Top Website Hacks of the ’90s

John T Draper is a familiar name in the hacking community, mainly because he was one of the first members of the public to hack, uninvited into a remote system. In the 60s he discovered that a toy whistle in a packet of Cap’n Crunch could produce a perfect 2,600Hz tone, and by sounding it down a telephone, it enabled him to obtain free long distance phone calls. This was a method of controlling telephone switches through a method known as ‘phreaking’, which actually led to his imprisonment. Thereby becoming one of the first criminal “hackers”.

Fast forward to the 1980s, and with modems and personal computers popping up left, right and centre, a new glorious world was opening up, with films such as WarGames capturing this wonderful new world of hacking potential. By 1990, a great war was occurring behind the scenes, between some of the largest hacking groups. On one side The Legion of Doom, the other the Master of Deception. Each group trying to outdo the other with more ingenious and elaborate hacks. Because as well as political motivation, revenge, demonstration or simply dislike, simple notoriety was high on the list of reasons to hack. However, with notoriety comes visibility, and it wasn’t long before the FBI were on their tracks, with members of both groups, including the head of Masters of Deception, Mark Abene, ending up behind bars for several years. Sympathies among other hackers and a feeling of injustice for hackers receiving more time than serious crimes with real world victims of course would lead to more hacks.

With the rise of the internet, the hacking playgroud was growing, and to police this playground laws were brought into place to try and keep order, including the Computer Misuse Act of 1990. These were tentative days, filled with Geocities, Altavista, Ask Jeeves, low resolution, low colour GIFs, MORE GIFs, NEVER ENDING GIFs, crap fonts, oh, and lots of keyword spamming. This was a domain, if you’ll excuse the pun, where many people were just getting to grips with what they were doing, and so, as you’d expect, knowledge was thin on the ground. One crucial area was, naturally, security. If you had a website, you needed to keep it secure, otherwise things like THIS could happen.

So then, welcome then to my top Website hacks of the 1990s. Before we begin, just be sure to flex your neck muscles so you can look away when appropriate.

20th September 1996, and the CIA website. Now here’s what it should look like, you can see the red writing “Unauthorized modification of any information stored on this system may result in criminal prosecution”…. annnnd, here’s what it looked like shortly after.

Now this is a hack by Swedish group Power Through Resistance. This was in response to Swedish prosecutor Bo Skarinder, prosecuting five people for hacking earlier that week. You can see their message stating “F*ck you to the Central Intelligence Agency World Wide Web site… but we already know you’re all lame assholes”. Now, this is a demonstration of hackers banding together, and supporting their own in the best way they know how to, and although it didn’t remain up for long, it was enough to reach CNN news at the time.

Central Stupidity Agency

You can see the usual links are long gone, and instead we can navigate to “The Hacker’s Defense Foundation”, “Flashback News Agency” and a few more links including… NUDE GIRLS. You’ll find this is a running theme throughout hacked sites of the 90s.

OK 12th December 1996 and we cross the pond for the British Labour Party. Here’s how Tony Blair looked originally, in this sparse, but easy to navigate site… and here we are POST hack. AS you can see, nothing has changed.

Oh, my bad, some links have changed. We’ve got “The Budget Response: More of those lies all parties feed you close to an election”, “The Road to nowhere?”. “New Information (Same Old Lies, New Packaging) and so on… along with a nice “Hacked Labour” image. At the time you might have been hard pressed to spot the difference, but here we have a politically motivated hack – albeit a light hearted one – by the group AOHP.

Labour Website Hack 1996

It’s only fair that we then visit the Conservative Party page on 27th April 1997. Here’s the Right Honourable John Major MP, looking much like John Major and then….well, again, it’s hard to notice the difference. Now here we have a much more focused political attack, with a long message. It basically boils down to;

The Conservatives claiming that all communications breakthroughs started under Conservative Governments, and the hackers pointing out that they had nothing to do with the breakthroughs, they just happened to be in power. There also seems to be an EU flag, which seems appropriate.

Now back across the pond, this one is interesting, if only for the fact that it stayed up for an entire week. This was an time when IT was slow to act, more than likely outsourced and probably very little knowledge of who was running it. It’s the Legal Employment Network who apparently…

TO HOOKERS AND STRIPPERS SO THEY CAN FU…..” yeah, you get the idea. Anyway this was hacked by the individuals MadS/WarB/PoweRT/Del/KNS. Nice work lads.

Now here we have, probably the most targeted organisation on the web, in this part of the 90s at least. It had been hacked twice in December 1996 by \\StOrM\\, leaving a somewhat inappropriate theme, and now again on the 5th March 1997. This time, we have the sympathetic pleas of H4G1S (or Hagis), acknowledging the plight of Kevin Mitnick, one of the most notorious hackers of the time, and actually the first hacker to appear on an FBI Most Wanted poster, for wire fraud and various other hacks within the preceding 2 years. Good on you Kevin.

The page states that he’s been rotting in a prison cell for 2 years, over his desire to learn, and still hasn’t gone to trial.

It also talks of Ed Cummings, thrown into prison for possessing nothing more than a couple of pieces of electronics from radio shack. If that’s the case, then I am in a WHOLE HEAP of bother.

We’ve also got a message saying “We will be launching an attack on corporate America. All who profit from the misuse of the internet will fall victim to our upcoming reign of digital terrorism”. These all seem reasonable sentiments, but I’m not going to delve deep into the politics here, mainly because we’ve got more hacks to explore….

8th December 1997, and it was Yahoo’s turn. Now this was no small fry, because Yahoo was a huge player back in the 90s. It was one of the main portals to the web, offering email, news and a pretty good search engine. So anyone who could pull of an attack here was, well, clearly the head of their class.

It would take the combined powers of PANTZ and H4GiS to try and hold the US Government to ransom, by demanding the release of, you guessed it Kevin Mitnick.

H4G1S Nasa hack
H4G1S NASA hack

“For the past month, anyone who has viewed Yahoo’s page & used their search engine, now has a logic bomb/worm implanted deep within their computer”, that’s the fear tactic which was used here, with an offer of an antidote program if Kevin is released. The problem was this hack was only up for 15 minutes and could only be seen by certain browsers. Comments on the CNN message board relating to this were;

“By the way, who was this infamous “imprisoned comrade” these geeks wanted released? Does anyone know? Knowing who it was would be a good way to track down the hackers.” from Grant Webster, thank you Grant

and… the deciphering of the alphanumeric part of the ransom to read “hey mister security expert.. if you’re so ? , how come you’re always getting owned by US anklebiters?”

But the best bit here is what their Virus would do. Apparently one of the functions was it “will cause an acceleration of clocks to the year 2000”, YES, they used the millennium bug as a threat… ohhhh, no ANYTHING BUT THAT. It just goes to show how much fear and frenzy was whipped up concerning the Y2k critter, which as we know, actually did very little.

Popping back to 27th May and we visit the Jurassic Park: Lost World promotional site. Now here’s a back by the originally named “hackers” which was up for 12 hours, just 4 days as the movie opened. Now if this was for the original film, then I’d be upset, but this is the Lost World… so the sentiment is entirely justified.

14th November 1997 and it’s the turn of the Spice Girls, or at least the Spice World page of their website. Essentially this is a hack to plee for them to stop making music, courtesy of Team CodeZero. I don’t know about you, but I’m quite partial to some SPICE.

OK, so how about something a little more serious. A website which you might think would have the highest security possible and therefore be completely “unhackable”… Well hello there US Army. The day is Sunday 8th March 1998, and those sly little dogs the No|d Crew have been hard at work hacking three separate United States Army servers. They took little time in promoting how incredible their hack had been.

“This is were it happens. Where some of the most advanced U.S. Army software is developed. This hack is once again proving that any network no matter how large is exploitable.”.. I like your jib NOID.

The aim of this hack seems to be to actually alert the public about how exploitable these pages are, and potentially how easy it is to get at sensitive information. It wasn’t up for long, but to make sure they got the point across, the next day they went after the US Navy, detailing their views on how, well, crap the government is at keeping their sh*t secure.

I guess the person they really should have been talking to was Clinton….. if he wasn’t too occupied that is. Welcome to, hacked by Magic FX on the 5th March 1999.

The original isn’t even a proper site. It’s more of a holding page, registered on behalf of Ms. Lewinsky. However, she never took up the offer to use it and explain her story, so it was hacked to this…

This was right after Ms. Lewinsky had informed an entire nation, well actually, the world, that the President’s wife “couldn’t do it for him”. Here then we have a fervid supporter of, well, decency I guess, because both Lewinskey and Clinton are given are thorough telling off in the following paragraphs…

Jurassic Park The Duck World
“The Duck World Jurassic Pond”

“The whole situation makes me sick. What has happened to this country? The president is supposed to be a role model for the youth of america and what does he do?”…. if you ask me, we need to bring this kind of hacking back. Now people just put out Youtube videos, or send out a tweet to share there feelings. Back in the 90s, you had to hack a god damn website to tell the world what you thought. You had to know what you were doing. At the very least, it ensured those who wanted to be heard, learnt some technical skills along the way.

Oh, incidentally, the same day was also hacked. Similar theme.

Which brings me onto the final hack for this episode. Occuring on the 4th April 1999, and spread across several famous domains, including Playboy, Sprint, Yellow Pages, Sony Music and even Yep, I know what you’re thinking. Not hornyrob. But when you’re as horny as Rob apparently was, web security has a tendency to slide.

The replacement is this site featuring a UK flag, emblazoned with “Yorkshire Posse”, big ups mate! But the main theme is explained here…

“As you read this, the RCMP, NASA and the FBI are persecuting a man in Sudbury, Ontario with 99 criminal charges. Just what exactly did he do?… Well, Read on and be skooled!”

This is the cum-uppence for Jason Mewhiney, for apparently defacing the NASA web page? You remember. It appears the Yorkshire Posse are making a declaration of war agianst all who would challenge the freedom of Canadians with such ludicrous actions! We have broken into your phone companies, your breweries, everything you hold sacred!

Wait a second… breweries. These lads are making a serious political statement and they’re off for a slash up. You can tell they’re from Yorkshire.

Anyway, that’s enough hacking for now. It feels like hacking sites in this way is a past-time we’ve let go of. A way of life that we’ve replaced with social media and shouting into a void. It’s a shame, but at least we can look back and re-live it through the magic of Youtube. Maybe if we had that in the 90s, things would have been very different. I mean, for the one, the buffering times and quality would have been utterly disastrous….

If you liked this video, please let me know by thumbing up or down, and depending on the outcome, we can look at some more top internet hacks of the 90s. There’s certainly plenty more to see, let me tell you.

Although a lot of it, you really, really won’t want to.

Thanks for watching, have a great evening.

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