NORTHERN ILLINOIS UNIVERSITY
THE SOCIAL ORGANIZATION OF THE COMPUTER UNDERGROUND
A THESIS SUBMITTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS
FOR THE DEGREE
MASTER OF ARTS
DEPARTMENT OF SOCIOLOGY
GORDON R. MEYER
%CompuServe: 72307,1502% %GEnie: GRMEYER%
Name: Gordon R. Meyer Department: Sociology
Title: The Social Organization of the Computer Underground
Major: Criminology Degree: M.A.
Approved by: Date:
__________________________ ________________________ Thesis Director
NORTHERN ILLINOIS UNIVERSITY
This paper examines the social organization of the
"computer underground" (CU). The CU is composed of
actors in three roles, "computer hackers," "phone
phreaks," and "software pirates." These roles have
frequently been ignored or confused in media and other
accounts of CU activity. By utilizing a data set culled
from CU channels of communication this paper provides
an ethnographic account of computer underground
organization. It is concluded that despite the
widespread social network of the computer underground,
it is organized primarily on the level of colleagues,
with only small groups approaching peer relationships.
Certification: In accordance with departmental and
Graduate School policies, this thesis
is accepted in partial fulfillment
of degree requirements.
_____________________________________ Thesis Director
FOR CRITIQUE, ADVICE, AND COMMENTS:
DR. JAMES L. MASSEY
DR. JIM THOMAS
DR. DAVID F. LUCKENBILL
FOR SUPPORT AND ENCOURAGEMENT:
SPECIAL THANKS TO:
D.C., T.M., T.K., K.L., D.P.,
M.H., AND G.Z.
THIS WORK IS DEDICATED TO:
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
Methodology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
What is the Computer Underground? . . . . . . . . 11
Topography of the Computer Underground . . . . . . 20 Hacking . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 Phreaking . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21 Pirating . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24
Social Organization and Deviant Associations . . . 28
Mutual Association . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31
The Structure of the Computer Underground . . . . 33 Bulletin Board Systems . . . . . . . . . . 33 Towards a BBS Culture . . . . . . . . . 37 Bridges, Loops, and Voice Mail Boxes . . . 53 Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 57
Mutual Participation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 59 Pirate Groups . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63 Phreak/hack groups . . . . . . . . . . . . 64 Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 67
Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 69
REFERENCES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 75
APPENDIX A. COMPUTER UNDERGROUND PSEUDONYMS . . . 76
APPENDIX B. NEW USER QUESTIONNAIRE FROM A PHREAK/HACK BBS . 77
The proliferation of home computers has been
accompanied by a corresponding social problem involving
the activities of so-called "computer hackers."
"Hackers" are computer aficionados who "break in" to
corporate and government computer systems using their
home computer and a telephone modem. The prevalence of
the problem has been dramatized by the media and
enforcement agents, and evidenced by the rise of
specialized private security firms to confront the
"hackers." But despite this flurry of attention,
little research has examined the social world of the
"computer hacker." Our current knowledge in this regard
derives from hackers who have been caught, from
enforcement agents, and from computer security
specialists. The everyday world and activities of the
"computer hacker" remain largely unknown.
This study examines the way actors in the
"computer underground" (CU) organize to perform their
acts. The computer underground, as it is called by
those who participate in it, is composed of actors
adhering to one of three roles: "hackers," "phreakers,"
or "pirates." To further understanding this growing
"social problem," this project will isolate and clarify
these roles, and examine how each contributes to the
culture as a whole. By doing so the sociological
question of how the "underground" is organized will be
answered, rather than the technical question of how CU
participants perform their acts.
Best and Luckenbill (1982) describe three basic
approaches to the study of "deviant" groups. The first
approach is from a social psychological level, where
analysis focuses on the needs, motives, and individual
characteristics of the actors involved. Secondly,
deviant groups can be studied at a socio-structural
level. Here the emphasis is on the distribution and
consequences of deviance within the society as a whole.
The third approach, the one adopted by this work, forms
a middle ground between the former two by addressing
the social organization of deviant groups. Focusing
upon neither the individual nor societal structures
entirely, social organization refers to the network of
social relations between individuals involved in a
common activity (pp. 13-14). Assessing the degree and
manner in which the underground is organized provides
the opportunity to also examine the culture, roles, and
channels of communication used by the computer
underground. The focus here is on the day to day
experience of persons whose activities have been
criminalized over the past several years.
Hackers, and the "danger" that they present in our
computer dependent society, have often received
attention from the legal community and the media. Since
1980, every state and the federal government has
criminalized "theft by browsing" of computerized
information (Hollinger and Lanza-Kaduce, 1988, pp.101-
102). In the media, hackers have been portrayed as
maladjusted losers, forming "high-tech street gangs"
(Chicago Tribune, 1989) that are dangerous to society.
My research will show that the computer underground
consists of a more sophisticated level of social
organization than has been generally recognized. The
very fact that CU participants are to some extent
"networked" has implications for social control
policies that may have been implemented based on an in-
complete understanding of the activity. This project
not only offers sociological insight into the organ-
ization of deviant associations, but may be helpful to
policy makers as well.
I begin with a discussion of the definitional
problems that inhibit the sociological analysis of the
computer underground. The emergence of the computer
underground is a recent phenomenon, and the lack of
empirical research on the topic has created an area
where few "standard" definitions and categories exist.
This work will show that terms such as "hacker,"
"phreaker," and "pirate" have different meanings for
those who have written about the computer underground
and those who participate in it. This work bridges
these inconsistencies by providing definitions that
focus on the intentions and goals of the participants,
rather than the legality or morality of their actions.
Following the definition of CU activities is a
discussion of the structure of the underground.
Utilizing a typology for understanding the social
organization of deviant associations, developed by Best
and Luckenbill (1982), the organization of the
computer underground is examined in depth.
The analysis begins by examining the structure of
mutual association. This provides insight into how CU
activity is organized, the ways in which information is
obtained and disseminated, and explores the subcultural
facets of the computer underground. More importantly,
it clearly illustrates that the computer underground is
primarily a social network of individuals that perform
their acts separately, yet support each other by
sharing information and other resources.
After describing mutual association within the
underground community, evidence of mutual participation
is presented. Although the CU is a social network, the
ties developed at the social level encourage the
formation of small "work groups." At this level, some
members of the CU work in cooperation to perform their
acts. The organization and purposes of these groups are
examined, as well as their relationship to the CU as a
whole. However, because only limited numbers of
individuals join these short-lived associations, it is
concluded that the CU is organized as colleagues. Those
who do join "work groups" display the characteristics
of peers, but most CU activity takes place at a fairly
low level of sophistication.
Adopting an ethnographic approach, data have been
gathered by participating in, monitoring, and cata-
loging channels of communication used by active members
of the computer underground. These channels, which will
be examined in detail later, include electronic
bulletin board systems (BBS), voice mail boxes,
bridges, loops, e-mail, and telephone conversations.
These sources provide a window through which to observe
interactions, language, and cultural meanings without
intruding upon the situation or violating the privacy
of the participants. Because these communication
centers are the "back stage" area of the computer
underground, they provided insight into organizational
(and other) issues that CU participants face, and the
methods they use to resolve them.
As with any ethnographic research, steps have been
taken to protect the identity of informants. The
culture of the computer underground aids the researcher
in this task since phreakers, hackers, and pirates
regularly adopt pseudonyms to mask their identity.
However to further ensure confidentiality, all of the
pseudonyms cited in this research have been changed by
the author. Additionally, any information that is
potentially incriminating has been removed or altered.
The data set used for this study consists
primarily of messages, or "logs," which are the primary
form of communication between users. These logs were
"captured" (recorded using the computer to save the
messages) from several hundred computer bulletin
boards1 located across the United States. The bulk of
the data were gathered over a seventeen month period
(12/87 to 4/89) and will reflect the characteristics of
the computer underground during that time span.
However, some data, provided to the researcher by
cooperative subjects, dates as far back as 1984.
The logged data were supplemented by referring to
several CU "publications." The members of the computer
underground produce and distribute several technical
and tutorial newsletters and "journals." Since these
"publications" are not widely available outside of CU
circles I have given a brief description of each below.
Legion of Doom/Hackers Technical Journal. This
1 Computer Bulletin Boards (BBS) are personal computers that have been equipped with a telephone modem and special software. Users can connect with a BBS by dialing, with their own computer and modem, the phone number to which the BBS is connected. After "logging in" by supplying a valid user name and pass- word, the user can leave messages to other users of the system. These messages are not private and anyone calling the BBS can freely read and respond to them.
publication is written and distributed by a group known
as "The Legion of Doom/Legion of Hackers" (LoD/H). It
is available in electronic format (a computer text
file) and contains highly technical information on
computer operating systems. As of this writing, three
issues have been published.
PHRACK Inc.: Phrack Inc is a newsletter that
contains various articles, written by different
authors, and "published" under one banner. Phrack
Inc's first issue was released in 1985, making it the
oldest of the electronically distributed underground
publications. CU participants are invited to submit
articles to the editors, who release a new issue when a
sufficient number (about nine) of acceptable pieces
have been gathered. Phrack also features a lengthy
"World News" with stories about hackers who have been
apprehended and interviews with various members of the
underground. As of this writing twenty-seven issues of
Phrack, have been published.
Phreakers/Hackers Underground Network (P/Hun):
Like Phrack, P/Hun collects articles from various
authors and releases them as one issue. Three issues
have been published to date.
Activist Times, Incorporated (ATI): Unlike the
other electronically distributed publications, ATI does
not limit itself to strictly computer/telephone news.
Articles normally include commentary on world and
government events, and other "general interest" topics.
ATI issues are generally small and consist of articles
written by a core group of four to seven people.
Unlike the publications discussed thus far, ATI is
available in printed "hard copy" form by sending
postage reimbursement to the editor. ATI is currently
on their 38th issue.
2600 Magazine: Published in a traditional
(printed) magazine format, 2600 (named for the
frequency tone used to make free long distance phone
calls) is arguably an "underground" publication as it
is available on some newsstands and at some libraries.
Begun in 1987 as a monthly magazine, it is now
published quarterly. Subscription rates are $25.00 a
year with a complete back-issue selection available.
The magazine specializes in publishing technical
information on telephone switching systems, satellite
descrambling codes, and news about the computer
TAP/YIPL: First established in 1972 as YIPL (Youth
International Party Line), this publication soon
changed its name to TAP (Technical Assistance Party).
Co-founded by Abbie Hoffman, it is generally recognized
as the grandfather of computer underground
publications. Publication of the 2-4 page newsletter
has been very sporadic over the years, and currently
two different versions of TAP, each published in
different areas of the country, are in circulation.
Utilizing a data set that consists of current
message logs, old messages logs, and various CU
publications yields a reasonably rich collection from
which to draw the analysis. Examination of the older
logs and publications shows that while the actors have
changed over the years, cultural norms and
characteristics have remained consistent over time.
What is the Computer Underground?
Defining the "computer underground" can be
difficult. The sociologist soon finds that there are
several competing definitions of computer underground
activity. Those who have written on the subject, the
media, criminologists, computer programmers, social
control agents, and CU participants themselves, have
adopted definitions consistent with their own social
positions and perspectives. Not surprisingly, these
definitions rarely correspond. Therefore, before
discussing the organization of the computer
underground, it is necessary to discuss and compare the
various definitions. This will illustrate the range of
beliefs about CU activity, and provide a springboard
for the discussion of types of roles and activities
found in the underground.
We begin with a discussion of the media image of
computer hackers. The media's concept of "hackers" is
important because the criminalization of the activity
has largely occurred as the result of media drama-
tization of the "problem" (Hollinger and Lanza-Kaduce,
1988). In fact, it was a collection of newspaper and
film clips that was presented to the United States
Congress during legislative debates as evidence of the
computer hacking problem (Hollinger and Lanza-Kaduce,
1988, p.107). Unfortunately, the media assessment of
the computer underground displays a naive understanding
of CU activity.
The media generally makes little distinction
between different types of CU activity. Most any
computer-related crime activity can be attributed to
"hackers." Everything from embezzlement to computer
viruses have, at one time or another, been attributed
to them. Additionally, hackers are often described as
being sociopathic or malicious, creating a media image
of the computer underground that may exaggerate their
propensity for doing damage.
The labeling of hackers as being "evil" is well
illustrated by two recent media examples. The first is
from Eddie Schwartz, a WGN-Radio talk show host. Here
Schwartz is addressing "Anna," a self-identified hacker
that has phoned into the show:
You know what Anna, you know what disturbs me? You don't sound like a stupid person but you represent a . . . a . . . a . . . lack of morality that disturbs me greatly. You really do. I think you represent a certain way of thinking that is morally bankrupt. And I'm not trying to offend you, but I . . . I'm offended by you! (WGN Radio, 1988)
Just two months later, NBC-TV's "Hour Magazine"
featured a segment on "computer crime." In this
example, Jay Bloombecker, director of the National
Center for Computer Crime Data, discusses the "hacker
problem" with the host of the show, Gary Collins.
Collins: . . . are they %hackers% malicious in intent, or are they simply out to prove, ah, a certain machismo amongst their peers?
Bloombecker: I think so. I've talked about "modem macho" as one explanation for what's being done. And a lot of the cases seem to involve %proving% %sic% that he . . . can do something really spiffy with computers. But, some of the cases are so evil, like causing so many computers to break, they can't look at that as just trying to prove that you're better than other people.
GC: So that's just some of it, some kind of "bet" against the computer industry, or against the company.
JB: No, I think it's more than just rottenness. And like someone who uses graffiti doesn't care too much whose building it is, they just want to be destructive.
GC: You're talking about a sociopath in control of a computer!
JB: Ah, lots of computers, because there's thousands, or tens of thousands %of hackers% (NBC-TV, 1988).
The media image of computer hackers, and thus all
members of the computer underground, is burdened with
value-laden assumptions about their psychological
makeup, and focuses almost entirely upon the morality
of their actions. Additionally, since media stories
are taken from the accounts of police blotters,
security personnel, and hackers who have been caught,
each of whom have different perspectives and
definitions of their own, the media definition, if not
inherently biased, is at best inconsistent.
Criminologists, by way of contrast, have done
little to define the computer underground from a
sociological perspective. Those criminological
definitions that do exist are less judgmental than the
media image, but no more precise. Labels of
"electronic trespassers" (Parker, 1983), and
"electronic vandals" (Bequai, 1987) have both been
applied to hackers. Both terms, while acknowledging
that "hacking" is deviant, shy away from labeling it as
"criminal" or sociopathic behavior. Yet despite this
seemingly non-judgmental approach to the computer
underground, both Parker and Bequai have testified
before Congress, on behalf of the computer security in-
dustry, on the "danger" of computer hackers.
Unfortunately, their "expert" testimony was largely
based on information culled from newspaper stories, the
objectiveness of which has been seriously questioned
(Hollinger and Lanza-Kaduce 1988 p.105).
Computer security specialists, on the other hand,
are often quick to identify CU participants as part of
the criminal element. Correspondingly, some reject the
notion that there are different roles and motivations
among computer underground participants and thereby
refuse to define just what it is that a "hacker" or
"phreaker" does. John Maxfield, a "hacker expert,"
suggests that differentiating between "hackers" and
"phone phreaks" is a moot point, preferring instead
that they all just be called "criminals" (WGN-Radio.
Sept 28, 1988).
The reluctance or inability to differentiate
between roles and activities in the computer
underground, as exhibited in the media and computer
security firms, creates an ambiguous definition of
"hacker" that possesses two extremes: the modern-day
bank robber at one end, the trespassing teenager at the
other. Thus, most any criminal or mischievous act that
involves computers can be attributed to "hackers,"2
regardless of the nature of the crime.
Further compounding the inconsistent use of
"hacker" is the evolution of meaning that the word has
undergone. "Hacker" was first applied to computer
related activities when it was used by programmers in
the late 1950's. At that time it referred to the
pioneering researchers, such as those at M.I.T., who ____________________
2 During the WGN-Radio show on computer crime one caller, who was experiencing a malfunctioning phone that would "chirp" occasionally while hung up, believed that "computer hackers" were responsible for the problem. The panel assured her that it was unrelated to CU activity.
were constantly adjusting and experimenting with the
new technology (Levy, 1984. p.7). A "hacker" in this
context refers to an unorthodox, yet talented,
professional programmer. This use of the term still
exits today, though it is largely limited to
professional computing circles.
Another definition of "hacker" refers to one who
obtains unauthorized, if not illegal, access to
computer systems and networks. This definition was
popularized by the movie War Games and, generally
speaking, is the one used by the media.3 It is also the
definition favored by the computer underground.
Both the members of the computer underground and
computer programmers claim ownership of "hacker," and
each defend the "proper" use of term. The computer
professionals maintain that using "hackers" (or
"hacking") to refer to any illegal or illicit activity
is a corruption of the "true" meaning of the word. Bob
Bickford, a professional programmer who has organized
several programmer conferences, explains: ____________________
3 This is not always true of course. The AP Stylebook has yet to specify how "hacker" should be used. A recent Associated Press story featured a computer professional explaining that a "real hacker" would never do anything illegal. Yet just a few weeks later Associated Press distributed stories proclaiming that West German "hackers" had broken into US Defense Department computer systems.
At the most recent conference %called "Hackers 4.0"% we had 200 of the most brilliant computer professionals in the world together for one weekend; this crowd included several PhD's, several presidents of companies (including large companies, such as Pixar), and various artists, writers, engineers, and programmers. These people all consider themselves Hackers: all derive great joy from their work, from finding ways around problems and limits, from creating rather than destroying. It would be a great disservice to these people, and the thousands of professionals like them, to let some pathetic teenaged criminals destroy the one word which captures their style of interaction with the universe: Hackers (Bickford, 1988).
Participants in the computer underground also
object to the "misuse" of the term. Their objection
centers around the indiscriminate use of the word to
refer to computer related crime in general and not,
specifically, the activities of the computer
Whenever the slightest little thing happens involving computer security, or the breach thereof, the media goes fucking bat shit and points all their fingers at us 'nasty hackers.' They're so damned ignorant it's sick (EN, message log, 1988).
. . . whenever the media happens upon anything that involves malicious computer use it's the "HACKERS." The word is a catch phrase it makes mom drop the dishes and watch the TV. They use the word because not only they don't really know the meaning but they have lack of a word to describe the perpetrator. That's why hacker has such a bad name, its always associated with evil things and such (PA, message log, 1988).
I never seen a phreaker called a phreaker
when caught and he's printed in the newspaper. You always see them "Hacker caught in telephone fraud." "Hacker defrauds old man with phone calling card." What someone should do is tell the fucken (sic) media to get it straight (TP2, message log, 1988).
Obviously the CU and computer professional
definitions of "hacker" refer to different social
groups. As Best and Luckenbill (1982, p. 39) observe:
"Every social group modifies the basic language to fit
its own circumstance, creating new words or using
ordinary words in special ways." Which definition, if
either, will come into widespread use remains to be
seen. However, since computer break-ins are likely to
receive more media attention than clever feats of
programming, the CU definition is likely to dominate
simply by being used more often.4 But as long as the
two definitions do exist there will be confusion unless
writers and researchers adequately specify the group
under discussion. For this reason, I suggest that
sociologists, and criminologists in particular, adopt
the "underground" definition for consistency and ____________________
4 Another factor may be the adoption of a close proximity to the underground definition being included in the 1986 edition of Webster's New World dictionary: hack.er n. 1. a person who hacks 2. an unskilled golfer, tennis player, etc. 3. a talented amateur user of computers, specif. one who attempts to gain unauthorized access to files.
accuracy when speaking of the actions of CU
While it is recognized that computer hacking is a
relatively new phenomenon, the indiscriminant use of
the term to refer to many different forms of unorthodox
computer use has been counterproductive to
understanding the extent of the activity. To avoid this
a "computer hacker" should be defined as an individual,
associated with the computer underground, who
specializes in obtaining unauthorized access to
computer systems. A "phone phreak" in an individual,
associated with the computer underground, who
specializes in obtaining unauthorized information about
the phone system. A "software pirate" is an
individual, associated with the computer underground,
who distributes or collects copyrighted computer
software. These definitions have been derived from the
data, instead of relying upon those who defend the
"integrity" of the original meanings, or those who are
unfamiliar with the culture.
Topography of the Computer Underground
Having defined the three main roles in the
computer underground, it is necessary to examine each
activity separately in order to provide a general
typology of the computer underground. In doing so, the
ways in which each contributes to the culture as a
whole will be illustrated, and the divisions between
them that affect the overall organization will be
developed. Analysis of these roles and divisions is
crucial to understanding identity, access, and mobility
within the culture.
In the vernacular of the computer underground,
"hacking" refers to gaining access and exploring
computer systems and networks. "Hacking" encompasses
both the act and the methods used to obtain valid user
accounts on computer systems.
"Hacking" also refers to the activity that
occurs once access to another computer has been
obtained. Since the system is being used without
authorization, the hacker does not, generally speaking,
have access to the usual operating manuals and other
resources that are available to legitimate users.
Therefore, the hacker must experiment with commands and
explore various files in order to understand and
effectively use the system. The goal here is to
explore and experiment with the system that has been
entered. By examining files and, perhaps, by a little
clever programming, the hacker may be able to obtain
protected information or more powerful access
Another role in the computer underground is that
of the "phone phreak." Phone phreaking, usually called
just "phreaking," was widely publicized when the
exploits of John "Cap'n Crunch" Draper, the "father of
phreaking," were publicized in a 1971 Esquire magazine
The term "phreaking" encompasses several different
means of circumventing the billing mechanisms of
telephone companies. By using these methods, long- ____________________
5 Contrary to the image sometimes perpetuated by computer security consultants, the data indicate that hackers refrain from deliberately destroying data or otherwise damaging the system. Doing so would conflict with their instrumental goal of blending in with the average user so as not to attract undue attention to their presence and cause the account to be deleted. After spending what may be a substantial amount of time obtaining a high access account, the hacker places a high priority on not being discovered using it.
distance phone calls can be placed without cost. In
many cases the methods also prevent, or at least
inhibit, the possibility of calls being traced to their
source thereby helping the phreaker to avoid being
Early phreaking methods involved electro-
mechanical devices that generated key tones, or altered
line voltages in certain ways as to trick the
mechanical switches of the phone company into
connecting calls without charging. However the advent
of computerized telephone-switching systems largely
made these devices obsolete. In order to continue
their practice the phreaks have had to learn hacking
Phreaking and hacking have just recently merged, because now, the telephone companies are using computers to operate their network. So, in order to learn more about these computers in relation to the network, phreaks have learned hacking skills, and can now program, and get around inside the machines (AF, message log, 1988).
For most members of the computer underground,
phreaking is simply a tool that allows them to call
long distance without amassing enormous phone bills. ____________________
6 Because the two activities are so closely related, with phreakers learning hacking skills and hackers breaking into "telco" computers, reference is usually made to phreak/hacking or "p/hackers." This paper follows this convention.
Those who have a deeper and more technically oriented
interest in the "telco" (telephone company) are known
as phreakers. They, like the hackers discussed earlier,
desire to master and explore a system that few
outsiders really understand:
The phone system is the most interesting, fascinating thing that I know of. There is so much to know. Even phreaks have their own areas of knowledge. There is so much to know that one phreak could know something fairly important and the next phreak not. The next phreak might know ten things that the first phreak doesn't though. It all depends upon where and how they get their info. I myself %sic% would like to work for the telco, doing something interesting, like programming a switch. Something that isn't slave labor bullshit. Something that you enjoy, but have to take risks in order to participate unless you are lucky enough to work for the telco. To have access to telco things, manuals, etc would be great (DP, message log, 1988).
Phreaking involves having the dedication to commit yourself to learning as much about the phone system/network as possible. Since most of this information is not made public, phreaks have to resort to legally questionable means to obtain the knowledge they want (TP2, message log, 1988).
Most members of the underground do not approach
the telephone system with such passion. Many hackers
are interested in the phone system solely to the extent
that they can exploit its weaknesses and pursue other
goals. In this case, phreaking becomes a means and not
a pursuit unto itself. Another individual, one who
identifies himself as a hacker, explains:
I know very little about phones . . . I just hack. See, I can't exactly call these numbers direct. A lot of people are in the same boat. In my case, phreaking is a tool, an often used one, but nonetheless a tool (TU, message log, 1988).
In the world of the computer underground, the
ability to "phreak a call" is taken for granted. The
invention of the telephone credit card has opened the
door to wide-scale phreaking. With these cards, no
special knowledge or equipment is required to phreak a
call, only valid credit card numbers, known as "codez,"
are needed to call any location in the world. This
easy access to free long-distance service is
instrumental for maintaining contact with CU
participants scattered across the nation.
The third major role in the computer underground
is that of the software pirate. Software piracy refers
to the unauthorized copying and distribution of copy-
righted software. This activity centers around
computer bulletin board systems that specialize in
"warez."7 There pirates can contribute and share ____________________
7 "Warez" is a common underground term that refers to pirated software.
copies of commercial software. Having access to these
systems (usually obtained by contributing a copyrighted
program via a telephone modem) allows the pirate to
copy, or "download," between two to six programs that
others have contributed.
Software piracy is a growing concern among
software publishing companies. Some contend that the
illegal copying of software programs costs the industry
billions of dollars in lost revenues. Pirates challenge
this, and claim that in many ways pirating is a hobby,
much like collecting stamps or baseball cards, and
their participation actually induces them to spend more
on software than they would otherwise, even to the
point of buying software they don't truly need:
There's a certain sense of, ahh, satisfaction in having the latest program, or being the first to upload a program on the "want list." I just like to play around with them, see what they can do. If I like something, I'll buy it, or try out several programs like it, then buy one. In fact, if I wasn't pirating, I wouldn't buy any warez, because some of these I buy I do for uploading or just for the fun of it. So I figure the software companies are making money off me, and this is pretty much the same for all the really elite boards, the ones that have the best and most programs. . . . I just bought a $117. program, an accounting program, and I have absolutely no use for it. It's for small businesses. I thought maybe it would auto- write checks, but it's really a bit too high powered for me. I thought it would be fun to trade to some other boards, but I learned a lot from just looking at it (JX, field notes, 1989).
Pirates and phreak/hackers do not necessarily
support the activities of each other, and there is
distrust and misunderstanding between the two groups.
At least part of this distrust lies in the
phreak/hacker perception that piracy is an unskilled
activity.8 While p/hackers probably don't disapprove
of piracy as an activity, they nevertheless tend to
avoid pirate bulletin board systems --partly because
there is little pertinent phreak/hack information
contained on them, and partly because of the belief
that pirates indiscriminately abuse the telephone
network in pursuit of the latest computer game. One
hacker illustrates this belief by theorizing that
pirates are responsible for a large part of telephone
credit card fraud.
The media claims that it is solely hackers who are responsible for losses pertaining to large telecommunication companies and long distance services. This is not the case. We are %hackers% but a small portion of these losses. The rest are caused by pirates and thieves who sell these codes to people on the street (AF, message log, 1988).
Other hackers complained that uploading large ____________________
8 A possible exception to this are those pirates that have the programming skills needed to remove copy protection from software. By removing the program code that inhibits duplicate copies from being made these individuals, known as "crackers," contribute greatly to the easy distribution of "warez."
programs frequently takes several hours to complete,
and it is pirate calls, not the ones placed by "tele-
communications enthusiasts" (a popular euphemism for
phreakers and hackers) that cost the telephone industry
large sums of money. However, the data do not support
the assertation that all pirates phreak their calls.
Phreaking is considered "very tacky" among elite
pirates, and system operators (Sysops) of pirate
bulletin boards discourage phreaked calls because it
draws attention to the system when the call is
discovered by the telephone company.
Regardless of whether it is the lack of phreak/
hack skills, the reputation for abusing the network, or
some other reason, there is indeed a certain amount of
division between the world of phreakers and hackers and
that of pirates. The two communities co-exist and share
resources and methods, but function separately.
Social Organization and Deviant Associations
Having outlined and defined the activities of the
computer underground, the question of social
organization can be addressed. Joel Best and David
Luckenbill (1982) have developed a typology for
identifying the social organization of deviant
associations. Essentially they state that deviant
organizations, regardless of their actual type of
deviance, will vary in the complexity of their division
of labor, coordination among organization roles, and
the purposiveness with which they attempt to achieve
their goals. Those organizations which display high
levels in each of these categories are more
sophisticated than those with lower levels.
Deviants relations with one another can be arrayed along the dimension of organizational sophistication. Beginning with the least sophisticated form, %we% discuss five forms of the social organization of deviants: loners, colleagues, peers, mobs, and formal organizations. These organization forms are defined in terms of four variables: whether the deviants associate with one another; whether they participate in deviance together; whether their deviance requires an elaborate division of labor; and whether their organization's activities extend over time and space (Best and Luckenbill, 1982, p.24).
These four variables, also known as mutual association,
mutual participation, elaborate division of labor, and
extended organization, are indicators of the social
organization of deviant groups. The following, taken
from Best and Luckenbill, illustrates:
FORM OF MUTUAL MUTUAL DIVISION EXTENDED ORGAN- ASSOCIA- PARTICIPA- OF ORGAN- IZATION TION TION LABOR IZATION ----------------------------------------------------- Loners no no no no Colleagues yes no no no Peers yes yes no no Mobs yes yes yes no Formal Organizations yes yes yes yes _____________________________________________________ (1982, p.25)
Loners do not associate with other deviants, participate in shared deviance, have a division of labor, or maintain their deviance over extended time and space. Colleagues differ from loners because they associate with fellow deviants. Peers not only associate with one another, but also participate in deviance together. In mobs, this shared participation requires an elaborate division of labor. Finally, formal organizations involve mutual association, mutual participation, an elaborate division of labor, and deviant activities extended over time and space (Best and Luckenbill, 1982, pp.24-25).
The five forms of organizations are presented as
ideal types, and "organizational sophistication" should
be regarded as forming a continuum with groups located
at various points along the range (Best and Luckenbill,
1982, p.25). With these two caveats in mind, we begin
to examine the computer underground in terms of each of
the four organizational variables. The first level,
mutual association, is addressed in the following
Mutual association is an indicator of
organizational sophistication in deviant associations.
Its presence in the computer underground indicates that
on a social organization level phreak/hackers act as
"colleagues." Best and Luckenbill discuss the
advantages of mutual association for unconventional
The more sophisticated the form of organization, the more likely the deviants can help one another with their problems. Deviants help one another in many ways: by teaching each other deviant skills and a deviant ideology; by working together to carry out complicated tasks; by giving each other sociable contacts and moral support; by supplying one another with deviant equipment; by protecting each other from the authorities; and so forth. Just as %others% rely on one another in the course of everyday life, deviants find it easier to cope with practical problems when they have the help of deviant associates (1982,pp.27-28).
Hackers, phreakers, and pirates face practical
problems. For example, in order to pursue their
activities they require equipment9 and knowledge. The ____________________
9 The basic equipment consists of a modem, phone line, and a computer -- all items that are available through legitimate channels. It is the way the equipment is used, and the associated knowledge that is required, that distinguishes hackers from other computer users.
problem of acquiring the latter must be solved and,
additionally, they must devise ways to prevent
discovery , apprehension and sanctioning by social
One method of solving these problems is to turn to
other CU members for help and support. Various means
of communication have been established that allow
individuals to interact regardless of their location.
As might be expected, the communication channels used
by the CU reflect their interest and ability in high-
technology, but the technical aspects of these methods
should not overshadow the mutual association that they
support. This section examines the structure of
mutual association within the computer underground.
10 Telephone company security personnel, local law enforcement, FBI, and Secret Service agents have all been involved in apprehending hackers.
The Structure of the Computer Underground
Both computer underground communities, the
p/hackers and the pirates, depend on communications
technology to provide meeting places for social and
"occupational" exchanges. However, phreakers, hackers,
and pirates are widely dispersed across the country
and, in many cases, the globe. In order for the
communication to be organized and available to
participants in many time zones and "working" under
different schedules, centralized points of information
distribution are required. Several existing
technologies --computer bulletin boards, voice mail
boxes, "chat" lines, and telephone bridges/loops --
have been adopted by the CU for use as communication
points. Each of these technologies will be addressed in
turn, giving cultural insight into CU activities, and
illustrating mutual association among CU participants.
Bulletin Board Systems
Communication in the computer underground takes
place largely at night, and primarily through Bulletin
Board Systems (BBS). By calling these systems and
"logging on" with an account and password individuals
can leave messages to each other, download files and
programs, and, depending on the number of phone lines
into the system, type messages to other users that may
be logged on at the same time.
Computer Bulletin Board Systems, or "boards," are
quite common in this computerized age. Nearly every
medium-sized city or town has at least one. But not all
BBS are part of the computer underground culture. In
fact, many systems prohibit users from discussing CU
related activity. However, since all bulletin boards
systems essentially function alike it is only the
content, users, and CU culture that distinguish an
"underground" from a "legitimate" bulletin board.
Computer Underground BBS are generally owned and
operated by a single person (known as the "system
operator" or "sysop"). Typically setup in a spare
bedroom, the costs of running the system are paid by
the sysop, though some boards solicit donations from
users. The sysop maintains the board and allocates
accounts to people who call the system.
It is difficult to assess the number of
underground bulletin boards in operation at any one
time. BBS in general are transitory in nature, and CU
boards are no exception to this. Since they are
operated by private individuals, they are often set up
and closed down at the whim of the operator. A week
that sees two new boards come online may also see
another close down. A "lifetime" of anywhere from 1
month to 1-1/2 years is common for pirate and
phreak/hack boards.11 One BBS, claimed to be the
"busiest phreak/hack board in the country" at the
time,12 operated for less than one year and was
suddenly closed when the operator was laid off work.
Further compounding the difficulty of estimating
the number of CU boards is their "underground" status.
CU systems do not typically publicize their existence.
However, once access to one has been achieved, it is
easy to learn of other systems by asking users for the
phone numbers. Additionally, most BBS maintain lists
of other boards that users can download or read. So it
is possible, despite the difficulties, to get a feel
for the number of CU boards in operation. Pirate
boards are the most common of "underground" BBS. While
there is no national "directory" of pirate boards,
there are several listings of numbers for specific ____________________
11 While some non-CU BBS' have been operating since 1981, the longest operating phreak/hack board has only been in operation since 1984.
12 At it's peak this p/h board was receiving 1000 calls a month and supported a community of 167 users (TP BBS, message log, 1989).
computer brands.13 One list of Apple pirate boards has
700 entries. Another, for IBM boards, lists just over
500. While there is no way of determining if these
lists are comprehensive, they provide a minimum
estimate. Pirate boards for systems other than IBM or
Apple seem to exhibit similar numbers. David Small, a
software developer that has taken an aggressive stance
in closing down pirate boards, estimates that there are
two thousand in existence at any one time (1988).
Based on the boards discovered in the course of this
research, and working from an assumption that each of
the four major brands of microcomputers have equal
numbers of pirate boards, two thousand is a reasonable
The phreak/hack BBS community is not divided by
differing brands of micro-computers. The applicability
of phreak/hack information to a wide range of systems
does not require the specialization that pirate boards
exhibit. This makes it easier to estimate the number
of systems in this category.
John Maxfield, a computer security consultant, has
asserted that there are "thousands" of phreak/hack ____________________
13 Pirate boards are normally "system specific" in that they only support one brand or model of microcomputer.
boards in existence (WGN-Radio, November 1988). The
data, however, do not confirm this. A list of
phreak/hack boards compiled by asking active p/hackers
and downloading BBS lists from known phreak/hack
boards, indicates that there are probably no more than
one hundred. Experienced phreak/hackers say that the
quality of these boards varies greatly, and of those
that are in operation today only a few (less than ten)
attract the active and knowledgeable user.
Right after "War Games" came out there must have been hundreds of hacker bulletin boards spring up. But 99% of those were lame. Just a bunch of dumb kids that saw the movie and spent all there %sic% time asking "anyone got any k00l numberz?" instead of actually hacking on anything. But for a while there was %sic% maybe ten systems worth calling . . . where you could actually learn something and talk to people who knew what was going Nowadays %sic% there are maybe three that I consider good . . . and about four or five others that are okay. The problem is that anybody can set up a board with a k-rad name and call it a hacker board and the media/feds will consider it one if it gets busted. But it never really was worth a shit from the beginning.(TP2, field notes, 1989)
Towards a BBS Culture. Defining and identifying
CU boards can be problematic. The lack of an ideal
type undoubtedly contributes to the varying estimates
of the number of CU bulletin board systems. While
developing such a typology is not the intent of this
work, it is appropriate to examine the activities and
characteristics exhibited by BBS supporting the pirate
and phreak/hack communities. While much of the culture
of pirate and phreak/hack worlds overlap, there are
some differences in terms of how the BBS medium is used
to serve their interests. We begin with a short
discussion of the differences between the two
communities, then discuss cultural characteristics
common to all CU BBS systems.
All BBS feature a "files area" where programs and
text files are available for downloading by users.
Initially these programs/files are supplied by the
system operator, but as the board grows they are
contributed (called "uploading") by callers. The
content and size of the files area differs according to
whether the board supports the pirate or phreak/hack
The files area on a pirate board consists
primarily of programs and program documentation.
Normally these programs are for only one brand of
micro-computer (usually the same as the system is being
run on). Text files on general or non-computer topics
are uncommon. A "files area" menu from a pirate BBS
illustrates the emphasis on software:
%1% Documentation %2% Telecommunications %3% Misc Applications %4% Word Processing %5% Graphics %6% Utilities %7% Games 1 %8% Games 2
%9% XXX Rated %10% Elite_1 %11% Elite_2 %12% Super_Elite (IN BBS, message log, 1988)
The "files area" on a phreak/hack BBS is
noticeably smaller than it is on pirate systems. It
consists primarily of instructional files (known as "g-
files" for "general files") and copies of phreak/hack
newsletters and journals. Pirated commercial software
is very rare; any programs that are available are
usually non-copyrighted specialized programs used to
automate the more mundane aspects of phreaking or
hacking. It is not uncommon to find them in forms
usable by different brands of computers. A "files
area" list from a phreak/hack BBS is listed here
(edited for size):
Misc Stuff ------------- BRR2 .TXT: Bell Research Report Volume II BRR1 .TXT: Bell Research Report Volume I CONFIDE .ARC: Confide v1.0 DES EnCryption/DeCryption CNA .TXT: A bunch of CNA numbers CLIPS .ARC: newsclippings/articles on hackers and busts ESS1 .TXT: FILE DESCRIBING THE ESS1 CHIP TELEPHON.TXT: NY Times Article on hackers/phreaks HP-3000 .TXT: This tells a little info about hp VIRUS .TXT: Digest of PC anti-viral programs.
Hack/Phreak Programs ----------------------- THIEF .ARC: Code Thief for IBM! PC-LOK11.ARC: IBM Hard Disk Lock Utility- fairly good. PHONELIS.COM: Do a PHONE DIR command on VAX from DCL. XMO .FOR: VAX Xmodem Package in FORTRAN
PASSWORD.ARC: IBM Password on bootup. Not too bad.
Archived Gfiles ---------------------- PHRACK15.ARC: Phrack #15 PHRACK10.ARC: Phrack #10 PHRACK20.ARC: Phrack #20 ATI1_6.ARC : ATI issues one thru six PHRACK5.ARC : Phrack #5 PHRACK25.ARC: Phrack #25 PHUN1.ARC : P/Hun first issue TCSJ.ARC : Telecom Security Journal ATI31.ARC : Activist Times Inc number 31 LODTECH3.ARC: LoD Tech Journal three (TPP BBS, message log, 1988)
The difference in files area size is consistent
with the activities of pirates and phreak/hackers. The
main commodity of exchange between pirates is, as
discussed earlier, copyrighted software thus accounting
for the heavy use of that area of the board that
permits exchange of programs. The phreak/hackers, on
the other hand, primarily exchange information about
outside systems and techniques. Their interests are
better served by the "message bases" of BBS.
The "message bases" (areas where callers leave
messages to other users) are heavily used on
phreak/hack systems. The messages are not specific to
one brand of micro-computer due to the fact that not
all users own the same equipment. Rather than focus on
the equipment owned by the phreak/hacker, the messages
deal with their "targets." Everything from
phreak/hacking techniques to CU gossip is discussed. On
some boards all the messages, regardless of topic, are
strung together in one area. But on others there are
separate areas dealing with specific networks and
Message Boards available:
1 : General 2 : Telecommunications 3 : Electronics 4 : Packet Switched Nets 5 : VAX/DEC 6 : Unix 7 : Primos 8 : HP-x000 9 : Engineering 10 : Programming & Theory 11 : Phrack Inc. 12 : Sociological Inquiries 13 : Security Personnel & Discussion 14 : Upper Deck 15 : Instructors (TPP BBS, message log, 1988)
The pirate community, on the other hand, makes
little use of the "message bases." Most users prefer to
spend their time (which may be limited by the system
operator on a per day or per call basis) uploading
and/or downloading files rather than leaving messages
for others. Those messages that do exist are usually
specific to the pirating enterprise such as help with
programs on the board, requests for specific programs
("want lists"), and notices about other pirate bulletin
boards that users may want to call. Occasional
discussion of phreaking may occur, but the emphasis is
on techniques used to make free calls, not technical
network discussions as often occurs on phreak/hack
systems. A list of message areas from a large pirate
BBS illustrates the emphasis on the pirating
enterprise. A message area for general discussions has
been created, but those areas devoted to pirating
display more use:
Area %1% General Discussion 15 messages Area %2% Pirating Only!! 75 messages Area %3% Warez Wants 31 messages Area %4% **private messages** 10 messages (TL BBS, message log, 1988)
In addition to the differences between files and
message use on pirate and phreak/hack boards, they
differ in degree of community cohesiveness. Every BBS
has a group of "users" --the people who have accounts
on the system. The group of users that call a specific
BBS can be considered to be a "community" of loosely
associated individuals by virtue of their "membership"
in the BBS.
Additionally, the system itself, serving either
pirates or phreak/hackers, exists within a loose
network of other bulletin boards that serve these same
interests. It is within this larger community where
pirate and phreak/hack boards seem to differ.
Due to the brand-specific nature of pirate boards,
there is not a strong network between pirate BBS that
operate on other systems. This is understandable as a
pirate that owned an Apple computer would have little
use for the programs found on an IBM board. However,
this creates separate communities of active pirates,
each loosely associated with other users of their
computer type, but with little or no contact with
pirate communities on other systems.
There is, however, a degree of cohesiveness among
pirate boards that support the same micro-computers.
While the users may be different on systems, the data
shows that some pirate boards are "networked" with each
other via special software that allows messages and
files to be automatically shared between different
boards. Thus a message posted on a west coast pirate
board will be automatically copied on an east coast BBS
later that night. In a like manner, software programs
can be sent between "networked" boards. The extent of
this network is unknown.
The pirate BBS community also exhibits
cohesiveness in the form of "co-sysops." As discussed
earlier, sysops are the system operators and usually
owners of BBS. On some pirate boards, "co-sysop"
distinction is given to an operator of another board,
often located in another state. This forms a loose
network of "sister boards" where the sysop of one has
co-sysop privileges on the other. However, this
cooperative effort appears to be limited mainly to the
system operators as comparing user lists from sister
boards shows little overlap between the regular
callers. How co-sysop positions are utilized is
unknown, and it is suspected that they are largely
honorary. But nonetheless it is indicative of mutual
association between a small number of boards.
The phreak/hack board community does not exhibit
the same brand-specific division as the pirate
community. Unlike the divided community of pirates,
phreak/hackers appear to maintain contacts throughout
the country. Obtaining and comparing user lists from
several phreak/hack BBS reveals largely the same group
of people using several different boards across the
country.14 While phreak/hack boards have yet to adopt
the "networking" software used by pirate boards, an
active group of phreak/hackers is known to use the
sophisticated university mainframe computer network,
called Bitnet, to exchange phreak/hack newsletters and
Despite the operational differences between pirate ____________________
14 In fact, users lists from phreak/hack BBSs located in Europe and Australia show that many U.S. p/hackers utilize these systems as well.
and phreak/hack boards, their cultures are remarkably
similar. Any discussion of the computer underground
must include both communities. Additionally, a
formulation of the culture of CU BBS must address the
means in which access to the board, and thus deviant
associates, is obtained.
For a caller to successfully enter the CU BBS
community, he must display an awareness of CU culture
and technical skill in the CU enterprise. If the caller
fails to exhibit cultural knowledge, then access to the
board is unlikely to be granted. The ways in which
this cultural knowledge is obtained and displayed
illustrates the social nature of the CU and further
displays some of the subcultural norms of behavior.
On most "licit" (non-underground) boards,
obtaining permission to use the system is accomplished
by logging on and providing a name and home phone
number to the system operator (sysop). Sysop's
normally do not check the validity of the information,
and once a caller has provided it he or she is granted
full access to the system. There is normally one level
of access for all users, with only the sysop having
more "powerful" access.
Obtaining access to underground bulletin boards is
more complicated and requires more steps to complete.
In an attempt to prevent law enforcement agents
("feds") from obtaining accounts on systems where
pirates or p/hackers are vulnerable, if not to actual
arrest, then at least to exposing their latest act-
ivities and methods, sysop's of illicit boards attempt
to limit access to the system.
One method of doing this is to restrict
publicizing the existence of the board. Computer
underground BBS are not normally included in BBS
listings found in computer books and magazines, and
there is a norm, particularly strong on p/hack systems,
that the boards are not to be mentioned on non-CU
systems. There are, however, some "entry-level" CU BBS
that are fairly well known. These systems are known as
"Anarchist" boards, while exhibiting many of the
same characteristics as pirate and phreak/hack boards,
are really a cross between the two and serve primarily
as social outlets for both pirates and phreak/hackers.
The message areas on "anarchist" boards are quite
active, "chatty" messages are not discouraged. Indeed
there are normally several different message areas
devoted to a wide range of topics including everything
from "skipping school" to "punk rock." The files area
contains both warez (but normally only the newest
games, and specific to the computer system that the
board runs on) and phreak/hack text files. Neither
collection is as extensive as it would be on pirate-
only or p/hack-only systems.
The data suggest that one function of "anarchist"
boards is to introduce newcomers to the culture of the
computer underground. By acting as "feeder boards,"
they can provide preliminary socialization and
instruction for CU behavior and techniques.
Additionally, "anarchist" boards frequently provide
areas where phone numbers to pirate and p/hack systems
can be traded, thus providing systems where more in-
depth information, and other contacts, can be found. A
phreak/hacker describes how an "anarchist" board was
instrumental in introducing him to the computer
I've been phreaking and hacking for about four years now. I discovered phreaking on my own at this place I used to work. We had this small LD %long distance% provider that used codez so I started hacking them out and calling places myself . . . but I didn't know no other phreaks at that time. Then I started using the codez to call boards from home on my computer. Somebody gave me the number to Jack Black's Whore House %an "anarchy board"% and I started learning about hacking and shit from the people and philes they had there. Then one day this guy, King Hammer, sent me some e-mail %a private message% and told me to call his system. That's where I really learned my way around the nets and shit. You could ask questions and people would help you out and stuff. If I
hadn't found out some of the tricks that I did I probably would have got busted by now. (TP2, field notes, 1989)
Once an individual has obtained the telephone
number to a CU BBS, through whatever channels, callers
follow essentially the same procedure as they do on
licit systems . . . that of calling and logging on.
However, since "underground" boards are not truly
underground (that is, totally secret) first-time
callers are not given access to the board itself. When
a user is unable to provide an already valid
username/password, the system will automatically begin
its registration procedure. First, the caller is
asked to enter a "username" (the name used by the
system to distinguish between callers) and "phone
number." These first system requests, normally seen
only as "Enter Your Name and Phone Number," serve as
partial screens to keep out non-underground callers
that may have happened across the board. The way that
a user responds to these questions indicates if they
have cultural knowledge of the CU. The norm is to
enter a pseudonym and a fake phone number.15 If a ____________________
15 A functional reason for this norm is that usernames and telephone numbers are stored on the computer as part of the BBS system files. Should the BBS ever be seized in legal proceedings, this list of names and numbers (and on some systems addresses . . . which are also normally false) could be used to identify the users of the system.
caller enters his or her real name (or at least a name
that does not appear to be a pseudonym) the system
operator will be put on guard that the caller may not
be aware of the type of board that he has called, for
the pseudonym is the most visible of CU cultural
All members of the underground adopt "handles" to
protect their identity. The pseudonyms become second
identities and are used to log onto bulletin boards,
and as "signatures" on messages and instructional text
files.16 They are not unlike those adopted by
citizens-band radio users, and reflect both the humor
and technical orientation of computer underground
participants. A review of handles used by phreakers,
hackers, and pirates finds that they fall into three
broad categories: figures from literature, films, and
entertainment (often science fiction); names that play
upon computers and related technologies; and
nouns/descriptive names. (See Appendix A for fictional
examples of each.)
After providing a user name and entering a
16 The data suggest that, on the whole, individuals retain their handles over time.
password to be used for future calls, the caller is
asked several more questions designed to screen users
and determine initial access privileges. Unlike licit
boards, underground BBS may have several different
levels of access with only the most trusted users being
able to read messages and get files in "elite" or "high
access" areas that are unknown and unavailable to other
callers. In many cases, pirate boards are able to
operate "above ground" and appear to be open-public
access systems unless callers have the proper
privileges to access the areas where the "good stuff"
is located. The answers given to access questionnaires
determine whether a caller will receive access to some,
all, or none of the higher levels.
These questionnaires frequently ask for "personal
references" and a list of other boards the caller has
"high access" on. The question is vague, and random
callers are unlikely to answer it correctly. However,
if the caller lists pseudonyms of other CU members that
are known and trustworthy to the sysop, as well as some
other boards that are known to have "good users" and
"good security" access will usually be granted.17 If
all the answers are relevant and indicative of CU ____________________
17 The data suggest that personal references are only checked if something seems unusual or suspicious.
knowledge, then initial access is normally granted.
Other methods of controlling access include
presenting a "quiz" to determine if the technical
knowledge of the user is up to par with the expertise
expected on the boards.18 Some systems, instead of a
quiz, ask the user to write a short statement (100
words or less) about why they want access, where they
got the phone number to the system, and what they can
provide to other users. Some pirate boards come right
out and ask the user to supply a list of the good
"warez" that they can upload and what they are looking
to download. If the caller fails to list recent
copyrighted programs then it is evident that they are
unaware of the nature of the BBS:
I had this one dude call up and he told me in his message that he was looking for some "good games." So instead of giving him access I just left him some e-mail %a private message%. I asked what kind of games he was looking for. Next time he called he wrote back and said "a public domain Asteroids game." I couldn't believe it. Not only is Asteroids so damn old it's lame, but this guy is looking for pd %public domain% shit. No way was he going to get access. He didn't even know what this board is. I left him a message telling him that I didn't have one. He never called back after that (CH, sysop of a pirate BBS, field notes, 1988).
18 One such quiz, from a p/h board, can be found in Appendix B.
Ironically, the pseudo-elaborate security methods
of underground boards, while they may be effective in
keeping off random non-CU callers, are not effective in
screening out "feds." Data and media accounts show that
boards are regularly infiltrated by telephone security
personnel and software companies. Also, the adoption of
handles to protect identities is defeated by the
consistent use of the same handle over time. But in
order to obtain and maintain status and prestige in the
CU one must keep the same pseudonym in order to
(literally) "make a name for oneself." The fact that CU
communication is not face-to-face requires a consistent
means of identifying oneself to others. The handle
fulfills this purpose but at the same time becomes as
attached to a single individual as a real name would.
The access rituals of the computer underground, which
are contingent on being a "known" pirate or
phreak/hacker, make changing handles unproductive.
The life blood and center of the computer under-
ground is the bulletin board network. Acting as both
the main trade center of performance related tools and
innovations and as a means of socialization, the
underground could not exist without the BBS network.
They serve to "recruit" and educate newcomers and
provide a way to traffic in information and software.
The pirating enterprise in particular is very dependent
upon the BBS as they are the very means by which
"warez" are traded. For the phreak/hacker community,
BBS provide a means of trading the resources of system
numbers and passwords, as well as instructional texts
on techniques. The access process serves as evidence
of mutual association amongst phreakers, hackers, and
pirates as cultural knowledge is needed as well as
personal references (evidence of acceptance and access
The CU bulletin board systems are unique in that
they provide a way to exchange information with a large
number of others. The other methods of CU commun-
ication are based on conversations rather than written
texts and thus are much less permanent. These methods,
discussed next, are telephone bridges/loops, voice mail
boxes, and computer "chat" systems.
Bridges, Loops, and Voice Mail Boxes
Of the additional means of communication used by
the CU, telephone "bridges" and "loops" are most
common. Unlike BBS, which require data links provided
by a computer and modem, bridges and loops are "old
fashioned" voice connections. Since they can not
accommodate the transfer of programs or files they are
used primarily by phreakers and hackers, and most often
as a social/recreational outlet.
A "bridge" is a technical name for what is
commonly known as a "chat line" or "conference system."
They are familiar to the public as the pay-
per-minute group conversation systems advertised on
late night television. Many bridge systems are owned
by large corporations who maintain them for business
use during the day. While the numbers to these systems
is not public knowledge, many of them have been
discovered by phreaks who then utilize the systems
during the night.
In addition to these pre-existing conference
systems, phreakers have become skilled at arranging
for a temporary, private bridge to be created via
AT&T's conference calling facilities. This allows for
conversations to be held among a self-selected group of
Bridges can be %sic% extremely useful means of distributing information as long as the %phone% number is not known, and you don't have a bunch of children online testing out ____________________
19 The data indicates that these private conference calls aren't "scheduled" in any real sense. One p/hacker will initiate the conference and call others at home to add them to the conference. As more people join they suggest others to add. The initiator can temporarily jump out of the conference, call the new person and solicit their attendance. If they don't want to join or aren't home, the initiator simply returns to the conference without adding them in.
their DTMF.20 The last great discussion I participated with over a bridge occurred about 2 months ago on an AT&T Quorum where all we did was engineer 3/way %calls% and restrict ourselves to purely technical infor- mation. We could have convinced the Quorum operators that we were AT&T technicians had the need occurred. Don't let the kids ruin all the fun and convenience of bridges. Lameness is one thing, practicality is another (DC, message log, 1988).
In addition to setting up "private" bridges,
p/hackers can utilize "loop lines" in a further attempt
to limit the number of eavesdroppers on their
conversations. Unlike bridges, which connect a
virtually unlimited number of callers at once, "loops"
are limited to just two people at a time.
"Loop lines" are actually telephone company test
lines installed for internal use.21 A loop consists of
two separate telephone numbers that connect only to
each other. Each end has a separate phone number, and
when each person calls one end, they are connected to
each other automatically. This allows for individuals ____________________
20 "Dual Tone Multi Frequency" or in laymen terms, the touch tone sounds used to dial phone numbers.
21 These test lines are discovered by phreaks and hackers by programming their home computer to dial numbers at random and "listen" for the distinctive tone that an answering loop makes, by asking sympathetic telephone company employees, or through information contained on internal company computers.
to hold private conversations without divulging their
location or identity by exchanging telephone numbers.
Finally, voice mail boxes ("VMB") are another
means of communicating with individual actors. There
are several commercial voice mail box systems located
throughout the country. They function similar to a
telephone answering machine in that callers can call
in, listen to a recorded message, and then leave a
message for the box owner. Many of these systems are
accessible via toll-free telephone numbers. The
security of some VMB systems is notoriously poor. Many
phreaks have expertise in "creating" boxes for
themselves that are unknown (until discovered) by the
owner of the system. However, these boxes are usually
short lived since discovery by the system operator, and
closure of the box, is only a matter of time. But as
long as the box is functioning, it can serve as a means
of communicating with others. VMB numbers are
frequently posted on bulletin boards with invitations
to "call if you have any good stuff." They are often
used by pirates to exchange messages about new releases
of software, and by phreak/hackers to trade account and
access numbers. Additionally, some of the underground
newsletters and journals obtain boxes so users can call
in news of arrests and other gossip.
Like bulletin boards, VMBs are systems that allow
information to be disseminated to a large number of
associates, and unlike the live telephone conversations
of bridges and loops, they are available at any time of
the day. Additionally, VMB's don't require use of a
computer and modem, only a touch tone phone is needed
to call the box. Their usefulness is limited somewhat
because they play only one "outgoing" message at a
time, and their transitory nature limits their
Phreakers, hackers and pirates do not act as
loners. They have adopted existing methods of
communication, consistent with their skills in high
technology, to form a social network that allows for
the exchange of information, the socialization of new
members, socializing with others, and in the case of
pirates, performing the "deviant" act itself via these
These communication points create and foster
groups of loosely associated individuals, with specific
interests, coming together to exchange information
and/or software. It is impossible to be a part of the
social network of the computer underground and be a
loner. Based upon the Best and Luckenbill measure,
actors in the computer underground, by displaying
mutual association, organize as colleagues.
The social network of the computer underground
provides the opportunity for colleagues to form
cooperative working relationships with others, thus
moving the CU towards a more sophisticated form of
social organization. These "hacker groups" are
addressed in the next section.
In the previous chapter the ways in which the
structure of the computer underground fosters mutual
association were discussed. Their social outlets and
means for informational exchange bring the CU community
together as deviant colleagues. Their relationships
fit quite well into the Best and Luckenbill (1982)
typology of collegial associations:
The relationship between deviant colleagues involves limited contact. Like loners, colleagues perform their deviant acts alone. But unlike loners colleagues associate with one another when they are not engaged in deviance . . . In effect, there is a division between two settings; onstage where individual performs alone; and backstage, where colleagues meet (cf Goffman). In their backstage meetings, colleagues discuss matters of common interest, including techniques for performing effectively, common problems and how to deal with them, and ways of coping with the outside world (1982 p.37).
However, despite the advantages of collegial
association, ties between CU participants are weak.
Loyalty between individuals seems rare, as the CU is
replete with tales of phreak/hackers who, when
apprehended, expose identities or "trade secrets" in
order to avoid prosecution. These weak collegial ties
may be fostered by the anonymity of CU communication
methods, and the fact that all CU actors are, to some
extent, in competition with each other. There are only
so many systems with weak security and once such a
system is found, sharing it with others will virtually
ensure that the hole will be sealed when the increased
activity is noticed. Thus while p/hackers will share
general knowledge with each other, specific information
is not disseminated publicly.
As Best and Luckenbill have observed, in order to
remain in a collegial relationship individuals must be
able to successfully carry out operations alone (1982
p.45). In order to sustain a career in p/hacking one
must pursue and collect information independent of what
is shared on the communication channels. Despite the
association with other phreakers and hackers, the
actual performance of the phreak/hacking act is a
That is not to say, however, that p/hackers never
share specific information with others. As discussed
earlier, p/hack bulletin board systems frequently have
differentiated levels of access where only highly
regarded individuals are able to leave and read
messages. These areas are frequently used to keep ____________________
22 This does not hold true for pirates. By definition they must trade programs with other individuals.
information from "unskilled" users at the lower levels.
There are strong social norms that some information
should not be shared too widely, as it may be either
"abused" or fall into the hands of enforcement agents.
For example, when one p/hacker announced that he was
going to release a tutorial on how to infiltrate a new
telephone company computer, he received the following
messages in reply:
Not smart, DT. %That computer% is a system which can be quite powerful if used to its potential. I don't think that information on programming the switches should be released to anyone. Do you realize how destructive %that computer% could really be if used by someone who is irresponsible and intends on destroying things? Don't even think about releasing that file. If you do release that file, it will disappear and will no longer remain in circulation. Believe me. Not many have the right to know about %that computer%, or any other delicate telco computers for that matter. Why do you think the fucking New York Times published that big article on hackers screwing around with telco machines? Not only will you get into a lot of trouble by releasing that file on %computer%, you will be making telcos more aware of what is actually happening, and soon no one will be able to learn about their systems. Just think twice (EP, message log, 1988).
Why would you want normal people to have such knowledge? Any why would you post about it? If you have knowledge that's fine but DON'T spread that knowledge among others that may abuse it. It's not impressive! I don't know why anyone would want to disperse that knowledge. Please don't release any "in depth" files on such systems of great power. Keep that to yourself it will just mess it up for others (UU, message log, 1988).
The desire to share information with selected
colleagues often leads to the formation of cooperative
"working groups." These partnerships are easily formed,
as the structure of mutual association in the CU
creates a means where "talent" can be judged on the
basis of past interactions, longevity in the field, and
mutual interests. When allegiances are formed, the CU
actors begin "mutual participating" in their acts, thus
becoming "peers" in terms of social organization.
Mutual participation, as defined in the Best and
Luckenbill typology, is exhibited by actors sharing in
the same deviant act, in the physical presence of one
another (1982 p.45). However, the measurement was
"grounded" in studies of traditional deviant
associations (eg: street gangs, prostitutes, etc.)
where "real-time" interaction is common. The technology
used by the CU negates this requirement as actors can
be located in different parts of the country.
Additionally, "hacking" on a system, by a group of
peers, does not require simultaneous participation by
all members. However Best and Luckenbill's typology is
an ideal type, and the activities of peers in the
computer underground do not fall outside of the spirit
or intention of their concept of mutual participation.
Their description of deviant peer associations is
Deviant peers are distinguished from colleagues by their shared participation in deviance. While colleagues carry out their deviant operations alone, peers commit deviant acts in one another's presence. Peers cooperate in carrying out deviant operations, but they have a minimal division of labor, with each individual making roughly comparable contribution. Peer relationships also tend to be egalitarian and informal; some peers may be acknowledged leaders or admired for their skill, but there is no set division of authority. Like colleagues, peers share subcultural knowledge, but peer groups typically provide their members with more support. In addition to cooperating in deviant operations, peers may recruit and socialize newcomers and supply one another with deviant equipment and social support. Thus, the bonds between peers are stronger than those linking colleagues (1982, p.45).
Peer associations in the CU are largely limited to
small groups23 working on a specified goal. Both
pirates and p/hackers organize themselves in this
regard, though their characteristics differ. We begin
with a discussion of mutual participation among
Pirate groups are composed of less than ten ____________________
23 In terms of the ideal type for deviant peers any two individuals working in cooperation exhibit mutual participation. The discussion here addresses groups that consist of three or more people that identify themselves as a sort of "club." Short-lived interaction between two people is not considered a "group" in the CU culture.
members. Their primary purpose is to obtain the latest
software, remove any copy-protection from it, and then
distribute it to the pirate community. Often the
"warez" that they distribute will be adorned with the
group name, so subsequent users will be aware of the
source of the software. Many pirate groups have "home"
BBS systems that act as key distribution points, and as
places where outsiders can communicate with members of
the association. This researcher was unable to obtain
data about the internal organization of pirate groups,
but it appears that they are leaderless, with
individual members working alone but giving credit to
the group as a whole.
The existence of phreak/hacker groups is well
documented in the data, and has been heavily reported
in the media. Two hacker groups in particular, The
414's (named for the Wisconsin area code in which they
lived), and The Inner Circle, received a large amount
of press after being apprehended for various computer
break-ins. However, the "threat" that such groups
represent has probably been overstated as the data
indicate that "hacker gangs" vary greatly in
organization and dedication to the CU enterprise.
Many hacker groups are short-lived associations of
convenience, much like the "no girls allowed!" clubs
formed by young boys. They often consist of four to
nine beginning phreak/hackers who will assist each
other in obtaining telephone credit-card numbers. By
pooling their resources, a large number of illicit
"codez" can be obtained and shared with others.
Distribution of the account numbers is not limited to
the group, they are often shared with the community at
large, "courtesy of Codez Kidz Ltd." Groups of this
type are looked at with disdain by "elite"
phreak/hackers and are often criticized as being more
interested in self-promotion then they are with
actually phreaking or hacking.
Some hacker groups are very proficient and
dedicated to their craft, however. These groups are
characterized by smaller memberships, less visibility
to non-members, and commitment to the CU enterprise.
They are loosely organized, yet some have managed to
exist six or more years despite members dropping out or
being arrested. These "elite" groups are selective
about membership, and cite trust and talent as the two
leading requirements for joining:
The group exists mainly for information trading. If you trust everyone else in the group, it is very profitable to pool information on systems . . . also it is nice to know someone that you can call if you need help on operating system X and to have people
feel free to call you if they need help on operating system Y (AN, message log, 1988).
Trust is a very important part of a group. I think that's blatantly obvious. You have to be able to trust the other members of the group with the information you are providing in order to be productive, and have a secure situation (UU, message log, 1988).
. . . all groups serve the same purpose: to make their members feel better about themselves (like, wow, I'm in a group) and to trade things, whether it's wares, codes, or whatever. But the thing is that being in a group is like saying "I trust you, so like, what can we do together?" (NN, message log, 1988)
Indeed, hacker groups are formed primarily for the
purpose of information exchange. To this end, groups
attempt to recruit members with a wide variety of
"specializations" in order to have a better support
network to turn to:
%Our group% has always been very selective about members (took me six years to get in). The only reason the group exists is to bring together a diverse group of talents. There is very little overlap in %the group% these days. Everyone has one thing that they are the best in the country at, and are conversant with just about any other form of hacking. As an example, I got into a Primos computer this morning around 9 am. Once I got in, I know enough about Primos to get around, but that's it. So I call %PS% in New York, give him the info, and when I get home tonight, he has gotten in and decrypted the entire username/password file and uploaded it to me. But two weeks ago he got into a VAX. He got the account to me, I called it up and set up three backdoors into the system that we can get in if the account is detected or deleted. Simple matter of communism. From each according to his ability . . . etc. Also
it helps that everyone in the group is experienced enough that they don't fuck up accounts you spend all day getting (TM, field notes, 1989).
Consistent with the Best and Luckenbill ideal
type, hacker groups do not exhibit a set division of
authority or labor. Most groups are leaderless, and
every member is free to pursue their own interests,
involving other members of the group only when desired:
We just got our group together. We've got a guy that does VMB's and a Sprinter %obtains "codez" from U.S. Sprint% and a couple of hackers. Everybody's free to pursue whatever system they want but if they want or need some help they can call on any of the other members if they want to. Like if one guy is scanning and finds a VAX he might call and give me the dialup. Then I might have to call our Sprinter to get some codez so I can start hacking on it. Once I get through I'll give the account to the other members. But if I found it myself I wouldn't have to give it out but I probably would anyway 'cuz keeping it would be bullshit (DC, field notes, 1988).
There isn't a leader really. The guy who starts the group sort of acts like a contact point but everyone else has everyones' phone number and you can call whoever you want to anytime. Usually when you're putting a group together you just get everyone you want and you all decide on a name. (DC, field notes, 1988).
By virtue of the extensive social network found in
the CU, some participants form work groups. The
sophistication of these groups varies, but in all cases
it is evident that the groups exist to support what are
primarily individually performed activities. The
groups exhibit many of the ideal-type characteristics
of peer associations, and it is clear that in some
cases the computer underground is socially organized as
Phreakers, hackers, and pirates do not act as
loners. Loners do not associate with others, and are
on their own in coping with the practical problems
presented by their activities (Best and Luckenbill
1982, p.28). From the data presented here, it is
evident that the computer underground has established
an extensive social network for the exchange of
resources and mutual support. The characteristics of
the CU varies according to the goals of the
participants, but the presence of mutual association is
consistent. Contact between individuals is limited,
with the acts of phreaking or hacking being committed
alone. Computer underground participants do associate
with one another in order to discuss matters of common
interest, such as performance techniques, news, and
problem solving. To facilitate this informational
exchange, they have established a technologically
sophisticated network that utilizes computer bulletin
boards, voice mail boxes, telephone bridges, and
The collegial organization of the computer
underground is further evidenced by the establishment
of a CU culture. The subcultural adaptation of
language, expectations of normative conduct, and status
stratification based on mastery of cultural knowledge
and skill, all indicate that the computer underground
is, at the very least, a social organization of
colleagues (see Best and Luckenbill, 1982, p.37).
The very structure that permits mutual association
among CU participants also encourages some to form
working relationships, thus acting as peers by mutually
participating in CU activities. Peers organized in this
manner share in their deviance, organizing informally
with little division of labor or set division of
authority (Best and Luckenbill, 1982, p.45). These
peer associations provide support to members, and can
provide socialization and recruitment functions for
newcomers. The establishment of work groups, through
mutual participation, indicates that though the
computer underground is largely organized as a network
of colleagues, it is also, to some degree, a social
organization of peers.
Best and Luckenbill (1982) describe two additional
forms of deviant associations that are more
organizationally sophisticated than peers: "mobs" and
"formal organizations." The computer underground,
however, does not display the requisite characteristics
of these organizational types. The primary
characteristic of "mobs" is an elaborate division of
labor (Best and Luckenbill, 1982, p.25). While some CU
groups do exhibit a rudimentary division of labor based
on individual members' specialization, it is not by any
means "elaborate." Any division of labor that does
exist is voluntary and arises on the basis of
specialized knowledge, not a specialized organizational
In much the same manner the lack of a designated
leader or leadership hierarchy prevents CU groups from
being categorized as "formal organizations" in the Best
and Luckenbill typology. Deviant organizations at this
level are quite sophisticated and there is no empirical
evidence that the computer underground is organized in
This study of the computer underground has been a
test of the Best and Luckenbill typology of the social
organization of deviants. As a test of their
organizational indicators, the CU has shown that the
categories are well constructed, with the possible
exception of limiting "mutual participation" to acts
carried out in the presence of others. However, if we
modify this to include non-simultaneous, but
cooperative, acts as found in phreak/hacker groups, the
category is otherwise robust. The flexibility of the
typology, which explicitly recognizes that not all
deviant associations will display all of the character-
istics (Best and Luckenbill, 1982, p.25), is a strength
that allowed it to be easily used in terms of the
By addressing the CU from a social organizational
viewpoint we have seen that despite the high technology
trappings of their craft, pirates, phreakers, and
hackers display organizational characteristics found in
other groups that have been criminalized. This may
suggest that the development of sophisticated tools to
commit "crime" does not necessarily affect the ways in
which individuals organize their activities.
The implications of peer and collegial
organization for the members of the computer
underground are vast. The level of sophistication has
a direct relationship to the types of resources on
which individuals can draw (Best and Luckenbill, 1982,
p.54). Because CU members are mutually associated,
they are able to turn to colleagues for advice and
support with various problems. However, at the
collegial level they are left to enact the solutions
independently. Whether or not they are successful in
doing so will determine if they choose to remain active
in the computer underground. The data show that
involvement in the CU is short in duration, unless
success in early phreak/hack attempts is obtained. As
long as the CU remains organized as a collection of
colleagues, this trend will continue. Additionally, as
the computer and telephone industries become more
sophisticated in preventing the unauthorized use of
their facilities, new phreak/hackers are unlikely to
succeed in their initial attempts at the act, thus
dropping away from the activity and never becoming
acculturated to the point where peer relationships can
At the peer level, a dimension of sophistication
that some members of the CU do display, the knowledge
and resources to solve problems and obtain resources is
greater. However, even at this level the ties between
peers remain weak at best. Although their cooperative
ties allow for more sophisticated operations, and
somewhat reduce the CU's vulnerability to social
control agents (Best and Luckenbill, 1982, p.53), it
still does not completely eliminate the need for
individual success in order to sustain a CU career. As
long as the CU remains at the current level of
organizational sophistication, with weak ties and
somewhat limited means of support and resource
attainment, it will continue to be a transitory and
limited "criminal" enterprise.
This realization should be considered by policy
makers who desire to further criminalize computer
underground activities. Given the current organization
of the CU, the future social costs of their actions are
not likely to expand beyond the current level. There
is no evidence to support assertions that the CU is
expanding, and the insight provided here shows that it
is not likely to do so on a large scale.
For sociologists, the computer underground is a
field rich for insight into several areas of concern.
Future research into the career path of CU members, and
the relationships between individuals, could prove
helpful to those interested in applying theories of
differential association and career deviance.
Additionally, the computer underground provides a
unique opportunity to study the process of
criminalization, and its effect on those who are
engaged in the behavior.
Best, Joel and David F. Luckenbill. 1982. Organizing Deviance. Englewood Cliff, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.
Bequai, August. 1987. Technocrimes. Lexington, Mass.:Lexington Books.
Bickford, Robert. 1988. Personal communication to Gordon Meyer.
Chicago Tribune. 1989. "Computer hacker, 18, gets prison for fraud." Feb. 15:2,1.
Field Notes. Interviews with phreakers, hackers, and pirates. Conducted from 7/88 to 4/89 (confidential material in authors files).
Hollinger, Richard C. and Lonn Lanza-Kaduce. 1988. "The Process of Criminalization: The Case of Computer Crime Laws." Criminology 26:101-126.
Levy, Steven. 1984. Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution. New York: Dell Publishing.
Message Logs from a variety of computer underground bulletin board systems, (confidential material), 1988- 1989.
NBC-TV. 1988. Hour Magazine. November 23, 1988.
Parker, Donn B. 1983. Fighting Computer Crime. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.
Rosenbaum, Ron. 1971. "Secrets of the Little Blue Box." Esquire October, pp. 116-125.
Small, David. 1988. Personal communication to Gordon Meyer.
WGN-Radio. 1988. Ed Schwartz Show. September 27, 1988.
APPENDIX A COMPUTER UNDERGROUND PSEUDONYMS
_________________________________________________________ |Literature, films,|Computers & |Nouns, titles & | |and Entertainment |related technology |Descriptive names| --------------------------------------------------------- | Pink Floyd | Mrs. Teletype | The Professor | | Hatchet Molly | Baudy Bastard | Perfect Asshole | | Jedi Knight | Doctor Phreak | The Messiah | | King Richard | Lord FAX | Right Wing Fool | | Captain Hoga | CNA Office | Bed Bug | | Al Crowley | Sir Mac | Sleepy Head | | Doc Holiday | Busy Signal | Mean Underwear | | Mr. Big Dog | Silicon Student | Cockroach | | Robin Williams | Fiber Cables | Primo Bomber | | Big Bird | Phone Crasher | The Prisoner | | Cross-eyed Mary | Doc Cryptic | Night Lighting | | Capt. America | Apple Maniac | No Regrets | | Uncle Sam | Fuzzy Sector | Grounded Zero | | Thumpr | Cntrl. Alt. Del. | Spit Wad | | Little John | Byte Ripper | Shadow Dove | ----------------------------------------------------------
APPENDIX B NEW USER QUESTIONNAIRE FROM A PHREAK/HACK BBS
Welcome to Analog Electronics Datum System. Please take this time to fill out a one-time questionnaire that will allow us to determine your level of access on Analog Electronics Datum System.
If any question is too difficult for you to answer, just answer with your best guess or a simple "I don't know."
We basically have two different divisions or types of users on this system:
(1) Apple (%%,Mac), and IBM software traders (2) Telecommunication hobbyists - any/all computers (networks, mainframes, engineering)
Your answers will help us decide which category you belong to and what access you should get on our system.
Electronics Datum System?
can be reached for validation purposes only, this
information is kept in a password encoded file, on another computer (critical for higher validation):
First for the FILE TRANSFER AREA ACCESS questions:
(1) How many bits are in a nibble? (Assume 6502 micro processor)
(2) Define WORM, RAM, ROM, VDT, CRT, BPS? (Pick any 3)
(3) What does 2400 baud mean in terms of bit transfer speed?
(4) What is PT,MT,AE,BIN2,Ymodem Batch,BLU? (Pick any 4)
(5) How many Megahertz does a standard Apple %%+ run at? (rounding OK)
Now for the TeleCommunication Questions:
(1) Describe the Voice Transmission Use of a Loop:
(2) If I gave you my phone #, how would you find my name and address?!
(3) Can you name any networking software operating systems or protocols?
(4) What is the highest frequency a twisted two wire pair can transmit at?
(5) We believe Phones and Computers Belong Together, what do you BELIEVE?
Ok, thanks for that info.
A MESSAGE FROM AL CAPONE (LOCAL) AND THE TRADER (LD) SYSTEM VALIDATORS
Welcome to ALDS! As a new user you have made a change for the better in choosing this system as one of your places of telecommunication exchange. In my opinion, this is one, if not the best, system in telecommunications today as most of the good boards such as Shadowspawn, Metal Shop Private, etc. do not exist anymore. Quality users exist on this system that have established a reputation for themselves so questions you ask will be answered thoroughly and precisely. We are a sponsor board of the LOD/H Technical Journal, and accounts have been established representing Phrack, Inc. and 2600 Magazine. (For our software trading people, we also have an excellent file transfer area . . . consistent with the rest of the nation . . . )
Due to the high quality of our system, we will
need some additional information about you. Maintenance of a high quality system requires high quality users, so the first step in this process is keeping the low quality users off of the system . . . so please cooperate with us . . . this is for your benefit as well as ours. The information you give us will be cross referenced with other systems for accuracy, and if you leave false information, you may suffer low access or deletion.
All phone number information is stored outside of the housing of this system inside of an encrypted, password locked file for your security. So if you have left an invalid phone #, please leave one where you can be reached, or someone's name and number (if possible) that will vouch for you. Keep in mind this validation can take up to 1 week to complete due to the high volume of new callers to our system.
Note: Limited system access will be granted within 24 Hrs if all of your info seems correct.
Thanks in advance . . . Bugsy Malone The Swapper SYSOP/SYSTEM VALIDATORS
% Bugsy Malone needs the following info: %
(1) Your references (sysops, other users on this system, other BBS). (2) Your interests in having access to our system. (3) How do you feel you can contribute to our system? (4) How many years of telecommunication experience do you have? (5) Do you have any special talents in programming, or operating systems? If yes, then name the language(s) or operating system(s).
Enter message now, answering these questions:
%after entering the message the BBS hangs up and the caller will call back in 24 hours to see if access has been granted.%