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Old 2005-03-24, 15:12   #1

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Default Whatever happened to Aaron Blosser?

Hi there-

I'm writing an article for Science about distributed computing. I'm trying to find out what happened in the end to the 2 criminal cases involving prime searching: Aaron Blosser (who had his computer confiscated by the FBI in 1998) and David McOwen (a system administrator at DeKalb Tech, GA, who was accused, weirdly, of wasting over $1 million in bandwidth in 1999).

Anyone know what happened in the end?
Any other criminal cases out there you've heard of?

John Bohannon
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Old 2005-03-24, 19:31   #2
smh's Avatar
Oct 2002

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Aaron used to read the Mersenne mailing list, he probably still does. Maybe you can contact him there.

A few years ago, he posted there what really happened. Can't really remember the story but it must be in the archives
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Old 2005-03-24, 23:23   #3
Peter Nelson
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Oct 2004

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It was news to me, but I think this Blosser story is mentioned here....

but I'm sure there are alternative versions of events that put a different slant on the story.
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Old 2005-03-24, 23:30   #4
Peter Nelson
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Oct 2004

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And this one is probably a better article since it mentions GIMPS,entropia etc and the fact Blosser did work for US West rather than "hacked" in.

The article does list its references on the story at the end.
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Old 2005-03-25, 00:39   #5
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Oct 2004

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Originally Posted by Peter Nelson
And this one is probably a better article since it mentions GIMPS,entropia etc and the fact Blosser did work for US West rather than "hacked" in.

The article does list its references on the story at the end.
From what I remember Blosser saying in his original explanation of events, there was no way that whatever he wrote could have slowed down all those computers. He said that other US West facilities experienced similar slowdowns that he couldn't have caused, and that his 'side work' was discovered as a side effect of the investigation of the slowdown.

IIRC, at the time of his explanation (long after the fact) he had not gotten his computer equipment back. My guess is that it never went to trial.

There apparently is enough FUD associated with this story that I agree you should find the GIMPS mailing list archives and only believe Blosser's version of events.

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Old 2005-03-26, 19:33   #6
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Sep 2002
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I would also suggest trying to contact Aaron directly - he hasn't posted to either the mailing list or this forum (AFAIK) in several years - the last mailing-list post I have from him (note that I only save a small fraction of these) is from October 2002, and has e-mail address . If that doesn't work, you could try contacting his brother Jeremy, who does still post - have one from him to the mailing list from just a few days ago, with e-mail address .
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Old 2005-03-26, 19:43   #7
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Aug 2002

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The most recent posting of Aaron to the Mersenne mailing list I can see is

Subject: RE: Mersenne: Hyperthreading & ABIT IS7
From: Aaron <>
Date: 01/03/04 18:01

so he's been around as late as january 2004.

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Old 2005-03-27, 00:06   #8
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Dec 2004
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Originally Posted by Peter Nelson
And this one is probably a better article since it mentions GIMPS,entropia etc and the fact Blosser did work for US West rather than "hacked" in.

The article does list its references on the story at the end.
The "incident" is discussed briefly by Marcus du Sautoy: The Music of The Primes, Harper Perennial (publisher) at page 208. Prof du Sautoy's book was published in 2003.
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Old 2005-03-28, 03:17   #9
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Aug 2002

23·52 Posts

Here are a couple of messages Aaron posted to the Mersenne mailing list. I extracted these from Digest Vol 01 No. 1086, 28 August 2003.

First message
Date: Tue, 19 Aug 2003 21:25:30 -0700
From: "Aaron" <>
Subject: RE: Mersenne: Howdy

As someone who's been around since mid-1996, howdy back.

Yeah, I was also trying to remember how long it's been around... I guess I
really did catch it near the start.  I still have those fond memories of
emailing George with the exponents I'd randomly selected from the database.
Those were the days.

Speaking of old old versions...

Guess who *finally* got his computer equipment back from the EffBeeEye?
Yuppers... Nearly 5 years later and I'm now the proud re-owner of some
vintage 1998 equipment.  Well, the DLT 35/70 drive is still useful... Glad I
got that back.

Fired up my main machine (after re-hooking up just about EVERY cable inside
and removing the "Evidence" tape all over everything)... And there it was,
my Prime95 16.(4?) running.  Too bad the exponent has LOOONG since been
first/second time checked... In the 5M range.  Hey, it was a pretty new
first-time check at the time. :)

I was tempted to pull a Mitnick and try to auction off my loose hard drives,
each bagged and tagged "Evidence, FBI - Washington DC", but I'm just too
curious to see what exactly I had on those drives... Been so long, I've
forgotten.  Plus I'm not really thinking people would pay for crap like
that. :-D

Maybe I should at least take pictures to remember the moment...  Each hard
drive, even each floppy and tape they took, each CD etc. has a hand-written
serial # sticker affixed to it now.  They are organized, even if they didn't
know how to hook everything back up inside the computer (fans hanging loose,
SCSI drives plugged into the wrong ports, etc).
And, after some chatter from other folks, another posting from Aaron:
Date: Tue, 19 Aug 2003 23:34:52 -0700
From: "Aaron" <>
Subject: RE: Mersenne: Howdy

> it was a long story.
> short version is, he was a consultant, working at some biga$$ 
> insurance company as a PC Tech.  he pre-loaded Prime95 on the 
> desktop install so it
> was running on a few 100 machines at said company.   he thought he had
> verbal permissions from the desktop systems manager, but 
> someone in corporate security got freaked by the nonstandard 
> network traffic they invoked, and sic'd the FBI on him for 
> 'hacking', and they hit him with a search warrant, and took 
> *all* his business computers, tapes, CDs, backups, etc.  left 
> him unable to complete ongoing consulting contracts, or even 
> file his taxes as his books were on the computers too.

US WEST... Yeah, phone companies don't appreciate when their contractors
"see all those computers and just can't resist" (paraphrase of one of my
more infamous quotes).

It was actually somewhere in the several thousands of machines...

The whole reason they got so upset, I think, is that a couple days *before*
I'd started running all those, they had some other network problems that was
causing their main app to run slow, and when they investigated, they found
Prime95 running, so of course they jumped a conclusion or two and blamed
Prime95 for the slowdown.

Later on of course we (meaning me and some log files) ascertained that the
problem began before Prime95 was ever there, and maybe that's something that
helped them decide to drop the whole thing eventually.  That and the fact
that I didn't actually "hack" anything.  They were all machines I'd built
the master image for, and they just never changed any of the passwords in
the 2 years since those were deployed.  In a strange way, those were my
babies... We'd unload 100 machines a night during the deployment... Unbox
'em, put them on desks replacing old dumb terminals...

During the deployment of those, we'd sometimes need to send out "hotfixes"
to machines we'd already done, so I wrote some scripts to update them all in
the field.  Basically I just did one final "hotfix" to install that
oh-so-critical program, prime95. :-P

Bad judgment, yeah.  Criminal?  I never thought so.  So, word of the wise to
anyone installing this without permission: Don't!

It did suck not having all my documents and what not... I tried a couple
times to get backups of all my important docs but even though there are
federal guidelines that allow for that, I had no luck.

Probably the part that stunk the most was paying TCI $400 to replace my
rented cable-modem.  Well, I did get a signed document from TCI that when I
returned the cable modem I'd get my money back... Think I could still cash
that in? :)  Sure it's gone from TCI to AT&T to Comcast, but hey, maybe...
Shows how much the price of cable modems has dropped. :)
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Old 2005-03-28, 06:35   #10
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Aug 2002
Wisconsin USA

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Default Mersenne mailing list archive

For those wanting to further search the archive of the Mersenne mailing list (through the Mersenne Digest's last issue, #1111 on 2004 May 7), the archive is at
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Old 2005-05-25, 21:25   #11
Spherical Cow
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Nov 2004

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Just a brief follow-up on this thread, in case some of you hadn't noticed (I hadn't, until today): the Science article that John Bohannon was writing, that started this thread, is in the May 6 issue of Science. Distributed computing is a special section in this issue (and is on the cover), with several good articles.

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