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Approaching zero : the extraordinary underworld of hackers, phreakers, virus writers, and keyboard criminals /

Main Author: Mungo, Paul.
Other Authors: Clough, Bryan.
Format: Book
Language: English
Published: New York : Random House, 1992
Edition: 1st American ed.
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Review by Choice Review

The consequences of making a computer system vulnerable to the introduction of potentially damaging software, often collectively referred to as viruses, are elaborated in a series of reconstructed tales about the genesis of destructive computer programs. They range from creating amusing annoyances to extortion, and from unauthorized snooping to the loss of computer software and data on a worldwide basis. Most comforting are interspersed suggestions for avoidance and restoration methods, should problems arise. An upbeat chapter on the growth of restrictive legislation against these crimes (and also improvements in enforcement and deterrent punishments) is followed by a final chapter with a gloomy prognosis relative to cybercrime. Little containment is anticipated but rather, a pessimistic, alarmist belief in a vastly worsening future. Throughout, Mungo and Clough explicitly detail how the perpetrators of these nefarious deeds accomplished their dirty work. Unfortunately, too many of the representations may raise the suspicion of overzealous use of creative license. Also disturbing are occasional lapses into "pop" psychology to explain possible motivations for the actions of those who would deliberately seek to inflict hardships on countless numbers of computer users. Despite these shortcomings, the reader comes away adequately forewarned about what may well constitute, in computer terms, contributory negligence by the victim. General; community college; lower-division undergraduate. E. Hook; formerly, Gettysburg College

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Booklist Review

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. ~--Denise Perry Donavin

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

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. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

Disjointed survey of computer crime that sensationalizes some aspects while--seemingly whenever another journalist has been there first--downplaying others. Lacking both the focus and genuine perspective of Bruce Sterling's The Hacker Crackdown (p. 1049) and the imagination and scientific vision of Steven Levy's Artificial Life (p. 517)--each of which covered a big chunk of what's discussed here--Mungo (a free-lance journalist) and Clough (an accountant specializing in international computer security) offer instead a mélange of tabloid journalism, oft-repeated rumors, and vague hints of cataclysm to come (``In Bangkok, for example, one programmer set up his computer to produce six hundred viruses an hour, each guaranteed undetectable...''). There's information here of real interest: Accounts of hacking in England and virus-writing in Bulgaria will be new to most American readers, and the obscure early history of ``phreaking''--stealing service from Ma Bell--should be required reading in the information age. But the authors' palpable disdain for almost everyone they write about leaves an unpleasant aftertaste, and the broad liberties they take to flesh out and hype their stories make for a flabby narrative (in relating the AT&T service failure of 1990, whose cause is long known to have been a software glitch, they cite anonymous sources suggesting a hacker attack, and ominously intone that ``there is absolutely no proof it was a computer bomb...''). Some new information of interest to computer buffs, but much old news, too, that's been better told by others.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.