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Underground: Tales of Hacking, Madness, and Obsession on the Electronic Frontier

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  575 ratings  ·  54 reviews
Suelette Dreyfus and her co-author, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, tell the extraordinary true story of the computer underground, and the bizarre lives and crimes of an elite ring of international hackers who took on the establishment. Spanning three continents and a decade of high level infiltration, they created chaos amongst some of the world's biggest and most power ...more
Hardcover, 475 pages
Published June 6th 1997 by Mandarin (first published 1997)
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Average rating 4.16  · 
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 ·  575 ratings  ·  54 reviews

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Nov 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I found this one to be a very entertaining read.

Firstly, being one with a strong IT background I expected to quickly feel "at home". Secondly, and perhaps even more importantly, I was very much hoping to "relive" my personal experiences with the "early" (inter)net - to be confirmed in my own perceptions if you will.

Then was time when you could still snoop around the net openly without second guesses and immediate fear of persecution - ultimately with a wish to simply learn as the driving force
Aug 23, 2013 rated it it was ok
2/5 - It was ok. I’m fascinated by stories like this, but the way that the stories were presented in the book resulted in a combination of perseverance and dread. The stories are overall entertaining and intriguing if you’re interested in history like this. Unfortunately, Dreyfus includes a lot of unnecessary information. I assume that Dreyfus included the additions to facilitate a better understanding of the characters. Unfortunately, on some of the characters the additional information does no ...more
Oct 14, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I love these glimpses into the minds of hackers and how everything worked before the Internet. Sharing, openness and then changes coming with new laws brought on by few "black sheep".

Some of these stories are unbelievable. Some are sad. Some are funny. I enjoyed all of them. Well done
Brian Palmer
Apr 08, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2018, non-fiction
Writing a book on hacking, computer security, and so forth is hard. When this was written, back in 1997, it was surely even harder, as the general audience this book is aimed at was presumably less familiar with the technical details of "cyberspace." Dreyfus manages to make it work and capture a snapshot of the feel behind some of the (primarily Australian) hackers she features in the book.

I read this from a PDF that's freely available on the book's website; it was presented in a fixed-width, ty
Sagar Acharya
Nov 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A must book for nerds. A true account on Australian, British and US hackers.

It shows the earliest ways to abuse computers and law and how phreakers and hackers having amazing handles brought about mischief, havoc and how they were penalised in their respective laws.

"Byteman", damn what a handle! I laughed for about two minutes on this wordplay.

Many sides of hacking like social engineering (getting things done by talking in a way), limited access exploiting for extracting free calls around 1990,
Jan 22, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A really good read about the hacker/phreaker scene in Australia around 1990. We follow a few young persons as they dig into phone and computer systems, what happens when they are caught and what happend after that. It's was interesting to read about the passion that drove them, but they all had quite sad stories as well.

The book feels authentic and does a good job balancing technical stuff with the characters social life.

The author's position is that breaking in to computer systems and snoop ar
Dec 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
You might be interested to read this book, when you learn, that Mendax, one of the teenage hackers, is Julian Assange.
Dec 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved every single page of that book! Will definitely read it again a few times🖤🖤
Jul 14, 2019 added it
Shelves: 55c-it-2
I have the german edition.
Liam Williams
Apr 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Perhaps the best text on the early years of hacking. Of great social value to those even outside the computing and hacking world. Features a teenage Julian Assange.
Robyn Lewis
Dec 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A fantastic look at hacking, phreaking and general technological tomfoolery before it was all done for profit, corporate espionage and military purposes. I really kept yearning to know more - Dreyfus includes enough little details to get you really hooked.
Patrick DiJusto
Dec 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
Pretty interesting book about the hacker subculture of the late 80s and early 90s -- in Australia. Yes, the smallest continent, a land that for a time had a _single_ T3 cable serving the entire nation, had a thriving hacker community. Who knew?

The stories are pretty much the same as every hacker story everywhere: a bunch of nerdy aspie teenage guys stay up late at night making their way through the local telephone company computers. From there they access universities, and from there they visit
Nov 20, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Suelette Dreyfus has compiled an intriguingly honest account of Melbourne's underground hacking community. Julian Assange, editor in chief of the notorious whistle blower site WikiLeaks, assists in the telling of this eye-opening, detailed development of Australian hacking, his role in The International Subversives, and ultimately it's influence on international hacking. Lovers are crossed, families are betrayed or betray and the secret service have more than their fair share of the spotlight to ...more
Eric Phetteplace
Jan 02, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: prose
A chronicle of the early days of hacking in the 1990s, primarily focused on Australian hackers but with some British and American characters in there too. I guess I expected a little too much from this book as I was mainly interested in the technical side of things, which it does go into a little at parts but not enough for me. On the whole, though, it's just not well-written. Almost every narrative jumps around awkwardly as Dreyfus tries to fill in extraneous details she forgot to mention at th ...more
Jun 20, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle, 2011
The Kindle edition had wonky formatting, so be warned. Reading this made me pay closer attention to the Lulz Security attacks going on this year. I think it also made me more sympathetic? More pro-LulzSec? More interested in learning about the curiosities and drives that make up young hackers? Something. In any case, Suelette weaves a good story. Worth a read, even if you're not in the computer industry - there's very little technical jargon that's not explained, so no matter what, you'll be abl ...more
Vasil Kolev
Feb 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: tech, history
This is just too short. There are a few cases in it, but there isn't really a whole picture (and I'm pretty sure there was enough material to paint it). The people described in the book are exemplary of the field, but that's really not enough.

The book is also a nice description of Julian Assange (aka Mendax), who also helped with it (so, the usual grain of salt applies).

It's interesting that some stuff still hasn't changed since then...
Chris Malia
Jan 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I have never gotten through a book faster than this. You might think a book about hacking would be boring, but the chapters are all well told. And the book today is more pertinent than ever, as hactivism has pushed its way into public discourse. Assange writes the forward, and is now public enemy number 1. You don't need to be a tech person to understand the book--a huge plus. Best part of all, it's free.
Apr 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Well, lets see.

There are definite Assange undertones to this book. But it is also a tale told from the perspective of the hacking community in the 1980s.

The flavor, of the atmosphere and the taste of the character's naiveté definitely struck a chord when I read this in the late 90s. Although it's supposed to be a mostly true story, you can tell it contains some embellishments for the sake of the story, and the subject's privacy.

All in all a well rounded book.
Jan 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2011, cs, geek
I'm a geek by trade, and the reason I stumbled into my line of work is that I've always been highly fascinated by communications networks. Underground deals with some of the early history of hacking, which might be an acquired taste, but for those of us interested in the field it's an interesting and engaging read.
Interesting nostalgic read. I remember the time and some of the people mentioned. Oh, the days of the Commodore 64 and the even more wonderful Amiga.

After a rather slow and laborious beginning, delving into the not too interesting details of the attack on NASA, I became more engaged with the lives of the hackers and Ken Day and his colleagues' under-resourced campaign to bring them to justice.
An account of hackers and their underground world. Tells the story of Par, a hacker that was on the run from the US secret service, and of Julian Assange's hacking days in Australia, among other stories. A must read for piecing together a history of computer hacking. Assange helped with the book and wrote the preface.
Jun 03, 2013 rated it it was ok
a re-read from many moons ago, and enjoyed it rather more first time round. it's much better at giving insight into the personalities involved and their motivation, than it is at providing a quality reading experience. but the former is sufficiently interesting that the book doesn't suffer too much for it.
Aug 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a really well written and researched book. I could hardly stop reading this. It made me wish I was a little bit more computer-literate, which would probably allow me to understand more of the finer points of the story.
Still a great read though.
Sep 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
A nice, compelling story about a couple of hackers in the late eighties and the early nineties. I also read "Inside WikiLeaks", in which someone calls Julian by the name Mendax.

Could it be that Mendax in the Underground book is Julian Assange himself? Or this just an easter egg?
Win Kang
Jul 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
Engaging read, if you've ever wondered how hackers came to be and how technology has progressed over time. Admittedly, as technology progresses, so do the various kinds of personalities who engage in hacking.
Simon Bailey
Aug 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I lived through this time and was involved in this community. Some of these names are familiar to me so it holds a special nostalgia. I'm taken back to the days of 2400 baud modems and Bakelite handsets placed into foam seats.

An excellent tale very close to home for me.
Oct 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This was fascinating. Well written, compelling, a fantastic history of the early 1990s hacking culture and such an interesting insight into the opposing forces that are shaping the online world today. Tops.
Nov 08, 2012 rated it liked it
Somewhat chauvinistic and sometimes repetative but had some great moments and was a fun read.
It had a nice balance between technology and story, much better than in some other hacker memoirs I've read.
Mar 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
Published nine years before WikiLeaks came online and all the more thought-provoking as a consequence.
Fascinating for techies, I think those of a less geeky nature would enjoy it more than they might anticipate.
Available as a legitimate free e-book from Project Gutenberg.
Nov 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
Every wannabe geek should have this and read this book. one hacker mentioned in this book is Assange itself and say what.. the book reveals that the author security guru clifford Stoll (author of "cukoos egg") got hacked... which makes us laugh along with the h hackers... one hell of a read..
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