The Crime of the Future
6 April 1996
Explosive growth in the computer industry over the last decade has made new
technologies cheaper and simpler for the average person to own. As a result, computers
play an intricate part in our daily lives. The areas in which computers affect life are
infinite, ranging from entertainment to finances. If anything were to happen to these
precious devices, the world would be chaotic.
There is a type of person that thrives on chaos, that is the malevolent hacker.
Some hackers act on revenge or just impersonal mischievousness. But whatever their
motives, their deeds can be destructive to a person's computer. An attack by a hacker not
only affects the victim, but others as well.
One case involving a notorious hacker named Kevin Mitnick did just that. Mitnick
is a very intelligent man. He is 31 and pending trial for computer fraud. When he was a
teenager, he used his knowledge of computers to break into the North American Defense
Command computer. Had he not been stopped, he could have caused some real national
defense problems for the United States (Sussman 66).
Other "small time" hackers affect people just as much by stealing or giving away
copyrighted software, which causes the prices of software to increase, thus increasing the
price the public must pay for the programs.
Companies reason that if they have a program that can be copied onto a disc then
they will lose a certain amount of their profit. People will copy it and give to friends or
pass it around on the Internet. To compensate, they will raise the price of disc programs.
CD Rom programs cost more to make but are about the same price as disc games.
Companies don't loose money on them because it is difficult to copy a CD Rom and
impossible to transmit over the Internet (Facts on File #28599 1).
One company in particular, American On-line, has been hit hard by hackers. The
feud started when a disgruntled ex-employee used his inside experience to help fellow
hackers disrupt services offered by AOL (Alan 37). His advice became popular and he
spawned a program called AOHell. This program, in turn, created many copycats. They
all portray their creators as gangsters, and one of the creator's names is "Da Chronic."
Many also feature short clips of rap music (Cook 36).
These programs make it easy for people with a little hacker knowledge to disrupt
AOL. These activities include gaining access to free accounts, gaining access to other
people's credit card numbers, and destroying chat rooms. The following is an excerpt
from a letter from the creator of AOHell to a user:
What is AOHell? AOHell is an AOL for Windows add-on, which allows you to do
many things. AOHell allows you to download for free, talk using other people's screen
names, steal passwords and credit card information, and much more. AOHell is basically
an anarchy program designed to help you, the user, and destroy AOL, the enemy:
No matter what AOL says to you, nor what even Steve Case* himself may say
about AOHell, don't be too quick to judge. America On-line may say anything to get you
to stop using AOHell. They may say it's a virus, they may say it'll cancel your account,
hell, they've even tried to suggest it may steal your password and send it to the author.
None of this is true however. Free AOL does not interest me, as I have many ways to
accomplish that. You should always keep that in mind when you hear such rumors. It's
AOL and their sick pedophiles I'm against, not you, the user. You are the ones who are
making it possible for me to achieve my goal, which is to make AOL a virtual Hell. Now
stop reading, and go destroy a Mac room with the bot or something. :) (Cook 36)
The quote above was in defence of AOHell which has received a lot of negative
feedback. The loopholes for hackers and freeloaders may be closing, however. America
On-line is reluctant to discuss specifics of its counterattack for fear of giving miscreants
warning. However, many software trading rooms are being shut down almost as soon as
they are formed. Others are often visited by 'narcs' posing as traders. New accounts
started with phony credit cards are being cut off more promptly, and other card-
verification schemes are in place.
AOL has now developed the ability to resurrect a screen name that had been
deleted by the hackers, and is rumored to have call-tracing technologies in the works
Hacking is not just a problem in America. All across the world hackers plague
anyone they can, and they're getting better at it. In Europe they're known as "Phreakers"
(technologically sophisticated young computer hackers). These self-proclaimed Phreakers
have made their presence felt all the way up the political ladder. They managed to steal
personal expense accounts of the European Commission President Jacques. They revealed
some embarrassing overspending (PC Weekly 12).
Was this stealing justified? Was it done to protect the public from wasting their
tax money? The European judicial system did not think so. The accused were sentenced
to six months in prison (PC Weekly 12).
This punishment might seem harsh, but not to Bill Clinton. He has appointed a
task force to try to enforce laws on the Internet. The new laws would try to strengthen
copyright laws by monitoring information being transferred and if a violation occurred, a
$5,000 fine would be implemented (Facts On File #28599 1).
Clinton thinks this will protect businesses as well as consumers by keeping
copyrighted material at a reasonable price. The only exception would be that libraries
would have the right to copy "for purposes of preservation" (Phelps 75).
Some people view hackers as the "Robin Hoods" of the Internet. They wrestle
with the heavyweight businesses to try to gain leverage for individuals. But in doing so
they make businesses increase prices to pay for security. It is an ongoing cycle.
Many anti-hacking groups think they are gaining some ground on hackers by
making more sophisticated software. But like a virus that becomes immune too quickly,
the hackers find another way. The loopholes of the hacker are infinite. Just as one cannot
leave their shadow behind on a sunny day, the hacker will be around as long as there is
something to hack.
Alan Robert, "AOL's Piracy Woes: Attack and Counterattack"
Macworld 16 June 1995: 37-38
"Computers: On-line Copyright Protection Proposed"
Facts on File World News Digest 14 September 1995 28599
PC Weekly 8 August 1995: 12-14
Phelps, Alan Abstract "On-line Slime"
PC Novice 1995 74-75 Pro Quest, DiscII
Sussman, Vic: "Hacker Nabbed"
Us News & World Report 27 Febuary 1995 66-67
Cook, William "Aol's battle with AOHell"
Internet Underground 22 April 1995: 36-37