The Hacker Crackdown: Law and Disorder on the Electronic Frontier


The AT&T long-distance network crashes, and millions of calls go unanswered. A computer hacker reprograms a switching station, and calls to a Florida probation office are shunted to a New York phone-sex hotline. An underground computer bulletin board publishes a pilfered BellSouth document on the 911 emergency system, making it available to anyone who dials up. How did so much illicit power reach the hands of an undisciplined few - and what should be done about it? You are about to descend into a strange ...
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The Hacker Crackdown, law and disorder on the electronic frontier

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The AT&T long-distance network crashes, and millions of calls go unanswered. A computer hacker reprograms a switching station, and calls to a Florida probation office are shunted to a New York phone-sex hotline. An underground computer bulletin board publishes a pilfered BellSouth document on the 911 emergency system, making it available to anyone who dials up. How did so much illicit power reach the hands of an undisciplined few - and what should be done about it? You are about to descend into a strange netherworld - one that sprang into existence when computers were first connected to telephones. This place has no physical location; it exists only in the networks that bind together its population. Like any frontier, it is home to a wide range of personalities, from legitimate computer professionals to those known only by their noms de net; denizens like Knight Lightning, Leftist, Compu-Phreak, Major Havoc, and Silver Spy; groups like the Lords of Chaos, Phantom Access Associates, Shadow Brotherhood, and the Coalition of Hi-Tech Pirates. This is not normal space, but "cyberspace." And if you use a computer, cyberspace is moving inexorably closer to you with each passing day. Your guide on this journey is bestselling science fiction author and longtime computer user Bruce Sterling, who was galvanized into action following the massive "hacker crackdowns" of 1990, in which law enforcement officers executed search warrants across the country against lawbreakers - and suspected lawbreakers - in the computer underground. In The Hacker Crackdown, Sterling - respected by hackers, law officers, and civil libertarians alike - uses his unique reportorial access and his considerable powers as a novelist to weave a startling narrative that informs, compels, and appalls. Sterling has researched all corners of this challenging and controversial new world for this book. In it we meet outlaws and cops, bureaucrats and rebels, geniuses and grifters: all denizens of a dazzling e
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
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.)
Library Journal
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.
Father of "cyberpunk" science fiction and techno-journalist, Sterling writes in his popular style for this nonfiction book that looks at computer hacking from both sides of the law. He interviews outlaw hackers and phone phreaks, law enforcement personnel, and civil libertarians, and presents a look at the people involved in the world of cyberspace and the politics of the new technological world. No references. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
John Mort
Sterling collaborated with William Gibson on "The Difference Engine" (BKL D 1 90), about what might have resulted had Charles Babbage's 1842 prototype of the computer succeeded. That novel seems to have impelled Sterling toward the present effort, a feisty survey of the dilemmas electronic technologies present for software firms, law enforcement agencies, hackers, and civil libertarians. He begins with a colorful portrait of Alexander Graham Bell and the Bell System, since Bell's divestiture in 1982 heralded much of the contemporary confusion, and it was with the telephone that cyberspace, that place somewhere between speakers, became "real." He discusses the Computer Fraud and Abuse and the Electronic Communications and Privacy acts of 1986. But his attentions center on the AT&T long-distance crash of 1990 and subsequent federal raids on hackers such as NuPrometheus, which once stole a jealousy guarded piece of Apple software, and Knight Lightning, actually tried for software piracy. Nineteen ninety was a year of raids, arrests, and trials, the upshot of which is that a host of groups have dug in on the battle for the free flow of electronic information. At the same time, electronic crimes are likely to become more sophisticated and international. Sterling relates all this with an insider's grasp of detail, and with irreverent humor. Offbeat and brilliant.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780553563702
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 11/28/1993
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 4.17 (w) x 6.87 (h) x 0.85 (d)

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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 4, 2001

    A Slice of Computer History

    Bruce Sterling has accurately chronicled an exciting period of time in the development of computers and network communications. Mr. Sterling writes about the times of the early 1980s to the early 1990s where bulletin board systems (BBS) and similar forms on online communication were prominent until the early 1990s when Internet usage became more widespread. Bruce Sterling is an excellent writer who seems to accurately capture the perspective of individuals and groups. His work contains a social perspective that really makes the reader feel part of the story and can sense the emotions of the subjects. It is startling how well his skill at the writing of science fiction translates to recording the history of the real world, especially technological subjects. I personally would welcome further non-fiction from Mr. Sterling in the same manner I welcome new fiction titles. There are few authors that one can say that about. I think that the title is misleading to many out there because the public's perception of a computer 'hacker' is generally flawed. As a reader of this book and 'Hackers' by Steven Levy, one can gain a more accurate representation of what they are and how they impact society, for both good and bad. It is very interesting to see how the phone phreakers and computer hackers really were related and sometimes the same people. Again, I hope that Bruce Sterling will again reward us with further non-fictional views of our current technological reality!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 19, 2004

    A grat book in computer technology.

    The Hacer Crackdown very accurately and throughly explaines varyous items. Including how the phone was invented, and the steps to a great invention. When you realy get down with this book, you get a much more accurate insight of the world happening around you. The 'Wire', as it is described in Sereal Experments: Lain, it talks about how it is all around us, it penetrates us, it flows thrugh our sillicon ships, it binds the Galaxy togeather. This book also includes personal insights from the author, and his experience.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 20, 2000

    Bruce Sterling takes the road less traveled.

    This novel is a fascinating piece of history. I downloaded it to a Palm 3 to read. I had never held this novel in my hands, and had no idea how long it was when I began reading. Speaking as a MTV teenager who has finished his first long novel, let me assure you, nothing but the best writing would hold my attention through all 336 pages of Technical, Emotional, and Dramatic history of the beginning world of Computer 'deviants'. This book takes an objective view of the war in cyber space beginning with the teenage boys fired from their jobs as the first switchboard operators and traveling through time to a period when 'boards', computers used to post information that can be accessed with a modem, were the technical frontier. Chronicling a time when communication technology was evolving from a technical oddity to a main stream staple, Bruce sterling interviews members of the 'Atlanta 3' (early cyberspace's most influential hackers) and the specialized secret service forces who arrested them and confiscated their every last modem, monitor, and floppy disk. Like a fine wine, this novel has gained meaning with age. It has remained relevant in the high-speed world of read-and-discard cyber thrillers due to the authors personal knowledge and human centered outlook on the original hackers.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2000

    The Hacker Crackdown: An Excellent Book

    This book describes the Great Hacker Crackdown of 1990-1992. It describes the technology and methods used by hackers in simple, non-technical terms that even most laymen can understand.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 31, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 5, 2010

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