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@DDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD: Operation: SunDevil :DDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDY
The Washington Post, Business Section, May 31, 1990
By Willie Schatz
Mitchell Kapor, inventor of Lotus 1-2-3, the world's most popular
financial software package, is considering backing a national effort to
defend computer hackers against prosecutions resulting form Operation Sun
Devil, a two-year Secret Service investigation of potential computer fraud.
Operation Sun Devil was disclosed early this month by the Secret
Service, which conducted 27 searches of suspected hackers' homes and
offices, confiscating 23,000 computer disks and 40 computer systems. There
have been three arrests thus far. The Secret Service said the hackers who
were the target of the probe are individuals who had gained unauthorized
access to company computer systems--including one at American Telephone &
Telegraph Co.--or had stolen and distributed software programs that
belonged to major corporations.
In an interview from the Cambridge, Mass., headquarters of his new
company, ON Technology, Inc., Kapor said he thinks the government probe is
misdirected. He said it is damaging technological innovation and
dissemination of information through the ubiquitous electronic message
networks called bulletin boards that are the hackers' prime method of
communication. Kapor intends to announce tomorrow whether he will pay for
all or part of the hackers' legal defense.
"It's plausible that there's a witch hunt going on," Kapor said. "I'm
concerned that hackers' civil liberties are being violated [by the Secret
Service]. I'm concerned these kids--which is mostly what hackers
are--aren't getting a fair shake in the legal system. They don't have
access to legal counsel that would let them adequately defend their
Sources said Kapor is reviewing a proposal he received yesterday from
two law firms that asks him to help finance a $200,000 hackers' legal
defense fund. Lawyers involved in the matter plan to provide much of their
legal work free. The proposal before Kapor also includes a program to
lobby Congress to change the computer fraud law and a public education
campaign about hackers.
"Sun Devil gives me a funny feeling in the pit of my stomach," Kapor
said. "There's an incongruence between the language of the Secret Service
and the acts and attitudes of hackers. I understand and know that
[hackers'] kind of mentality. You don't want to use an A-bomb to kill a
fly. There has to be an appropriate response and understanding of what's
at issue. I'm lacking confidence that that's there."
Earlier this month, Garry J. Jenkins, assistant director of the Secret
Service, said Operation Sun Devil revealed that an "alarming number of
young people" exploit computers through credit card fraud, unlawful
placement of free long-distance phone calls and other criminal activities.
In an interview, Dale Boll, an assistant special agent in charge of the
Secret Service's fraud division, defended the government probe.
"We have not declared war," Boll said. "Computer crime is a serious
offense, but we don't overreact. There's no tendency for overkill. We
were given these laws to enforce and we're doing the best we can. We
prefer to work more hardened criminals. The government didn't prosecute
hackers when they were juveniles. But now they're growing up and doing
more serious things."
The damage form the government's aggressive law enforcement efforts,
according to Kapor, is a "chilling effect" on the flow in information among
computer designers and programmers. Kapor contends that if the people
responsible for operating computer bulletin boards are held responsible for
information posted on their boards, hackers will stop using the boards.
John Barlow, a dedicated hacker and a lyricist for The Greatful Dead
band, said he already is committed to financing the hackers' cause. "I'm
going to chip in to secure them legal council and so is Mitch," Barlow said
from his home in Pinedale, Wyo. "I'm sure the [Secret Service's] assault
is having an effect. It's turning mischievous kids into high-tech
criminals. These hackers are explorers, not criminals or vandals. They're
exploring a new information frontier. It's a reincarnation of what
happened with the settling of the Old West, only in the computer sphere."
Government officials have a different view. "Many computer hacker
suspects are no longer misguided teenagers mischievously playing games with
their computers in the bedroom," the Secret Service's Jenkins said. "...We
will continue to investigate aggressively those crimes which threaten to
disrupt our nation's business and government services."
[OTHER WORLD BBS]