What just happened? Beto O’Rourke, the latest candidate for the Democratic nomination for the 2020 Presidential election, has revealed he was a member of early hacking group "Cult of the Dead Cow." He hasn’t confirmed exactly what he was up to, other than racking up others' phone bills.
It’s already looking like a packed crowd for the Democratic Presidential nomination, with 15 people having put themselves forward. And while each is looking to stand out ahead of their peers, latest entrant Beto O’Rourke is doing so by opening up about a potentially illicit past.
In an interview with Reuters, O’Rourke admitted to being a member of one of the U.S’ earliest hacking groups, the "Cult of the Dead Cow."
The group, named after an abandoned Texas slaughterhouse, is credited with creating numerous tools to highlight poor security in early versions of Windows, as well as coining Internet neologisms like ‘31337’ ("elite") and "hacktivism."
O’Rourke’s involvement with the group was during his teen years, up to the age of 18 at the point he went to Columbia University. Given his age at the time and his lack of experience, there’s no suggestion that O’Rourke was involved in anything other than petty misdemeanors at the time. It would appear he merely sought ‘cracked’ games to pirate and “pilfered long-distance services” so as not to run up his family’s phone bill.
The more interesting point will be how people react to news such as this. In an age where decades-old accusations can cause contemporary career nightmares, the news that a clean-cut candidate for the presidential nomination was part of a hacking group may come back to bite O’Rourke.
It remains to be seen whether this is just viewed as a kid doing dumb stuff in his youth, or whether it’ll be weaponized by opponents to suggest O’Rourke sees himself as above the law.
Lead photo courtesy AP. Hacking photo courtesy FOTOKITA via Shutterstock