At Large: The Strange Case of the World's Biggest Internet Invasionby Charles C. Mann, David H. Freedman, Charles C. Mann
At Large is the astonishing, never-before-revealed tale of perhaps the biggest and certainly the most disturbing computer attack to date, with ominous implications for the Internet, the digital highway over which much of the nation's business is now conducted. For two years a computer break-in artist known only as "Phantom Dialer" seized control of hundreds - perhaps… See more details below
At Large is the astonishing, never-before-revealed tale of perhaps the biggest and certainly the most disturbing computer attack to date, with ominous implications for the Internet, the digital highway over which much of the nation's business is now conducted. For two years a computer break-in artist known only as "Phantom Dialer" seized control of hundreds - perhaps thousands - of computer networks across the country and around the world. Frightened network administrators watched helplessly as the intruder methodically slipped into universities, corporations, banks, federal agencies, and military facilities, including top-secret weapons-research sites. Working up to twenty hours a day, Phantom Dialer obsessively broke into one network after another - and no one knew who he was or what he was after. Was he a spy? Was he laying the groundwork for a single, massive theft? As the number of victims mounted, Phantom Dialer became the subject of the first major investigation of the FBI's new computer-crime squad and one of the biggest manhunts in the history of electronic crime. But when FBI agents finally burst into Phantom Dialer's house, they were stunned and dismayed by what they found. The decision was made not to prosecute but instead to keep the story quiet. The story of Phantom Dialer demonstrates the vulnerability of the global network: anyone can break in almost anywhere. Indeed, though few recognize it, the massive crime wave has already begun.
Freedman (Brainmakers, 1994) and Mann (coauthor, Noah's Choice, 1995) tell the tale of a reclusive teenage hacker, alternatively dubbed Phantomd and Infomaster, who hopscotches around the Internet, breaking into systems and generally wreaking havoc online; his "absurd, dangerous, monomaniacal course" of trespassing on computer networks causes even his hacker cronies to fear him. With incisive descriptions and prose that's never overburdened by jargon, the authors chronicle the progression of Phantomd's online intrusions from university computers to Intel to top-secret government databases, and the federal investigation that finally nabs him. Unfortunately, the story loses steam at the end, when the FBI inexplicably decides not to have him prosecuted. Still, the book works because of the authors' skill at portraying their characters and building suspense and momentum from online events that are difficult to visualize. The best character, by far, is Phantomd himself, a disabled and massively antisocial youth who is capable of spending days at a time at his computer. As the hacker gets deeper and deeper into trouble, his brother tries futilely to save him, and the book takes on the dimensions of an information-age tragedy. Phantomd's last line, in particular, is heartbreaking, a testament to how the writers deftly recruit the reader's sympathy for the story's antagonist. Finally, the book becomes a portent: The authors make a strong case for the vulnerability of the Internet, describing its "electronic Maginot lines" and their inadequacy in the face of patient young invaders with powerful tools.
With this extraordinary story and its hard-learned lessons, the authors should make more than a few of their readers wary of staking their privacy on the online world.
- Simon & Schuster
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 6.49(w) x 9.57(h) x 0.99(d)
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