Copyright (c) 1997, 2001 Suelette Dreyfus & Julian Assange
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My great aunt used to paint underwater.
Piling on the weighty diving gear used in 1939 and looking like something out of 20000 Leagues Under the Sea, Lucie slowly sank below the surface, with palette, special paints and canvas in hand. She settled on the ocean floor, arranged her weighted painter’s easel and allowed herself to become completely enveloped by
another world. Red and white striped fish darted around fields of blue-green coral and blue-lipped giant clams. Lionfish drifted by, gracefully waving their dangerous feathered spines. Striped green moray eels peered at her from their rock crevice homes.
Lucie dived and painted everywhere. The Sulu Archipelago. Mexico. Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Hawaii. Borneo. Sometimes she was the first white woman seen by the Pacific villagers she lived with for months on end.
As a child, I was entranced by her stories of the unknown world below the ocean’s surface, and the strange and wonderful cultures she met on her journeys. I grew up in awe of her chosen task: to capture on canvas the essence of a world utterly foreign to her own.
New technology--revolutionary for its time--had allowed her to do this. Using a compressor, or sometimes just a hand pump connected to air hoses running to the surface, human beings were suddenly able to submerge themselves for long periods in an otherwise inaccessible world. New technology allowed her to both venture into this unexplored realm, and to document it in canvas.
I came upon the brave new world of computer communications and its darker side, the underground, quite by accident. It struck me somewhere in the journey that followed that my trepidations and conflicting desires to explore this alien world were perhaps not unlike my aunt’s own desires some half a century before. Like her journey, my own travels have only been made possible by new technologies. And like her, I have tried to capture a small corner of this world.
This is a book about the computer underground. It is not a book about law enforcement agencies, and it is not written from the point of view of the police officer. From a literary perspective, I have told this story through the eyes of numerous computer hackers. In doing so, I hope to provide the reader with a window into a mysterious, shrouded and usually inaccessible realm.
Who are hackers? Why do they hack? There are no simple answers to these questions. Each hacker is different. To that end, I have attempted to present a collection of individual but interconnected stories, bound by their links to the international computer underground. These are true stories, tales of the world’s best and the brightest hackers and phreakers. There are some members of the underground whose stories I have not covered, a few of whom would also rank as world-class. In the end, I chose to paint detailed portraits of a few hackers rather than attempt to compile a comprehensive but shallow catalogue.
While each hacker has a distinct story, there are common themes which appear throughout many of the stories. Rebellion against all symbols of authority. Dysfunctional families. Bright children suffocated by ill-equipped teachers. Mental illness or instability. Obsession and addiction.
I have endeavoured to track what happened to each character in this work over time: the individual’s hacking adventures, the police raid and the ensuing court case. Some of those court cases have taken years to reach completion. Hackers use ‘handles’--on-line nicknames--that serve two purposes. They shield the hacker’s identity and, importantly, they often make a statement about how the hacker perceives himself in the underground.
Hawk, Crawler, Toucan Jones, Comhack, Dataking, Spy, Ripmax, Fractal Insanity, Blade. These are all real handles used in Australia.