BOOK REVIEW by Louis Cook
‘Underground’ by Suelette Dreyfus & Julian Assange.
Rolling Stone described it thus: ‘Gripping … The bizarre lives and crimes of an extraordinary group of teenage hackers’.
My copy, 2011 edition ~ $22.70 posted from Book Depository.
I read most of this story as a ‘pirated edition’ off the Internet about 20 years ago. Rereading this updated edition, rate it as one of the few books that did not put me to sleep late at night.
It is the chronicle of young people with names like ‘Mendax’ ‘Electron’ and ‘Phoenix’ who played games on the international computer network, teasing ‘system administrators’ of communication networks like Telecom, NASA and the US Department of Defence in the late 1980’s and early ‘90s. They were ‘self-taught computer operator’s’ and well skilled at the ‘games’ they played. It was an ‘addictive game’ and they became victims of it, and they also aroused the ire of the Computer Crimes Unit of the Australian Federal Police and the FBI and other international crime fighting units. Pretty scary when the ‘hackers’ knew exposure was inevitable … better to read this book for yourself and enjoy the thrill of the chase.
In the early days of computing, systems were expensive and extremely primitive by today’s standards. Modems were slow so the ‘hackers’ had to spend hours, often long sleepless nights, to satisfy their addiction that finally ended in the courts.
Suelette Dreyfus and her co-author, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, tell the extraordinary true story of the computer underground, and the elite ring of international hackers who took on the establishment.
It is good to be reminded that the origins were a youthful curiosity that was more about adventure than serious crime. Now we live in a world of electronic strip searches at airports and government-sponsored cyber wars with publishers and nations alike. The early computer underground was where it all began. The earlier ethos of the computer underground has contributed to a new creation – WikiLeaks. This may be the front-line of the push to put an end to the Secret State and its oppressive security.
Somewhere in the decade from 2000 to 2010, parts of George Orwell’s 1984 became a reality. Now in the big cities you can be tracked 24/7 by CCTV cameras recording every movement but it is for your own good of course. Your computer or phone can be confiscated and impounded while the government extends its control over your life aided and abetted by a compliant media.
There is a place for government secrecy but not so much where the freedom to its citizens is just as big a threat from without as from within.
This book will give you something different to think about instead of corrupt finance and conspiracy theories.