Hacking History: The 414s

Hacking History: The 414s

the 414s

The 80’s Hacker Craze

In the early 1980’s the internet and home-computer were relatively new and had yet to be accounted for, in the United States legal system. Innovation and progress moved faster than the bureaucratic system could keep up with, let alone predict. In 1983 a movie called WarGames came out, depicting a young Matthew Broderick “[finding] a back door into a military central computer in which reality is confused with game-playing, possibly starting World War III.” (IMDB). This inspired “every wannabe hacker with more money than sense [to go] out and [get] a computer and modem”. This very same year, the legendary, teenaged hacker-group, the 414s came into existence.

the 414s

From the movie WarGames (1983).

The 414s

the 414s

Two 414s members, featured in the documentary “The 414s: The Original Teenage Hackers”.

There hasn’t been much published on the 414s since their 80’s headlines debut, however CNN produced a mini-documentary called “The 414s: The Original Teenage Hackers” that interviewed three of group’s former members. This group of high school boys from Milwaukee, met through an IBM sponsored organization called the Explorer Scouts. There, they did early coding and became friends. With inspiration from gangs in Milwaukee, the group named themselves after their area code: 414.

After further inspiration from the movie WarGames, the 414s used a home-built modem to search the telephone networks for other modems by having it attempt to call a litany of phone numbers. Once they connected to a few modems, they began testing passwords and when they were able to get in to a system, they quickly realized they were under admin accounts. Though, they would usually just play a game on their network.

The 414’s first hacks were into the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and Security Pacific National Bank. They broke into an estimated dozen organizations with administrative access. Then, in true WarGames fashion, the group broke into the Los Alamos National Laboratory (researching nuclear weapons), bringing a heightened level of seriousness around these exploits to both authorities and the public. The FBI began their investigation, quickly targeting the Milwaukee area. Soon, the FBI found three members of the group (all of which are featured in the mini documentary).

While there was some damage to company files and property from the incidents, but no laws were yet in place. The legal adults of the group were charged with “making harassing phone calls”, receiving probation and a fine and 6 new bills were created in reaction to the events.

The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act

The Computer Fraud and Abuse act was put into place in 1984 and was the first of its kind. It contains 6 bills against:

  1. Having obtained information that has been determined to require protection against unauthorized disclosure for reasons of national defense or foreign relations by knowingly accessing a computer without authorization, or exceeding authorized access.
  2. Intentionally accessing a computer without authorization or exceeds authorized access.
  3. Intentionally accessing any nonpublic computer of a department or agency of the united states.
  4. Knowingly, and with intent to defraud, access a protected computer without authorization and by means of such, furthering the intended fraud and obtaining anything of value.
  5. Intentionally access a protected computer, without authorization, and cause damage, lose files/information or force a command.
  6. Accessing a computer without authorization with intent to defraud traffics affecting interstate or foreign commerce, or such computer is used by or for the Government of the U.S.

To learn about the first hacktivist group who held the first hacker conference and are still active, today, check out our blog on the Chaos Computer Club!

Chaos Computer Club

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