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Фантастика. Фэнтези
   Зарубежная фантастика
      Bruce Sterling. The hacker crackdown -
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ome just companies amid other companies. But this never happened. Instead, AT&T and the ъBOCS ("the Baby Bells") feel themselves wrenched from side to side by state regulators, by Congress, by the FCC, and especially by the federal court of Judge Harold Greene, the magistrate who ordered the Bell breakup and who has been the de facto czar of American telecommunications ever since 1983. Bell people feel that they exist in a kind of paralegal limbo today. They don't understand what's demanded of them. If it's "service," why aren't they treated like a public service? And if it's money, then why aren't they free to compete for it? No one seems to know, really. Those who claim to know keep changing their minds. Nobody in authority seems willing to grasp the nettle for once and all. Telephone people from other countries are amazed by the American telephone system today. Not that it works so well; for nowadays even the French telephone system works, more or less. They are amazed that the American telephone system *still* works *at all,* under these strange conditions. Bell's "One System" of long-distance service is now only about eighty percent of a system, with the remainder held by Sprint, MCI, and the midget long-distance companies. Ugly wars over dubious corporate practices such as "slamming" (an underhanded method of snitching clients from rivals) break out with some regularity in the realm of long-distance service. The battle to break Bell's long-distance monopoly was long and ugly, and since the breakup the battlefield has not become much prettier. AT&T's famous shame-and-blame advertisements, which emphasized the shoddy work and purported ethical shadiness of their competitors, were much remarked on for their studied psychological cruelty. There is much bad blood in this industry, and much long-treasured resentment. AT&T's post-breakup corporate logo, a striped sphere, is known in the industry as the "Death Star" (a reference from the movie *Star Wars,* in which the "Death Star" was the spherical high- tech fortress of the harsh-breathing imperial ultra-baddie, Darth Vader.) Even AT&T employees are less than thrilled by the Death Star. A popular (though banned) T- shirt among AT&T employees bears the old-fashioned Bell logo of the Bell System, plus the newfangled striped sphere, with the before-and-after comments: "This is your brain -- This is your brain on drugs!" AT&T made a very well-financed and determined effort to break into the personal computer market; it was disastrous, and telco computer experts are derisively known by their competitors as "the pole-climbers." AT&T and the Baby Bell arbocks still seem to have few friends. Under conditions of sharp commercial competition, a crash like that of January 15, 1990 was a major embarrassment to AT&T. It was a direct blow against their much-treasured reputation for reliability. Within days of the crash AT&T's Chief Executive Officer, Bob Allen, officially apologized, in terms of deeply pained humility: "AT&T had a major service disruption last Monday. We didn't live up to our own standards of quality, and we didn't live up to yours. It's as simple as that. And that's not acceptable to us. Or to you.... We understand how much people have come to depend upon AT&T service, so our AT&T Bell Laboratories scientists and our network engineers are doing everything possible to guard against a recurrence.... We know there's no way to make up for the inconvenience this problem may have caused you." Mr Allen's "open letter to customers" was printed in lavish ads all over the country: in the *Wall Street Journal,* *USA Today,* *New York Times,* *Los Angeles Times,* *Chicago Tribune,* *Philadelphia Inquirer,* *San Francisco Chronicle Examiner,* *Boston Globe,* *Dallas Morning News,* *Detroit Free Press,* *Washington Post,* *Houston Chronicle,* *Cleveland Plain Dealer,* *Atlanta Journal Constitution,* *Minneapolis Star Tribune,* *St. Paul Pioneer Press Dispatch,* *Seattle Times/Post Intelligencer,* *Tacoma News Tribune,* *Miami Herald,* *Pittsburgh Press,* *St. Louis Post Dispatch,* *Denver Post,* *Phoenix ъepublic Gazette* and *Tampa Tribune.* In another press release, AT&T went to some pains to suggest that this "software glitch" *might* have happened just as easily to MCI, although, in fact, it hadn't. (MCI's switching software was quite different from AT&T's -- though not necessarily any safer.) AT&T also announced their plans to offer a rebate of service on Valentine's Day to make up for the loss during the Crash. "Every technical resource available, including Bell Labs scientists and engineers, has been devoted to assuring it will not occur again," the public was told. They were further assured that "The chances of a recurrence are small--a problem of this magnitude never occurred before." In the meantime, however, police and corporate security maintained their own suspicions about "the chances of recurrence" and the real reason why a "problem of this magnitude" had appeared, seemingly out of nowhere. Police and security knew for a fact that hackers of unprecedented sophistication were illegally entering, and reprogramming, certain digital switching stations. ъumors of hidden "viruses" and secret "logic bombs" in the switches ran rampant in the underground, with much chortling over AT&T's predicament, and idle speculation over what unsung hacker genius was responsible for it. Some hackers, including police informants, were trying hard to finger one another as the true culprits of the Crash. Telco people found little comfort in objectivity when they contemplated these possibilities. It was just too close to the bone for them; it was embarrassing; it hurt so much, it was hard even to talk about. There has always been thieving and misbehavior in the phone system. There has always been trouble with the rival independents, and in the local loops. But to have such trouble in the core of the system, the long-distance switching stations, is a horrifying affair. To telco people, this is all the difference between finding roaches in your kitchen and big horrid sewer-rats in your bedroom. From the outside, to the average citizen, the telcos still seem gigantic and impersonal. The American public seems to regard them as something akin to Soviet apparats. Even when the telcos do their best corporate- citizen routine, subsidizing magnet high-schools and sponsoring news-shows on public television, they seem to win little except public suspicion. But from the inside, all this looks very different. There's harsh competition. A legal and political system that seems baffled and bored, when not actively hostile to telco interests. There's a loss of morale, a deep sensation of having somehow lost the upper hand. Technological change has caused a loss of data and revenue to other, newer forms of transmission. There's theft, and new forms of theft, of growing scale and boldness and sophistication. With all these factors, it was no surprise to see the telcos, large and small, break out in a litany of bitter complaint. In late '88 and throughout 1989, telco representatives grew shrill in their complaints to those few American law enforcement officials who make it their business to try to understand what telephone people are talking about. Telco security officials had discovered the computer- hacker underground, infiltrated it thoroughly, and become deeply alarmed at its growing expertise. Here they had found a target that was not only loathsome on its face, but clearly ripe for counterattack. Those bitter rivals: AT&T, MCI and Sprint -- and a crowd of Baby Bells: PacBell, Bell South, Southwestern Bell, NYNEX, USWest, as well as the Bell research consortium Bellcore, and the independent long-distance carrier Mid-American -- all were to have their role in the great hacker dragnet of 1990. After years of being battered and pushed around, the telcos had, at least in a small way, seized the initiative again. After years of turmoil, telcos and government officials were once again to work smoothly in concert in defense of the System. Optimism blossomed; enthusiasm grew on all sides; the prospective taste of vengeance was sweet. # From the beginning -- even before the crackdown had a name -- secrecy was a big problem. There were many good reasons for secrecy in the hacker crackdown. Hackers and code-thieves were wily prey, slinking back to their bedrooms and basements and destroying vital incriminating evidence at the first hint of trouble. Furthermore, the crimes themselves were heavily technical and difficult to describe, even to police -- much less to the general public. When such crimes *had* been described intelligibly to the public, in the past, that very publicity had tended to *increase* the crimes enormously. Telco officials, while painfully aware of the vulnerabilities of their systems, were anxious not to publicize those weaknesses. Experience showed them that those weaknesses, once discovered, would be pitilessly exploited by tens of thousands of people -- not only by professional grifters and by underground hackers and phone phreaks, but by many otherwise more-or-less honest everyday folks, who regarded stealing service from the faceless, soulless "Phone Company" as a kind of harmless indoor sport. When it came to protecting their interests, telcos had long since given up on general public sympathy for "the Voice with a Smile." Nowadays the telco's "Voice" was very likely to be a computer's; and the American public showed much less of the proper respect and gratitude due the fine public service bequeathed them by Dr. Bell and Mr. Vail. The more efficient, high-tech, computerized, and impersonal the telcos became, it seemed, the more they were met by sullen public resentment and amoral greed. Telco officials wanted to punish the phone-phreak underground, in as public and exemplary a manner as possible. They wanted to make dire examples of the worst offenders, to seize the ringleaders and intimidate the small fry, to discourage and frighten the wacky hobbyists, and send the professional grifters to jail. To do all this, publicity was vital. Yet operational secrecy was even more so. If word got out that a nationwide crackdown was coming, the hackers might simply vanish; destroy the evidence, hide their computers, go to earth, and wait for the campaign to blow over. Even the young hackers were crafty and suspicious, and as for the professional grifters, they tended to split for the nearest state-line at the first sign of trouble. For the crackdown to work well, they would all have to be caught red-handed, swept upon suddenly, out of the blue, from every corner of the compass. And there was another strong motive for secrecy. In the worst-case scenario, a blown campaign might leave the telcos open to a devastating hacker counter-attack. If there were indeed hackers loose in America who had caused the January 15 Crash -- if there were truly gifted hackers, loose in the nation's long-distance switching systems, and enraged or frightened by the crackdown -- then they might react unpredictably to an attempt to collar them. Even if caught, they might have talented and vengeful friends still running around loose. Conceivably, it could turn ugly. Very ugly. In fact, it was hard to imagine just how ugly things might turn, given that possibility. Counter-attack from hackers was a genuine concern for the telcos. In point of fact, they would never suffer any such counter-attack. But in months to come, they would be at some pains to publicize this notion and to utter grim warnings about it. Still, that risk seemed well worth running. Better to run the risk of vengeful attacks, than to live at the mercy of potential crashers. Any cop would tell you that a protection racket had no real future. And publicity was such a useful thing. Corporate security officers, including telco security, generally work under conditions of great discretion. And corporate security officials do not make money for their companies. Their job is to *prevent the loss* of money, which is much less glamorous than actually winning profits. If you are a corporate security official, and you do your job brilliantly, then nothing bad happens to your company at all. Because of this, you appear completely superfluous. This is one of the many unattractive aspects of security work. It's rare that these folks have the chance to draw some healthy attention to their own efforts. Publicity also served the interest of their friends in law enforcement. Public officials, including law enforcement officials, thrive by attracting favorable public interest. A brilliant prosecution in a matter of vital public interest can make the career of a prosecuting attorney. And for a police officer, good publicity opens the purses of the legislature; it may bring a citation, or a promotion, or at least a rise in status and the respect of one's peers. But to have both publicity and secrecy is to have one's cake and eat it too. In months to come, as we will show, this impossible act was to cause great pain to the agents of the crackdown. But early on, it seemed possible -- maybe even likely -- that the crackdown could successfully combine the best of both worlds. The *arrest* of hackers would be heavily publicized. The actual *deeds* of the hackers, which were technically hard to explain and also a security risk, would be left decently obscured. The *threat* hackers posed would be heavily trumpeted; the likelihood of their actually committing such fearsome crimes would be left to the public's imagination. The spread of the computer underground, and its growing technical sophistication, would be heavily promoted; the actual hackers themselves, mostly bespectacled middle-class white suburban teenagers, would be denied any personal publicity. It does not seem to have occurred to any telco official that the hackers accused would demand a day in court; that journalists would smile upon the hackers as "good copy;" that wealthy high-tech entrepreneurs would offer moral and financial support to crackdown victims; that constitutional lawyers would show up with briefcases, frowning mightily. This possibility does not seem to have ever entered the game-plan. And even if it had, it probably would not have slowed the ferocious pursuit of a stolen phone-company document, mellifluously known as "Control Office Administration of Enhanced 911 Services for Special Services and Major Account Centers." In the chapters to follow, we will explore the worlds of police and the computer underground, and the large shadowy area where they overlap. But first, we must explore the battleground. Before we leave the world of the telcos, we must understand what a switching system actually is and how your telephone actually works. # To the average citizen, the idea of the telephone is represented by, well, a *telephone:* a device that you talk into. To a telco professional, however, the telephone itself is known, in lordly fashion, as a "subset." The "subset" in your house is a mere adjunct, a distant nerve ending, of the central switching stations, which are ranked in levels of heirarchy, up to the long-distance electronic switching stations, which are some of the largest computers on earth. Let us imagine that it is, say, 1925, before the introduction of computers, when the phone system was simpler and somewhat easier to grasp. Let's further imagine that you are Miss Leticia Luthor, a fictional operator for Ma Bell in New York City of the 20s. Basically, you, Miss Luthor, *are* the "switching system." You are sitting in front of a large vertical switchboard, known as a "cordboard," made of shiny wooden panels, with ten thousand metal-rimmed holes punched in them, known as jacks. The engineers would have put more holes into your switchboard, but ten thousand is as many as you can reach without actually having to get up out of your chair. Each of these ten thousand holes has its own little electric lightbulb, known as a "lamp," and its own neatly printed number code. With the ease of long habit, you are scanning your board for lit-up bulbs. This is what you do most of the time, so you are used to it. A lamp lights up. This means that the phone at the end of that line has been taken off the hook. Whenever a handset is taken off the hook, that closes a circuit inside the phone which then signals the local office, i.e. you, automatically. There might be somebody calling, or then again the phone might be simply off the hook, but this does not matter to you yet. The first thing you do, is record that number in your logbook, in your fine American public-school handwriting. This comes first, naturally, since it is done for billing purposes. You now take the plug of your answering cord, which goes directly to your headset, and plug it into the lit-up hole. "Operator," you announce. In operator's classes, before taking this job, you have been issued a large pamphlet full of canned operator's responses for all kinds of contingencies, which you had to memorize. You have also been trained in a proper non- regional, non-ethnic pronunciation and tone of voice. You rarely have the occasion to make any spontaneous remark to a customer, and in fact this is frowned upon (except out on the rural lines where people have time on their hands and get up to all kinds of mischief). A tough-sounding user's voice at the end of the line gives you a number. Immediately, you write that number down in your logbook, next to the caller's number, which you just wrote earlier. You then look and see if the number this guy wants is in fact on your switchboard, which it generally is, since it's generally a local call. Long distance costs so much that people use it sparingly. Only then do you pick up a calling-cord from a shelf at the base of the switchboard. This is a long elastic cord mounted on a kind of reel so that it will zip back in when you unplug it. There are a lot of cords down there, and when a bunch of them are out at once they look like a nest of snakes. Some of the girls think there are bugs living in those cable-holes. They're called "cable mites" and are supposed to bite your hands and give you rashes. You don't believe this, yourself. Gripping the head of your calling-cord, you slip the tip of it deftly into the sleeve of the jack for the called person. Not all the way in, though. You just touch it. If you hear a clicking sound, that means the line is busy and you can't put the call through. If the line is busy, you have to stick the calling-cord into a "busy-tone jack," which will give the guy a busy-tone. This way you don't have to talk to him yourself and absorb his natural human frustration. But the line isn't busy. So you pop the cord all the way in. ъelay circuits in your board make the distant phone ring, and if somebody picks it up off the hook, then a phone conversation starts. You can hear this conversation on your answering cord, until you unplug it. In fact you could listen to the whole conversation if y

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