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Easy Win 95/98 Breakin #2:

1) Boot up.

2) When you get to the "system configuration" screen, press the F8 key. This gives you the Microsoft Windows 95/98 Startup Menu.

3) Choose option 7. This puts you into MS-DOS. At the prompt, give the command "rename c:\windows\*.pwl c:\windows\*.zzz."

Newbie note: MS-DOS stands for Microsoft Disk Operating System, an ancient operating system dating from 1981. It is a command-line operating system, meaning that you get a prompt (probably c:\>) after which you type in a command and press the enter key. MS-DOS is often abbreviated DOS. It is a little bit similar to Unix, and in fact old timers claim its first version incorporated some Unix code.

4) Reboot. You will still get the password dialog screen. But now it will accept any password. You can fake out your friends by entering any darn password you want. It will ask you to reenter it to confirm your new password. However, note that this technique will still hide passwords such as those for Internet dialups and web babysitter programs from you.

5) Your friends are smart enough to suspect you just created a new password, huh? You can put back the old one your friends picked. Use any tool you like -- File Manager, Windows Explorer or MS-DOS -- to rename *.zzz back to *.pwl.

6) Reboot and let your friends use their secret password. It still works! They'll think you actually cracked that password!

Evil genius tip: Keys that can do something during the bootup process are F4, F5, F6, F8, Shift+F5, Control+F5 and Shift+F8. Play with them!

How to Actually Crack Win95/98 Passwords

OK, OK, this stuff you've just read is kid stuff. Let's say you want to be a serious hacker and actually break those passwords so you have total access to things like stored dialup passwords. Of course the easy thing is to just download those "*.pwl" files to a floppy and crack them at your leisure. The encryption is pitifully weak. If you have a cracker program, it just takes seconds to reveal the goods.

It is also possible to steal and crack these passwords within seconds -- even if the victim computer has a passworded screen saver and you don't want to be as obvious as to turn the power off and reboot the computer. Here's how this works.

First, your victim computer must have a CD-ROM and a floppy drive. You will need a Win95/98 password cracker, and on your own computer, a CD-ROM drive that will let you write your own CDs. Sorry, I'm not going to give you that cracker program for download because I don't want little kids using it when their parent take them to visit their place of work. You have to do that part yourself.

So here's a ridiculously easy way to actually crack any Windows 95 password -- if you have the program (which was written by Vincent Larsen, a director of our Hacker Wargames).

1) Put a file on your CD-ROM named "autorun.inf". It will contain just the simple batch file:

icon=autorun.exe, 0

2) Put Larsen's program "autorun.exe" on your floppy so the CD autorun program will automatically run that batch file when you insert it into the CD-ROM drive. OK, OK, if you do a little web search you will find lots of other programs to crack Win 95/98 passwords. If you are willing to pay money for a password program, try http://www.webdon.com/vitas. The most powerful of these programs is PWLview, which instantly extracts any passwords cached in memory. However, you won't always find the password you need still cached in emmory. Nevertheless, you can crack Win 95 passwords from their encrypted files almost instantly, and Win 98 passwords more sllowly, with PWLtool (at tha same site).

3) When the owner of the victim program isn't watching, slip that floppy into the floppy drive and that CD into the CD-ROM drive. Even with the screen saver running, autorun will secretly do its thing and deposit the cracked password(s) on your floppy. (This presumes your password cracker program does the same thing mine does.) Slip your disks back into your briefcase, and muhahaha!

4) Don't email or phone me begging for this program! It won't even work to offer me money! I'm trying to make this a web site for (mostly) harmless hacking, so all I'm trying to do is persuade you to never turn your back when I'm near your computer, er, I mean, to teach you about computer security. I am, however, considering including it on the CD that will accompany my upcoming book, Uberhacker.

You can go to jail warning: only play this sort of prank on good friends. Do this at work or school, and you might find out what a police interrogation is like.

Note that this does not work with Windows NT -- yet another reason to ditch Win95/98 for WinNT!

Also, this doesn't work if you disable autorun on your CD-ROM drive. Here's how to do this:

1) Right click the "My Computer" icon. This brings up the Systems Properties box.

2) Click the plus sign next to "CD-ROM." This gives a list of your CD-ROM drives. Right click the drive you wish to protect, and from this menu select "properties."

3) Click on the "settings" tab. Look for a box labeled "autoinsert notification." This sounds screwy, but when that box is checked, any CD in that drive will start playing automatically, even when your passworded screen saver has supposedly locked your system from busy little hands. Uncheck that box!

More how to break into Win95 from the console --->>

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