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The Watchman: The Twisted Life and Crimes of Serial Hacker Kevin Poulsen Hardcover – March 31, 1997
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From Library Journal
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top Customer Reviews
I read Jonathan Littman's two books first, and was very excited with the stories, and his factual presentation. His writing style is an excellent fit for the type of story he is telling. It was obvious that Littman researched the facts and presented them in an unbiased manner. I liked that he presented both the technical information and the human elements of the stories. I also liked that he exposed many myths and controversy regarding the players in the stories, like John Markoff's getting involved in the chase for Mitnick, crossing the ethical boundary between journalism and law enforcement.
I then read "Cyberpunk" by Markoff and Hafner. Boy, what a difference! Where Littman was factual, Markoff was more into storytelling. I cannot say who's right (I wasn't THERE), but Markoff just didn't come across as complete and factual, especially in light of Littman's comments on his questionable involvement in Mitnick's capture. I did, however, love Markoff's telling of the rtm story (Robert Tappan Morris - the sendmail internet worm guy). I'd give this book 3 stars.
I'd like to take a moment to comment on some other reviews that I think are unfair or inaccurate.Read more ›
Littman writes a compelling story about Kevin Poulson, who is perhaps the second best known hacker in North America best Kevin Mitnick. And what makes this book such an interesting read is that it is a modern day, and real life, version of the Fugitive. But unlike the Fugitive, Kevin is hunted to tapping in to phone systems and learning much more about the telephone networks than the average, non-telco employee, should be allowed to.
The book is filled with first hand accounts and funny anecdotes of the escapades that Kevin and some of his company managed to pull off. After reading the book, I was left scratching my head in disbelief. It was almost as if the feats Kevin was able to accomplish were too good to be true. But in the end, that's what makes this book so great.
our telecommunications system, about a few people's ethics
abusing the power of that system, and about the state of
enforcement against violations of that system. All done
in a readable accounting of a small cast of characters' actions over a fifteen year period.
It's a difficult task to make day-to-day events readable,
much less involving. Littman has done a credible job here,
describing the exploits of a clique with a combination of
smarts, talent, and a moral code in which authority plays
much farther down the list than does knowledge, capability
or skill in manipulation.
What I find amazing in this recount is the ineptitude of
the investigative and law enforcement arms of local, state
and federal agencies in bringing a case against Poulsen.
Littman presents a balanced view of the criminal and the system against which the crimes were commited. Until the
maintainers and protectors of these systems admit their
vulnerabilities, phone phreaking of this magnitude will
increase, not decrease, in an ever digitally-conscious world. That the Attorney General was not able to make a
more compelling case--if all of Littman's accounts, or
Kevin's recall of them are true--speaks more to what the
Government and the Pacific Bell want to keep quiet.
That a person of Poulsen's ethics, curiosity and talent hacked PacBell offices isn't surprising (it's where the data is, to paraphrase Willy Sutton), that he did it repeatedly and for so long--physically and electronically--should make any citizen concerned for their privacy.Read more ›
I won't tell too much about the book, except for its beginning and rough story. The book starts with teenager Kevin getting to know phone phreaking (blue-boxing) and he starts to learn about how the telephone networks works. He works together with his friend Ron Austin, but unfortunately they get caught... Kevin, being underage, isn't charged and starts to work as a programmer at Stanford Research Institute (the Dough Engelbert one!). He does continue his hacking with some new partners, but eventually get caught again.
While he is being charged, he continues to learn to be a better at controlling the telephone network... the rest of the story, I'll leave for the reader to read, though I can say that I found it all quite fascinating.
I enjoyed the book a lot and would (and have) recommended it to others who are interested to know about Kevin's hacks (again, not claiming it to be fact, but it is about the only book about Kevin at the moment). So, if you are interested in biographies of hackers, Watchman is definitive recommended.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Great book about Kevn Poulsen's young life as a hacker, and how he turned his life around to help advance technology and security - Take a step back to 80's technology - GREAT BOOK... Read morePublished on June 1, 2011 by Tylernol08
How does a fugitive on the run elude the FBI for a long time? Drive across the country and stay at a different motel every night and hope for the best? Not a chance. Read morePublished on March 2, 2011 by AvidReader
The Watchman by Jonathan Littman is a tough book to review. The author states that he started writing a book about Kevin Poulsen (The Watchman), then delayed that project to write... Read morePublished on July 17, 2010 by Richard Bejtlich
I'm a huge fan of hacker and true crime stories, and although I'd certainly heard of Kevin Poulsen, had no idea his capers were as vast and varied until reading this book! Read morePublished on September 25, 2009 by W. Jason Gilmore
Computer security is not only part of my job, but a bit of a hobby of mine, so I love reading books like this. This book was fun to read and I read it in pretty much one night. Read morePublished on July 25, 2007 by Dean Jones Jr.
We hosted Kevin for dinner on 1 July 1999. It seems he was about to marry my wife's first cousin, who--at the time--was an attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Read morePublished on November 8, 2006 by Bruce D. Wilner
Jonathan Littman's The Watchman is well written and engaged me enough to read it in one sitting. I wanted for some time to learn more about Kevin Poulsen having heard about some of... Read morePublished on October 18, 2006 by Hubert Anglade
If you like true crime stories, this one is for you. I wont try and debate the truth of the book, (it's a controversial subject)because I dont know the truth. Read morePublished on July 22, 2006 by Jeremy Morgan
In the title of this review, I suggest that you buy two copies of this book. One of those copies is for you. The other copy is for your boss. Read morePublished on January 18, 2005 by Amazon Customer