Old Skool Hacker Toolz

Because real hacking doesn't involve a mouse or a "Start" button.

An overview of some of the tools used by hardcore hackers/phreaks before the Internet ruined the computer underground.

Believe it or not, there used to be a time (1980s through the early 1990s) when hackers were actually smart, swift, and most importantly, discrete.  Not like the clueless drones of today who jerk off to pictures of Kevin Mitnick in $2600 Magazine while trying to type on a $3,000 computer their mommies bought for them and bitching about how much they hate America while using their other hand to stuff their face with Twinkies trying not to get crumbs on the anti-capitalist t-shirt they bought at Defcon for $25.

I won't even mention the "phreaks" of today who do nothing more than prank call telephone operators or dial random numbers while not having a clue about what a line equipment number is, or what centralized automatic message accounting does, or heaven forbid what this means:

ORD 1/
OE 01510409/
      RC18    0     1        ACPT
                    4/1      19:30

Those old days are long gone.

Here are some final notes from Erik Bloodaxe in Phrack #48.



Description of each item, starting in the lower right-hand corner.

  1. Notebook with Pens  Always carry a small notebook for quickly taking notes about anything you see.  Make notes of dumpster locations, pay phone locations, guard rotations, secret phone numbers, etc.  The inside of the notebook should have a list of commonly used phone test numbers (milliwatt, open test, & loops).  Several of the large craft stores (Ben Franklin) carry disappering ink pens, which also come in handy from time to time, like taking notes you think might get confiscated later.  (trust me - I know)
  2. Formatted Floppy Disks  Carry extra floppy disks formatted for different platforms (DOS, Mac, Linux) and also carry 720k formatted floppies for older computer systems.  I also carried a floppy full of tools, like MS-DOS keystroke loggers, hex editors, memory editors (GAMETOOLS, Soft-Ice), and other crap I thought was cool.  (not really relevant today)
  3. 7/16" Nut Driver  For opening telephone company pedestals when a good swift kick didn't work.  You may also want to carry a set of security Torx bits for opening telephone network interfaces.
  4. Hookswitch Holder Downer©  How do you tell the real hackers from the lamers?  Ask them if they have a Hookswitch Holder Downer©.  What is that you ask?  When hacking from a pay phone, you need something to hold down the hookswitch while you setup your gear (acoustic coupler, modem, software dialing settings, etc.)  It's hard to do all that with only two hands, so you use a Hookswitch Holder Downer made from part of an old handset.  (bonus points if you use a real pay phone handset).
  5. Telephone Listener with Induction Pick-Up  Radio Shack part number 43-231B.  Useful for listening for any voice prompts or bitching operators while long-distance dialing with the pay phone handset already hooked to the acoustic coupler.
  6. External, Battery Powered Modem  Always use a good quality external modem (makes them easier to reset and view LEDs).  Make sure it can handle weird bps rates (600, 1100, etc.) as some computer systems actually use that as a security measure.  (pictured is a Zoom Fax/Modem PKT)
  7. Extra 9 Volt Batteries  Always carry a handful of extra 9 volt batteries for the modem, acoustic coupler and telephone listener.
  8. Quarters  'Cuz sometimes you may need to actually pay for making a phone call from a pay phone.  (or getting ice cream)
  9. Fireworks  Good for causing quick disturbances for those zany rent-a-cops to handle while you make your "move".  (don't forget matches)
  10. Nails  Used for "punching" pay phones (as seen in Wargames) for making local calls.  (yes it does work)
  11. Acoustic Coupler  For connecting your modem to a pay phone (or motel) handset when no RJ-11 jack is around.  Make sure you get a high quality one, but don't expect modem speeds above 2400 bps.  Also be sure to carry extra telephone cables and at least one extension with alligator clips.  Acoustic couplers will not work with those bastard systems which set a minimum connection speed rate.  The main reason for hacking from pay phones is that they allow you to dial anonymously and it won't draw as much public attention as sitting outside a telephone terminal box.  Why not use cellular phones?  Because cellular phones are radio beacons and actually make it easier to track your location, see that dumbass Mitnick for more info on that.  (pictured is a Computer Products Plus Telecoupler II)
  12. 2-meter Amateur Radio Transceiver  Forget those kiddy crap radios they sell at Wal-Mart and get a real radio transceiver.  Also, be sure you can modify the radio for out-of-band transmit (150 & 450 MHz).  You never know when you need to fake a radio call to get a mall security guard off your back.  (pictured is a Standard C158A)
  13. Radio Shack Police Scanner  Always carry a scanner to monitor police or security guard traffic.  It helps to have a second person monitoring the scanner while you do your work.  To overcome scanner-in-your-car laws, broadcast the scanner audio over an unused commercial FM radio channel or you can also use an unused amateur radio frequency.  (pictured is a Radio Shack PRO-95, I used a PRO-46 back in the day)
  14. Tandy 1110 HD  The greatest hacking machine ever.  Radio Shack part number 25-3531.  NEC V20 at 16 MHz, 640k RAM, 20 MB drive.  MS-DOS 5.0 and Tandy DeskMate.
  15. Packard Bell STATESMAN Plus  486SX at 33 MHz, 4 MB RAM, 200 MB drive.  Dual boot between OpenDOS and NetBSD.

Note the lack of Rollerblades...

Close-Up Pictures

Miscellanous Tools

  1. Fake Security Guard Uniform  - Useful for looking important in places you shouldn't be in.
  2. Corporate Logo Hat  - The ultimate social engineering prop.  ABC/CBS/NBC/FOX logos are the best.  If someone asks you what you're doing with the pay phone, say you are sending in stories or business information over the phone lines.
  3. Jolt Cola  - Good for all-nighters at pay phones.  Goes well with cheap $0.25 junk food (goop).
  4. Dumpster Key  - Locked dumpsters usually all have the same lock & key if it's collected by the same company.  Get ahold of the key anyway you can.
  5. Telco Documents  - Collect all the telephone system documents you can find.  Old Bell System practices are the best.  If your collection of telephone documents is not measured in feet - you're lame.
  6. Toll Fraud Forms  - Print out your own and tally up your score!
  7. Phone Booth  - Rule #1 - Everyone needs their own phone booth.

Other Neat Stuff

Here are a few examples of some software that was made by a local crack/warez group.

Here are some old (10+ years) articles and notes from the local hack/phreak/BBS scene:

Here is an article from December 1990 issue of Esquire magazine.  It covers a hacking session with Phiber Optik and the other Masters of Deception (MoD) guys.  I added a few of my own notes.

Small article on Mickey "Cheesebox" Callahan, one of the true original phone phreaks, long before the media whores of today.

Here is my version of a MP3 player.  Before those stupid iPods came out, I made a little FM pirate radio station to play MP3s to my radio.  It was fully computer controlled, complete with a remote control DTMF emergency shutdown.  The MP3s played on a DEC AlphaStation 100 and you could telnet into a port and request which song to play via a little interface I made in Perl.  The current playing song was displayed on a webpage and via finger info.  All this over seven years ago!

Notes & Links

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