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Introduction to Hacker Wargaming (with Unix type operating systems)


Why Setting up your own LAN Is the Best Way to become an Uberhacker

     OK, so you want to become more than a script kiddie?  So do I.  Here's what the best hackers I know say was their route to the top: wargaming on their own and friends' LANs (local area networks).  This is a study technique used by the kind of people who can slide through computer systems like ghosts wafting through walls. 

     "Wait! Wait!" some of you are saying.  "I thought hackers learn by illegally breaking into the computers of strangers!" True, plenty of people you meet on hacker mailing lists and on IRC make out like they are computer security experts by day and computer criminals by night.  There even are 
people who have been convicted of computer crimes who work as security experts.  These guys probably are telling you the truth when they say they were foolish enough to learn their trade by committing crime. 

     However, crime often leads to prison, and prison is no fun.  Guess what happens when bad breath cellmate "Bubba" decides you're cute?  Guess what happens when your name is Kevin Mitnik and Hollywood makes a movie full of lies about you? Besides, when you break into a computer illegally, you miss out on the most fun part, which is being the guy who is fighting back! 

     So ... are you ready to learn about breaking into and defending computers the way the Uberhackers do it? Ready to learn how to run your own hacker wargames? 

     You can get started with newbie wargaming by reading the The Dread GTMHH on Cracking. This will give you a good start.  But this approach has some problems -- such as you only learn newbie stuff, and strangers might find your vulnerable home computer connected to the Internet -- and do terrible things to it. 

     If you want a wargaming technique that will take you all the way to the top, you need to set up a local area network in your home, and get your friends to set up networks, too.  Then you can experiment with configuring firewalls and proxy servers, getting several computers with different  operating systems working together, and trying out LAN networking techniques such as Netware, Microsoft Network, and TCP/IP; and much more.  You can increase your fun by trading accounts on your network for accounts on your friends' LANs and get to freely experiment with many LANs. 

Newbie note: If you are a kid, the FIRST thing you will probably want to do is make sure your parents understand why hacker wargaming will make you rich and famous instead of in jail and infamous. Here's how Paradox@kpservices.com won over his parents.

    "I wrote to you a while ago about how to get my parents to accept  the fact of their son being a white-hat hacker... You gave me the  advice to show them your article in the October issue of  Scientific American (which was a masterpiece, btw) and take it  from there.  Right after my dad read it ... All was well!  Then,  by coincidence, my best friend's Win95 box on a vulnerable cable  connection was invaded as part of a dumb IRC war he had going  on...  The intruders... trashed my friend's box by using Back  Orifice and then proceeded to mess with the server our business  page was on (along with our other e-mail addresses). My parents ... are now security paranoid and want me to find out as much as I can about computer security.  My Aunt (a Sun Microsystems  employee) is getting me an Ultra 5  SPARC Workstation for  Christmas too!  My parents are also buying me a copy of Windows NT  and System Commander so I can run Linux too!  I'm also going to  get a (secure) cable connection to the workstation in my room. 


What Kind of Hardware you Will Need -- and How to Get it Cheap

     "Wait! Wait!" some guys are saying.  "I'm not rich enough to build my own  hacker research laboratory!"  Guess what, you can put together a really  impressive lab for only a few hundred dollars. 
     Have you visited the web page of our Wargame computer 
http://koan.happyhacker.org?  The Web pages downloaded pretty fast, right?  Did you get into the guest account and make merry with all the other guys  who had shells on koan?  (Hint: the password for the guest account is really  stupid. Even a stupid person can guess it.) Did you give the netstat command  and see how many people were browsing its Web sites, making ftp connections  and logged into shells all at once? Did you know that koan is a mere 75 Mhz  486 box? 

Koan is so powerful because it runs FreeBSD, a Unix type of operating system, instead of Windows. (The RAM disk for the temp directory helps, too:) Almost any Unix type operating system can take an ancient Intel-type computer and make it run fast!  The 200th fastest supercomputer in the world is a bunch of PCs running Linux and hooked together in parallel, in  operation at Los Alamos National Laboratories. 

     You can get a 75 Mhz PC, or even faster ones, for almost nothing.  Because they are so common, you can find cheap used ones in the classified ads in the local paper, or buy them from computer stores that specialize in used equipment.  Then install Unix type operating systems on them. 

     Or, for major fun, buy ancient workstation computers.  You will rarely see them for sale in the classified ads of newspapers.  However, you can often pick them up at auctions.  Of course you need to know a thing or two about the hardware you buy at auctions, because usually you won't get to try them out before bidding on them.  Many people who buy workstations at auctions figure most of them have things wrong with them.  So they buy a bunch of them and then use parts from some of them to fix the others. 

      You would be surprised by what an ancient Sun can do.  A Sun SPARC workstation running at 25 Mhz is surprisingly fast for the same reason a 25 Mhz PC is fast running some sort of Unix -- it's the Unix that makes it fast!  An additional boost comes from the SCPARC CPU not being a bottleneck the way Intel CPUs (used in home PCs) do.  This means that, if you want to have many simultaneous users, for example if you want to give shell accounts to many users, a Sun should be faster than a PC with an equivalent clock speed. 

     If you don't feel you have the hardware expertise to piece together a cheap Sun workstation yourself, by paying a little bit more you can buy them from resellers who get them at auctions.  If you can find a local auction that sells workstations, you best bet may be to go to the auction and introduce yourself to the people you see buying hardware that you want to own.  They will probably be willing to resell to you as soon as they get the equipment working. 

     If you can't find a cheap place to buy workstations nearby, there are two places in Albuquerque where you can get refurbished workstations: http://nmol.com/users/jcents (email jcents@nmol.com); or email Jake Garcia at jakeg@rt66.com.  They pick them up at auctions of used equipment from places such as Sandia National Laboratories, where people design nuclear 
weapons and nanomachinery.  Sorry, you won't find classified data left behind on these workstations! 

     Your next step in getting ready to set up your hacker laboratory is the networking equipment.  How do you get your computers talking to each other? For that I recommend a 10BaseT Ethernet.  This is probably the easiest network you can set up. 

     The hardware you will need for an Ethernet will consist of a hub, an Ethernet device for each computer you plan to network together, and either Category 3 or Category 5 Ethernet cables.  The Ethernet cables look like oversized phone cables. 

     You can usually find a used hub for $20 or so at a used computer store. Workstations usually have an Ethernet device of some sort already built into them. However, look to see whether yours has a connector on the back that looks like a slightly oversized phone jack.  If it does, great.  If instead your workstation only has a connector that looks like what you use for a  cable TV (round with a wire in the center), and next to it a connector that looks sort of like the serial port on the back of your PC, you have a slight problem.  You will need to buy an AUI to 10Base-T transceiver.  It is a little box with LEDs on it which hooks on one side to the thing that looks like a serial port, and on the other side has a thing that looks like a big phone jack.  These are somewhat hard to find, and cost about $30 new.  The electronic parts supplier Hamilton Hallmark sells them, as do many other electronics parts suppliers.  You rarely will find these transceivers in computer stores because the average consumer doesn't run around networking  old Unix workstations. 

    Old routers usually also need AUX to 10Base-T transcievers.

     For PCs you usually need to buy an Ethernet card.  Even new, you can buy one for only $20.  The cabling costs very little, and can often be gotten for free if you pay a visit to an office building that is being renovated. I've gotten several hundred feet of Cat3 cable that way. 

     Once you have gotten this far, you have all the hardware you need for your hacker laboratory. 

How to Get Operating System Software Cheap

     Your next problem will be operating system software.  One problem with buying old Unix workstations is that they generally have old operating systems for which there are many exploit programs floating around the Internet.  While it may be fun for a while proving to yourself that within seconds you can break into these old boxes, pretty soon this will get boring.  You will get the craving to upgrade to the latest versions of these operating systems. 

    This is where you may get to faint, when you find out what this costs. There are exceptions, however. 

     My favorite kind of used workstations is Suns.  The reason I like old Suns is that you can either run them using whatever operating system it came with (either Sun OS or Solaris, which will probably be an old version and easy to break into) or you can upgrade cheaply to the latest version of Solaris, to Sun Linux, or Sun OpenBSD.  Even a SPARC 1 can run the latest versions of  all of these! To get the latest Solaris for almost nothing, see http://www.sun.com/developers/solarispromo.html.  This offer includes the manuals as well as a set of installation CDs. Or, you can get a version of Linux that runs on Sun workstations (Red Hat) at http://www.redhat.com, or of OpenBSD from http://www.openBSD.org

     For PCs, your best bet for cheap Unix, if you are a total beginner, is Red Hat.  It is easy to install and tech support is great.  There are at least two other Linux distributions that beginners find easy to use: Slackware 3.5 (http://www.cdrom.com) and Debian (http://www.debian.com).  While they are a bit harder to install, they are easier to make secure. 

     You can also get a version of Solaris that will run on PCs (see above URL).  If Linux is new to you, check out http://sunsite.unc.edu/mdw/ldp.html for lots of beginner information. Or, start out with Trinux, at http://www.trinux.org, for a beginner's version that doesn't require you to  repartition your hard disk (which the other Linuxes do). 

     If you are already a power user of Linux, and want to build a really secure LAN, you may wish to move up to either FreeBSD (http://www.freebsd.org or http://www.cdrom.com) or Open BSD (http://www.openbsd.org).  These operating systems, along with Solaris 2.6 and above, are designed to resist most of the buffer overflows that are the basis of many break-in techniques.  These BSD operating systems are more difficult to install, however. 

     I wish I could tell you how to get a cheap version of Windows NT Server 4.0. However, the only way I know of is not exactly legal.  You may be able to obtain a free beta copy of Windows NT 5.0, however -- keep checking out the Microsoft Web site (http://www.microsoft.com) for opportunities. 

     How about LAN software?  If you have decided to work with Windows only, and don't plan on connecting your LAN to the Internet, all you have to do is cable each computer to your hub, and point and click your way through networking. As for Novell Netware -- sorry, I don't know of a cheap way to get it. 

     If you are serious about hacking, you will be connecting several different operating systems together on your LAN.  For this I recommend using TCP/IP and making one of your computers a gateway to the Internet.  This is a little harder than "Network Neighborhood" style networking.  I know that because -- you will be shocked to hear this -- I am living proof that it is easy to make mistakes when setting up a TCP/IP network.  Imagine that!  So I'm going to devote the next Guide in this series to how to set up a LAN with an Internet gateway and both Windows and Unix boxes on it using TCP/IP. Maybe I can figure out how to explain it so it will be easier for you than 
it was for me. 

Thanks to keydet89@yahoo.com for reviewing and contributing to this Guide. 

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