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Cult of the Dead Cow (CDC) is a computer hacking group that is most well known for coining the term “hacktivism” and creating the Back Orifice remote administration tool (RAT), which gains remote access to machines running the Microsoft Windows operating system. Its parent organization CDC Communications is also affiliated with two other hacking crews known as the Ninja Strike Force and Hacktivismo.
The CDC was initially formed by the BBS system administrators Grandmaster Ratte’, Franken Gibe and Sid Vicious in June of 1984, while convening at the Farm Pac slaughter house in Lubbock, Texas. CDC member Jesse Dryden (a.k.a. Drunkfux) started HoHoCon in December of 1990, which is often credited as the first modern hacker conference. In December of 1993, the CDC was named “Sassiest Underground Computer Group” by Sassy Magazine. In 1994, the alt.fan.cult-dead-cow Usenet newsgroup was created. On June 4th, 1995, the CDC declared war on the Church of Scientology as part of a controversy involving the Church’s attempts at removing the alt.religion.scientology newsgroup. On January 27th, 1997, the Cult Dead Cow website was created, which includes the Cow Feed blog, media downloads, applications and merchandise. In 1999, the group was featured in a documentary titled “Disinformation” (shown below)
On February 15th, 2000, CNN reported that President Bill Clinton was briefed by CDC member Mudge about various aspects of Internet security. On July 14th, 2004, Wired published an article about hacker political activists, crediting the CDC with coining the term “hacktivism.” On July 30th, the Cult of the Dead Cow Myspace page was launched, featuring music released by the hacker group. On September 4th, 2007, CDC Communications released a book titled The Book of Cao: Englightment Through a Poke in the Eye, containing a collection of CDC text files describing the group’s spiritual beliefs. The @cDC_cowfeed Twitter feed was launched on August 7th, 2009, but ceased tweeting in September of 2010.
The RAT program “Back Orifice” allows users to control Internet-connected machines running Microsoft Windows from a remote location. The application name was intended to be a parody of Microsoft BackOffice server products. The tool was released by the CDC on August 1st, 1998, at the DEF CON hacker convention in Las Vegas, Nevada. According to the group, the program was created to illustrate the lack of security in Microsoft’s Windows 98 operating system.
Back Orifice was often delivered to machines as a Trojan horse program, a type of malware unintentionally installed by users. On July 10th, 1999, an updated version of the tool named “Back Orifice 2000” (BO2k) was released by the CDC at DEF CON 7. The new version had several additional features, including a plugin architecture and the ability to be installed on several different versions of Windows.
In 1996, CDC member Omega coined the term “hacktivist” in an email to the group according to an article on the technology news blog CNET. In 1998, the CDC member Blondie Wong worked with a new hacker group called the “Hong Kong Blondes,” which aimed to target companies doing business with China to protest western investment in the country. The project was created to protest the Chinese government’s approach to human rights. On December 15th of that year, the CDC announced they had cut ties with the Hong Kong Blondes. On January 7th, 1999, the hacker magazine 2600 reported that the CDC had joined an international coalition of hackers denouncing a call to cyberwar against the Chinese and Iraqi governments. In 2006, the CDC launched the “Goolag” campaign, which protested Google’s censorship of search results for people living in China. On February 22nd, 2008, the CDC released a tool named “Goolag,” which exploited Google search to find machines with vulnerable security.
The group has been criticized for creating programs that are often used for unethical purposes. The Back Orifice application was specifically singled out as a type of malware, a type of malicious software, because it allows users to silently infiltrate another person’s computer without their knowledge. The CDC has defended the Back Orifice software’s legitimacy, noting that it is free to use, has advanced encryption and that many legitimate remote administration tools can be installed remotely.
Cult Dead Cow – LOU strike out with international coalition of hackers
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