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The bible of phreaking faithful

By ROBERT TRIGAUX
© St. Petersburg Times, published June 15, 1998


Dn the first Friday of each month, they gather by pay phones around the globe to hone the art of hacking.

In Florida, hackers and wannabes might hang by the bank of phones at the Fashion Square Mall food court in Orlando, or outside the Victoria Station restaurant at Miami’s Dadeland Shopping Center. In Manhattan, it’s in the Citicorp Center lobby. In New Delhi, the Priya Cinema Complex. In Munich’s Hauptbahnhof, a train station, by the Burger King.

At dozens of pay phone sites around the world, hackers meet to swap gossip. They trade technical tips. They strut their latest hacking triumphs. Or they just listen and learn.

Friday’s pay-phone gathering is run by the bible of hackers, a 14-year-old magazine called 2600: The Hacker Quarterly. The magazine used to be published on the sly as the guiding light of the fledgling hacker underground. Now it’s so mainstream it’s available at the magazine rack at Barnes & Noble and other newsstands, right next to Internet Underground and other hacker publications.

The name 2600 refers to the 2600-cycle frequency that phone hackers known as “phreakers” once used to open up Ma Bell’s phone lines. Phreakers used to play the tone into pay phones, tricking them into making their long-distance lines available for free.

2600 offices used to be raided by law enforcement; now the feds subscribe to keep abreast of hacker trends. The Long Island, N.Y., magazine still touts articles like “How to Steal Things” and “Snooping Via MS-Mail.” Online, 2600 operates a Web site (http://www.2600.com) that celebrates hackers like the jailed Kevin Mitnick who, the magazine protests, are unfairly targeted by the U.S. Secret Service.

Lately, 2600 has been beset by financial problems that the magazine blames on its distributor and losses sustained in backing New York’s annual hacker convention, Beyond HOPE (Hackers of Planet Earth). The editors of 2600 swear it will survive.

The magazine continues to be edited by Eric Corley, a hacker who says people still are afraid to become subscribers. Only 3,000 people subscribe. Another 40,000 readers snap it off newsstands – when it is delivered.

Corley pleaded guilty in 1984 to charges of breaking into an e-mail system owned by GTE Corp. For the past 10 years he has had his own Tuesday evening radio show, Off the Hook, on WBAI in New York City.

To hackers and his radio listeners, Corley is better known by his hacker handle, “Emmanuel Goldstein.” That’s the name of the rebel leader in perhaps the ultimate anti-establishment novel, George Orwell’s 1984.


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