CUTTER by Rod Humble: Chapter One - Initiation


Technology makes everything simple, at the touch of a button you can do anything. Anything.

At the moment I am in the telephone company Net or PACNET as it is known. I am at security level 5 and have just seen a couple of kid hackers messing around on level 2, changing their phone bills making free long distance calls, routine stuff. Sloppy job though ,by changing the accounts after work hours they leave an unnecessary chance of discovery. Just hackers, maybe they will learn, maybe not. Me? Not a hacker anymore, I am a cutter, a surgeon if you will.

The days of the hacker are over. Spotty juveniles causing a stir by breaking into military networks, messy amateurs. Of course that's how I started, you know for the buzz, seeing something that you weren't meant to, who could resist? Not that getting military secrets is particularly hard. Can you believe they actually label them for you? Secret, Top Secret, Ultra Secret, they made it SO easy to get the good stuff by telling us where to look. If you want to hide a book put it in a library, do not put it on the top of a mountain with a neon sign saying "DON'T LOOK HERE!" and a chain around it. But those were the days when I learnt my trade. I was one of the few who didn't get caught and more importantly didn't get too close to anybody. See, that was a time when every hacker that got caught told the feds everything and everyone they knew figuring the government would be so impressed with how clever they were they would let them off or give them a job. Part of the reason was that most hackers were highly intelligent people who did it for the intellectual exercise rather than any criminal intent. That always was the difference between them and me.

I never was so intelligent that I could laugh in the face of authority and get a career doing something else. I saw these miraculous strides in information technology as a way to get power, nothing more, no romance bullshit, just a tool to get power.

Sure I went through the same adolescence as most other hackers. Living in a bedroom with a computer, a modem, rotting food, liters of coke and dirty reworn clothes. I put up with all of the usual stuff "Why don't you go outside its a beautiful day?" and "How can you live in this filth?". The truth was of course that I did not live in that filth nor could I care less how sunny it was outside. Where I lived the weather was constant and nobody ever gave a shit how my room looked or even how I looked and so it never mattered.

That's as far as the similarity between me and most hackers went however. They eventually grew up and went to college or became "professional" and got a job in the world. I transferred $10,000 into my bank account at 17 and split home as fast as I could. It was a damn stupid thing to do but banks did not check as closely then as they do nowadays and I got away with it. So I got a pad and started hacking full time.

The hacker society is something that most people can never understand. The reason for this is that it is so fundamentally negative. It seeks to rob from and destroy the very systems that give it nourishment. Some misguided individuals (such as the clowns at the Electronic Frontier Foundation) think we are defending civil liberties by invading other peoples privacy. I have no such illusions. We steal information that does not belong to us. There is absolutely no difference between looking at a database online that does not belong to you and opening someone else's mail. Anybody who tells you otherwise has never done it.

I do have one confession to make though. I still get a buzz from looking at confidential documents. Its the same power that hooks politicians. Its the reason many politicians stay in politics. Once every month or so they get a few bits of paper that say "Restricted" on them or "Secret". The information within is usually rather dull but its the idea that you are privy to something that the general public isn't that gives you a buzz. Secrets are a dangerous addiction.

Most hackers get bored of it after a while because they are smart enough to make easy money honestly. Others keep going until they tread on someone's toes then get arrested or have their decks taken away. Some become "Mothers", everyone knows them and uses them as a way to meet other people but does not trust them with too much info precisely BECAUSE everyone knows them and it is figured that eventually they will squeal. That's something you learn early on is that NO ONE can keep a secret in the online world.

Some hackers become real pro's. We are the few, numbering no more than a hundred in all. Most hackers only know of us through stories and half forgotten handles that we once used. We watch quietly from the sidelines never letting anybody know our true names or numbers. We use other people for info with promises of trade then disappear into the ether only to reappear under another name the day after. We belong to no group because no group is worthy of our patronage. That's the golden rule is you want to be a survivor, never get involved with anyone else. Always remain a lone wolf because you can never betray yourself. Information is power and information about yourself gives others power over you.

That was until the CR'S started. They were like ghosts across the net. You only heard about something months after they had done it. Most of the stuff you heard about was clearly meant to be found. A warning to some corporation that had crossed them or a hacker that had got too close. Most of their exploits quickly passed into legend. The time they posted the exact results of the Venezuelan elections 1 hour after the polls closed clearly demonstrating the whole thing had been rigged. That little escapade had toppled the government and had brought to power a very grateful (and presumably well paying) opposition party. Then there was the time an Indian politicians plane was shot down by a Pakistani fighter because they had received the exact flight plans from the Indian computer system. The CR's were still very low profile though even on the nets, unlike hackers they did not want to brag about their exploits, quite the contrary.

Their name serves as a constant reminder to all of its members. No matter how clever or fancy your ideas or program until you hit Carriage Return nothing happens, you have to implement to succeed.

That's why I am here. I want to join the CR's, I want to join their elite and well paying club. It took months of hard work to find a way to get in touch with them. Eventually I encrypted a message to them in a highly complicated virus I wrote. I knew it had enough interesting techniques in it to grab their attention and grab their attention it did. A discreet message was posted to me on a Bulgarian BBS giving me a number. I dialed in and was surprised to be on a direct line to a CR called "04". He spelled out in detail exactly what was required of me. I had to pass a test in the most ingenious way possible. The test was the same that every CR member had taken to join.

I had to kill someone by modem.

I had asked questions and he had given examples. One member had broken into the Power companies computer in Minnesota during the winter and knocked out the power grid for a certain town called Marybridge. The town was rather isolated and with all the power out 6 people mostly old folks had died of cold. Another member crashed the air traffic control at JFK and caused the Flight 62 disaster of 93 over two hundred people died as a jet collided with an advertising plane, The media blamed it on "Computer error" and called for "real" people to be put back in the loop, yeah right. Amusingly this luddite attitude put into place such an inefficient non computer based system it caused two more crashes worst than the first! I looked up both these incidents. They happened and people were really dead because of it. I was thrilled to the core.

"The Initiation," he explained online "Serves three real purposes. Firstly it means all members are equally guilty in he eyes of the law which prevents any of them turning evidence. There are not many judges willing to plea bargain a count of murder away.

Secondly it makes all new members realize fully that what they are doing is immoral and illegal. They may be able to justify to themselves stealing money through bank computers but to kill someone leaves no illusions. You have passed the barrier and you are now able to act decisively free of guilt as you have already committed the ultimate crime. Military training often make recruits kill animals with their bare hands to make them know what killing is really like. It is the same principle.

Thirdly and most importantly it makes the member realize that he is living in a world above the normal one. He can do anything and get away with it. People will not even realize the people he killed were murdered showing him just how omnipotent he can be."

An electric excitement shot through me as I realized the power before me. I had the chance to work with real peers people who thought the same way I did. I accepted the challenge immediately and set to planning. I tried to call back to the number a second time but it did not respond, according to the operator no such number ever existed and it never appeared on my bill, I was suitably impressed.

I spent 3 weeks continually programming and modifying my scheme for the test. It was the greatest piece of work I had ever created. It was a virus but not just any virus this one was alive. I programmed it with its own learning system and AI. As it spread itself it would change depending on what data it gathered. But it was still basically just a self replicating program. Then I gave it the single most important drive and need that makes all living things change and become more efficient, hunger. My virus feeds on data. Also if it goes without data for a period of time then it dies vanishing into nothingness deleting itself. I ran a few isolated test programs to see what happened. My deepest hopes were confirmed not only did my viruses eat up and destroy data that they found but also they seemingly preferred different kinds of data after a while. Even better when there was no more data that they liked they fed on each other like the predators I had designed them to be. The most impressive thing was how fast they could feed. I performed a test in which one of my viruses deleted and absorbed a Megabyte of data in just under 3 seconds. But for my task they had to be fast eaters, very fast. I christened my virus "Dante" now all I had to do was find somewhere suitable to let him loose and begin to feed.

That's why I am here in Pacnet diverting my call through 4 relays so no one can trace my call. The emergency 911 service operates at the highest levels of security so no one can hack into it and turn it off. Of course nothing could be further from my aims tonight. I want those calls to keep coming the more the merrier. You may not realize it but when you speak into a phone your voice is translated into data then untranslated at the other end. Data is what Dante feeds on and very fast. I am just about to join a club and become one the biggest mass murderers in America. No one will ever hear of me though. They will just wonder what that chittering sound is coming out of the telephone instead of the Police. Dante will probably spread and evolve. I wouldn't be surprised if in the next few years the telephone companies with start to get frustrated with just how may calls are going "missing" do the lines need rechecking or the relay stations? Meanwhile people are dying. Now I am ready, Dante is ready, all I have to do is press Carriage Return.