Discussion Notes

Internet Commerce Group

November 19, 1996

Shailen led our discussion on hackers today. We began our discussion on the topic of the different hacking tools that are available. The first type is called a "logic bomb." This usually destroys or rewrites data and files, detonating at a specific time or in response to specific instructions. The second type is called a "sniffer." This is a program that eaves-drops on communications. They can be used to steal clear (not encrypted) packets that can contain credit card numbers, account numbers, passwords, or other sensitive information. The third type is called a "worm." This is a program that copies itself continuously, consuming disk and memory resources and eventually causing a system to crash.

We next discussed the various types of hackers. Shailen told us that most hackers are teenagers or college students, usually white and usually male. This stereotype is changing as more hackers are older, women and minorities. A cracker is defined simply as a hacker who actually breaks into systems. A Phreak is someone who breaks into phone systems. Phreaks can be very damaging compared to the average hacker, because they hit phone systems whereas most crackers attack local systems like university networks.

We also spent some time on famous break-ins. These include break-ins at the CIA, the Department of Justice. This latter break in was very recent and famous because the hackers changed the web page of the department, so many people saw the result. Another break-in was at the Lawrence Berkely Labs. We also covered a number of news articles about hacking. Most of the articles can be found in both CNN and New York Times interactive editions. Shailen also mentioned that foreign hackers are considered to be more dangerous than U.S. based hackers because foreign hackers are harder to find and contain. This results from their relative obscurity and inaccessability in other countries.

Our final topic covered lost sites. Shailen has been working for some time on this subject and has accumulated a number of links to sites with extensive information on hacking. These sites can include detailed how-to information, references to other how-to sites, and even hacking software that can be downloaded. Interestingly, many of Shailen's links are no longer valid. It turns out that the government has closed many of the sites. Many of the other sites were apparently destroyed by other hackers. Cooked in their own juices as it were.

Shailen's work is very complete, and he has developed a web site dealing with hackers that can be found at www-inst.eecs.berkeley.edu/~shailen/Hackers/