[ISN] German Uber-Hacker Dies

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Tue Jul 31 2001 - 00:32:48 PDT

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    By Boris Groendahl
    Berlin Bureau Chief
    July 30, 2001
    The year is 1981. IBM still has to introduce its first Personal
    Computer. The movie "WarGames" and Steven Levys book "Hackers," which
    will make the self-description of alternative computer nerds a
    household name in the U.S, are two years away.
    In Western Berlin, in the offices of the left-wing daily "die
    tageszeitung," fringe computer hobbyists are sitting at a conference
    table, sharing their knowledge of early computers and computer
    They followed the call of Wau Holland, a bearded, balding man in
    dungarees who looks more like an eco-warrior than an electronics
    enthusiast. The assembled group is about to found the Chaos Computer
    Club (CCC) and go down in computing history.
    Twenty years later, the CCC now has to continue without its honorary
    president Wau Holland, also known as Herwart Holland-Moritz. Holland
    suffered a stroke in late May and fell into a coma; he died Sunday
    morning, age 49.
    Read today, Hollands editorial that appeared in the first issue of
    CCCs magazine "Datenschleuder" (roughly: "data sling") back in 1984
    appears almost visionary. For him and for the CCC, the computer was
    already not merely a technology but "the most important new medium."
    He held that "all existing media will be increasingly networked
    through computers, a networking which creates a new quality of media."
    The first and foremost goal of the hackers association was to promote
    this new medium, by "distributing wiring diagrams and kits for cheap
    and universal modems." What should have earned the CCC a medal for the
    advancement of the information society, however, got him in conflict
    with the arcane German telecom law. At the time, as Holland remembered
    later, "the prolongation of a telephone cable was considered worse
    than setting off an atomic explosion."
    Involving everybody, not just big government and big business, into
    the information revolution, ways always Hollands and the CCCs main
    goal. Its first famous hack was performed 1984 on Germanys first
    online service Btx, an atavistic network operated by the German postal
    service. The CCC found a security hole in the network, but the postal
    service didnt react to the warning.
    So Holland and his colleague Steffen Wernry logged in, masquerading as
    a German savings bank, and downloaded their own billable Btx page all
    night long. When the tab got to 134,000 deutschmarks, they stopped the
    program and called German TV Btx had its first scandal only months
    after its launch, and it wouldnt recover for more than a decade.
    The Btx hack, as it became known later, would become a pattern for
    every CCC action. Holland, in particular, was at least as media-savvy
    as he as he was computer literate. Whenever the CCC hacked into
    regions he wasnt supposed to see, he sought protection by seeking
    public attention, and used them to warn of weak security and
    insufficient data protection.
    Though only a few of Waus CCC comrades shared his political background
    most joined the club as regular electronics nerds he shaped the German
    hackers association into a unique institution, incomparable with the
    U.S. hacker scene. The CCC is different from both the
    technology-oriented Homebrew Computer Club that gave birth to the PC
    in the '70s, and the cracker gangs that dominated media attention in
    the early '90s.
    Holland taught his fellow CCCers to never hack for profit, to always
    be open about what they were up to, and to fight for an open
    information society. He was deeply embarrassed when some CCCers sold
    their discoveries from within the U.S. military computer network to
    the KGB. This incident and the subsequent discussions in the club
    brought the next generation to the CCCs helm.
    While the new leadership has a less strict moralistic, more postmodern
    sense of hacking, it remains true to the CCCs political objectives.
    Holland became the clubs honorary president. Under his stewardship,
    the CCC gained considerable status in German politics, with its
    speakers invited by the parliament, telecoms firms, banks and even the
    secret service.
    An online condolence book for Holland has over 450 entries so far.  
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