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Cyberpunk: Outlaws and Hackers on the Computer Frontier

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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 th 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.


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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 th 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.

30 review for Cyberpunk: Outlaws and Hackers on the Computer Frontier

  1. 5 out of 5

    Thomas Strömquist

    I find myself drifting back to this book now and again; it tells the fascinating story on how the computer hacker was born. 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. But imagine the dedication that needs to be put into sneaking in I find myself drifting back to this book now and again; it tells the fascinating story on how the computer hacker was born. 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. But imagine the dedication that needs to be put into sneaking into universities and alike and there gaining access to a system that demands pretty much machine code to even present you with an option to enter user name and password. Then, staring at a monochrome monitor, looking more like a goldfish bowl than anything, printing out basically the manual for an early UNIX operating system - on continuous paper, using a 8 pin matrix printer... Then sneaking out with your crate of paper, hardly readable (for a human) and going back to your bedroom to study with no means for practise. Then the hunt for the terminal that will gain you access to a lot of things you are not remotely interested in, you just want to see if you can do it. Sounds dull? Trust me, it isn't! I'll read it again!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Artnoose McMoose

    Having heard the basics about these stories, I decided to read up on it, officially. 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. you could hack a computer through the phone line, 2. once getting the right user name you could conceivably have access to an entire computer system, 3. everyone but the most savvy still used passwords like "guest" or "system", 4. opera Having heard the basics about these stories, I decided to read up on it, officially. 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. you could hack a computer through the phone line, 2. once getting the right user name you could conceivably have access to an entire computer system, 3. everyone but the most savvy still used passwords like "guest" or "system", 4. operating systems were so new that the people staying up all night battling a virus might be some of the same people who developed the operating system in the first place, and 5. technological "crimes" were being judged in the courtroom and media by people who had absolutely no idea how the technologies in question worked. So yes, this book is interesting from a historical perspective there. However, any time that history is so recent that participants are still around, you end up with conflicting stories. A lot of people are talking in this book, and it's not always clear what their motivations are. There are probably some instances of self-aggrandizing, self-preservation, and interpersonal issues fueling how people are describing the recent past. The authors' biases show, especially because they write a lot about what psychological problems led these hackers to do what they did. This is definitely a book written for mainstream audiences. Also, it's a pretty eye-opening revelation of the apolitical side of hacking, that is to say, hacking as a pure technological challenge. As a result, many hackers turned over other hackers at the drop of a hat and now make comfortable livings as computer security consultants.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Christopher M.

    I liked Katie's book for both its style and storytelling, as well as the subjects that she put under her microscope. Kevin Mitnick made up the first portion and, while I enjoyed the biography and tale of "the Dark-Side Hacker", it was not my favorite of the trio. If I recall correctly, even Kevin Mitnick himself found flaws in the story although, to my knowledge, it was not determined if it was valid or simply sensationalism. Pengo and Project Equilizer made up the second p I liked Katie's book for both its style and storytelling, as well as the subjects that she put under her microscope. Kevin Mitnick made up the first portion and, while I enjoyed the biography and tale of "the Dark-Side Hacker", it was not my favorite of the trio. If I recall correctly, even Kevin Mitnick himself found flaws in the story although, to my knowledge, it was not determined if it was valid or simply sensationalism. 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. RTM finished up the batch. Robert T. Morris. it is hard not to run across his name when researching the history of worms and viruses as they relate to computers and Katie's in-depth study on him sheds a great deal of light on this young man's existence. All in all, I found it a good read.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Stephen

    Cyberpunk takes readers back to the early days of hacking, when it was so old-school that computers weren’t involved. Using three case in the United States and western Germany, Katie Hafner’s history introduced readers in 1991 to the general idea of hacking, and her history sheds some light on what hackers were, what they did, and what they might want. It’s a fun look at early internet history, with the net as we know it developing slowly throughout the course: ARPAnet, the internet’s predecesso Cyberpunk takes readers back to the early days of hacking, when it was so old-school that computers weren’t involved. Using three case in the United States and western Germany, Katie Hafner’s history introduced readers in 1991 to the general idea of hacking, and her history sheds some light on what hackers were, what they did, and what they might want. It’s a fun look at early internet history, with the net as we know it developing slowly throughout the course: ARPAnet, the internet’s predecessor, only appears halfway in. The story begins with telephone lines, which -- in the mid-20th century -- bored teenagers began to examine with great interest. 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. The group weren’t plundering records for profit. Although this group acquired an enormous amount of access via its steady experimentation, little was involved in the way of programming. They weren’t creating bugs to invade systems; at most they rooted through the dumpsters of phone and computer-access companies looking for manuals, notes, and other juicy bits of detritus. The manuals not only allowed them to understand the systems they were ‘phreaking’, but often included passwords from people who hadn’t yet developed any sense of security. 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. Eventually an interpersonal feud led to one of the crew being turned in, and the tip was used to great effect by a security specialist who had been doggedly tracking their excursions. From here, Hafner moves to a group in Germany whose hacking begins to resemble what we in the 21st understand it to be. Initially, they too were interested only in the thrill of entering computer systems. Unlike the American group, “Chaos” did experiment with programs to do their work for them -- and unlike the Americans, some of the Germans became interested in converting their skills into currency. Specifically, they approached East German border guards (who connected them to KGB personnel), offering to sell them information obtained through the networks. The Soviets’ real interest was in the actual software -- compilers, especially -- but they were willing to engage in occasional business. (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 Hafner’s 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. An error in judgement allowed the program to collect several instances of itself on one machine, consuming their memory, and causing system after system to grind to a halt. The worm infected ten percent of all machines then connected to the internet. Needless to say, this unexpected attack caused a panic, and in the resulting trial some members of the cyber-communications industry were out for blood despite it being fairly obvious that the culprit hadn’t intended any harm and had in fact sent off anonymous warnings within a couple of hours of noticing that his creation had gone berserk. Although a zealous prosecutor -- and an equally zealous witness, the man who had led the hunt for the Mitnick intrusion -- did their best to incarcerate Morris, in the end the judge erred on the side of mercy and concluded with a sentence of community service, probation, and a large fine. Cyberpunk was quite the education for me. My interest in the early days of the internet, and in particular the quasi-libertarian ethos of some of the personalities attracted to it, first interested me in the volume. Most of the people cataloged here are quirky individuals, all uncomfortable in school but obsessive about learning the ins and outs of different systems. They were driven to explore a new world, to prove themselves masters of it -- but they were also inspired by the literature they were reading. From time to time books like Shockwave Rider, Neuromancer, and the Illumantus Trilogy show up. (Interestingly, the latter was used as a staple of one of the hacker characters in David Ignatius' The Director..) Although Hafner was recounting these cases to an early 1990s audience just starting to explore the consumer-oriented internet, the cases as arranged offer a look at the internet and its cultured as they evolved. I enjoyed it enormously. As a side note: the case of Kevin Mitnick continues provoking controversy, with numerous books authored by him and others arguing with one another over the "truth". According to this book's epilogue, Hafner's own account is "80%" true.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Wil Wheaton

    Many of the subjects profiled in this book, most-notably Kevin Mitnick, contest the conclusions drawn by the authors. That said, it's a fascinating read about some of the earliest and most (in)famous hackers. It's a great companion to The Hacker Crackdown and The Cuckoo's Egg.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    This is a decent book considering the subject matter and time written, but it's really quite dated. Kevin Mitnick's story was far from over when this book was written, and many of the characters in the Morris story (including Morris himself) went on to make big waves in the tech scene. Mitnick's own version of his story (much more complete) is probably better told in Ghost in the Wires , which is a more complete and detailed, but obviously more partisan version. My problem with books like these is t This is a decent book considering the subject matter and time written, but it's really quite dated. Kevin Mitnick's story was far from over when this book was written, and many of the characters in the Morris story (including Morris himself) went on to make big waves in the tech scene. Mitnick's own version of his story (much more complete) is probably better told in Ghost in the Wires , which is a more complete and detailed, but obviously more partisan version. 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. I understand that people like that sort of thing and that our brains are geared for human-centric narrative, but as someone who aspires to be a robot who has transcended human narrative biases, I can't help but be disappointed. Also, the title is horrible, though I suppose if you squint you can see how it works.

  7. 5 out of 5

    bbbrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrttttt

    It was OK, but it was very much written from an outsiders perspective. The book comprises 3 chapters/extended stories. One covers the Cliff Stoll/Markus Hess story, which was told much better in the Cuckoo's Egg by Stoll himself. Another talks about Mitnick escapades, and the man himself has written better (Ghost in the Wires). The third chapter recalls the Bob Morris/Morris Worm story. To my knowledge there isn't a book on this, but again its written very much from an outsiders perspective.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Harijan

    If you never read a book on the history of early net hacking (1990 to 2005) this is as good as any. You don't need to read more than one.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Brad Mills

    I thought this book was a modern take on computer hacking… I was expecting to hear stories like the Myspace “sammy is my hero” bug, or Wikileaks, the story of Kim Dot Com, or more modern counter culture computer hacking rebels. I figured the neon art deco cover and tacky music in the audiobook were just stylistic choices. However, I quickly found out that this was a story of hackers from the 1980s. It’s actually a pretty interesting snapshot of a bygone era of hacking, comp I thought this book was a modern take on computer hacking… I was expecting to hear stories like the Myspace “sammy is my hero” bug, or Wikileaks, the story of Kim Dot Com, or more modern counter culture computer hacking rebels. I figured the neon art deco cover and tacky music in the audiobook were just stylistic choices. However, I quickly found out that this was a story of hackers from the 1980s. It’s actually a pretty interesting snapshot of a bygone era of hacking, computers and society in general. It’s worth a listen in 2016+ if only to see how the system worked back in the 80s and 90s. I would not recommend this for a general audience, you have to be interested in early technology. The book drags on in places, and it’s very journalistic in that it covers an absurd amount of information. I feel like it could have been shaved down by half (200 pages) and I would have gotten the same information out of it. I would never have gotten through this if I was reading it … listening, I was able to put the speed on 1.25X and hack away at it on drives and walks for about a month. The first part is focused on a group of US phone hackers called “phreaks” who seemed to have more power than hackers today have. They could use the phone system to not just make free long distance calls or free calls from phone boots, but change credit reports, wire money, make fake identities, issue police warrants, etc. This first section had lots of intrigue and betrayal. This section focused on “Kevin Mitnick” The second section was all about some young European computer hackers who started stealing software from university and government computers and selling it to the KGB. 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. The third part was all about the brilliant son of a prestigious NSA computer engineer who wrote the first virus in the late 1980s that crippled the internet. An entertaining tale of his upbringing, his time in university and the events that unfolded as he inadvertently took down the internet, including his trial. At the end there’s an updated epilogue that takes place 5 years after the book was written (1995) and updates us on the 3 subjects of the book. I’d love to hear where they all are now, 20 years later. Overall it’s an interesting cultural and historical look at the snapshot of where we were in the 1980s and 1990s, for that I’d say it’s worth a listen … but it’s definitely too long for my liking.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Justin

    Great book. A real slice of history at the dawn of the Internet age. I highly - and I mean highly - recommend this to anyone interested in hacking. However, cyber-historians will take great delight in these tales form the early years. The book is essentially three stories: Kevin Mitnick, The Chaos Computer Club in Germany, and the Morris Worm. Don't worry, you don't need a Computer Science degree to enjoy it, either. (Full disclosure, I listened - and therefore reviewed - the audio version found Great book. A real slice of history at the dawn of the Internet age. I highly - and I mean highly - recommend this to anyone interested in hacking. However, cyber-historians will take great delight in these tales form the early years. The book is essentially three stories: Kevin Mitnick, The Chaos Computer Club in Germany, and the Morris Worm. Don't worry, you don't need a Computer Science degree to enjoy it, either. (Full disclosure, I listened - and therefore reviewed - the audio version found on Audible.)

  11. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    Wow. Wow! How far have we come in 15 short years? Can I tell you how much I loved this book? I wish it were 10 times as long as it were, with 10 times as many hacker profiles. I kept on reading snippets to Cliff (husband, and a developer, and a computer engineering major in college, who obviously had his own phone line back in 1992 when he was in middle school so he could have his own BBS in Funster Munster etc. etc. etc.) Sentences like, I paraphrase, "the 56K modem was so fast it co Wow. Wow! How far have we come in 15 short years? Can I tell you how much I loved this book? I wish it were 10 times as long as it were, with 10 times as many hacker profiles. I kept on reading snippets to Cliff (husband, and a developer, and a computer engineering major in college, who obviously had his own phone line back in 1992 when he was in middle school so he could have his own BBS in Funster Munster etc. etc. etc.) Sentences like, I paraphrase, "the 56K modem was so fast it could download an entire chapter of Moby Dick in under two minutes" <-- this was back in the mid-1980s to give you an idea of the time period. Oh we loved that sentence! Can you imagine?!!? Screaming fast! Also remember back when 'long distance' was a thing? And we used to have to care about long distance charges? A ha ha ha! Oh memories! Plus it was great recalling VAX computers back when I went to college, also the year I started my first professional job, there was one, count it, one, PC connected to the internet, and it was in a separate room, so you could check your private email and also research internet-type things. Oh man, what did we DO to avoid work back then? Oh right, we talked face to face to each other. Ugh, quelle horreur. Ew. Anyway, my remembrances aside, this book is fabulous. It deals with three hackers of the glory days: Kevin Mitnick (FREE KEVIN), Pengo, and rtm. You guys should all remember Kevin Mitnick, right? Pengo was a German hacker who broke into DEC machines of the US and sold random stuff he found to the Russians. rtm is Robert Tappan Morris, who ended up starting Y Combinator (which is a super famous software start up fund these days, along with Paul Graham), after he sent out the internet's first worm back in 1988. Guys, seriously, read this book. It might have been written in 1991, but it's not dated. I mean, it is but it isn't. It's great. You'll love the fact that 'electronic mail' is consistently spelled out. Trust me.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    This is an old, but very detailed account of three different groups/individuals that were talented and (eventually) visible computer hackers. I picked it up at a library book sale. Lucky me! If you are only interested in current technology, Denial-of-Service attacks, zero-day exploits, etc., then you may not enjoy this book. On the other hand, if you are old enough to have experienced the technology of the day, or have an abiding interest in technology, history and the evolution of th This is an old, but very detailed account of three different groups/individuals that were talented and (eventually) visible computer hackers. I picked it up at a library book sale. Lucky me! If you are only interested in current technology, Denial-of-Service attacks, zero-day exploits, etc., then you may not enjoy this book. On the other hand, if you are old enough to have experienced the technology of the day, or have an abiding interest in technology, history and the evolution of the same, then you will probably enjoy this book. I liked the book and found the material to be well-researched and, for the the most part, very accurate. The authors spent a lot of time gathering material and interviewing and it shows. I intend to see what later works they authored. I suspect there's more good material out there from them. I won't give any spoilers, but the three types of hackers are different and were chosen, I suspect, because of these differences. I'm also interested in where (esp. the first one) they are today.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Joe White

    Published in 1991 with epilogue in 1995, this is a classic look into the early hacking world in my opinion. It also presents the other side of "The Cuckoo's Egg" by Clifford Stoll, which I first read about 15 years ago, and keep as a piece of early networking memorabilia. The writing style reads like very good prose with emphasis on detail to the point that it sometimes becomes difficult to keep names, dates, and actions straight in each segment. If you're not interested in the early Published in 1991 with epilogue in 1995, this is a classic look into the early hacking world in my opinion. It also presents the other side of "The Cuckoo's Egg" by Clifford Stoll, which I first read about 15 years ago, and keep as a piece of early networking memorabilia. The writing style reads like very good prose with emphasis on detail to the point that it sometimes becomes difficult to keep names, dates, and actions straight in each segment. If you're not interested in the early period of network hacking, and don't have a background for computing on mini and small mainframes at a console only level, then this may be too dense and not capture your interest. If you have lived through the earlier years as a systems person or programmer, then this may fill in a gap in technical history. Some of the Kevin Mitnick material is apparently controversial, but for the purposes of this book it is interesting and readable until proved wrong by another text.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Deadhacker

    I read the book recently as a shot of nostalgia. I'm old enough to have followed the events in the news at that time. Reading it in 2016, I was surprised that our perspective from an era of ubiquitous portable computers (phones), pervasive surveillance & hundred-million account data breaches gives us a different perspective on these pranks from the 1980s. But the kids in the book were presented by prosecutors & the press as a new kind of criminal, harbingers of the end of democracy. I read the book recently as a shot of nostalgia. I'm old enough to have followed the events in the news at that time. Reading it in 2016, I was surprised that our perspective from an era of ubiquitous portable computers (phones), pervasive surveillance & hundred-million account data breaches gives us a different perspective on these pranks from the 1980s. But the kids in the book were presented by prosecutors & the press as a new kind of criminal, harbingers of the end of democracy. Like I said, I read it for nostalgia purposes, but I found that from the perspective of 2016, the book has new meaning & value. And even though I followed the events in the news as they happened back then & read one of Cliff Stole's books later, this book contained a ton of details that were new to me.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Alexander

    This book collects three journalist-driven stories about some of the early hackers: Kevin Mitnick, Pengo, and Robert T. Morris. The writing reads a little dated and a little narratively forced in some areas, but each of these stories is really compelling to read and covers a wide swath of hacker activity, from one of the great social engineers (Kevin Mitnick) to the creator of the first major worm/virus (rtp). A must-read if you want to better understand the hacker mindset and where it comes fro This book collects three journalist-driven stories about some of the early hackers: Kevin Mitnick, Pengo, and Robert T. Morris. The writing reads a little dated and a little narratively forced in some areas, but each of these stories is really compelling to read and covers a wide swath of hacker activity, from one of the great social engineers (Kevin Mitnick) to the creator of the first major worm/virus (rtp). A must-read if you want to better understand the hacker mindset and where it comes from.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Lynne-marie

    Insight into three computer criminals and their psychological backgrounds: Kevin Mintick, Pengo and a third. The details were terrific and I got a lot of precise chronology of these earlier crimes sorted out from the mix-ups in the perspective fothcoming Take-Down & The Cuckoo's Nest. Also I had a chance to see a different view of CLifford Stoll from his stance in Silicon Snake-Oil.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Troy Stephen Sanders

    This book was awesome and, along with 2600, was my introduction to Kevin Mitnick (I read this a long while back) and other like minded individuals. At the time it was the best read ever for me and for anyone else that owned a computer and a modem. I am more than sure anyone reading this now will feel the same, even if only for the purpose of nostalgia.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Tresuiri

    Educational in accounting for historical aspects of 80s and early 90s hacking and phreaking. Insight into how hackers come to be, thier view of themselves, and of the world around them. An interesting non-flattering view of Mr. Mitnick's exploits.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Simon Magnus

    An interesting book. I thought it was pretty amazing, and likely would have given it a four, if I hadn't done my own research afterwards and found out that half of the stuff about Mitnick was lies. Great fiction, though dissapointing journalism ethics.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Robert Linnemann

    This is non-fiction about hackers in the US. It is a good read. It shows that the author has no idea about computers, but it is sourced and annotated very well bearing that in mind. I recommend it to any programmer geek who wants to read about hackers.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Barry

    Interesting insight to the world of computer hacking, not too technical so can be accessed by anyone.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Rob

    I read this back in high school. It has 3 stories about the early days of hacking. It felt pretty biased, especially the stuff about Mitnick, but still a good read.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sara Marcus

    I loved this book, it made me think. It was like Cuckoo's Egg times 3. Very intriguing to see it from the other side.

  24. 4 out of 5

    David

    Stories from the early days...

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Marthaller

    Very interesting stories. Not bogged down by too much detail

  26. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    A look into some classic hacking schemes done by the most notorious hackers (i.e. Kevin Mitnick). Maybe a little outdated now but still interesting.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Bob

    I read this when it came out. It was rad! It really initiated my interest in the internet and got me into Library school.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Nik

    I read this book back in high school. What a buzz it used to have then.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Samer Miqdadi

  30. 5 out of 5

    James

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