Page 1 The New York

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Read about it; Just another incredible scene; There's no doubt about it. — from `Read About It', 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Pad had an important warning for the Australian hackers: the computer security community was closing in on them. It was the end of February 1990, not long after Phoenix and Electron had captured Zardoz and just missed out on Deszip. Pad didn't scream or shout the warning, that wasn't his style. But Electron took in the import of the warning loud and clear. `Feen, they know you did over Spaf's machine,' Pad told Phoenix. `They know it's been you in other systems also. They've got your handle.' Eugene Spafford was the kind of computer security expert who loses a lot of face when a hacker gets into his machine, and a wounded bull is a dangerous enemy. The security people had been able to connect and link up a series of break-ins with the hacker who called himself Phoenix because his style was so distinctive. For example, whenever he was creating a root shell—root access—for himself, he would always save it in the same filename and in the same location on the computer. In some instances, he even created accounts called `Phoenix' for himself. It was this consistency of style which had made things so much easier for admins to trace his movements. In his typical understated fashion, Pad suggested a change of style. And maybe, he added, it wasn't such a bad idea for the Australians to tone down their activities a bit. The undercurrent of the message was serious. `They said that some security people had contacted Australian law enforcement, who were supposed to be "dealing with it",' Pad said. `Do they know my real name?' Phoenix asked, worried. Electron was also watching this conversation with some concern.
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Suelette Dreyfus

Tech researcher, journalist, lecturer at University of Melbourne, specializes in tech's impact on whistleblowing.

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