Beto O’Rourke outed as Cult of Dead Cow member, phreaker and writer of screeds

WATERLOO, IOWA - MARCH 16: Democratic presidential candidate and former Cult of the Dead Cow member  Beto O'Rourke greets voters during a canvassing kickoff event with state senate candidate Eric Giddens March 16, 2019, in Waterloo, Iowa.

Enlarge / WATERLOO, IOWA – MARCH 16: Democratic presidential candidate and former Cult of the Dead Cow member Beto O’Rourke greets voters during a canvassing kickoff event with state senate candidate Eric Giddens March 16, 2019, in Waterloo, Iowa. (credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Beto O’Rourke, the former Texas congressman and Senate candidate and recently declared Democratic candidate for president in 2020, has been outed as a former member of what has been described as America’s oldest hacking group—the Cult of the Dead Cow (CDC). O’Rourke admitted to his membership in an interview for an upcoming book, as Reuters reported in an exclusive based on the book.

O’Rourke’s role in the group, starting in the late 1980s, was more focused on writing screeds for the CDC’s text-file essays than hacking. O’Rourke, like other teens of the time, did find ways to avoid paying for dial-up phone service time to connect to bulletin board systems (BBSs) of the day with his family’s Apple IIe computer and 300 baud modem, which he often used to search of pirated games. He eventually launched his own bulletin board system (BBS) called TacoLand, which Reuters’ Joseph Menn reports was largely about punk music. “This was the counterculture: Maximum Rock & Roll [magazine], buying records by catalog you couldn’t find at record stores,” O’Rourke told Menn.

For those too young to remember, BBSs were the social media platform of the pre-commercial Internet era. They hosted files for download and discussion boards and were islands of anarchy in a time when there were few online services—and usage was billed by the minute. Connecting to CompuServe, for example, could rapidly become expensive for the online-obsessed—especially when the billing was layered atop phone charges to connect to distant dial-up access lines. O’Rourke called the BBS world he connected to “the Facebook of its day.”

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