||Author: Jonathan Littman|
List Price: $30.00
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Publisher: Little Brown & Company (31 March, 1997)
Sales Rank: 25,989
Average Customer Rating: 3.6 out of 5
Customer ReviewsRating: 4 out of 5
Phreaking Out the Phone Company
The telephone companies have more power than the CIA, the NSA, or the FBI - they can wiretap anyone at anytime, without oversight (Title 18, Section 2511). The power of communication attracts "hackers" who seek to arrogate this power for their personal satisfaction. One example is Kevin Poulsen, who really learned how the system worked. Wiretaps are the secret weapon of the FBI, used to ensnare gangsters, and to control Presidents and political enemies (the function of every secret police). In describing Kevin's phone tapping, the author also tells quite a bit about the wiretapping of politically-oriented individuals by Federal agencies. This is not an innocent game (see COINTELPRO). Pages 183-186 tell how "facts" are presented to a Grand Jury to get an indictment. Dante's "Inferno" is a trip to the lowest depths of hell. Kevin starts out innocently (?), then travels downward from free calls, wiretapping, contest scams, aiding prostitution, finally looking into wire transfers of funds to the Cayman Islands. Didn't Kevin see what was happening?
In November 1989 an LAPD detective got a tip on illegal phone use (p.198). He and PAC BELL investigators went through hundreds of pages of "Escort" ads in the LA phone books to find the lines that had no billing statements, but worked. The phone company accepted ads (cash up front), then terminated service upon police complaint. They first sought a dishonest PAC BELL employee, not a hacker. Eventually someone talked and named the person who could arrange this. Then the trap was baited and they hooked a lead.
Page 174 tells how Kevin's "oil-leaking clunker" died on the highway. Cars over 7 years old often need new oil pan gaskets; its cheaper than another car. Was it a coincidence that Poulsen, Gilligan, and Lottor were indicted after the AT&T long distance network crashed on 01-15-1990 (p.209)? As a scapegoat for system nonfeasance? Kevin's crew seemed to assume that since they were never caught they never would be (pp.230-9). I wonder if General Custer felt the same way on that Sunday in June 176?
Perhaps Kevin's biggest crime was getting caught so the powers he used were exposed to public scrutiny (the Digital Telephony Act of 1994 on page 280). The telephone companies can wiretap anyone's phone call without court authorization (p.281). I suspect this allows "plausible denial" for Government agencies. This surveillance can be done without any Congressional funding or oversight.
Page 250 tells of the personal calls made to the police searching for Kevin, and their threats. This made the police more committed to Kevin's capture. The food supply for Kevin's hide-out had no fresh vegetables or fruit (p.251)! This book lacks an index, but is very readable.
Rating: 5 out of 5
Entertaining True Crime Story
This book was the most entertaining of the many books I've read on the subject of Hacking. Not only does it describe a wide range of hacking techniques, but it also tells a very compelling personal story - the gradual transformation of Kevin Poulsen from an "ethical hacker" who explored the wonders of the telephone system to enhance his knowledge, into a highly successful and unabashedly mercenary cybercriminal. It also introduces perhaps the fascinating character to emerge from the hacking scene - Justin Petersen, the weird and completely amoral "Agent Steal", an elaborately coifed serial seducer whose inferior technical skills were more than compensated by his complete willingess to betray anyone, friend or foe, when it served his purposes. If you are tired of reading books which take pains to portray hackers as simply selfless seekers of wisdom and truth, this story of a "cyberpunk" who clearly was in it for the money - and the power - will provide a refreshing change of pace.
Rating: 4 out of 5
The Ultimate Hacker Story!
Kevin Poulsen typifies the avid computer thrill seeker! He was a very resourceful and ingenious individual who loved to get into computer systems for the challenge. The book goes into explicit detail as to how Poulsen gets into various systems. Many times he uses social enginering and "dumpster diving."
He gets himself into trouble by feeling he does everything for the good of companies and the government. In some cases it is true and he exposes security weaknesses that are then corrected. However, he does not know where to draw the line and starts listening in on FBI wire taps and running escort services.
In some cases the author takes liberty to assume that the reader understands specifics about the phone company and certain technologies and the book in those instances is hard to understand. Otherwise I would have given it 5 stars.
· The Art of Deception: Controlling the Human Element of Security
· Crypto: How the Code Rebels Beat the Government Saving Privacy in the Digital Age
· The Fugitive Game
· The Masters of Deception : Gang That Ruled Cyberspace, The