Sometimes, like for example today, I sit and think back on the times of the past. Back when everything was simpler, when hacking was considered an art form; a time when skills and intelligence were things to admire. Why not even before internet broke thru? Like it or not, this thoughts resulted in today’s post: Useless facts about my life.
I did my very first real hack when I was 13 years old, soon 22 years ago. We had just gotten computers to school. Green screened computers with Pascal. Before this I had only played around with games and assembler on Commodore 64, Amiga 500 and phreaking. But this was in a network for the first time. Of cause I was in the back of the class having fun, ignoring the teacher. Skill or luck, I managed to hack into my teachers account. I edited one of the games he had programmed so proudly and as the topping of the cream I added a class mates name at the top of the high score list of that game. To evoke a reaction I gave him a score that was impossible. Needless to say, my friend got some yelling from the teacher, but no other punishment. I am sorry Christer. =) This is the first time I come clear. More than 20 years later… too late? =P
Then came the PC and we started to sit in our dark rooms and almost pretended that we were the shit. Going from BBS to BBS trying to find the newest information about the newest phone switchboards so that one could do some new phreaking. Or why not use the noisy modem to wardial some unsuspecting company, just to test their system; although, I always set the modem with ATM0 (and AT&H0). We were innocently exploring the exciting new world of computers and digital communication. All we wanted was to know more, to absorb all the information that we could get our happy little hands on. We were not looking for fame or fortune, well… many of us at least. If we, by accident of course, managed to enter an unknown system, we became all excited and almost spurted our jolt out of our noses. By then there were no laws regulating this happy innocent exploring of systems for more information to share, trade and (ab)use. Perhaps some reverse engineering was done by some individuals. A bit of assembler, a bit of fun and games.
Then came a mixed period, this was when internet was starting to get known. I myself got a hold on a free internet access via Swedish Financial Supervisory Authority. I can’t really remember how I managed to get this account. How ever, it was all legal, I think. They were amongst the first in Sweden who saw the possibilities with internet. I used it myself to explore the world and keep in communication with my father who worked in England and used Compuserve. Compuserve was not quite internet but we managed to keep in touch. I was amazed that I could travel the world at light speed. Going (telneting) from server to server. Using lynx and e-mail. The only graphic we had were ANSI and ASCII art. =) A whole new experience was presented to me: Usenet. (A greet to the people who knows recognize what I am rambling about here… the favorite name was alt.swedish.chef.bork.bork.bork =).
Wow… information in excess. It was mind-blowing. A universe of new systems was up for grabbing. Now I also saw battles raging on the internet. Intelligent people with “different hats” were battling for world domination and the world’s governments got scared. American government picked out a few people to make an example of. Gave them long prison sentencing. For example Mark Abene “Phiber Optik” and Kevin Mitnick. The later primarily used social engineering. I guess we are at the early to middle of 1990 in the illusionary age of time; because I remember the revolution that was the move from Gopher to hypertext; and suddenly we had graphics. But still IRC was the way to quickly communicate quickly and it is also here many people have made a fool out of them selves by bragging about their deeds. Perhaps this community has the same need to be famous as the clones on “get-famous-quick” shows on the TV.
But since I sit with a gray hat myself, I can not help but recognize the skills of the white hats such as Cliff Stoll and Tsutomu Shimomura (controversial I know) but the man has skills and just as Mitnick had in social engineering, should he, in my own humble opinion, be recognized for his skills.
I don’t want to make this text any longer so here is a short recap. =) From that time… till now… I have worked, on and off, with computers, and the last about 10 years exclusively with IT/IS security with, government agencies that is more or less shy of the light and companies from different areas such as finance to bathroom appliances. Much fun there, many stories… and a few wannabees in my honeypot. =P Perhaps I will write about those experiences someday… if anyone is interested.
I sometimes get the question if I can hack into this and that. Nothing is 100% secure. (Especially not this website so there is not any need to prove that point). There is always a way in, this have been proven time and time again. The biggest mistake an IT-department or security department can make is to assume that they are secure. Another question I sometimes get is: Do you have skills? My answer… compared to whom? I am no Muhammad Ali of the hacker community. There is always room for improvement and there are always people better than me. However I am no new born baby chicken.
Most importantly… I have never been caught or convicted or computer related crimes. Luck, skills or not been doing anything bad? Who knows? =)