[ISN] Hackers On The Hill

From: mea culpa (jerichoat_private)
Date: Tue May 19 1998 - 14:57:42 PDT

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    By Annaliza Savage
    Seven hackers will face the Senate Government Affairs Committee Tuesday.
    But they aren't in any trouble.
    The seven hackers have been invited by Senator Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.)--
    the sometime-actor you may remember from such films as The Hunt For Red
    October and Die Hard 2-- to testify about the state of the US Government's
    computer networks. 
    The seven-- Mudge, King Pin, Brian Oblivian, Space Rouge, Weld Pond, Tan
    and Stefan-- are all members of the L0pht, a hacker hangout in Boston, and
    have been part of the hacker underground for years. 
    "We were surprised to get an email from a senator's aide. We have had some
    contacts with law enforcement over the years, but this was something
    completely different," said Weld Pond. 
    White hat article
    Weld Pond believes the seven were initially contacted because of the
    attention they received in a Washington Post article entitled "White Hat"
    Hackers Probe Pores in Computer Security Blankets.  The article
    highlighted the l0pht, and mentioned various members' confrontations with
    Microsoft. The hackers' point- of- view is taken very seriously in the
    computer security realm, a fact not lost on Capitol Hill.
    "We are trying to return the label hacker to the badge of honor it used to
    be in the old days. A word that means knowledge and skill, not criminal or
    script-kiddies, as it does in the popular press today," Weld Pond said. 
    Hackers aren't usually considered a resource for government, though it is
    not an entirely new idea. Ex-CIA agent Robert Steel has promoted this line
    of thinking for years. Steel has always felt that hackers were a wasted
    resource for the intelligence community. When notorious hacker Mark Abene
    (aka Phiber Optik) was found guilty of unauthorized access into government
    computers, Steel went so far as to offer Abene a job in Washington, DC, in
    lieu of a lighter sentence. The judge declined Steel's offer and sent
    Abene to prison for a year and a day. 
    The l0pht has been part of the hacker underground since the early 1990s.
    It started as a clubhouse, a place where hackers could hang out, swap
    code, technology and ideas, and, most of all, learn. "The l0pht was a
    place for building, restoring old hardware from corporate dumpsters,
    rescuing old technical manuals for our library, building electronic
    devices at the workbench and working on wireless networks," Weld Pond
    said. Members of the L0pht have spoken at various hacker conventions over
    the years and have always been well respected both inside and outside the
    hacker community. Since the early days, the l0pht has changed location as
    well as a few of its members, though the original core remains.
    When Thompson's aide, John Pede, showed up at the L0pht to discuss the
    Senate hearings with the group, the irony of the visit wasn't wasted on
    hackers. Weld Pond explained: "We thought about blindfolding him on the
    way over here but decided against it in the end. The visit was a little
    uncomfortable. When the FBI has reporters visit them they clean up quite a
    bit and keep an eagle eye on the visitors. This was no different except
    the tables were turned."
    Mudge was glad to be able to show off the l0pht to the men in suits. "We
    actually enjoyed having the government officials over. It's a wonderful
    sight when we bring guests over to the l0pht and their jaws drop on the
    floor after seeing all of the stuff we have managed to engineer and get
    working. Especially when they realize it has all been without any formal
    Perhaps the term "hacker" is in flux once again. Originally, hacking meant
    exploration, modification and learning. A hacker was someone with a
    respect for technology. With the popularization of the Internet the term
    was hijacked by the media and came to mean criminal, and sometimes a Robin
    Hood type.  Perhaps the term is making a full circle. In the information
    age, knowledge is a commodity and hacker's expertise is much needed by
    business and government.  Who knows the networks better than those who
    have explored them intimately?
    Weld Pond says the hackers at the l0pht are experts and are looking
    forward to Tuesday's Senate hearings. "We think it's very exciting. To be
    able to give the hacker viewpoint to such influential people is great.
    With the constant Pentagon and NASA break-ins and the massive denial of
    service problems that occurred with Windows 95 and Windows NT on
    government and university computers, we would say the networks are
    extremely fragile."
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