Las Vegas: Many of the hacking elite were on the Internet long before the World Wide Web was a gleam in the eye of inventor Tim Berners Lee. And these folks know the best-kept secret of gaining access to-and control of-someone else's electronic property: Unix.
As a typical representative of the teen hacker going straight, Christian Valor-known in the hacker community as Se7en-said specialization is fraying the once tight-knit community.
"There's cellular, Internet, encryption-all have different standards and different skills," he said. "It's not like it used to be when I'd get root access [to a system using Unix]. I was a master."
07-98, se7en, Punkis and myself were working for a security company to do some training. During this class (on break), I gave the command "ls -al" on a Slackware linux system. se7en replied with "whoa, what's that?". I replied "uh.. what? the 'ls' output?". He quickly mumbled "oh.. i am a FreeBSD guy". The truth is, se7en is not familiar with unix beyond logging in and typing "pine". Someone that unfamiliar with unix is not capable of breaking into it, or being a 'master'.
Valor, who has had numerous run-ins with the law, said he's tired of that lifestyle. "I don't want to hide anymore. I've been doing this for 12 years."
se7en constantly brags these days about not having a record. Yet here he has had severa run-ins. Throughout 1997, se7en bragged about being raided by the FBI almost once a month. He talked of their no-knock warrants, and how he had advanced knowledge of their raids sometimes.
As old-school hackers like Valor go straight, many are bringing the skills they developed as outlaws into the system (see Aug. 19, page 4). DefCon founder Moss, for example, is dipping a toe in Web-site design. "I'm going to give a shot at a content-creation business-even if it fails, I'll still be young enough to recover." Meanwhile, however, his DefCon T-shirts were doing a brisk business at the conference.