The real reason for the crash

Late-breaking news: Federal investigators have revealed that yesterdays
record drop in the stock market was apparently triggered by two
high-school students operating out of a basement somewhere in Western
Pennsylvania. The names of the suspects, both minors, have not been
released. Arrest warrants have allegedly been issued, but the student
hackers apparently have not yet been apprehended. A spokesman for the
FBI refused to comment on the rumor that the two had managed to leave
the country carrying millions of dollars in cash and gold.

Just after the close of stock trading on Monday, the Washington Post
received a call from two individuals who claimed to be the stock market
hackers. The callers explained that they have been breaking into the
computer systems of major brokerage houses for several months,
adjusting the price of various stocks. This was done by telephone,
using a Macintosh personal computer and, later, a Perq workstation that
the pair had retrieved from a dumpster at CMU. The callers claim that
they finally cracked security on the New York Stock Exchanges new
supercomputer about two weeks ago.

It was ridiculously easy, said one of the hackers, who identified
himself only as Captain Weenie. The password was Scrooge. What
turkeys! After we bounced a few stocks, they got suspicious and changed
the password, but it was too late. We had Trojan horses planted all
over that system by the time they got wind of us. We were just playing
around, trying to keep ahead of them, and making some pocket money on
the side. We had a big pile of gold hidden in this hollow tree. We
joked about buying a Cray with it, but we didnt have enough yet. You
cant just buy the machine and put it in the basement, and my mother
would have been pretty suspicious if we put up a big air-conditioned
building in the back yard. The projection TV was bad enough–we told
her we did some programming for the guy who owned the store. Anyway,
today the (expletive deleted) Perq went crazy and we decided that we had
better go underground in a hurry.

The two went on to explain that the record-breaking plunge in stock
prices was triggered unintentionally when faulty floating-point
microcode on the Perq put the machine into an infinite loop in the
middle of a routine that selected a stock at random and issued bogus
sell orders. By the time the machines plug was pulled, nervous
investors had noticed the dramatic downward trend and had begun to sell
off their own holdings. The market was probably going to crash
anyway, one of the callers claimed, but I wish they had debugged that

Professor Douglas Tygar of Carnegie-Mellon University, an expert on
computer security, has been summoned to the White House for urgent
consultation on how such break-ins can be prevented in the future. As
he was boarding the private jet at Greater Pittsburgh Airport, Tygar was
heard to comment that the root password for the stock exchanges main
computer should have been at least eight characters long, and probably
should not have been the name of a comic book character. Tygar denied
rumors that he had accepted the post of Secretary of the Treasury,
claiming that he would rather be director of the National Security

> 20-Oct-87 01:48 Scott E. Fahlman Stock Market
> From: Scott E. Fahlman <Fahlman@C.CS.CMU.EDU>

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