Cyberpunk: Outlaws and Hackers on the Computer Frontier

Cyberpunk: Outlaws and Hackers on the Computer Frontier

by Katie Hafner

Using the exploits of three international hackers, Cyberpunk provides a fascinating tour of a bizarre subculture populated by outlaws who penetrate even the most sensitive computer networks and wreak havoc on the information they find -- everything from bank accounts to military secrets. In a book filled with as much adventure as any Ludlum novel, the authors show what motivates these young hackers to access systems, how they learn to break in, and how little can be done to stop them.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Nonfiction
  • Rating: 3.81
  • Pages: 400
  • Publish Date: November 1st 1995 by Simon Schuster
  • Isbn10: 0684818620
  • Isbn13: 9780684818627

What People Think about "Cyberpunk: Outlaws and Hackers on the Computer Frontier"

And it is a strange tale; the 'pioneers' in this field (at least the ones pictured in this book) were obviously not interested in school or learning very much - except when it came to computers! This does not sound so odd today, when computers are all about games, movies, music, interaction and much much more.

I mean, as official as testimony gets, and I'll get to that in a minute. This book is a look into a particular era of hacking, an era early enough in the game that: 1. A lot of people are talking in this book, and it's not always clear what their motivations are.

Pengo and Project Equilizer made up the second part of the trilogy and was a wonderful read as it complemented the tale told by Clifford Stoll in "Cuckoo's Egg" nicely, Stoll's tale following Marcus Hess, an associate of Pengo, while Katie tackled the other side of the duo.

Cyberpunk takes readers back to the early days of hacking, when it was so old-school that computers werent involved. Kevin Mitnick and Susan Thunder met over their mutual interest in learning to detect the patterns used by telephone switching systems and reproducing the sounds to manipulate their way through the boards, arranging free phone calls for themselves. (This was a bit of a cultural education for me -- evidently there were conference call lines advertised where people called in and just chatted with whoever was also on the circuit, a telephone chatroom!) When the systems became controlled via computers, Kevin, Susan, and a few more of their friends began tinkering with them. (For readers born in the eighties, whose first computers came with web browsers, it takes a bit of chewing to realize that Mitnick and Thunder were literally dialing other computers; telephone and computer network access systems were much more closely related) Their explorations would eventually led to purloined and privileged accounts on sensitive systems across the United States; Susan had a particular interest in looking at military hardware. They also engaged in what Hafner calls social engineering -- lying, essentially, and obtaining information by talking to telecommunications and networking personnel under different guises -- almost exactly like phishing, but they did it in person. (Chaos also claimed to be working on behalf of world peace, since if a balance of power was maintained, war was less likely.) The third act in Hafners book concerns the Morris worm, the invention of a son of the NSA who invented a self-spreading program to explore the size of the internet.

My problem with books like these is that they are always or usually written as profiles of many of the main characters, which I think really skews the general story or trend.

To my knowledge there isn't a book on this, but again its written very much from an outsiders perspective.

Its actually a pretty interesting snapshot of a bygone era of hacking, computers and society in general. It went into detail about the friendship and betrayal between the 3-4 main kids in that hacker group, following one of them specifically Pengo through to his trial. Overall its an interesting cultural and historical look at the snapshot of where we were in the 1980s and 1990s, for that Id say its worth a listen but its definitely too long for my liking.

Great book.