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The Hacker Diaries : Confessions of Teenage Hackers Hardcover – March 26, 2002

ISBN-13: 078-3254039636 ISBN-10: 0072223642 Edition: 1st
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Terrorists are strategic actors. They choose their targets deliberately based on the weakness they observe in our defenses and our preparedness. We must defend ourselves against a wide range of means and methods of attack. Terrorists continue to employ conventional means of attack, while at the same time gaining in expertise in less traditional means, such as cyber attacks."

From the Back Cover

To many who knew him, there was nothing odd about him. He was a normal kid...

On February 7, 2000, Yahoo.com was the first victim of the biggest distributed denial-of-service attack ever to hit the Internet. On May 8th, Buy.com was battling a massive denial-of-service attack. Later that afternoon, eBay.com also reported significant outages of service, as did Amazon.com. Then CNN's global online news operation started to grind to a crawl. By the following day, Datek and E-Trade entered crisis mode...all thanks to an ordinary fourteen-year-old kid.

Friends and neighbors were shocked to learn that the skinny, dark-haired, boy next door who loved playing basketball--almost as much as he loved computers--would cause millions of dollars worth of damage on the Internet and capture the attention of the online world--and the federal government. He was known online as "Mafiaboy" and, to the FBI, as the most notorious teenage hacker of all time. He did it all from his bedroom PC. And he's not alone.

Computer hacking and Web site defacement has become a national pastime for America's teenagers, and according to the stories you'll read about in The Hacker Diaries--it is only the beginning. But who exactly are these kids and what motivates a hacker to strike? Why do average teenagers get involved in hacking in the first place? This compelling and revealing book sets out to answer these questions--and some of the answers will surprise you. Through fascinating interviews with FBI agents, criminal psychologists, law-enforcement officials--as well as current and former hackers--you'll get a glimpse inside the mind of today's teenage hacker. Learn how they think, find out what it was like for them growing up, and understand the internal and external pressures that pushed them deeper and deeper into the hacker underground. Every hacker has a life and story of his or her own. One teenager's insatiable curiosity as to how the family's VCR worked was enough to trigger a career of cracking into computer systems. This is a remarkable story of technological wizardry, creativity, dedication, youthful angst, frustration and disconnection from society, boredom, anger, and jail time. Teenage hackers are not all indifferent punks. They're just like every other kid and some of them probably live in your neighborhood. They're there. All you have to do is look.

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Product Details

  • Series: Consumer One-Off
  • Hardcover: 219 pages
  • Publisher: McGraw-Hill Osborne Media; 1 edition (March 26, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0072223642
  • ISBN-13: 978-0072223644
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,307,358 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Dan Verton is a veteran technology journalist with 20 years of experience covering the federal government. He's written for the oldest and most influential technology trade magazines in the industry and is the 2003 first place recipient of the Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism Award for Best News Reporting - the nation's highest award for tech trade journalism.

Dan is a former intelligence officer in the U.S. Marine Corps and has authored several books on cybersecurity, including the 2003 groundbreaking work, Black Ice: The Invisible Threat of Cyber-Terrorism (McGraw-Hill) and The Hacker Diaries: Confessions of Teenage Hackers (McGraw-Hill).

He has a Master of Arts in Journalism from American University in Washington, D.C.

Dan has appeared regularly on national news and documentary broadcasts, including CNN, Discovery Channel, The History Channel and various national radio broadcasts.

In 2008, Dan appeared in a special documentary alongside Steve Wozniak, Richard Clarke and legendary hacker Captain Crunch as part of the 25th Anniversary DVD release of the classic movie War Games, starring Matthew Broderick.

Dan has addressed the United Nations twice on cyberterrorism and has testified before both the U.S. House and Senate on critical infrastructure protection.

Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Richard Bejtlich on December 31, 2002
Format: Hardcover
"The Hacker Diaries" (THD) will make veterans of the security scene smile and wince. Smiles come from learning the personalities and quirks of the book's teenage subjects. Winces result from the perceptions of these teenage wizards' "skilz" and motivations, and the author's own awkward handling of technical concepts. THD is probably worth buying once it is republished in a cheaper paperback format, or borrowed from your local library.

THD suffers in parts from the author's unfamiliarity with his subject material. "X Windows" is not quite "an emulator that offers users the familiar Windows interface" (p. 11). John Vranesevich is not "thought to be one of the best hackers in the world" (p. 207). (Boy, that was funny.) While a couple guys from the "Cult of the Dead Cow" were also members of "L0pht," cDc did not become the @Stake company (p. 208). The Navy "SHADOW" paper of 1998 mostly discovered benign network traffic, not "highly coordinated scans" (p. 169). (Others fell for this explanation, though.)

Comments about Fairbanks, Alaska's "treeless tundra landscapes" aside, the author clearly did a lot of research and work on this book. He presents his teenage hacker subjects in clear and captivating prose. He covers some of the more intriguing security events of the past few years, such as Bill Swallow's undercover work tracking the Serbian underground and revealing Mafiaboy's involvement in DDoS attacks. Verton captured the essence of H.D. Moore with his comment that "he had the unique ability to speak as quickly as his mind processed his thoughts." Like Rick Fleming, when I last spoke with H.D. Moore in San Antonio, I also "strained to listen.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Keith Kimmel on October 22, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I have read plenty of books on this topic and this one contains nothing that hasn't been regurgitated in the countless other titles. Hackers are an interesting breed and this title does not adequately explore why they do what they do. It isn't as simple as the author makes it out to be.

If you are looking for a breakthrough title that presents some new, startling information, keep looking because you haven't found it here. Aside from that, the book is of average quality. It isn't poor, but at the same time there isn't anything exceptional about it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Phil K on April 18, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I can not put it down. It's not a Hackers How-to book AT ALL. The author of the book, Dan Verton, followed around about 9 different teenage hackers and profiles their lives and what/why they hack. I think it's a GREAT book. It's well worth every penny. I think it's a great concept to know what goes on "behind the scenes".
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 29, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I really liked this book. Even though there were a few things I disagreed with and what I would call a few minor errors, overall this is a great read and a valuable insight into how hackers grow up. It also doesn't get lost in stereotypes like almost every other book on hackers out there. And it doesn't strike me as a book for technical geeks, most of whom would probably not want to read this anyway since they all think they are the experts and the "real hackers."
Anyway, if you're a parent or a teacher or just somebody who is interested in learning about how some young kids get involved in hacking and how different they all REALLY are as PEOPLE, this is a good book for you.
The Chapter on Mafiaboy, a 15-year-old Canadian, is really strong and provides never before published details about one of the most notorious teen hackers in recent years -- even if he wasn't a very good "hacker" -- as well as the behind-the-scenes look at the FBI investigation.
I also liked the fictional "hacker diaries" that open and close the book. They are very interesting and fun to read. The bottom line is that the author picked interesting people to interview --not just techno geeks. He showed them as real people. Nobody wants to read about techno geeks or the history of computer hacking. And this book avoids that.
I recommend this one.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Lawrence Slobodzian on June 14, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This book is one of a few that provides insight into hackers, security personnel, and cybercrime investigators through first-person interviews. It reads much like a magazine article or investigative newspaper report.

The title implies that we will get a very personal glimpse of hackers, as if reading their diaries. That is not the case. We only get what the hacker is willing to say to the interviewer, so there is a level of info we don't get to see.

As a computer geek myself, I expected more techinical information, but the author saw need to explain what things like "telnet" means. If you are not a technical person, you will be able to read this book without being left in the dark on anything. But geeks like me will be left wondering more about specific techniques and tools used, while bored at the basic information provided.

I don't have a lot of time or patience, so the fact that I read this book cover-to-cover without giving up on it means it has some value, though it leaves something to be desired. It is not a book that will change your life or give you a deep insight, but it is an interesting read.
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