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CYBERPUNK: Outlaws and Hackers on the Computer Frontier, Revised Updated Edition

3.7 out of 5 stars 46 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0684818627
ISBN-10: 0684818620
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

A classic look into cracker subculture, Cyberpunk tells the stories of notorious hackers Kevin Mitnick, Robert T. Morris, and the Chaos Computer Club. Like Where Wizards Stay Up Late, the book Hafner co-wrote on the origins of the Internet, Cyberpunk is informative, well-written, and entertaining. The story of Morris, who became infamous for unleashing a crippling worm that brought the Internet to a grinding standstill, is still as relevant and ominous today as it was at the time. The space devoted to Mitnick is a must-read companion to either Takedown or The Fugitive Game. Many of the stories surrounding the Dark Side Hacker, such as the story of his Norad break-in, are called into question in Cyberpunk, making this book a good launching pad for many different accounts of the Mitnick legend. The portrait of the two members of the Chaos Computer Club is a memorable look into the minds of the younger generation of computer hackers. Before you check out any book of this genre, read Cyberpunk.

From Publishers Weekly

The spirit of cyberpunk only flickers in these three more-or-less able pieces of journalism about headline hacker cases that shook the computer industry. The authors' straightforward style serves the topic well, and portraits of the hackers' personalities are tantalizingly good. But the programming jargon invoked suggests little of the "outlaw" mentality that converts programming talent into hacking. The only case that really earns the title is "Pengo and the Project Equalizer," the story of a West Berlin punk turned hacker, which contains enough exotic characters to cast a miniseries. Hafner is a computer reporter for the New York Times ; Markoff is a former Business Week reporter.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Updated edition (November 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684818620
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684818627
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,576,855 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
To me, what makes this book different from most other "hacker documentary" books is the detached style in which it's written. The authors are both journalists, and it shows: The book lacks the warmth of a normal story told from a normal storywriter. Instead, it's a cold, sterile collection of facts, like a 300-page newspaper article.
This is not necessarily a bad thing. It just means the writing is kind of dry. But that doesn't make it boring. Indeed, most of the book is quite fascinating. In fact, after a while I began to appreciate the objective air that this style lent to the book: Most authors of this kind of book either try to be sympathetic to the crackers, representing them as harmless kids who only try to explore, or an evil menace which must be destroyed for our own safety. Markoff and Hafner, however, write with the unbiased, unopinionated journalism that befits people of their background.
Of course, when writing a book, you don't need to express opinions to make the text biased; You just need to present only one side of the facts. However, I do not feel that this is the case with this book. The book does not try to represent one side as good and the other bad. It just tells you something about both. There's both good and bad there.
So what's with all the people who say that the book is "biased"? I'm really not sure. I notice, however, that all of the people who say that are pointing specifically to Kevin Mitnick's case, and recommending Littman's "The Fugitive Game" (which is more sympathetic to Mitnick and his case) as a "better" book.
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Format: Paperback
I read this book last summer and enjoyed it immensely. It's very well-written.
However, having just finished Jonathan Littman's "The Fugitive Game" I have to recommend reading both books to get the full story. Markoff's conflicts-of-interest and questionable journalistic practices aren't apparent from reading just "Cyberpunk." What appears to be a non-fiction account is, in reality, more complicated than that.... You really owe it to yourself to read both sides of the story.
So read this book and enjoy it for what it is -- and then read Littman for another perspective.
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By A Customer on January 13, 2003
Format: Paperback
Although Markoff is an exceptional writer and the book is both easy to read and entertaining, the content is presented as factual when the truth is that these guys definitely wrote the book with only part of the whole story at their disposal. One of the main "cyberpunks" depicted in the book is Kevin Mitnick, who claims that he has never even met John Markoff. How can the book fairly and accurately speak to the topic of hacking during the early days of the Internet revolution when they never did any investigations with real "hackers"? The story is told only from a law enforcement point-of-view. I am sure that the Rodney King story is told differently by King than the LAPD. Same goes for this case.
Like many works today that seem to be written for financial reasons, it seems very one-sided and sensational.
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Format: 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.
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Format: Paperback
This is the type of book that you will want to read and read again...it is a real page turner and it tells 3 stories of famous hacker cases...I really enjoyed this book...I recommend this to anyone that enjoys computers and the adventures that go with them...
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