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Caught In The Act. by Independent (IND)

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                     CAUGHT IN THE ACT


           "We really did it this time," Paul's friend said. "The F.B.I
was here today."
           During the first months of 83, Paul, 16, and half a dozen
other boys from Milwaukee had been using their home computers and modems
to break into main frame computers across the country. Most of the boys,
who range in age from 16 to 25, met as members of a local Explorer Scout
troop, where a common intrest in computers drew them together. They
started calling themselves "the 414s" after the Milwaukee area code.
           By the time the F.B.I. succeeded in tracing them in August,
83, through calls the 414s had placed to big computers at the Sloan-Kettering
Cancer Center in New York and the nuclear weapons facility at Los Alamos,
NM, these Milwaukee hackers reportedly had explored more than 60 computer
           The news about these break-ins sped across the nation like
a summer storm. The 414s were the focus of atention. One of them 17-year-old
Neil Patrick, became a type of instant celebrity, featured on magazine
covers and TV news programs.
           Some people saw the activities of the 414s as simply "teenage
antics" of WarGames- inspired pranks.
           But a number of computer security experts saw the whole event
as more serious. The mainframes could easily have been damaged by inexperienced
users. Valuable files could have been deleted inadvertently. Whole systems
could have been shut down by the 414s instructions. Many people worried
that supposedly secret information was no longer secret.
           In fact, officials at the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Institute
in New York pointed out that the 414s didi about $US1500 worth of damage
by deleting two of the computers daily files. Those files were ones
used to record those who sign on. Paul now says that the 414s deliberately
deleted the files in an atempt to cover up their entry into the system.
           By the time the F.B.I. knocked on Paul's door, he had been
looking into other computers for years.
           "It was the ultimate game," he syas. "It's pretty neat, actually,
to get in there and learn exactly how an entire system works."
           He still thinks breaking into computers is exciting, but
after the F.B.I. began investigating him and the other 414s, he says
he decided ,"It's not worth it. It's not that much fun having the police
and the F.B.I. come over to your house.
           "It never entered my mind ," he says. "You don't think the
police or F.B.I. are ever going to come to your house. It's a big shock
when you see them You're only in your bedroom calling another computer.
           Of all the 414s Paul should have known better. just six months
before the F.B.I. showed up, Paul had gotten into trouble breaking into
the computer at the Milwaukee School of Engineering. He had been entering
the PDP 11 computer once or twice a week for four months. It wasn't
just harmless looking around, either. When the systems operator at the
engineering school discovered Paul had gotten into his computer, he
tried to kick Paul off. Paul got mad and retaliated.
           "I used up all the storage space available on the computer,"
he says. "I just filled it up with a giant file I made and nobody could
save programs."
           That didn't happen just once, but five different times. And
each time, Paul says, it took the chool two or three days to clean out
its system.
           One day Paul came home from school and saw a lot of cars
parked in front of his house. "I thought some neighbour was having a
party," he said, "but when I opened the door there were four detectives
and a guy from the Milwaukee School of Engineering in my living room."
           Other computer friends, Paul says, joked about the incident.
           The engineering school, however, didn't think the intrusions
were funny. The school agreed not to prosecute Paal, but did take his
computer away for 90 days and had his dad pay $500 in restitution.
           Paul got his computer back in late May. Two weeks later,
he started looking around in the Telenet system for computers he could
break into.
           "all my friends were doing it during the time that the engineering
school had my computer," he said "and it was too tempting." And, he
adds,"I didn't really think I was going to get into trouble again if
i didn't screw up anything."
           That's what the other 414s have told reporters. Shortly before
Paul got his computer back, however, Wisconsin had enacted a law that
imposed a penalty of up to nine months jail for unauthorized entry into
someone else's computer. A copy of this law had been put into the computer
system at his high school. Paul read it. He says he understood the law
protected computers from maliciousness.
           But, he says, "Just looking around? That wasn't so clear
to me. I know now it's not okay to go looking at other peoples computers.
It's not your property. It's unethical and you can get caught and get
in trouble."