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Title
Well, it wasn't exactly a conversation. I dropped CandyMan some e-mail, naively suggesting that since we had accounts on the same access provider, we obviously both lived in the metropolitan Chicago area. Perhaps we could meet? I assured him of my willingness to keep his identity anonymous.

His ominous response: "It is out of the question that we meet face to face."

I felt a bit foolish. After all, he does act as the keeper of a great deal of controversial and threatened speech on bombs, drugs and fraud. In the aftermath of the Oklahoma bombing, his site and others became targets for censor-happy conservatives who feel "dangerous" topics should be taken off the 'net. Recently, America Online put its lawyers on his tail for distributing instructions on hacking into the online service's software for free access. They made him take the information off his site at http://www.mcs.net/~candyman/ home.html.
(Candyland has been permanently shut down due to a disagreement with the service provider. Stay tuned to underground-online for the new URL.)

So I asked for a telephone interview. I gave him my phone number and, like a gullible coed, I waited for a phone call that would never come. The next time I logged on, I had e-mail from the CandyMan, instructing me to write up my questions and send them to him in a file titled "Interview" so he could consider the merit of my questions.

Hmmm. I wasn't used to all this weighing, judging and qualification. But I wrote up a list and e-mailed it over. Apparently it hit the mark. CandyMan sent me a polite e-mail telling me that he would respond in essay format and that he would be willing to follow up with a UNIX talk session.

A co-worker whose idea of privacy is closing the miniblinds looked puzzled when I mentioned the terms and constraints of the interview. She said, "Have you offered to meet him in a church and speak through the screen of the confessional booth?" We smirked at the idea, but it made us think. I had shared quite a bit of information with this stranger and with many other faceless entities on the 'net. After reading the information on CandyLand, I started to wonder if perhaps those of us who are overly trusting are the real weirdos in this world.

When I spoke with him, CandyMan shattered any lingering stereotypes that I might have had of anarchists or hackers. He didn't deconstruct spelling or capitalization like many subversives do: I didn't even see a stray "d00d." He was polite, articulate and carefully considered his answers. We even had fun comparing ideas. This was no mad bomber or lawless freak -- just an intelligent, 19-year-old college student looking to keep information the way he likes it: absolutely free.

Internet Underground:
When did CandyLand begin? Did it have any incarnation prior to being a Web site?
CandyMan:
CandyLand started off originally as a WWW site and remains to this day solely a WWW site. It began Dec. 1, 1994, and has grown in content considerably since with contributors from around the world.
IU:
Do you receive a lot of encouragement and/or visitors?
CM:
The support I have received has been overwhelming. My home page is serving over 500,000 hits per week. The Underground page alone is accessed 35,000-plus times per week. These numbers are growing at record rates daily!
IU:
How separate is your CandyMan identity from your real life? Do your friends, family and acquaintances know about CandyLand, or is that 100 percent separate from your straight life?
CM:
The two are almost completely isolated. There are only a few friends who are aware of the services that I provide.
IU:
You say on your site that you're a student. Could I ask what you study?

CM:
Computer Science.
IU:
Yeah, I figured.
CM:
(indicates laughter)
IU:
Would you object to being labeled a hacker?
CM:
Yes...I would not define myself as such. I do have some knowledge of hacker methodology. But your hacking questions are best left to the "true hackers."

IU:
I was wondering if you could tell me a little about how you got interested in the topic. I sort of figure that people don't just become rabid about privacy for no reason.

CM:
Well, by "topic," you are meaning the whole underground content that I provide?

IU:
Yes. I mean, I'm confining my definition to you providing the forum and archiving things.

CM:
Before the Internet came into my view, I used to call up various local BBSs in the Chicago area. As I browsed through them, I noticed some advertising for other systems and noticed some forums that I began to read. As time went by, I grew interested in "underground" topics. Then later down the road, I began browsing various sites on the Internet. I liked the Internet because of the large forum, and the fact that any information can be provided to a large audience. I did notice there were some sites specializing in underground content, but it seemed none were really comprehensive on the issues.

I also believe that First Amendment rights are very important and in some cases should be...not challenged, exactly...but the right to freedom of speech and press should be exercised and defended. I believe that no information should be restricted no matter what the topic/content. In providing the information, I keep it alive, so to speak. I keep the information available in the "library" so that if individuals do wish to seek it out it, it is unrestricted and the individual can perform/apply his or her own morals or responsibility to the info they find in their searches.

IU:
What kind of resources (both time and money) do you spend on your site?
CM:
I spend approximately $125 per quarter. This cost relates to my phone bills and Internet account. Web access does not incur any extra fees. The time spent on the page varies from week to week. I would roughly estimate that two hours per week is invested into the site. That time estimate correlates to adding files, HTML improvements in design and functionality to the site. The time is also spent in filtering out the relevant e-mails received and replying with answers if possible or directing the individuals to the proper source.
IU:
What would you estimate is the percentage of positive to negative feedback that you get through e- mail?
CM:
Approximately one negative e-mail per 100 positive e-mails.

IU:
Do you feel that people appreciative of your endeavors are more likely to be online and those disapproving are probably ignorant of the 'net?
CM:
It is difficult to forecast or categorize the appreciativeness of the individuals on the net versus those who are ignorant of it because the net is a very diverse community. Furthermore, as time goes by, the number of individuals in who can be categorically called ignorant of the 'net will be slim to none due to the occurrence of more and more organizations, schools and companies being connected to the Internet. I would agree, though, that a large percentage of the disapprovals do seem to be fielded by individuals who are ignorant of the ways of the Internet community. Furthermore, I would attribute this disapproval to media hype. The fact that the different major media networks compete for ratings and will be as exploitative as possible to achieve the top ratings is nothing new.

The problem here is that they are no longer performing their duties in that they are to be reporting the news; rather they are involved in the action of distorting the news when they relay it to the mass audience. The most notable is their fascination with the 'net; 99 percent of the time they are reporting on something about which they have little or no knowledge. Most of the reporters think that AOL is the Internet. I would venture to say that nine out of 10 reports or specials relating to the 'net are negative, exploitative and distorted whose only purpose is to receive top ratings. The victims of this type of behavior are a misinformed general public, a persecuted 'net community, and the right to freedom of speech that is jeopardized through proposed Internet regulation.

IU:
Do you do a lot of interviews?
CM:
I do a few here and there, answering Q&As over e-mail but nothing big yet. When my site receives negative media, it's rare that I get an option to respond in the story. It's no surprise. They want control of the story.
IU:
Tell me your thoughts about the prevalent media reactions to sites dealing with controversial information. What kind of press do you get?
CM:
I believe the media is exploitative and distorting in presenting news, even more so when presenting news/stories related to the Internet. My site receives various press and reviews. Some in favor, others in the middle, others rejecting and others just citing the fact that the information is in existence on the Internet.
IU:
How did the Oklahoma bombing contribute to the public's image of the Internet?
CM:
It was during the Oklahoma bombing that certain politicians utilized the event as a springboard to attempt to pass their foolish legislation that would further restrict the individual's rights. One was the banning of all bomb plans, clearly a violation of our rights to freedom of speech/press.
Screen shot
IU:
Do you feel that the U.S. government is hypocritical?
CM:
Yes. I also strongly believe recent and past actions of the state and federal government are slowly leading the nation into a police state. There has been talk about eliminating search warrants, and there has been legislation to ban (censor) the reading, transferring, authoring or archiving of bomb-making plans. Actions of certain governmental agencies (not limited to the ATF in Waco, Texas) have shown the total abolishment of certain laws/guidelines that the various agencies are supposed to follow.
IU:
Do you believe that freedom of speech is of paramount importance? What might be more important?
CM:
I do firmly believe freedom of speech is of extreme importance as it is one of the founding rights upon which this country was based.
IU:
Do you feel that the American public is ignorant of their own right to free speech?
CM:
I don't perceive it that way, but I do feel that most Americans are unaware of the value that they assign to their right to free speech in situations in which their free speech is threatened or violated.
IU:
Is your right to disseminate information often questioned?
CM:
It is rarely questioned by the general visitors, though I do receive the very small percentage of negative e-mail which discourages my right to exercise free speech. The right to disseminate information is currently being questioned by individuals who are attempting to revoke my and other persons' right to disseminate information. Those individuals are the misinformed, heavily lobbied politicians that have seats in Congress.
IU:
Would you describe your personal views on the activities described on your site?
CM:
No comment.
IU:
Do you feel any urge within yourself to apply moral distinctions to the reality of bombing, revenge, eavesdropping, fraud, etc., even if you do believe in the fundamental propriety of making such information available? Or do you feel that the academic elements of the discussion are wholly separate from the acts they imply?
CM:
At times in the past, I have consciously struggled with these moral distinctions. After further reflection on the matter, I concluded that the institution of these morals would ultimately be the act of censorship, and furthermore the imposition of another individual's morals upon a mass audience. Moreover, morality is a realm that individuals themselves define and practice for themselves. Thus the defined morals of a central individual should not be imposed onto others.

Therefore, I have disseminated the information, thus allowing the individual's own values, responsibility, morals and actions govern over those who shall ultimately dictate whether the information is retrieved and whether it is used or misused. Utilizing the above set of rationales allows for the visitor to exercise his or her own individual responsibility and choose the path best suited for him or herself.

To an extent, I do perceive that academic elements of the discussion are indeed separate from the acts that they imply. The reason for this is that several of the plans found within the site offer scientific or social merit. Furthermore, the portions of information that are found within the site are at times studied by individuals, organizations or companies for enlightenment about the strategies of fraud that may be waged against them. Through their study, they are able to institute the proper counterstrategies to combat the fraud that they may or may not be subjected to.

IU:
Do you feel that certain forms of fraud that have no individual victim, but rather rip off a huge establishment, are in some way justified? I'm primarily asking about stuff like getting free phone calls. Can this be seen as a form of protest in action? Or is it more random, fun, lawless and trivial than all that?
CM:
This is a matter in which the case involved dictates the justification or lack thereof. Defrauding phone networks is not justified today, although the action of defrauding telephone networks would seem acceptable to a certain extent in situations where phone companies impose a virtual monopoly upon certain geographical borders and charge inflated fees to the general consumer. A few of the cases could be viewed as a protest against the large establishments. More often than not, though, the acts are committed for fun, technical knowledge and socializing long distance with friends while at the same time foiling the inflated fees of the service.
IU:
Even if you have no legal responsibility for acts committed after reading the files you archive, would you in any way feel a personal responsibility if someone came to harm from the knowledge?
CM:
No, I would feel no personal responsibility if an individual were to use or misuse the information found within the site. The reason for this is that there is an introductory note/warning clearly stating the danger to the maker/bystanders/victims. The visitors are urged to read through an introductory book of chemistry among other things. There is also a Safety file, which is the very first file in the listing of files. This file notifies individuals of the proper methods/tips an individual constructing an explosive device must follow. Plus there are several warnings/safety tips within most of the plans. If an individual is harmed from the construction of these explosives, it is due to their lack of safety procedures and ignorance of chemistry and pyrotechnics.
IU:
Do you find the idea that the files would spur someone to action ridiculous?
CM:
I do not find that idea ridiculous. I am unable to predict the effects that a file may evoke in a group of diverse individuals.
IU:
What's the most trafficked portion of your site? Drugs, bombs, hacking or what?
CM:
I believe it is the bomb page. (Checks stats; confirms that "boom.html" is indeed the most popular subpage on his site.)
IU:
So what did you think about the whole "Hack Netscape" thing?
CM:
No big deal...encryption routines like Netscape used could be cracked by anyone with the proper computing power and knowledge/guessing of their algorithm.
IU:
Do you think people have incorrect ideas about their own privacy? Do you think people should use things like Pretty Good Privacy more?
CM:
Yes. I believe there is no privacy. PGP is the best solution for today to protect files/e-mails... though that too, I believe, will one day be cracked. Though at this date the amount of computing power needed to crack it in our government is unavailable, I am told.
IU:
How safe is someone's e-mail, just sitting on their account?
CM:
Not very safe at all. The system administrator can read it or can do automated filtering to locate specific e-mail topics...anybody who is capable of hacking root on the system is also able to read your e- mail. Some systems may even be misconfigured or reconfigured by individuals with the wrong UNIX permissions on the directory structures in which your e-mail is stored.

Also, it is insecure due to the fact that all other information that is transmitted over the Internet is insecure. The fact is that the info is almost always transferred as unencrypted text in sending packets from site to site until it reaches its destination. If there happens to be a packet sniffer at any point along the path, then the info is compromised.

IU:
I think most people don't suspect that, and would find that very disturbing.
CM:
True.
IU: So what kind of computer do you work on?
CM:
I work on a 586/100MHz, 16mb RAM, 1gig hard drive, 17-inch monitor, 4x CD-ROM drive, with a 28.8k v.34 modem. I am currently using Windows 95.
IU:
What would bring CandyLand down? Governmental censorship? Would you keep finding a way to get the word out?
CM:
I am unable to foresee any situations or circumstances that would totally bring CandyLand down. Governmental censorship would most likely be an unenforceable joke. If censorship did pose a serious threat, then one would only need to upload a compressed copy of the content to a WWW site within another country and open shop over there where the domestic laws of the USA would be null and void. Yes, I would still be able to find a method to overcome the imposition of the law and its enforcers.

CandyMan and I wrapped up our interview, clarifying some key points and making pleasant small talk. To my now world-weary amusement, he declined my offer to send him free copies of this issue because it would mean having to reveal his mailing address. We agreed, instead, that he would buy a copy on the newsstand in order to preserve his valuable anonymity and underground lifestyle.


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