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4.0 out of 5 stars A chilling look at the vulnerability & capability of PacBell
I found this book interesting on several levels. It's about
our telecommunications system, about a few people's ethics
abusing the power of that system, and about the state of
enforcement against violations of that system. All done
in a readable accounting of a small cast of characters' actions over a fifteen year period.

It's a...
Published on 21 Mar 1997

versus
2.0 out of 5 stars This book had potential, but ended up being "fluff."
This book had some good potential, but the author instead decide to write a tabloid story. Any technical details that made it into the final edit seem to be there purely by accident. Cliff Stoll proved in "The Cuckoo's Egg" that you can write a good, technically accurate, "fun" story. If someone unfamiliar with Poulson's reputation were to read this...
Published on 9 Aug 1997


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4.0 out of 5 stars A chilling look at the vulnerability & capability of PacBell, 21 Mar 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: The Watchman: The Twisted Life and Crimes of Serial Hacker Kevin Poulsen (Hardcover)
I found this book interesting on several levels. It's about
our telecommunications system, about a few people's ethics
abusing the power of that system, and about the state of
enforcement against violations of that system. All done
in a readable accounting of a small cast of characters' actions over a fifteen year period.

It's a difficult task to make day-to-day events readable,
much less involving. Littman has done a credible job here,
describing the exploits of a clique with a combination of
smarts, talent, and a moral code in which authority plays
much farther down the list than does knowledge, capability
or skill in manipulation.

What I find amazing in this recount is the ineptitude of
the investigative and law enforcement arms of local, state
and federal agencies in bringing a case against Poulsen.
Littman presents a balanced view of the criminal and the system against which the crimes were commited. Until the
maintainers and protectors of these systems admit their
vulnerabilities, phone phreaking of this magnitude will
increase, not decrease, in an ever digitally-conscious world. That the Attorney General was not able to make a
more compelling case--if all of Littman's accounts, or
Kevin's recall of them are true--speaks more to what the
Government and the Pacific Bell want to keep quiet.

That a person of Poulsen's ethics, curiosity and talent hacked PacBell offices isn't surprising (it's where the data is, to paraphrase Willy Sutton), that he did it repeatedly and for so long--physically and electronically--should make any citizen concerned for their privacy. Privacy not from the Poulsens or Mitnicks of the world, but from the phone companies and the agencies that use them on the fringes of the law.SAS is something every member of congress and
civil libertarian should be screaming about for oversight.

I agree with Lottor that "Serial Hacker" is redundant, but
notice also that Mark doesn't take issue with the title's
assertion that Kevin's life and crimes reveal a sociopath.
In the game Dungeons & Dragons, the appeal is that it is a
world where you make your own rules. Kevin is without a
doubt the dungeonmaster of California's phone system.

This book is the most intimate accounting of a very capable hacker's evolution. Does power corrupt, always? Certainly
power and curiosity were compelling drugs for Kevin Poulsen.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent book!, 15 May 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: The Watchman: The Twisted Life and Crimes of Serial Hacker Kevin Poulsen (Hardcover)
This is one of the best books I read about
hacking, phreaking and breaking the LAW.
That also shows that the other side is doing
the same (FBI, NSA, CIA & etc).
This a true story (the books says so...) and
its written in a persons' view, that of
Kevin (the anti-hero).
This is a very recommanded book! for computer
phreaks and wanna-be-phreaks :)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More Than A Computer Book, 6 Jan 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The Watchman: The Twisted Life and Crimes of Serial Hacker Kevin Poulsen (Hardcover)
John Littman does an excellent job of telling how the story came to be. I didn't know that much about "hackers" personal lives. This story breaks the hacker stereotype. This book was so good that I used it in a presentation. Try the book "The Fugitive Game: Online with Kevin Mitnick" another one of John Markoff's books.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent read for the non-phreaker/hacker, 13 Sep 2003
By 
Mr. S. Lambert (uk) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Watchman: The Twisted Life and Crimes of Serial Hacker Kevin Poulsen (Hardcover)
An interesting read even if viewed as fiction- entertaining, twisting plot and good character development.
Also valuable if looking for a case study of cyber criminals for academic reasons.
I read it on both levels, couldn't put it down, finished it within two days.Buy it!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good book at all, 9 Feb 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The Watchman: The Twisted Life and Crimes of Serial Hacker Kevin Poulsen (Hardcover)
A good book at all, while it can be take as a precise decsription of KP actions it shows very much of the 3l33t hacking in California. When we cross names involved in KP saga with those cited by Shimomura in Takedown it is clear Kevin was not just another suburban phreaker. Given the details about cell phreaking described by the author on The Fugitive Game it would make sense to correlate what was going on between Kevin and those "talented cell phreakers" cited in The Fugitive Game. It's unfortunate, also, that many of the "crimes" attributed to KP on the book don't show up in "The Setencing" at Kevin's homepage, were those charges dropped before the judgement? At last, reading Chaos Theory for the last months shows that Kevin & Ron are still playing like kids regards their old chap Jutin
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2.0 out of 5 stars This book had potential, but ended up being "fluff.", 9 Aug 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: The Watchman: The Twisted Life and Crimes of Serial Hacker Kevin Poulsen (Hardcover)
This book had some good potential, but the author instead decide to write a tabloid story. Any technical details that made it into the final edit seem to be there purely by accident. Cliff Stoll proved in "The Cuckoo's Egg" that you can write a good, technically accurate, "fun" story. If someone unfamiliar with Poulson's reputation were to read this book, they would think he was a burgler, not a hacker.
There also doesn't seem to be any description of Poulson's personality or drive, other than a vaguely described "Hacker Ethic".
Don't bother with this book if you are looking for anything similar "The Cuckoo's Egg" or "Takedown".
On a positive note: This book flows smoothly along, making a quick read that doesn't require too much concentration.
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1.0 out of 5 stars An unfocussed confusing read, 19 May 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: The Watchman: The Twisted Life and Crimes of Serial Hacker Kevin Poulsen (Hardcover)
In The Watchman's concluding 'Author's Note', Littman, underlines that his book is a journalistic work This is an amusing comment considering his gross speculation and character judgments.
While hardly a journalistic endeavor, The Watchman is not a work of fiction either. And this is what makes it so confusing to read. Littman's intentional blurring of fact and fiction was intended to produce a readable piece. But what is the result? By what standard is to be judged?
As work of fact, the book lacks references, instead relying on its subject's anecdotal incident accounts.
As a work of fiction it misses the mark: the characters are largely explored superficially, and their many exploits described too rapidly, too vaguely. So, what is left? Tabloid. Worthless tabloid.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Don't waste your money on this novel, 18 Mar 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: The Watchman: The Twisted Life and Crimes of Serial Hacker Kevin Poulsen (Hardcover)
Having finished this book, I thought to myself "that was aterrific novel" and then realized that this was supposed to be a factual book.
The author creates his own dialogue, thoughts and events to make the story more appealing, but in the process, loses one important thing -- the truth. Anyone wishing to know the true stories of Kevin Poulsen, Justin Petersen or Ron Austin should not look to this book as a fact source. This book is pure fluff and at best, can be used as a paperweight.
Jonathan Littman has again proven to us that facts in a fact-based book are irrelevant and that spinning your own tales and attributing it to others is the way to sell things.
This book has been met with sharp criticism from all the hackers involved.
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5.0 out of 5 stars wow!, 12 April 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: The Watchman: The Twisted Life and Crimes of Serial Hacker Kevin Poulsen (Hardcover)
a classic thriller-for-suburbans! while bordering on science-
fiction, it still manages somehow to stay a fair (or perhaps not so fair)
amount of time inside the bounds of plausibility of national enquierer fans.
etcetera. a must for unbelievable (for good reason) sensation seekers,
and people who might not know better. who would have thought that mr. littman
was also an extraordinary comedy writer! not me.
after reading this book, i will never again believe rumours that our rising
star of an author might be unstable in any way.
in my my humble opinion, this book might be useful in many ways,
however, i don't think it burns very well, therefore: don't try it at home.
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4.0 out of 5 stars sure to become a collectors item, 9 Jan 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: The Watchman: The Twisted Life and Crimes of Serial Hacker Kevin Poulsen (Hardcover)
I am a pretty good friend of Kevin. I can assure you
he is no longer in federal prison and is now once again loose on the
streets of LA. I know there are lots of great stories
to tell about his experiences and I'm sure Littman
will be great at making things sound more exciting and
less true than they are. With regard to the title it should
be noted that people are born Hackers, thus the term
"serial hacker" is quite redundant. Don't miss the little
picture of Littman at the bottom of the front cover.
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