Monday, June 15, 2015

Confessions of Teenage Hackers by Dan Verton

Title: Confessions of Teenage Hackers
Author: Dan Verton
Publisher: McGraw-Hill
Rating: WORTHY!

This non-fiction book covers a host of teen hackers from the mid nineties to the turn of the century. As such it's seriously out of date now, but still a worthy read for me. I would have liked to have learned more about how these young teens did what they did, but while for me, this book skimped a little bit on that side of things, favoring hacker bios (that's biographies, not basic input output system!) instead, it did cover their exploits to an extent and was a fascinating read.

If network administrators would only do their job and stay current with security patches, and if network users would create decent passwords and never share any information with people who don't need to know, the hacker's calling would have fallen on far more deaf network ears than it has, but that doesn't excuse OS developers - who are far more interested in adding bells and whistles than ever they are in adding security - from putting out cruddy, hole-filled operating systems. Microsoft, I'm looking at you....

Having said that, it's also important to note that not all hackers are truly evil. These days, people try to differentiate the hacker - someone who is simply curious about the inner workings of systems and doesn't intend harm, or someone who believes in real freedom of information - from a cracker: someone whose intentions are far from benign from the outset, and who see systems as so many scalps to collect. While some of the hackers discussed here harmed systems, others actually left information behind, explaining to the administrator how they got in and which holes needed to be closed on that network!

Other hackers brought systems to a slow but sure halt with DDOS (distributed denial of service) attacks - hitting the network with so many trivial requests that it had no time to respond to legitimate ones. Mafiaboy, for example, brought down networks like Amazon, CNN, Dell, ebay, etrade, and Yahoo, amongst others.

Hacking has tended to fascinate far more boys than girls, but girls have been a part of the scene since it started. The only one mentioned here is Starla Pureheart, aka Anna Moore, who at fifteen in 2001, won the CyberEthical survivor contest at that year's DefCon.

Hackers covered in this volume include: Cowhead2000, Dawgyg, Explotion, FonE_TonE, Genocide, HD Moore, Joe Magee, Kr0nograffik, Noid, Pr0methius, RaFa, and Willie Gonzalez, as well as hacking groups such as Genocide2600, Legion of Doom, Masters of Deception, and World of Hell. Many more are mentioned in passing.

The focus and dedication of the hackers to their craft is truly stunning, and the extreme young age of some of these people when they started is scary. I recommend this book if you're at all interested in how hackers do what they do and what their backgrounds and motivations are.

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