Feb 24, 2015

That one time when I ...

Recently I was searching myself on the internet for fun and I was reminded of a few memorable things that I have done over the years relating to computers and the internet. In no particular order here are some of the memories that came to mind

That one time when I got kicked off of Michiana FreeNet

This one goes way back. Think dial up internet through the local library. I had recently discovered GeoCities which let me make my own webpage. My ISP also had options for domain name hosting and registration and I think there must have been a directory of sites that had paid for this service or something. Somehow I found out the names and emails of probably about 10 - 20 people who had paid for webpages (and maybe domains too) through the FreeNet and sent them all an email letting them know that they could save a lot of money (I think the FreeNet was charging like $100/mo) by getting a free webpage on GeoCities.

I guess one of those people I emailed was somehow connected to the management of the FreeNet and they did not appreciate that I was telling their paying customers how to get something for free. Now granted if they had actual domain names then GeoCities was not even equivalent anyway. I really think that someone just didn't like that I was letting people know they were being ripped off and so they decided that what I did was "spam" and was grounds for my internet account to be cancelled.

That one time when I told AOL that they forgot to bill me

For many years I had AOL for my "internet" access. Actually the service AOL provided I think really pre-dated what I think of as the Internet today. I remember the first time I could use AOL to access content that was not on AOL and send emails to non-AOL members. That was the beginning of access the "internet" to me.

So basically due to a glitch or bug in the AOL billing system I started to notice (and my parents did too) that we were no longer being billed monthly for our AOL access. I don't know how long I let it go but it wasn't long. I'm not sure if this happened after I got kicked off the FreeNet or not, but perhaps it was. Maybe out of a fear of losing yet another access method to the Internet I decided to call them and let them know that they were not charging us. I really was concerned that they would discover their mistake and cut me off and so I wanted to make sure that my access would continue. So I called them and they "fixed" it and we started getting billed again. Phew...

I think my dad was not happy that I did this, but he couldn't be too mad since he understood that we really should be paying for the service. I wonder though if we had done nothing how long we could have continued to access their services for free.

That one time when I hacked a guys computer and the FBI called my parents

You might say I was a bit obsessed for a time with playing the computer game Descent. I still have some of my original boxes and CD's for Descent I, II, and III including some extra CD's I got for free for my work in designing levels for the game. I used to run an online league called the Descent Strike Force and we would play online with each other and other leagues using this software called Kali. So part of the software included what were essentially channels where you could chat with other players and arrange your game. You could easily send files to each other which was handy for sharing levels and you could also execute some special commands to do things like show your IP address.

Using these facilities I sent a copy of Back Orifice to a person once. I told them that it was a new level for the game. I'm not excusing my actions, but the guy was clearly very computer illiterate. I'm surprised he figured out how to use Kali. Levels for the game do not come as executable files but I sent him and executable file and told him he had to run it to install the levels. I guess he had never installed levels before because that is not how it works. He did and when nothing happened (or so he thought) I simply pretended to not understand. I then asked him to execute the special command exposing his IP address to himself only and tell me what that IP address was so that I could connect to his computer and take control of it.

I don't remember exactly what I did to his computer. Certainly nothing destructive. I might have done something like make a pop-up window appear on his screen with a message like "Your shoe is untied". It was fun for a few minutes and then I remotely removed the program and never contacted him again.

Some time later my parents asked me about the situation and I was a bit confused how they even knew about it. Well it turns out that this guy had called them and explained to them what I had done and told them that he himself or maybe someone he knew closely worked for the FBI and that I could be in serious trouble for my actions. The person on the phone had demonstrated their power to my parents by reading off to them my stats such as height, weight, eye color, etc. I remember my dad being especially angry and disgusted at the name of the program which he correctly understood the dual meaning of. I at the time just thought it was a play on Back Office and didn't get the connection.

After I had some time to consider that string of events I realized something. The guy who called my parents and claimed to know all this stuff had actually gotten all that information from my personal webpage (including my home phone number). I knew this because I had purposefully made some of the information wrong and he cited that wrong information. So there was no real connection to the FBI and I quickly decided maybe I shouldn't list my home phone number and all my stats on my public web page.


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