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The good hacker: the wonderful life and strange death of Barnaby Jack
From: InfoSec News <alerts () infosecnews org>
Date: Thu, 27 Mar 2014 11:55:04 +0000 (UTC)


By Donna Chisholm
March 18, 2014

From schoolboy dropout to world-famous hacker, Auckland-born Barnaby Jack lived hard and died young. On the way, he changed the technological world.

The Jagermeister shot glasses are piling up along with the stories in the outside bar of Galbraith's in Mt Eden Rd. It's a stormswept Sunday in January, the six-month anniversary of the death of Barnaby Jack. A dozen of his friends are here to remember him in a pub he loved.

Tonight, to them, he's "Barnes", their mate, not Barnaby Jack, the man the world knew as the elite hacker who could make ATM machines spew money, insulin pumps inject a lethal dose and heart pacemakers explode at a single command from a laptop -- all stunts he pulled not to make trouble, or money, but to make the technology safer and more secure. In the infamously geeky community of computer hackers, Barnaby Jack was a rock star. The man who could party all night and brush his teeth in the carpark on the way to a flawless presentation at 9am.

It’s the first time they've gathered since the publication of an American medical examiner's report on January 4 put months of bullshit internet conspiracy theories to rest. How the mad stories flourished in that charged atmosphere after the suicide just months before of activist and fellow hacker Aaron Swartz, and the car-crash death of investigative journalist Michael Hastings.

But, no, Barnaby Jack wasn't murdered to derail the presentation of his latest research. And no, government officials hadn't spirited him away to work on secret projects. The truth was ineffably sadder. On a Thursday afternoon, alone in bed in his comfortable top-floor apartment, opposite The Ritz in San Francisco’s Nob Hill, Barnes died of an accidental overdose of heroin, cocaine and prescription medicines.

There are no judgments here among his friends who gather under a fug of cigarette smoke on the old wooden bench seats outside Galbraith's, where Barnes used to sit. The stories about him are warm and funny, to be told with a drink, about a guy who loved a drink. Many drinks. A guy who, when asked if he wanted another, would reply, "We’re not here to fuck spiders."


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