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I thought this book was a modern take on computer hacking… I was expecting to hear stories like the Myspace “sammy is my hero” bug, or Wikileaks, the story of Kim Dot Com, or more modern counter culture computer hacking rebels.
I figured the neon art deco cover and tacky music in the audiobook were just stylistic choices.
However, I quickly found out that this was a story of hackers from the 1980s. It’s actually a pretty interesting snapshot of a bygone era of hacking, computers and society in general. It’s worth a listen in 2016+ if only to see how the system worked back in the 80s and 90s.
I would not recommend this for a general audience, you have to be interested in early technology. The book drags on in places, and it’s very journalistic in that it covers an absurd amount of information. I feel like it could have been shaved down by half (200 pages) and I would have gotten the same information out of it.
I would never have gotten through this if I was reading it … listening, I was able to put the speed on 1.25X and hack away at it on drives and walks for about a month.
The first part is focused on a group of US phone hackers called “phreaks” who seemed to have more power than hackers today have. They could use the phone system to not just make free long distance calls or free calls from phone boots, but change credit reports, wire money, make fake identities, issue police warrants, etc. This first section had lots of intrigue and betrayal. This section focused on “Kevin Mitnick”
The second section was all about some young European computer hackers who started stealing software from university and government computers and selling it to the KGB. It went into detail about the friendship and betrayal between the 3-4 main kids in that hacker group, following one of them specifically “Pengo” through to his trial.
The third part was all about the brilliant son of a prestigious NSA computer engineer who wrote the first virus in the late 1980s that crippled the internet. An entertaining tale of his upbringing, his time in university and the events that unfolded as he inadvertently took down the internet, including his trial.
At the end there’s an updated epilogue that takes place 5 years after the book was written (1995) and updates us on the 3 subjects of the book. I’d love to hear where they all are now, 20 years later.
Overall it’s an interesting cultural and historical look at the snapshot of where we were in the 1980s and 1990s, for that I’d say it’s worth a listen … but it’s definitely too long for my liking.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?
this book is for the old school hackers. but old the old school hacker already know this old stories.
Any additional comments?
i'm tired of reading about hackers from the 80's is so lame already . lol how many times they going to tell kevin Mitnick same old stories "come on". if you want to listen to a great hacker book that is modern is "We are Anonymous" by Parmy Olson now thats a great book.
9 of 17 people found this review helpful
I was a bit disappointed in my expectations of this audiobook. Having finished Ghost In The Wire, which was gripping and read like a Jason Bourne novel, I was hungry for more. What I got here though was a much more pedestrian retelling of three famous cases, much of which was focussed on the trials and legal aspects of the cases rather than the technical or cultural.
The audiobook reading has mistakes in, which I find unforgivable in a professional production. Not only does the reader mispronounce many words, but a couple of times he says the wrong word or stumbles over a word, and they don't even rerecord it!
For what it is, however, it's a competent and interesting book, if a little dull in places.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Provides complex insight into a number of key figures and events throughout computer history, specific to hacking. Highly recommended for anyone interested in learning where hacking began, and what motivated those at the forefront