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Mac The Hack
by Carl Mc
It’s my 18th birthday, after some thought I decided to get myself a new computer. After having a ZX Spectrum for a couple of years I decided to go for the Commodore 64. At the time this was a powerful machine with a massive 64k of memory. The main reason for buying this machine at the time was just for playing games and music coz it had channel sound. At first I spent a fortune buying games and software. After being a regular reader of a popular magazine, I decided to put an ad in saying something like “People wanted to swap games, demos, ideas etc” When I got the mag that month, as I was expecting my ad was in there but at the bottom they’d put the words in big capital letters ORIGINALS ONLY, meaning I just wanted to swap original software. I was gutted coz I thought no one would reply but to my amazement I was getting about 20 letters a day.
I made some really good contacts some of who were hackers and demo and game creators. We swapped software for many months mostly just games and utils but what really excited me was that most of the stuff I was getting wasn’t even out in the shops yet. After a while I became a bit bored with this and I started wondering how these games actually worked and how I could change them. I mentioned this to one of my contacts who was a bit of a computer nerd and he sent me some software for hacking; Disassembles and program monitors etc. Keeping in touch with him he guided me and I spent weeks, months staying up all night learning what I now know was hacking. This went on for a couple of years and I learned quite a bit.
By this time Commodore were releasing their new computer the Commodore Amiga which had half a meg of memory and special graphics and sound chips. I arranged to meet some of my contacts at a computer show in London at the launch of the Amiga and from that moment on I was hooked I had to have one. I saved up all my money and eventually got one. I kept in touch with all my contacts and eventually most of them got Amiga’s too. I spent day and night learning this new operating system and how to hack into it. One problem though was I was spending a lot of time on the phone talking to them and running up huge phone bills.
One of my contacts was a bit of a wiz with electronics and new the phone system and how it worked now known as phone phreaking. He had built a device which we will call a black box which when attached to your phone socket conned the phone system into thinking that the person hadn’t picked up the phone even though we’d been on it for hours. I bought one off him it cost me about 15 quid. I called all my contacts and told them this I think this was a big turning point coz people would call me from all over the world and we would spend hours on the phone for no charge.
Me and another mate decided we would set up a group we called ourselves HCC which stood for Hacktrick Cracking Crew. Although I knew my way around a computer and some basic hacking, it wasn’t enough; we needed a coder someone who could program in assembly language. There was a lad from Leicestershire called Mark and I asked him. He agreed, so there was me; I was responsible for the graphics, my mate Dave did the music and sound and Mark put it all together with the coding. We started putting demos together. Demos are programs that will push the Amiga to its limits and do stuff that shouldn’t be possible. Eventually we made quite a name for ourselves and would often go to London to meet other groups. This went on for a year or 2 and a couple of our demos even ended up in computing mags. Then one day something weird happened. I was opening one of my letters and it was from a software company called Psygnosis they were based at the queens dock in Liverpool asking us if we would go and see them. We shit ourselves coz we had been hacking their games for years.
Me and Dave went to meet them and to our amazement they asked us if we wanted to work for them as play testers. Basically all they wanted us to do was test their games for them before they released them. Holy shit! This sounded like a dream job to spend all day playing computer games and actually getting paid for it. We accepted immediately but believe it or not, it was fucking boring playing the same game for 8 hours a day. For over a month, it was horrendous. Also this was about the time that the Quadrant Park nightclub was in its hey day and we would go out clubbing on a Thursday night and not come home until Tuesday, so the inevitable happened… we lost our jobs.
But while we were working for them, we learned about modems. I bought a modem and setup a BBS also known as a Bulletin board service. I spread the word to my contacts and coz they knew about my black box and their call would be free, I was getting over 100 hits a day. At this time the internet wasn’t really heard about. I remember when I got my modem there was a flyer in the box from AOL who were the only service provider at the time, saying you could check the weather, book holidays and online banking but nothing really interesting and it would cost about 100 quid a month.
After a few months the phone companies changed their system from pulse to digital which fucked everything up coz the black box stopped working. I got in touch with my techy mate and he told me about another project he was working on called a blue box. This allowed you to call anywhere in the world for free and I wanted one there and then but he hadn’t finished it. After a few weeks he sent me a message telling me what components I needed to build one with instructions. So off I went to PRS Radio on Dale street with my list. I was a bit worried that they might click onto what I was building but to my amazement the lad in the shop said to me “Are you building a blue box.” I shit myself but decided to tell him I was and again to my amazement, the lad helped me choose the right components to build it and gave me some information on how to use it once it was built.
I rushed home with all the bits very eager, got the soldering iron out and what should have took about 20 mins took me over 2 hours and the thing still didn’t fuckin work. I phoned my contact and he talked me through how to set it up. The box was setup correct but I didn’t really know what to do with it. He gave me some numbers which I would need to start using it and he said for fuck sake Carl don’t try and hijack a BT line coz they will trace you. This confused me at the time coz BT were the only phone company around in the UK at that time. But he said “Carl, this box allows you to call anywhere in the world for free so use another phone company in another country” Still a bit confused he told me the numbers he had given me were for AT&T in the US and coz they were in the US and they were a massive company, it would be a lot safer.
So using these numbers I started trying to use the box . What you had to do was dial one of these numbers, listen for a series of beeps and clicks and at that split second, I had to send a 2400hz tone down the line. This would hijack the phone system and give me operator status which would allow me to connect and redirect calls all over the world for free. But the timing in sending the tone down the line had to be to the split second. Sometimes it would take me an hour to get it right but it was worth it coz once you had control of the line you could stay on all day.
Eventually I got the knack of it and would connect first time. Not realising at the time but this was in a different league than when we just swapped software through the post. I would call computers all over the world. The blue box scene was massive in the US and I made some good contacts and coz we weren’t paying for the calls we could spend hours at a time hacking into other computers.
The FBI computer was one of our popular places to hang out. We were reading stuff about terrorism as far back as the 90’s and downloading all the top secret documents. This was much more exciting than just swapping software coz there was an element of danger. One particular interesting file we downloaded was called the Jolly Roger Cook book. It was a book explaining how to make explosives and drugs from just a few household ingredients. This was something we just had to experiment with, so off we went down to the local gardening centre and bought some ingredients to make a bomb.
We experimented mixing the ingredients and were amazed at how easy and powerful the end results were. On one occasion we were sitting on a bus on our way to a field down by the canal. We had a bag with a 2 foot scaffolding bar stuffed with the required chemicals. Basically we had made a pipe bomb. It’s fucking terrifying thinking back coz if we were caught with that stuff these days we would be in jail on terrorism charges. Anyway we lit the home made fuse and ran like fuck. I remember falling over about 20 feet away from the bomb then boom! Holy shit! I was shell shocked, it knocked me back off my feet and there was a hole in the ground where it had gone off. Also, we never saw the pipe again. We looked in all the fields but couldn’t find it, it’s probably stuck on the moon till this day. Also I had ringing in my ears for over a week.
We messed about with this sort of stuff for a few weeks until we got bored. By now the BBS had gone from strength to strength I was getting calls from all over the world coz most of the people we were involved with were using blue boxes. Then something weird happened that was gonna fuck up the whole blue box scene. A group of hackers, one of which I actually knew, decided to go onto Panorama on the TV and expose our scam, the cunts! I bet they got a few bob off the phone companies for this. As I expected the very next morning the phone companies were onto us and the blue box stopped working. At first I was gutted coz I thought it would be the end of my new cyber social life but I noticed the yanks were still calling the BBS so they’d obviously found out a way to still hack the phone system. I was getting 100’s of calls a day to the BBS, then one day something happened which was gonna put my board on the map big time.
At the time there was a very popular magazine called Amiga format. One of their journalists logged in and I had a chat with him online he said he was very impressed with the board and would mention it in next month’s magazine. To be honest I thought it was someone winding me up so I didn’t think too much about it. But as the end of the month came, I remember getting pretty excited so I ran to my local newsagents to buy the mag. I was expecting to find a couple of lines mentioning the board in the mag but to my amazement before I even got it off the shelf I noticed a headline saying “Why not try visiting the Amiga Pond” - which was the name of my board - “check out the top 10 BBS’S, we visited them now you can” I opened the mag and to my amazement there was a full 2 page spread and pictures of my board and they voted it BBS of the month.
This mag had a reader fellowship of over 300,000 just in the UK alone. Fuck me 2 full pages in a top magazine that sort of advertising would cost you a couple of grand. Well after that the fucking phone line was jammed 24 hours a day so much so that I had to get another line connected and it wasn’t cheap to do this them days. With so many people calling I decided I might be able to make a few quid from this, so I started offering people a subscription fee anything from a fiver to 25 quid. The more they paid the more they got unlimited time on line and unlimited downloads etc and how the cheques kept rolling in. This was a dream come true, it enabled me to buy a more powerful computer, a faster modem, bigger hard drives etc oh and a few drugs just to wash it all down with.
People who I trusted would get access to secret areas of the board where they could find 1000’s of pounds worth of the latest software, most of which wasn’t even out in this country yet. There were so many people calling and offering to subscribe that I lost track of who I could trust and must have let someone into the private areas I didn’t know coz the following happened; I was lying in bed one morning half asleep and I thought I heard what were police radios. It was about 7am. I looked out the window and couldn’t believe my eyes, walking up the path were 2 coppers, 2 men in suits and a TV camera man. Mother don’t open the fucking….I hear voices….door! Too late! My ma had opened the door, which thinking back was just as well coz it was gonna fly off the hinges anyway coz they had one of those battering ram thingies.
I jumped out of bed with just my boxies on and they were making their way up the stairs. I said “Is this a fucking wind up? Where’s Roger Cook” I pushed them down the stairs and one of the coppers tried to handcuff me to the banister. My first thought was it was a drugs raid, so I said what the fuck is going on. They said “We have a warrant to search these premises” I said “what the fuck for” and they told me they had reason to believe I had illegal media on my computer. I said “oh for fuck sake is that all” and let them come up the stairs I told them there and then that I did have a lot of pirate stuff on my pc and I actually showed them.
2 of the men in suits were from Liverpool trading standards and I said to them “don’t tell me that you have never copied a computer program or a CD” so I came clean but they weren’t satisfied and said they would have to take my equipment for further examination. By now my dad had got out of bed and ran in and said what the fuck are you doing in my house get the fuck out. One of the coppers raised his finger to my dad’s face in a threatening manner and told him to be quiet. My dad said “get that fucking finger out of my face or ill break it” and he would have believe me.
There was fucking murder so I shouted “turn that fucking camera off and just take the fucking equipment” which they did. When they had left my mother said, “Holy shit Carl, what the fuck could you have on your computer that is so important for all this to happen?” I had nothing to hide so I told her I had 1000’s of pounds worth of pirated software and confidential documents ripped from the FBI computers. She still thought it was a bit strong though coming through the door the way they did. I was gutted not coz I thought I was gonna be fined or get a spell in jail but the thought I’d lost all my equipment.
Anyway, as if nothing had happened I had arranged to go hiking in Wales the next day with a girlfriend. It was about dinner time and I was up a mountain somewhere and my mother phoned me she said “I’ve got some news for you” I shit myself I thought I would be arrested when I got home but she told me they had just returned all my equipment. When I got home I set it all back up and to my amazement they hadn’t even deleted all the pirated software, all they had done was format a few floppy disks, the ones containing the FBI stuff. The funny thing is though, they’d only done a quick format which doesn’t really remove the data so anyone with any hacking knowledge could get it back and it took me about 10 mins to do so.
Still, a bit miffed as to why they were gonna kick the door down and take everything then return it, still in tack. I remember one of the trading standards officers gave me one of his cards so I rang him to ask him what the fuck it was all about. What he told me, knocked me off my fucking feet; he told me they were looking for child porn, Fucking child porn! I didn’t even know what that was at the time. I was fucking gutted by this and decided to call the chief constable telling him how I’d been treated and sure enough I got a written letter of apology.
A week or so went by and the guy from the trading standards phoned me I said “oh for fuck sake what now” I couldn’t believe my ears what he asked me he said “You know some of those Adobe graphics applications you have” Adobe are high end graphics software costing 100’s of quid by the way. I said yeah what of it he said “there wouldn’t be any chance of doing me a copy or 2 would there” before I replied I asked him what the score was with the TV crew when I got raided and he said it would have been used in evidence if there was a conviction. I said 2 words to him and the second ended in off.
A couple of weeks went by and things returned to normal. The board was doing well and the cheques kept rolling in. I was in Wales again and I remember we had some of the worst weather on record, so we made our way home. As I entered my street there were Police and a fire engine outside my house. I didn’t think anything of it so I just let myself in and to my horror there was silence in my room; no noise of computer fans, everything was off. I went and checked the fuse box but that was still in tack. So I went outside to speak to one of the firemen thinking that there might be some sort of power cut. I couldn’t believe what he told me; the fucking telegraph pole outside my house had been struck by lightning and coz my computer was connected to a modem via the phone line the whole fucking system had been spiked and had fried all 4 grand’s worth. Fuckin hell, all this hassle in less than 2 weeks. I decided not to carry on with my cyber habit. Well at least until the internet took off and guess what I’m back.
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