Computer underground Digest Sun Dec 20, 1992 Volume 4 : Issue 67
Editors: Jim Thomas and Gordon Meyer ([email protected]
Archivist: Brendan Kehoe
Shadow-Archivists: Dan Carosone / Paul Southworth
Ralph Sims / Jyrki Kuoppala
Copy Iditor: Etaion Shrdlu, Junior
CONTENTS, #4.67 (Dec 20, 1992)
File 1--Thanks to all and see ya Jan 9th
File 2--Secret Service Raids Dorm
File 3--Tales From the Crackdown
File 4--SYSLAW (Review #1)
File 5--SYSLAW (Review #2)
File 6--Model BBS/User Contract (from SYSLAW)
Cu-Digest is a weekly electronic journal/newsletter. Subscriptions are
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The editors may be
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Jim Thomas, Department of Sociology, NIU, DeKalb, IL 60115.
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Date: Sat, 19 Dec 92 23:18:21 CST
Subject: File 1--Thanks to all and see ya Jan 9th
CuD will be on vacation from 23 December through about 8 January.
Issue #5.01 will be out about January 9. We will, however, continue to
answer mail and take subs over break.
A special year's end THANKS!!! goes out to the gang who have
maintained the CuD ftp sites: DAN (beware of flaming sambuca snorters)
CAROSONE, PAUL (even if he is from the "other" university in Michigan)
SOUTHWORTH, RALPH (the quiet one) SIMS, JYRKI (who will never be
accused of lurking) KUOPOLLA, and the guy who makes it all possible
BRENDAN (the only Zen net-meister we now) KEHOE. And, special thanks
to the mailserv meister at [email protected] He's too young
to mention his name, but he's done a fine job in keeping the mailserv
As usal, the proof reeding and coyp editor, Etaion Shrdlu, Junior, has
kept CuD texts error-free ofspelling and typo errors.
And, of course, thanks to everybody who sent in articles (and to those
who read them).
The January issues will include several on the Software Publishers'
Association (SPA), including interviews, commentary, and other stuff.
So, see ya'll about a week after New Year's.
Jim and Gordon
Date: Thu, 17 Dec 92 16:08:10 CST
From: [email protected](Joe Abernathy)
Subject: File 2--Secret Service Raids Dorm
Federal Agents Raid Dorm, Seize Computer Equipment
By JOE ABERNATHY Copyright 1992, Houston Chronicle
The Secret Service has raided a dorm room at Texas Tech University,
seizing the computers of two Houston-area students who allegedly used
an international computer network to steal computer software.
Agents refused to release the names of the two area men and a third
from Austin, who were not arrested in the late-morning raid Monday at
the university in Lubbock. Their cases will be presented to a grand
jury in January.
They are expected to be charged with computer crime, interstate
transport of stolen property and copyright infringement.
"The university detected it," said Resident Agent R. David Freriks of
the Secret Service office in Dallas, which handled the case. He said
that Texas Tech computer system operators contacted the Secret Service
when personal credit information was found mixed with the software
mysteriously filling up their fixed-disk data storage devices.
The raid is the first to fall under a much broader felony definition
of computer software piracy that could affect many Americans. This
October revision to the copyright law was hotly debated by computer
experts, who contended that it sets the felony threshold far too low.
Agents allege that the three used a chat system hosted on the Internet
computer network, which connects up to 15 million people in more than
40 nations, to make contacts with whom they could trade pirated
software. The software was transferred over the network, into Texas
Tech's computers, and eventually into their personal computers. The
Secret Service seized those three personal computers and associated
peripherals which an agent valued at roughly $5,000.
The software Publishers Association, a software industry group
chartered to fight piracy, contends that the industry lost $1.2
billion in sales in 1991 to pirates.
Although these figures are widely questioned for their accuracy,
piracy is widespread among Houston's 450-plus computer bulletin
boards, and even more so on the global Internet.
"There are a lot of underground sites on the Internet run by
university system administrators, and they have tons of pirated
software available to download -- gigabytes of software," said Scott
Chasin, a former computer hacker who is now a computer security
consultant. "There's no way that one agency or authority can go
through and try to sweep all the bad software off the Internet,
because the Internet's too big."
The mission of the Secret Service does not normally include the
pursuit of software piracy, but rather the use of "electronic access
devices" such as passwords in the commission of a crime. This gives
the service purview over many computer and telecommunications crimes,
which often go hand-in-hand, with occasional bleedover into other
Freriks said that the investigation falls under a revision of the
copyright laws that allows felony charges to be brought against anyone
who trades more than 10 pieces of copyrighted software -- a threshold
that would cover many millions of Americans who may trade copies of
computer programs with their friends.
"The ink is barely dry on the amendment, and you've already got law
enforcement in there, guns blazing, because somebody's got a dozen
copies of stolen software," said Marc Rotenberg, director of Computer
Professionals for Social Responsibility, in Washington, D.C. "That was
a bad provision when it was passed, and was considered bad for
precisely this reason, giving a justification for over-reaching by law
Freriks noted that the raid also involved one of the first uses of an
expanded right to use forfeiture against computer crime, although he
was unable to state from where this authority evolved after a civil
rights lawyer questioned his assertion that it was contained in the
copyright law revision.
"One of our complaints has always been that you catch 'em, slap 'em on
the wrist, and then hand back the smoking gun," he said. "Now all that
equipment belongs to the government."
Date: Thu, 17 Dec 92 16:32:11 CST
From: [email protected](Joe Abernathy)
Subject: File 3--Tales From the Crackdown
Have you been accused, falsely or with cause, of a computer crime?
Have you been the victim of a computer crime? Are you a law
enforcement professional who would like to set the record straight?
If you fit any of these, or if you're a knowledgeable, qualified
observer, the Houston Chronicle would like to talk with you. We're
doing a completely different kind of hacker story from the kind you're
used to reading, but we need your help. We need to know about cases
with which you've been involved, what went right and what went wrong.
Don't be shy. We don't promise to edit reality, but you can count on
us to get your story right, no matter which side of the aisle you
tread, and to try to sympathize with your beliefs and objectives.
More details will be forthcoming out of the glare of our competition's
eyes 🙂 so let's talk:
Joe Abernathy [email protected]
Special Projects P.O. Box 4260
The Houston Chronicle Houston, Texas 77210
(800) 735-3820 Ext 6845 (713) 220-6845
Date: Wed, 11 Nov 92 14:13:30 CST
From: [email protected](Mike Riddle)
Subject: File 4--SYSLAW (Review #1)
SYSLAW (Second Edition). By Lance Rose and Jonathan Wallace. Winona
(Minn.): PC Information Group, Inc. 306 pp. $34.95 (paper).
The old truism that law follows technology comes as no surprise to
readers of the Computer Underground Digest. Many, if not most, of the
(horror) stories we hear about "evil hackers", or the (sometimes)
excesses of various law enforcement agencies, can be understood much
better when we realize the lack of computer knowledge within society
at large. System operators, be they sysadmins at a large university
or commercial site, or sysops of a PC-based bulletin board in a
basement or closet, increasingly have questions about their legal
rights and responsibilities. Can I delete that user? Should (or can
I legally) censor or delete that message or file? How can I protect
myself from civil or criminal liability? Can my equipment be seized
because of something a user does?
SYSLAW is an attempt to explore the gap between statutes and case law
on the one side, and technological reality on the other. Since the
law works slowly, many of the questions about the intersection of law
and technology do not have textbook answers. But "the smallest
journey begins with a step." Messrs. Rose and Wallace have made a
substantial step down that path.
While the courts have yet to rule on many of the questions posed by
sysops, sysadmins, and others, we still have fundamental principles of
constitutional and communications law to rely upon. Rose and Wallace
begin by exploring Sysop rights within the traditional framework of
Constitutional law, particularly the First Amendment.
After discussing the Constitutional principles that apply to Sysops,
they then go on to explore the contractual nature of computer
communications. Contracts are legally enforceable agreements, and we
find them everywhere in daily life. Sometimes we even realize that a
contract is involved, and a small fraction of those contracts are
important enough to be written down.
Bulletin boards are the same way. Explicit or implied contracts are
established when a user logs on to a bulletin board. Rose and Wallace
suggest the wise sysop recognize this reality, and explicitly lay out
a contract for use. They also include a sample as an appendix.
Another area of concern is the law of intellectual property. Who owns
the posts? Does a moderator (either usenet or Fido style) have any
ownership in the overall newsgroup or echo? When can messages legally
be copied? What about files and executable code? While the context
may be new, many of the questions are old and have relatively
What about "injurious materials" on a bulletin board? Is the sysop
liable? What did _Cubby v. Compuserve_ really decide? What are the
rules on search and seizure, and what has actually happened in the few
cases we know about? Does the sysop have an obligation to search for
and/or warn about viruses? What about sexually explicit material?
Many of these areas do not have clear answers, and one of the
strengths of SYSLAW is that the authors do not attempt to invent law
where it doesn't exist. But in the places where the law is unsettled,
they do a good job explaining the legal, social and sometimes moral
considerations that a court would consider if the question arose.
They sometimes tell you what they think the result might be, or what
they think it should be. They caution at the start that until courts
consider several cases, and/or until we get appellate decisions, the
users and operators incur some degree of risk in engaging in certain
activities. The reader is left with a better understanding of the
issues involved, and reasonable actions sysops might take to insulate
themselves from liability of one sort or another.
SysLaw is available from PC Information Group, 800-321-8285 or
507-452-2824, and located at 1126 East Broadway, Winona, MN 55987.
You may order by credit card or by mail. Price is $34.95 plus $3.00
shipping and (if applicable) sales tax. Price is subject to change
after January 1, 1993. For additional information, please
Date: Sat, 28 Nov 92 10:19:54 CDT
From: Jim Thomas
Subject: File 5--SYSLAW (Review #2)
The U.S. Secret Service's "crackdown" on hackers in the past two years
has included seizures of computer hardware running BBSes. This raises
significant questions for the legal obligations of both users and
sysops. The "Phrack trial," Operation Sun Devil, and--more
recently--the alleged USSS involvement in disrupting law-abiding 2600
meetings underscore the importance of establishing unequivocal
Constitutional protections of BBSes. SYSLAW, a comprehensive summary
of the legal liabilities and obligations of BBS sysops, is mistitled:
It's not simply a legal handbook for sysops, but a helpful compendium
of laws and practices relevant to BBS users as well. Although both
Lance Rose and Jonathan Wallace (R&W) are attorneys, the volume is
written clearly and without overwhelming legal jargon, and even the
casual BBS user should derive sufficient information from the volume
to understand the problems sysops confront in running a board.
Rose and Wallace accomplish their stated goals (p. xxii) of
familiarizing readers with the kinds of legal questions arising in a
BBS context, providing sysops with a legal overview of laws bearing on
BBS operations, and identifying the legal ambiguities in which the law
appears to provide no clear guidelines for operation, yet may place a
sysop at legal risk. Syslaw is divided into nine chapters and 10
hefty appendices. The core issues in the book are 1) First Amendment
and speech, 2) privacy, 3) sysop liabilities to users, and 4)
In the first chapter, the authors emphasize that the question of the
relationship of a BBS to the First Amendment remains unsettled, and
this relationship generates considerable discussion in BBS forums and
on Usenet (eg, comp.org.eff.talk). While noting that BBSs create new
challenges or Constitutional interpretation, R&W identify two reasons
why BBSs deserve "the full protection from legal interference granted
by the First Amendment under its express protections of "speech,"
"press," "peaceable assembly," and "petitioning the government" (p.
2). First, BBSs are focal points for creating, collecting and
disseminating information, and as such, electronic speech is
"perfectly analogous to printed materials which are universally
acknowledge as protected under the First Amendment." Second, R&W argue
that BBSs are analogous to physical printing presses and promote the
growth of alternative publishers with diverse points of view. Just as
technology has expanded rights from print media other media, such
broadcast radio and television, BBSs also reflect an emergent
technology that functions in much the same way as the older media:
BBS's ((sic)) powerfully fulfill the goal of the First
Amendment by enabling effective publishing and distribution of
diverse points of view, many of which never before had a voice.
Protecting BBS's should be one of the primary functions of the
First Amendment today (p. 3).
R&W argue that there are three main ways that the First Amendment
(1) it sharply limits the kinds of speech that can be considered
illegal on BBS', (2) it assures that the overall legal burdens on
sysops will be kept light enough that they can keep their BBS'
running to distribute their own speech and others', and (3) it
limits the government's ability to search or seize BBS' where it
would interfere with BBS' ability to distribute speech.
The authors identify three kinds of BBS operations that, for First
Amendment purposes, qualify for various types and amounts of
protection (p. 8-17): They are simultaneously publishers, distributors,
and shared message networks.
The authors emphasize that speech protections are an issue between the
government and the citizens, not the sysops and their users. Sysops,
they remind us, can--within the law--run their boards and censor as
they wish. The danger, R&W suggest, is that over-cautious sysops may
engage in unnecessary self-censorship in fear of government
intervention. Their goal is to provide the BBS community with
guidelines that help distinguish legal from illegal speech (and
The remaining chapters address topics such as sysop liability when
injurious activities or materials occur on a BBS, the sysops
obligations when obviously illegal behavior is discovered, the
"problem" of sexual explicit materials, and searches and seizures. Of
special interest is the chapter on contractual obligations between
sysop and users (chapter 2) in which they suggest that one way around
many of the potential legal liabilities a sysop might face with users
is to require a binding "caller contract" that explicitly delineates
the rights and obligations of each party. They provide a sample
contract (Appendix A) that, if implemented at the first-call in screen
progression format (any unwillingness to agree to the terms of the
contract prevents the caller from progressing into the system) that
they judge to be legally binding if the caller completes the contract
by agreeing to its terms.
The Appendixes also include a number of federal statutes that provide a
handy reference for readers. These include statues on child
pornography, state computer crime laws, and federal computer fraud and
My one, in fact my only, objection to the book was to a rather
hyperbolic swipe at "pirate boards:"
Only a tiny minority of BBS's operate as "pirate
boards" for swapping stolen software, computer access codes,
viruses etc. When these criminal boards are seized and shut
down by the authorities everyone benefits (p. 6).
This rather excessive and simplistic view of "piracy" seems to
contradict both their intent to improve understanding of new
technology and corresponding behaviors by avoiding such extreme words
as "stolen software" and to clarify the nuances in various forms of
behavior in ways that distinguish between, for example, casual
swapping of copyright files and profiteering.
This, however, is a minor quibble (and will be taken up in future
issues of CuD focusing on piracy and the Software Publishers'
Syslaw should be required reading for all BBSers. Unfortunately, it is
available *only* from PC Information group, Inc. Those wishing to
obtain a copy can write the publisher at:
1125 East Broadway
Winona, MN 55987
Voice: (800-321-8285 / 507-452-2824
If ordering directly, add $3.00 (US) to the $34.95 price for shipping.
Date: 01 Dec 92 10:33:25 EST
From: Lance Rose <[email protected]>
Subject: File 6--Model BBS/User Contract (from SYSLAW)
Sample Caller Contract (from SysLaw)
The following sample contract provides some guidelines for a sysop's
contract with his or her callers. Everyone's BBS and services are a
little different, so it is not recommended that readers use this
sample in "plain vanilla" form as their own contract. If possible, ask
a lawyer comfortable with online activities to review the form and
recommend any changes necessary for your particular BBS.
BULLETIN BOARD SERVICES AGREEMENT
We start every new caller relationship with a contract. It spells out
what you can expect from us, and what we expect from you. We do not
know each caller personally, so it is important to set out the ground
rules clearly in advance.
If you agree to what you read below, welcome to our system! An
instruction screen at the end of the contract will show you how to
If you have any questions about any part of the contract, please send
us an e-mail about it! We will be glad to explain why these contract
provisions are important for our system. We are willing to work with
you on making changes if you can show us you have a better approach.
Please remember - until you and we have an agreement in place, you
will not receive full access to our system.
B. Access and Services.
(1) Access - We will give you full access to all file and message
areas on our system. Currently, these include:
Public message areas - reading and posting messages. We are also a
member of Fidonet, which means you can join in public discussions with
callers of other bulletin boards around the world.
File transfer areas - uploading, downloading files and browsing files
E-mail - sending and receiving messages (please see the section on
Chat areas - real-time discussions with other callers who are online
at the same time as you
Gateways - permitting you to send e-mail to systems on other computer
networks. Currently, we have an Internet gateway in place, and we
operate as a Fidonet node.
(2) Services - We offer a variety of services to our callers, and are
adding more all the time. Our current services include:
Daily electronic news from nationally syndicated news services. Free
classified advertising for our callers, in an area subdivided into
different product categories.
Virus hotline - an area with frequently updated news on computer virus
outbreaks, new forms of virus detected, new ways to protect your
computer, and other matters of interest.
QMail (TM) services, allowing you to upload and download all messages
you are interested in batch form.
If you would like to set up a private discussion area on our system
for a group, we will be glad to do so for fees and terms to be
(3) We may change or discontinue certain access or services on our
system for time to time. We will try to let you know about such
changes a month or more in advance.
C. Price and Payment
(1) We will charge you a monthly fee for using our system. For $15
per month, you can use our system each month for up to 40 hours of
connect time, and you can send up to 200 electronic mail messages. For
additional use, you will be required to pay additional charges of 50
cents an hour, and 10 cents per electronic mail message.
(2) Certain services on our system require additional fees. Please
review the complete price list in the Caller Information area before
signing up for any such services. The price list will tell you which
services are included in the standard monthly fee, and which are
(3) You may pay by check or by credit card. You will be given the
opportunity to choose the payment method when you sign up.
If you choose to pay by credit card, we will automatically bill the
amount due to your credit card account at the end of every month.
If you choose to pay by check, we will send you an invoice at the end
of every month. Payment is due within twenty days after we send your
(4) We can change the prices and fees at any time, except that our
existing customers will receive two months notice of any change. All
price changes will be announced in opening screen bulletins.
D. System Rules
Besides payment, the only thing we ask from you is that you follow the
rules we set for use of the system. You will find our rules in two
places: in the following list here in the contract, and in the
bulletins posted at various points in the system.
Here are some of the basic rules for our system:
Respect other callers of the system. Feel free to express yourself,
but do not do anything to injure or harm others. In particular, if you
dislike someone else's ideas, you can attack the ideas, but not the
We want people to speak freely on our system. But if you misuse that
freedom to abuse others, we will take the liberty of cutting that
Do not use our system for anything that might be illegal. This system
may not be used to encourage anything to do with illegal drugs,
gambling, pornography, prostitution, child pornography, robbery,
spreading computer viruses, cracking into private computer systems,
software infringement, trafficking in credit card codes, or other
People sometimes have trouble figuring out whether certain activities
are illegal. It's usually not that hard. If it's illegal out there,
it's illegal in here! Using a bulletin board system to commit a crime
does not make it less of a crime. In fact, if you use a bulletin board
system to commit a crime, you're exposing the operators of the system,
and its other callers, to legal risks that should be yours alone.
If you genuinely do not know whether something you'd like to do is
legal or illegal, please discuss it with us before you proceed. And
if we tell you we do not want you to pursue your plans on our system,
please respect our decision.
Respect the security of our system. Do not try to gain access to
system areas private to ourselves, or to other callers. Some callers
try to crack system security just to show it can be done. Don't try to
demonstrate this on our system.
We offer private electronic mail on our system as a service to our
callers. We will endeavor to keep all of your e-mail private,
viewable only by you and the person to whom you address it, except:
We, as system operators, may need to look at your electronic mail if
we believe it is necessary to protect ourselves or other callers from
injury or damage. For example, if we have reason to believe a caller
is involved in illegal activities, which creates a risk that our
system could be seized by the authorities, we will review his or her
electronic mail for our own protection. We will not, however, monitor
electronic mail unless we believe it is being misused.
We will not deliberately disclose electronic mail to other callers.
If we believe certain electronic mail is connected with illegal
activities, we may disclose it to the authorities to protect our
system, ourselves and other callers.
Remember that the person to whom you send electronic mail does not
need to keep it secret. The sender or receiver of electronic mail has
the right to make it public.
If the authorities ever search or seize our system, they may gain
access to your private electronic mail. In that case, we cannot assure
they will not review it. Remember that you have personal rights of
privacy that even the government cannot legally violate, though you
may have to go to court to enforce those rights.
F. Editorial Control
We want our system to be a worthwhile place for all of our callers.
This does not mean everyone can do whatever they choose on this
system, regardless of its effect on others. It is our job to
accommodate the common needs of all callers while striving to meet our
own goals for the system.
We will not monitor all messages and file transfers. We want to keep
the message and file traffic moving quickly and smoothly - this goal
would be defeated if we monitored everything on the system. However,
if we see (or hear about) messages or other activities that violate
the rules, threaten the order or security of the system, or use the
system in ways we do not agree with, we will take appropriate action.
Our editorial control includes normal housekeeping activities like
changing subject headers and deleting profanities in public messages
and selecting among uploaded files for those we wish to make available
for download. It also goes beyond that.
If a caller persists in posting messages or transferring files that we
previously warned him should not be on the system, those messages will
be deleted, and he or she may be locked out. If we discover any caller
violating the rules, especially the prohibition against illegal
activities, we will act firmly and swiftly. Depending on the
circumstances, the caller involved will be warned, or simply locked
out. If the caller has done anything to put us or other callers in
jeopardy, we may contact the authorities.
We do not plan on doing any of these things. If all callers act with
respect and regard for us and for other callers, there will never be
any problems. But if problems arise, we will assert control over our
system against any caller who threatens it. And in this Agreement, you
acknowledge that control.
G. Ownership of Materials
You shall retain all rights to all original messages you post and all
original files you upload. Likewise, you must respect the ownership
rights of others in their own messages and files. You may not post or
upload any messages or files unless you own them, or you have full
authority to transmit them to this system.
We own certain things you will find on this system, including the
"look and feel" of the system, the name of our system, and the
collective work copyright in sequences of public messages on our
system. You cannot reproduce any message thread from our system,
either electronically or in print, without our permission and the
permission of all participants in the thread. This is not a complete
list - other things on the system are also our property. Before you
copy anything from our system with plans of reproducing it or
distributing it, contact us about it.
H. Limitation of Liability and Indemnity.
The great danger for us, and for all operators of bulletin board
systems, is that we might be held accountable for the wrongful actions
of our callers. If one caller libels another caller, the injured
caller might blame us, even though the first caller was really at
fault. If a caller uploads a program with a computer virus, and other
callers' computers are damaged, we might be blamed even though the
virus was left on our board by a caller. If a caller transfers
illegal credit card information to another caller through private
electronic mail, we might be blamed even though we did nothing more
than unknowingly carry the message from one caller to another.
We did not start this system to take the blame for others' actions,
and we cannot afford to operate it if we must take that blame.
Accordingly, we need all callers to accept responsibility for their
own acts, and to accept that an act by another caller that damages
them must not be blamed on us, but on the other caller. These needs
are accomplished by the following paragraph:
You agree that we will not be responsible to you for any indirect,
consequential, special or punitive damages or losses you may incur in
connection with our system or any of the data or other materials
transmitted through or residing on our system, even if we have been
advised of the possibility of such damage or loss. In addition, you
agree to defend and indemnify us and hold us harmless from and against
any and all claims, proceedings, damages, injuries, liabilities,
losses, costs and expenses (including reasonable attorneys fees)
relating to any acts by you or materials or information transmitted by
you in connection with our system leading wholly or partially to
claims against us or our system by other callers or third parties.
I. Choice of Law
Our bulletin board system can be reached by callers from all fifty
states, and around the world. Each of these places has a different set
of laws. Since we cannot keep track of all these laws and their
requirements, you agree that the law of our own state, ________, will
apply to all matters relating to this Agreement and to our bulletin
board system. In addition, you agree and consent that if you ever take
legal action against us, the courts of our own state, _______, will
have exclusive jurisdiction over any such legal actions.
This agreement is the entire understanding between you and us
regarding your relationship to our bulletin board system. If either
you or we fail to notify the other of any violations of this
agreement, this will not mean that you or we cannot notify the other
of future violations of any part of this agreement.
[Contract sign-up process]
End of Computer Underground Digest #4.67