Guide to (mostly) Harmless Hacking
Vol. 6 Real Hackers
No. 2: Harold Fubison
(Fatal Error) is famous within the hacker scene nowadays for
two things. He doesn't have a computer science degree.
He gained his education for the most part from the hacker culture.
With this street education, however, he has become the senior
network engineer for the AGIS Internet backbone. This is
an enterprise valued at over $1 billion. Since taking over
as head engineer with AGIS, he has fixed security weaknesses
that allowed attackers to shut parts or all of AGIS down four
times in 1997. In addition, when Fubison took over, spammers
had been plaguing AGIS. He since has tracked down and kicked
off so many spammers that AGIS is now one of the most spam-free
Fubison is also
famed because, like all true hackers, he donates his services
to good causes. Last October, he helped a small Internet
service provider, Succeed.net, fight off a group of persistent
attackers who were intent on driving Bronc Buster (http://www.showdown.org)
off the Internet. Then this March he pitched in with logging
software to help Rt66 Internet fight off a barrage of attacks
focused on shutting down the Happy Hacker web site (http://www.happyhacker.org).
Fubison has pioneered
a path that many hackers could follow. However, it's a
path that calls for hard work and a burning desire.
hacking in 1979. Back then he was a 12-year-old Detroit
kid playing with the keypad of his phone. In 1983 he got
his first computer -- a Timex Sinclair which used a tape recorder
instead of a disk drive to hold programs. With it he began
teaching himself the Basic programming language. That year his
cousin got a Commodore 64 computer with a 300 baud modem. Later
that year Fubison built his own IBM PC. He was to go on to build
hundreds of low-cost computers for his friends.
Fubison and his
cousin parlayed this primitive equipment into a hacker group
and, through the bulletin boards of the 80's, began sharing knowledge
with hackers around the US. They also joined the 2600 club
(nowadays reachable at http://www.2600.org).
local hacker group grew, and began holding meetings at a local
pizza parlor. His group included many young women -- as
unusual then as it is today. As Fubison puts it, "I
used my computer to meet girls." It was at those pizza nights
that he met the woman he would later marry. (They now are
the parents of four.)
Fubison soon made
a name for himself by writing text files on how to generate valid
calling card numbers and by pirating voice mail systems for his
friends. He blue boxed long distance calls and found his
way around Telenet, an early network that had six-digit addresses
for its hosts. (The far larger Internet uses twelve-digit
In August 1985,
a visit from an FBI agent sidetracked Fubison's hacker career.
Fubison had just turned 18, so he knew he could now get in serious
trouble. During this visit the agent asked Fubison if
he knew what a PIN register was. Fubison knew all too well that
meant the FBI had been recording the destinations of phone calls
made from his home.
The agent pulled
out a 30 page printout. "In the month of February
1995, you made 3200 calls to this MCI 800 number. Why?"
out to the agent that it is legal to call 800 numbers. Fubison
wouldn't tell the agent what he did after getting on that 800
The agent then
pointed to one number, 40 digits long. "Can you tell
me what you were doing with that number?"
out laughing. "That's 'Mary Had a Little Lamb,' sir."
The agent let Fubison
know that they were close to getting enough on him to make a
bust. The two worked out a deal. The next day Fubison
enlisted in the US Army.
Fubison was able
to turn his Army stint to his advantage. He went
to electronics school at Ft. Jackson and became a multi-channel
radio operator with the Patriot missile defense batteries.
He also discovered
ARPAnet was the
US military network that was eventually to evolve into
today's Internet. Life was slow in the Patriot batteries.
Fubison recalls he typically "spent all day on ARPAnet...
When you ran into people on ARPAnet, they were mostly people
who shouldn't be there."
That was back when
few people would abuse their ARPAnet access. The military
tolerated hackers because they often contributed free software
and technical assistance. For example, within the first
year of ARPAnet (1969), hackers had already been the first to
After the Army,
Fubison settled into eight years of work as a computer programmer
at a Detroit Mazda factory. On the side he ran a bulletin
board. Eventually he was running 64 phone lines of access for
hundreds of paying customers. Ultimately he even provided
them with Internet access.
The Internet was
to be what killed Fubison's bulletin board. While working
a full-time job, it was too hard to compete with the other Internet
access providers that sprung up around 1994-5.
Around then Fubison
made an extremely bad decision. He used his hacking talents
to make some big, quick bucks. He figured it would be a
More about Harold Fubison--->>