Beto O’Rourke used to be part of the United States’ oldest hacking group, something he and former members kept under wraps until now, the former representative from El Paso, Texas said in an interview with Reuters. O’Rourke announced his bid for the presidency yesterday.
It’s unclear what kind of hacking behavior O’Rourke engaged in with the “Cult of the Dead Cow” (CDC) hacktivist group throughout the ‘90s, which was named after an abandoned slaughterhouse in Texas. But CDC became influential for breaking into Microsoft Windows computers and writing code to help others do so as well.
It’s not all that surprising that the Fugazi-loving, skateboarding, former rep who fought for net neutrality and live-streamed a sit in on the House floor to force a debate on gun control (that resulted in former Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) changing the rules on phone use in the chamber) would have taken advantage of the then-new power of the internet, albeit perhaps illegally, to push a political message.
“I understand the democratizing power of the internet, and how transformative it was for me personally, and how it leveraged the extraordinary intelligence of these people all over the country who were sharing ideas and techniques,” O’Rourke told Reuters.
Throughout the ‘80s, Reuters reports, O’Rourke started engaging with bulletin board systems, or forums, and started his own which he entitled “TacoLand” where he primarily discussed punk music. He later connected with other like-minded folks through other forums like one called “Demon Roach Underground,” which later led to the country’s oldest hacking group, CDC.
In the interview, O’Rourke said he stole long-distance phone service to access the boards, so that he “wouldn’t run up the phone bill.” Reuters reports that stealing long-distance service is considered a misdemeanor in Texas and can grow into a felony.
According to Reuters, O’Rourke also spent time using pirated software and cracked video games along with other members of the CDC. Those friends and fellow hackers formerly agreed to keep O’Rourke’s relationship with the group closely guarded as to not ruin his political ambitions.
O’Rourke’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.