The Israeli Scene – 1993

Following a LinkedIn message by RaD Man, founder of ANSI art mavericks ACiD Productions, I dived head-straight into a time-machine, and came back with this timeless classic: coverage of the “Israeli scene” by ‘Herd Beast’ in 1993′s Phrack Magazine, Volume 4, Issue 44.

Startup Nation is a direct descent of these days, and many of the late 80′s – earliy 90′s ASM and BBS kids went on to found stellar startup companies.

Ansi

Here it goes, in all its glory:

The Israeli Scene

                                   by

                               Herd Beast

      Didn't you always want to know about the "scene" in Israel?
                                 YOU WILL...

A SMALL OVERVIEW
****************

This article was written after I read Phracks 42/43, and the idea seemed
good.  I am not affiliated with any person or any group mentioned
in this file.

It's hard to describe the "Israeli scene", so I will start with a short
description of the state of technology in Israel.

TECHNOLOGY
**********

The Israeli telephone system isn't very advanced.  Most of the country
still doesn't even have tone dialing, and while the phone company has
rAd plans about installing CLID and a pack full of other exciting things,
the fact remains that half the country breathes rotary phones and analog
lines.  Pathetic as it seems, it still means that tracing someone through
the phone lines can be rather hard; it also means that K0D3 scanning is
abundant.

After the telephones comes the X.25 connection, Isranet: DNIC 4251.
Isranet used to be a "hassle free system", eg every 11 year old could
get a NUI and use it, and NUIs lasted.  Those merry times in which
practically everyone who had a modem was an X.25 "hacker" are almost
over.  The weakness of Isranet (the telco's fault!) is why if you happened
upon QSD some years ago, you would have probably noticed that after Italian
lesbians, Israelis lurked there the most.  Recently, Isranet switched
systems.  The old system that just prompted NUI? and ADD? is gone, and
in came the SprintNet (Telenet) system.  It is now generally believed
that Isranet is un-crackable.  Way to go, Sprint, ahem.

Amongst other thing the Israeli phone company supplies besides an X.25
network is an information service (like 411) through modem, e-mail/FAX
and database systems (a branch of AT&T EasyLink) and a bunch of other things.
Not to forget the usual "alien" connections, like a TYMUSA connection
(with very low access levels), and toll free numbers to the AT&T USA*Direct
service and sexy-sounding MCI & Sprint operators.

To my knowledge, cellular telephony among phreaks in Israel is virtually
non existent, (that is to say, when talking to phreaks, none of them seems
to care about cellular phones at all, for different reasons one of them
being the starting price which is high), which is a pity but is also a
blessing since security is lax and besides, the Israeli cell phone market
is monopolized by Motorola (whose cell phones re known as "Pele Phones"
which means "Wonder Phones").

As you might have understood, up until lately, the Israeli phone company
(Bezeq) wasn't very aware of security and boring stuff like that.  Now
it's becoming increasingly aware, although not quite enough.  The notion
in Israel is that hackers are like computer geniuses who can get into
ANYWHERE, and when last did you see someone like that?  So basically,
corporate security is lax (does "unpassworded superuser account" ring a
bell?), although not always that lax.

Last but not least are the elytee -- the computer literate public.
These are most of the people in charge of machines on the *.il domain on
the Internet.  Security there is better than usual, with (for example)
"correct password" rules being observed, but (another example) with holes
like /usr/lib/expreserve on SunOS still open.  For this reason, there is a
difference between hackers in Israel.  There are university students who
play around with the Internet, hack, and are usually not aware that
there is a bigger hacking community beyond IRC.  Then, there are the
modemers, who use modems and all the other things, but are generally not
as proficient, since Internet access in Israel is given only to
university people and employees of the very few companies who have
Internet connections.  (The notion of public access Unix exists, but
access costs $50 a month and to get it one must have approval of the
ministry of communication because of an old law; and since calling up a
system and running by all the defaults usually does not work, not
everyone has access to the Internet.)

Calling card abuse is very popular in Israel, because Bezeq cannot find
abusers and really doesn't care.  Therefore there are a lot of pirates
in Israel who are in very good touch with American pirate groups, and
this includes the works - crackers, artist, couriers.  If you know a bit
about the pirate community, good for you.

Hackers as in computer hackers are a little rarer.  To become a hacker you
need to pass some grueling tests.  First, you resist the lures of becoming a
calling card and download junkie.  Then, you have to become proficient
from nothing.  Finally most of the Israeli hacking community
hacks for the single reason that goes something like "get into QSD",
"get into IRC" (without paying).  Not very idealistic, but it works...

Assuming you passed all these stages, let's say you are 18... and you go
to 3 years in the army.  Did I forget to mention that serving in the
army is mandatory in Israel?  Not really relevant, but that's life in
Israel, and when you leave the army, you usually forget about hacking.

Up until now I was just explaining things.  Now..

THE PARTICULARS
***************

I will concentrate on the "modemers" in this section, so first about the
students.  You may know this, but there is a lot of "bad" Internet
traffic on *.il, in the form of pirate/virus FTPs and stuff like that.
If you read Usenet, you probably saw at some time a wise ass post such a
site.  These are usually the works of students.  To be honest, that's as
much as I know, since I'm not a student and my stupidity is not so high
as to assume every Internet user from *.il is a student...

The "serious" modemers hackers don't really hang out in big groups.
They have close friends or work alone, so there is nothing like Israeli
######Cons.  I can't make an estimate of the actual amount of hacking
done in Israel, but I do know that a lot of people got drafted lately.
Other than that, there are a lot of Israelis hanging around on IRC (if
you're into that), but they usually work like k0D3 k0ll3kt0rZ, only
instead of codes they collect Unix account.

In a country that has fewer people than NYC, the total number of
people who actually have modems and do hack AND know what they're doing
is not so large, which is why until now my description didn't sound very
pretty.  But considering these facts, they're actually not bad.

There are some "underground" groups in Israel.  Not exactly groups as
magazines -- if there is one thing Israel is full of it's local
magazines.  These are usually small releases featuring things like "FTP
Tutorial" and "Pascal Trojan" along with several oh-so-accurate anarchy
files.  The most prominent, and in the fact the only magazine to have
lasted beyond one issue is called IRA (International Raging Anarchists).

For the sake of the pirates, an Israeli formed group that also has
American members is called HaSP; it usually releases cracks for all
kinds of software.

THE NETWORK
***********

Some time ago there was an attempt to bring up a hacking network in
Israel.  It was called the IHPG (Israeli Hack Phreak Group) and was
a bunch of FidoNet-style echos passed between underground boards.  The
subjects on hand were hacking, phreaking, trojans, and viruses.  At first
there was a genuine attempt to make things happen, but almost no one shared
information (more accurately, accounts/passwords/codes) and the net
slowly died out.  To my information it is still operational on around 3
boards around Israel, with something like 3 posts per month.

LAW AND ORDER
*************

The law and the establishment in Israel are divided.  For starters,
there is the wide public opinion among the public that every hacker, in
particular those who get caught are computer geniuses.  Therefore, in a
lot of cases where hackers (usually university students) get caught, they
are given a better position within the computer staff, or are later hired
by a company (no matter what for -- and it's not always security).
Although police and Bezeq do preach that hacking is a crime etc, I seriously
doubt that there will be such an outrage among computer people if someone
was to go on and build an Israeli ComSec (as an example).

Police has a very limited staff assigned to computer investigations,
(along the lines of 1-2 officers), and they are in charge of everything;
this means they should check calling carders, but also on bank
embezzlers who keep information on "secure" floppies.  Guess which cases
get priority?  Of course, there is still the phone company and when
things get more serious more man force is issued.

>From time to time, however, there are arrests (see PWN on Phrack 35,
38 elsewhere).  These usually involve (in the case of the guy described on
Phrack 35) a tip from police overseas, who kept bugging the Israeli
police until they made a move, or idiots who sell things.  The guy in
the Phrack 35 World News, Deri Schreibman, was arrested after he
supplied credit cards to people in the U.S. and Canada, who turned him
in when they got caught.  He himself turned in a lot of people, but his
information "just" led to them being visited.  Nothing much has been
heard about that since, but his case got a lot of publicity because he
had a lot of computer equipment, including this/that-boxes, and was
said to have broken in Washington Post and the Pentagon.  After him,
there have been raids on hackers but nothing serious happened to them,
and the news coverage was not incredible.  A year or so ago one total asshole
went on a national show (nothing like Geraldo) and told everyone how he too,
abused Isranet and the Washington Post; he also claimed that Bezeq
didn't have a clue and that was why he wasn't afraid.   He was visited and
his equipment was taken.  At much earlier times there was a teenager who
changed an article on the last page on an Israeli newspaper to say that his
math teacher had been arrested for drug dealing; he got to write a computer
program to aid blind and deaf people.  That is the general way busts go on
in Israel, because there is no such great danger as to even warrant dreams
of something like Sundevil.  There are also sometimes problems in the army,
but they are dealt with internally, by the army (I don't think anyone
gets shot though).

When a bust occurred, usually many people quit fooling around with
Isranet for a while, because all those who did get caught were doing the
same things with Isranet.  But except for that, there were no great
waves in the pond after busts, except again for the Deri S. case.  This
is due simply to the fact that hackers, in Israel and usually anywhere
else, simply don't amount to the amount of problems "professional"
criminals make to the police, (the same way Israeli software houses chase
down pirating firms and not boards), and since Israel doesn't have an
FBI and/or USSS the law isn't going around pointing guns at hackers.

HACKING IN ISRAEL
*****************

Hacking or phreaking in Israel in not very sophisticated.  The average
Israeli can scan all he likes; Israeli toll free numbers in the format of
177+Country Code+XXXX exist to almost every country.  This means that by
dialing 177 (= 1-800), a country code (440 for the UK, 100 for AT&T, 150
for MCI, etc), and a number on the XXXX format, you have a chance of
connecting to a number in country whose country code you're using.
Voice mail systems, modems and other things can be found there
(h00ray!).

There are also calling cards and X.25 and 056 (= 1-900) scams, etc, etc.

A nice way to start scanning (if anyone is interested) the 4251 DNIC is
based on area codes (yes, just like Telenet).  For example, a lot of
systems in the 04 area code will be somewhere at: 4251 400 ...  This
might lead to disappointing results, though, since most systems use Hebrew
(most interesting systems).  The best way to get Israeli area codes is by
using a file on international country/area codes put out a while ago...
Funny, but it's more accurate than a C&P phone book.

If you're into social engineering foreigners, give 1 800 477-5664 (AT&T)
or 1 800 477-2354 (MCI) a call.  These will get you to an Israeli
operator who will be happy to place a call for you, if you're into
experimenting (another one of Bezeq's new services, called
Israel*Direct... also available from the UK, Ireland, Germany and more.)

CONCLUSION
**********

I hope you have learned about the Israeli scene.  My purpose was NOT to
dis anything, it was to show that even though we live in this
global village of networks and electronic data exchange (ohh), living in
outer butt-fuck (I did not invent this term) has its advantages, in the
form of basic stupidity, and its disadvantages in the form of lack of
technology and organization in the community.  Yeah.

There are still many nice things about hacking in Israel.  Enjoy your life.

 

On the Destructive Potential of Technology

I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor, in an interview with Om Malik

Robert Oppenheimer

Amazing Mars Panorama From Curiosity Rover

This is absolutely amazing – having a place 56,000,000 Kilometeres away look almost reachable.

Wednesday is Email Marketing Day

I noticed a strange phenomenon recently – I’ve been getting an increasing number of emails from online services providers on Wednesdays.

Spammy-Wednesday

 

Coincidence? I don’t think so. I was suspecting product managers at these companies, when having to decide when to send out emails, did a quick Google and found out that Wednesday is a great email day (some may have a/b tested that as well, but knowing how busy product managers are, I assume many of them just picked a day)

Thankfully, I can Google as well, and voila, I quickly came across a blog post titled ‘When is the best time to send emails‘:

Emails Open by Day of Week

And if you were curious what is the best time for sending emails, the answer is 2pm:

I am posting this on a Wednesday, because my blog’s stats show that it is also a good blog posting day.

Taking Things in the Right Perspective

Made me laugh:

Lance-Armstrong

 

I recalled the story of Canadian snowboarded Ross Rebagliati, who was stripped of his olympic gold medal after testing positive for Marijuana (the decision was eventually overturned, largely because Marijuana was not on the list of banned substances).

rossI just remember thinking back then: the guy won the gold medal being stoned! Do you need anything more than that to prove that he is Number One?  I’m sure Michael Phelps would have been impressed too.

As for me, I’m too old for these experiments, having a drink or two on the slopes gives me just the right amount of courage to continue jumping in the snow-park at the age of 36.

How I used Crowdsourcing 20 Years Before the Term was Coined

(Or, rather, how I leveraged the Wisdom of the Crowd)

In the late eighties, there was a great music program I loved listening to after school (in a channel called ‘Zahal 2′. Strangely, the Israeli Defense Forces had the best music station in Israel).

An hour into the show, they would have a few callers from the audience dial-in, pick a number between 1-100 and asked to answer a random music-related question. The prize? 5 cassette of the newest music in the stores. A very lucrative prize in the eighties, especially for a 12-years old kid. The problem? I had zero knowledge about bands, songs, or any type of music-related trivia (sadly, I managed to stay ignorant until today). But I really wanted to win these 5 tape-cassettes!

One the only original cassettes I had (embarrassing; but I got it as a present)

One the original cassettes I had (embarrassing; but I got it as a present from a distant relative)

Luckily, I noticed a potential bug in the system – the questions may have been random, but if someone picked a number and did not know the right answer, the question was not changed. Now that’s something I was able to exploit!

I listened a few days in a row, marking down the questions and their respective numbers. Once I had three unanswered questions, I was ready to go.

I opened the phone book, under the category DJ. I randomly called five different DJs, introduced myself, and told them I was doing a survey on DJs’ knowledge of music trivia, presented them with the questions and jotted down the answers. Voilà! I had all three answers. Easier than I thought. I should have coined the crowdsourcing term back then and reach eternal fame.

Instead, I focused on step 2, which really was the most difficult part: manage to go on air. No crowd-sourcing here, but hours of endlessly dialing the show’s number, using an analog dial- phone. Busy signal for hours.

white-rotary-phone

And then it happened, a week after I started my quest – a production assistant answered the phone! I was put on hold for twenty minutes, and I went live. I picked the number 87. I don’t remember the question, but I do remember the answer: The Police! The host confirmed the right answer, and was amazed that such a young kid knew it.

End of story: the cassettes never arrived. Maybe they were never sent, maybe they got lost in the mail, or even stolen by someone along on the way. I waited a week, two weeks. And then I forgot about the whole ordeal, because apparently it was not so much about the cassettes, but more about cleverly hacking the system.

The Self-Driving Car Will Kill the Car Industry

Car is the worst asset one can own. It’s pricy. Its value declines rapidly. Insurance is expensive. So are fuel, maintenance and city-parking. Yet the most frustrating aspect – it’s really just waits there doing nothing about 95% of the time.

Zipcar is a good alternative for city people, as well as public transport and taxis. It’s far more economical than using a car, but because it’s quite less comfortable (and going with taxis everywhere does eventually get quite expensive), numerous people (including myself) still own a car.

Self-driving cars will change everything. And thanks to Google, it’s not science fiction, but a working product, only a few years away from mass-production.

Google Self Driving Car

Self-driving cars will quickly lead to companies operating self-driving, ride-sharing, taxis. These will significantly reduce the highest cost-factors of today’s taxis – drivers salaries, fuel costs and car maintenance. We’ll set our travel destination and summon a taxi via our smart-phones, the best available taxi (considering its location and planned route) will pick us up and drop us exactly where we need. It may pick up other passengers along the way. Cost will be calculated dynamically, based on route and amount of people sharing the ride with us.

It will be convenient, fast and cheap. Way better than owning our own car: no need to worry about parking, fueling, insurance, value depreciation or wasting time in traffic (we are not the one driving, so reading becomes a good option, or more realistically, watching endless versions of Harlem Shake).

The result will be simple: Car ownership will go down significantly. The industry will move from producing 80 million cars a year that are utilized about 5% of the time to producing about 10-million cars that are at 50% capacity (Ride-sharing offers more than 100% utilization, yet it needs to be offset with ‘quiet hours’ in which people are in the office, asleep, or both :) ).

Another interesting thing will happen: we’ll actually get faster from point to another. There will be significantly less cars on the road, less accidents (robots err less than humans), and traffic flow will be easily projected based on historical and real-time data. My kids will look at the 20th century car-travel in the same way we look at wagon-based travel of the 19th century: with bewilderment.

And as for the car industry – any industry whose demand for its main product drops so drastically will suffer dire, unavoidable, consequences. In 10-15 years we’ll probably see a lot of bankruptcies, financial restructuring and M&A activities in the space (similar to what happend to the car industry following the 2008 market crash, yet without the recovery aspect).