[Published on 16 Oct. 2002 / Last Updated on 24 Jan. 2013]
GUIDE TO (mostly) HARMLESS HACKING
Vol. 7 No. 1
Introduction to Hacker Wargaming
Since we began running the Hacker Wargame in March 1988, so far (Oct. 1998)
we have just two winners (blips and spagheti -- GALF doesn't count because
they committed a felony to get in) -- and lots of questions about how to
become a winner. "Please explain keystroke by keystroke," people ask again
Sorry, I can't do that for you. The problem is, when we made the Wargame
easy to win, certain script kiddies came in and repeatedly erased key parts
of the operating system of the Wargame computer -- which is a pain to fix.
So we decided to set up the Wargame so it was harder to use script kiddie
programs. The result, sad to say, was that winners became rare.
It's pretty boring when only two people are able to not just break into but
maintain control of one of our Wargame computers. (You aren't a winner
unless you can maintain control.) So this Wargaming series is intended to
teach you, the aspiring Uberhacker, how to rise above the level of the
script kiddie. If this series is successful, you will learn how hackers
such as blips and spagheti have become computer security experts instead of
mere script kiddies. You will have the opportunity to follow in their
footsteps by learning how to discover new computer vulnerabilities, and
learning how to fix them yourself, without being told "keystroke by keystroke."
In this GTMHH you will learn:
* What are script kiddies and why they are lame
* Why setting up your own LAN (local area network) is the best way to become
* What kind of hardware you will need
* How to get hardware cheap
* How to get operating system software cheap
What Are Script Kiddies, and Why they Are Lame
Want to know exactly what a script kiddie is? The Web site
http://www.antionline.com carries some of the best news about computer
break-ins. Its owner, John Vranesevich is a
self-described hacker, and has interviewed and listened to thousands of
hackers. With his permission, here we reprint his recent editorial "Facing
the Age of the Script Kiddies"
In the past, a hacker was an individual who literally had to spend years
to learn the inner workings of computer technology, programming, and
hardware. Only then could he begin to explore possible vulnerabilities, and
develop, for himself, ways to exploit those vulnerabilities, and more
importantly, ways to patch them. Through out these years of learning, the
hacker would develop a certain respect for the technology that he was
studying, and a certain level of maturity would inherently develop as well.
Now, in present day society, with point and click utilities abound, a
younger, less mature, less knowledgeable, and less
respectful, generation of "hackers" have come to life. Individuals who
haven't had to go through the years of learning, and study. Individuals,
who because of the lack of experiencing this "learning process" have not
developed the traits which once went hand in hand with the persona of
"hacker". Kids who are at that age, where they have very little self
respect, and even less respect for others. Kids who are insecure, and have
a strong desire to feel that sense of belonging. The sense of being
accepted as part of a group, and respected among their peers. The same
emotional state which once led inner city youth to gangs, is now leading
them to "hacking". Individuals who feel the ultimate sense of power in
"hacking a webpage". Their words being read by thousands of others. Their
ability to control something. The technology is not a love, but a tool to
accomplish something much more in their eyes. A tool that can be used to
gain them acceptance, a feeling of empowerment, belonging, and control. A
tool to allow them to escape the ridicule of the kids on the bus, or the
back of their parent's hand.
Oh, and I can hear people screaming "stereotyping" right now. Well, call
it what you may. I've talked to literally thousands of these so called
"hackers" over the past 5 or 6 years. You'd be surprised at how clear of a
mold many of them come from. I am really sick of hearing "we hacked that
page to get a message out". Perhaps, in some very, very, rare cases, that
is true. But, I submit to you, the vast majority of time a hack is done
first, and a political agenda is developed after hand to help rationalize
the crime. On top of that, one hardly has to "hack a webpage" to get their
point of view told.
That's the wonder of the Internet. Everyone is an equal. Everyone has the
opportunity to post their views, and share their thoughts. Once again,
these so called "hackers" avoid the developmental process. They don't want
to spend the time and energy necessary to create a successful website of
their own. So, they maliciously exploit the work of others that have. I'm
19 years old right now. I know what it is like being upset about
something, and feeling that there's no way to share that with others.
That's one of the reasons that I made AntiOnline. It's my forum. My way of
expressing my views on things. To think of me, a 19 year old college drop
out. Yet, my work is viewed millions of times every month. That, my little
"hacker" friends, is power. That is what the Internet is about. That's why
it works. That's why it's growing.
Unless you change your ways soon, you will never be truly experiencing
the wonder that technology is. To truly love technology, love how it is
changing our society, bringing mankind together in a way never before
experienced in the history of the human race. You'll never truly be
experiencing the very thing that you feel you have ultimate control over. A
true irony indeed.
Of course, as with all things, there is hope. There are people out their
hanging on tightly to the ways of old, and the true hacker identity. There
are groups like L0pht, the distributed.net bovine group, and the kids down
at your local high school learning visual basic.
Those are the true hackers. A desire to learn, a desire to be the first
to discover something new. A true hacker mentality is something that
shouldn't be thought of as a dark, mischievous thing, but perhaps, more
like that of a scientist. Study, learn, experiment, and share what you've
found with others......
Yours In CyberSpace,
Why Setting up your own LAN Is the Best Way to become an Uberhacker
OK, so you want to become more than a script kiddie? So do I. Here's what
the best hackers I know say was their route to the top: wargaming on their
own and friends' LANs (local area networks). This is a study technique used
by the kind of people who can slide through computer systems like ghosts
wafting through walls.
"Wait! Wait!" some of you are saying. "I thought hackers learn by
illegally breaking into the computers of strangers!" True, plenty of people
you meet on hacker mailing lists and on IRC make out like they are computer
security experts by day and computer criminals by night. There even are
people who have been convicted of computer crimes who work as security
experts. These guys probably are telling you the truth when they say they
were foolish enough to learn their trade by committing crime.
However, crime often leads to prison, and prison is no fun. Guess what
happens when bad breath cellmate "Bubba" decides you're cute? Guess what
happens when your name is Kevin Mitnik and Hollywood makes a movie full of
lies about you? Besides, when you break into a computer illegally, you miss
out on the most fun part, which is being the guy who is fighting back!
So ... are you ready to learn about breaking into and defending computers
the way the Uberhackers do it? Ready to learn how to run your own hacker
You can get started with newbie wargaming by reading the GTMHHs on "How to
Break into Windows 95 from the Internet." (See http://www.happyhacker.org)
These show you how to set up your Win95 box so you and your friends can
practice breaking into each others' computers over the Internet. This will
give you a good start. But this approach has some problems -- such as you
only learn newbie stuff, and strangers might find your purposely vulnerable
Win95 or Win98 box connected to the Internet -- and do terrible things to it.
If you want a wargaming technique that will take you all the way to the
top, you need to set up a local area network in your home, and get your
friends to set up networks, too. Then you can experiment with configuring
firewalls and proxy servers, getting several computers with different
operating systems working together, and trying out LAN networking techniques
such as Netware, Microsoft Network, and TCP/IP; and much more. You can
increase your fun by trading accounts on your network for accounts on your
friends' LANs and get to freely experiment with many LANs.
Newbie note: If you are a kid, the FIRST thing you will probably want to do
is make sure your parents understand why hacker wargaming will make you rich
and famous instead of in jail and infamous. Here's how
Paradox@kpservices.com won over his parents.
"I wrote to you a while ago about how to get my parents to accept the fact
of their son being a white-hat hacker... You gave me the advice to show
them your article in the October issue of
_Scientific American_ (which was a masterpiece, btw) and take it from
there. Right after my dad read it ... All was well! Then, by coincidence,
my best friend's Win95 box on a vulnerable cable connection was invaded as
part of a dumb IRC war he had going on... The intruders... trashed my
friend's box by using Back Orifice and then proceeded to mess with the
server our business page was on (along with our other e-mail addresses). My
parents ... are now security paranoid and want me to find out as much as I
can about computer security. My Aunt (a Sun Microsystems employee) is
getting me an Ultra 5 SPARC Workstation for Christmas too! My parents are
also buying me a copy of Windows NT and System Commander so I can run Linux
too! I'm also going to get a (secure) cable connection to the workstation
in my room.
THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!
What Kind of Hardware you Will Need -- and How to Get it Cheap
"Wait! Wait!" some guys are saying. "I'm not rich enough to build my own
hacker research laboratory!" Guess what, you can put together a really
impressive lab for only a few hundred dollars.
Have you visited the web page of our Wargame computer
http://koan.happyhacker.org? The Web pages downloaded pretty fast, right?
Did you get into the guest account and make merry with all the other guys
who had shells on koan? (Hint: the password for the guest account is really
stupid. Even a stupid person can guess it.) Did you give the netstat command
and see how many people were browsing its Web sites, making ftp connections
and logged into shells all at once? Did you know that koan is a mere 25 Mhz
Koan is so powerful because it runs FreeBSD, a Unix type of operating
system, instead of Windows. (The RAM disk for the temp directory helps,
too:) Almost any Unix type operating system can take an ancient Intel-type
computer and make it run fast! The 200th fastest supercomputer in the world
is a bunch of PCs running Linux and hooked together in parallel, in
operation at Los Alamos National Laboratories.
You can get a 25 Mhz PC, or even faster ones, for almost nothing. Because
they are so common, you can find cheap used ones in the classified ads in
the local paper, or buy them from computer stores that specialize in used
equipment. Then install Unix type operating systems on them.
Or, for major fun, buy ancient workstation computers. You will rarely see
them for sale in the classified ads of newspapers. However, you can often
pick them up at auctions. Of course you need to know a thing or two about
the hardware you buy at auctions, because usually you won't get to try them
out before bidding on them. Many people who buy workstations at auctions
figure most of them have things wrong with them. So they buy a bunch of
them and then use parts from some of them to fix the others.
You would be surprised by what an ancient Sun can do. A Sun SPARC
workstation running at 25 Mhz is surprisingly fast for the same reason a 25
Mhz PC is fast running some sort of Unix -- it's the Unix that makes it
fast! In addition, if you want to have many simultaneous users, for example
if you want to give shell accounts to many users, a Sun should be faster
than a PC with an equivalent clock speed.
If you don't feel you have the hardware expertise to piece together a cheap
Sun workstation yourself, by paying a little bit more you can buy them from
resellers who get them at auctions. If you can find a local auction that
sells workstations, you best bet may be to go to the auction and introduce
yourself to the people you see buying hardware that you want to own. They
will probably be willing to resell to you as soon as they get the equipment
If you can't find a cheap place to buy workstations nearby, there are two
places in Albuquerque where you can get refurbished workstations:
http://nmol.com/users/jcents (email firstname.lastname@example.org); or email Jake Garcia
at email@example.com. They pick them up at auctions of used equipment from
places such as Sandia National Laboratories, where people design nuclear
weapons and nanomachinery. Sorry, you won't find classified data left
behind on these workstations!
Your next step in getting ready to set up your hacker laboratory is the
networking equipment. How do you get your computers talking to each other?
For that I recommend a 10BaseT Ethernet. This is probably the easiest
network you can set up.
The hardware you will need for an Ethernet will consist of a hub, an
Ethernet device for each computer you plan to network together, and either
Category 3 or Category 5 Ethernet cables. The Ethernet cables look like
oversized phone cables.
You can usually find a used hub for $20 or so at a used computer store.
Workstations usually have an Ethernet device of some sort already built into
them. However, look to see whether yours has a connector on the back that
looks like a slightly oversized phone jack. If it does, great. If instead
your workstation only has a connector that looks like what you use for a
cable TV (round with a wire in the center), and next to it a connector that
looks like the serial port on the back of your PC, you have a slight
problem. You will need to buy an AUI to 10BaseT transceiver. It is a
little box with LEDs on it which hooks on one side to the thing that looks
like a serial port, and on the other side has a thing that looks like a big
phone jack. These are somewhat hard to find, and cost about $30 new. The
electronic parts supplier Hamilton Hallmark sells them, as do many other
electronics parts suppliers. You rarely will find these transceivers in
computer stores because the average consumer doesn't run around networking
old Unix workstations.
For PCs you usually need to buy an Ethernet card. Even new, you can buy
one for only $20. The cabling costs very little, and can often be gotten
for free if you pay a visit to an office building that is being renovated.
I've gotten several hundred feet of Cat3 cable that way.
Once you have gotten this far, you have all the hardware you need for your
How to Get Operating System Software Cheap
Your next problem will be operating system software. One problem with
buying old Unix workstations is that they generally have old operating
systems for which there are many exploit programs floating around the
Internet. While it may be fun for a while proving to yourself that within
seconds you can break into these old boxes, pretty soon this will get
boring. You will get the craving to upgrade to the latest versions of these
This is where you may get to faint, when you find out what this costs.
There are exceptions, however.
My favorite kind of used workstations is Suns. The reason I like old Suns
is that you can either run them using whatever operating system it came with
(either Sun OS or Solaris, which will probably be an old version and easy to
break into) or you can upgrade cheaply to the latest version of Solaris, to
Sun Linux, or Sun OpenBSD. Even a SPARC 1 can run the latest versions of
all of these! To get the latest Solaris for almost nothing, see
http://www.sun.com/developers/solarispromo.html. This offer includes the
manuals as well as a set of installation CDs. Or, you can get a version of
Linux that runs on Sun workstations (Red Hat) at http://www.redhat.com, or
of OpenBSD from http://www.openBSd.org.
For PCs, your best bet for cheap Unix, if you are a total beginner, is Red
Hat. It is easy to install and tech support is great. There are at least
two other Linux distributions that beginners find easy to use: Slackware 3.5
(http://www.cdrom.com) and Debian (http://www.debian.com). While they are a
bit harder to install, they are easier to make secure.
You can also get a version of Solaris that will run on PCs (see above URL).
If Linux is new to you, check out http://sunsite.unc.edu/mdw/ldp.html for
lots of beginner information. Or, start out with Trinux, at
http://www.trinux.org, for a beginner's version that doesn't require you to
repartition your hard disk (which the other Linuxes do).
If you are already a power user of Linux, and want to build a really secure
LAN, you may wish to move up to either FreeBSD (http://www.freebsd.org or
http://www.cdrom.com) or Open BSD (http://www.openbsd.org). These operating
systems, along with Solaris 2.6 and above, are designed to resist most of
the buffer overflows that are the basis of many break-in techniques. These
BSD operating systems are more difficult to install, however.
I wish I could tell you how to get a cheap version of Windows NT Server
4.0. However, the only way I know of is not exactly legal. You may be able
to obtain a free beta copy of Windows NT 5.0, however -- keep checking out
the Microsoft Web site (http://www.microsoft.com) for opportunities.
How about LAN software? If you have decided to work with Windows only, and
don't plan on connecting your LAN to the Internet, all you have to do is
cable each computer to your hub, and point and click your way through
networking. As for Novell Netware -- sorry, I don't know of a cheap way to
If you are serious about hacking, you will be connecting several different
operating systems together on your LAN. For this I recommend using TCP/IP
and making one of your computers a gateway to the Internet. This is a
little harder than "Network Neighborhood" style networking. I know that
because -- you will be shocked to hear this -- I am living proof that it is
easy to make mistakes when setting up a TCP/IP network. Imagine that! So
I'm going to devote the next Guide in this series to how to set up a LAN
with an Internet gateway and both Windows and Unix boxes on it using TCP/IP.
Maybe I can figure out how to explain it so it will be easier for you than
it was for me.
Thanks to firstname.lastname@example.org for reviewing and contributing to this Guide.
Where are those back issues of GTMHHs and Happy Hacker Digests? Check out
the official Happy Hacker Web page at http://www.happyhacker.org.
We are against computer crime. We support good, old-fashioned hacking of the
kind that led to the creation of the Internet and a new era of freedom of
information. But we hate computer crime. So don't email us about any crimes
you may have committed!
To subscribe to Happy Hacker and receive the Guides to (mostly) Harmless
Hacking, please email email@example.com with message "subscribe
happy-hacker" in the body of your message.
Copyright 1998 Carolyn Meinel. You may forward, print out or post this
GUIDE TO (mostly) HARMLESS HACKING on your Web site as long as you leave
this notice at the end.
M/B Research -- The Technology Brokers