The Hacker Diaries: Confessions of Teenage Hackers (Consumer One-Off)

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9780072223644: The Hacker Diaries: Confessions of Teenage Hackers (Consumer One-Off)

To many who knew him, there was nothing odd about him. He was a normal kid...

On February 7, 2000, Yahoo.com was the first victim of the biggest distributed denial-of-service attack ever to hit the Internet. On May 8th, Buy.com was battling a massive denial-of-service attack. Later that afternoon, eBay.com also reported significant outages of service, as did Amazon.com. Then CNN's global online news operation started to grind to a crawl. By the following day, Datek and E-Trade entered crisis mode...all thanks to an ordinary fourteen-year-old kid.

Friends and neighbors were shocked to learn that the skinny, dark-haired, boy next door who loved playing basketball--almost as much as he loved computers--would cause millions of dollars worth of damage on the Internet and capture the attention of the online world--and the federal government. He was known online as "Mafiaboy" and, to the FBI, as the most notorious teenage hacker of all time. He did it all from his bedroom PC. And he's not alone.

Computer hacking and Web site defacement has become a national pastime for America's teenagers, and according to the stories you'll read about in The Hacker Diaries--it is only the beginning. But who exactly are these kids and what motivates a hacker to strike? Why do average teenagers get involved in hacking in the first place? This compelling and revealing book sets out to answer these questions--and some of the answers will surprise you. Through fascinating interviews with FBI agents, criminal psychologists, law-enforcement officials--as well as current and former hackers--you'll get a glimpse inside the mind of today's teenage hacker. Learn how they think, find out what it was like for them growing up, and understand the internal and external pressures that pushed them deeper and deeper into the hacker underground. Every hacker has a life and story of his or her own. One teenager's insatiable curiosity as to how the family's VCR worked was enough to trigger a career of cracking into computer systems. This is a remarkable story of technological wizardry, creativity, dedication, youthful angst, frustration and disconnection from society, boredom, anger, and jail time. Teenage hackers are not all indifferent punks. They're just like every other kid and some of them probably live in your neighborhood. They're there. All you have to do is look.

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Review:

The Hacker Diaries is well written, racy and an entertaining read. Dan Verton takes a seat way back in the bus and lets the characters he's writing about drive. These include the hackers themselves--complete with silly sounding nomme de geurres including the most famous of them all: Mafiaboy--along with those whose job it is to hunt them down. He even takes in a few who suffered the hackers' attentions.

Some facts shine out. One: high class teenage hackers usually have a better grasp of Net technologies than those paid to run them, and they're motivated by intellectual curiosity and peer respect rather than criminal or terrorist ends. Two: most "hackers" are script kiddies; vandals who would be slashing car tires or burgling homes if they had more get up and go. Three: technology is more fragile than people like to believe.

Dan Verton does a good job of showing us the people behind the hacking handles and sets the activity in a social as well as technical context, but he sensibly stops short of suggesting solutions. Just as well--Steve Wozniak was a hacker and went on to co-found Apple. Hackers, as The Hacker Diaries show, grow up and move on. --Steve Patient

Review:

"Terrorists are strategic actors. They choose their targets deliberately based on the weakness they observe in our defenses and our preparedness. We must defend ourselves against a wide range of means and methods of attack. Terrorists continue to employ conventional means of attack, while at the same time gaining in expertise in less traditional means, such as cyber attacks."

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