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Computer Stories of Note

Robin Hood and Friar Tuck
When the folks at Xerox drag their feet on fixing a security hole these two pranksters appear to show just how serious the problem is. (Note: The text on this link is almost verbatim the same as is found in The Hacker's Dictionary, but adds a personal note at the bottom. Whether this addition is true or not I cannot say.)

Microsoft is borked
Two weeks after it was revealed that Microsoft's redesign of their MSN site was deliberately feeding faulty style sheets to Opera browsers, Opera Software turned the tables with the release of "Opera 7.01 for Windows in Bork." The browser works properly on every site except MSN, which it purposefully distorts.

The Story of Mel
Another well known excerpt from The Hacker's Dictionary, but one which also stands on its own as a piece of computer lore. In today's world of script kiddies and wannabees, this account of what it means to be a real programmer is a breath of fresh air.

The Cuckoo's Egg
An out of work astronomer, temporarily working as a systems manager at the Lawrence Berkeley Lab (UC-Berkeley), finds a 75¢ error in the accounting logs and in the course of chasing it down uncovers a German hacker breaking in to Berkeley computers, which were then used to attack and infiltrate over 400 military computers. All the while the FBI, CIA, and NSA remained uninterested, leaving Stoll to track down the hacker on his own. Only at the very end, when the hacker had been identified and linked to other hackers selling military secrets to the KGB, did the authorities reluctantly become involved.

The Cancelbunny
This amusing incident, which seems to be the first documented case of net-warfare, took place in 1991 on the alt.religion.scientology usenet news group between practitioners and critics of the controversial religion.

The Morris Worm
The event that started it all and changed the nature of system security forever. A precursor to the virus threats of today, the worm spread across the country within a matter of hours, bringing over 6,000 systems (making up ~10% of the Internet at that time) to a standstill until the worm's author anonymously posted a message instructing programmers how to kill off the program and prevent reinfection.

Computer Security or Cybercrime?
If you don't own the system you're working on, be very careful about what you do without explicit permission. In 1995 Intel hired Perl legend Randal Schwartz as a security consultant. As part of this job Schwartz obtained the password file from several Intel machines and ran Crack on them to test for weak passwords. For his efforts Schwartz was arrested and convicted of several Oregon state computer crimes.

Erick's Page of Cool Links
Looking through an old collection of floppy disks one night I came across the second web page I ever made. The first is undoubtedly lost somewhere in cyberspace, but I'll post this one (almost) unchanged for both historical and hysterical (i.e. view source) reasons. In looking over it, I'm amused to see which pieces still ring true and which just make me shake my head in wonder.

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Contact: ebeck(at)tamu.edu
Last modified: August 17, 2005