Closed Society BBS - Berlin/Germany 1994-1998

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I operated a warez BBS (also called "board") between 1994 and 1998. The BBS was running on a PAID license of the popular BBS software PCBoard by Clark Development. I still have the V15.22 setup disks, manuals and PPLC if somebody needs help :). Check out the article to PCBoard at Wikipedia here. It is pretty good, because I wrote over 3/4 of it myself hehe. I am not kidding though, I actually did write it.

You also heard (or read) right about the "PAID" license for PCBoard. I paid about 800,- DM for it. I purchased a license from somebody else and then had to pay 100,- DM for the license transfer (which sucked) and I also had to expand the license from 3 nodes to 5, because my BBS was also growing. I also bought the IBM OS/2 V3.0 Warp operating system on which my BBS was running on.

I wrote an article on my Blog about PCBoard and the licensing of it, with links to download the original setup and upgrade discs (10 Nodes license PCB V15.22), if you want to learn more about it. The article was part of my mini series "Trip Back on Memory Lane".

Get a copy of my second BBS installation, PCBoard 15.22 install disks with serial number and my entire PPE and Doors collection for PCB (over 300 MB) at folder share of mine!

It probably sounds odd, considering that it was a pirate board (and that I had a cracked version of PCB (255 Nodes) and OS/2 Warp on my many warez CD-Rs). Runing a warez BBS on licensed software did not make the BBS less illegal :). Well, I was in the transition from a secret and closed warez BBS to an open and very public demoscene, artscene and PCB resources BBS. Unfortunately for me did the cops come a few weeks too early, when the board was still a warez BBS (running on perfectly legal and licensed software).

Description for the Image of the Login Sceen

My BBS was running on the professional BBS software called "PCBoard". Click on the icon in this box. The login page to your left was actually not visible to a caller right away. I had my system patched to do 2 things differently than "normal" systems.

  • I had the response messages removed from the PCB code that showed the name of the BBS software and version to any visitor, who connected to the BBS.
    I showed nothing.
  • My BBS showed a blank page. You had to enter a master access password blindly on the screen before it would show you the actual login screen. You were disconnected, if you entered the wrong key combination. This code was the same for everybody.
    I only gave it to users of my BBS.

Original PCBoard Software Box If you are asking yourself, how a new user could register himself to my BBS under these conditions, the answer is simple, he couldn't. I didn't even have a "New User Registration Form". :)

The Beginnings

I started with 2 modem nodes and had 4 ISDN nodes + 1 modem node (= 5 nodes) by 1997 when it was shut down by the German version of the "Feds", who operated on a state level versus federal level as their American counterpart. It is called LKA - Landes(State)kriminal(Criminal)amt(Office) = Landeskriminalamt. There is a federal agency in Germany, called BKA - Bundes(Federal)kriminal(Criminal)amt(Office) = Bundeskriminalamt, but it got only involved in major cross-state busts. My bust was not part of any of the major campaigns like Operation Buccaneer, Fastlane, Bandwidth, Digital Piratez, Safehaven, Cybernet, Site Down, D-Elite, Grindlock or PWA.

I wrote a detailed article about the technical history of my BBS, from the humble beginnings with two modem nodes, to its peak with 5 nodes (4 of them ISDN) up to the very end, when I decided to shut down the BBS for good. This article was also part of my mini series "Trip Back on Memory Lane".

The BUST of Closed Society BBS

I was busted because of the unbelievable stupidity of ONE person who got busted before me for different reasons. Stupidity, not treason. He didn't plea-bargain with the cops to safe his neck or something like that. He only did every single thing that you should not (and would not) do as somebody in the scene, if you have at least more than one brain cell in your head. Anyway, I cannot turn back time and bitch-slap him for his carelessness.

What he did was the following: He had my BBS with phone number listed in the phone book of his terminal software. This by itself was not really the problem, although some hard-core paranoid folks would disagree with me on this one. I admin that I did the same thing myself. I did not flag the entries in a certain way to indicate that it was a pirate BBS (e.g. adding "Elite", "PD", "Lame" or stuff like that to the title of the entry). I listed pirate boards together with PD, shareware and support boards (e.g. the PCBoard Support BBS in Germany). The cops probably had my BBS phone numbers already and also my address and my name, but all this is not enough to get a judge to sign a search warrant.

The problem was, that this dude had enabled logging and session capture for my BBS in his terminal software. It had session recordings of his connections with my BBS, including recordings of the file listings, which by itself is still not enough to warrant a search, but it also showed details about the file transfers that he made, like "File 'XYZ.ZIP' - Downloaded successfully from 'Closed Society' to 'c:\downloads\', x,xxx,xxxx bytes, average download speed y,yyy bps on mm/dd/yyyy hh:mm:ss". Some of the files he downloaded were still at the same location where he downloaded them to.

The LKA found those files, while they were searching the computer for other evidence that was not related to warez, but to the reason why that dude got visited by the cops (I heard that it was about some hacking stuff). They were able to determine that the files are pirated versions (cracked) of known commercial software and thanks to the logs, they were able to proof where he got them from onto his computer. That linked to the information that identified me without any doubt (nobody else has the same phone number) provided the cops with enough evidence that it not only looks like that I am involved in the distribution of pirated software, but that I was really doing it in this case. Enough to get a search warrant, that then provided the rest of hard evidence to build a case against me.

No Copy If you wonder what that video is to your right, check it out.
It explains my understanding of the issue of "Warez" and "Software Piracy" pretty well.

It's the english translation of the German original. It was inspired by a German book by Jan Krämer and Evrim Sen about "the scene" titled "No Copy".

See also: Original German version of the video. Free book download (German).

Back up link to the video No Copy - English Version from on Vimeo. You can also download this video in MP4 format at (53 MB).

The Raid of my Place

The way that they conducted the raid of my place was also very interesting. It showed that they were not doing it for the first time and that they learned from past mistakes.

The cops never rang the bell or knocked on my door, yelling "Police, Please open the door immediately!" or that kind of stuff. By the time they knocked in the door by force, I already could have wiped out every evidence, which was the reason for them for the raid in the first place. Plenty of time to fry any floppy disks, CD-Roms, Streamer Tapes or hard drives that could povide evidence (e.g. using the Microwave). Also enough time to shut down any system and lock up with heavy encryption.

Some folks must have had a remote control near their door to do this, because when I stepped out my apartment in the morning to go to work, the cops were already waiting for me. Two guys grabbed and pushed me back into my apartment, preventing me from doing anything with my hands (e.g. pushing a button) and a third guy was jumping right past us to get further into my place and check for anything that could cause trouble for them, including my tonfa's and hanbo that were lying around (I used to do martial art, Kobudo specifically, were I learned how to use those things).

I thought about buying one of those expensive hardware crypt-cards that some guys in the scene used, but I didn't have the money for it. It would not have helped me much, because the BBS server was up and running without me being able to shut anything down. They must have learned this lesson from raids where they thought that they are smart by cutting power to the place first (to prevent folks from frying or deleting things) to only shut down and lock down servers without the ability to bring them back up, because of the needed code and/or key that those crypt cards require during start-up.

I revived my BBS a few weeks after I was "busted" on new hardware (I got some of my hardware back, but not the main Server). Now completely legal, which was my idea and plan already before I got busted (they came a few weeks too early, those bastards ;) ).

All charges against me were only related to my BBS and the warez that was found at my apartment during the raid. My activities and position in the warez groups was not included and also not persued by the officials.

I was also not questioned about it.

I guess they didn't do their homework properly and just did not know about it. Well, I am not complaining about this oversight (more the opposite, I am glad that it was never brought up), but I noticed it and wondered.

My Activities in the Scene

Okay, I was already retreating/retiring from the warez scene when they showed up. I retired from the co-leadership of Dynasty earlier that year. I was a co-founder and leader together with the former leaders of the groups Dytec (Dynamic Technologies), Vortex and EOD (Empire of Darkness), who formed Dynasty in 1996 as a result of a merger of those three groups.

Stepping back from this position was a clear sign for my retreat from the active involvements in the groups daily business activities, but only very few people were able to understand the signs properly at that time. I met the folks at the LKA who already worked for years on cracking up the Berlin scene (the same officers who raided me, raided also some of my friends years earlier). They were not (entirely) stupid, but also not the brightest folks either.

The Investigators

The main two guys were Mr.Redlich and Mr.Selig (funny names hehe). Mr.Redlich was a snake and talking a lot ("redlich" hehe), trying to befriend you to make you give out information accidently in a casual conversation. That was his smart and about as far as his brightness was shining. Beyond that was nothing remarkable about him. He was certainly not a geek and not understanding a bit about the scene he was up against.

Mr.Selig was more of the technical guy who was staying in the background, lurking in the shadow of Mr.Redlich.

He was about the level of an IT support guy who only knows stuff that is written in the manuals for the hardware he supports and not more and not less. Also not a geek at all.

They had their soldiers for the raids and some administrative staff (e.g. "Tipse"), which was not only blond, but also as dumb as Kelly Bundy from the TV show "Married with Children" (Bundy's :)).

Even Redlich and Selig made fun of her (during the raid) without her even noticing it. Okay, enough about this, I don't want to talk myself into trouble again :).


From Warez Board to Demoscene BBS

My decision to change my BBS from an elite warez/pirate board to a public and perfectly legal BBS, designated for demosceners, ANSI/ASCII artists and PCBoard tool developers, was the reason why I did buy an official license of PCBoard (with manuals and original install disk and serial #) in the first place. I wrote a blog post about copyright laws and their flaws and about the lies by the BSA and other organizations.

This is the only reason why I had it around when the cops came to take down my board. A warez BBS running on licenced software was weird for the feds (oh, did I mentioned already that I owned an official OS/2 operating system license too? :) ). They have never seen the manuals for PCBoard before, doh. They borrowed the print manuals for a few weeks from me (I am not joking!) hehe.

The name of the BBS was "Closed Society" by the way, in case you did not notice (or were unable to decypher hehe) the prominent screen shot of the BBS login screen at the top of this page. I wanted to express with the name that the BBS is not open for the general public and that only selected individuals were able to get access to it.

Many warez BBS's started out as public BBS and then closed it later, others did even maintain a legal and perfectly legit BBS as a front for their warez board. Only people who "knew" were able to get access to the hidden warez sections of the BBS. Many users never realized that a BBS they called frequently is anything more than a legal BBS with board games and public domain or shareware to download.


My BBS, "Closed Society", was the SAC world headquarter (WHQ) from day one. "Closed Society" was also affiliated with several other computer groups (mainly warez groups), such as: Razor 1911 (RZR), TRSI / Faith (FTH), Dynasty (DNS), Dytec (DTC), Genesis, TDU-Jam, LSD and ToaO.

The Final End

I shut down my BBS for good at some time in 1998. I don't even remember the precise date when I did it. The impact, the internet had on BBS'es was by then impossible to ignore. The fact that Clark Development, the company who developed PCBoard, went bancrupt only a short time after I was busted is ironic IMO.


Bulletin Board Systems and ANSI Art

The bulletin board system Interfaces were only using simple text and a set of extended characters to generate "borders" and that sort of things (MS DOS ASCII characters). ANSI Color Codes were used to get some colors on the screen. Such interfaces are used today only by telnet sites.

This is an alien World for normal Internet users who usually never have to deal with those. . People who were able to generate nice looking "graphic" using the basic MS DOS character SET and 16 pre-defined ANSI colors were in high demand to improve the look of BBS systems.

To learn more about this "lost" art, it's history, the styles, the how to's and more, visit my ASCII Art Academy.


Closed Society BBS Art

Here is some artwork that I created for my own BBS. Click on the thumbnail image for the ANSI in image format and actual size.

Closed Society BBS - Logon ANSIs

I created five login ANSIs for my own BBS over the years, but used the ANSI by Raiser/SAC, which you can see a bit further down below, most of the time. The ANSIs are sorted by the date they were used for my BBS.


Closed Society BBS - Other ANSIs

Those ANSIs were used for internal stuff of the BBS. There is the login screen, the menu, which nobody had enabled anyway, because everybody knew the important commands anyway. Then there is the ANSI used for my top uploader statistics, the ANSI that I showed to people before I had the altered login, which didn't even show a login screen (see gray box at the top for details, the upload ansi, which was displayed when you wanted to upload files and the PC conference ANSI, which was also the main conference of the BBS and the default for everybody after the login.


Closed Society BBS - Zip Ad ASCIIs

Those ASCII files were added to all ZIP archives that passed through the BBS as advertisement. No kidding, it was actually a very effective way of advertisement, because it shows others how fast your BBS is. You could also tell, which path a file took from the release group and its courier or world headquarter to your local BBS.


Closed Society BBS Intros (BBStros)

By the way. You can find more cracktros and BBStros by Superior Art Creations here.


Closed Society BBS Login ANSI by Raiser/SAC

My groupmate Raiser/SAC created this fabulous Login ANSI for my BBS, which I was using for a long time. Raiser was good with drawing pictures, something I was not. This picture was especially good, not just because the butt of the chick, but it helped :).

You can also download the original ANSI file (.ans) here.


Pirates of the Bulletin Board System Image and Merchandise

And here is a little collage that I created just for the sake of it hehe.

It is available as a Mug, Postcard and Refridgerator Magnet (fridge magnet) by the way.
I created them for myself, but others can order it as well.
See details at the deviantART online store.

"Not-for-Lamers" Mouse Pad $9.95 Buy Now! Coffee Mug $12.48 (11 OZ)/$12.95 (15 OZ) Buy Now!
Pirates of the BBS Mousepad Pirates of the BBS Coffee Mug
Click to see Large Image Click to see Large Image
Postcard: $2.49 (Glossy) / $2.49 (Matte) Buy Now! Magnet: $4.49 (small) / $6.95 (large) Buy Now!