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The Hacker Crackdown


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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.

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. (Oct.)

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