Book Review - Steal This Computer Book 4

Networking/Security Forums -> News // Columns // Articles

Author: GroovicusLocation: Centerville, South Dakota PostPosted: Mon Jun 26, 2006 4:02 am    Post subject: Book Review - Steal This Computer Book 4
Steal This Computer Book 4.0

Author(s): Wallace Wang
Publisher: No Starch Press
Date Published: 2006
Book Specifications: Softcover, 361 pages
Category: Internet Security/Computers
Reviewer's Recommended User Level: Novice
Suggested Publisher Price: $29.95 US / $38.95 CDN / L11.91 UK
ISBN: 1593271050 Steal This Computer Book 4.0 Steal This Computer Book 4.0

Blurb from back cover:
If you thought hacking was just about mischief-makers hunched over computers in the basement, think again. As seasoned author Wallace Wang explains, hacking can also mean questioning the status quo, looking for your own truths, and never accepting at face value anything authorities say or do.

The completely revised fourth edition of this offbeat, non-technical book examines what hackers do, how they do it, and how you can protect yourself. Written in the same informative, irreverent, and entertaining style that made the first three editions hugely successful, Steal This Computer Book 4.0 will expand your mind and raise your eyebrows. New chapters discuss the hacker mentality, social engineering and lock picking, exploiting P2P file-sharing networks, and how people manipulate search engines and pop-up ads to obtain and use personal information. Wang also takes issue with the media for "hacking" the news and presenting the public with self-serving stories of questionable accuracy. Inside, you'll discover:


Wang points out early that hacking is more than a title; it is a mentality that can be applied to everyday life. Wang proposes to teach the reader how to think like a hacker by covering a wide range of topics; from phone freaking to reality hacking, along with a healthy dose of the history of malicious software and social engineering. The book discusses online activism, operating systems, filesharing, censorship, terrorism, and a myriad of other topics. As with previous editions, this book covers a lot of ground.

Chapter Synopsis & Review Comments

Steal This Computer is made up of 23 chapters covering six areas:

The Early Hackers opens with a discussion of what hacking is not, better described as the 'Hacker Mentality". From there, a history of phone phreaking and urban myths, transitioning into social engineering, or as Wang calls it, The Art of Hacking People. The PC Pioneers covers the history of malicious software, with an overview of how malware evades detection, how antivirus programs work, the mentality of virus writers, trojan horses and worms, and warez. The Internet Hackers is a history of the online emergence of hacking groups, along with the seedier side of the Internet; stalking, password cracking, rootkits, piracy, and censorship.

The Real World Hackers begins with a discussion of some of the more well known online scams, focusing on the Nigerian Scam, fraudulent charities, pyramid schemes, and a variety of other well known scams. There are tips for finding people on the Internet, hacktivism, hate and terrorist groups. One of the highlights of this section is the chapter on propoganda and the media. The Future- Hacking For Profit covers aspects of identity theft and spam, Internat annoyances, and Adware and Spyware. The final section, Protecting Your Computer and Yourself shows how to get free software (legally), digital forensics, and how to lock down a computer.

The companion CD has more text files that further discuss the various topics, as well as keyloggers, encryption tools, maintenance tools, links to hacking sites, and more.

Style and Detail

The writing is concise, making it read more like a magazine than a technical treatise. The progression through the book is reasonably logical. Starting with the a history of the malicious side of computing and proceeding to present-day threats, the book flows smoothly from one topic to the next.


Wang opens by stating that the purpose of this book is not to teach you how to be a hacker, but rather to teach you to think like one., and Hacking is about exploring, extending boundaries, and searching for knowledge for its own sake". I happen to agree with those assessments. But then Wang makes an abrupt departure from the hacker's quest for knowledge to describe how 'hackers' perpetuate identity theft, cyber-stalking, and software piracy. Since when is 'criminal' synonymous with 'hacker'? How is filesharing 'hacking'? Implementing my own 'hacker' mentality, the only relation hacking has to many of the topics is an effort to add an air of sensationalism to sometimes disparate topics.

There are a few other oddities. HijackThis does not prevent spyware from redirecting your browser. HijackThis is a diagnostic tool. Section 6, Protecting Your Computer and Yourself opens with a chapter on how to obtain freebies on the Internet. While it might be nice to have free Internet, the blitz of advertising that goes with it will do little to make a new user feel comfortable and productive. Nor does it have anything to do with protecting your computer or yourself. Finally, suggesting that people can rid themselves of spam by emailing the spammers seems a bit strange, and definately not my first option.

This book is not for advanced computer users. For new users though there is some practical and helpful information, although it should be taken with a grain of salt. Hacking portrayed as a quest for knowledge is one thing, hacking portrayed in the light of criminal activity can only serve to drive people away from computers and feed stereotypes.

Still, the book covers a wide range of topics in a fairly entertaining manner. The lockpicking section was interesting, as were the sections on propoganda in the news, and social engineering. I would recommend it for anyone that wants an entertaining overview of computers and criminals, and is not interested in a lot of depth or technical presentations.

This book receives an honored SFDC Rating of 7/10.

Chad Clites
SFDC Reviewer


This review is copyright 2006 by the author and Security-Forums Dot Com, and may not be reproduced in any form in any media without the express permission of the author, or Security-Forums Dot Com.

Networking/Security Forums -> News // Columns // Articles

output generated using printer-friendly topic mod, All times are GMT + 2 Hours

Page 1 of 1

Powered by phpBB 2.0.x © 2001 phpBB Group