The popularity of the Internet has grown immeasurably in the past few years. Along with it the so-called 'hacker' community has grown and risen to a level where it's less of a black market scenario and more of 'A Current Affair' scenario. Misconceptions as to what a hacker is and does run rampant in everyone who thinks they understand what the Internet is after using it a few times. In the next few pages I'm going to do my best to prove the true definition of what a hacker is, how global economic electronic warfare ties into it, background on the Internet, along with a plethora of scatological material purely for your reading enjoyment. I will attempt to use the least technical computer terms I can, but in order to make my point at times I have no choice.
There are many misconceptions, as to the definition, of what a hacker truly is, in all my research this is the best definition I've found:
Pretend your walking down the street, the same street you have always walked down.
One day, you see a big wooden or metal box with wires coming out of it sitting on the sidewalk where there had been none.
Many people won't even notice. Others might say, 'Oh, a box on the street.'. A few might wonder what it does and then move on. The hacker, the true hacker, will see the box, stop, examine it, wonder about it, and spend mental time trying to figure it out. Given the proper circumstances, he might come back later to look closely at the wiring, or even be so bold as to open the box. Not maliciously, just out of curiosity. The hacker wants to know how things work.(8)
Hackers truly are 'America's Most Valuable Resource,'(4:264) as ex-CIA Robert Steele has said. But if we don't stop screwing over our own countrymen, we will never be looked at as anything more than common gutter trash. Hacking computers for the sole purpose of collecting systems like space-age baseball cards is stupid and pointless; and can only lead to a quick trip up the river.
Let's say that everyone was given an opportunity to hack without any worry of prosecution with free access to a safe system to hack from, with the only catch being that you could not hack certain systems. Military, government, financial, commercial and university systems would all still be fair game. Every operating system, every application, every network type all open to your curious minds.
Would this be a good alternative? Could you follow a few simple guidelines for the offer of virtually unlimited hacking with no worry of governmental interference?
Where am I going with this?
Right now we are at war. You may not realize it, but we all feel the implications of this war, because it's a war with no allies, and enormous stakes. It's a war of economics.
The very countries that shake our hands over the conference tables of NATO and the United Nations are picking our pockets. Whether it be the blatant theft of American R&D by Japanese firms, or the clandestine and governmentally-sanctioned bugging of Air France first-class seating, or the cloak-and-dagger hacking of the SWIFT network (1:24) by the German BND's Project Rahab(1:24), America is getting screwed.
Every country on the planet is coming at us. Let's face it, we are the leaders in everything. Period. Every important discovery in this century has been by an American or by an American company. Certainly other countries have better profited by our discoveries, but nonetheless, we are the world's think-tank.
So, is it fair that we keep getting shafted by these so-called 'allies?'. Is it fair that we sit idly by, like some old hound too lazy to scratch at the ticks sucking out our life's blood by the gallon? Hell no.
Let's say that an enterprising group of computer hackers decided to strike back. Using equipment bought legally, using network connections obtained and paid for legally, and making sure that all usage was tracked and paid for, this same group began a systematic attack of foreign computers. Then, upon having gained access, gave any and all information obtained to American corporations and the Federal government.
What laws would be broken? Federal Computer Crime Statutes specifically target so-called 'Federal Interest Computers.'(6:133) (i.e.: banks, telecommunications, military, etc.) Since these attacks would involve foreign systems, those statutes would not apply. If all calls and network connections were promptly paid for, no toll-fraud or other communications related laws would apply.
International law is so muddled that the chances of getting extradited by a country like France for breaking into systems in Paris from Albuquerque is slim at best. Even more slim when factoring in that the information gained was given to the CIA and American corporations.
Every hacking case involving international break-ins has been tried and convicted based on other crimes. Although the media may spray headlines like 'Dutch Hackers Invade Internet' or 'German Hackers Raid NASA,' those hackers were tried for breaking into systems within THEIR OWN COUNTRIES...not somewhere else. A hacker who uses the handle of 8lgm in England got press for hacking world-wide, but got nailed hacking locally(3). Australia's 'Realm Hackers': Phoenix, Electron & Nom hacked almost exclusively other countries, but use of AT&T calling cards rather than Australian Telecom got them a charge of defrauding the Australian government(3). Dutch hacker RGB got huge press hacking a US military site and creating a 'dquayle' account, but got nailed while hacking a local university(3). The list goes on and on.
I asked several people about the workability of my proposal. Most seemed to concur that it was highly unlikely that anyone would have to fear any action by American law enforcement, or of extradition to foreign soil to face charges there. The most likely form of retribution would be eradication by agents of that government.
Well, I'm willing to take that chance, but only after I get further information from as many different sources as I can. I'm not looking for anyone to condone these actions, nor to finance them. I'm only interested in any possible legal action that may interfere with my freedom.
We must take the offensive, and attack the electronic borders of other countries as vigorously as they attack us, if not more so. This is indeed a war, and America must not lose.
There have always been confrontations online. It's unavoidable on the net, as it is in life, to avoid unpleasantness. However, on the net the behavior is far more pronounced since it effects a much greater response from the limited online environments than it would in the real world. People behind such behavior in the real world can be dealt with or avoided, but online they cannot.
In the real world, annoying people don't impersonate you in national forums. In the real world, annoying people don't walk into your room and go through your desk and run through the town showing everyone your private papers or possessions. In the real world, people can't readily imitate your handwriting or voice and insult your friends and family by letter or telephone. In the real world people don't rob or vandalize and leave your fingerprints behind.
The Internet is not the real world.
All of the above continually happens on the Internet, and there is little anyone can do to stop it. The perpetrators know full well how impervious they are to retribution, since the only people who can put their activities to a complete halt are reluctant to open cases against computer criminals due to the complex nature of the crimes.
The Internet still clings to the anarchy of the Arpanet that spawned it, and many people would love for the status quo to remain. However, the actions of a few miscreants will force lasting changes on the net as a whole. The wanton destruction of sites, the petty forgeries, the needless break-ins and the poor blackmail attempts do not go unnoticed by the authorities.
I personally could care less what people do on the net. I know it is fantasy land. I know it exists only in our minds, and should not have any long lasting effect in the real world. Unfortunately, as the net's presence grows larger and larger, and the world begins to accept it as an entity in and of itself, it will be harder to convince those inexperienced users that the net is not real.
I have always played by certain rules and they have worked well for me in the years I've been online. These rules can best be summed up by the following quote, 'We are taught to love all our neighbors. Be courteous. Be peaceful. But if someone lays his hands on you, send them to the cemetery.'
The moment someone crosses the line, and interferes with my
well-being in any setting (even one that is arguably unreal such as the Internet) I will do whatever necessary to ensure that I can once again go about minding my own business unmolested. I am not alone in this feeling. There are hundreds of net-loving anarchists who don't want the extra attention and bad press brought to our little fantasy land by people who never learned how to play well as children. Even these diehard anti-authoritarians are finding themselves caught in a serious quandary: do they do nothing and suffer attacks, or do they make the phone call to Washington and try to get the situation resolved?
Many people cannot afford the risk of striking back electronically, as some people may suggest. Other people do not have the skill set needed to orchestrate an all out electronic assault against an unknown, even if they pay no heed to the legal risk. Even so, should anyone attempt such retribution electronically, the assailant will merely move to a new site and begin anew.
People do not like to deal with police. No one LOVES to call up their local law enforcement office and have a nice chat. Almost everyone feels somewhat nervous dealing with these figures knowing that they may just as well decide to turn their focus on you rather than the people causing problems. Even if you live your life crime-free, there is always that underlying nervousness; even in the real world.
However, begin an assault directed against any individual, and I guarantee he or she will overcome such feelings and make the needed phone call. It isn't the 'hacking' per se that will cause anyone's downfall nor bring about governmental regulation of the net, but the unchecked attitudes and gross disregard for human dignity that runs
What good can come from any of this? Surely people will regain the freedom to go about their business, but what of the added governmental attentions?
Electronic Anti-Stalking Laws?
False Electronic Identification?
Illegal Packet Sniffing equated as Illegal Wiretaps? (7:69)
The potential for new legislation is immense. As the networks further permeate our real lives, the continual unacceptable behavior and following public outcry in that setting will force the ruling bodies to draft such laws. And who will enforce these laws? And who will watch the watchmen? Often times these issues are left to resolve
themselves after the laws have passed.
Is this the future we want? One of increased legislation and governmental regulation? With the development of the supposed National Information Super-Highway, the tools will be in place for a new body to continually monitor traffic for suspect activity and uphold any newly passed legislation. Do not think that the ruling forces have
not considered that potential.
The Information Age has arrived and most people don't recognize the serious nature behind it. Computers and the related technology can either be the answer to the human races problems or a cause for the demise of the race. Right now we rely on computers too much, and have too little security to protect us if they fail. In the coming years, we will see amazing technology permeate every part of our lives, some of which will be welcomed, some won't, and some will be used against us. If we don't learn to handle the power that computers give us in the next few years, we will all pay dearly for it. Remember the warning. The future is here now and most people aren't ready to handle it.
1. Timothy Haight, 'High Tech Spies', Time Magazine, July 5, 1993, p.24
2. Mark Ludwig, 'Beyond van Eck Phreaking', Consumertronics, 1988, p.47
3. 2600: The Hacker Quarterly, Summer 1992
4. Winn Schwartau. Chaos on the Electronic Superhighway. New York, NY; Thunder Mouth's Press. 1994, p.264-267.
5. Phrack, Issue #46
6. Neil Munro, 'Microwave Weapon Stuns Iraqis', Defense News, April 15, 1992, p.133.
7. Alvin and Heidi Toffler, War and Anti-War. Pittsburgh, PA. Little, Brown and Co., 1993, p.69.
8. Hactic, Issue #16 - Fall 1994
Note: Bibliographies number 3,5, and 8 are underground electronic magazines published and spread entirely through the Internet and bulletin boards. There are no page numbers, no authors names are ever given (for security reasons due to content), and obviously no publisher.