[mailhist-discuss] Question #2 for my story

Suzanne Johnson fuhn at pobox.com
Sun Mar 22 12:25:09 PDT 2015


You are not the only one without an AOL account.  The CDs were 
everywhere, but you did need to live close to one of their dial-ups in 
order to not incur heavy long distance phone charges for dialing in.  My 
mother lived near San Antonio, TX and a call to the closest number was 
long distance.  Fortunately, Local ISPs were springing up and helped 
folks solve this problem in many parts of the country. My mother was a 
happy user of Eudora as her mail program for many years on her local ISP 
(who sold pool chemicals out of the same shed housing the the modem racks).

The other side of it, depending on where the characters lived, would be 
the folks who lived near Silicon Valley.  They might be using an early 
stage of Metricom's Ricochet network.
See:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ricochet_%28Internet_service%29

As for a benevolent hacker who might be able to know how to accomplish 
this type of hacking, rather than an IT person, an engineer supporting 
an early CSNET installation might be more knowledgeable.    Though given 
that we are talking about a husband and wife, it still might be more 
likely that one would know, or could guess the other's password...and 
work directly on the account in that way.  This scenario would also 
require someone who really knew AOL mail internals from the '94 
timeframe to flesh out.

   --Suzanne



On 3/22/15 10:46 AM, Jack Haverty wrote:
> On 03/20/2015 10:08 AM, Linda Hess wrote:
>> Does anyone on the list know if it would be possible for someone to
>> hack the account and redirect emails to a specific person so they
>> don't get through?
> Once you allow the existence of a benevolent hacker, almost anything was
> possible.  The hacker could access the mail server system as
> administrator/developer, and do all sorts of mischief.   So the short
> answer is "Yes."
>
> The "redirect email for one specific addressee" scenario depends on the
> details of the particular email system.   In the system I built (back in
> the mid 70s) it would have been straightforward to create such behavior.
>    In fact, that system had an annoying tendency to do such things on its
> own, due to the bugs that I never managed to annihilate.   No hacker
> needed...
>
> Of course, getting into a system as admin/developer probably required a
> bit of work to get a password.  But systems were not always well
> protected in those days - the focus was on just getting them to work at
> all.   Given the stream of news stories about large systems and theft of
> sensitive data, it seems that some systems aren't well enough protected
> even today.
>
> You'd have to find someone familiar with the internals of AOL in those
> days to find out how easy it was to hack into AOL back then to do any
> specific mischief.  AOL is probably the most memorable public mail
> service from the early 90s, as they carpeted the planet with CDROMs.
> But they still exist, and might not appreciate the negative publicity.
>
> I don't think I ever had an AOL account (am I the only one?), but I had
> a Compuserve account back in the late 80s, as well as an MCIMail account
> (when was that Dave...?)   Also, by then there were commercial spinoffs
> from the NSF Internet efforts, providing service to the public.  One was
> PSI (Performance Systems International), which had a pretty large footprint.
>
> In addition to black-holing selected email, much other mischief was
> straightforward.  E.G., sending an email which looked like it came from
> someone else, or even intercepting an email, changing its contents, and
> letting it then continue on to the recipient.   Lots of interesting
> story elements there...
>
> HTH,
> /Jack Haverty
>
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