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Ask HN: Recommendations of good cybercrime novels?
242 points by init-as on Aug 13, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 155 comments
I recently read American Kingping by Nick Bilton and I thought it was really good. It’s about the founder of the Silk Road and how the FBI tracked him down.

Can you recommend any similiar novels?

This isn't quite in the category, but John Carreyrou's nonfiction book "Bad Blood", which covered the rise and fall of Theranos, satisfied me in a similar way. There's plenty of crime, although it's really about pretending to be high-tech rather than actually being high tech. For people in tech who love a good fraud story, I highly recommend it.

Also in the nonfiction realm - Countdown to Zero Day: Stuxnet and the Launch of the World's First Digital Weapon was really good. Ended up reading the entire thing in one go on an airplane.

Just finished this one and really enjoyed it. I will say, it would have been infuriating to read if I didn't already know the story ended with her takedown.

Spoiler alert?

Only if you have managed to ignore every major story about Theranos/Elizabeth for the last couple years...

It's a true story, and one that's discussed in HN comments ad nauseum.

100% agree. Cyber true-crime, maybe? The toxicity of that place, of her, of Sunny! That guy seems like a real piece of work. I was struck by how amazingly well connected she was, collecting former and current high ranking government officials and industry titans. For me the highlight was the surreal depiction of that birthday party with Kissinger.

I was just going to mention "Bad Blood" as well. I am currently reading it and just can't stop.

The Cuckoo's Egg, by Cliff Stoll.

Indeed a great book.

And (tiny spoiler-alert): a small easter-egg (though not intended as such) for people on HN: the founders of HN/YC show up in the book, admittedly in a very minor capacity.

Btw, I recently discovered that Cliff Stoll is one of the awesome guys who appears on the Numberphile YouTube channel, so if you watch that, know that it's him :)

Including this one posted this morning: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n7GYYerlQWs

Any time the subject of Cliff Stoll comes up, I always comment that someday I want to be as excited about _something_ as Cliff Stoll is about _everything_.

His TED talk is probably my all time favourite. https://www.ted.com/talks/clifford_stoll_on_everything

Second this. Fantastic book about true events. If you like the story, there is also a movie which covers the same events as the book. The movie is called "23" and is available in German and English.

I know the movie as 'The KGB, the computer, and me': https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EcKxaq1FTac

Thanks for this, just started watching it now!

Oh wow, didn't realize there was a book behind "23". BTW, there's a terrible American film with the same name - one wants:


not this here rubbish: https://m.imdb.com/title/tt0481369/ (hm, really it was with Jim Carrie? Maybe there's yet another terrible version. Or maybe this was just that bad).

My favorite bit was jangling his keys to induce noise in the line to delay the hacker long enough for a trace.

This. Cliff Stoll is better known for his other book, where he got a bunch of predictions about the internet wrong, but Cuckoo’s Nest is a lot better read. Based on a true story, how a few cent $ difference led him to discover a massive hack going on, and how he was chasing the hacker.

The OG of true crime hacking books.

Yep, this one is a great read!

Fantastic book!

Second this.

We Were Gods, by Alex Feinman. Among other things, it contains an amazing scene describing an attack on a race condition from inside a fantasy game's magic system.

Here's part of it:

Giggling a little from the alcohol, the four points began the slow juggling routine I'd sent them; just a simple ball passing, in rhythm. Pass, pass, pass. Throw and catch in the same instant; the balls went round and round until all four were landing in palms at the same time, four little smacks merging into one sound. Their avatars were better at this than they were. After a moment I threw another ball in, then another, until there were eight in the circle: four in the air, four in the hand. Faster and faster they went round, until there were little streaks of light behind them, until the streaks almost formed a complete, rippling circle.

Around us the world leaned in, currents of energy creating a field of magic potential. Rhythmic motion always attracted the attention of the underlying world routines as they struggled to incorporate it into the ebbs and flows of the wind and water; a vortex here, at one of the two hearts of the world, drew a lot of processing power. And each point of the cross was a magic-using engine; those strands of energy consumed a surprising amount of resources. But the real trick was the synchronization: slight imperfections in the coding routines for distribution and rationing of magical energy made them susceptible to a timing attack. It was a matter of chance, though; each time the circle tossed and caught, quanta of energy were requested at nearly-identical times. Sooner or later the system would try to service two at once and--ah.

One of the balls vanished momentarily, lost to accounting for a brief instant before the system found it again. It left a tiny kink in the circle of light as it passed: an opening, into the collection routines. This was what my watch-spell was waiting for: a chance to insert my own instructions into the information transmission stream: instructions that said 'open', 'open'.


In a hard SF rather than contemporary context, A Deepness in the Sky, by Vernor Vinge, is an absolute delight (and a Hugo winner for best novel). Vinge was a mathematics and computer science professor, and very much knows what he's talking about.

Part of the fun is that, on a 5000 year old spaceship set arbitrarily far in our future, long past the end of Moore's Law, all the systems are still running Unix. And one of the jobs on board is "Programmer-Archeologist", digging through generations of code to try to find useful bits from the past. But story-wise, there's some outstanding hacking ideas going.

Same author wrote _True Names_, which pre-dates the internet and yet nails a bunch of internet crime concepts (it's not about black ICE it's about someone doxing you, etc). Some sci-fi authors had a vision of the future, Vinge went on a 3 month vacation to the future.

I found the first 20% hard to get through, but after that, the book was one of my favorites of all time. The compelling technical aspects combined with quality storytelling made the book extremely worthwhile.

A more cybercrime themed Vinge short story would be True Names. It's out of print AFAIK but you can find it online.

Two books come to mind (while excluding the obvious absolute classics like Neuromancer (William Gibson) and Snow Crash (Neal Stephenson):

"Cryptonomicon" by Neal Stephenson. It goes from WW2 to modern time.

"Cyberpunk" by Katie Hafner - Read it aeons ago so working from long term memory. 3 real world stories of famous hackers and their "crimes" (Kevin Mitnick, Pengo, Robert Morris).

The last being one of the founders of ycombinator

Didn't know that...

I recently read Ghost in the Wires by Kevin Mitnick and it was fantastic! He talks about his journey and evasion of the FBI while he was on the run

Also check out his "Art of ..." books (art of deception, illusion etc.). Chronicles and details of various cyber crimes. Very interesting books.

Countdown to Zero Day by Kim Zetter.

It talks about the Stuxnet and the story behind it, and I got the chance to learn some fairly interesting stuff in the meantime (like the complexity of building a nuclear bomb).

I found it much more useful than the American Kingpin, which just mentions that Tor and Bitcoin offer anonymity online, but doesn't get anywhere even close to explaining either of the technologies that are crucial for the storyline.

We Are Anonymous by Parmy Olson also made me feel kind of the same, but the writing wasn't quite as engaging as the Countdown to Zero Day was.

Sanger's Confront and Conceal has a great chapter on Stuxnet / Olympic Games as well.

Ghost in the Wire by Kevin Mitnick.

I can't believe no one recommended this. The guy literally evaded the FBI using technology.

And I don't know if someone helped him write the book, but the story is amazingly good. It is exactly what you look for in a hacking story, someone outwitting people combined will some phone phreaking. Very good book, I would recommend.

Can't upvote this comment enough. Incredible story.

Yes! When I was a kid I had heard his story a bit but this book was amazing and really highlighted just how far someone could go with regards to "owning" systems.

Second this, and also recommend The Art of Deception which focuses on a combination of social engineering attacks with technology vectors. Not a novel as it's really about actual security, but still worth a note.

+1 has to be the most ‘hackernews’ book I have read / still reading (started yesterday)

“git commit murder” is a story in the style of a detective novel set at a BSD convention. Not sure if it counts as “cybercrime” because it’s about a murder but of course the motive and circumstances only make sense in terms of the internal politics of a fictional BSD distribution. It’s also a really authentic description of what it’s like to be at a technical conference as a newcomer where you don’t know anyone.

"Stealing the network" series by Ryan Russel is awesome.

  - Stealing the Network: How to Own the Box
  - Stealing the Network: How to Own a Continent
  - Stealing the Network: How to Own an Identity
  - Stealing the Network: How to Own a Shadow

Came here to make sure someone mentioned these. Might not qualify as great fiction imnho - but the technical detail more than makes up for it. And the books are entertaining.

I see people's mentioned Stephenson's "Cryptonomicon" - while I loved "diamond age" and like "snowcrash" - I much prefer Singh's "the codebook" on a similar theme. Thrilling non-fiction.

On the more fiction side, I enjoyed Bruce Sterling's "The Zenith Angle" a lot.

And second the recommendations for Mitnick's books - both the autobiography "ghost in the wires" and the more free form "made up examples" in "the art of deception" (like many of the stories in the stealing the network books, "inspired" by true events...).

Other than that there's of course: https://craphound.com/littlebrother/download/

(and to a lesser extent "homeland").

And others mentioned the non-fiction book detailing operation sun devil:

"THE HACKER CRACKDOWN Law and Disorder on the Electronic Frontier", Bruce Sterling


[ed: I think maybe "Rainbows End" by Vernor Vinge deserves a mention too. And maybe "speed of Dark" by Elizabeth Moon]

Yes! Came here to recommend these. An insane level of technical detail (for suspense novel format) but still maintains a super entertaining storyline as well.

Wait, I'm confused. Are these fiction or not?

Reamde, by Neal Stephenson.

Yeah, the big daddy of cyberpunk ("Snowcrash") also wrote a contemporary technothriller set in organized cybercrime organizations.

I'm a big Stephenson fan, and I thought Reamde was terrible.

His usual quirky pacing just turns into a dragging nightmare that never pays off, it's uncharacteristically full of questionable technical premises, and if it weren't for a few islands of genuinely entertaining scenes I would not have made it through.

I honestly believe it's the result of some suit pressuring him to write about topics people see on Dateline

It definitely dragged on, but overall I thought it was enjoyable. He definitely kept building up to climaxes throughout the whole book - on an airplane, I kept sadly checking the percentage read because I was sure I was almost done with it, only to discover that I was only 30%, 50%, 70% along...

If you're a Stephenson fan, I would absolutely give this a read.

Maybe - but he finally figured out how to write an ending.

Yeah, I would skip this and read Cryptonomicon again.

I wholeheartedly agree. I only finished it because it was his, but I feared he could be «losing it».

Fortunately seveneves was again spectacular.

The other thing about Reamde is that it's one of those books that depends on case after case of events happening and aligning in a very particular way or there wouldn't be a story.

Heard very mixed reviews of Reamde. Could you please tell me what elements you liked of the book?

It's been on my reading list for a while but the mixed reviews always lead to it being left for another day

Its a fun book, and a good intro to Stephenson (it was my first book I read of his, and now I've read four others). But if you've read his other stuff first or are a more hardcore sci-fi nerd, its easy to think that its a little closer to a blockbuster thriller than science fiction.

Its very different from Stephenson's other novels. Its much more of a thriller with a few tech elements thrown in. I really enjoyed it, but don't go in expecting another cryptonomicon.

Disclaimer, I'm a big Neal Stephenson fan.

Reamde, is a fast paced techno thriller. It's arguably one of his lesser novels but still a ton of fun IMHO.

The premise of the book is that of an online game that is essentially similar to world of warcraft with the difference that the entire point of the game is the in game economy.

This part of the book is pretty well developed and ties in nicely with his other novels that also deal with money, gold, crypto currencies, etc. The crisis in the game is when a group of enterprising chinese hackers deploy a virus that encrypts people's laptops via a bit of ransomware distributed via email. To unlock their computers people are to pay some of the in game gold in a particular area. All goes sideways through a set of rather unlikely coincidences.

There are a lot of other elements being dragged into this including a fair bit of gun wielding by terrorists, russian mafia, and the protagonist and his somewhat libertarian family. This is is not the most innovative plot and it is ultimately a relatively one dimensional plot that is in places a bit cringeworthy.

I still enjoyed this book and have read it multiple times. It's got plenty of side plots, detailed musings, and so on that are typical for Neal Stephenson. If you enjoy that kind of thing, this book is fine but it's no Anathem or Snow Crash.

> somewhat libertarian family

Boy, that's putting it mildly. :)

I was going to recommend Reamde as well. I think it is best to look at it as an interesting spin on the typical cybercrime story, and not as a "Neil Stephenson" book specifically. In other words, read it for the story, not for the author.

Bit of a stretch to call out Stephenson as a "big daddy of cyberpunk"? What title would you give to Sterling and Gibson?

Stephenson is more post cyberpunk really.

The Defcon book list ("peek behind the curtain" and "underground culture") is a good starting place, https://www.defcon.org/html/links/book-list.html

All my recommendations happen to be mentioned on this list, so I'll mention them here:

- Stealing the Network, a collection of short stories. One of those stories was written by Fyodor of nmap and is available online: http://insecure.org/stc/ -- this sort of works like a tutorial for nmap and networking security. :-D

- Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

- Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson

- Neuromancer by William Gibson

Lock In by John Scalzi.


Wil Wheaton's narration is great too. I listened to the audiobook and think about it a lot.

It's a techno whodunit — hacking and cracking neural dust/lace, remotely renting and operating physical bodies and committing crimes while “occupying” them, and bio/techno ethics all play a role.

In Scalzi's future, locked-in patients receive so much government funding to improve their lives that they gain more abilities and advantages than those who aren't “locked in”, which makes for an interesting inversion.

I would throw in the sequel "Head on". Same universe - just some time later. The audiobook is also narrated by Wil Wheaton. And it is great as always.

Offtopic. I would blindly recommend all books in the combination Wheaton narrating Scalzi. But esp. "The Collapsing Empire" (I can't wait for the next part to be released in October).

It feels wrong to recommend a book I haven't read yet, but Chuck Wendig's "Zeroes" might be a good book to pair with Scalzi. I expect from his other books and the reviews that this is going to be more of an adventure book than any hard-computer-science... But, again, that might be what you're looking for.

On a similar note, its been a while since I've read them, but I rather enjoyed James Strickland's books, Looking Glass and Irreconcilable Differences. Part of that might be because there's a part where he explains IPV4 addressing, and the example he uses happens to be the Class-B where I grew up. It was a little like seeing your house in the background of a movie.

I also sort of enjoyed Rick Dakan's "Geek Mafia", but that appears to have fallen off the planet; only the sequels are on Amazon right now...

Cory Doctorow's Little Brother. I could not put it down, and read it in one sitting.

In the spirit of the fact that a few of these book suggestions have been made available online for free, I feel obligated to point out that Cory Doctorow has chosen to make both Little Brother and Homeland (the sequel to Little Brother, mentioned by another commenter) available in a few different formats on his website. [1] [2]

[1] https://craphound.com/littlebrother/download/

[2] https://craphound.com/homeland/download/

The sequel, Homeland, is also pretty great.

This is truly an amazing read. I also enjoyed this book immensely. It is required reading for my teenage children.

"Daemon" or "Kill Decision" by Daniel Suarez

"Snow Crash" by Neil Stephenson

I'll second Daemon. It's a really good novel.

Agreed. For my tastes, a lot of tech thrillers are a little too "and then magic happens" when it comes to the tech details. Daemon's rich detail in this regard was appealing to me.

If you read Daemon, you really need to read FreedmonTM. It's a direct sequel, and almost has a hopeful vision of the future where Daemon has a dismal vision.

I've wondered about whether there was a sequel, given how Daemon ends.

Honestly, I feel like the story is incomplete without the sequel. It made the whole idea even better.

I didn't like Kill Decision; the extrapolated premise from "X occurs in nature" to "let's harness it with technology" was just a hair too ridiculous for me.

Bruce Sterling's The Hacker Crackdown (nonfiction, now freeware). Lots of important early hacker history and run-ins with the authorities, plus the origin story of the EFF.

Similar title, different book:

Kingpin: How One Hacker Took Over the Billion-Dollar Cybercrime Underground by Kevin Poulsen ISBN-978-0307588692

The story of how credit card hacker Max Butler was caught by the FBI.

Late reply to say I immensely enjoyed this book. Highly recommended.

Halting State by Charlie Stross

As others have said, also its sequel Rule 34. It's been a while since I read these, but I don't recall anything in there that jumped out at me as "you can't get there from here."

There was originally supposed to be a third novel in this series, but Stross cancelled it[0] after Edward Snowden.

"Halting State" wasn't intended to be predictive when I started writing it in 2006. Trouble is, about the only parts that haven't happened yet are Scottish Independence and the use of actual quantum computers for cracking public key encryption (and there's a big fat question mark over the latter—what else are the NSA up to?).

I'm throwing in the towel. I probably will write another near-future Scottish police procedural by and by, but it won't be a sequel to the first two except in the loosest sense. The science fictional universe of "Halting State" and "Rule 34" is teetering on the edge of turning into reality. Meanwhile, the financial crisis of 2007 forced me back to the drawing board for "Rule 34"; the Snowden revelations have systematically trashed all my ideas for the third book.

[0] http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2013/12/psa-why-...

And also its sequel Rule 34.

And its sequel, Rule 34.

"The Right to Read" by Richard Stallman[1] is certainly not a novel, but it is a short bit of fiction about cybercrime (or rather, what would happen if certain day-to-day developer activities were made criminal) and is certainly worth the <20 minutes that it takes to read.

I seem to recall that it received a bit of hysterical "oh that could never happen" reaction when it was released but I can't seem to find a source for that recollection. It may have mostly been a reaction that was generated by the somewhat emotive backlash that tends to appear whenever Stallman makes a statement about "freedom" though, and the story certainly is allegorical, so anyone who disagreed with him may have posted about it online and skewed the discussion in that direction. I can't recall much about the specific reaction at the time (it was more than 10 years ago now) though so much of the above is really just poorly-informed speculation on my part.

It is, unfortunately, disappointingly prescient and it's something that I think everyone working in the tech industry should read, regardless of whether they think they agree with RMS's views on software freedom and intellectual property.

[1] https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/right-to-read.en.html

Edit: I just re-read it and my initial estimate of "<20 minutes" was way off. I had forgotten just how short the story actually was, so perhaps my recollection about the reaction to the allegory isn't entirely accurate either. Nonetheless, I'm leaving this comment here as witness to the fallibility of my memory.

"Hard-boiled Wonderland and end of the world" by Murakami. Not exactly a cybercrime novel. But I find the novel to be resonant with SF/cyberpunk subculture and an engrossing read too.

Try Daemon and Freedom™ by Daniel Suarez.

Daemon was virtually unreadable.

It's a hacker-themed fairtale for computer illiterate, basically. I had a non-techy friend borrow the book and they too couldn't finish it, because it was just way over acceptable believability limits even for them.

Ohh man, for me it was EXACTLY the opposite. Daemon was one of the finest examples of a book in the cybercrime genre. It was one of those "Black Mirror" style entertainment: Take known tech and push it towards dystopia style stories. Daemon was was super-fun, and absolutely un-putdownable (Literally read it in a single sitting IIRC).

Almost all the tech (Self driving cars, distributed systems, daemons that can self replicate (viruses), collaborative systems, a Darknet all exist in some form or the other today! Is it fantasy? Duh!

Is it a fun read for someone who works building these exact systems fora living? Definitely!

Completely agree. Everything is possible in it. If there was indeed someone who had a far surpassed genius level of IQ and tech know how, and dedicated hours of their time to developing the stuff with an unlimited budget (which basically is what Matthew Sobol supposedly has) then I could easily understand how a lot of things in that book could become reality.

Either way - a fun read and a good book to re-visit. One of the few that I read every few years or so...

Looking back on it now, I think the one thing that's really not plausible is the idea that someone could write a system that can anticipate anything that can happen. It was a little too Foundation/Psychohistory for me.

But it was still a fantastic novel, I loved reading it, and will probably re-read it again and again.

Did you read Freedom(TM)? It's a "sequel" but is really the second half of the novel. Addresses your critique in a very interesting way.

I did, yup. I was actually super mad at Daemon; I always try to get people to get both at once, to avoid the cliffhanger.

I don't think it address it enough; it made it more plausible by admitting that it can't be completely autonomous, but I'm not entirely sold. Having said that, I still love the series, much like I love any fantasy novel :P

These are among my favorite books, and I've read thousands of books. It was written in the 90s or early 2000s, so the tech that was so futuristic now exists everywhere (IoT). You question believability? The tech is so not "just way over acceptable", much of it already exists. If we can suspend our belief to read about aliens, hobbits, magical schools, talking animals, etc., this hardly stretches the imagination at all.

Don't let this guy stop you from reading these awesome books! I recently re-read it, and the first few chapters are pretty tough because it lays out all the tech premises. Stick with it. The plot will keep you engaged, and the storytelling is supurb

If you don't like something, I think it's better just to say that. Daemon is demonstrably not unreadable, in that quite a lot of people did read and enjoy it. So much so that Wired did an article on how it started as an underground hit among tech-inclined people: https://www.wired.com/2008/04/pl-print-20/

Check out the Audiobook then.

Mark Russinovich's Jeff Aiken Trilogy. If you're looking for a quality bestseller similar to Dan Brown books.

Zero day, Trojan Horse and Rogue Code are all excellent novels. Some common themes include computer virus epidemics, cyber armies, cyber warfare, dangers of an overnetworked but undersecured society

Second this suggestion. As others have noted his books probably aren't going to win any literary awards, but they are fun entertaining reads. There are some similarities in subject matter to some of Dan Brown's books, but Russinovich is a former Microsoft employee (and iirc he wrote the sys intervals suite of tools) so his are much more technically detailed, and accurate then what you would find in Dan Brown.

I only read Zero Day and I thought it was pretty bad. Obviously he's got much better tech credentials than most authors, and I felt he probably should have gone for a more niche tech-literate market than just write tech-oriented bad fiction. Just looking now, his later novels seemed to get slightly better goodreads reviews so perhaps his writing got a little better.

They're not great, but they're more or less as entertaining as the Dan Brown books (which also wouldn't be in my list of great literature).

Takedown by Tsutomo Shimomura

That's the story of how Kevin Mitnick got caught. Very controversial so I can't say it's good. I still enjoyed it back then.

Note that the question is about novels, and I think it is how you should read the book. I seriously doubt its credibility when it comes to facts.

I will not downvote (as I don't agree that a downvote should be a disagreement, and you /are/ posting in earnest of discussion) however I can't avoid at least commenting on the fact that this is a terrible novel.

It's fact based, which is nice, however Tsutomo talks significantly more about food than Kevin in this book. Unendingly boring and light on details.

If I could get that week of my life back I would.

I never understood the fame of mitnick. He was a loser and not very talented. He is the equivalent of a Kardashian for fame

Kevin Paulson at least had some actual skills.

Read his book, if you haven't yet. He's honest, likable guy, always curious (and hungry) to live. He wouldn't have scored high in a coding competition, but it makes his accomplishments only more impressive.

Being "talented" and "winning" looks like a railroad track, interesting life is worth more imho

I've read it. I believe he smashed the detective in the face with a garbage can lid to escape. Not exactly very likeable.

Also he literally lied to a ton of people to gain access to systems. So not very honest

I need a reality check sometimes. As a Russian, I naturally look at abusing cops or lying to phone company clerks as a good thing, but it's obviously my national deformation.

However, he is honest to his readers, which is the best honesty we could ask for from a book.

On the topic of Non-fiction cybercrime books, one that provides very good insight imho on the history of spam albeit a little hard to follow is "Spam Nation", by Brian Krebs

"Spam Kings" isn't bad either. A bit dated, but it's a good history of one of the earlier spam operations.

Not a book, but Person of Interest is a very good serial about cyber stuff & IA. Plus, more of the thing the team do is cyber-crime or gray-hacking.

Citing Wikipedia: "Blackout: Tomorrow Will Be Too Late" is a disaster thriller book by the Austrian author Marc Elsberg, described by Penguin Books as "a 21st-century high-concept disaster thriller".

The novel is about a European power outage due to a cyberattack. For realism the book is written on the basis of interviews with intelligence and computer security officials.

I read it some weeks ago and can definitely recommend it. It was a departing gift from my university, a very fitting one for computer science students if you ask me.

Recently I enjoyed https://www.amazon.com/Strength-Numbers-Cryptocurrency-Bill-...

Basically a novel about a couple of college students who find some lost bitcoin in the near future, and the drama that ensues.

I thought the book was super interesting.

Computer Crimes and Capers

Edited by Isaac Asimov, Martin H. Greenberg & Charles G. Waugh

Publication date 1983

Table of Contents:

    Introduction -- crime up to date      Isaac Asimov
    DARL I LUV U                          Joe Gores
    An end of spinach                     Stan Dryer
    Computers don't argue                 Gordon R. Dickson
    Goldbrick                             Edward Wellen
    Computer cops                         Edward D. Hoch
    Sam Hall                              Poul Anderson
    Spanner in the works                  J.T. McIntosh
    While-you-wait                        Edward Wellen
    Getting across                        Robert Silverberg
    All the troubles of the world         Isaac Asimov
Borrow for 14 days on Archive.org:


"Masters of Deception: The Gang That Ruled Cyberspace" is a true crime story covering the late 80s/early 90s era of hacking in the US, and a conflict[0] between two prominent hacker groups of the time - LOD[1] and MOD[2] - which mostly consisted of smart teenage kids who were just obsessed with computers and telephone networks. It's unquestionably one of my favourite books.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Hacker_War

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legion_of_Doom_(hacking)

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masters_of_Deception

You said "novels", so I'm assuming you're looking for fiction. If that's the case I enjoyed Jon Evans' "Swarm": http://m.feedbooks.com/userbook/24466/swarm

I just assumed that a lot of them would be novels. If you have any recommendations for real-life stuff I’d love that too.

OP asked about novels. Here are a few excellent novels in this genre which I highly recommend:

Soda Pop Solider by Nick Cole

Ctrl-Alt-Revolt by Nick Cole

Glasshouse by Charles Stross

Second the Vernor Vinge recommendations, and the Neal Stephenson and William Gibson Sprawl Trilogy recommendations.

Gibson's The Peripheral, as well as Pattern Recognition, Zero History, and Spook Country all apply, as well. Same for his Idoru, Virtual Light, and All Tomorrow's Parties.

Finally, Gibson and Sterling's The Difference Engine - the first and, so far, best steampunk novel - also qualifies, given the storyline.

I would recommend "Underground", a text-only e-book about (perhaps even by?) Kevin Mitnick, how the entire hacker scene got started, and through the cat-and-mouse game that led to Mitnick's eventual arrest.

Unfortunately, I cannot find a link to this work; although I did find uncountable similar books and movies on the topic.

Perhaps this will suffice as a teaser? "Catching Kevin" at Wired: https://www.wired.com/1996/02/catching/

This? http://gen.lib.rus.ec/book/index.php?md5=5A8FE70517FD734D720...

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

Author(s): Suelette Dreyfuss

Publisher: Mandarin Australia

Year: 1997

ISBN: 9781863305952, 1863305955

>> This book provides a great overview of a number of computer intrusion incidents and links them throught not only the technical nature of the activity but the persons behind them. UNDERGROUND provides an excellent overview of intrustion activities focusing on the UK, Australia, and the United States. It covers the late 80's to the early nineties with stories on incidents such as the WANK Worm outbreak and 8lgm's activities. The stand out attribute of this book is that it examines what happened to the intruders after their activity rather than focusing on the activity itself. It also examines the interrelationships between intruders worldwide giving some insight into how the culture allows for several key persons to be involved in or have siginficant knowledge of many different activities. A must have to include in your library along with other staples such as Cuckoo's Egg, Masters of Deception, Fugitive Game, and Hacker Crackdown. However, like the other books noted, there are apt to be a few points that persons will take exception too with regard to accuracy.

I'm not sure which specific Kevin Mitnick book you're actually referring to or looking for but the book "Underground" is actually by Suelette Dreyfus and is about the nascent hacker/cracker subculture of the late '80s and early '90s. It was researched by/with Julian Assange (not written by him as another commenter has stated) who is known in the book as "Mendax". [1]

Interestingly, the book was released for free online in 2001, at the suggestion of Julian Assange, and the author credits this online release for expanding both the quantity and range of different people that would end up reading the book. [2]

The book can be read online (in HTML) at [2] or various ebook formats can be downloaded from Project Gutenberg at [3].

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Underground_(Dreyfus_book)

[2] https://suelette.home.xs4all.nl/underground/justin/preface.h...

[3] https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/4686

Yes, this must be it. Thank you (and other commenters!) for the added references.

Is this the "underground" book by Assange before he became WikiLeaks' face?

I want to add "The Watchmen" by Jonathan Littman. It's the story of Kevin Poulsen. It's very well written and I personally liked it better than all the Mitnick stories, but they are certainly comparable. It's been a while since I've last read it, but I think about it with a bit of nostalgia, as there are all those phone phreaking and dumpster diving stories in it, when nobody cared about security.

Marcin Przybylek wrote a series of books called "Gamedec". The first book is a collection of short stories. Detective crime stories all involving games. Permadeth. Pvp. Hacks and cheats. Kidnappings. Augmentations. Etc. The second book is still much a detective story but it is now one longer book, not a collection of stories.

Afterwards gamedec series changes style and pace, still okay but no longer detective work.

Spam Nation by Brian Krebs is excellent. It delves deep into the email spam scene, and covers some big events and the people around it. He talks to users which buy stuff they are advertised in spam emails, and looks into the quality of the products advertised (are the viagra pills safe?).

The book is not very technical, and he never digs deeper into the details than what is necessary.

I think you will enjoy Kingpin by Kevin Poulsen.

Came here to say this. Great book. Not a novel, but still worthy of a mention. It definitely reads like one with the pacing and writing.

Seconded. Loved this.

Darknet by Matthew Mather About an AI entity taking over the financial market and buying its way into the political system.

if you like books that combine fiction and technical detail, I can thoroughly recommend the "stealing the network" series. It has an intriguing overarching plot and the details are all accurate and technical-minded - the best comparison I can give is it's like "The Martian" but for cybersecurity.

Black Edge is on one the largest insider trading cases ever prosecuted. There was no real hacking or advanced cyber crime (maybe just some social engineering) but was an interesting case of how some bad hedge funds operate.

There are some great books on this thread! I've read a bunch of them and going to come back for more.

The Gibson Vaughn series by Matthew FitzSimmons. It isn't purely cybercrime but the protagonist is a hacker. As a cybersec pro who runs bug bounty programs and red teams, I felt all of the tech was on point without taking away from the stories.

Not a novel, but super interesting story about how the Feds caught Russian Mega-Carder Roman Seleznev: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Chp12sEnWk

Kill Process by William Hertling

The only one I've read in this genre. It was quite enjoyable, and if my memory is correct quite technically plausible. Interesting themes about tech gigants and their influence/power, and some tragic stuff about wife/women abuse.

The Atavist's "Mastermind" series re: Paul Le Roux - https://magazine.atavist.com/the-mastermind

If cybercrime interests you, you might like the "Malicious Life" podcast: http://malicious.life/

Not a novel though.

The blue nowhere is one that I hugely enjoyed. Also Kevin Mitnick's "ghost in the wire". I read that one after kingpin and enjoyed it more, but it is in a similar trend :)

Future Crimes a non-fiction about cybercrime of past and future http://www.futurecrimesbook.com

We all know that novels are by definition fiction, right?

not really a cybercrime novel, but really interesting for people in that business i'd say. Spy Catcher. That is written by someone in high position of MI:5 and their first 'science' officer. a lot of interesting information about spying which later really kickstarted cyber espionage / crime in a way...

...and in a related vein, anyone with a hacker mindset ought to check out R.V. Jones’ ‘Most Secret War’; Jones was the UK senior scientific adviser during WW2 and the book reads like an endless string of anecdotes about one-upping the Germans.

I guess tricking early IFF and radionavigation systems could be considered cyber crime - today, at least, he’d get the DMCA thrown at him for his trouble. :)

Out of the Inner Circle (1985) - the autobiographical true story of "The Cracker" Bill Landreth.

Exploding The Phone covers phone phreaking and the phone company investigations into it.

The Cuckoo's Egg true story

darknet is exciting and well grounded technically. also cyberstorm by same author.

Digital Fortress by Dan Brown. I read it 5 years ago. Recommend it

Rick Dakan's "Geek Mafia" trilogy

"Fatal System Error" by Joseph Menn

Littman's books on Mitnick and Poulsen.

Ghost in the wires by Kevin Mitnick.

Future Crimes by Marc Goodman

a good book from Goodman

Ghost in the Wires - Kevin Mitnick

The Quantum Spy by David Ignatius

Daemon by Daniel Suarez

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