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The Answer Guy

By James T. Dennis, tag@lists.linuxgazette.net
Starshine Technical Services, http://www.starshine.org/


From an00997 on 30 Jul 1998

Hi,I'm Dodo.I'm just finishing a course of computer operations and I would like to know about phreak,hacking... Can you tell me about it ??? Tips or news ???


(!)My first thought is that this is some sort of troll (message intended to generate flames --- often forged to appear from an unsuspecting party so as to harass the apparent sender).
That doesn't make sense in this case since getting one flame from "The Answer Guy" is hardly worth the trouble.
There for I have to assume that you have chosen an unusually apt handle for yourself.
So, you're finishing a course in computer operations. That's nice and productive. You should also considering taking a course in basic composition and grammar.
(Hints: commas and periods are normally followed by spaces; question marks normally are used in sequences of one (the "triple question mark" is for emphasis); and you finish courses that are "in" or "on" topics, not "of" them).
Normally I don't flame people on their spelling grammar, or punctuation. However, there doesn't seem to be much else to say to you.
You want to know about phreaking and "hacking." The first think to know about phreaking (the study of practical phone fraud techniques) is that use of most of the techniques used by phreaks is illegal in just about any jurisdiction. In many places you can a) go to jail and b) insure that you can never work in the computer industry again by getting convicted of crimes involving telephone and computer fraud.
The term "hacking" as applied to techniques for bypassing system security and gaining unauthorized access (or privileges on) them is highly controversial. It is accepted practice among computer enthusiasts to use the term "cracking" to discuss those activities and "hacking" to discuss the lawful and legitimate pursuit of their hobby.
In this latter sense we call Linus, Alan Cox, and others "Kernel hackers."
The media prefers to use the term "hacker" in the former sense. This is one of many reasons that "hackers" and "crackers" alike tend to be disgusted by the media. (As a regular contributor to LG I'm considered by some to be in "the media" and thus worthy of suspicion and disgust. Others have other opinions --- some of those are even less complimentary).
I personally find the whole "phreak mystique" to be disgusting. There is a tendency to romanticize phreaks and crackers ---- to create a mythology of the "uberhacker" (a Nietsche-an reference that very few of them understand). That whole subculture is permeated with a smug "superiority" that tries to say: "we know something you don't."
Of course, to them I'm a nobody. I've never cracked into anyone's system. I've never written any "warez" or "sploits" and I don't even know all the buzz words and jargon to participate in their conversations. I'm a "lam3r" that's not even good enough to be a "wannabe." In other words, I'm not an "3l33t d000d."
It also tends to be quite juvenile. They seem to have an inordinate fondness for bad grammar and intentionally crazy spelling. I suppose it's part of the general affectation of 'tude --- the rebellious aversion to authority and convention, even the conventions of language itself. Trite!
Now this is not to say that you have no business learning about phreaking and cracking. There's nothing wrong with learning about these things, nor even anything inherently wrong with experimentation and research. However, there is a major problem if you conduct your "research" on "subjects" without their informed consent.
As a sysadmin's (and sometimes security) consultant I study these things as much as my time allows. Most of my information comes from mailing lists like bugtraq, and from web sites like rootshell and the l0pht. I'll let you find those on your own. You can also subscribe to 2600 and Phrack magazines (printed) to learn more. Phrack is also available online.
All of the real "cracker" socializing seems to be done via IRC (Internet Relay Chat). This has tended to give the whole IRC system a bit of a bad rap. The popularity of IRC for this stems from at least two factors: it is immediate and interactive (instant gratification is very important in these circles), and it allows for direct client-to-client communications (DCC) which makes it easy for participants to exchange "warez" and other files. From what I gather the old-fashioned BBS is also still pretty popular in that crowd. These seem to be "by invitation only" --- so you'll have to curry favor and do some horse trading to get any phone numbers on any of them.
Naturally it is important for these crackers and phreakers to maintain their elite status by locking out the lamers and wannabes. So anything published about them is wrong, or will be right after they read it.
I suspect that this message by itself will probably get me flamed and possibly attract some cracks on my systems (d00dz, don't bother; it's not sporting --- I don't do anything special to protect my servers, honest! My web and ftp servers are just virtual hosts on some poor ISP, no challenge at all).
Meanwhile my best advice to you, Dodo, is to cut your moniker in half and just "do" something constructive. If you want to make a serious study of "cracking" and "phreaking" than the Linux Gazette Answer Guy is a pretty lame place to start. In short: get a life!

Copyright © 1998, James T. Dennis
Published in Linux Gazette Issue 32 September 1998

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