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Snively '11

Apr 24, 2009

Practice Safe Hacking

Posted in: Life & Culture

Hacking at MIT is steeped in tradition and still occurs to this day. Hackers deploying any hack always subscribe to a strict code of ethics. This code of ethics is:

# Be subtle. Don't leave evidence that you were there.
# Always leave things as you found them, or better.
# Leave no permanent damage, both during hacks and while hacking.
# Don't steal anything. If you must borrow something, always return it-- perhaps even leave a note saying when it will be returned.
# Brute force is the last resort of the incompetent.
# Sign-ins should not be seen by the general public. Sign-ins exhibit one's pride in having found a location. Most hackers aren't proud of discovering Lobby 7.
# Don't drink and hack. Enough said.
# Don't drop things (without a ground crew).
# Don't hack alone.
# Above all, exercise common sense

There was a hack today! Like any hack, the code of ethics was strictly followed (as per usual) with the possible exception of the last one, but I'll let you be the judge of that. This morning I woke up and saw this in my inbox:


"A large black fake bomb made from concrete appeared on Kresge Oval on 4/24/09 adorned with the letters 'DTYD', presumably to advertise the party of the same name put on by the Burton Third Bombers living group the following day."

Boston has had its fair share of bomb issues, so when I saw this picture all sorts of little alarm bells went off in my head. Surely, if LEDs freak out the police, a huge concrete, 600 lb fake bomb would make them go insane. It did.

Turns out the bomb squad wasn't so happy with a giant fake bomb and so they ended up using their own explosives to "detonate it," deem it inert, and then let MIT use a forklift to remove it.

This is one of those cases when, even if the ethics (most of them?) were followed, it still didn't work out exactly how it was intended. In the spirit of most hacks, though, it was rather impressive. How did hackers manage to get a 600 pound concrete sphere to Kresge anyway? So that's the excitement for the day. Giant fake bomb, bomb squad, forklift, and DTYD tonight. : )

Comments (Closed after 30 days to reduce spam)

ohh dear. That's really funny because I don't live in Boston.

Posted by: Kiwi on April 24, 2009

I disagree strongly that this hack followed all of the ethics. Planting a giant bomb made of concrete and rebar into the middle of a grassy field doesn't sound like "leave no permanent damage" to me.

Posted by: Paul on April 24, 2009

Excellent form of advertising(!)
Although perhaps the popo overreacted slightly...?

Posted by: 0 on April 24, 2009

More excellent publicity for MIT....wait til the Globe publishes its next issue...

Posted by: Laura on April 24, 2009

Oh, christ.

Posted by: Keri on April 24, 2009

with Keri on this one.

Posted by: Kim '13 on April 24, 2009

Makes you wonder what Schmiedl was doing, awake at this hour, photographing outside Kresge... (you can tell it's late because the street lamps are way overexposed). Must've been there shortly after they did it ...(or during).... hmm.

I'll stop there.

Posted by: Cam on April 24, 2009

@paul: if you think three 1/2" holes (due to the rebar) in a lawn is permanent damage.... it's not so different from aeration, which is done for the health of the grass.

Posted by: peter '12 on April 25, 2009

If a fraternity had tried this hack it would've been broken up, been forced to go dry for a year, or had some other ridiculous sanction foisted upon it.

Greek men look upon Burton Third with such disdain, and this is one of the reasons. Disruptions of rush, rigging Dormcon's (lack of) a Judcomm, etc., are more than enough reasons to get rid of the damn hall altogether.

Real classy, Burton Third. "we're like a fraternity," you say, when you steal freshmen's phones during rush to prevent them from checking out fraternities.

Fraternities hold themselves to a higher standard.

Posted by: from across the river on April 25, 2009

A great break from studying.

Posted by: Raff on April 25, 2009

@ across the river: Does holding yourself to a "higher standard" of behavior include ripping on another MIT living group (with no small amount of misinformed hyperbole) in a forum where you know lots of prefrosh will read it?

Whether they belong to an FSILG or a hall like Burton Third, most MIT students make it a point of etiquette not to talk trash about other living groups. Your comment makes Burton Third look bad, which is unfortunate, but since you seem to be speaking for all "Greek men," it also reflects poorly upon affiliated students, most of whom (in my experience, anyways) would never go on an MIT forum for prefrosh (who are a long way from deciding where they'll live at MIT) and write a negative comment like yours about another living group.

Posted by: Bomber '11 on April 25, 2009

He was the one who tipped off the Campus Police, who determined (MUCH BEFORE the Cambridge Police/Bomb Squad) that it was not in fact, a bomb.

Posted by: @ Cam on April 25, 2009


# Always leave things as you found them, or better.
# Leave no permanent damage, both during hacks and while hacking.


I'd say hacking fail

Posted by: MIT '11 on April 25, 2009

I agree with Bomber '11: the blogs should not be a forum for these sort of accusations. I am personally friends with a number of people on Burton Third, and while I don't always see eye-to-eye with them regarding their Rush procedures, I think it's a shame that this caused so much uproar.

Posted by: Paul on April 25, 2009

@MIT '11
I very much disagree. They left Kresge alone, it wasn't a complete sphere. The only damage they did was pushing some rebar into the grass. This is hardly permanent.

Posted by: Snively on April 25, 2009

Regardless, this is a very poor example of an "ethical" hack. The two words that come directly before "exercise common sense" are "ABOVE ALL." You can't just push it under the rug by saying, "oh, well maybe they didn't exactly follow ONE of the rules," especially when it's the single most important one.

The whole thing overall was in very poor taste and reflects poorly on the school as a whole. Two thumbs down from me.

Posted by: Laura on April 25, 2009

Ten bucks says MIT police crack down even harder on hackers because of this incident.

Posted by: On The Fence '13 on April 25, 2009

Although the hack was in bad taste, if someone wanted to plant a real bomb I dont think they would have let it remain so obvious to everyone else. The fact that the police went through all of that before they realized it wasnt real just seemed hilarious to me...but maybe I just have a twisted sense of humor.

Posted by: Mel '13 on April 25, 2009

What does "prefrosh" stand for, comming from a prefrosh.

Posted by: Stefan on April 26, 2009

@Stefan
? I don't know if there was a hidden message there, but:
frosh = freshman, pre = before... at present this means the prospective MIT class of 2013.

@Mel
I agree, but I suppose concerned citizens would prefer that the police make the effort to ensure that the "bomb" was indeed inert.

Posted by: JonTec '13 on April 26, 2009

I think the hack was misinterpreted. If you look at the other pictures the "bomb" never looked real. In addition to that the police were informed that it wasn't real before the bomb squad was called. I realize that the bomb squad has to go through the motions for every call they get but I doubt they ever thought it was real.

Also, I don't know why this post turned into a forum on people's opinion of Burton Third. Some of the accusations here are both unfair and false, in my opinion.

Posted by: from on campus on April 26, 2009

@Laura
Some might say that it is more the police who are at fault for not using common sense than the hackers themselves. Essentially, this is like the National Guard firing an anti-air missile at this hack:

http://hacks.mit.edu/Hacks/by_year/2008/dtyd_bomber/

While everyone appreciates the police erring on the side of caution, at some point you have to really just see their behavior as buffoonish. Not only was this hack obviously not a bomb, the police were told that it was fake. This sort of response to those circumstances is nothing short of idiotic.

Posted by: Wile E Coyote on April 26, 2009

I don't know who told you about Bombers taking peoples phones away. They didn't. And we went to frat rush events, if only for the free food.

Posted by: Bomber Frosh on April 27, 2009

I am quite surprised at "across the river"'s comments on the Bombers...being one myself, and having of course been a part of the entire REX/Rush experience my freshman year, I can vouch that I did not have my phone taken during the time, nor was I told anything negative about the fraternities. The only comment that was made was that the Bombers prefer to get freshmen who won't leave for the fraternities, because we value our floor culture so highly and don't want to lose our floormates. I hardly think that's negative, as it expresses no opinion on the fraternities, and indeed, no opinion on joining the fraternities...simply that we wish to preserve our tight-knit community.

Additionally, the belief that any fraternity would be harshly punished for the same hack is somewhat misguided. Since our living group is the "Burton Third Bombers" and our symbol is the cherry bomb with "BTB" written inside, our hack clearly had no malicious intent...it was not intended to alarm or cause disruption, only to advertise for what amounts to the most important event of the Bomber year. It was misguided of us to assume that the police would not be so quick to jump on the idea of a "bomb threat", but I don't believe we were out of line in our intent, and certainly not in our response to the situation.

I've found that the Bombers hold themselves to an extremely high standard...but we aren't afraid to have a bit of fun.

Posted by: Yet Another Bomber on April 27, 2009

"Oh my God, that thing just exploded! Why didn't you call the bomb squad???"

"Well the guy walking around taking pictures at 3 in the morning said it was fake!"

I mean come on.

Posted by: Laura on April 28, 2009

Laura, your deplorable attitude is the reason why we can't have nice things any more. Way to condense the issue to the point of absurdity.

What does it say about our Campus Police if _two hours_ /after/ they were *informed* of the presence of this hack, which prominently features the logo of a dorm tradition that has occured yearly for DECADES, they STILL call in the Cambridge bomb squad? It says to me that they are out of touch with the community they are supposed to protect and serve, and the traditions and culture thereof.

I'm not even remotely vexed at Cambridge at all. This was not Boston or Cambridge buffoonery, because when _another police department_ asks you to roll out the disposal robot, it's probably more urgent than from a random guy on the street. No, this was our very own CP.

I'm not a conspiracy theorist by nature, but this incident just seems so comical that I almost have to think it's an excuse by some higher-ups to gain another excuse to crack down on hacking.

The fact of the matter is that you cannot have a rule for every conceivable situation or plan for every contingency in life. Trying to do so is what has gotten us, the public, and the media into this position of hysteria and panic that is so prevalent today. In an ideal world, those who hold offices of service of any sort should demonstrate the absolute highest levels of rationality and judgement ability, instead of living their lives going "What if _____ ?!!!"

Posted by: disgruntled eastsider on April 28, 2009

If the CPs had just called Burton Third or the BC housemaster, the Bombers would have just come back and removed it. Or shown proof that it was just a solid hemisphere of concrete.

I'm slightly more concerned that security / house teams / CPs didn't notice this being constructed or moved to Kresge.

Posted by: amused alum on April 29, 2009

Wow, "deplorable"? I think I make a valid point, but feel free to overreact.

Trust me, I think the level of panic in society today is just as ridiculous as you think it is. But that still doesn't make it a good idea to talk about explosions in an airport or plan fake bombs in a public place. It makes it an even STUPIDER idea, because if you don't know what's coming after that...well...

Posted by: Laura on April 30, 2009

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