CWD--One for the Kids
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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Fri, 8 Oct 99 14:55:25 -0700
Subject: CWD--One for the Kids
X-Lib-of-Cong-ISSN: 1098-7649 -=[ Fun_People ]=-
From: "Meeks, Brock" <Brock.Meeks@MSNBC.COM>
CyberWire Dispatch // copyright ( October 8, 1999 // All rights reserved
Jacking in from the "Mr. Rodgers" port:
By Lewis Z. Koch
CWD Special Correspondent
The Department of Justice has either lost its collective mind, lost all
sense of its own history or is just too damned busy trying to figure out
who really gave the order to waste a couple dozen kids in the Waco debacle.
The DOJ has produced a "Hacking Story" kids web page
(www.usdoj.gov/kidspage/) and on it they have cartoon woman holding "the
scales of justice" - only she's not blindfolded.
The page also has a bewigged judge, peering over his glasses, looking stern,
squinting down approvingly as perhaps the thumb screws are tightened on
another hapless hacker who has fallen into the clutches of a Justice
Department searching for another "teachable moment."
Now -- and I am not making this up - there is an "Internet Do's and Don'ts"
on this kids page subtitled "Think about it."
This about this: your tax dollars paid for this.
The "Think About It" section starts off, "People who break into computers
('hackers') destroy property and records and invade privacy. What's privacy
worth to you?"
That's a very good question boys and girls. To understand it, how about a
bit of a history lesson first.
Perhaps we should we ask what privacy is worth of the family of Dr. Martin
Luther King Jr. whose privacy the FBI invaded for years, bugging his
bedrooms and his phone conversations. What was Dr. King's privacy worth?
Or the other people whose privacy was invaded as they interacted with Dr.
Or are there two standards of privacy, boys and girls - one for the
government rule-breakers and one for hacker rule-breakers?
This is called a "double standard" boys and girls. Can we spell
"hypocritical?" Perhaps we should do an Internet search with the key words
"black bag jobs" and "FBI." (And for extra credit, try "Iran-Contra.")
The page goes on to ask, "What information about you (or your parents) do
you think is private: medical information?..."
Good question. But perhaps an even better one to ask, boys and girls, is
why is all that medical data available in the first place? Why isn't it
encrypted? You know, in code, so no one can read it? We'll come back to
It might be that the insurance companies want the data to be open, so they
can easily read it as it goes from Internet site to Internet site, medical
data traveling across the Internet, just as carefree as can be. The
insurance companies want to make it easy for themselves, so they can keep
track of all the medical records.
Precautions to keep it out of the hands of, say, the FBI or private
detectives, or people who can monitor all those records speeding about the
Net would cost money, and insurance companies need lots of money, so they
can give part of it to politicians. The insurance companies like to share
and we all know sharing is a good thing, isn't it, boys and girls?
Yes, Jenny, you have a question? What, Aetna doesn't share with you? Shame
on them. Maybe you should run for Congress. Yes, you'll get extra credit.
Maybe the DOJ should put up a web page for insurance companies, asking them
all kinds of fun questions. Inquiring little minds want to know.
The DOJ kids page would have children worry about hackers knowing what grade
you got in English or Math or how much money you have and how much money
you owe and your letters to a friend and a boyfriend or girlfriend. Are
those good questions boys and girls?
Well, on the one hand, most fifth graders, frankly, don't give a shit (oops,
sorry about that boys and girls) -- aren't all that concerned about grades
or how much freaking money an eleven year old is making. And as to the
money they owe... please, let's not get carried away boys and girls.
The DOJ kids page goes on like some blithering 3rd grade teacher in Kansas
set to make a fulsome argument for creationism, "When you write something,
how important is it to be able to find it again...How important is it that
data in computers not be altered...[like] grades?..."
Maybe next week, boys and girls, we can all sit down and write a Freedom of
Information request and find out how many people worked the wonderful prose
on the kids page. And then we can total up how much they make a year in
our special math class! I'll bet it goes way, way, way over $100,000. You
think that is a lot of money, don't you? Do you know the expression "chump
change" boys and girls?
Time to write another letter, boys and girls. This one goes to the
Secretary of Commerce William M. Daley. You know him from your fun history
books, the son of Richard J. Daley, who had his Red Squad break into
peoples' homes, bug their bedrooms and offices phones looking for
information for decades until a Federal Judge had to tell them to stop.
Mayor Daley wanted to know all about people who disagreed with him. And
that's the same Richard J. Daley whose handpicked State's Attorney's police
murdered two Black Panther members while they slept in their beds.
Well, Richard J's son, William M., is the man who, along with lots and lots
of FBI agents and CIA agents and NSA agents, has been fighting for weak
encryption rather than strong encryption. Strong encryption, boys and
girls, prevents people from reading your personal correspondence or records.
Now the Department of Justice wants to bug your computers to prevent you
from utilizing strong encryption the way it is supposed to work. Weak
encryption makes it so much easier to read your grades.
Let's have a show of hands. Who wants the government to know everything
about us and for us to not know anything about the government? Anyone?
Anyone? Later, let's all look up "data mining" on the Internet. We can
probably find out lots of cool things about your parents that they don't
want you to know.
Now let's talk about the best part of the "Think About it" page:
"Some hackers think that if they 'don't alter anything' or 'don't mean to
alter anything' they haven't done any harm. But they are stealing telephone
and computer time. They also crash systems so they won't work. How do we
use information systems today? What would happen if systems like the air
traffic control system or the 911 system suddenly stopped working?"
Now, let's be real good students, boys and girls. What's real strange about
those ideas? Remember when we learned that word "stereotype?" It's bad to
stereotype, isn't it boys and girls? Rachel or Brian, can you tell me what
the stereotype is here? Riiiiighht. Good. Both of you! You want to know
who, exactly, are those "some hackers" the page refers to. Do they have
names? The kids page seems to be telling us that all hackers are bad.
Well, one group of hackers calls themselves L0pht. And they have cool names
like Silicosis, Brian Oblivion, John Tan, Dr. Mudge, Kingpin, Space Rogue,
Weld Pond and Dildog. Some of them also belong to a hacker group called
"Cult of the Dead Cow." Isn't that a great name to scare a U.S. Attorney!
Almost makes you want to be a hacker, doesn't it?
You get to testify before the United States Senate and describe how
thoughtless the United States government is when it tries to hide software
vulnerabilities. You know what? United States Senators were so impressed
they even autographed their own pictures for them! Isn't that cool?
Tomorrow we'll look up the words "duplicity" and "stupidity."
So I guess the lesson is "some hackers" can be good hackers, unless the DOJ
kids page authors or the DOJ itself wants to challenge the United States
Senate. What do you think? Maybe MTV would even do a celebrity death match
segment DOJ v. the Senate.
How about those last ideas boys and girls, about systems crashing? Why is
it some people have become centa-billionaires or just plain billionaires by
making computer software full of flaws and mistakes and bugs, causing the
programs to crash all by themselves or to be crashed by some silly
16-year-old script kiddie? Are these very rich men ever asked why a
multitude of software users is made to endure their bug-ridden products?
No, Rebecca, no need to answer, that was what we call a "rhetorical"
What do you think your parents would do to General Motors or Ford if their
car or truck totally self destructed by itself or fell apart at the
slightest fender bump?
Yes, Brian? Oh, I see, well I am sorry about your father's Yugo...
You know the concept of "bankruptcy?" Don't you think it's only fair, boys
and girls, that the software billionaires should shoulder some of the
responsibility for the flaws in their product rather than putting the blame
on the heads of "some hackers?" Maybe the Justice lady should put her blind
folds back on and administer justice without fear or favor. What do you
think, children? Tomorrow's assignment, boys and girls, is to read the
latest issue of Phrack, write a synflood script and wear your "Free Kevin
Mitnick T shirts" at assembly.
Yes, Brian? Of course you get extra credit for your creative use of "Back
Orifice," but tomorrow, please restore the school's network to its rightful
owner. Thank you. Class dismissed.
CWD EDITOR'S NOTE: CyberWire Dispatch, with an Internet circulation
estimated at more than 600,000 is now developing plans for a once-a-week
Every week, one of five well-known investigative reporters will file for
CWD. If you think your company or organization would be interested in more
information about establishing an sponsorship relationship with CyberWire
Dispatch, please contact Lewis Z. Koch at email@example.com.
© 1999 Peter Langston