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The Standard
Article:  German über-Hacker Dies
By Boris Groendahl - Berlin Bureau Chief
Jul 30 2001 10:09 AM PDT

The founder of the Chaos Computer Club, who instigated the first famous hack,
dies from a stroke he suffered in May.
    The year is 1981. IBM still has to introduce its first Personal
Computer. The movie "WarGames" and Steven Levy’s book "Hackers," which will
make the self-description of alternative computer nerds a household name in
the U.S, are two years away. In Western Berlin, in the offices of the
left-wing daily "die tageszeitung," fringe computer hobbyists are sitting at
a conference table, sharing their knowledge of early computers and computer
networks. They followed the call of Wau Holland, a bearded, balding man in
dungarees who looks more like an eco-warrior than an electronics enthusiast.
The assembled group is about to found the Chaos Computer Club (CCC) and go
down in computing history. Twenty years later, the CCC now has to continue
without its honorary president Wau Holland, also known as Herwart
Holland-Moritz. Holland suffered a stroke in late May and fell into a coma;
he died Sunday morning, age 49. Read today, Holland’s editorial that appeared
in the first issue of CCC’s magazine "Datenschleuder" (roughly: "data sling")
back in 1984 appears almost visionary. For him and for the CCC, the computer
was already not merely a technology but "the most important new medium." He
held that "all existing media will be increasingly networked through
computers, a networking which creates a new quality of media." The first and
foremost goal of the hackers’ association was to promote this new medium, by
"distributing wiring diagrams and kits for cheap and universal modems." What
should have earned the CCC a medal for the advancement of the information
society, however, got him in conflict with the arcane German telecom law. At
the time, as Holland remembered later, "the prolongation of a telephone cable
was considered worse than setting off an atomic explosion." Involving
everybody, not just big government and big business, into the information
revolution, ways always Holland’s and the CCC’s main goal. Its first famous
hack was performed 1984 on Germany’s first online service Btx, an atavistic
network operated by the German postal service. The CCC found a security hole
in the network, but the postal service didn’t react to the warning. So
Holland and his colleague Steffen Wernéry logged in, masquerading as a German
savings bank, and downloaded their own billable Btx page all night long. When
the tab got to 134,000 deutschmarks, they stopped the program and called
German TV – Btx had its first scandal only months after its launch, and it
wouldn’t recover for more than a decade. The Btx hack, as it became known
later, would become a pattern for every CCC action. Holland, in particular,
was at least as media-savvy as he as he was computer literate. Whenever the
CCC hacked into regions he wasn’t supposed to see, he sought protection by
seeking public attention, and used them to warn of weak security and
insufficient data protection. Though only a few of Wau’s CCC comrades shared
his political background – most joined the club as regular electronics nerds
– he shaped the German hackers’ association into a unique institution,
incomparable with the U.S. hacker scene. The CCC is different from both the
technology-oriented Homebrew Computer Club that gave birth to the PC in the
'70s, and the cracker gangs that dominated media attention in the early '90s.
Holland taught his fellow CCCers to never hack for profit, to always be open
about what they were up to, and to fight for an open information society. He
was deeply embarrassed when some CCCers sold their discoveries from within
the U.S. military computer network to the KGB. This incident and the
subsequent discussions in the club brought the next generation to the CCC’s
helm. While the new leadership has a less strict moralistic, more postmodern
sense of hacking, it remains true to the CCC’s political objectives. Holland
became the club’s honorary president. Under his stewardship, the CCC gained
considerable status in German politics, with its speakers invited by the
parliament, telecoms firms, banks and even the secret service.

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