The Watchman: The Twisted Life and Crimes of Serial Hacker Kevin Poulsen Hardcover – 31 Mar 1997
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From the Back Cover
Written like a California noir thriller by way of William Gibson, The Watchman brings to life the wildest, most audacious crime spree in the history of cyberspace. Busted as a teenager for hacking into Pac Bell phone networks, Kevin Poulsen would find his punishment was a job with a Silicon Valley defense contractor. By day he seemed to have gone straight, toiling on systems for computer-aided war. But by night he burglarized telephone switching offices, adopting the personae and aliases of his favorite comic-book anti heroes - the Watchmen. When authorities found a locker crammed with swiped telecommunications equipment, Poulsen became a fugitive from the FBI, living the life of a cyberpunk in a neon Hollywood underground. Soon he made the front pages of the New York Times and became the first hacker charged with espionage. Littman takes us behind the headlines and into the world of Poulsen and his rogues' gallery of cyberthieves. Drawing on hundreds of hours of interviews with Poulsen, his confederates, and the authorities, he spins a thrilling chase story on the electronic frontier. The nation's phone network was Poulsen's playground. On Los Angeles's lucrative radio giveaways, Poulsen worked his magic, winning Porsches and tens of thousands of dollars. He secretly switched on the numbers of defunct Yellow Pages escort ads and took his cut of the profits. And he could wiretap or electronically stalk whomever he pleased, his childhood love or movie stars. The FBI seemed no match for Poulsen. But as Unsolved Mysteries prepared a broadcast on the hacker's crimes, LAPD vice stumbled onto his trail, and an undercover operation began on Sunset Strip.
About the Author
Jonathan Littman is the author of three previous books, including The Fugitive Game and The Watchman, and his articles have appeared in the Los Angeles Times Magazine, Forbes, the San Francisco Chronicle, and other publications. A former college soccer player (on Berkeley's nationally ranked NCAA playoff sqaud), he is the father of two young daughters. He lives in the Bay Area.
Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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 :)
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!
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book kept me interested till the end. The book was well written, and I suggest U 2 read this book. bla-bla-read it ok...Published on 11 Aug. 1999
The book was a great read.. However Kevin Poulsen claims that Littman never checked any of the facts with him, and that Littman is just trying to cash in. Read morePublished on 20 Sept. 1998
This book, although very well written, should only be read the people that really care hackers or high computer technology. Read morePublished on 16 Jun. 1998
The book was entertaining, but just after the release Kevin Poulsen did several interviews about the book. During those interviews Kevin P. Read morePublished on 14 May 1998
This is one of the best books by Littman I have ever read.Kevin Poulsen is however I think one of the least recognized hackers/phreaks of our time. Read morePublished on 25 Jun. 1997
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