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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent resource on today's online dangers and pests, 31 Dec. 2005
By 
Daniel Jolley "darkgenius" (Shelby, North Carolina USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Black Hat: Misfits, Criminals, and Scammers in the Internet Age (Paperback)
Black Hat is an excellent, enjoyable read that tells the computer layman just about everything he needs to know about the dangers of online computing. If you've ever used a computer, you'll already be familiar with some of the topics discussed here - spam, viruses, online scams, etc. John Biggs takes you much further into these dire subjects, however, and I can almost guarantee that you will learn something you didn't already know - which is especially good, in that it can translate into better computer security for you. This isn't just a "what they are, what you can do" kind of book, though, as Biggs also takes you some way into the hacker community and lets you take a gander at the kind of mindset that drives all these script kiddies and outright criminals making our online experiences much less enjoyable than they could and should be. Hackers weren't always the spawn of Satan, and you will find a measure of respect in these pages for the hacker purist community, but that reflects the feelings of many computer experts. Your original hacker did it for the challenge, and I daresay software designers learned a great deal from these intellectually-oriented hackers - and what they learned has been incorporated into tighter, more secure software than we would have seen otherwise. There is a difference between these guys and the unscrupulous minds working their scripting magic to bring down networks or steal your personal data. The book ends on a positive note, as Biggs talks about the White Hats out there working silently to offset the dangers posed by today's Black Hats.
The book opens with an illuminating look at spam and some of the Spam Kings making money off what they consider to be a legal business method. This is the best overview of spam I've ever read; it gets a little technical in places, but it's a truly informative read. From there, Biggs is off to spyware and adware, those increasingly pernicious programs that install themselves silently on your hard drive, bombard you with unsolicited pop-up ads and slow down your system's performance speed significantly. I take care of the public computers in a university library, and these malicious programs are a constant thorn in my side. As many precautions as you take and as many sites as you block, these things just multiply like rabbits and keep coming at you thanks to users who have no qualms about clicking on anything and everything they see online. If you are an online user of any kind, you really need to know all you can about protecting your computer from spyware and adware, and the author tells you all about it in this book. Lest we forget viruses, these are also covered in some detail.
Call me crazy, but I actually enjoy getting ye olde "Nigerian" scam emails; they are a constant source of amusement, and you have to wonder if anyone actually takes these things seriously. They do, and they come out much poorer for their mistake. Biggs tells you all about the most popular scams in perpetual online existence - including phishing, which is becoming increasingly sophisticated these days. Music companies will surely be pleased by Biggs' chapter on the pirating of movies, music, and the like. File-sharing and peer-to-peer networking have spread like wildfire across the Internet, and you had better know what's what unless you want to wake up one day to find the FBI knocking at your door. The book closes with chapters on the many different types of hackers and the White Hats working to protect you from the bad guys' exploits. Biggs really gives you a good idea about where these guys are coming from.
I deal with many of the problems detailed here on a daily basis, and I learned some really good and useful things from this book. Thus, I would heartily recommend Black Hat to computer novices. If you spend any time online, you really need to learn how to protect your data and identity, and Black Hat provides a great deal of helpful information in a very engaging manner.
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