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Name: Gordon R. Meyer Department: Sociology

Title: The Social Organization of the Computer Underground

Major: Criminology Degree: M.A.

Approved by: Date:

__________________________ ________________________
Thesis Director



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










D.C., T.M., T.K., K.L., D.P.,

M.H., AND G.Z.






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




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: 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,


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,

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:

Loners no no no no
Colleagues yes no no no
Peers yes yes no no
Mobs yes yes yes no
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

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

control agents.10

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


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
CNA .TXT: A bunch of CNA numbers
CLIPS .ARC: newsclippings/articles on hackers
and busts
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
PHONELIS.COM: Do a PHONE DIR command on VAX from
XMO .FOR: VAX Xmodem Package in FORTRAN


PASSWORD.ARC: IBM Password on bootup. Not too

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

mainframe computers:

Message Boards available:

1 : General
2 : Telecommunications
3 : Electronics
4 : Packet Switched Nets
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.

"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

to others).

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.


Mutual Participation

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

solitary activity.22

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


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


presented here:

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

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.

Phreak/hack groups

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,

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,


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

telephone loops.

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 manner.

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

computer underground.

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

be developed.

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-

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

WGN-Radio. 1988. Ed Schwartz Show. September 27, 1988.



|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 |



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(2) Telecommunication hobbyists - any/all
computers (networks, mainframes,

Your answers will help us decide which category
you belong to and what access you should get on our

* What type of computer & modem are you using to call
this system?

* Where did you get the phone number to Analog
Electronics Datum System?

* We'll need your first name and real phone # where you
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

(2) Define WORM, RAM, ROM, VDT, CRT, BPS? (Pick any 3)

(3) What does 2400 baud mean in terms of bit transfer


(4) What is PT,MT,AE,BIN2,Ymodem Batch,BLU? (Pick any

(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.



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

% 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

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.%


Another file downloaded from: The NIRVANAnet(tm) Seven

& the Temple of the Screaming Electron Taipan Enigma 510/935-5845
Burn This Flag Zardoz 408/363-9766
realitycheck Poindexter Fortran 510/527-1662
Lies Unlimited Mick Freen 801/278-2699
The New Dork Sublime Biffnix 415/864-DORK
The Shrine Rif Raf 206/794-6674
Planet Mirth Simon Jester 510/786-6560

"Raw Data for Raw Nerves"

=External Link=


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