The very dark story of Chaos Computer Club France, bait for budding hackers
At the end of the 1980s, a new association tried to unite French hackers. This is the Chaos Computer Club France. But for whom?
On this day, at the end of the 1980s, place du Colonel-Fabien, next to the headquarters of the French Communist Party, there is a visitor for Marc Olanié. This scientific journalist works for Personal Computer. It is one of the main monthly of this prosperous period for the paper computer press. The one asking for it was Jean-Bernard Condat, later known under the pseudonym that “Cucumber”. The guest quickly put his feet on the plate. At the Chaos Computer Club, he is told that Marc is among the members. Does he also want to be part of the Chaos Computer Club France, which he is building?
The hair of Marc Olanié, a passionate radio amateur who repairs electronics, then one of the rare French people to connect to the nascent Internet by radio, immediately fell. The Chaos Computer Club, this association of hackers launched in Berlin in the early 1980s, will never be happy about spreading information about its members! It’s a shame. The group is certainly campaigning for very high levels of privacy protection. “There are many alarming signshe said to Numerama. I didn’t join and I warned my friends. »
CCC France, false nose of DST?
Seen good! Because Chaos Computer Club France is a shady structure to say the least. As the journalist Jean Guisnel, one of the French intelligence specialists, said in his book Cyberspace warspublished in 1995, the association was actually a front for police officers of the Direction de la surveillance du territoire (DST), the French counterintelligence service — which later became the Direction générale de la Sécurité interne (DGSI ), then of its integration with General Intelligence (RG).
At the time, hackers from the Chaos Computer Club were concerned about French counterspies. They wondered if the members of the German club were not working for the KGB, the Soviet intelligence service. The fears are undoubtedly related to the incredible story of the hacker Karl Koch, alias hagbard. This member of a group affiliated with the CCC died under murky circumstances in 1989. He was suspected of hacking into sensitive organizations and selling his findings to the Soviets.
According to Jean Guisnel, the DST decided at that time to support the creation of a “homegrown pirate club”. The mission of Jean-Bernard Condat, a young man from the south of France who was in the sights of this intelligence service for a story of phreaking, these hacks of telephone lines that were fashionable at the time, was simple. The former musicology student who loves cooking, helicopters, squash or even patents – an incomplete list – must introduce himself to attract this strange and mysterious fauna that revolves around computers in the new club.
A folklore group of hackers, not serious
Its media coverage was a success. This young man with short hair and big glasses becomes a good media client on computer topics. For example in this television show, September 17, 1991, where he threatened Daniel Bilalian. Coincidentally, according to his detractors, he was taking credit for weapons works done by others. Like this hacking of an SNCF server that made it possible to reserve all the places on a TGV.
Thirty years later, however, Marc Olanié strongly judges the operation attributed to DST. “No one serious can take the bait. This kind of initiative can only attract newcomers to the community or people who are too naive”. “Less suspicious is considering the CCCF as a group of legend, while its cooperation with the police is suspected by some paranoia, but we believe that it does not believe, reputations are made very quickly”, summarizes Jean Guisnel in his book. French hackers will regret a bad story already “killed the movement in a few years, a kind of rotten legacy”will say for example a hacker named sub.
However, if Jean-Bernard Condat later claimed in an interview for the Zataz site the realization of 1,482 files to French hackers through the CCCF, the Ministry of the Interior denies that he was hired. “This gentleman is well-known in our services, especially in the field of computer hacking, but we think he is a wacky and somewhat unreliable character. And above all, he has never worked with us! »Place Beauvau’s response ten years later to Les Échos about Jean-Bernard Condat.
In support of the Ministry of the Interior, it can be noted that the former head of the CCCF is confused by the numbers. For example, he claims that he only wrote a thousand files on confidences in 1995 in the special publication Le Monde du Renseignement.
So is Jean-Bernard Condat really an indicator or is his role exaggerated? It’s hard to decide, the truth may be somewhere between the two. But whatever the case, journalist Marc Olanié believes that the French counterintelligence’s interest in hackers is legitimate. “But what surprised us was the way it was done, in a loucéde like that”. “We clearly saw that people at DST do not understand anything about this and they are looking for skills as soon as possible.”also remembers Lionel Bruno, the administrator of a bulletin board, BBS Suptel, once approached by the police.
“We are dealing with a new population, we are quite helpless”admitted Daniel Martin, the creator of DST’s IT department, in the documentary “A Counter-History of the Internet”. The former civil servant then described how his former service recruited “whales” – the internal nickname of computer hackers – by drawing on conscripts doing their national service. The recruitment of well-wired geeks is still one of the priorities of today’s intelligence services.
After being discussed again by trying to launch a company for securing registered letters, Jean-Bernard Condat will gradually disappear from the radar, briefly returning to the news with a lawsuit against the prud’ hommes against the parish where he played the organ. Ironically, his own blog seems to have been hacked. A height.