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Long-lived hacker mag shuts down

But some security firms aren't celebrating--for 20 years, Phrack gave them an insight into how hackers' minds were working.

Hacker magazine Phrack is to close its doors after almost 20 years serving the darker side of the Internet and communications community.

Yet the antivirus and security industries are coming out to say they will be sorry to see the back of the title that was run by, and for the benefit of, those they seek to thwart.

In its earliest days, the magazine dealt with issues such as phone "phreaking," or cracking the telephone networks to make long-distance calls, for example. In later times, it became a community space for those writing malicious code and sharing exploit information.

Its popularity was a bonus for those involved in the war against cybercrime, and its disappearance will remove the most immediate insight into the thinking of the hacker community.

Pete Simpson, ThreatLab manager at security company Clearswift, said he is very surprised to see Phrack disappear. He added that a world without the journal is actually less secure.

"Phrack's visibility was a blessing in disguise, pretty much in the same way as the Full Disclosure community," Simpson said, referring to the unmoderated Full Disclosure forum for disclosure of security information.

In the past, some hackers have brought about their own downfall by feeling the need to brag about what they have done and what they are capable of. The loss of Phrack will certainly remove a coveted platform.

But Simpson believes something else will inevitably come in to fill the gap left behind.

"If Phrack as an organ does disappear, then I would expect new outlets to pop up and fill the information void," Simpson said. "There must be younger hackers able and willing to take up the mantle."

Simon Perry, a security strategy executive at Computer Associates International, said: "Phrack closing its doors does reduce some visibility into the thoughts of the 'dark side.'"

While it will always be possible to find anything relating to hacking "if you search long and hard enough" online, Perry said, "Phrack was great as a 'one-stop shop.'"

And as long as both sides of the fight knew what and where that shop was, it created a more level playing field.

But Perry added that a lack of clarity about why Phrack has made this decision could still be a cause of concern.

"I note that even on their Web site they say they might be back in 2006 or 2007," he said. That could indicate they "have something better to do" in the meantime, which may make for a case of 'watch this space' for the security industry, he added.

The 63rd and final edition of Phrack will come out as a hardback collectors copy and will be available to attendees at the DefCon conference in Las Vegas between July 29 and 31, as well as at the What The Hack conference in the Netherlands from July 28 to 31.

Will Sturgeon of reported from London.