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                           Newsweek JULY2, 1990 2.50$

                          HACKERS OF THE WORLD, UNITE!

As the Feds widen their crackdownon computer tampering, some pioneers of the
industry have joined to defend freedom on the keyboard


It is not your average keynote speech.  It's more like a call to arms.  A
couple of hundred software developers sit entralled by Mitch Kapor, who
dropped by their recent Ann Arbor convention in his private jet -- one of
the nifty things you can buy for yourself if you happen to be  the guy who
wrote Lotus 1-2-3.  The once portly computer star has shed 25 pounds lately
through a detmined combination of exercise and diet.  He's doffed his jacket
and slipped on a convention T shirt over his shirt and tie.  While the
fashion statement might be confused, his message is not:  there's a threat
out there.  Not computer viruses.  Not nasty hackers. It's the Feds.

Kapor first asks which members of the audience use electronic "bulletin
boards" and conference systems.  Almost all the hands go up.  Kapor then
puts the scare into them with tales from the "Hacker Dragnet" ( Newsweek,
April 30 ).  Law-enforcement agencies have stepped up efforts against
computer crime ( box ).  Kapor believes they have gone too far.  He cites
police raids on teenagers' homes, with guns drawn and family members
forcibly restrained.  He tells of widespread equipment seizures, and the
raid that neraly shut down Steve Jackson Games, a small Austin, Texas,
producer of fantasy role-playing games -- even though it was not a target of
the investigation.  And he talks about a student indicted on charges
stemming from publishing a private telephone-company document in his
electronic newsletter; Kapor says that prosecution may violate freedom of
the press.  "The first thing that happens is the government goes around
busting a bunch of teenagers," Kapor complains, "and calls them criminals."
The threat, he warns, extends to virtually anyone who links his computer to

Law-enforcement officials accuse Kapor of romanticizing crooks who are
violating the rights of their victims, and most peole still think that
hackers are a bigger threat than the cops.  But the crackdown has spurred
Kapr and such industry legends as Apple Computer cofounder Steve Wozniak to
band together behind the new generation.  Their gol: To protect the flow of
information and innovation that helped bring about the personal-computer
revolution.  Within the next few weeks they will officially announce a new
foundation, yet unnamed, inteded to combat computer phobia and provide legal
aid for some of those snared in the dragnet.  The computer rights movement
has gained support on Capitol Hill, where Senator Patrick Leahy, Democrat of
Vermont, has planned upcomming hearings on how far law enforcement should
go.  While advocating some punishment for lawbreakers, Leahy adds, "We
cannot unduly inhibit the inquisitive 13 year old who, if left to experiment
today, may tomorrow develop the telecoummunications or computer technology
to lead the United States into the 21st century.  He represents our future
and our best hope to remain a technologically competitive nation."

it's not that Kapor thinks he's defending choirboys.  Although some hackers
insist they should be able to traipse digitally wherever they please, Kapor
says that trespassers should be prosecuted -- "I don't want people breaking
in where they don't belong."  But he says the zealousness of the
investigations is out of proportion to the threat.  To Kapor, there is more
at stake than keeping a bunch of teenagers out of jail.  He cites the case
of Craig Neidorf, the University of Missouri student indicted after his
eletronic newsletter, Phrack, featured the private telephone-company
document.  If the government is right in Neidorf's case, says Kapor attorney
Terry Gross,  The New York Times could have had its printing presses
confiscated for publishing the Pentagon Papers.  "Its very, very clear First
Amendment implications should threaten all traditional media," says Gross --
Whose firm, Rabinowitz, Boudin, Standard, Krinsky and Lieberman, represented
Pentagon Paers Leaker Daniel Ellsberg.

Chilling Effect?  Not everyone is singing along with Mitch.  Software
companies, long angry over "piracy" ( passing around bootleg copies of
programs ), are glad to see the authorities cracking down.  Ken Wasch,
executive director of the Software Publishers Association, calls Kaper a
friend, but says, "For Mitch to believe that there is a government-sponsored
witch hunt going on is completely without foundation."  Gail Thackeray, an
Arizona assistant attorney general who deals with high-tech crime, insists
the authorities are being mindful of civil rights.  She predicts that when
the facts come out at the various trials, the cops will be vindicated:
"Some of these people who are loudest on the bandwagon may just slink back
into the background."  Thackeray dismisses claims that prosecution will shut
down legitimate computer networks; she speaks approvingly of one former
hacker who told agents he had quit as word spread of the raids.  "That's
not, to me, a constitutionally suspect chilling effect,"  she says.  "That's
what we in law enforcement call a 'deterrent'."

If Kapor's stance seems surprising, he's used to surprising people.  His
1-2-3 bundle of business tools was an overnight hit, making him a
multimillionaire.  Once his Lotus Development Corporation became a giant, he
shocked the industry again by walking away; Lotus, he says had outgrown its
innovative beginnings.  "Most of what you do in business is business," he
explains.  "I'm interested in business as a medium for creating products."
He is now creating products again at his new firm, Cabridge, Mass-bassed On

Kapor developed the idea for the computer foundation with John Perry Barlow,
a writer and self-described "professional techno-crank."  Barlow says
hackers typically try to sound more dangerous than they really are, a kind
of digital vogueing.  He says most live by a "hacker ethic"  Described by a
Phrack essay.  The piece tells prospective hackers to do no harm, because
"The thrill of the hack is not in breaking the law, it is in pursuit of
knowledge."  Barlow says if this weren't the case, there would be even more
damage to computers.

Future shock:  With the outlines of the organization sketched out, Kapor
began calling on friends in the industry.  While some have been reluctant,
there was one instant convert:  Apple cofounder Wozniak.  Like Kaper,
Wozniak walked away from his company when it grew too far past its funky
beginnings.  He has since put on rock concerts, gone back for his college
degree and taken stabs at high-tech ventures.  Wozniak says a little
mischief is important to the quest of knowledge.  He credits his college
experience building "blue boxes"  ( Devices for making free phone calls )
with honing his hardware-design skills.  He compares electronic trespass to
driving a few miles per hour over the speed limit.  There are people who
never break any such rules, he says, but adds, "do you think I'd want my son
to turn out like that, or marry one? I'd still support him, but ... I kinda
hope he has a more fun life."  "Woz"  pledged to match Kapor's contribution,
which helped put the initial funding over 150,000$.

Kapor, captain of his high school math team, has thrown in his lot with the
nerds.  He and his allies are attempting nothing less than to keep the
ideals of the computer revolution alive.  They hope to turn around a public
increasingly resentful who are adept at using them.  "You've got a lot of
people out there who do not understand the present,"  Barlow says, " and in
the absence of understanding, default to fear...The real disease here is
future shock."  Somebody has to stand up for the pencil necked and the
pimply.  Luckily for them, the men who have chosen to do so are filty rich.

John Schwartz

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