Edmonton Sun Page 7, Monday, March 4, 2002

Hacking made easy

Web site offers tips on fooling with telecom giants


Edmonton's computer hacker scene hosts its own home-grown Web site, offering northern reflections on how to prank the telecom giants.

The Hack Canada site features tips on Canadian Internet networks, how to spam Fido's cellphone network with junk e-mail, how to steal free calls from payphones and how to "rip off your local bookstore monopoly."

The Sun contacted one of Hack Canada's crew, who goes by the Internet handle "Cyb0rg/ASM" and who would only do an interview via e-mail.

The site is a source of alternative information, he said.

"It provides a more technical and unbiased view on the Canadian and, in part, global computer culture than the typical news sources," said Cyb0rg/ASM.

Disclaimers are prominent on the site, and Cyb0rg/ASM insisted the information on the site itself isn't dangerous unless someone misuses it.

"We present the facts, what people do with it is their own responsibility. People can learn very dangerous things at a library or the neighbourhood bookstore."

Tom Keenan, a computer security specialist at the University of Calgary, said Hack Canada is mostly harmless.

"There's no hiding this information," said Keenan, adding he now prefers designing security to defeat hackers to actually hacking himself.

In fact, Keenan commended contributors to the site for developing their own content instead of re-posting the same old files available across the Web.

"This site is creative, it's Canadian, and it's harmless unless very impressionable people get into it."

The site is also a jumping-off point for the 2600 Club, an Edmonton society for hackers.

The club's name is a nod to the sound frequency that could, until recently, be used to trick the telephone system into giving out free calls. Also called "phreaking," it's a technical art the Edmonton club meets once a month to discuss, among other things. Most people don't come to the site looking to learn how to hack computer systems, said Cyb0rg/ASM.

"People tend to come to us for help with technical problems," he said. "When we can help, we do. And free of charge, I might add."