Steal This Computer Book 4.0, by Wallace Wang, ISBN 1-59327-105-0

Reviewed by: Robert Boardman, September 2006
Published by: No Starch Press
Requires: N/A
MSRP: US$29.95, CAD$38.95

If you are looking for a computer book review that will tell you how to steal a computer, or steal the information from a computer, this is not the one. Steal This Computer Book 4.0 is not a how-to book for hackers. Wang writes in the introduction, “This is a philosophy book about the implications of hacking. Hacking isn't just about breaking into computers. Hacking is about exploring, extending boundaries, and searching for knowledge for its own sake ... the purpose of this book isn't to teach you how to be a hacker, but rather to teach you to think like one.” In order to achieve his purpose, Wang describes in significant detail how hackers think and what hackers have already done with the telephone system, with individual computers, and using the Internet. Along the way to enlightenment (i.e., thinking like a hacker), readers learn a great deal about how hacking is done.

As Wang says, computers should be tools to expand people's awareness, not be a substitute for awareness. People should think about what they read on their computer screens not simply click on the Accept or Yes button when it appears on the screen. His goal is to convince readers to think about what they use their computers for, about who benefits from software purchases, about finding out about and stopping the spread of destructive programming (viruses, worms, trojans). He discusses how to make sure an Internet connected computer is as well protected as possible from theft of passwords and information. He discusses how to control cyberstalking, how to protect yourself from frauds and cons, spam and spyware.


Along the way Wang encourages readers to think about what they are doing and seeing, and about those who benefit from these illicit activities. He discusses online activism, censorship and propaganda, and extends his work into online hate and terror. The CD that comes with the book is full (nearly 640 MB) of information and software that supplements each chapter. While software is often out-of-date by the time it gets on a CD in a book, the name of the program or an earlier version can guide the reader to the most recent version.

While there is no programming information, there is certainly more than enough detail to help start someone along the road to illegal computer activities. In the epilog Wang writes, “If you get nothing else from this book, please remember this: You are being hacked every day of your life ... the real threat doesn't come from faceless hordes of hackers intent on making your life miserable. The real threat comes from faceless hordes of criminals intent on making your life miserable.” The only person who has your best interests at heart is you.

Wang writes well and clearly. He deals with many of the real threats to the integrity and reliability of data and program on computers. He seems to understand the hacking mentality and tries to convert readers into hackers, into people who put their own knowledge and self-interest first. Chapters are reasonably short, 10-15 pages, and clearly focused. There are many illustrations which both enliven and clarify the text. In many cases, the knowledge he gives is double edged. For example, using a laptop with a wireless network card outside your home will tell you quickly if your wireless router is secure; it will also tell you which of your neighbors' wireless routers are secure. What will you do with that information? In another example Wang refers to well known Chinese and Cuban information access restrictions on the Internet. If they do it, what about other governments, including our own? How do we find out?

If nothing else, this book has some of the best information about protecting yourself, your family and your computer from illegal or malicious acts perpetrated electronically. It also contains very thoughtful and insightful paragraphs about the use of computers by individuals, groups, corporations and nations. And it is almost as compelling as a good novel. Recommended.

KSN Product Rating:

Comments? Questions? Qualms? Technical problems? Send an e-mail!





© Copyright 2000-2006 All rights reserved. legal notice
home | previous reviews | hot news | about us | search | store | subscribe


Forums Search Home Previous Reviews About Us Store Subscribe