(8 min read)
I’ll kick these stories off with a classic, one of my favourite stories from back in the day. Cast your mind back to 1999. I’m talking everyone on dial-up internet, Windows 95 and the dominate instant chat application ICQ. And then there is me, an acne covered braces wearing 15 year old nerd kid that was, well according to everyone around me – was on a computer all the time. I also had a junk mail delivery job as well, which was just awful; and I might write about that at some point as well. But for the most part, I played Command and Conquer & Red Alert and used ICQ to chat to friends and well anyone really.
At school, Our Science teacher Misses Dove was a passionate American lady hailing from salt lake city. Fiercely intelligent, proud and could fill up 3 big-ass whiteboards in minutes. She was more of a progressive teacher than the rest of the teachers at the school. She took the time to connect with us, she shared stories of her growing up. But most of all she was fanatical if not a little crazy and wasn’t afraid to let you see that it if you stepped across a line.
One day back in 1999 she very nicely put her ICQ number on the whiteboard and encouraged the classroom to contact her if we get stuck on out of school science material or homework (unheard of these days). Naturally I added Mrs Dove to my ICQ contact list. Over the weekend I saw that she was online in ICQ and I just thought it would be cool to chat with a teacher via chat over the weekend. I sent her an instant message and I got the infamous ICQ “Oh Oh!” message notification sound. It wasn’t Mrs Dove, It was her Husband telling me Mrs Dove wasn’t there. I said g’day to him and asked him what he did for work. He told me he was a network engineer. I was immediately interested and wanted to talk further with him; especially around this thing called “Nuking”
Ok. You probably don’t know what “nuking” is. So “Nuking” or “Winuke” (Windows Nuke) was a simple windows executable file called variations of winnuke32.exe, it was super basic, it had two inputs. The IP address field (the Address of the victim…which the team at ICQ was nice enough to publish the IP address of any online user if you right clicked on their username) and a button to press to execute the nuke.
WinNuke was a Denial of Service (DoS) attack that sends some data to an out of band data to the IP address of the target computer causing the computer to lock up and display a Blue Screen of Death. So in other words, I could disconnect anyone I had in my ICQ contact list that was online. Oh and didn’t I think I was the shit.
Now this guy being a network engineer I wanted to know his thoughts on this absolutely blatant and widespread exploit. After explaining to him that you can disconnect anyone from the internet just by knowing their IP address. He responded quite confidently that I was talking absolute shit, and that it wasn’t possible and I had no idea what I was talking about!
Well as they say – actions speak louder than words. So I nuked his ass…. Repeatedly… For most of that afternoon. I saw him come back online.. constantly. And I proceeded to cut and paste his new IP address in winnuke and disconnect him. Look I wasn’t a bad kid but it was too irresistible not to do this.
Now, let’s just think about that for a second. He’s sitting there on his computer losing connectivity to the internet constantly. He’s having to do that painstaking 56k modem handshake with his internet service provider with all the “DADUMDADUMDADUMM PPSHHHHHHHHH!!” annoying communication noises turning analogue signals to digital finally getting connected
and then after a minute or two, ICQ signs in with that stupid boat fog horn sound to indicate that ICQ has signed-in. Then shortly he’d be disconnected. by me. when I felt like it. So this happened most of this fine Sunday afternoon until eventually after seeing Mrs Doves username change from Red (offline) to Green (Online) felt smug enough to write to him “had enough yet?”
He didn’t know what I was talking about initially, but I said “Now do you believe me that you can be disconnected off the internet?” well as you’d imagine he lost it and said “that was you!? You little fucking shit! Why?!”. I responded “to teach you a lesson”. He continued to write angry instant messages so being a power hungry 15 year old little turd and because he had an attitude about it, I had to disconnect him again didn’t I?… so I disconnected him a few more times.. He got in a few messages during his disconnections that I would be in trouble and I responded and said you don’t even know who I am; Then I left the PC for a while.
Later that night there was an offline message blinking and this time it was actually from Misses Dove. Instantly I knew I was in some shit because the instant message was using the maximum amount of characters you can send in one instant message. The message went on to describe my appearance, my full name, my year level and that I will be sent to the principal’s office first thing Monday Morning.
Now still this part is hard to explain to anyone that didn’t know how involved the school got into your ‘personal life’. People usually say things like “what could the school do about that?!” “yeah she gave out her details that’s detached from the school!” Yes. These are all correct. And that’s what I thought at the time. It’s only now I really value what happened next.
So being the utterly cocky nerd-linger I was then, I printed the chat transcript to show ‘The boys’ at school. On dot matrix print outs. (the one prints on Fan-Fold Dot Matrix Tractor Feed Printer Paper). I was showing the lads in the changeroom we were laughing away. The sports teacher eavesdropped on the conversation and Misses Dove was immediately informed.
Tuesday morning rolls around and there is a school assembly, all of the senior school. And typically at the end of the assembly the vice principle or principle would wrap up the assembly by naming the ‘bad boys’ he would like to see straight after in his office. And I always used to sit there holding my breath even if I had done nothing, thank god that’s not me. Well this time. It was me.
I sit in that fucking awful school waiting bay office until one of the administrational staff takes pity on me and rousts the vice principle. who was dead set on becoming principle of my school. I walk into his office thinking what can he do here? Mrs doves word against mine but I sink into the chair when he has a stapled colour print out of the ICQ Chat history; Which we go through line by line, often, with me helping him interpret appalling spelling. Now I probably haven’t articulated it enough with my words, but I was by no means a competent 15 year old kid. I was in fact dropping the class average which really didn’t fit in with this schools academic image and well any school really. BUT and it’s up for debate, I really wasn’t a bad kid.
So at the end of this conversation with the vice principle. He sat back astonished and said he really didn’t know what to do with me. Eventually he felt this was beyond and apology or a afterschool detention that a one day suspension was in order. So the following day I was not to come into school.
Well I knew I fucked up, and I was most certainly put down a peg. I really didn’t know how to even in simple terms explain what I did to my completely computer illiterate mother. So I spoke to dad. Now Pauly. Or known by his corporate username prowling (Paul Rowling). Which after my closest friends found out, and now they call me that because it pisses me off. Anyway; I had to tell mum and dad that I was suspended for disconnecting my year 9 science teachers husband off the internet all Sunday afternoon.
Well mum cried and got angry a lot and didn’t understand at all, and knew that she just needed to be angry and upset with me. Dad was quietly impressed being a IT fanatic but was immediately scolded by mum when he showed any kind of interest. I was genuinely sorry and it really wasn’t funny anymore.
But to the people reading this and thinking still, the school had no right to be involved. I think; who else would of taught me that what I did was the wrong thing and that there were consequences… who knows where it could of lead me if I got away with doing this kind of thing.. But in saying that, i soon found an even better application called Subseven. A trojan horse application. Whereby I had full access to anyone’s computer without them knowing it.. unless I wanted them to… and boy have I got a few stories about that.