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Books on hacking, hackers and hacker ethics

an annotated bibliography


Cyberpunk: Outlaws and Hackers on the Computer Frontier

Katie Hafner & John Markoff , Simon & Schuster 1991, ISBN 0-671-68322-5

This book gathers narratives about the careers of three notorious crackers into a clear-eyed but sympathetic portrait of hackerdom's dark side. The principals are Kevin Mitnick, "Pengo" and "Hagbard" of the Chaos Computer Club, and Robert T. Morris (see RTM, sense 2) . Markoff and Hafner focus as much on their psychologies and motivations as on the details of their exploits, but don't slight the latter. The result is a balanced and fascinating account, particularly useful when read immediately before or after Cliff Stoll's The Cuckoo's Egg. It is especially instructive to compare RTM, a true hacker who blundered, with the sociopathic phone-freak Mitnick and the alienated, drug-addled crackers who made the Chaos Club notorious. The gulf between wizard and wannabee has seldom been made more obvious. (1)


Hackers: Heroes of the computer revolution

Steven Levy, Penguin Books, 1994, ISBN 0-14-100051-1

A page turner!

Levy's book is at its best in describing the early MIT hackers at the Model Railroad Club and the early days of the microcomputer revolution. He never understood UNIX or the networks, though, and his enshrinement of Richard Stallman as "the last true hacker" turns out (thankfully) to have been quite misleading. Numerous minor factual errors also mar the text; for example, Levy's claim that the original Jargon File derived from the TMRC Dictionary (the File originated at Stanford and was brought to MIT in 1976; the co-authors of the first edition had never seen the dictionary in question). There are also numerous misspellings in the book that inflame the passions of old-timers; as Dan Murphy, the author of TECO, once said: "You would have thought he'd take the trouble to spell the name of a winning editor right." Nevertheless, this remains a useful and stimulating book that captures the feel of several important hackish subcultures. (1)


The Tao of Programming

James Geoffrey Infobooks, 1987 ISBN 0-931137-07-1

This gentle, funny spoof of the "Tao Te Ching" contains much that is illuminating about the hacker way of thought. "When you have learned to snatch the error code from the trap frame, it will be time for you to leave."(1)



Tsutomu Shimomura with John Markoff

This book is about the pursuit and capture of Kevin Mitnick the world's most notorious hacker, to the authors at least. Reviews by others deem the book's content rather biased. (Site: www.takedown.com at yahoos directory)


The Cuckoo's Egg

Clifford Stoll, Pan Books, 1989, ISBN 0330317423

A documentary and dramatized book about a hackers group that appeared to sell data to the KGB


Das Chaos Computer Buch

Juergen Wieckmann, Rowwohlt - Wunderlichj, 1988, ISBN 3805204744 German / 905018-072-8 Dutch

A collection of essays written by hackers themselves. This book describes the hacker's scene and ethics in Germany in the late 1980's, translated in several languages.


Code Breakers

F.H. Hinsley and Alan Stripp editors, Oxford University Press, 1993, ISBN 0-19-285304-X

The inside story of bletchley park during the war. In Bletchley, UK, the enigma codes and other encrypted messages were cracked by a amsll army of scientists, cryptologists and operators.


Steven Levy, Penguin Press, 2001, ISBN 0140244328

The story of NSA against the rest of the world in the development of cryptology. Developers of PGP, DES, RSA are among our heroes. Or how a group of rebels developed crypto against the will of the world's most powerfull spy organizations.


Hackers & Painters

Paul Graham, O'Reilly, 2004, ISBN 596 00662 4

A little boring, far from a page turner, but otherwise entertaining book that let you rethink that nerds are a creative species but that creative people aren't necessarily nerds. Programming goes beyond a profession, it is a devotion.




There are many other books to read about Hacking, encryption, cryptography, programming etc. There are also films to watch on the subject. (1) See our library's history bibliography in the reference section!


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Footnotes & References