Wardialing Modems Guerrilla Network Opensource Cyberspace [re: Tim May]
grarpamp at gmail.com
Fri Dec 28 01:13:15 PST 2018
The Hacker Crackdown
Law and Disorder on the Electronic Frontier by Bruce Sterling
Part 1: Crashing The System
In the meantime, however, police and corporate security maintained
their own suspicions about "the chances of recurrence" and the real
reason why a "problem of this magnitude" had appeared, seemingly out
of nowhere. Police and security knew for a fact that hackers of
unprecedented sophistication were illegally entering, and
reprogramming, certain digital switching stations. Rumors of hidden
"viruses" and secret "logic bombs" in the switches ran rampant in the
underground, with much chortling over AT&T's predicament, and idle
speculation over what unsung hacker genius was responsible for it.
Some hackers, including police informants, were trying hard to finger
one another as the true culprits of the Crash.
Telco people found little comfort in objectivity when they
contemplated these possibilities. It was just too close to the bone
for them; it was embarrassing; it hurt so much, it was hard even to
There has always been thieving and misbehavior in the phone system.
There has always been trouble with the rival independents, and in the
local loops. But to have such trouble in the core of the system, the
long-distance switching stations, is a horrifying affair. To telco
people, this is all the difference between finding roaches in your
kitchen and big horrid sewer-rats in your bedroom.
As more and more switches did have that bit of bad luck and
collapsed, the call-traffic became more and more densely packed in the
remaining switches, which were groaning to keep up with the load. And
of course, as the calls became more densely packed, the switches were
much more likely to be hit twice within a hundredth of a second. It
only took four seconds for a switch to get well. There was no physical
damage of any kind to the switches, after all. Physically, they were
working perfectly. This situation was "only" a software problem. But
the 4ESS switches were leaping up and down every four to six seconds,
in a virulent spreading wave all over America, in utter, manic,
mechanical stupidity. They kept knocking one another down with their
contagious "OK" messages. It took about ten minutes for the chain
reaction to cripple the network. Even then, switches would
periodically luck-out and manage to resume their normal work. Many
calls -- millions of them -- were managing to get through. But
On Tuesday, September 17, 1991, came the most spectacular outage yet.
This case had nothing to do with software failures -- at least, not
directly. Instead, a group of AT&T's switching stations in New York
City had simply run out of electrical power and shut down cold. Their
back-up batteries had failed. Automatic warning systems were supposed
to warn of the loss of battery power, but those automatic systems had
failed as well.
This time, Kennedy, La Guardia, and Newark airports all had their
voice and data communications cut. This horrifying event was
particularly ironic, as attacks on airport computers by hackers had
long been a standard nightmare scenario, much trumpeted by computer-
security experts who feared the computer underground. There had even
been a Hollywood thriller about sinister hackers ruining airport
computers -- Die Hard II.
Now AT&T itself had crippled airports with computer malfunctions --
not just one airport, but three at once, some of the busiest in the
By 1991 the System's defenders had met their nebulous Enemy, and the
Enemy was -- the System.
The Risks Digest - Volume 9, Issue 62 - February 26, 1990.
Cause of AT&T network failure
"Peter G. Neumann"
Fri, 26 Jan 90 14:24:30 PST
>From Telephony, Jan 22, 1990 p11:
The Crash of the AT&T Network in 1990
If you paid serious attention to every rumor out and about these
hacker kids, you would hear all kinds of wacko saucer-nut nonsense:
that the National Security Agency monitored all American phone calls,
that the CIA and DEA tracked traffic on bulletin-boards with
word-analysis programs …
— Chapter 2, The Digital Underground
Cypherpunks... such nonsense they are.
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