Hacker, Cracker, Watchman, Spy

Some old-school Valley hackers grew up to be high-tech cat burglars. Some went to work for the man. Some just never grew up.

Merc's job at Genuity is less formal than Jackiewicz's at GoodNet. He doesn't have to dress well or come in on time. The two are still good friends, but Jackiewicz says he'd never hire Merc because the guy can't keep a schedule. On the flip side, when Merc calls his friend a sellout and makes fun of him for having a girlfriend, you can tell he's only half joking. Back in the day, they were Merc and InvalidMedia. Now they're Merc and Tom from GoodNet.

The NSA disbanded after Merc's bust. The group had originally formed in 1989 as the first 2600 group--a local hacker club--in the Valley. 2600 groups got their name from the hacker magazine, which took its name from the frequency of a certain long-distance carrier tone that a legendary '70s "phone phreak" named Captain Crunch discovered he could emulate with a toy whistle from a cereal box. By tradition, 2600 groups held meetings on the first Friday of every month. In Phoenix, the hackers met inside a pizza restaurant at Metrocenter.

Jackiewicz says 2600 meetings in Phoenix started after he met two NSA members, MindRape and Dark Druid (Druid's the one who now works at NAU), on a German hacker chat room called Lutzifer. "We found out we were local to each other and got together in person one night."

All the NSA hackers were usually at the meetings, along with other local hackers who hung around and tried to impress the big boys like aspiring hip-hop MCs circling a table of famous rappers at a club, looking to "get on." Except there was one difference--the elite hackers didn't have any girls sitting with them. Jackiewicz says there aren't a lot of female hackers because ". . . most girls can get a date on a Friday night no matter how geeky they are."

The 2600 meetings were essentially in-person versions of the hacker chat rooms on the Internet. The boasting and banter were the same, and the hackers traded programs and tips. But after the meetings, they would go "trashing," hacker slang for stealing trash hoping to score technical manuals, company phone lists, security procedures, interoffice memos or other corporate detritus that can be used to hack their network or social engineer (con, sweet-talk, bullshit) someone inside a company into giving out useful information over the phone.

Two favorite trashing spots for Valley hackers were the US West building at 32nd Street and Shea, and the AT&T offices at 35th Avenue and Indian School. The AT&T building downtown has a "secure Dumpster," meaning it's lighted, within a fence, and surrounded by security cameras. "Which means you wear a mask, jump over the fence, grab the trash, jump back over the fence, and run like hell," says MindRape, a.k.a. Donald Moore, 24. The NSA's best trashing discovery, Jackiewicz says, came from an impromptu raid on the Dumpsters of a company called NORSTAN, located just across the street from an NSA member's house. "We came up with a big Rolm CBX phone and hundreds of manuals," he says. NSA members eventually wrote several how-to articles for various hacker journals based on the hardware and manuals they obtained that night.

Another memorable run, Jackiewicz says, was the time they hit a Sprint building that was next door to a medical testing facility. "We grabbed two bags and took off running. Turned out we had a bag each of dirty diapers and medical waste." Jackiewicz says the last time he went trashing was right before his job interview at GoodNet. He raided the ISP's Dumpster to read up on what was going on inside the company.

There are still 2600 meetings in Phoenix, the first Friday of every month, but they're in a large chain bookstore at Metrocenter now, not the pizza joint. And the NSA guys don't go anymore. "The scene here now isn't one I would be proud of," says MindRape, whose 1991 bust for infiltrating credit-bureau computers was widely publicized in hacker magazines. "It's too full of lamers [hackers without the skills to back up their boasts] and warez kiddies [software pirates with negligible programming knowledge]. They enter the scene expecting to be given all the answers. They take no pride in figuring it out for themselves. Most of them think hacking is just breaking into systems, bent on destruction."

Jim Lippard, director of Internet security operations for the Valley-based ISP GlobalCenter (formerly Primenet), says the hackers he deals with are ". . . mostly the dumb ones. The good ones you don't really see, because they don't screw up. And usually, they don't do anything very malicious. As long as that's the case, it's easier to just ignore them."

Hackers target ISPs for several reasons--to get free Internet access, or to go up against a particular security expert, or because they want to disguise themselves during illegal hacking. Gambit says he goes through at least four ISPs around the nation before attacking a target. Since all the users connecting to the Net via a certain ISP at any one time all appear under one umbrella "shell" account, if a hacker hopscotches through several ISPs before making a run, it's difficult for someone who detects a break-in to "backward hack" and track you down. Gambit favors ISPs that are known to purge their system logs every week--a common protocol.

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