Reality Bytes

The White House-cracking cybergang is gone. Now Houstonís most notorious hacker hopes to reboot his life and return to his love: computers.

And it would be the long-anticipated meeting between two self-taught computer whizzes, one of them now wearing a badge.

Agent Lynd had interviewed lots of really dim bulbs during his FBI career, but he noted that this tan, skinny kid had some savvy as well as leadership skills. The teen spoke calmly, in a deep voice peppered with street slang and geek lingo, his tough-guy demeanor betraying a hint of a lisp.

Global Hell made boobs of Ameritech and mauled 
MallWorld's Santa.
Global Hell made boobs of Ameritech and mauled MallWorld's Santa.

Lynd, the West Point graduate, and Gregory, a C.E. King High dropout, were both self-taught computer experts. Growing up in Southern California, Lynd's father sold computers, and one day he brought home a steel-console Wang -- a founding forefather that looked like a cross between an IBM Selectric and a washing machine, with all the powers of a solar-powered calculator. Ever the technological pioneers, the Lynds later invested in an Apple II when Allyn was 13, paving the way to his future fighting cybercriminals.

Gregory hardly shared that stable upbringing by the time he saw his first computer.

His father was a U.S. soldier who married a native German, Gabriele Buhles, while he was stationed at a base in West Germany. He then split shortly before her 21st birthday, not long before she gave birth to Gregory.

When her son was still in kindergarten, Buhles remarried soldier Gary Gregory, and when he quit the army, they settled in his hometown of Houston. He was often on the road as a truck driver, while Buhles worked as a secretary in a biochemical plant. The couple divorced after nine years, and mother and son moved into a nearby trailer park in northeast Houston.

Buhles remarried in two years and moved into their current house off U.S. Highway 90. She says Gregory and his new stepdad didn't get along, and that his first stepfather dropped him as soon as he found a new wife and they had a boy of their own.

But Gregory was a precocious kid, always talking, becoming the class clown. He says he always did well in school, but his antics held him back. He'd finish his tests before everyone else, then get bored and get in trouble. By high school, that meant hitting on girls.

"My hormones are going crazy," he says of those days. "What do you want me to do -- stand here and recircle my answers, or talk to the girl next to me with the little short skirt on?"

It got worse when Gregory began being raised on a mutt computer stitched together by his second stepfather. Gregory spent time on primitive bulletin board systems, playing games like Lord of the Red Dragon. His mother spent hours every night conversing with online friends in Germany. Soon Gregory was in the chat rooms rather than in class at King High School.

"I tried to get into honors classes ever since I was, like, in seventh and eighth grade," he says. "They wouldn't let me, because of my" -- he deliberately draws out these next two words -- " 'behavioral problems.' They wouldn't let me expand my knowledge."

Gregory, fascinated by the new world of the Net, found it was easier for him to connect with other teens online rather than in person. Later, when he went to computer conventions or conversed with acquaintances about computers, people shuddered at the way he talked.

"Even when I was on the phone, trying to sound intelligent, or trying to hide the fact that I grew up out here and didn't have a computer my whole life…and tried to sound as professional or as educated as I could, I would still sound 'black' or 'from the ghetto.' "

Online, he could demonstrate his talents -- even his survival skills -- on his rugged frontier.

"When I first got on the Internet, it was like everybody on there was fighting," Gregory says. "When chat channels first started, people wanted to take over chat rooms and control them and kick people out…So you either had to learn how to do it or learn how to defend it."

He learned how to freeze other people's computers or kick them offline completely. He did this enough that his family's first ISP dropped their service. It wasn't a big deal. It was all in the name of learning.

"You never got a rule book when you signed up for the Internet," he says.

Gregory's confrontational ways with other users led him to choose an online moniker for himself, Mosthated.

By age 16, his neighborhood and C.E. King were changing dramatically from white flight. Gregory says he didn't have one white friend left, and he ran with Hispanic and black kids who often got in trouble.

"They thought it was gangs," he says of the school administration. "It wasn't gangs. It was the culture changing around here."

Eventually King administrators ordered him to an alternative school, where he'd be forced to wear a tie and behave. Gregory cringed at the idea and decided to just quit.

He found work clerking for a solar turbine company and picked up extra money fixing friends' computers, installing CD-ROMs, upgrading Windows and wiring systems into the Internet.

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