July 11, 2005 12:23 PM PDT

Long-lived hacker mag shuts down

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Hacker magazine Phrack is to close its doors after almost 20 years serving the darker side of the Internet and communications community.

Yet the antivirus and security industries are coming out to say they will be sorry to see the back of the title that was run by, and for the benefit of, those they seek to thwart.

In its earliest days, the magazine dealt with issues such as phone "phreaking," or cracking the telephone networks to make long-distance calls, for example. In later times, it became a community space for those writing malicious code and sharing exploit information.

Its popularity was a bonus for those involved in the war against cybercrime, and its disappearance will remove the most immediate insight into the thinking of the hacker community.

Pete Simpson, ThreatLab manager at security company Clearswift, said he is very surprised to see Phrack disappear. He added that a world without the journal is actually less secure.

"Phrack's visibility was a blessing in disguise, pretty much in the same way as the Full Disclosure community," Simpson said, referring to the unmoderated Full Disclosure forum for disclosure of security information.

In the past, some hackers have brought about their own downfall by feeling the need to brag about what they have done and what they are capable of. The loss of Phrack will certainly remove a coveted platform.

But Simpson believes something else will inevitably come in to fill the gap left behind.

"If Phrack as an organ does disappear, then I would expect new outlets to pop up and fill the information void," Simpson said. "There must be younger hackers able and willing to take up the mantle."

Simon Perry, a security strategy executive at Computer Associates International, said: "Phrack closing its doors does reduce some visibility into the thoughts of the 'dark side.'"

While it will always be possible to find anything relating to hacking "if you search long and hard enough" online, Perry said, "Phrack was great as a 'one-stop shop.'"

And as long as both sides of the fight knew what and where that shop was, it created a more level playing field.

But Perry added that a lack of clarity about why Phrack has made this decision could still be a cause of concern.

"I note that even on their Web site they say they might be back in 2006 or 2007," he said. That could indicate they "have something better to do" in the meantime, which may make for a case of 'watch this space' for the security industry, he added.

The 63rd and final edition of Phrack will come out as a hardback collectors copy and will be available to attendees at the DefCon conference in Las Vegas between July 29 and 31, as well as at the What The Hack conference in the Netherlands from July 28 to 31.

Will Sturgeon of Silicon.com reported from London.

6 comments

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um...yeaaah
Exactly how do you "shut down" a publication that has no physical
presence, no steady editorial staff, and is based soley on it's
content - without any support of advertisement. Right, you don't.
This article should be entitled "current phrack editor too lazy to put
out new issue."
Posted by (7 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It takes money
to produce a magazine. Time, materials, etc., all cost money.

Perhaps this person doesn't feel the need to spend anything anymore.
Posted by (461 comments )
Link Flag
Hacker vs cracker
Not to beat a dead horse too badly, but the article uses the term "hacker", where it should be using the term "cracker". "Hacker" is a more general term applied to people who find out how anything works, not just computers, and then use that knowledge to do new things, and is commonly considered the "not illegal" and "not malicious" form of investigation.
Posted by John Sawyer (759 comments )
Reply Link Flag
poor horse
Why you feel the need to try to define things that noone
has given a crap about since the early 80's, I don't suppose i'll
ever understand. People are going to call themselves R&B artists
even if they have no rhythm, and don't own a single blues album.
Maybe you should go after them.
Posted by (7 comments )
Link Flag
 

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