Besides Clueless, the only other film from the 90’s that left a memorable and influential impact on me was Hackers. I saw Hackers for the first time when I was in sixth grade and was sold on ‘the art of exploitation.’ I quickly became interested in computers and wanted to be a l33t hacker just like Angelina Jolie’s bad-ass character in the film, Kate Libby, aka Acid Burn.
As a rebellious girl, I was attracted to the idea and possibilities of exploiting the weakness of a computers security system. Learning about all different types of codes, networks and programs was certainly confusing. You had to master HTML, CSS and JS. You had to learn to program, get an open source Unix and learn how to use it. I tried to learn whatever I could about operating systems.
“Cracking the Linux shell” intrigued me. Cracking the Linux shell is gaining root access to a Linux computer, which is being able to control it completely. Using SSH (which replaced Telnet), you go into terminal (which is what the shell is called in OSX), get someone’s IP address and password (usually they’re common passwords or you can use a password cracker program). Passwords nowadays are achieved with social engineering. For example: Tricking a system administrator into giving you a password by pretending you’re a user and can’t access your system.
Or instead of using a terminal window, you go into a shell (A ‘shell’ is a program that waits for you to type a command and then executes it) and type in SSH user@##.##.###.##. A lot of people have firewalls so you have to scan for open ports, but SSH operates on one port and it has to be active. Basically, all of this is how you hack into someone else’s computer system.
During this time I discovered a website, “happyhacker.org,” which instructed me on how to get IP numbers, and how to use Telnet to access other hosts. I hacked into a Mexican high school computer once, but logged out after a few minutes because I was scared that the FBI was going to find me. They never came (Please don’t find me now).
This was also during the time of early AOL and I liked to use Proggies (AOHell),
This isn’t considered serious hacking (or perhaps hacking at all), but when I was 13 I felt really tight because they were fun, easy to learn and accessible. Proggies were programs that helped you steal passwords from other AOL users so you could log into their account or ghost it. I remember using Fate X and HaVoK, but there were always new programs being created. Proggies allowed you to do things like:
-IM-bombing (a punter)- where you could send IM’s containing an HTML code to another user and then sign them off.
-A mail bomb- you could rapidly send a ton of e-mails to a user’s inbox until it was full.
-Phishing tools- you could steal passwords and credit card information from other users by IM’ing random people saying, “Hi, this is AOL Customer Service. We’re running a security check and need to verify your account. Please enter your username and password to continue.”
I also learned about Phreaking from Hackers, which is the manipulation of telephone networks. A cool trick I would do to make free phone calls on payphones was to use a handheld recorder to record the sound of coins dropping into the slot. Then you hang up the receiver and get your money back. Then you pick up the phone, playback the sound of the coins dropping in and it tricks the phone to think you paid. Free phone calls! I also ordered a Blue Box from Radioshack, which was a portable tone dialer, another device that would simulate coins being dropped into a pay phone.
I guess one day I started focusing on other things like shopping and being social in person. Also, my mom would often ground me from using the computer when I got in trouble because she knew it was my favorite thing to do. I’m pretty much over pretending to be a hacker today, but I’ll always LOVE computer nerds!!! Love. Computer. Nerds.
Zero Cool 4ever.