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/// SYSOPS BEWARE! AR InfoFile
[Editor's Note: This file was found floating around FidoNet recently.
It may or may not be legit, but given its nature, I thought it was worth
No Privacy Or Safety For Sysops
Joe Sysop @ 1:something/something
I received the call at my second job..."This is Detective X of the
Sheriff's Office...we need you to come home. We're serving you with
a search warrant."
I had been arrested several days earlier, as a piece of computer
equipment that I had thought salvage was found to be stolen. With
the property now retrieved, I thought that was the end of it, I would
go to court, and once I told my side of it, it would all be over.
Not so...despite the thoughts of how easy it would be, I soon found
out some harsh details, and in writing this, warn you, sysops and
users alike, that more may happen than you think. The criminal
element of this matter is not the important part; it is what has
happened after that which is of concern to all.
I came home to discover several police vehicles, marked and unmarked,
in front of my home, and every piece of electronic equipment I had,
computer and not, strewn across the house. I was taken into my own
room to identify my own computer, and found a police officer, not a
sheriff, downloading my hard drive into a Bernoulli box. I was
interrogated more about the initial arrest, and responded...but then,
the questions took another turn.
"Who is your overseas connection?" "Who is it in Washington State
that is your contact?" "We found a 'hacking' program on your hard
drive...want to tell us about it?" "What do you charge people to use
your system?" "What kind of pornography do you have for download?
"Do you make it available for children?" "Do you have any porno of
I've run a BBS for two years, and other than the typical shareware
violation which comes about from not having the money immediately,
there was nothing illegal being run on my system. If anything
questionable was done, it was on one of the two other non-BBS
systems...but illegal activity on-line is not something I engage in.
While I was being questioned, I saw all my computer systems being
carried out the door, including the BBS. I was now under
investigation, I was told, but no one would tell me what my BBS had
to do with that investigation.
Later, a friend called to let me know that his phone records had been
pulled up for the last six months...he had been notified by a law
enforcement source of someone investigating him. The connection
between us was that of a daily poll to his BBS...and, having once
worked extensively with phone systems, I notice some tell-tale noises
on my voice-line.
To date, I am only charged with the initial crime...nothing has come
out of the confiscation of my BBS, or the software on board. Yet
still, my BBS is in police custody, for a matter being investigated
by the Sheriff's Office. Unlike some places, the Police and Sheriff's
here are not a joint police force...so what crime is the Police
investigating me for? In the court records, where the investigation
report is in public view, no mention is made of the police officer
assisting the Sheriff.
Am I a victim of Operation Sundevil? Is it an overactive and overly
zealous local cop, thinking he can make it big by 'breaking' this
bizarre 'international modem conspiracy' that's been concocted? And
The search warrant itself is interesting; fourteen specific items are
being sought, none of which were located at home or in storage---yet
there are eight 'general' listings which served to give enough
latitude for everything else.
"Any and all telephones with memory devices or speed dialers..."
"Computers, CPUs, etc, together with peripheral equipment, such as
"Any and all computer or data processing software..."
"Records or documents in any format relating to theft of telephone or
communications services, or unauthorized access to computer,
electronic or voice mail systems..."
"Any computer or data processing literature..."
"Proof of occupancy..."
"Any confirmation or purchase order numbers reflecting use of credit
cards or credit services..."
"Neutralize and seize any degaussing equipment..."
Suffice to say, this is a massive fishing expedition. There has been
some bad blood between the particular police officer and myself;
indeed, most of the network locally, when he refused to investigate a
hacker locally, and said that our evidence was insufficient...even
after he had spoken to the hacker and was _told_ an admission of
guilt by the person!
The word is out locally, however, it needs to go out everywhere...
Judges and magistrates who issue search warrants are gullible for the
type of technobabble that anyone can spring on them. Warrants are
issued because the judges do not know any better, and because the
officer can buffalo the judge into including things not even
The entirety and enormity of the Steve Jackson Games raid hit home
NO ONE IS SAFE. Even if you are completely and totally innocent,
even if you have never even had so much as a parking ticket, your
entire computer system can be confiscated as 'evidence' SIMPLY
BECAUSE YOU HAVE ONE.
On the side, I've begun investigating...interestingly, when a
computer has been located at the site of an arrest, the local
authorities seem to confiscate them as evidence. It is of no concern
that the crime is outstanding traffic tickets or Murder One...the
fact that a suspect has a computer gives the police the opportunity
to search it for 'evidence' of more crimes.
If you have a computer, the assumption is that it is used for some
form of criminal activity. That's it...that's the story. Your
system will be downloaded and searched by the police. Your private
mail will be read; your programs will be searched; any writing you
do will be held against you.
In my own case, my brother sent me the formula for black powder
(gunpowder) through the Internet several years ago, and it sits in
archived old mail on my drive...I'm waiting to see what I get charged
What can be done? I'm posting this to the community at large...first
to see that everyone protects themselves; second to see if anyone can
assist. I have been in contact with the Electronic Frontier
Foundation, and my criminal attorney is to be in touch with them.
No, by assistance, I mean to ask for advice to others as well...to
protect the privacy of electronic mail, to frustrate attempts to
breach that privacy, and get rid of the secret-police tactics of the
'fishing expedition' method of police investigations.
The future is now, people...even the innocent are no longer safe from
the police. The next step is to assume that if a modem tone is heard
on the phone that is an indication of illegal activity...and into
your home they will go.
In the meantime, I sit at home, waiting under house arrest...no one
calls because the phone is tapped, and messages go out from this
cobbled-together backup computer only in compressed bundles to
frustrate them even more. The case drags on through the courts, and
as much as a year will go by before I can get my computer systems
back from the 'evidence' locker...'evidence' which has _nothing_ to
do with the actual charges against me.
And, at anytime, I could be you. Think about it.