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Stealing the Network: How to Own a Continent

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This book outlines a fictional plot to "own the box" by compromising an entire continent's network infrastructure. It combines a set of stories with real technology to show readers the danger that lurks in the shadows of the information security industry.

The first book in this series Stealing the Network: How to Own the Box created a new genre of “Cyber-Thrillers,” that told fictional stories about individual hackers using real technologies. This second book in the series Stealing the Network: How to Own a Continent (or STC for short) introduces the concept of hacker groups, and the damage they can inflict through a concerted, orchestrated string of malicious attacks. The “Stealing” books are unique in both the fiction and computer book categories. They combine accounts that are fictional with technology that is very real. While none of these specific events have happened, there is no reason why they could not. You could argue it provides a roadmap for criminal hackers, but I say it does something else: It provides a glimpse into the creative minds of some of today’s best hackers, and even the best hackers will tell you that the game is a mental one. The phrase “Root is a state of mind,” coined by K0resh and printed on shirts from DEF CON, sums this up nicely. While you may have the skills, if you lack the mental fortitude, you will never reach the top. This is what separates the truly elite hackers from the wannabe hackers.

When I say hackers, I don’t mean criminals. There has been a lot of confusion surrounding this terminology, ever since the mass media started reporting computer break-ins. Originally, it was a compliment applied to technically adept computer programmers and system administrators. If you had a problem with your system and you needed it fixed quickly, you got your best hacker on the job. They might “hack up” the source code to fix things, because they knew the big picture. While other people may know how different parts of the system work, hackers have the big picture in mind while working on the smallest details. This perspective gives them great flexibility when approaching a problem, because they don’t expect the first thing they try to work.

The book Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution, by Steven Levy (1984), really captured the early ethic of hackers and laid the foundation for what was to come. Since then, the term hacker has been co-opted through media hype and marketing campaigns to mean something evil. It was a convenient term already in use, and so instead of simply saying someone was a criminal hacker, the media just called him a hacker. You would not describe a criminal auto mechanic as simply a mechanic, and you shouldn’t do the same with a hacker, either.

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