In my last blog post, I covered old school hacking from the mid to late 90s, where my experience delved into the realm of hacking for information sharing purposes only. Remember—I never hacked for malicious purposes, but tended to hang more with my local group of like-hackers, where curiosity was always the primary motivator behind breaking into other networks. My introduction to German hackers began with a simple three-letter word called MUD. The only reason that I became interested in this three-letter word was due to one of my local hacker friends who was spending an enormous amount of time on Telnet with a German MUD. At the time, I thought he was being silly by taking time away from our hacking adventures. I made the common sense mistake of asking my friend for a quick Telnet tour of the MUD he was coding. Once he showed me what he was creating, I wanted in.
Hack and Slash MUDs
I soon learned LPC (mudlib) code, which is not difficult to learn but was quite a powerful coding language in the world of MUDs. Soon enough, I was into textual virtual-based realities that consisted of mostly online role-playing games that took place in medieval settings with creatures, such as dwarfs, elves, felines and goblins that included guilds filled with character levels whereby exploring, killing monsters and solving quests reigned. It was a magical world where you could code anything that captured your imagination and also craft alter egos. It was within this textual virtual-based “fantasy world” that I met a German hacker and MUD coder named Frank.
Frank appeared sweet
Frank appeared intelligent, kind and respectful—as compared to his European hacker friends from Germany and Austria (who were consistently crass and exceptionally “rude cabin” guys in nature). I assumed that his hacker friends were potentially anti-American and that their rudeness toward me on the MUD(s) was due to a cultural clash and nothing more.
Frank comes to America
After about a year of mudding, Frank became interested in visiting America. I thought a visit would be awesome. Travel arrangements were carefully planned (over the course of three months) and he sent all of his personal details, including pictures, and one that he defined as a "recent picture.” When Frank arrived on my front porch in the late 90s, I was 100 percent clueless as to who this giant man standing at my front door was! This man was extremely tall and so expansively huge—he looked nothing like the ”recent picture” that was initially sent to me. The only reason I assumed he was Frank was via his broken English and the fact that he addressed me by my MUD name.
I remember standing there in the front doorway, so shocked that I may have actually drooled. It was like a "death cadence march" in my mind, where 1,000 pictures of my life unfolded in a rushed sequence from "as early on as I could remember" to my current “death march status” featuring my "final life event."
There were a few times in my life that I've fought the "fat demon." At 5 foot, 7 inches, I've battled with 175-180 pounds at least three times during my lifetime. I hold both compassion and understanding for those who fight, or continue to fight this decadent and underhanded "fat demon." Unfortunately, there is no way to describe the morbid obesity I witnessed of the German man that appeared on my front porch. The 1,000 picture scenario that clung within the crevices of my mind included no biking, cultural events, hiking, or swimming for the next seven days—while practical thoughts also ensued—I was sure that my couch springs would be unable to support the weight of this massive man and that my new dining room table and chair se, would become a storybook repeat featuring "Goldilocks and the Three Bears," where my dining room chair would break into pieces once he sat down. All these percolating thoughts continued to tumble through my mind as I stared back at Frank. I was also adding up the cost of my custom toilet seat. Not that you need to know this—but hey, when you invest in a custom toilet seat, you honestly do not want to be forced to pay for a replacement and trust me, insurance does not cover this exorbitant expense.
I’m not cool on misrepresentation or lies. I grew up in a highly dysfunctional family where lies were always the norm. Having to deal with untrustworthy parents, siblings and relatives was always “vomit material” in my book. On the first night here, Frank sat on my living room couch and unpacked prodigious bags of calorie-happy candy and snacks. With each bag he opened, I was sure that I could hear the springs in my couch screaming for mercy. On his second night in America, he added even more calorie-happy snacks to the mix, while I attempted to explain (to him) my take on the concept of “liar liar.” It was obvious to me that we had great language barriers to overcome. Though I did understand the words “marry” and “move to Germany," we were still enmeshed in the land of limbo when I attempted to explain his “liar liar recent” picture (to him), while trying to draw a comparison with my “liar liar” dysfunctional family upbringing. Before I knew it, he was crying—I was lost. “How to proceed,” I thought to myself. Then he said that he had to use my computer. Sure. No problem. The next five days pass in slow motion—he was always crying. I did not know what to do. I had been entirely honest with him and I felt horrible inside myself.
Frank goes back to Germany
Unfortunately, Frank attempted suicide and was in the hospital for quite awhile. I was left to deal with the aftermath. Back in the day, my doxxing happened everywhere online. Though Frank had not initiated this retaliation, it affected all of my online interactions from AOL to Usenet. No stone was left unturned—my computer had a RAT, my campus network had backdoors, my online aliases were blasted everywhere. I had threats rolling in that were difficult to deal with on an emotional basis. My family was also affected. I did everything possible to sever my online connections, including suiciding my online aliases. I went off the grid for quite sometime—I never logged into another MUD. I completely removed myself from AOL and Usenet. I do not know what happened to Frank—I only know that I upset too many German hackers. It took about a year before my life got back to normal. It was an entire year of reflection and thinking about how a screw up in the virtual world can affect your everyday “real world” life. Screwing with the virtual world is never pretty or anything you can make sense of—but, at the end of it all—you learn valuable lessons.
AFF (almost two decades later)
Almost two decades later I found myself sitting on the AFF (Adult Friend Finders) hack. I was unable to contact the company because there was no point of contact to pursue, so I simply left the leaked data find details at my TekSecurity blog. The hacked data all sat quietly—until it blew up many months later . . . To make a long story very short, the forum where I found this leak wanted revenge. They tried to hack me, dox me, threaten me, and ultimately wanted some serious revenge for posting the details of the leak and linking their forum as the culprit. However, lessons learned from my experiences two decades ago meant I wasn't going to go through a similar story again. At the time, that screw up hit me hard, but looking back now it put me in good stead for the challenges ahead.
About the Author: Bev Robb is the security-technology editor at Fortscale.Bev has a BS in sociology and is a sporadic blogger at her Teksecurity blog. She can be found on Twitter https://twitter.com/teksquisite and LinkedIn. https://www.linkedin.com/in/teksquisite Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this and other guest author articles are solely those of the contributor, and do not necessarily reflect those of Tripwire, Inc.