back to article Landmark computer hacking archive deposited at TNMOC

An archive that tells the story of how the 1980s hack of Prince Philip’s mailbox led to UK anti-hacking legislation has been deposited at The National Museum of Computing (TNMOC). Robert Schifreen, the "white hat" at the centre of the 1980s controversy, compiled the archive, which details Schifreen’s two-year-long legal …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "In 1985, the internet did not exist"

    U shure ?

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge

      Re: "In 1985, the internet did not exist"

      For mere mortals outside Academia and the relevant industries it indeed didn't. Pipex was the first commercial Internet provider in the UK, in 1991.

      1. Hey Nonny Nonny Mouse

        Re: "In 1985, the internet did not exist"

        You sure about that?

        I remember accessing a shell using dialup with a company calling itself 'The Direct Connection' before Pipex.

      2. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

        Re: "In 1985, the internet did not exist"

        I'm still on a converted Pipex account, which I got in 1994 when I arrived in the UK. 28k modem in those days.

        Unfortunately, via several buy-outs, my Pipex account is now with Talk-Talk.. Bummer.

        Just loading their goddam personal home/config page is a nightmare (if you use noscript you can see why). They pretend to be busy looking up your details while they upload hundreds of trackers to your browser. And then you have to say no thanks to offers, just to try to check your own account. Hate em.

    2. Cynical Observer
      Thumb Up

      Re: "In 1985, the internet did not exist"

      From Brief History of the Internet

      Thus, by 1985, Internet was already well established as a technology supporting a broad community of researchers and developers, and was beginning to be used by other communities for daily computer communications. Electronic mail was being used broadly across several communities, often with different systems, but interconnection between different mail systems was demonstrating the utility of broad based electronic communications between people.

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge

        Re: "In 1985, the internet did not exist"

        The context, dear Cynical Observer, was accessing a central Prestel host in 1985. .

        From Brief History of the Internet

        Which happens to describe, for the year in question, the situation in the US. Apart from that, from being able to exchange mail and Usenet news and perhaps even access the odd ftp site and such, doesn't necessarily follow that it would be easier to get into the Prestel system that way instead of connecting via dialup more or less directly.

    3. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: "In 1985, the internet did not exist"

      I first used the Internet in 1987, and it certainly existed before then.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Or "the NMOC", as sensible people call it.

    1. nkuk

      Re: "TNMOC"

      TNMOC is the correct and official name, NMOC is something else, National Maritime Operations Centre.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "TNMOC"

        Yes, it is the official acronym.

        But it is still silly of them to include "The" in it.

  3. heyrick Silver badge

    Available there, to bona fide researchers

    It's 2016, why has this not been digitised and put online? Any why is it restricted? Surely even modern outfits could learn some lessons from this. It might be old, but sometimes so are the mistakes made.

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: Available there, to bona fide researchers

      Its hardly a hacking archive, more like the story of one incident , with associated paper work , albeit an early and significant one. The guy must be clearing his loft out, but like you say , just scan the lot and put it online.

      I doubt theres anything relevent researchers today could learn from 80s hacking techniques that they dont already know. Times were different , passwords were default , management were clueless , data protection meant nothing , hacking was a sport ,not a robbery like it is now.

      For more fascinating stories of pre internet cyber frontier shenanigans I highly recommend 2 books:

      "The Hacker Crackdown", by Bruce Sterling

      "Cyberpunk - digital outlaws" (or something) by katie something and some other guy.

      The latter features 3 segments of internet dark ages legends




      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Available there, to bona fide researchers

        "I doubt theres anything relevent researchers today could learn from 80s hacking techniques that they dont already know. Times were different , passwords were default , management were clueless , data protection meant nothing ,"


        I'd also recommend 'The Hackers Handbook' by Hugo Cornwall (which includes a summary of this hack)

    2. Ian 55

      Re: Available there, to bona fide researchers

      At least some of it has been digitised.

      Somewhere I have a CD-ROM of stuff about it from one of the pair, thanks to an offer by they made on cix.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh boy

    Are those two still dining out on that hoary old tale?

    1. Montreal Sean

      Re: Oh boy

      Only one of them still is.

  5. Rodrigo Valenzuela

    "...and giving us an insight into what now seems a very strange world in which computer security was not treated very seriously".

    Are you sure we are no still there?


  6. Aodhhan

    The Internnet 1980s

    I still remember 80s Internet well!

    Well.. it didn't exist anywhere like it is today, but it was still available to the general public.. primarily for email only. There were quite a few companies which had access to the Internet of this era who created email and file transfer frontend applications to use and would charge a monthly fee. CompuServe being a big one at the time.

    Then there were companies who had their mainframes available to anyone who knew their phone number or could find it using a war dialer.

    Security was nothing like it is today. Odd thing though, on many systems passwords given out at the time could not be changed. These passwords were often complex, but only 8-10 characters. If you could change it, you can imagine what people changed it to.

    Accessing a system via frontend application you could only guess a few times. If you came in via telnet, a lot of systems let you guess forever. It really didn't take long to brute force or use dictionary attacks to gain access.

  7. Anonymous Vulture

    Relic of an age when security wasn’t treated seriously

    El Reg jests! I demand my yearly free keyboard - this one is no longer fit for purpose.

    I realize I am preaching to the choir, but security still is not treated seriously. Until general societal standards undergo the tectonic shift to penalize those who through conscious choice or negligence inflict damage on customers or the general public, security will not be treated seriously.

    Passing laws that penalize those who actually perform white hat work does not count.

    I would go on but Trevor did a much better job a little under a year ago .

  8. cbars

    "the police were quite happy that I was acquitted as it demonstrated the need for a computer hacking act of some sort."

    I would argue the being acquitted of a crime does not demonstrate the need for a new law, it demonstrates that you can't be proven guilty of an existing crime.

    Politicians love imprecise language in laws, so I'd also argue that Computer Misuse should distinguish "malicious access" to unauthorised access. We'd be in a better situation.

    1. cbars

      Thanks for the thumb down without articulating why what I've said is not constructive. I didn't swear, or make an outlandish claim (I think...).

      Now I'll forever wonder why someone thinks that prosecuting white hats is the correct course of action, and I won't know why.

      Fuck You

    2. John Hughes

      How do you prove malice?

      1. cbars

        With difficulty, but that was kind of the joke about imprecise language. The disclosure of a vulnerability to the affected party would clearly demonstrate the lack of malice; IANAL, but that was the intention of my post.

  9. jerryboam

    The 1980s - Bulletin Boards

    Yep I was on the internet (arpanet) during the 80's and regularly connected to bulletin boards (like a website but text only and only I visitor at a time. I bought the top modem available and downloaded software at stupidly slow speed, I remember a 14K app (app!) for the Commodore 64 taking over an hour to download using a BT landline during the day, I don't remember the cost but after contacting the boards directly they agreed to send stuff to me on floppy (as long as I promised to return them, ah innocent happy days).

    When I finally got an AOL (spits) account and accessed the net proper my PC was not good enough to resolve the graphics and so I spent £650 on a brand new windows 3.1 box and here I am now (that box is beside me running win XP very slowly).

  10. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

    Thinking back, I realise I had internet access before internet providers as such existed. I dialled in to work with a modem to retrieve email. The 3B2 at the workplace dialled regularly some node (a University I think) to deliver and fetch email. It wasn't very interactive though. But email worked fine in those early days (ca 1985).

  11. Peter 39

    "The Internet"

    There were certainly networks available before "the Internet" and it's often difficult to differentiate the two.

    Most here think of "the Internet", lately retitled "the internet" as the descendant of the ARPA/DARPAnet which was certainly available in the 80's but only for non-commercial access. CompuServe wasn't part of that in those days, but used other networks AFAIK (as did many other services, including AOL).

  12. hapticz

    Local Bulletin Boards

    circa 1980-1990, the usa was introduced to local dialup bulletin board's, often managed and run by local radio amateurs who did have enough smarts to know what they were capable of. some, very few, had actual high speed telco lines into the skeletal frame work of the national 'grid' that was indeed the internet that was used by major corporations, universities and fragments of the government. protocols were yet to be written to establish any real ability to 'surf', and actual sites were ... well pretty far and few between. even in So California (the "Epiecenter' of Al Gores invention /s) it was limited to aerospace, university and research primarily. Land lines (the wires up on the telephone poles) with actual rotary dial phones ruled the day. Then stuff just took off as the greedy providers realized the scope and scale of the profits that were to be made. Even then, the BBS smart ass users were busy subverting the subscription and payment systems, stealing what they could. (all in the name of being as economical as they claimed to be).

  13. Picky
    Black Helicopters

    Another good book

  14. hapticz

    my father worked for the USA Bell Telephone System (now AT&T) from 1930 to retirement in the 1970s.

    he took me to work with him on weekends to keep me away from the 'bad elements' in our neighborhood. in the late 1950's, he showed me the punched tape read/writers they used to communicate the various office information among each, using existing copper lines and microwave links. it was simple enough for even an 8 year old to understand. not a full blown 'net', but even then, the wizards in New Jersy were well aware of the use of widespread, standardized methods of sharing information. commercial investment required tons of money to buy and use this system, but only when CHEAP AFFORDABLE computers were here could the internet become a public reality, and an opportunity for ISP's to start gouging the entire population.

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