Customer Review

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Three interesting digital security stories in one book, May 16, 2010
This review is from: CYBERPUNK: Outlaws and Hackers on the Computer Frontier, Revised (Paperback)
Cyberpunk is a unique exploration of three distinct digital security stories. Authors Katie Hafner and John Markoff describe the histories of Kevin Mitnick and friends, Hans Heinrich Hübner and the Hannover hackers, and Robert T Morris and family. This approach is interesting because all three tales are told independently, yet key events occur within a few years of each other and some overlap. The authors write in the third person, with the exception of the epilogue which revisits certain individuals in the Mitnick story.

I really enjoyed Cyberpunk because it examined three very unique sets of characters. Kevin Mitnick's story centers on obsession, manipulation, a quest for knowledge, and betrayal at various levels. Hans Hübner's story involves espionage, but told from the perspective of the spies rather than the defenders. Robert Morris' story describes the ultimate hack gone bad, incorporating elements familiar to most security pros of the current decade. Readers could find elements of all three personalities in the modern world, although criminal and state-sponsored activity is by far the most prevalent.

I'd like to conclude by citing some of my favorite excerpts. First, when describing Digital's Palo Alto security, the authors write:

"[I]n recognition of the open-mindedness back at corporate headquarters, the computer scientists in Palo Alto took great care to operate their precious gateway responsibly. To give the best possible oversight both for maintenance and security, *Ph.D's in computer science* took turns poring over daily log files... So it was *only a matter of hours* after the intrusions into the Palo Alto computers began that the gateway watchers there noticed something amiss." (emphasis added) p 118

Second, when expressing frustration with Digital's inability to counter the intruders, the authors quote "one irate Digital employee":

"We seem to be totally defenseless against these people. We have repeatedly rebuilt system after system and finally *management has told the system support group to ignore the problem...* I want to make sure someone at network security knows that we are being ***** (censored) in broad daylight. These people freely walk into our systems and are taking restricted, confidential, and proprietary information." (emphasis added) p 120

Third, nothing changes:

"Digital might be reluctant to press charges... [F]ew of the computer crimes detected were ever reported to the police and still fewer were made public through criminal charges... [C]ompanies worried about having their vulnerabilities publicized." p 125

Though nearly 20 years old, Cyberpunk still shares many traits with the modern digital security world.
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