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archive:100:revhack.omn
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                    %      REVENGE OF THE HACKERS      %
                    %%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%
                    %        By: Richard Sandza        %
                    %%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%
                    %             Typed by             %
                    %    --==**>>THE REFLEX<<**==--    %
                    %    [Member: Omnipotent, Inc.]    %
                    %%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%
                    %                                  %
                    % This is the follow-up to the     %
                    % article 'Night of the Hackers'.  %
                    % It caused a lot of havok for the %
                    % author.  This originally         %
                    % appeared in NEWSWEEK.            %
                    %                                  %
                    %%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%
   'Conference!' someone yelled as I put the phone to my ear.  Then came a

mind-piercing 'beep,' and suddenly my kitchen seemed full of hyperactive 15- year-olds. 'You the guy that wrote the article in NEWSWEEK?' someone shouted from the depths of static, chatter and giggles. 'We're gonna disconnect your phone,' one shrieked. 'We're going to blow up your house,' called another. I hung up.

   Some irate readers write letters to the editor.  A few call their lawyers.

Hackers, however, use the computer and telephone, and for more than simple comment. Within days, computer 'bulletin boards' around the country were lit up with attacks on NEWSWEEK'S 'Montana Wildhack' (a name I took from a Kurt Vonnegut character), questioning everything from my manhood to my prose style. 'Until we get real good revenge ,' said one message from the Unknown Warrior, 'I would like to suggest that everyone with an auto-dial modem call Montana Butthack then hang up when he answers.' Since then the hackers of America have called my home at least 200 times. My harshest critics communicate on Dragonfire, a Gainesville, Texas, bulletin board where I'm on tele-trial, a video-game lynching in which a computer user with a grievance dials the board and presses charges against an offending party. Other hackers - including the defedant - post concurences or rebuttals. Despite the mealtime interruptions, all of this was at most a minor nuisance; some was amusing, even fun.

   Fraud: The fun stopped with a call from a man who identified himself only

as Joe. 'I'm calling to warn you,' he said. When I barked back, he said, 'Wait, I'm on your side. Someone has broken into TRW and obtained a list of all your credit-card numbers, your home address, social security number and wife's name and is posting it on bulletin boards around the country.' He named the charge cards in my wallet.

   Credit-card numbers are a very hot commodity among hackers.  To get one

from a computer system and post it is the equivilant of making the team. After hearing from Joe I visited the local office of the TRW credit bureau and got a copy of my credit record. Sure enough, it showed a Nov. 13 inquiry by the Lenox (Mass.) Savings Bank, an institution with no reason whatever to ask about me. Cleary some hacker had used Lenox's password to the TRW computers to get to my files (the bank had since changed its password).

   It wasn't long before I found out what was being done with my credit-card

numbers, thanks to another friendly hacker who tipped me to Pirate-80, a bulletin board in Charleston, W. Va., where I found this: 'I'm sure you have heard about Richard Standza [sic] or Montana Wildhack. He's the guy who wrote the obscene story about phreaking in NewsWeek [sic]. Well, my friend did a credit card check on TRW…try this number, it's a VISA…Please nail this guy bad…Captain Quieg [sic].'

   Captain Quieg may himself be nailed.  He has violated the Credit Card

Fraud Act of 1984, signed by President Reagan on Oct. 12. The law provides a $10,000 fine and up to a 15-year prison term for 'trafficking' in illegally obtained credit-card account numbers. His 'friend' has commited a felony violation of the California computer-crime law. TRW Spokeswoman Delia Fernandz said that TRW would 'be more than happy to prosecute' both of them.

   TRW has good reason for concern.  Its computers contain the credit

histories of 120 million people. Last year TRW sold 50 million credit reports to agencies seeking information on their customers. But these highly confidential personal records are so poorly guarded that computerized teenagers can ransack the files and depart undetected. TRW passwords – unlike many others – often print out when entered by TRW's customers. Hackers then look for discarded printouts. A good source: The trash of banks and automobile dealerships, which routinely do credit checks. 'Everybody hacks TRW,' says Cleveland hacker King Blotto, whose bulletin board has a security system the Pentagon would envy, 'It's the easiest.' For her part, Fernandez insists that TRW 'does everything it can do to keep the system secure.'

   In my case, however, that was not enough.  My credit limits would hardly

support many big-time fraud, but victimization takes many forms. Another hacker said it was likely mechandise would be ordered in my name and shipped to me – just to harass me. 'I used to use [credit-card numbers] against someone I didn't like,' the hacker said. 'I'd call Sear's and have a dozen toilets shipped to his house.'

   Meanwhile, back on Dragonfire, my teletrial was going strong.  The

charges, as pressed by the Unknown Warrior, include 'endangering all phreaks and hacks.' The judge in this case is a hacker with the apt name of Axe Murderer. Possible sentences range from 'life exile from the entire planet' to 'kill the dude.' King Blotto has taken up my defense, using hacker power to make his first pleading: he dialed up Dragonfire, broke into its operating system and 'crashed' the bulletin board, destroying all messages damning me. The board is back up now, with a retrial in full swing. But then, exile from the electronic underground looks better all the time.

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