A small historic guide of the first Spanish hackers - The Spanish 90's Scene

Publicat a: Phrack Magazine

|=[ 0x01 ]=---=[ A small historic guide of the first Spanish hackers - The Spanish 90's Scene - Merce Molist & Jay Govind ]=---=|

|=----------------------------------------------------------------=| |=--=[ A short historical guide to the first Spanish hackers ]=---=| |=---------------=[ The Spanish 90's Scene ]=-------------------=| |=----------------------------------------------------------------=| |=----------------------------------------------------------------=| |=---------------------=[ Merce Molist ]=-------------------------=| |=--------------=[ English version: HorseRide ]=------------------=| |=---------------------=[ hackstory.net ]=------------------------=| |=----------------------------------------------------------------=|

= Index =

1. Old old school 2. X25 hackers 3. 29A: "I am the scene" 4. The community 5. Credits

1. Old old school

"Hi, I'm Mave What I am going to tell you is of VITAL IMPORTANCE. YOUR FUTURE IS IN ****DANGER**** A LOT OF ****DANGER**** This morning, of January 31st 1996, at 9 in the morning, the judicial police turned up at my home, more precisely the computer crime brigade, and have ** ARRESTED ** me."

This is how started the message that Mave sent to his colleagues of the Konspiradores Hacker Klub (KhK) when he had the "honour" of becoming the first hacker arrested in Spain. He was accused of penetrating systems belonging to the Carlos III university and of having used a stolen card in Compuserve, which was pretty standard among hackers back then. He was caught because of a mistake: he entered a chat channel under police surveillance with an account under his real name.

KhK were 5 who were passionate about social engineering, meeting up in a Madrid cafe. Along with a limited few groups and lone wolves, between the late 80's and early 90's, they set down the bases of the Spanish hacking community. Another member of KhK, Lester the Teacher, would later write the first Spanish social engineering course, with those hacking pioneers mentioned in its introduction:

"There was a time in which the Internet was only a place for survivors, a time in which Knowledge was acquired through a lot of personal work.

A time in which respect was gained by sharing with those that didn't know, things you had learnt with effort.

A time in which technology ceased to be magical because you learned to read its innards and you could manage to understand it.

At that time a Hacker was one who found that no matter how much he learnt about systems he always knew very little.

A Hacker was the one that managed to program that routine even smaller and more beautiful.

A Hacker was he who respected the work of others that he recognized as peers.

This is a simple and somewhat spartan page, as things were then, dedicated to all those friends I had the fortune of finding online during that time, and here are a few of them:

Ender Wiggins, Omaq, Akira, CenoIx, Agnus Young, D-Orb, Partyman, Quijote AFL, Pink Pulsar, HorseRide, BlackMan/KhK, Wendigo/Khk, Mave/KhK, El Enano, Bugman, Joker, Spanish Taste, Cain, Savage ...

As far as I can remember, I have never heard or read any of them call themselves a hacker."(1)

The first Spanish hackers started appearing in the 70's, from the fields of electronics and CB radio, when the word "hacker" had yet to reach Spain. They would build their own calculators and personal computers and worked in the few companies that used computers, such as the airline Iberia, state investigation centres, banks and local branches of northamerican companies. Among those few "computer nuts" Alberto Lozano stands out as one of the few Spaniards that bought an Apple I. Some years later he would help create the first Apple clones.

Alberto Lozano: "A Barcelona company built the Unitron, but couldn't sell them because they contained two ROMs copyright Apple. They said to me: Make it work without having the same ROM. I encrypted the contents of the ROM and wrote a routine that decrypted it and placed a copy in RAM of that Apple ROM when you turned on the Unitron. However, when you turned off the machine, that would be lost. If a judge took the ROM and read it, it wouldn't look in any way like the Apple one. In other words, I didn't design a BIOS, I encrypted the same one. It was a hack: an interesting solution to an important problem."

In 1978 Lozano created the first personal computer user club in Spain Apple II, Commodore Pet and Radio Shack's TRS-80). The club reached 100 members and in 1985 Lozano made a BBS out of it.

Mave or Lester the Teacher were part of the generation following Lozano, when there was sufficient critical mass to talk of a hacker community. Many started out as crackers, among them the mythical Zaragoza duo of Super Rata Software & AWD, active from 1983 to 1986 and addicted to de protecting (cracking) games. They already had a rudimentary hacker ethic: their work had to be copyable using the ZX-Spectrum copy program Copion by Arguello, one that everyone had, was easy to copy and easy to find. Alternatively the games would autocopy using a key combo.

However, AWD, as many others, left the cracking scene for the hacking one, obtained a modem and changed his handle to Depeche Mode. He joined HorseRide, Han Solo and Alf and together they created the first Spanish hacking group, active between 1987 and 1989. It was called Glaucoma, like the illness that attacks the eyes iris, a reference to their main hobby: penetrating RedIRIS (Iris-net), the Spanish university network, from where they would jump onto international X25 networks.

It is still remembered how Glaucoma managed to get the password that gave access to the Telefonica X25 nodes (or PADS) in Spain: HorseRide and Han Solo, who were in their early twenties, passed off as sales rep for an English company selling shared mainframe time and wanted to buy X25 accounts. When Telefonica did a demo, they memorized the password as the technician repeatedly entered it: ORTSAC, the reversed last name of the engineer that had set them up (CASTRO).

2. X25 Hackers

Depeche Mode met The Phreaker through the Minitel chat called QSD, a hub for European hackers. The Phreaker was Catalan and wrote comm programs for modems, such as COMS4, which in 1988 were used worldwide. His are the blue box for MX BB.BAS, the exploit for Linux imapd.c, NePED -one of the first IDS, resulting from a bet after a few too many beers-, and QueSO ("cheese"), which remotely determined OS's and on which Nmap was based (2).

The Phreaker created QueSO in 1996, when under the alias of Savage he helped the Portuguese group ToXyN in the first campaign of systematic attacks in the history of hacktivism against the government of Indonesia in favour of the independence of East Timor. The campaign consisted in assaulting and defacing the largest possible amount of Indonesian governmental and corporate systems. Savage contributed creating exploits and other purpose created tools such as QueSo.

Savage: "We set up search scripts for all .id domains. For each one found, we'd look for the machines hosting www ftp mail and news and tried to attack all four. We set off as many automated attacks as we could. When we'd get a positive hit, we'd finish it off manually. We owned thousands of machines. When you have a working exploit and nobody knows the vulnerability, it's really easy."

In the end, Indonesia recognized East Timor and QueSO became a weapon for peace: the Internet Operating System Counter project used it to produce a monthly report on the OS's of European computers connected to the Internet, including Israel. The promoter of IOSC was a German who ran QueSO from a machine in USA maintained by Lebanese, called beirut.leb.net . There was a curious conflict when two Israeli security companies reported that Israeli machines were being attacked from a Lebanese site. The news media exaggerated the event and IOSC ended up shutting down.

Returning to 1989, The Phreaker and Depeche joined El Maestro and Petavax to form the group Apostols. Later on they would be joined by Sir Lancelot and Ender Wiggins, who in 1987 wrote the first book in Spanish about hacking and phreaking: "Manual del novicio al hack/phreack" [The novices manual to hack/phreak] (3). Ender offered the Apostols his ample knowledge about phreaking in exchange for something he didn't know: why the American blue-boxes didn't work in Spain.

Apostols: "We figured it out together, spending a ton of money calling each other. It was thanks to some high voice-pitched ladies in the Girona area who when answering the phone saying "digui" (hello), the tone was so high that it was hitting 2,500Hz and cutting the link. Someone from Telefonica told us and from there it dawned on us: Heck, it's Sokotel! Sokotel was a type of link with in-band signalling. The US was signalling in 2,600Hz, which we had tried thousands of times and it didn't work in Spain".

Phreaking was essential to reach BBS's and X25 networks, the natural field of action. As the European and USA X25 networks were linked, hacking sessions would generally extend beyond the ocean. The main port of entry for USA networks was the MITRE system, from a provider for the US Army. MITRE would gain fame from the book "The Cuckoo's Egg" by Stiff Stoll, which recounts how hackers from CCC (Chaos Computer Club) used it to steal corporate secrets from USA and sell them to the KGB:

The Phreaker: "MITRE was well connected to all the active networks back then. There was an entry menu to access a phone directory service which you could break out with the sequence CTRL-Y **Interrupt**. If you did it right, the menu would abort and drop you in a shell from where you could connect anywhere. It was known nearly worldwide and for years all the hackers would go in through there."

"US X25 entry nodes/PADS were incorrectly configured. If you went in through the back, you had a modem to connect wherever you wanted worldwide. You only needed a list of nodes, which was easy to get: you'd go into a US university, check who's connected and you'd get a list with the identification number of the network entry port that he had used. If you'd connect to that number when the user was no longer online, some operators had it pretty badly configured and with little effort (AT OK) you'd have the modem right there. Lists of accounts that everyone knew were circulating, one of them RMS belonging to Richard Stallman, on an MIT system, with no password."

Another source of entertainment for Spanish hackers was to run and maintain their own BBS and visit those of their friends. Among the most notorious were Public NME, God's House, Jurassic Park, MSX-Access, VampireBBS or Waikiki Island. Ender Wiggins even had the gall to open a hacker BBS (4) at the newspaper where he worked as the IT guy, taking advantage of the foreign journalists phone line. As a side note, Wiggins landed this job thanks to his expert knowledge of VMS, obtained hacking VAXes. On his first day at work he came across a problem: he didn't know how to turn it on! He had never physically accessed one.

3. 29A "I am the scene"

The Galician BBS Dark Node would become the most famous BBS, breeding ground for 29A, the most internationally known Spanish group. Respected virus authors worldwide were part of 29A during its 13 year run from 1995 to 2008: Mister Sandman (es), Anibal Lecter (es), AVV (es), Blade Runner (es), Gordon Shumway (es), Griyo (es), Leugim San (es), Mr. White (es), Tcp (es), The Slug (es), VirusBuster (es), Wintermute (es), Darkman, Jacky Qwerty, Rajaat, Reptile, Super (es), Vecna, Mental Driller (es), SoPinky, Z0mbie, Benny, Bumblebee (es), LethalMind, Lord Julus, Prizzy, Mandragore, Ratter, roy g biv and Vallez (es).

Amongst their always original creations stood out the first virus for WinNT /Win95/Win32s (Cabanas/Jacky Qwerty), and for 64 bits (Rugrat/roy g biv), the first multiplatform (Esperanto/MrSandman), the first reverse executing (Tupac Amaru/Wintermute), the first for Windows 2000 and Windows 98 ( appearing prior to the public launch of those OS's, the first that ran under Linux and Windows (Winux/Benny), the first 32 bit polymorphic ( Marburg/GriYo), the first PHP trojan (Pirus/MaskBits as colaborator), the first virus to infect PDA's (Dust/Ratter) the first for mobile phones ( Cabir/Vallez) or the first anti-ETA hacktivist virus (GriYo) and Tuareg ( MentalDriller).

Marburg, the first 32 bit polymorphic virus, saw the light in October of 1997 after a bitter discussion on alt.comp.virus between 29A members and the antivirus industry. 29A was criticizing the industry for false advertising, as their products could not detect 100% of virus, to which the industry responded with taunts. Following this, GriYo created Marburg which none of the existing antivirus could detect. Somehow Marburg ended up on the free CD's that came with the magazines "PCGamer" and "PC Power Play", and on the MGM/Wargames game CD. Marburg spread throughout the world like wildfire.

As 29A was an international group, so were its meet-ups which would last for days and days. They spent a month in Amsterdam, in Brno a few weeks. A nice and well loved Belgium female follower, Gigabyte, went to the latter one, who was so young that she travelled with her cheerful grandfather.

Bernardo Quintero: "I went to a 29A meetup in Madrid. One afternoon we went to the funfair. While we were queueing up at one of the rides, one of them was wearing a print of a virus hex-dump on his back, and the two who were behind him, bored, started to translate it out loud on the run into assembler and to interpret what it did as if they were reading a book... I was amazed (any normal human being, including myself as someone knowledgable in that field, needed a computer, a disassembler and to spend a while to do something like that)."

The long lifespan of 29A had it witness in first person the decadence and criminalization of the whole virus scene, a decadence which would also apply to the whole hacking scenario.

Benny, in 29A ezine, 2002: "The whole scene and many things in it will no longer be the way it was. Some programmers talk of "death", "decadence", some talk of serious problems. (...) Script kiddies and their so called "virus/worms" rule in cyberworld. (...) Antivirus earn money off people whose stupidity is 99.99% responsible for vast virus outbreaks ("click here" viruses). Where are those elite programmers, those elite groups? Where are those hi-tech viruses that *yesterday* dominated the world? *Decadence*".

4. The community

However, prior to the decadence, the latter half of the 90's had a bubbling fertile and noisy community, proud heirs of the pioneers, meeting in newgroups such as es.comp.hackers, mailing lists such as hacking or hackindex, the IRC-Hispano chat group and ezines such as Raregazz, NetSearch, 7a69ezine, Cyberhack, CatHack, JJF Hackers Team or Virtual Zone Magazine. This breeding ground would give fruits in the form of tools that are still useful today such as Halberd (rwxrwxrwx), OSSIM (Ulandron), RKdetector (aT4r) or Unhide (Icehouse).

The appearance of scores of newbie hackers showing up at the end of the 90's on the Spanish Internet is due to Infovía, the low cost phone network set up by Telefonica to access the Internet at local calling rates. This multiplied the number of ISP's, who practically gave away access, and the amount of internauts grew exponentially.

Heading this small horde of apprentices were two veteran rival groups: !Hispahack from Catalonia and Saqueadores from Murcia. The former started in 1992 and their high technical level was apparent through the tools created and distributed by their members: SMBScanner (Flow), ICMPush ( Slayer), HTTPush (JFS) or Yersinia (Tomac and Slayer). Amongst their multiple feats, hacking forum.phrack.org with a PHP exploit in 2000.

Unfortunately !Hispahack will not be remembered so much for their high level but for a police raid transformed into media circus in 1998 which ended up with one of its members, JFS, going on trial. His two seized computers produced password files allegedly stolen off machines from all over the world, from Thailand to Kiev, passing through Sweden, Canada, Australia, Germany or the European Organization for Nuclear Research ( CERN). A total of 9,459 accounts. In the end he was absolved due to inconsistencies in the proof presented.

As for Saqueadores, they stood out due to the ezine of same name, born in 1996, the longest running of the Spanish arena. Some of the notable hacks of the time were narrated inside, such as when the editor of the ezine in 1997, Paseante, took control of Infovía (5), or when he obtained control of another sister, also owned by Telefonica, that controlled important networks of companies and institutions, amongst them the Iberia airline, the parliamentary congress, or Caja Madrid (a bank).

Saqueadores is also credited with organizing the first hacking convention in Spain: the UnderCon (1997-2004), a private event with 30 to 60 participants, depending on the edition, precursor of many conventions that are currently held throughout the country.

Homs: "There were a lot of people interested in phreaking and hardware hacking, hacking lifts, foosballs, phone booths, the hotel pbx, etc. At night the people would gather according to their interests and you'd see phreakers in booths with crocodile clips or metal plates, hackers who would stay "working" in the hotel rooms, others scanning RF frequencies, others just hanging out and partying (ending up getting call-girls and talking about hacking with them, or loosing a chicken in a taxi...), etc."

From 2000 onwards, when the scene had reached its climax and little by little the decadence was taking root, a new generation of hackers gained strength, more transversal due to the groups they belonged to and more collaborative from an international point of view. Amongst them Zhodiac from !Hispahack stands out as author of EMET and multiple exploits (6). He published an article in Phrack in 2001 about overflows in PA-RISC, which opened the gates for others who would also publish there: Pluf and Ripe, Ilo, Dreg and Shearer, Pancake and Blackngel.

They also created notable exploits, as Doing(7)(8) and RomanSoft(9)(10), well known for having written, in 1997, the most downloaded text of the Spanish underground "Tácticas de guerra en el IRC" (War tactics in IRC). RomanSoft is today a member of Int3pids, one of the 20 best CTF teams in the world, and of the group !dsR, who in 2004 managed the epic feat of hacking the actual Chaos Computer Club (11) (12). Taking advantage of a 0- day exploit in the CCC wiki, they obtained the 2003 congress participants list, which they published.

Alejandro Ramos: "Hans Ulrich, from the CCC, after doing some forensics on the systems announced the vulnerability, attributing it to himself. It wasn't until then that RomanSoft reacted and explained that he had discovered the exploit a few months before and spread it to a small group of people from where it had filtered. Even the author of Twiki himself confirmed that Román had notified him of the vulnerability a few days prior".

As a final note, the numerous and always collaborative Spanish cracking community deserves mention, very active on both sides of the ocean. Spanish crackers from the 90's created a multitude of refuges and a cathedral called "La Página de Karpoff" (Karpoff's page), where hundreds of translations, tools and manuals in Spanish about cracking, reverse engineering and computer programming were uploaded. This fountain of knowledge watered today's fertile community of Spanish reversers, amongst them Rubén Santamarta (reversemode), Joxean Koret (matalaz), Ero Carrera, Hugo Teso, Mario Ballano or Sergi Àlvarez (trufae), the creator of Radare.

(1) http://www.netcomunity.com/lestertheteacher/index.htm (2) https://nmap.org/nmap-fingerprinting-old.html (3) http://hackstory.net/Manual_del_novicio_al_hacking (4) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jXmAzeMoZNs (5) http://set-ezine.org/ezines/set/txt/set11.zip (6) http://zhodiac.hispahack.com/index.php?section=advisories (7) http://examples.oreilly.com/networksa/tools/rpc-statd.c (8) http://www.vfocus.net/hack/exploits/os/linux/suse/6.2/su-dtors.c (9) http://examples.oreilly.com/networksa/tools/rs_iis.c (10) http://archives.neohapsis.com/archives/fulldisclosure/2006-07/ 0234.html (11) http://www.digitalsec.net/stuff/fun/CCC/camp-server-hack.htm (12) http://www.digitalsec.net/stuff/fun/CCC/ccc_and_cccs.txt

5. Thanks to:

Dreg, Homs, Zhodiac, HorseRide, Han Solo, Depeche, Rampa, Savage, Partyman, Lester, Mave, Darkraver, RomanSoft, X-Grimator, Karpoff, Pepelux, JFS, Alberto Lozano, VirusBuster, rwxrwxrwx, aT4r, Crg, TaNiS, MindTwist, uCaLu, MegadetH, Pancake, Crash, Metalslug, Angeloso, Nico, dAb, Snickers, Rayita, Yandros, Icehouse, DrSlump, Deese, L, Altair, thEpOpE, Belky, El-Brujo, ReYDeS, Bernardo Quintero, Carlos Sánchez Almeida, Manoleet, Cyteck, Yoriell, Mónica Lameiro, Jay Govind, Rock Neurotiko, Albert StateX and the rest of the Hackstory's crew. Also: Jericho. Wau Holland.

Mercè Molist