Approaching Zero: The Extraordinary Underworld of Hackers, Phreakers, Virus Writers, and Keyboard Criminals

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A place has been created that has no physical dimensions. It can only be reached with a computer. You can hear it in the hum of a modem or the whistle of a fax machine, and see it in the lines on a computer screen, but you can never touch it. This place is a network of connections - from microwaves and fiber-optical cables to telephones, computers, and data banks, it is an ethereal web that links every remote corner of the world. It controls the technology that runs our lives, managing the flow of information, ...
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Overview

A place has been created that has no physical dimensions. It can only be reached with a computer. You can hear it in the hum of a modem or the whistle of a fax machine, and see it in the lines on a computer screen, but you can never touch it. This place is a network of connections - from microwaves and fiber-optical cables to telephones, computers, and data banks, it is an ethereal web that links every remote corner of the world. It controls the technology that runs our lives, managing the flow of information, communication, and money, and it is now riddled with arcane computer viruses, overrun by adolescent hackers, and disputed in the electronic turf wars of high-tech street gangs. This place is called Cyberspace, a technological frontier where the outlaws are sophisticated computer renegades - hackers, phreakers, and virus writers who know the interconnected electronic networks as well as the engineers and programmers who built them. Using only small personal computers, hackers with names like Captain Zap and Acid Phreak, or hacker gangs like Rabid and the Legion of Doom, can infiltrate the protected and secured computers at the Pentagon, NATO, or NASA at will. They can roam invisibly through the electronic switches and links of our telephone network and tap into the computers that hold the credit records of all Americans, altering data and copying credit card numbers and access codes. They can even hack into the world's largest banking systems, and have learned how to transfer funds into their own accounts. In recent years, Cyberspace has been invaded by viruses with names like Number of the Beast, LoveChild, and Michelangelo, which can erase data and cause computers to crash. The shadowy creators of these viruses, working from obscure places like Bulgaria, Indonesia, or Thailand, have invented scores of pernicious programs that will infect as many as 12 million of the world's 90 million PCs over the next two years. Approaching Zero is the definitive histor
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Entertaining but hardly comprehensive, this study offers a somewhat European angle on the ``technological counterculture.'' The authors draw on interviews and technical literature to examine the techniques of American and British phreakers (who tap into phone systems), profile ``Captain Zap''--Pennsylvanian Ian Murphy, the first American computer hacker to be prosecuted--and describe the biggest international gathering of hackers, which took place in Amsterdam in 1989. Particularly interesting is an account of how Bulgaria, a would-be high-tech power, spawned hackers and a flood of computer viruses--approximately 200 since 1988. But Clough, an English accountant who has specialized in international computer security, and Mungo, an American freelance journalist, rarely offer in-depth portraits of their subjects, nor is their treatment sufficiently thorough to lend credence to their warning that we ``may no longer be able to trust technology.'' (Mar.)
Library Journal
Mungo, a newspaper and magazine feature writer, and Clough, an English accountant specializing in computer security, have put together another portrait of the world of computer hackers from the early days of the phone ``phreaks'' to the Eastern European efforts to commission targeted hacking and virus development. While the treatment of worms and viruses is more complete than in Katie Hafner and John Markoff's Cyberpunk ( LJ 6/1/91) or Bruce Sterling's Hacker Crackdown ( LJ 9/1/92) by virtue of later publication, this work does not add substantially to the available literature. Written more informally, with less technical detail, it will probably appeal to younger and/or more recent computer enthusiasts.-- Hilary D. Burton, Lawrence Livermore National Lab, Livermore, Cal.
Denise Perry Donavin
With an American (Mungo) and an English (Clough) coauthor, the effect is an international look at computer virus hazards. The authors write with an anecdotal, almost mystery-imbued style that thoroughly involves the reader in the antics and crimes of the hackers, programmers, and spies they describe. Their account develops historically from the original, rebellious Phreakers who sought to prevent government control of burgeoning computer capabilities to the evolution of computer tap-ins for profit and for espionage. All of the technical information is spelled out in precise, intriguing terms. A book sure to interest anyone who has dabbled with computers, and particularly those who have doctored a machine stricken with a virus or two.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679409380
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/16/1993
  • Edition description: 1st American ed
  • Pages: 247

Table of Contents

Prologue
1 Phreaking for Fun 3
2 Breaking and Entering 31
3 Data Crime 59
4 Viruses, Trojans, Worms, and Bombs 85
5 The Bulgarian Threat 107
6 Hacking for Profit 141
7 The Illuminati Conspiracy 170
8 Crackdown 198
9 The Future of Cyberspace 228
Notes 237
Select Bibliography 245
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