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The Hacker Crackdown: Law And Disorder On The Electronic Frontier Mass Market Paperback – November 1, 1993

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Editorial Reviews Review

Bruce Sterling's classic work highlights the 1990 assault on hackers, when law-enforcement officials successfully arrested scores of suspected illicit hackers and other computer-based law-breakers. These raids became symbolic of the debate between fighting serious computer crime and protecting civil liberties. However, The Hacker Crackdown is about far more than a series of police sting operations. It's a lively tour of three cyberspace subcultures--the hacker underworld, the realm of the cybercops, and the idealistic culture of the cybercivil libertarians.

Sterling begins his story at the birth of cyberspace: the invention of the telephone. We meet the first hackers--teenage boys hired as telephone operators--who used their technical mastery, low threshold for boredom, and love of pranks to wreak havoc across the phone lines. From phone-related hi-jinks, Sterling takes us into the broader world of hacking and introduces many of the culprits--some who are fighting for a cause, some who are in it for kicks, and some who are traditional criminals after a fast buck. Sterling then details the triumphs and frustrations of the people forced to deal with the illicit hackers and tells how they developed their own subculture as cybercops. Sterling raises the ethical and legal issues of online law enforcement by questioning what rights are given to suspects and to those who have private e-mail stored on suspects' computers. Additionally, Sterling shows how the online civil liberties movement rose from seemingly unlikely places, such as the counterculture surrounding the Grateful Dead. The Hacker Crackdown informs you of the issues surrounding computer crime and the people on all sides of those issues.

From Publishers Weekly

Cyberpunk novelist Sterling (Involution Ocean) has produced by far the most stylish report from the computer outlaw culture since Steven Levy's Hackers. In jazzy New Journalism proE;e, sounding like Tom Wolfe reporting on a gunfight at the Cybernetic Corral, Sterling makes readers feel at home with the hackers, marshals, rebels and bureaucrats of the electronic frontier. He opens with a social history of the telephone in order to explain how the Jan. 15, 1990, crash of AT&T's long-distance switching system led to a crackdown on high-tech outlaws suspected of using their knowledge of eyberspace to invade the phone company's and other corporations' supposedly secure networks. After explaining the nature of eyberspace forms like electronic bulletin boards in detail, Sterling makes the hackers-who live in the ether between terminals under noms de nets such as VaxCat-as vivid as Wyatt Earp and Doe Holliday. His book goes a long way towards explaining the emerging digital world and its ethos.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam; Reprint edition (November 1, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 055356370X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553563702
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.8 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #634,242 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Bruce Sterling, author, journalist, editor, and critic,
was born in 1954. Best known for his ten science fiction
novels, he also writes short stories, book reviews,
design criticism, opinion columns, and introductions
for books ranging from Ernst Juenger to Jules Verne.
His nonfiction works include THE HACKER CRACKDOWN:
and SHAPING THINGS (2005).

He is a contributing editor of WIRED magazine
and writes a weblog. During 2005,
he was the "Visionary in Residence" at Art Center
College of Design in Pasadena. In 2008 he
was the Guest Curator for the Share Festival
of Digital Art and Culture in Torino, Italy,
and the Visionary in Residence at the Sandberg
Instituut in Amsterdam. In 2011 he returned to
Art Center as "Visionary in Residence" to run
a special project on Augmented Reality.

He has appeared in ABC's Nightline, BBC's The Late Show,
CBC's Morningside, on MTV and TechTV, and in Time,
Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, the New York Times,
Fortune, Nature, I.D., Metropolis, Technology Review,
Der Spiegel, La Stampa, La Repubblica, and many other venues.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Robert David STEELE Vivas HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on April 7, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is one of three books I trust on hackers and hacking (Levy and Turkle are the other two trusted authors). Bruce, a very distinguished author in WIRED and science fiction circles, went to great lengths to investigate and understand what was happening between hackers exploring corporate systems, corporate security officials that were clueless and seeking scorched earth revenge, and Secret Service investigators that were equally clueless and willing to testify erroneously to judges that the hackers had caused grave damage to national security. Bruce is a true investigative journalist with a deep understanding of both technical and cultural matters, and I consider him superior to anyone in government on the facts of the matter.

Update of 31 May 08 to add links:
The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit, Twentieth Anniversary Edition
Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution
Information Payoff: The Transformation of Work in the Electronic Age
Collective Intelligence: Mankind's Emerging World in Cyberspace (Helix Books)
...Read more ›
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 15, 1998
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I bought this book hoping for a little more technical information. Not that I was looking for a "step-by-step" hacking manual, but I had hoped to read a little more about the techniques that were used to commit the "crimes" and those used to catch them.
Having said that, the book was still an interesting read, with plenty of background information. The civil liberties section was particularly interesting, especially when you consider where we are today on that matter; same old questions, even 6 years after this book was published.
In short: a tough read, but some interesting facts.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Richard Bejtlich on May 16, 2010
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Bruce Sterling's book The Hacker Crackdown (THC) captures the spirit and history of the "hacker scene" in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Having lived through that period with my C-64 and first 386 PC, I thought the author accurately describes what it was like for computer users during that era. THC is one of my favorite books on hacker activity because it combines a narrative with the author's accounts of interactions with key individuals. THC expertly tells several stories from multiple perspectives -- hacker, law enforcement, security professional, telecom operator, even homeless man-on-the-street! The author also manages to not offend technically-minded readers while describing material for non-technical audiences.

I found the last line of the book to be especially prescient: "It is the End of the Amateurs." This statement applies to offensive as well as defensive players in digital security. Consider the focus of THC: the hunt by law enforcement officials for, essentially, bit players in the digital underground. The offenders were basically joyriders (who no doubt caused plenty of headaches for security professionals) who didn't materially profit from their actions. The offenders also did not serve foreign masters for purposes of espionage. On the other side, many of the defenders were only discovering digital crime and pioneering incident response tradecraft in the heat of battle. In brief, THC is about amateur offenders vs amateur defenders. For the last five to ten years, digital security has been almost strictly a matter of professional offenders (criminal and state-sponsored) vs professional defenders (corporate, military, and improved law enforcement).

The bottom line is that anyone involved with digital security will enjoy reading The Hacker Crackdown.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Hubert Anglade on September 28, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Bruce Sterling of Cyberpunk fame takes a journalistic approach to researching law and disorder on the electronic frontier by examining two specific events in depth : the 1990 Operation Sundevil, a concerted nationwide effort by district attorneys, the Secret Service, the FBI, local authorities and various Telco security to bust and publicize a hacker crackdown; and the resulting trials and creation of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and rise of the civil libertarians.

The book is divided into four parts: crashing the system, the digital underground, law and order, and the Civil Libertarians. Mr. Sterling does a credible job explaining the telco systems and motivations and actions of the people on both sides of the issue - phone phreaks/hackers and law enforcement/district attorneys without succumbing to a lot of jargon or taking sides.

The book is replete with interesting accounts of Alexander Graham Bell and history of telephony, the origins of the Secret Service and its' early battles with "Boodlers", and the dissemination of the E911 document that came to cause grief to many people.

Reading this in 2006 and beyond will cause a few chuckles at his penchant for describing and drooling over advance systems (I have a real urge to drive down to the storage unit for my Commodore 64 and IBM clone), yet the events of the early hacker sub-culture remain relevant to anyone interested in computers, freedom and privacy.
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