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Hacker Crackdown: Law and Disorder on the Electronic Frontier

by Bruce Sterling

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Bruce Sterling's classic work highlights the 1990 assault on hackers, when law-enforcement officials successfully arrested scores of suspected illicit hackers and other computer-based law-breakers. These raids became symbolic of the debate between fighting serious computer crime and protecting civil liberties. However, The Hacker Crackdown is about far more than a series of police sting operations. It's a lively tour of three cyberspace subcultures--the hacker underworld, the realm of the cybercops, and the idealistic culture of the cybercivil libertarians.

Sterling begins his story at the birth of cyberspace: the invention of the telephone. We meet the first hackers--teenage boys hired as telephone operators--who used their technical mastery, low threshold for boredom, and love of pranks to wreak havoc across the phone lines. From phone-related hi-jinks, Sterling takes us into the broader world of hacking and introduces many of the culprits--some who are fighting for a cause, some who are in it for kicks, and some who are traditional criminals after a fast buck. Sterling then details the triumphs and frustrations of the people forced to deal with the illicit hackers and tells how they developed their own subculture as cybercops. Sterling raises the ethical and legal issues of online law enforcement by questioning what rights are given to suspects and to those who have private e-mail stored on suspects' computers. Additionally, Sterling shows how the online civil liberties movement rose from seemingly unlikely places, such as the counterculture surrounding the Grateful Dead. The Hacker Crackdown informs you of the issues surrounding computer crime and the people on all sides of those issues.

From Publishers Weekly
Cyberpunk novelist Sterling (Involution Ocean) has produced by far the most stylish report from the computer outlaw culture since Steven Levy's Hackers. In jazzy New Journalism proE;e, sounding like Tom Wolfe reporting on a gunfight at the Cybernetic Corral, Sterling makes readers feel at home with the hackers, marshals, rebels and bureaucrats of the electronic frontier. He opens with a social history of the telephone in order to explain how the Jan. 15, 1990, crash of AT&T's long-distance switching system led to a crackdown on high-tech outlaws suspected of using their knowledge of eyberspace to invade the phone company's and other corporations' supposedly secure networks. After explaining the nature of eyberspace forms like electronic bulletin boards in detail, Sterling makes the hackers-who live in the ether between terminals under noms de nets such as VaxCat-as vivid as Wyatt Earp and Doe Holliday. His book goes a long way towards explaining the emerging digital world and its ethos.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal
This well-written history of "cyberspace" and computer hackers begins with the failure of AT&T's long-distance telephone switching system in January 1990 (the subject of Leonard Lee's The Day the Phones Stopped , LJ 7/91). Subsequently, a number of hackers were accused of being responsible, although AT&T formally acknowledged otherwise. In detailing various formal efforts to prosecute the "phone phreaks" and hackers, cyberpunk sf author Sterling ( Islands in the Net , LJ 6/15/88) avoids attributing the near-mystical genius qualities that too many authors have bestowed upon the computer and telephone "outlaws." Instead, he realistically describes their biases and philosophical shortcomings. Sterling's concern for the Steve Jackson Games prosecution, which occurred erroneously in conjunction with several legitimate raids in Austin, leads him to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and he concludes with a well-balanced look at this new group of civil libertarians. Written with humor and intelligence, this book is highly recommended. See also Katie Hafner and John Markoff's Cyperpunk , LJ 6/1/91.--Ed.
- Hilary D. Burton, Lawrence Livermore National Lab, Livermore, Cal.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.



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