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Gordon Meyer and Jim Thomas
Department of Sociology
Northern Illinois University
DeKalb, IL 60115
(10 June, 1990)
          Forthcoming in In F.  Schmalleger (ed.),  Computers in Criminal
          Justice, Bristol (Ind.):  Wyndham Hall.   An earlier version of
          this paper was presented at  the American Society of Criminology
          annual meetings, Reno (November 9, 1989).   Authors are listed in
          alphabetical order.  Address correspondence to Jim Thomas.
          We are indebted  to the numerous anonymous  computer underground
          participants who provided  information.  Special acknowledgement
          goes to Hatchet Molly, Jedi, The Mentor,  Knight Lightning,  and
          Taran King.
                         THE BAUDY WORLD OF THE BYTE BANDIT:
               Hackers are "nothing more  than high-tech street gangs"
               (Federal Prosecutor, Chicago).
               Transgression is not immoral. Quite to the contrary, it
               reconciles the law with what it forbids; it is the dia-
               lectical game of good and evil (Baudrillard, 1987: 81).
               There ain't no sin and there ain't no virtue.  There's
               just stuff people do.   It's all part of the nice, but
               that's as far as any man got a right to say (Steinbeck,
               The criminalization of "deviant acts" transforms and reduces
          broader social meanings to legal ones.  Once a category of behav-
          iors has become defined by statute as sanctionably deviant,  the
          behaviors so-defined assume  a new set of meanings  that may ob-
          scure ones  possessed by those  who engage in  such behaviors.
          "Computer deviants" provide one example.
               The proliferation of computer  technology has been accompa-
          nied by the growth of a computer underground (CU),  often mistak-
          enly labeled "hackers," that is  perceived as criminally deviant
          by the media, law enforcement officials, and researchers.   Draw-
          ing from ethnographic data,  we offer  a cultural rather than a
          criminological analysis of the underground by suggesting that the
          CU reflects an attempt to recast, re-appropriate, and reconstruct
          the power-knowledge relationship that  increasingly dominates the
                                        - 1 -
          ideology and actions of modern society.  Our data reveal the com-
          puter underground as  an invisible community with  a complex and
          interconnected cultural lifestyle, an inchoate anti-authoritarian
          political consciousness,  and dependent on norms of reciprocity,
          sophisticated socialization  rituals,  networks  of information
          sharing, and an explicit value system.   We interpret the CU cul-
          ture as a challenge to and parody of conventional culture,  as a
          playful attempt to reject the seriousness of technocracy,  and as
          an ironic substitution of rational  technological control of the
          present for an anarchic and playful future.
                        Stigmatizing the Computer Underground
               The computer underground refers to persons engaged in one or
          more of several activities, including pirating, anarchy, hacking,
          and phreaking[1].    Because computer  underground participants
          freely share information and often are involved collectively in a
          single incident,  media definitions invoke the generalized meta-
          phors of  "conspiracies" and "criminal rings,"  (e.g.,  Camper,
          1989;  Computer Hacker Ring, 1990;  Zablit, 1989), "modem macho"
          evil-doers (Bloombecker, 1988),  moral bankruptcy (E.  Schwartz,
          1988), "electronic trespassers" (Parker: 1983), "crazy kids dedi-
          cated to making mischief" (Sandza, 1984a:  17), "electronic van-
          dals" (Bequai:  1987), a new or global "threat" (Markoff, 1990a;
          Van,  1989),  saboteurs ("Computer Sabateur," 1988),  monsters
          (Stoll, 1989:  323), secret societies of criminals (WMAQ, 1990),
          "'malevolent, nasty, evil-doers' who 'fill the screens of amateur
          {computer} users with pornography'"  (Minister of Parliament Emma
                                        - 2 -
          Nicholson, cited in "Civil Liberties," 1990:  27), "varmints" and
          "bastards" (Stoll,  1989:  257),  and "high-tech street gangs"
          ("Hacker, 18," 1989).  Stoll (cited in J. Schwartz, 1990: 50) has
          even compared them to persons who  put razorblades in the sand at
          beaches, a bloody, but hardly accurate, analogy.   Most dramatic
          is Rosenblatt's (1990:  37) attempt to link hackers to pedophilia
          and "snuff films," a ploy clearly designed to inflame rather than
               These images have prompted calls  for community and law en-
          forcement vigilance (Conly and McEwen, 1990:  2;  Conly,  1989;
          McEwen, 1989).   and for application of the Racketeer Influenced
          and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act to prosecute and control the
          "criminals" (Cooley, 1984),  which have created considerable con-
          cern for civil liberties (Markoff, 1990b;  J.  Schwartz, 1990).
          Such exaggerated discourse also fails  to distinguish between un-
          derground "hobbyists," who may infringe  on legal norms but have
          no intention of pillaging,  from  felonious predators,  who use
          technology to loot[2].   Such terminology creates a common stock
          of public knowledge that formats  interpretations of CU activity
          in ways pre-patterned as requiring  social control to protect the
          commonweal (e.g., Altheide, 1985).
               As Hollinger and Lanza-Kaduce (1988:  119), Kane (1989), and
          Pfuhl (1987) observed,  the stigmatization of hackers has emerged
          primarily through value-laden media depictions.   When in 1988 a
          Cornell University graduate student inadvertently infected an in-
          ternational computer network by  planting a self-reproducing "vi-
                                        - 3 -
          rus," or "rogue program," the news  media followed the story with
          considerable detail about  the dangers of computer  abuse (e.g.,
          Allman, 1990; Winter, 1988).  Five years earlier, in May of 1983,
          a group of hackers known as  "The 414's" received equal media at-
          tention when they  broke into the computer system  of the Sloan
          Kettering Cancer research center.   Between these dramatic and a-
          typical events, the media have dramatized the dangers of computer
          renegades,  and media anecdotes  presented during Congressional
          legislative debates  to curtail "computer abuse"  dramatized the
          "computer hacking problem" (Hollinger  and Lanza-Kaduce,  1988:
          107).   Although the accuracy and objectivity of the evidence has
          since been challenged (Hollinger and Lanza-Kaduce 1988: 105), the
          media continue to format CU activity  by suggesting that any com-
          puter-related felony can be attributed to hacking.  Additionally,
          media stories are taken from the accounts of police blotters, se-
          curity personnel, and apprehended hackers, each of whom have dif-
          ferent perspectives and definitions.   This creates a self-rein-
          forcing  imagery in  which  extreme  examples and  cursively
          circulated data are discretely adduced  to substantiate the claim
          of criminality by  those with a vested interest  in creating and
          maintaining such definitions.   For  example,  Conly and McEwen
          (1990)  list examples of law  enforcement jurisdictions in which
          special units to  fight "computer crime," very  broadly defined,
          have been created.  These broad  definitions serve to expand the
          scope of authority and resources of the units.   Nonetheless, de-
          spite criminalization,  there is little  evidence to support the
                                        - 4 -
          contention that computer hacking has been sufficiently abusive or
          pervasive to warrant zealous  prosecution (Michalowski and Pfuhl,
               As an antidote to the  conventional meanings of CU activity
          as simply one of deviance,  we shift the social meaning of CU be-
          havior from one of stigma to one of culture creation and meaning.
          Our work is tentative,  in part  because of the lack of previous
          substantive literature and in part  because of the complexity of
          the data, which indicate a multiplicity of subcultures within the
          CU.  This paper examines two distinct CU subcultures, phreaks and
          hackers,  and challenges the Manichean  view that hackers can be
          understood simply as profaners of a sacred moral and economic or-
                     The Computer Underground and Postmodernism
               The computer underground  is a culture of  persons who call
          computer bulletin board systems (BBSs,  or just "boards"),  and
          share the interests fostered by the BBS.   In conceptualizing the
          computer underground as a distinct culture, we draw from Geertz's
          (1973: 5) definition of culture as a system of meanings that give
          significance to shared  behaviors that must be  interpreted from
          the perspective of those engaged in them.  A culture provides not
          only the "systems of standards for perceiving, believing,  evalu-
          ating, and acting" (Goodenough,  1981:  110),  but includes the
          rules and symbols  of interpretation and discourse  for partici-
               In crude relief,  culture can be understood as a set of
               solutions devised by a group of people to meet specific
               problems  posed by  situations  they  face in  com-
                                        - 5 -
               mon. . . This notion of culture as a living, historical
               product of group problem solving  allows an approach to
               cultural study that is applicable to any group, be it a
               society, a neighborhood, a family, a dance band,  or an
               organization and its segments  (Van Maanen and Barley,
               1985: 33).
               Creating and maintaining a culture requires continuous indi-
          vidual or group processes of  sustaining an identity through the
          coherence gained by a consistent aesthetic point of view, a moral
          conception of self,  and a lifestyle that expresses those concep-
          tions in one's immediate existence and tastes (Bell, 1976:  36).
          These behavioral expressions signify a variety of meanings,  and
          as signifiers they reflect a type of code that can be interpreted
          semiotically,  or as a sign system amenable to readings indepen-
          dent of either participants or of  those imposed by the super-or-
          dinate culture:
               All aspects of culture possess  a semiotic value,  and
               the most  taken-for-granted phenomena can  function as
               signs:   as elements in communication systems governed
               by semantic rules  and codes which are  not themselves
               directly apprehended in experience.   These signs are,
               then,  as opaque as the social relations which produce
               them and which they re-present (Hebdige, 1982: 13).
               It is this symbolic cultural ethos,   by which we mean the
          style, world view, and mood (Hebdige,  1979),  that reflects the
          postmodernist elements of the CU and separates it from modernism.
          Modernist culture  is characterized especially  by rationality,
          technological enhancement, deference to centralized control,  and
          mass communication.   The emergence  of computer technology has
          created dramatic changes in social communication, economic trans-
          actions, and information processing and sharing, while simultane-
          ously introducing new forms of surveillance, social control,  and
                                        - 6 -
          intrusions on privacy (Marx, 1988a: 208-211;  Marx and Reichman,
          1985).  This has contributed to a:
               . . .  richly confused and hugely verbal age, energized
               by a multitude of competing discourses,  the very pro-
               liferation and plasticity of  which increasingly deter-
               mine what we defensively refer  to as our reality (New-
               man, 1985: 15).
               By Postmodernism we mean a reaction against "cultural moder-
          nity" and a destruction of the  constraints of the present "maxi-
          mum security society" (Marx,  1988b)  that reflect an attempt to
          gain control of an alternative future. In the CU world, this con-
          stitutes a conscious resistance to the  domination of but not the
          fact of technological encroachment into  all realms of our social
          existence.  The CU represents a reaction against modernism by of-
          fering an ironic response to the primacy of a master technocratic
          language,  the incursion of computers into realms once considered
          private, the politics of techno-society,  and the sanctity of es-
          tablished civil and state authority.  Postmodernism is character-
          ized not so much by a single  definition as by a number of inter-
          related characteristics, including, but not limited to:
             1.  Dissent for dissent's sake (Lyotard, 1988).
             2.  The collapse of the  hierarchical distinction between mass
                 and popular culture (Featherstone, 1988: 203).
             3.  A stylistic promiscuity favoring  eclecticism and the mix-
                 ing of codes (Featherstone, 1988: 203).
             4.  Parody, pastiche, irony,  playfulness and the celebration
                 of the surface "depthlessness"  of culture (Featherstone,
                 1988: 203).
                                        - 7 -
             5.  The decline of the originality/genius of the artistic pro-
                 ducer and the assumption that  art can only be repetitious
                 (Featherstone 1988: 203).
             6.  The stripping  away of social and  perceptual coordinates
                 that let one "know where one is" (Latimer, 1984: 121).
             7.  A search for new ways  to make the unpresentable presenta-
                 ble, and break down the barriers that keep the profane out
                 of everyday life (Denzin, 1988: 471).
             8.  The introduction of new moves  into old games or inventing
                 new games  that are evaluated pragmatically  rather than
                 from some uniform stand point  of "truth" or philosophical
                 discourse (Callinicos, 1985: 86).
             9.  Emphasis on the  visual over the literary  (Lash,  1988:
             10. Devaluation of formalism and  juxtaposition of signifiers
                 taken from the banalities of  everyday life (Lash,  1988:
             11. Contesting of rationalist and/or  didactive views of cul-
                 ture (Lash, 1988: 314).
             12. Asking not what a cultural text  means,  but what it does
                 (Lash, 1988: 314).
             13. Operation through the spectator's immersion, the relative-
                 ly unmediated investment of his/her desire in the cultural
                 object (Lash, 1988: 314).
             14. Acknowledgement of the decenteredness  of modern life and
                 "plays with the apparent emptiness  of modern life as well
                                        - 8 -
                 as the lack of coherence  in modern symbol systems" (Man-
                 ning, 1989: 8).
               "Post-Modernism" in its positive  form constitutes an intel-
          lectual attack upon the atomized,   passive and indifferent mass
          culture which,  through the saturation of electronic technology,
          has reached its zenith in Post-War American (Newman,  1985:  5).
          It is this style of playful rebellion, irreverent subversion, and
          juxtaposition of fantasy with high-tech reality that impels us to
          interpret the computer underground as a postmodernist culture.
                                   Data and Method
               Obtaining data from any  underground culture requires tact.
          BBS operators protect  the privacy of users and  access to elite
          boards, or at least to their relevant security levels,  virtually
          always requires  completion of a preliminary  questionnaire,  a
          screening process, and occasional voice verification.   Research-
          ers generally do not themselves  violate laws or dominant norms,
          so they depend on their  informants for potentially "dirty infor-
          mation" (Thomas and Marquart, 1988).   Our own data are no excep-
          tion and derive from several sources.
               First,  the bulk  of our data come  from computer bulletin
          board systems.   BBSs are personal computers (PCs) that have been
          equipped with a  telephone modem and special  software that con-
          nects users to other PCs by  telephone.   After "logging in" by
          supplying a valid user name and  password,  the user can receive
          and leave messages to other users of the system.   These messages
          are rarely private and anyone calling the BBS can freely read and
                                        - 9 -
          respond to them.  There is usually the capacity to receive (down-
          load) or send (upload) text files ("G-philes")  or software pro-
          grams between the caller and host system.
               We logged the message section of CU BBSs to compile documen-
          tary evidence of  the issues deemed important  for discussion by
          participants.   Logs are "captured" (recorded using the computer
          buffer)  messages left on the board by users.   Calculating the
          quantity of logged data is  difficult because of formatting vari-
          ance,  but we estimate that our logs exceed 10,000 printed pages.
          The logs  cited here are verbatim  with the exception  of minor
          editing changes in format and extreme typographical errors.
               Identifying underground BBSs can be  difficult,  and to the
          uninitiated they may appear to be licit chat or shareware boards.
          For callers with sufficient access,  however,  there exist back-
          stage realms in  which "cracking" information is  exchanged and
          private text or  software files made available.    With current
          technology,  establishing a BBS  requires little initial skill.
          Most boards  are short-lived and  serve only local  or regional
          callers.   Because of the generally poor quality and amateur na-
          ture of these systems, we focused on national elite boards.   We
          considered a board "elite" if it met all of the following charac-
          teristics: At least one quarter of the users were registered out-
          side the state of the board  called;  the phone line were exclu-
          sively for  BBS use and  available 24  hours a day;   and the
          information and files/warez  were current "state of  the field."
          Elite CU members argue that there are less than ten "truly elite"
          p/hacker boards nationally.
                                       - 10 -
               We obtained the  names and numbers of BBSs  from the first
          boards we called, and used a snowball technique to supplement the
          list.   We obtained additional numbers from CU periodicals, and,
          as we became more familiar with the culture,  users also added to
          the list.   Our aggregate data include no less than 300 Bulletin
          board systems,  of which at least 50 attract phreaks and hackers,
          and voice or on-line interviews with  no less than 45 sysops (op-
          erators of BBS systems) and other active CU participants.
               A second data source included  open-ended voice and on-line
          interviews with hackers, phreaks and pirates.   The data include
          no less than 25 face-to-face, 25 telephone, and 60 on-line inter-
          views obtained as we became familiar with our informants.
               Third,  data acquisition included  as much participation as
          legally possible in CU activities[3].  This served to justify our
          presence in the culture and  provided information about the mun-
          dane activity of the CU.
               Finally,  we obtained back and current issues of the primary
          underground computerized magazines,  which are distributed on na-
          tional BBSs as text files.  These contain information relevant to
          the particular subculture,  and included PHRACK,  Activist Times
          Incorporated (ATI), P/Hun, 2600 Magazine, PIRATE, TAP, and Legion
          of Doom (LoD/H).   We also draw  data from national and interna-
          tional electronic mail (e-mail) systems on which an active infor-
          mation-sharing CU network has developed and spread.
               Assessing the validity and reliability  of data obtained in
          this manner creates special problems.   One is that of sampling.
          The number of boards,  their often ephemeral existence,  and the
                                       - 11 -
          problem of obtaining access all make conventional sampling impos-
          sible.   We focused on national boards and engaged in theoretical
          sampling (Glaser and Strauss, 1967: 45-77).  We consider our sam-
          ple representative, and accept Bordieu's observation that:
               If, following the canon dictated by orthodox methodolo-
               gy, you take a random sample, you mutilate the very ob-
               ject you have set out to construct.  If, in a study of
               the field of lawyers, for instance, you do not draw the
               President of the Supreme Court,  or if,  in an inquiry
               into the French intellectual field  of the 1950s,  you
               leave out Jean-Paul Sartre,  or Princeton University in
               a study of American academics, your field is destroyed,
               insofar as these personas or  institutions alone mark a
               crucial position--there are positions  in a field which
               command the whole structure  (Bordieu,  interviewed in
               Wacquant, 1989: 38).
               We judge our  sample of participants adequate  for several
          reasons.   First,  we presume that the members with whom we have
          had contact comprise the elite members of the culture,  as deter-
          mined by the nature of the  boards they were on,  references to
          them on national  boards,  the level of  expertise displayed in
          their messages, and their appearance in the "user lists" of elite
          boards.   We consider the BBSs to be "typical exemplars" because
          of their status in the culture, because of the level of sophisti-
          cation both of users and of message content,  and because of ref-
          erences to these boards as "elite" in CU periodicals.
                              The Computer Underground
               The computer underground is both a  life style and a social
          network.   As a lifestyle, it provides identity and roles, an op-
          erational ideology,  and guides daily routine.  As a social net-
          work,  it functions as a  communications channel between persons
          engaged in one of three basic activities:   Hacking,  phreaking,
                                       - 12 -
          and pirating[4].   Each subgroup possesses an explicit style that
          includes an ethic and "code  of honor," cohesive norms,  career
          paths,  and other characteristics that  typify a culture (Meyer,
          1989a, 1989b; Meyer and Thomas, 1989).
               Hebdige (1982:  113-117) used the concept of homology to de-
          scribe the structural unity that  binds participants and provides
          the "symbolic fit between the values  and life-styles of a group"
          and how it expresses or reinforces its focal concerns.   Homology
          refers to the affinity and similarities  members of a group share
          that give it the particular cultural identity.   These shared al-
          ternative values and actions connect CU members to each other and
          their culture,  and create a celebration of "otherness" from the
          broader culture.
                (Tune: "Put Another Nickel in")
                Put another password in,
                Bomb it out, and try again,
                Try to get past logging in,
                Were hacking, hacking, hacking.
                Try his first wife's maiden name,
                This is more than just a game,
                It's real fun, but just the same
                It's hacking, hacking, hacking.
                Sys-call, let's try sys-call.
                Remember, that great bug from Version 3,
                Of R S X, It's here!  Whoopee!
                Put another sys-call in,
                Run those passwords out and then,
                Dial back up, we're logging on,
                We're hacking, hacking, hacking.
                (The Hacker Anthem, by Chesire Catalyst)
               Hacking broadly refers to attempts to gain access to comput-
          ers to which one does not possess authorization.  The term "hack-
          ers" first came into use in the  early 1960's when it was applied
                                       - 13 -
          to a  group of pioneering  computer aficionados at  MIT (Levy,
          1984).   Through the 1970s,  a hacker was viewed as someone obs-
          essed with  understanding and mastering computer  systems (Levy
          1984). But, in the early 1980's, stimulated by the release of the
          movie "War Games"  and the much publicized arrest  of a "hacker
          gang" known as "The 414s",  hackers were seen as young whiz-kids
          capable of breaking into corporate  and government computer sys-
          tems (Landreth 1985:34).   The imprecise media definition and the
          lack of any clear understanding of what  it means to be a hacker
          results in the mis-application of the  label to all forms of com-
          puter malfeasance.
               Despite the inter-relationship between  phreaks and hackers,
          the label of "hacker" is generally  reserved for those engaged in
          computer system trespassing.   For CU participants,  hacking can
          mean either attempting to gain access  to a computer system,  or
          the more refined goals of exploring in,  experimenting with,  or
          testing a computer system.  In the first connotation, hacking re-
          quires skills to obtain valid  user accounts on computer systems
          that would otherwise be unavailable,   and the term connotes the
          repetitive nature of break-in attempts.  Once successful entry is
          made,  the illicit accounts are often shared among associates and
          described as being "freshly (or newly) hacked."
               The second  connotation refers  to someone  possessing the
          knowledge, ability,  and desire to fully explore a computer sys-
          tem.   For elite hackers,  the mere act of gaining entry is not
          enough to warrant the "hacker" label;  there must be a desire to
                                       - 14 -
          master and  skill to  use the  system after  access has  been
               It's Sunday night,  and I'm in  my room,  deep into a
               hack.   My eyes are on the monitor, and my hands are on
               the keyboard,  but my mind  is really on the operating
               system of a super-minicomputer a  thousand miles away -
               a super-mini with an operating systems that does a good
               job of tracking users, and that will show my activities
               in its user logs,  unless I  can outwit it in the few
               hours before  the Monday  morning staff  arrives for
               work.....Eighteen hours ago,  I managed to hack a pass-
               word for the PDP 11/44.  Now, I have only an hour or so
               left to alter the user logs.  If I don't the logs will
               lead the system operators to my secret account, and the
               hours of work  it took me to get this  account will be
               wasted (Landreth, 1985: 57-58).
               An elite hacker must experiment  with command structures and
          explore the many files available in  order to understand and ef-
          fectively use the  system.  This is sometimes  called "hacking
          around" or simply "hacking a system".  This distinction is neces-
          sary because not all trespassers are necessarily skilled at hack-
          ing out passwords,  and not all hackers retain interest in a sys-
          tem once  the challenge of  gaining entry has  been surmounted.
          Further, passwords and accounts are often traded,  allowing even
          an unskilled intruder to erroneously claim the title of "hacker."
               Our data indicate that, contrary to their media image, hack-
          ers avoid deliberately destroying data  or otherwise damaging the
          system.   Doing so would conflict with their instrumental goal of
          blending in with the average user  to conceal their presence and
          prevent the deletion of the account.   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,  and hackers share considerable  contempt for media stories
                                       - 15 -
          that portray them  as "criminals."  The leading  CU periodicals
          (e.g., PHRACK, PIRATE)  and several CU "home boards" reprint and
          disseminate media stories, adding ironic commentary.  The percep-
          tion of media  distortion also provides grist  for message sec-
               A1: I myself hate newspaper reporters who do stories on
               hackers, piraters, phreaks,  etc...because they always
               make us sound like these  incred.  {sic} smart people
               (which isn't too bad) who are the biggest threat to to-
               days community.  Shit...the  BEST hackers/phreaks/etc
               will tell you that they only  do it to gain information
               on those systems,  etc...(Freedom  - That's what they
               call it...right?)  (grin)
               A2: Good point...never met a "real p/h type yet who was
               into ripping off. To rip of a line from the Steve Good-
               man song (loosely),  the game's the thing.  Even those
               who allegedly fly the jolly rodger {pirates},  the true
               ones, don't do it for the rip-off, but,  like monopoly,
               to see if they can get Boardwalk and Park Place without
               losing any railroads.  Fun of the latter is to start on
               a board with a single good game or util {software util-
               ity} and see what it can be turned into,  so I'm told.
               Fuck the press (DS message log, 1989).
               One elite hacker,  a member of a loose-knit organization re-
          cently in the national news  when some participants were indicted
          for hacking,  responded to media distortions of the group by is-
          sueing an underground press release:
               My name is {deleted}, but to the computer world,  I am
               {deleted}.   I have been a member of the group known as
               Legion of Doom since its  creation,  and admittedly I
               have not been the most legitimate computer user around,
               but when people start hinting at my supposed Communist-
               backed actions,  and say that I am involved in a world-
               wide conspiracy to destroy the nation's computer and/or
               911 network,  I have to speak  up and hope that people
               will take what I have to say seriously. . . .
               People just can't seem to grasp  the fact that a group
               of 20 year old kids just  might know a little more than
               they do,  and rather than make  good use of us,  they
               would rather  just lock us  away and keep  on letting
               things pass by them.   I've said this before, you can't
                                       - 16 -
               stop burglars from robbing you when you leave the doors
               unlocked and merely bash them in the head with baseball
               bats when they walk in.   You  need to lock the door.
               But when you leave the doors open, but lock up the peo-
               ple who can  close them for you  another burglar will
               just walk right in ("EB," 1990).
               Although skirting the law, hackers possess an explicit ethic
          and their primary goal is  knowledge acquisition.   Levy (1984:
          26-36) identifies six "planks" of the original hacker ethic,  and
          these continue to guide modern hackers:
             1.  First,  access to computers should be unlimited and total:
                 "Always yield to the Hands-On Imperative!"
             2.  Second, all information should be free.
             3.  Third, mistrust authority and promote decentralization.
             4.  Fourth, hackers should be judged by their prowess as hack-
                 ers rather than by formal  organizational or other irrele-
                 vant criteria.
             5.  Fifth, one can create art and beauty on a computer.
             6.  Finally, computers can change lives for the better.
               PHRACK,  recognized as the  "official" p/hacker newsletter,
          expanded on this creed with a rationale that can be summarized in
          three principles ("Doctor Crash," 1986).   First, hackers reject
          the notion that "businesses" are the  only groups entitled to ac-
          cess and use of modern technology.   Second,  hacking is a major
          weapon in the fight against encroaching computer technology.  Fi-
          nally,  the high cost of equipment  is beyond the means of most
          hackers, which results in the perception that hacking and phreak-
          ing are the only recourse to  spreading computer literacy to the
                                       - 17 -
               Hacking.  It is a full  time hobby,  taking countless
               hours per week to learn,  experiment,  and execute the
               art of penetrating multi-user computers:   Why do hack-
               ers spend a good portion of their time hacking?   Some
               might say it is scientific curiosity, others that it is
               for mental stimulation.   But the true roots of hacker
               motives run much deeper than that.  In this file I will
               describe the underlying motives  of the aware hackers,
               make known the connections between Hacking,  Phreaking,
               Carding, and Anarchy,  and make known the "techno-revo-
               lution" which  is laying seeds  in the mind  of every
               hacker.  . .  .If you need a tutorial on how to perform
               any of the above stated  methods {of hacking},  please
               read a {PHRACK} file on it.   And whatever you do, con-
               tinue the fight. Whether you know it or not, if you are
               a hacker, you are a revolutionary.  Don't worry, you're
               on the right side ("Doctor Crash," 1986).
               Computer software,  such as auto-dialers popularized in the
          film War Games,  provides a  means for inexperienced hackers to
          search out other computers.   Auto-dialers randomly dial numbers
          and save the "hits" for manual testing later.  Some users self-i-
          dentify has hackers simply on  the basis of successfully collect-
          ing computer numbers or passwords, but these users are considered
          "lamerz," because they do not possess sufficient knowledge to ob-
          tain access or move about in  the system once access is obtained.
          Lamerz are readily identified by their message content:
                 Sub ->numbers
                From -> (#538)
                To   ->all
                Date ->02/21/xx 06:10:00 PM
               Does anyone know any numbers for hotels, schools, busi-
               nesses,  etc..and passwords if you  do please leave a
               bulletin with the number and  the password and/or logon
                 Sub ->phun
                From -> (#138)
                To   ->all
                Date ->02/22/xx 12:21:00 AM
               Anyone out there  got some good 800 dial  up that are
               fairly safe to hack?  If so could ya leave me em in e-
                                       - 18 -
               mail or post em with  the formats.....any help would{be
                 Sub ->NUMBERS
                From -> (#538)
                To   ->ALL
                Date ->02/24/xx 03:12:00 PM
               Does anyone have any 1-800 numbers with id,  logon and
                 Sub ->Credit Card's for Codez
                From -> (#134)
                To   ->All
                Date ->01/26/xx 07:43:00 AM
               Tell ya what.   I will  exchange any amount of credit
               cards for a code or two.  You name the credit limit you
               want on the credit card and I will get it for you.   I
               do this cause I to janitorial  work at night INSIDE the
               bank when no one is there..... heheheheheh
                 Sub ->Codes..
                From -> (#660)
                To   ->All
                Date ->01/31/xx 01:29:00 AM
               Well,  instead of leaving codes,   could you leave us
               "uninformed" people with a few 800 dialups and formats?
               I don't need codes,  I just want dialups!   Is that so
               much to ask?   I would be willing to trade CC's {credit
               cards} for dialups.  Lemme know..
                 Sub ->0266 Codez
                From -> (#134)
                To   ->All
                Date ->01/31/xx 06:56:00 AM
               Anyone, What is the full dial up for 0266 codez?
               Such requests are considered amateurish, rarely generate the
          requested information,  and elicit  predictable "flamez" (severe
          criticism) or even potentially dangerous pseudo-assistance:
                 Sub ->Reply to: 0266 Codez
                From -> (#124)
                To   ->C-Poo
                Date ->01/31/xx 09:02:00 AM
                                       - 19 -
               Okay,   here's  the full  info,   Chris:    Dial
               1-900-(pause)-{xxx}-REAL.   When it  answers,   hit
               #*9876321233456534323545766764 Got it?   Okay, here's a
               800 number to try:  1-800-426-{xxxx}.   Give the opera-
               tor your zip,and fake it from there!   Enjoy, you hack-
               meister, you!
                Sub ->Reply to: 0266 Codez
                From -> (#448)
                To   -> #38
                Date ->01/31/xx 03:43:00 PM
               What the fuck kind of question  is that?  Are you that
               stupid?  what is the full dial up for an 0266?  Give me
               a break!  Call back when you learn not when you want to
                 Sub ->CC-ING
                From -> (#393)
                To   -> #38
                Date ->02/05/xx 01:41:00 AM
               CC-VMBS.  I HAVE ONE,  BUT DON'T ASK FOR IT.   IF YOU
               LIKE ONE {In BBS protocol,  upper case letters indicate
               emphasis, anger, or shouting}.
               Although hackers  freely acknowledge that  their activities
          may be occasionally illegal,  considerable emphasis is placed on
          limiting violations only to those  required to obtain access and
          learn a system,   and they display hostility  toward those who
          transgress beyond beyond these limits.   Most experienced CU mem-
          bers are suspicious of young novices who are often entranced with
          what they perceive to be the "romance" of hacking.  Elite hackers
                                       - 20 -
          complain continuously that  novices are at an  increased risk of
          apprehension and also can "trash"  accounts on which experienced
          hackers have gained and hidden their access.   Nonetheless,  ex-
          perienced hackers take pride in  their ethic of mentoring promis-
          ing newcomers, both through their BBSs and newsletters:
               As {my} reputation grew,  answering such requests [from
               novice hackers wanting help] became  a matter of pride.
               No matter how difficult the question happened to be,  I
               would sit at the terminal for five, ten,  twenty hours
               at a time, until I had the answer (Landreth, 1985: 16).
               The nation's top elite p/hacker  board was particularly nur-
          turing of promising novices before it voluntarily closed in early
          1990, and its sysop's handle means "teacher."  PHRACK,  begun in
          1985,  normally contained 10-12  educational articles (or "phi-
          les"),  most of which  provided explicit sophisticated technical
          information about computer networks  and telecommunications sys-
          tems[5].   Boundary  socialization occurs in message  bases and
          newsletters that  either discourage  such activity  or provide
          guidelines for concealing access once obtained:
               Welcome to the world of hacking!  We,  the people who
               live outside of the normal rules, and have been scorned
               and even arrested by those  from the 'civilized world',
               are becoming scarcer  every day.  This is  due to the
               greater fear of what a good hacker (skill wise, no mor-
               al judgements here) can do nowadays, thus causing anti-
               hacker sentiment in the masses.  Also, few hackers seem
               to actually know about the  computer systems they hack,
               or what equipment they will run  into on the front end,
               or what they  could do wrong on a system  to alert the
               'higher' authorities who monitor the system. This arti-
               cle is intended  to tell you about some  things not to
               do, even before you get on the system. We will tell you
               about the new wave of  front end security devices that
               are beginning to be used on computers.  We will attempt
               to instill in you a second identity,  to be brought up
               at time of  great need,  to pull you  out of trouble.
               (p/hacker newsletter, 1987).
                                       - 21 -
               Elite hacking requires highly sophisticated technical skills
          to enter the maze of protective barriers,  recognize the computer
          type, and move about at the highest system levels.   As a conse-
          quence, information sharing becomes the sine qua non of the hack-
          er culture.   "Main message" sections  are generally open to all
          users, but only general information, gossip,  and casual commen-
          tary is posted. Elite users, those with higher security privileg-
          es and access to the "backstage" regions,  share technical infor-
          mation and problems, of which the following is typical:
                   From ***** ** * ***>
               Help! Anyone familiar with a system that responds:
                 A2:       SELECT     :       DISPLAY:
               1=TRUNK,2=SXS;INPUT:3=TRUNK,4=SXS,5=DELETE;7=MSG    If you chose 1...  ENTER
                 At this point I know you can enter 7 digits,  the 8th
               will give you an INVALID ENTRY type message.  Some num-
               bers don't work however.  (1,2,7,8 I know will)
                   From *********>
               I was hacking around on telenet (415 area code) and got
               a few things that I am stuck-o on if ya can help,  I'd
               be greatly happy.   First of all,   I got  one that is
               called RCC PALO ALTO and I can't figure it out.  Second
               (and this looks pretty fun)  is the ESPRIT COMMAIL  and
               I know that a user name is  SYSTEM because it asked for
               a password on ONLY that account (pretty obvious eh?)  a
               few primnet and  geonet nodes and a  bunch of TELENET
               ASYYNC to 3270 SERVICE.   It asks for TERMINAL TYPE, my
               LU NUMBER and on numbers  higher  than 0 and lower that
               22 it asks for a password.  Is it an outdial?  What are
               some common passwords?  then I got a sushi-primnet sys-
               tem.  And a dELUT system.   And at 206174 there is JUST
               a :  prompt.  help!  (P/h message log, 1988).
               Rebelliousness also permeates the hacker  culture and is re-
          flected in actions, messages, and symbolic identities.  Like oth-
                                       - 22 -
          er CU participants, hackers employ handles (aliases)  intended to
          display an aspect of one's personality and interests,  and a han-
          dle can often reveal whether its  owner is a "lamer" (an incompe-
          tent)  or sophisticated.   Hackers take  pride in their assumed
          names, and one of the greatest taboos is to use the handle of an-
          other or to use multiple handles.  Handles are borrowed liberally
          from the anti-heros of science fiction,  adventure fantasy,  and
          heavy metal rock lyrics,  particularly among younger users,  and
          from word plays on technology, nihilism,  and violence.   The CU
          handle reflects a stylistic identity  heavily influenced by meta-
          phors reflecting color (especially red and black),  supernatural
          power (e.g., "Ultimate Warrior, "Dragon Lord"), and chaos ("Death
          Stalker," "Black Avenger"), or ironic twists on technology,  fan-
          tasy, or symbols of mass culture (e.g., Epeios,  Phelix the Hack,
          Ellis Dea, Rambo Pacifist, Hitch Hacker).
               This anti-establishment ethos also  provides an ideological
          unity for collective  action.   Hackers have been  known to use
          their collective skills in retaliation  for acts against the cul-
          ture that the perceive as unfair by, for example, changing credit
          data or "revoking" driver's licenses (Sandza, 1984b;  "Yes,  you
          Sound very Sexy," 1989).   Following a bust of a national hacker
          group, the message section of the "home board" contained a lively
          debate on the desireability of  a retaliatory response,  and the
          moderates prevailed.   Influenced especially by such science fan-
          tasy as William Gibson's Neuromancer (1984),  John Brunner's The
          Shockwave Rider (1975), and cyber-punk, which is a fusion of ele-
                                       - 23 -
          ments of electronic communication technology  and the "punk" sub-
          culture,  the hacker ethic promotes resistance to the very forms
          that create it.   Suggestive of Frazer's (1922) The Golden Bough,
          power is challenged and supplanted  by rituals combining both de-
          struction and rejuvenation.   From this emerges a shared ethos of
          opposition against perceived Orwellian  domination by an informa-
          tion-controlling elite:
               (Hackers will) always be necessary,  especially in the
               technological oppression of the future.   Just imagine
               an information system that  systematically filters out
               certain obscene words.   Then it will move on to phras-
               es,  and then entire ideas will be replaced by comput-
               ers!   Anyway, there will always be people tripping out
               on paper and trying to keep it to themselves,  and it's
               up to us to at least loosen their grasp (P.A.  Message
               Log 1988).
          Another hacker summarized the  near-anarchist ethic characterized
          the CU style:
               Lookit, we're here as criminal hobbyists, peeping toms,
               and looters.   I am in it for the fun.   Not providing
               the public what it has a right to know,  or keeping big
               brother in check.  I couldn't care less.   I am sick of
               the old journalistic hackers  nonsense about or (oops!
               OUR)  computerized ego...I make  no attempt to justify
               what I am doing.  Because it doesn't matter. As long as
               we live in this goddamn welfare  state I might as well
               have some fun taking what isn't mine,  and I am better
               off than  those welfare-assholes  who justify  their
               stealing.   At least I am smart enough to know that the
               free lunch  can't go on  forever (U.U.   message log
               In sum, the hacker style reflects well-defined goals, commu-
          nication networks, values, and an ethos of resistance to authori-
          ty.  Because hacking requires a  broader range of knowledge than
          does phreaking,  and because such knowledge can be acquired only
          through experience, hackers tend to be both older and more knowl-
                                       - 24 -
          edgeable than phreaks.   In addition, despite some overlap,  the
          goals of the two are somewhat dissimilar.  As a consequence, each
          group constitutes a separate analytic category.
               Running numbers is not only fun;  it's a moral impera-
               tive!  (Phreak credo).
               Phreaking broadly refers  to the practice of  using either
          technology or telephone credit card numbers (called "codez")  to
          avoid long distance charges.  Phreaking attained public visibili-
          ty with the  revelation of the exploits of  John "Cap'n Crunch"
          Draper, the "father of phreaking" (Rosenbaum,  1971).   Although
          phreaking and hacking each require different skills,  phreaks and
          hackers tend to associate on same boards.   Unlike hackers,  who
          attempt to master a computer system  and its command and security
          structure,  phreaks struggle to  master telecom (tele-communica-
          tions) technology:
               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 fair-
               ly important and the next phreak not.  The next phreak
               might know  10 things that  the first  phreak doesn't
               though.  It all  depends upon where and  how they get
               their info.  I myself 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 par-
               ticipate unless you are lucky  enough to work for Bell/
               AT&T/any telco.  To have legal access to telco things,
               manuals, etc. would be great (message log, 1988).
               Early phreaking methods  involved electro-mechanical devices
          that generated key tones or altered  phone line voltages to trick
          the mechanical  switches of the  phone company  into connecting
                                       - 25 -
          calls without charging, but the advent of computerized telephone-
          switching systems largely made these devices obsolete.   In order
          to continue their practice,  phreaks  have had to learn hacking
          skills in order to obtain  access to telephone company computers
          and software.
               Access to telecom information takes several forms,  and the
          possesion of numbers for "loops" and  "bridges," while lying in a
          grey area of law, further enhances the reputation and status of a
          phreak.   P/hackers can utilize "loop lines" to limit the number
          of eavesdroppers on their conversations.  Unlike bridges,  which
          connect an unlimited number of callers simultaneously,  loops are
          limited to just two people at a time[6].  A "bridge" is a techni-
          cal name for what is commonly known  as a "chat line" or "confer-
          ence system." Bridges 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
          that maintain them for business use  during the day.   While the
          numbers to these systems are not public knowledge,  many of them
          have been discovered by phreaks who  then utilize the systems at
          night.   Phreaks are skilled at  arranging for a temporary, pri-
          vate bridge to  be created via ATT's  conference calling facili-
          ties.   This  provides a helpful information  sharing technique
          among a self-selected group of phreak/hackers:
               Bridges can be 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 their DTMF.   The last great discussion I partici-
               pated 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 in-
                                       - 26 -
               formation. 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 an-
               other (DC, message log, 1988).
               Phreaks recognize their precarious legal position,  but see
          no other way to "play the game:"
               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).
               Little sympathy exists among experienced phreaks for "teleco
          ripoff."  "Carding," or the use  of fraudulent credit cards,  is
          anathema to phreaks,  and not only violates the phreaking ethic,
          but is simply not the goal of phreaking:
               Credit card  fraud truly gives  hacking a  bad name.
               Snooping  around a  VAX is  just electronic  voyeu-
               rism. . .carding a new modem is just flat out blue-col-
               lar crime.   It's just as bad as breaking into a house
               or kicking a puppy!   {This phreak} does everything he
               can (even up to turning off a number) to get credit in-
               formation taken off a BBS.  {This phreak} also tries to
               remove codes from BBSes.   He doesn't see code abuse in
               the same light as credit card fraud,  (although the law
               does),  but posted codes are  the quickest way to get
               your board busted, and your computer confiscated.  Peo-
               ple should just find a  local outdial to wherever they
               want to call  and use that.   If you  only make local
               calls from an outdial, it will never die, you will keep
               out of trouble,  and everyone  will be happy (PHRACK,
               3(28): Phile 2).
               Experienced phreaks  become easily angered at  novices and
          "lamerz" who engage in fraud or are interested only in "leeching"
          (obtaining something for nothing):
                Sub ->Carding
                From ->JB (#208)
                To   ->ALL
                Date ->02/10/xx 02:22:00 PM
                                       - 27 -
               What do you  people think about using  a parents card
               number for carding?   For instance,  if I had a friend
               order and receive via next day  air on my parents card,
               and receive it at my parents house while we were on va-
               cation.  Do you think that would work?   Cuz then, all
               that we have to do is to leave the note,  and have the
               bud pick up the packages,  and  when the bill came for
               over $1500, then we just say... 'Fuck you!   We were on
               vacation!   Look at  our airline tickets!' I  hope it
               does... Its such a great plan!
                Sub ->Reply to: Carding
                From -> (xxx)
                To   -> X
                Date ->02/11xx 03: 16:00 AM
                Sub ->Carding
                From -> (#208)
                To   -> (#47)
                Date ->02/12/xx 11: 18:00 AM
               Why not?   We  have a law that says that  we have the
               right to refuse  payment to credit cards  if there are
               fraudulent charges.   All we do  and it is settled....
               what is so bad about it?  I'm going for it!
                 Sub ->Reply to: Carding
                From -> (xxx)
                To   ->J.B.
                Date ->02/13/xx 02:08:00 AM
               TO YOU . . .   YOU'RE  A THIEF AND A  LIAR,  AND ARE
               IN THIS DIRECTION.
                                       - 28 -
               Ironically,  experienced phreaks are  not only offended by
          such disregard of law,  but also feel that "rip-off artists" have
          no information to share and only increase the risk for the "tech-
          no-junkies."  Message boards reflect hostility toward apprehended
          "lamerz" with such  comments as "I hope they burn  him," or "the
          lamer probably narked  {turned informant} to the  pheds {law en-
          forcement agents}."  Experienced phreaks  also post continual re-
          minders that some actions, because of their illegality,  are sim-
          ply unacceptable:
               It should be pointed out  however,  that should any of
               you crack any WATS EXTENDER access codes and attempt to
               use them,  you are guilty  of Theft of communications
               services from the company who owns it, and Bell is very
               willing and able to help nail you!  WATS EXTENDERS can
               get you  in every bit as  much trouble as a  Blue Box
               should you be caught.
               Ex-phreaks,  especially those who are  no longer defined by
          law as juveniles,  often attempt to caution younger phreaks from
          pursuing phreaking:
               ZA1: One thing to consider, also, is that the phone co.
               knows where the  junction box is for all  of the lines
               that you are messing with and  if they get enough com-
               plaints about the bills, they may start to check things
               out (I hope your work is neat).  I would guess that the
               odds are probably against  this from happening though,
               because when  each of the  people call  to complain,
               they'll probably get a different  person from the oth-
               ers.   This means that someone at Ma Bell has to notice
               that all of  the complaints are coming  from the same
               area...I don't  think anybody there really  cares that
               much about their  job to really start  noticing things
               like that...anyway, enjoy!!!   My guess is that you're
               under-age.  Anyway, so if they catch you, they won't do
               anything to you anyway.
               ZB1:  Yeah I am a minor (17 years old) I just hope that
               they don't cause I would like to not have a criminal or
               juvenile record when I apply to college.  Also if they
               do come as I said in the  other message if there are no
               wires they can't prove shit. Also as I said I only hook
               up after 6 p.m.  The phone company doesn't service peo-
                                       - 29 -
               ple after 6 p.m.   Just recently (today) I hooked up to
               an empty line.    No wires were leading  from the two
               plugs to somebody  house but I got a  dial tone.  How
               great. Don't have to worry about billing somebody else.
               But I still  have to disconnect cause  the phone bills
               should be  coming to the  other people  pretty soon.
               ZX1: Be cool on that, especially if you're calling oth-
               er boards.   Easiest way for telecom security to catch
               you is match the number called to the time called, call
               the board,  look at users log or messages for hints of
               identity, then work from there.  If you do it too much
               to a pirate board,  they  can (and have successfully)
               pressured the sysop to reveal the identity under threat
               of prosecution.  They may or may not be able to always
               trace it back,  but remember:  Yesterday's phreaks are
               today's telecom security folk.   AND: IT'S NOT COOL TO
               PHREAK TO  A PIRATE  BOARD...draws attention  to that
               board and screws it up  for everybody.  So,  be cool
               phreaking....there's safer ways.
               ZC2:  Be cool, Wormburger.  They can use all sorts of
               stuff for evidence.  Here's what they'd do in Ill.  If
               they suspected you, they'd flag the phone lines,  send
               somebody out during the time you're on (or they suspect
               you're on) and nail you.  Don't want to squelch a bud-
               ding phreak,  but you're  really taking an unnecessary
               chance.   Most of  us have been doing  stuff for some
               time,  and just don't want to  see you get nailed for
               something. There's some good boards with tips on how to
               phreak, and if you want the numbers, let me know. We've
               survived to warn you because  we know the dangers.  If
               you don't know what ESS is, best do some quick research
               (P/h message log, 1988).
               In sum,  the attraction of phreaking and its attendant life-
          style appear to center on three fundamental characteristics:  The
          quest for knowledge,  the belief in a higher ideological purpose
          of opposition to potentially dangerous technological control, and
          the enjoyment of risk-taking.   In a sense, CU participants con-
          sciously create dissonance as a  means of creating social meaning
          in what is perceived as  an increasingly meaningless world (Milo-
          vanovic and Thomas, 1989).   Together,  phreaks and hackers have
                                       - 30 -
          created an overlapping culture that,  whatever the legality,  is
          seen by participants as a legitimate enterprise in the new "tech-
               The transition to an  information-oriented society dependent
          on computer technology brings with  it new symbolic metaphors and
          behaviors.  Baudrillard (1987:  15)  observed that our private
          sphere now ceases to be the stage  where the drama of subjects at
          odds with their objects and with their image is played out,  and
          we no longer exist as playwrites or actors,  but as terminals of
          multiple networks.   The public space of the social arena is re-
          duced to the private space of  the computer desk,  which in turn
          creates a new semi-public, but restricted,  public realm to which
          dissonance seekers retreat.   To participate in the computer un-
          derground is to engage in what Baudrillard (1987:  15) describes
          as private telematics, in which individuals,  to extend Baudril-
          lard's fantasy metaphor,  are transported from their mundane com-
          puter system to the controls of a hypothetical machine,  isolated
          in a position of perfect  sovereignty,  at an infinite distance
          from the original universe.   There, identity is created through
          symbolic strategies and collective  beliefs (Bordieu,  cited in
          Wacquant, 1989: 35).
               We have argued  that the symbolic identity  of the computer
          underground creates a rich and  diverse culture comprised of jus-
          tifications, highly specialized skills,  information-sharing net-
          works, norms, status hierarchies, language, and unifying symbolic
                                       - 31 -
          meanings.   The stylistic elements of  CU identity and activity
          serve what Denzin (1988:  471) sees as the primary characteristic
          of postmodern behavior,  which is to  make fun of the past while
          keeping it alive and the search for  new ways to present the un-
          presentable in order  to break down the barriers  that keep the
          profane out of the everyday.
               The risks entailed by acting on  the fringes of legality and
          substituting definitions of acceptable  behavior with their own,
          the playful parodying of mass culture,  and the challenge to au-
          thority constitute an exploration of the limits of techno-culture
          while resisting the  legal meanings that would  control such ac-
          tions.   The celebration of anti-heros, re-enacted through forays
          into the world of computer  programs and software,  reflects the
          stylistic promiscuity,  eclecticism and code-mixing that typifies
          the postmodern experience (Featherstone, 1988: 202).  Rather than
          attempt to fit within modern culture and adapt to values and def-
          initions imposed on them,  CU  participants mediate it by mixing
          art, science, and resistance to create a culture with an alterna-
          tive meaning both to the dominant one and to those that observers
          would impose on them and on their enterprise.
               Pfuhl (1987) cogently argued that criminalization of comput-
          er abuse tends to polarize definitions of behavior.   As a conse-
          quence, To view the CU as simply another form of deviance,  or as
          little more than  "high-tech street gangs" obscures  the ironic,
          mythic, and subversive element,  the Nieztschean "will to power,"
          reflected in the attempt to  master technology while challenging
                                       - 32 -
          those forces that control it.   The "new society" spawned by com-
          puter technology is in its infancy, and, as Sennet (1970:  xvii)
          observed, the passage of societies through adolescence to maturi-
          ty requires acceptance of disorder and painful dislocation.
               Instead of embracing the dominant culture, the CU has creat-
          ed an irreducible cultural alternative, one that cannot be under-
          stood without locating its place  within the dialectic of social
          change.  Especially in counter-cultures, as Hebdige (1983: 3) ob-
          serves, "objects are made to mean and mean again," often ending:
             ..  .in the construction of a style, in a gesture of
               defiance or contempt, in a smile or a sneer.   It sig-
               nals a Refusal.  I would like to think that this Reusal
               is worth making,  that these  gestures have a meaning,
               that the smiles  and the sneers have  some subversive
               value. . .  (Hebdige, 1982: 3).
                                       - 33 -
          [1] Participants in the computer underground engage in considera-
              ble word play that includes juxtaposition of letters. For ex-
              ample, commonly used words beginning with "f" are customarily
              spelled with a  "ph."  The CU spelling  conventions are re-
              tained throughout this paper.
          [2] Conly and McEwen (1990:  3) classify "software piracy" in the
              same category as theft of  computers and trade secrets,  and
              grossly confuse both the concept  and definition of computer
              crime by conflating any  illicit activity involving computers
              under a definition  so broad that embezzlement  and bulletin
              boards all fall within it.   However, the label of "computer
              criminal" should be reserved for those who manipulate comput-
              erized records in order to defraud or damage, a point implied
              by Bequai (1978: 4) and Parker (1983: 106).
          [3] One author has been active  in the computer underground since
              1984 and participated in Summercon-88 in St. Louis, a nation-
              al conference of elite hackers.   The other began researching
              p/hackers and pirates in 1988.   Both authors have had sysop
              experience with national CU boards.   As do virtually all CU
              participants, we used pseudonyms but, as we became more fully
              immersed in the culture,  our true identities were sometimes
          [4] Although we consider software pirates an integral part of the
              computer underground,  we have excluded them from this analy-
              sis both for parsimony and  because their actions are suffi-
              ciently different  to warrant separate analysis  (Thomas and
                                       - 34 -
              Meyer, 1990).   We also have excluded anarchist boards, which
              tend to be utilized by teenagers who use BBSs to exchange in-
              formation relating to social disruption, such as making home-
              made explosives, sabotaging equipment, and other less dramat-
              ic pranks. These boards are largely symbolic, and despite the
              name, are devoid of political intent.  However, our data sug-
              gest that many hackers began their careers because of the an-
              archist influence.
          [5] In January, 1990,  the co-editor of the magazine was indicted
              for allegedly  "transporting" stolen property  across state
              lines.   According to the Secret  Service agent in charge of
              the case in Atlanta  (personal communication),  the offender
              was apprehended for receiving copies  of E911 ("enhanced" 911
              emergency system)  documents by electronic mail,  but added
              that there was no evidence that those involved were motivated
              by, or received, material gain.
          [6] "Loop lines" are telephone company  test lines installed for
              two separate telephone numbers that connect only to each oth-
              er.  Each end has a separate phone number, and when each per-
              son calls one end, they are connected to each other automati-
              cally.  A loop consists of "Dual Tone Multi-Frequency," which
              is the touch tone sounds used  to dial phone numbers.  These
              test lines are discovered by  phreaks and hackers by program-
              ming their home computer to dial  numbers at random and "lis-
              ten" for the distinctive tone  that an answering loop makes,
              by asking sympathetic telephone company employees, or through
              information contained on internal company computers.
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