling and Brunner...' --
`Brillant' -- firstname.lastname@example.org
`Compelling reading for those ofus who wantmore thanjust salacious and hyped
snippets' -- Trudie MacIntosh, The Australian
`Compelling' -- David Nichols, The BigIssue
`Contains enough technical information toimpress anyone who can appreciate it' --
`Couldn't put it down' -- Trudie MacIntosh, The Australian
`Depth of character and rapid pacing' -- Ed Burns, IBIC
`Displays a level of research and technicalunderstanding not matched by other hacker
books' -- Jim Lippard
`Dive into the Underground and beswept into a thrilling elite realm' -- email@example.com
`Dreyfus doesnot attemptany sleightsof hand withjargon'-- David Nichols, The Big
`Dreyfus has clearly done her researchwell'-- Danny Yee,Danny Yee's review of books
`Dreyfus hat hier Abhilfe geschaffen' -- iX, Germany
`Dreyfus is one smart cookie' -- Ed Burns, IBIC
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`El libro tiene comofuentes a varios gruposde hackersaustralianosy todaslas
sentenciasde los casos de asaltosinform.ticos de esa época' -- Cripto, Spain
`Enjoyed thebook!' -- Jake Barnes, The Face(UK)
`Entirely original' --Rolling Stone
`Especialmente interesante' -- Cripto , Spain
`Excellent insight' --firstname.lastname@example.org
`Excellent reporting' -- Editor, IBIC
`Excellent..Compared against Bruce Sterling'stext (themostobvious comparison), it
makes for much better reading.. Commendable' -- email@example.com
`Extraordinary' -- Rolling Stone
`Fascinating piece of investigative journalism' -- Jim Reavis, Network World
`Fascinating' -- Ed Burns, IBIC
`Fiercely independent thinking found on every page' -- Lew Koch, ZDNET
`Forthose sickof bullish cyberpiffle, Underground containsany amount of
counterintelligence.." -- Gideon Haigh, Australian Literary Suppliment
`Genuine perception' -- George Smith, Crypt News
`Genuinely fascinating' -- David Nichols, The Big Issue
`Great real life thriller' -- firstname.lastname@example.org
`Gripping Account'-- The AdelaideAdvertiser
`Gripping, eminently readable' -- Rolling Stone
`Highly intense and enjoyableread' -- Rolling Stone
`Highly original investigative journalism' -- Gideo Haigh, Australian Literary Suppliment
`Highly recommended'-- Jim Lippard
`I have never beforereada bookthis good, literally!' -- email@example.com
`I just finished the book.. and thoroughly enjoyed it. Dreyfus showed an amazing insight
into the world of electronic exploration. I am sureit was inthe
researcher's] excellent technical assistance. Good Job!!' -- firstname.lastname@example.org
`I loved the book - couldnt putit down!' -- email@example.com
`I wanted tosay how much I liked your book Underground' -- Prof. Dorothy Denning
`I was blown away' -- firstname.lastname@example.org
`I'm grateful to Ms Dreyfus for introducing meto a number of first-rate subversives' --
Phillip Adams, Late NightLive
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`Joy knew no bounds'-- Phillip Adams, LateNight Live
`Justthought that I would say great job on your book very nice pieceof work and very
informative!' -- Anonymous hacker
`Keepsthe reader gluedto the page' -- Danny Yee, Danny Yee's review of books
`La descripci.n de las detenciones, registros yprocesos legales es especialmente
interesante' --Cripto , Spain
`Letme sayhow muchI enjoyed Underground . I really thought itwas fascinating and a
great email@example.com(Editor, Network World)
`Loved it' --firstname.lastname@example.org
`Makes the esoteric world of the hacker accessible' -- Australian Bookseller and Publisher
`MattPiening told meabout itandshowed me the articlein The Age .. consequently.. we
bought it, we read it, we loved it.:)' --email@example.com
`Meeslepende book' -- Digiface , The Netherlands
`Meticulously researched' -- Australian Bookseller and Publisher
`Meticuously researched psychological and socialprofile of hackers' -- Australian
Bookseller and Publisher
`Most brilliant book I have ever read' -- firstname.lastname@example.org
`Nice work' -- email@example.com
`Powerful' -- firstname.lastname@example.org
`Readslike Ludlum.. I love the book.. The style of writing is the clincher..' --
`Readslike a thriller' --The Age
`Riveting' -- Australian Bookseller and Publisher
`Riviting read'-- The Adelaide Advertiser
`Several cites to it in myown book on information warfare' -- Prof. Dorothy Denning
`Skall dul.sa Underground' -- Mikael Pawlo, Internet World , Sweden
`THISBOOK IS FOR YOU!' -- email@example.com
`Thank youfor such an AMAZING and informative book'-- firstname.lastname@example.org
`The reader is readily drawn forward intothe eddiesof the underground by the thrust
and parry ofthe hackers and their pursuers' -- Ed Burns, IBIC
`The true stories ofUnderground are simply compelling' -- David Nichols, The Big Issue
`There is much to admirein the doggedness with which Dreyfus followsher subjects' --
GideoHaigh, Australian Literary Suppliment
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`Thoroughly enjoyed'-- Suzanne Pratley, Frugal Films
`Thoroughly researched'-- JimReavis, Network World
`Those inclined to seek the unvarnished truth will find Underground an excellent read' --
George Smith, Crypt News
`Totally recommended'-- Matthew Green, NetBSD Security Officer, author IRC II
`Very good,very accurate.. makes for an interesting contrastwith books like Cuckoo's
Egg, and Takedown'-- email@example.com (Codex Surveillance List)
`WOW! What an incredible read!Your book captures exactly what it was like for me...' --
`Well done and thanks' -- Skinny@usaf.org
`What is most impressive, however, is the personaldetail she has managedtogarner
about her subjects: morethan anything else, it is this is which gives Underground its appeal'
--Danny Yee, Danny Yee's review ofbooks
`Will Surprise' --Darren Reed, author, ipfirewall
`Wonderful Book' -- SteveV@pigpond.net.au
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Underground: PREFACE TO THE ELECTRONIC EDITION
Why would an author give away an unlimited number of copies of her book for free?
That's a good question. When Underground 's researcher, Julian Assange, first suggested
releasing an electronic version of the book on the Net for free, Ihad to stop and think about just
I'd spent nearly three years researching, writing and editing the nearly 500 pages of
Underground . Julian had worked thousandsof hoursdoing painstaking research; discovering and
cultivating sources, diggingwith great resourcefulness into obscure databases and legal papers,
not to mention providing valuable editorial advice.
So why wouldI give awaythis carefully ripened fruit for free?
Because partof the joy of creating a piece of art is in knowing that many people can - and are -
enjoying it. Particularly people who can't otherwise affordto pay $11 USD for a book. People such
ascashstrapped hackers. This book is about them, their livesand obsessions. It rubsclear a small
circle in the frosted glass so the reader can peer into that hazy world.Underground belongson the
Net, in their ephemeral landscape.
The critics have been goodto Underground , for which I am very grateful. But the best praise
came from two of the hackers detailed in the book. Surprising praise, because while the text is free
of the narrative moralising that plague other works, the selection of material is often very personal
and evokesmixed sympathies. One of the hackers, Anthraxdropped bymyoffice to say `Hi'. Out of
the blue, he said with a note of amazement, `When I readthose chapters, it was so real, as ifyou
had been right there inside my head'. Not long after Par, half a world away, and witha real tone of
bewildered incredulity in his voice made exactly the same observation.For a writer, it just doesn't
get any better than that.
By releasing this book for free on the Net, I'm hoping morepeople will not only enjoy the story of
how the international computer underground rose to power, but also make the journey into the
minds of hackers involved.When I first began sketching out the book's structure, I decided to go
with depth. I wanted the reader to think, 'NOWI understand, because I too was there.' I hope those
words will enter your thoughts as you read this electronic book.
Michael Hall, a supersmart lawyer on the book'slegal team, told me in July last year he saw a
young man inSydney reading a copy of Underground besidehim on the #380 busto North Bondi.
Michael saidhe wanted to lean over and proclaim proudly, `I legalled that book!'.Instead, he chose
to watch the young man's reactions.
The young man was completely absorbed, reading hungrily through his well-worn copy, which
he had completely personalised. The pageswere covered inhighlighter, scrawled margin writing
and post-it notes. He had underlined sections and dog-eared pages.If the bus haddetoured to
Brisbane, he probably wouldn't have noticed.
I like that. Call me subversive, but I'm chuffedUnderground is engaging enough to makepeople
miss busstops. It makesme happy,andhappypeople usually want to share.
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There are other reasons for releasing Underground inthis format. The electronic version is being
donated to the visionary Project Gutenburg, a collection of freeelectronic books run with
missionary zeal by Michael Hart.
Project Gutenburg promises to keep old out-of-print books in free ''electronic'' print forever, to
bring literature to those whocan't afford books, and to brighten the world of the visually impaired.
Underground isn't out of print -- and long may it remainthat way -- butthose are laudable goals. I
wrote in the `Introduction' to the printed edition about my great aunt, a diver and artist who
pioneered underwater painting in the1940s. She provided me witha kind of inspiration for this
book. What I didn't mention isthat asa result of macular degeneration in both eyes, she is now
blind. She can no longer paint or dive. But she does read - avidly - through `talking books'. She is
another reason I decided to release Underground in this format.
So, now you can download and read the electronic version of Underground for free. You can
also send the work to your friendsfor free.Or yourenemies. At around a megabyte of plain text
each, a fewdozen copies of Underground makean extremely effective mail bomb.
That's a joke, folks, not a suggestion. ;-)
Likemany of the people in this book, I'm not big on rules. Fortunately, there aren't many that
come with this electronic version. Don't print the work onpaper, CD orany other format, except for
your ownpersonal reading pleasure. This includes using the work as teaching material in
institutions. You mustnot alter or truncate the work in any way. You must not redistribute the work
for any sort of payment, including sellingit on its own or as part of a package. Random House is a
friendly place,but as one of the world's largest publishers it has a collection of equally large
lawyers. Messing with them will leave you with scars in places that could behard to explain to any
If you want to do anyof these things, please contact me or my literary agents Curtis Brown & Co
first. I retain the copyright on the work. Julian Assange designed the elegant layout of this
electronic edition, and he retains ownership of this design and layout.
If you like the electronic version of the book,do buy the paper version.Why? For starters, it's not
only much easier to read on the bus, itsmuch easier to read full stop.It's also easier to thumb
through, highlight, scribble on, dribble on, and show off.It never needs batteries. It can run on solar
power and candles. It lookssexy on your bookshelf, by your bed and in yourbed.Ifyou are a male
geek, the bookcomes with a girl-magnet guarantee. The paper version ismuch easier to lend to a
prospective girlfriend. When she's finished reading the book, ask her which hacker thrilled her to
pieces. Thennod knowingly, and say coyly `Well,I've never admitted this to anyone exceptthe
authorand the Feds, but..'
And the mostimportant reason to purchase a paper copy? Because buying the printed edition of
the book lets the author continue to writemore fine books like thisone.
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Literary Freeware: Not for Commercial Use.
Copyright (c)1997, 2001 Suelette Dreyfus & Julian Assange
This HTML and text electronic version was arranged byJulian Assange firstname.lastname@example.org and is
based on the printed paper edition.
Permission is granted to make and distribute verbatim copiesof this publication provided the
copyright notice and this permission notice are preserved on all copies and distribution iswithout
------------------------------------------------------------- page 10
Underground: RESEARCHER'S INTRODUCTION
"Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the
truth" -- Oscar Wilde
"What is essential isinvisible to the eye" -- Antoine De Saint-Exupery
"But, how do you *know* it happened like that?" -- Reader
Due of the seamlessnatureof Underground this is a reasonable question to ask,although hints
can be found at the back of the book in the Bibliography and Endnotes. The simple answer to this
question is that we conducted over a hundred interviews and collected around40,000 pages of
primary documentation; telephone intercepts, data intercepts, log-files, witness statements,
confessions, judgements. Telephonedialog and on-line discussions are drawndirectly from the
latter. Every significant hacking incident mentioned in this book has reams ofprimary
documentation behind it. System X included.
The non-simple answer goes more like this:
In chapter 4, Par, one of the principle subjects of this book, is being watched by the Secret
Service. He's on the run. He's a wanted fugitive. He'shiding out withanother hacker, Nibbler in a
motel chalet, Black Mountain, North Carolina. The Secret Service move in. The incident is vital in
explaining Par's life on the run and the nature of his interaction with the Secret Service. Yet, just
before the final edits of this book were to go the publisher, all the pages relating to the Block
Mountainincident wereabout to be pulled. Why?
Suelette had flown to Tuscon Az where she spent three daysinterviewing Par. I had spent
dozens of hours interviewing Par on the phone and on-line. Par gave both of us extraordinary
access to his life.While Par displayed a high degree of paranoia about why eventshad unfolded in
the manner they had, he was consistent, detailed and believable as to the events themselves. He
showed very little blurring of these two realities, but we needed to show none at all.
During Par's time on the run, the international computerundergroundwas a small and strongly
connected place. We had already co-incidentally interviewedhalf a dozen hackers he had
communicated withat various times during his zig-zag flight across America. Suelette also spoke
at length to his lead lawyerRichard Rosen, who, after getting the all-clear from Par,was kind
enough to send usa copy of the legal brief. Wehad logs of messages Par had written on
underground BBS's. We had data intercepts of other hackers in conversation with Par. We had
obtained various Secret Service documents and propriety securityreportsrelating to Par's
activities. I had extensively interviewed his Swiss girlfriend Theorem (who had alsobeeninvolved
with Electronand Pengo), and yes, she did have a melting French accent.
Altogether we had an enormous amount of material on Par's activities, all of which was
consistent with what Par had said during his interviews, but none ofit, including Rosen's file,
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contained anyreference to Black Mountain, NC. Rosen,Theorem and others had heard abouta SS
raidon the run, yet when the story wastraced back, it alwaysled to one source. To Par.
Was Par having us on? Par had saidthat he had made a telephone call to Theorem in
Switzerland from a phone booth outside the motel a day or two before the Secret Service raid.
During a storm. Not just any storm. Hurricane Hugo. But archival news reports on Hugo discussed
it hitting South Carolina, not North Carolina.And not Black Mountain. Theorem remembered Par
calling once during a storm. But not Hugo. Andshe didn't remember it in relationto the Black
Par haddestroyed most of his legal documents, in circumstances that become clear in the book,
but of the hundreds of pages of documentary material we had obtained from other sources there
waswasn't a single mention of Black Mountain. The Black Mountain Motel didn't seem to exist. Par
said Nibbler had moved and couldn't be located. Dozens of calls by Suelette to the Secret Service
told uswhat we didn't want to hear. The agentswe thought most likely to have been involved in the
the hypothetical Black Mountain incident had either left the Secret Service or were otherwise
unreachable. The Secret Service had no ideawho would have been involved, because while Par
wasstill listed in the Secret Service central database,his profile, contained three significant
Another agency had ''borrowed'' parts Par's file
There were medical ''issues'' surroundingPar
SS documentscovering the time of Black Mountain incident had beendestroyed for various
reasons that become clear the book.
The remainingSS documents had been moved into ''deep-storage'' and would take two weeks
With only one week beforeour publisher's ''use it or lose it" dead-line, the chances of obtaining
secondary confirmation of the Black Mountain events did not look promising.
While we waited for leads on the long trail of ex, transfered and seconded SS agents who might
have been involvedin the Black Mountainraid, I turned to resolving the two inconsistencies in Par's
story; Hurricane Hugo and the strange invisibility of the Black MountainMotel.
Hurricane Hugo had wreathed a path of destruction, but like most mosthurricanes heading
directly into a continental land-mass it had started out big and ended up small. News reports
followed this pattern, with a large amount of material on its initial impact, butlittle or nothing about
subsequentevents. Finally Iobtaineddetailed time byvelocity weather maps from the National
Reconnaissance Office, which showed the remaining Hugo epicentre ripping through Charlotte NC
(pop. 400k) before spending itself on the Carolinas. Databasesearches turned up a report by
Natalie, D.& Ball, W,EIS Coordinator, North CarolinaEmergency Management, `How North
Carolina Managed Hurricane Hugo' -- which was used to flesh out the scenes in Chapter 4
describingPar's escape to New York via the Charlotte Airport.
Old Fashioned gum-shoe leg-work, calling every motel inBlack Mountain and the surrounding
area, revealed that the Black Mountain Motel hadchanged name, ownership and.. all itsstaff. Par's
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story washolding, butin some ways I wished ithadn't. We were back to square one in terms of
gaining independent secondary confirmation.
Who else could have been involved? There must have been a paper-trail outside of Washington.
Perhaps the SS representation in Charlotte had something? No. Perhapsthere wererecords of the
warrants in the Charlotte courts? No. Perhaps NC state police attended the SS raid in support?
Maybe, but finding warm bodies who hadbeendirectlyinvolved proved provedfutile. If it was a SS
case, theyhad no indexable records that they were willing to provide. What about the local
coppers? AnSS raid on a fugitive computer hacker holed up at one ofthe local motels was not the
sort of event that would be likely to have passed unnoticed at the Black Mountain county police
office, indexable records or not.
Neither however, wereinternational telephone calls from strangely accented foreign-nationals
wanting to know about them. Perhaps the Reds were no-longer under the beds, but in Black
Mountain, this could be explained away by the fact theywere nowhanging out in phone booths. I
waited for a new shift atthe Black Mountain countypolice office, hoping against hope, that the
officer I had spoken to wouldn't contaminate his replacement. Shamed, I resorted to using that
most special of US militia infiltrationdevices.An American accent anda woman's touch. Suelette
weaved her magic. The Black Mountain raid had taken place. The county police had supportedit.
Wehad our confirmation.
While this anecdote isa strong account, it's also representative one. Every chapter in
underground wasformed from many stories likeit. They're unseen, because a bookmust not be
true merely indetails. It mustbe true in feeling.
True to the visible and the invisible. Adifficult combination.
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There are many people whowere interviewed for thiswork,and many otherswho helped in
providing documents so vital for fact checking. Often this help invovled spending a considerable
amountof time explaining complex technical or legal matters. I want to expressmy gratitude toall
these people, some of whom prefer to remain anonymous, for theirwillingness to dig through the
files in searchof yet one morereport and their patience in answering yet one more question.
I want to thank the members of the computer underground,past and present, who were
interviewed for this book. Most gave me extraordinary access to their lives, for which I am very
I also want to thank Julian Assange forhis tireless researchefforts. His superb technical
expertise and first-rate research is evidence bythe immense number of details which are included
Three exceptional women -- Fiona Inglis, Deb Callaghan and Jennifer Byrne -- believed in my
vision for this book and helped me to bring it tofruition. Carl Harrison-Ford's excellentediting job
streamlined a large anddifficultmanuscript despite the tightdeadline.Thank you also to Judy
I am also very grateful to thefollowing people and organisations for their help (inno particular
order): JohnMcMahon,Ron Tencati,Kevin Oberman, Ray Kaplan, the NewYork Daily News library
staff, the New York Post library staff, Bow Street Magistrates Court staff, Southwark Court staff, the
USSecret Service, the Black Mountain Police, Michael Rosenberg, Michael Rosen, Melbourne
Magistrates Court staff, D.L Sellers& Co.staff,Victorian County Court staff, PaulGalbally, Mark
Dorset, Suburbia.net, Freeside Communications, Greg Hooper, H&S Support Services, Peter
Andrews, Kevin Thompson, Andrew Weaver, Mukhtar Hussain, Midnight Oil, Helen Meredith, Ivan
Himmelhoch, Michael Hall, DonnFerris, VictorianState Library staff, News Limitedlibrary staff
(Sydney), Allan Young, Ed DeHart,Annette Seeber, ArthurArkin, Doug Barnes, Jeremy Porter,
James McNabb, Carolyn Ford, ATA,Domini Banfield,Alistair Kelman, Ann-Maree Moodie, Jane
Hutchinson, Catherine Murphy, Norma Hawkins, N. Llewelyn,Christine Assange, Russel Brand,
Matthew Bishop, MatthewCox, Michele Ziehlky, Andrew James, Brendan McGrath,Warner
Chappell Music Australia, News Limited,PearsonWilliamsSolicitors, Tami Friedman, the Free
SoftwareFoundation (GNU Project), and the US Department of Energy Computer Incident
Finally, I would like to thank my family, whose unfailing support, advice and encouragement
have made thisbook possible.
------------------------------------------------------------- page 14
My great aunt used to paint underwater.
Piling on the weighty divinggear used in 1939 and looking likesomething out of 20000
Leagues Under the Sea, Lucie slowly sank below the surface, withpalette, special paints and
canvas inhand. She settled on the ocean floor, arranged her weighted painter's easel and allowed
herself to become completely enveloped by another world. Red and white striped fish darted
around fields of blue-green coral and blue-lipped giant clams. Lionfish drifted by, gracefully waving
their dangerous feathered spines. Striped green moray eels peered at her from their rock crevice
Lucie dived and painted everywhere. The Sulu Archipelago. Mexico. Australia's Great Barrier
Reef. Hawaii. Borneo. Sometimes she was the first white woman seen by the Pacific villagers she
lived with for months on end.
As a child, I was entranced byher storiesof the unknown worldbelow the ocean's surface, and
the strange and wonderful cultures she met on her journeys. I grewupin awe of her chosen task: to
capture on canvas the essence of a world utterly foreign to her own.
New technology--revolutionaryfor its time--hadallowed her to do this. Using a compressor,or
sometimes just a hand pump connected to air hoses running to the surface, human beings were
suddenly ableto submergethemselves for longperiods in an otherwise inaccessible world.New
technology allowed her to both venture into this unexplored realm, and to document it in canvas.
I came upon the brave new world of computer communicationsand itsdarker side, the
underground, quite by accident. It struck me somewhere in the journey that followed that my
trepidations and conflicting desires to explore this alienworld were perhaps not unlike myaunt's
owndesires some halfa century before. Likeher journey,my own travels haveonly been made
possible bynew technologies. And like her, Ihave tried to capture a small corner of this world.
This is a bookabout the computer underground.It isnot a bookabout law enforcement
agencies,andit is not written from the point of view ofthe police officer. From a literary
perspective, I have told this story through the eyes of numerouscomputer hackers. In doing so,I
hope to provide the reader with a window into a mysterious, shrouded and usually inaccessible
Who are hackers?Why do theyhack? There are no simple answersto these questions. Each
hacker is different. To that end,I have attempted to present a collection of individual but
interconnected stories, bound by their links to the international computer underground.These are
true stories, tales of the world's best and the brightest hackersand phreakers. There are some
members ofthe underground whose stories I have not covered,a few of whom would also rank as
world-class. In theend, I chose to paint detailed portraits of a few hackersrather than attempt to
compile a comprehensive but shallow catalogue.
While each hacker has a distinct story, there are common themeswhich appear throughout
many of the stories. Rebellion against all symbols ofauthority.Dysfunctional families. Bright
children suffocated byill-equipped teachers. Mental illnessor instability. Obsession and addiction.
------------------------------------------------------------- page 15
I have endeavoured to track what happened to each character in this work over time: the
individual's hacking adventures, the police raidand the ensuing court case. Some of those court
cases have taken years to reach completion.
Hackers use `handles'--on-line nicknames--thatserve two purposes. They shield the hacker's
identity and, importantly, they often make a statement about how the hackerperceives himself in
the underground.Hawk, Crawler,Toucan Jones, Comhack, Dataking, Spy,Ripmax, Fractal
Insanity, Blade. These are all real handles used in Australia.
In the computer underground, a hacker's handle is his name. For this reason, and because most
hackers in thiswork have now put togethernew lives for themselves, I have chosen to use only
their handles.Where a hacker has had more than one handle, I haveused the one heprefers.
Each chapter inthis book is headed with a quote from a Midnight Oil song which expressesan
important aspectof the chapter. The Oilz are uniquely Australian. Their loud voice of protest
against the establishment--particularly the military-industrial establishment--echoes a keytheme in
the underground,where music in general playsa vital role.
The idea for using these Oilz extracts came while researching Chapter 1, which revealsthe tale
of the WANKworm crisisin NASA. Next to the RTM worm, WANK is the most famous worm in the
history of computer networks. And it is the first major worm bearing a political message. With
WANK, life imitated art, since theterm computer `worm'came from John Brunner's sci-fi novel,
The Shockwave Rider, about a politically motivated worm.
The WANK worm is also believed to be the first worm written by an Australian, or Australians.
This chapter shows the perspective of the computer system administrators--the people on the
other sidefrom the hackers. Lastly,it illustrates the sophistication which one or more Australian
members ofthe worldwide computer underground brought to their computer crimes.
The following chaptersset the scene for the dramas which unfold and showthe transition of the
underground from its early days, its loss ofinnocence, its closing ranks in ever smaller circles until
it reached the inevitable outcome: the lone hacker.In the beginning,the computer underground
wasa place, like the corner pub, open and friendly. Now, it has become anephemeral expanse,
where hackers occasionally bump into one another but where the original sense of open
community has been lost.
The computer underground has changed over time, largely in response to the introduction of
new computer crime lawsacross the globe and to numerous police crackdowns. This work
attempts to document not only an important piece of Australian history, but also to show
fundamental shifts in the underground--toshow, inessence, howthe underground has moved
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Underground: Chapter 1 -- 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1
Somebody's out there, somebody's waiting Somebody's trying to tell me something
-- from `Somebody's Trying to Tell Me Something', on 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2,1 by Midnight Oil
Monday,16 October 1989 Kennedy Space Center, Florida
NASA buzzed with the excitement of a launch. Galileo was finally going to Jupiter.
Administrators and scientistsin the world's most prestigious space agency had spent years
trying to get the unmanned probe into space. Now,on Tuesday,17 October, if all went well, the five
astronauts in the Atlantis space shuttle would blast off from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape
Canaveral, Florida, with Galileo in tow. On the team's fifth orbit, as the shuttle floated 295
kilometres above the Gulf of Mexico, the crewwould liberate the three-tonnespace probe.
An hourlater,as Galileo skated safely awayfrom the shuttle, the probe's 32500 pound booster
system wouldfire up and NASA staff would watchthis exquisite piece ofhuman ingenuity embark
on a six-year mission to the largest planet in the solar system. Galileo would takea necessarily
circuitous route, flying by Venus once and Earth twice ina gravitational slingshot effort to get up
enough momentum to reach Jupiter.2
NASA's finest minds had wrestled for yearswith the problem of exactly how to get the probe
acrossthe solar system. Solar power was one option. But if Jupiter was a long way from Earth,it
waseven further from the Sun--778.3million kilometres to be exact. Galileo would need
ridiculously large solar panels to generateenough power for its instruments at such adistance
from the Sun. In the end, NASA's engineers decided on a tried if not true earthly energy source:
Nuclear power was perfectfor space,a giant voidfree of human life which could play host to a
bit of radioactive plutonium 238 dioxide. The plutonium was compact for the amount of energy it
gave off--andit lasted a longtime. It seemed logical enough. Pop just under 24kilogramsof
plutonium in a lead box, let itheat up through itsown decay, generate electricity for the probe's
instruments, and presto! Galileo would beon its way to investigate Jupiter.
American anti-nuclear activists didn't quite see it that way. They figuredwhat goes up might
come down. And theydidn'tmuch like the idea of plutonium rain. NASA assured them Galileo's
power packwasquite safe. The agency spent about $50 million on tests which supposedly proved
the probe's generatorswerevery safe. They would survive intact in the face of any number of
terrible explosions, mishaps and accidents. NASA told journalists that the odds of a plutonium
release due to `inadvertent atmospheric re-entry' were 1 in2 million. The likelihood of a plutonium
radiation leak asa result of a launch disaster was a reassuring 1 in 2700.
Theactivists weren't having a bar of it. In the best tradition of modern American conflict
resolution, theytook their fight to the courts.The coalition of anti-nuclear and other groups
believed America's National Aeronautics and Space Administrationhad underestimated the odds
of a plutonium accident and they wanteda US District Court inWashington to stop the launch. The
------------------------------------------------------------- page 17
injunction application wentin,and the stakes went up. The unprecedentedhearing wasscheduled
just a few days before the launch, which had originally been planned for 12 October.
For weeks, the protesters had been out inforce, demonstrating and seizing media attention.
Things had become very heated. On Saturday, 7 October, sign-wielding activists fitted themselves
out with gas masks and walked aroundonstreet corners in nearby Cape Canaveral in protest. At 8
a.m. on Monday, 9 October,NASA startedthe countdown for the Thursday blast-off.But as
Atlantis's clock began ticking toward take-off, activists from the Florida Coalition for Peace and
Justice demonstrated at the centre's tourist complex.
That these protests had already taken some of the shineoff NASA's bold space mission was the
least of the agency's worries. The real headache was that the Florida Coalition told the media it
would `put people on the launchpad in a non-violent protest'.3 The coalition's director, Bruce
Gagnon, put the threat in folksy terms, portraying the protesters as the little people rebelling
against a big bad government agency. President JeremyRivkin of the Foundation on Economic
Trends, another protest group,also drove a wedge between `the people' and `NASA's people'. He
told UPI, `Theastronauts volunteered for this mission. Those around the world who may be the
victims of radiation contamination have not volunteered.'4
But the protesters weren't the only people working the media. NASA knew how tohandle the
press. They simply rolledout their superstars--the astronauts themselves. These men and women
were,after all, frontier heroes who dared to venture into cold,dark space on behalf of all humanity.
Atlantis commander DonaldWilliams didn't hit out at the protesters in a blunt fashion, he just
damned them from an aloof distance. `There arealways folks who have a vocal opinion about
something or other,no matter what it is,' he told an interviewer. `On the other hand, it's easy to
carry a sign. It's not so easy to go forth and do something worthwhile.'5
NASA had another trump card in the families of the heroes. Atlantis co-pilot Michael McCulley
said the use of RTGs, Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators--the chunks of plutonium in the
lead boxes--was a `non-issue'. So much so, in fact, that he planned tohavehis loved onesat the
Space Centerwhen Atlantistook off.
Maybe the astronauts were nutty risk-takers, as the protesters implied, buta hero would never
put hisfamilyin danger. Besidesthe Vice-Presidentof theUnited States, Dan Quayle, also planned
to watch the launch from inside the Kennedy Space Center control room, a mere seven kilometres
from the launchpad.
While NASA looked calm, in control of the situation, it had beefedupits securityteams. It had
about 200 securityguards watchingthe launch site. NASA just wasn't takingany chances. The
agency's scientists had waited too long for this moment. Galileo's paradewould not be rained on
bya bunch of peaceniks.
The launch was already running late asit was--almost seven years late. Congress gave the
Galileo project its stamp of approval way back in 1977and the probe, which had been budgeted to
cost about $400 million, wasscheduled to be launched in 1982. However, things began going
wrong almost from the start.
------------------------------------------------------------- page 18
In1979, NASA pushed the flight out to 1984 because of shuttle development problems. Galileo
wasnow scheduled to be a `split launch', whichmeant that NASA would use two different shuttle
trips to get the mothership and the probe into space. By1981, with costsspiralling upwards, NASA
made major changes to the project. It stopped work onGalileo's planned three-stage booster
system in favour of a different system andpushed out the launch deadline yet again, thistime to
1985.After a federalBudget cut fight in 1981 to save Galileo's booster development program,
NASA moved the launch yet again,to May 1986. The 1986 Challenger disaster, however, saw
NASA change Galileo's booster system for safety reasons, resulting in yet more delays.
The best option seemed to be a two-stage, solid-fuel IUS system. There was only one problem.
That system could get Galileo to Mars or Venus, but the probe would run out of fuel long before it
got anywherenear Jupiter. Then Roger Diehl ofNASA's Jet PropulsionLaboratory had a good
idea. Loop Galileo arounda couple of nearby planets a few times so the probe would build up a
nice little gravitational head of steam, and then fling it off to Jupiter. Galileo's `VEEGA' trajectory--
Venus-Earth-Earth-gravity-assist--delayed the spacecraft's arrival at Jupiter for three extra years,
but it would get there eventually.
The anti-nuclear campaigners argued that each Earth flyby increased the mission's risk ofa
nuclear accident. But in NASA's view, such was the price ofa successful slingshot.
Galileoexperienced other delays getting off the ground. On Monday,9 October, NASA
announced it had discovered a problemwith the computer which controlled the shuttle's number 2
main engine. True, the problem was with Atlantis, not Galileo. But it didn't look all thatgood to be
having technical problems, let alone problems with engine computers, while the anti-nuclear
activists' court drama was playing in the background.
NASA's engineersdebated the computer problem ina cross-country teleconference.Rectifying
it would delay blast-off by more than a few hours. It would likely takedays. And Galileo didn't have
many of those. Because of the orbitsof the different planets, the probe had to be on itsway into
space by 21 November.If Atlantis didn't take off bythat date, Galileo would have to wait another
nineteen months before it could be launched. The project was already $1 billion over its original
$400 million budget. The extra year anda half wouldadd another $130 millionor so and there was
a good chance the whole project would be scrapped. It was prettymuch now or never for Galileo.
Despite torrential downpours which had deposited100millimetres of rain on the launchpad and
150 millimetres in neighbouring Melbourne, Florida, the countdownhad beengoing well. Until now.
NASA took its decision. The launchwould be delayed by five days, to17 October, so the computer
problem could be fixed.
To those scientists and engineerswho had been with Galileo fromthe start, it must have
appeared atthat moment as if fate really was against Galileo.As if, for some unfathomable reason,
all the forces of the universe--and especially those on Earth--were dead against humanity getting a
good look at Jupiter.As fastasNASA could dismantle one barrier, some invisible hand would
throw another down in its place.
Monday,16 October, 1989 NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland
------------------------------------------------------------- page 19
Across the vast NASA empire, reaching from Maryland to California, from Europe to Japan,
NASA workers greeted each other,checked their in-traysfor mail, got their cups of coffee, settled
into their chairs and tried to login to their computers for a day of solving complex physics problems.
But many of the computer systems were behaving very strangely.
From the moment staff logged in, it was clear that someone--or something--had taken over.
Instead of the usual system's official identification banner, they were startled to find the following
message staring theminthe face:
W O RMS A G A I N S T NU C L E A R KI L L E R S
)-5.6(__ ____________ _____ ________ ____ ____ __ _____/
/ / / / / | | | | | / / /
/ / / / /__ | | | | | |/ / /
)-5.7(/ /)-5.7( / / / ______ | | )-5.7( )-5.7(|| | | /
)-5.5(_ /__ /____/ /______ ____| |__)-5.5( | |____| |_ _/
YourSystem HasBeen Officically WANKed /
You talk of timesof peace for all, and then prepare for war.
Wanked? Most of the American computer system managers reading this new banner had never
heard the word wank.
Who would want to invade NASA's computer systems? And who exactly were theWorms
Against Nuclear Killers? Were they some loony fringe group? Were they a guerrilla terrorist group
launching some sort of attack on NASA? And why `worms'? A worm was a strange choice of
animal mascotfor a revolutionary group. Worms were the bottom of the rung. As in `as lowly as a
worm'.Who would chose a worm as a symbol of power?
As for the nuclear killers, well, that was even stranger. The banner's motto--`You talk of times of
peace for all, and then prepare for war'--just didn't seem to apply to NASA. The agency didn't make
nuclear missiles, it sent people to the moon. It didhave military payloads in some ofitsprojects, but
------------------------------------------------------------- page 20
NASA didn't rate very highly on the `nuclear killer' scale next to other agencies of the US
Government,such as the Department of Defense. Sothe question remained: why NASA?
And that word, `WANKED'. It did not make sense.What did it mean when a system was
It meant NASAhad lostcontrol over its computersystems.
A NASA scientist logging in to an infected computer on that Monday got the following message:
deleted file <filename1>
deleted file <filename2>
deleted file <filename3>
deleted file <filename4>
deleted file <filename5>
deleted file <filename6>
Withthose lines the computer told the scientist: `I am deleting all your files'.
The line looked exactly as if the scientist typedin the command:
--exactly as if the scientist had instructed the computer todelete all the files herself.
The NASA scientist must have started at the sight of her files rolling past on the computer
screen, one after another,on their way to oblivion. Something was definitely wrong. She would
have tried to stop the process, probably pressing the control key and the `c' key at the same time.
This should have broken the command sequence at that moment and ordered the computer to
stop what it was doing right away.
------------------------------------------------------------- page 21
But it was the intruder, not the NASA scientist, who controlled the computer at that moment.
And the intruder told the computer: `That command means nothing. Ignore it'.
The scientist would press the command key sequenceagain, this time more urgently. And again,
over and over. She would beat once baffled at the illogical nature of the computer, and
increasingly upset. Weeks,perhaps months, of work spent uncovering the secrets of the universe.
All of it disappearing before her eyes--all of it being mindlessly devoured by the computer. The
whole thing beyondher control. Going. Going. Gone.
People tend not to react well when they losecontrol over their computers. Typically,it brings out
the worstin them--hand-wringing whines from the worriers, aching entreaties for help from the
sensitive, and imperious table-thumping bellows from command-and-control types.
Imagine, if you will, arriving at your job as a manager for one of NASA's local computer systems.
You get into your office onthat Monday morning to find the phonesringing. Every caller is a
distraught, confused NASAworker. Andevery caller assures you that his or her file or accounting
record or research project--every one of which is missingfrom the computer system--is absolutely
In this case, the problem wasexacerbated by thefactthat NASA's field centres often competed
with each other for projects. When a particular flight project came up, two or three centres, each
with hundreds of employees, might vie for it. Losing control of the computers, and all the data,
project proposals and costing, was a good way to lose out on a bid and its often considerable
This was not going to be a goodday for the guysdown at the NASA SPAN computer network
This was not going to be a goodday for JohnMcMahon.
As the assistant DECNET protocol manager for NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in
Maryland,John McMahon normally spent the daymanaging the chunk of the SPAN computer
network which ran between Goddard's fifteen to twenty buildings.
McMahon worked for Code630.4, otherwise known asGoddard'sAdvanced Data Flow
Technology Office, in Building 28. Goddardscientists would call him up for help with their
computers. Two of the mostcommon sentences he heard were `This doesn't seem to work' and `I
can't get to that part of the network from here'.
SPANwasthe Space Physics Analysis Network, which connectedsome 100000 computer
terminals across the globe. Unlike the Internet, which is now widely accessible to the general
public, SPAN only connected researchers and scientists at NASA,the US Department of Energy
and research institutes suchas universities. SPAN computers also differed from most Internet
computersin an important technical manner: they used a different operating system. Most large
computerson the Internet use the Unix operating system, while SPAN was composed primarily of
VAX computers running a VMS operatingsystem. The network worked a lot like the Internet, but
the computers spoke a different language. The Internet `talked' TCP/IP, while SPAN `spoke'
------------------------------------------------------------- page 22
Indeed, the SPANnetworkwasknownas a DECNET internet. Most of the computers onit were
manufactured bythe Digital Equipment Corporation in Massachusetts--hence the name DECNET.
DEC built powerful computers. Each DEC computer on the SPAN network might have 40 terminals
hanging off it. Some SPAN computers hadmany more. Itwas not unusual for one DEC computer to
service 400 people. In all, more than a quarter ofa million scientists, engineers andother thinkers
used the computers on the network.
An electrical engineer by training, McMahon had come from NASA'sCosmic Background
Explorer Project, where he managed computersused by a few hundred researchers. Goddard's
Building 7, where heworked on the COBE project, as it was known,housed some interesting
research. The project team was attempting to map the universe. And they weretrying to do it in
wavelengths invisible to the human eye. NASAwould launch the COBEsatellite in November 1989.
Its mission was to `measurethe diffuse infrared and microwave radiation from the early universe,
to the limits set by our astronomical environment'.6To the casual observer the project almost
sounded like a piece of modern art, something which might be titled `Map of the Universe in
On 16OctoberMcMahon arrived at the office and settled into work, only to face a surprising
phone call from the SPANproject office. Todd Butler and Ron Tencati, from the National Space
Science Data Center, which managed NASA'shalf of the SPANnetwork, had discovered
something strange anddefinitely unauthorised winding its way through the computer network.It
looked likea computer worm.
A computer worm is a little likea computer virus. It invades computer systems, interfering with
their normal functions. It travelsalong any available compatible computer network and stops to
knock at the door of systems attached to that network.If there is a hole in the security ofthe
computer system, it will crawl through and enter the system. When it does this, it might have
instructions to do any number of things, from sending computer users a message to trying to take
over the system. What makes a worm different from other computer programs, such as viruses, is
that it is self-propagating. It propelsitselfforward, wiggles into a new system and propagates itself
at the new site. Unlike a virus, a wormdoesn't latch onto a data file or a program. It is
The term `worm' asapplied to computers came from John Brunner's 1975 science fiction
classic, The Shockwave Rider. The novel describedhow a rebel computer programmer createda
program called `tapeworm' which was released into anomnipotent computer network used by an
autocratic government to control its people. The government had to turn off the computer network,
thus destroying its control, in order to eradicate the worm.
Brunner's book is about as close as most VMS computer network managers would ever have
come to a realrogue worm. Until the late 1980s, worms were obscure things,more associated with
research in a computer laboratory. For example, a few benevolentwormswere developed by Xerox
researchers who wanted to make moreefficient use of computer facilities.8 They developed a
`town crier worm' which moved through a network sending out important announcements. Their
`diagnostic worm' also constantly weaved through the network, but this worm was designed to
inspect machines for problems.
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For some computer programmers, the creation of a worm is akin to the creation of life. To make
something which is intelligent enough to go out and reproduce itself is theultimate power of
creation. Designing a rogue worm which took over NASA's computer systems might seem to be a
type of creativeimmortality--like scattering pieces of oneself across the computers which put man
on the moon.
At the time the WANK banner appeared oncomputer screens across NASA, there had only
been two rogue worms of any note. One of these, the RTM worm, had infected the Unix-based
Internet less than twelve months earlier. The other worm, known asFather Christmas, was the first
Father Christmas was a small, simple worm which did not cause any permanent damage to the
computer networks it travelled along. Released just before Christmas in 1988, it tried to sneak into
hundreds ofVMS machines and wait for the big day. OnChristmas morning, itwokeup and set to
work with great enthusiasm. Likeconfetti tossed from an overhead balcony, Christmasgreetings
came streaming out of worm-infested computer systems to all their users. No-one within its reach
went without a Christmas card. Itsjob done, the wormevaporated. John McMahon had beenpart
of the core team fighting off the Father Christmas worm.
At about 4 p.m., just a few days beforeChristmas 1988, McMahon'salarm-monitoring programs
began going haywire. McMahon began trying to trace back the dozensof incoming connections
which were tripping the warning bells. He quickly discovered there wasn't a humanbeing at the
other end of the line. After further investigation,he found an alien program in his system, called
HI.COM. As he read the pages of HI.COM code spilling from his line printer, his eyes went wide. He
thought, This isa worm! Hehad never seen a worm before.
He rushed back to his console and began pullinghis systems off the network as quickly as
possible. Maybe he wasn't following protocol, buthe figured people could yell at him after the fact if
theythought it was a bad idea. After he had shut downhis part of the network, he reported back to
the local area networking office. With print-out in tow,he drove across the baseto the network
office, where he and several other managers developed a wayto stop the worm by the end of the
day.Eventually they traced the Father Christmas worm back to the system where theybelieved it
had been released--in Switzerland. But they never discovered who created it.
Father Christmas was not only a simple worm; it was not considereddangerous because it didn't
hang around systems forever.It was a worm with a use-bydate.
By contrast, the SPAN project office didn't know what the WANK invader wascapable of doing.
They didn't know who had written or launched it.But they had a copy of the program. Could
McMahonhave a look at it?
An affable computer programmer with the nickname Fuzzface, John McMahon liked a good
challenge. Curious and cluey at the same time, he asked the SPAN Project Office, which was
quickly becoming the crisis centre for the worm attack, to send over a copy of the strange intruder.
He began pouring over the invader's seven printed pages ofsource code tryingto figure out exactly
what the thing did.
------------------------------------------------------------- page 24
The two previous rogue worms only worked on specific computer systemsand networks. In this
case, the WANK wormonly attacked VMS computer systems. The source code,however, was
unlike anything McMahon had ever seen. `It was like sifting through a pile of spaghetti,' he said.
`You'd pull one strand out and figure, "OK, thatiswhat that thing does."But then you'd be faced
with the rest of the tangled mess in the bowl.'
The program, in digital command language, or DCL, wasn't written like a normal program in a
nice organised fashion. It was all over the place. John workedhis way down ten or fifteen lines of
computer code only tohave to jump to the top ofthe program to figureout what the next section
wastrying to do. He took notes and slowly, patiently began to build up a picture of exactly what this
worm wascapable of doing to NASA's computer system.
It was a big day for theanti-nuclear groups at the Kennedy Space Center. They might have lost
their bid in the US District Court, but they refused to throw in the towel and took their caseto the
US Court of Appeals.
On 16Octoberthe newscame. The AppealsCourt had sided with NASA.
Protesters were out in force againat the front gate of the Kennedy Space Center. At least eight
of them werearrested. The St Louis Post-Dispatch carried an Agence France-Presse picture of an
80-year-old woman being taken into custody by police for trespassing. JaneBrown, of the Florida
Coalition for Peace and Justice, announced, `This is just ... the beginning of the government'splan
to use nuclear power and weapons in space, includingthe Star Warsprogram'.
Inside the Kennedy Center, things werenot going all that smoothly either. Late Monday, NASA's
technical experts discovered yet another problem. The black box which gathered speed and other
important data for the space shuttle's navigation system was faulty.Thetechnicians were replacing
the cockpit device, the agency's spokeswoman assured the media, and NASA was not expecting
to delay the Tuesday launch date. The countdown wouldcontinue uninterrupted. NASAhad
everything under control.
Everything except the weather.
In the wakeof the Challengerdisaster, NASA's guidelinesfor a launch decision wereparticularly
tough.Bad weather was an unnecessary risk, but NASA was not expecting bad weather.
Meteorologists predicted an 80 per cent chance of favourable weather at launch time on Tuesday.
But the shuttle had better go when it was supposed to, because the longer term weather outlook
By Tuesday morning, Galileo's keepers were holding their breath. The countdown for the shuttle
launch was ticking toward 12.57 p.m. The anti-nuclear protesters seemed tohave gone quiet.
Things lookedhopeful. Galileo might finally go.
Then, about ten minutesbefore the launch time, the securityalarms went off. Someone had
broken into the compound.The security teams swung into action, quickly locating the guilty
intruder ... a feral pig.
Withthe pig safely removed, the countdown rolled on. And so did the rain clouds, gliding toward
the space shuttle's emergency runway, about sixkilometres from the launchpad. NASA launch
------------------------------------------------------------- page 25
director RobertSieck prolongeda planned `hold' at T minus nine minutes. Atlantis had a 26-
minute window of opportunity. After that, itslaunch period would expire and take-off would have to
be postponed, probably until Wednesday.
The weather wasn't going to budge.
At 1.18 p.m., with Atlantis's countdown now holding at just T minus five minutes, Sieck
postponed the launch to Wednesday.
Back at the SPAN centre, things werebecominghectic. The worm was spreading through more
and more systems and the phoneswere beginning to ringevery few minutes. NASA computers
were getting hit all over the place.
The SPANproject staff needed morearms. They were simultaneously trying to calm callersand
concentrate on developingan analysis of the alien program. Was the thinga practical joke or a
time bomb just waiting to go off? Who was behind this?
NASA was working in an information voidwhenit came to WANK. Some staff knew of the
protesters' action down at the Space Center, but nothing couldhaveprepared them for this. NASA
officials were confident enough about a link between the protests against Galileo and the attack on
NASA's computers to speculate publicly that the two were related. It seemed a reasonable
likelihood, but there were still plenty of unanswered questions.
Callerscoming into the SPAN office wereworried. People at the other end of the phone were
scared. Many of the callscame from network managerswho took careof a piece of SPAN at a
specific NASA site, such as the Marshall Space Flight Center. Some were panicking; others spoke
in a sort of monotone, flattened bya morning of callsfrom 25 different hysterical system
administrators. A manager could lose his job over something likethis.
Most of the callers to the SPAN head office were starved for information. How did this rogue
worm get intotheir computers? Was it malicious? Would it destroy all the scientific data it came
into contact with? What could be done to kill it?
NASA storeda great deal of valuable information onitsSPAN computers. None of it was
supposed to be classified, but the data on those computersisextremely valuable. Millions of man-
hours go into gathering andanalysing it. So the crisisteam which hadformed in the NASA SPAN
project office,was alarmedwhen reports of massive data destruction starting coming in. People
were phoning to say that the worm was erasing files.
It was every computer manager's worst nightmare, and it looked as though the crisis team's
darkest fears were about to be confirmed.
Yet the worm was behaving inconsistently.Onsome computers it would only send anonymous
messages, some of them funny,some bizarre and a few quite rude or obscene. No sooner would a
user login than a messagewould flash across his or her screen:
Remember, even if you win the rat race--you're still a rat.
Or perhaps they were graced with some badhumour: