December 30, 1996 1:45 PM PST
Unamailer explains bombings
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In a long note sent to a hacker mailing list, written email-style sans capitalization and tinged with sarcasm, "johnny" critiqued journalists who have written about past bombings and then gave brief explanations of 26 bombs he delivered Christmas Eve.
The bomber said he was simply pointing out a problem in the system. In his letter, rife with misspellings and grammatical errors, he urged the FBI to concentrate on more "dangerous people out there."
"people like me point out problems in the system. wether it is the social system or computer system, it ends up with the same result. [sic] instead of responsible parties fixing the problem, they are much too intent upon trying to place blame on the people that found the problem. don't make excuses, fix the problem."
In fact, if all email list administrators simply asked people to verify that they had actually subscribed to their lists, the problem would go away tomorrow, said David Kennedy, a security analyst with National Computer Security Association.
Kennedy said he'd like to see johnny, criticized by many as a cyberterrorist, caught and prosecuted. "It would be a wonderful thing to publicly catch this guy and prove that someone can be caught doing this," he said.
"johnny xchaotic" has captured attention by mail-bombing prominent figures, shutting some of them down for days. In a such electronic bombings, victims are subscribed to numerous email lists all at once, rendering their email functions useless.
Like his last bombing in August, johnny's victims ranged from prominent right-wing politicians such as Pat Buchanan and David Duke to the Ku Klux Klan and companies that he accused of censorship, such as MTV. He has also targeted journalists, including Carolyn Meinel, who runs a hacker mailing list.
Technically, these are illegal "denial of service" assaults, according to Kennedy. They could be construed as a federal crime because johnny has bombed people whose email is supported by federal systems and because he has crossed state lines in his bombings, he said.
But whether anyone will be prosecuting him is questionable.
Kennedy said the Secret Service and the FBI have been contacted about his bombings. But Lewis Z. Koch, a reporter with CyberWire Dispatch who wrote about the Christmas bombings after the unamailer sent him his latest letter, cited sources who said the FBI was not interested because the case was too small.
Meanwhile, the bomber can eletronically assault anyone he wants. But he assured in his letter that he does not intend to massively bomb people, choosing instead to carefully select his prey.
At least one of his targets, reached this morning, said he was baffled as to why he was on the list.
Hud Nordin, a self-employed computer programmer, logged on Christmas night only to discover his mailbox jammed with a few thousand emailings. "I figured out immediately what had happened," he said.
Nordin quickly dumped the messages and blocked all others coming in from email lists. "It took five or ten minutes to get the script down right, and then there was no more problem," he said. "It ate up some time from my life mostly because I'm trying to figure out, 'Why me?'"
Nordin speculated that it has something to do with a public-access cable show he directs, but in fact, the unamailer's letter states that he chose Nordin and three others because "the cult of scientology needs to be shot down. it is a criminal organization and should be treated as such."
Ironically, Nordin said he's actually a critic of Scientology.
"I guess it shows how good his research is," he said. "He's a bonehead."
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