#140: The Scene

[F.U.C.K. is an e-zine that I started on January 24, 1993 and ended on January 24, 2000. One concept is that articles should be timeless if possible, so they were not released with dates. As such, the date on this blog is not exact but I will try to use a date as close as possible.]

Ok. Background so you understand my rant of the day. ‘The Scene’ is a term used by BBSers and refers to either the collective body that BBSs, or the group of people that are into hacking/phreaking related topics that BBS. ‘The 303 Scene’ would refer to H/P BBSs (and users) in the Denver area. Sometimes, when a hacker from one area code talks to another from a different, they will ask ‘What’s the scene like there?’

My problem. Almost everywhere you go, the scene sucks in a big way. If you are on BBSs, you will no doubt read posts about the fact that a particular scene sucks, and a lot of people will piss and moan about it, and try to think of ways for it to get better. I have come to the conclusion that no matter where you live, it isn’t going to get better.

‘The Scene’ (all of them) has been on a downward spiral over the past 5 or so years. More and more of the good hackers have gone on to do other things. A surprising amount have moved on to computer/phone security positions in big companies, or do consulting of some kind. As the older (older being relative) hackers moved on, new and younger kids stepped in wanting to learn about hacking and phreaking. In just over a year, the level of hacking knowledge has gone from serious in depth conversations to trivial talk about the most basic of phreaking boxes.

‘The Scene’ is full of different groups that band together for several reasons. Security in numbers (within reason), pooling of information or resources, and a bond of friendship. Just like the gangs on the streets, egos are getting in the way of things and causing rivalry between groups. So instead of having groups working with each other, trading information, and new hacks, they are at war attempting to get each others info and show who is better. A lot of people ask what good it will do to get someone’s “info”. This usually refers to getting their real name/address/phone numbers and sometimes more (credit, relatives, etc.). With this information you can one of several things in revenge.

Why is the scene dying? Because of us, the hackers and phreakers. The feds are still out there, looking to bust hackers any way they can. Their success comes more from the hackers mistake’s than anything. Not just mistakes like not diverting, or not covering your tracks, but even worse. The fundamental lack of respect we show each other, and the way we war among ourselves is the biggest advantage they have (and need). While we waste our time flaming each other on BBSs, getting info through borrowed or stolen CNA codes, the feds use that time to build bigger cases against us. When they do catch one of us, they rely on the hatred and mistrust between us to help them out. They pursuade one person to narc out another, in return for promises of leniancy and other court favors that never come

Why change? Why start caring about others out there? Think of what would be possible if hackers were united? You would have a large body of motivated people that are very intelligent, and capable of making change in the world. All this legislation that is being forced upon us to censor what we say, limit our online abilities, and stop us from what we do best, could be defeated without hesitation each and every time. Instead of using your Unix scripting knowledge to spam someone on 1000 Usenet groups, use it to warn everyone on those groups about legislation that will hinder online freedom. Instead of using CNA and other personal information sources to get each other’s info, use it to get politician’s info, and make them become the public servants they are. Share information on systems and networking so that if one person leaves the scene, another is there to pass on that information and make use of it.

That alone defines a good hacker in my eyes. Ability to pass along information so that it stays with the generation behind them. I do not advocate giving up ALL of your info, codes, and everything else. I do encourage you to pass along HOW to get that information, and HOW to get into systems. Make it a challenge, and bring back the excitement of being in someone else’s system. Break into a system just for the excitement of being there. Want a challenge after that? Mail the sysadmin from an account you created telling them of their security hole. Wait a few weeks and try to get in again. Some hackers will not agree with me on that, but hacking isn’t just about personal rewards. Its about exploring, finding out what else is out there, and how it affects you.

For the newcomers. If you ask a question and get harassed a little, bear with it. The older hackers don’t want to pass on information to someone who has no patience, no sense of humor, and won’t use the information correctly. If no one answers your questions, look around. Why won’t they? As a visible hacker, they have to worry about being logged by any cops or feds on the board, being harassed by any telco employees that may read the message, or narcs in the area. If you just come out of nowhere and start asking questions, paranoia kicks in for the older hackers. Patience is a key element to learning.

For the older hackers. You have to pass your legacy on to someone else. There is no reason for you to leave with all the information you have and remove it from the scene totally. If all else fails, write some text files about new stuff you have discovered. If new people ask questions, give them answers, or at least point them in the direction of obtaining that answer on their own. If you notice one or two newcomers with potential, take time to help them out and teach them some of the tricks. Be patient with them, and remember back to when you were learning. It takes time.

What happens if enough of the older hackers leave the scene? Then you are left with a legacy of wannabe hackers arguing on who has the correct redbox plans, or who has the right Motorola cable pinouts. What does that say about the previous generation? It says we were too caught up in our own gain to care about the scene as a whole. Fix it, before it is too late.

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