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The Watchman: The Twisted Life and Crimes of Serial Hacker Kevin Poulsen
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The Watchman: The Twisted Life and Crimes of Serial Hacker Kevin Poulsen

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  173 ratings  ·  15 reviews
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 syste ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published March 31st 1997 by Little, Brown and Company
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Average rating 3.97  · 
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 ·  173 ratings  ·  15 reviews

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Apr 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
Executive Summary: Another pretty interesting read about the early days of computer crime.

Full Review
Kevin Poulsen is often called "The Other Kevin". Not quite as infamous as Kevin Mitnick, Poulsen may have been the more technically proficient of the two, and less capable as a social engineer.

I had heard of his two most famous hacks, that being winning not one, but two Porches from a radio give away, and supposedly crashing the the Unsolved Mysteries call in lines when his story was aired on t
Oct 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, hacking
review of
Jonathan Littman's The Watchman - The Twisted Life and Crimes of Serial Hacker Kevin Poulsen
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - September 24, 2016


To Kevin Poulsen, wherever you are, I wish you well. Ignore the title of this bk, it's one of those 'we-must-contextualize-this-as-criminal-b/c-we-don't-want-people-acting-this-way' types of frame-up. It cd more appropriately be titled The Extraordinary Accomplishments, Audacity,
Dr. Barrett  Dylan Brown, Phd
Jul 29, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: espionage, to-reread
I read this in 1998 and thought it was one of the k00lest haxor books evar... It's been a while though, I'd like to read it again soon.
Scott Holstad
Dec 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I’ve long heard about Kevin Poulsen, but didn’t know as much about him as I did about another early hacker, Kevin Mitnick, and I wanted to learn more, so this book was great. And it just so happened that it was by one of my favorite technology nonfiction authors, Jonathan Littman, who also wrote a book on Mitnick that is also quite good. Mitnick may be more infamous, but Poulsen was possibly better. It’s debatable, but regardless, Poulsen was one of the early old school hackers to take complete ...more
Charles Winters
Aug 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Read it long ago, good book but you also need to step outside of it and read some of the other news and articles about Kevin Poulsen.
Sep 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
An interesting deep dive into the underworld of 80’s and 90’s phone and mainframe computer hacking. Kevin Poulsen is not the first or the last, but he was a pioneer of sorts when it came to early infiltration of phone companies and government agencies. He starts with Pacific Bell in California, where he lives, and eventually delves into full espionage territory as he breaks into the military’s systems. He becomes a hero and sort of mentor to other newbie hackers, abiding by the oddly stringent h ...more
Feb 17, 2011 rated it it was ok

This is sort of embarrassing to admit but I love the movie Hackers. I also enjoy true crime and that breed of novelized journalism that Ben Mezrich has popularized. I'm not proud of that either. But that's what I expected from this book: the exciting adventures of a super-hacker. What I got was practically a technical manual on how the phone companies are set up. I probably should not have read a book on hacking that is fifteen years old, but somehow I still didn't expect it to feel this out o
Jan 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Techies, folks interesting in social engineering
Recommended to Dana by: Ren
This bio on one of the most notorious hackers of the 80s/90s manages the fine line of keeping the technically inclined interested, while not being completely inaccessible to the non-techy. I mean, come on, this guy rigged the phone system to win radio contests. It's pretty cool stuff. Anyway, definitely worth a read if you're looking to divorce the fanciful world of movie-style hackers from the(still very interesting) real world.
May 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Littman writes good nonfiction books. Keven Poulsen is not as well knows as that other hacker kevin but he had the SERIOUS SKILLZ that makes him number one phreaker in my book. Mr. Poulsen now writes for wired magazine about hackers :) If you are gonna to read about hackers, you must read this one.
Wil Wheaton
Apr 24, 2010 added it
Shelves: hackers
This is an interesting account of Poulsen's major exploits during the 80s, but it didn't tell me anything I didn't already know. That doesn't mean it isn't worth reading, just that I probably know a lot about 80s hacker culture thanks to Bruce Sterling.
Apr 06, 2007 rated it liked it
I am not sure how much to believe is true in this book. But some the stuff this guy did is amazing. Overall though I felt pity for Kevin Poulsen. If you are interested in hacking and scams, or remember the earliest personal computers you will find this entertaining (parts of it at least).
Gene Knauer
Apr 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The best book on hackers I've ever read. Riveting and informative.
Dean Jones
Jan 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Even though Poulsen says this book is not a true depiction of what went down, this book was still a very fun and interesting read. I've actually read this book more than once...
May 30, 2009 rated it it was ok
These guys just can't help themselves. They first are hacking phone lines then actually breaking into offices, eavesdropping, and stalking people. Very smart but disgusting people.
May 31, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: computers, hacker
Nothing very exciting. We have a hacker. he hacks. never really got into the background. Read more like a magazine article.
William Friemann
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