The Hacker Crackdown

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The Hacker Crackdown: Law and Disorder on the Electronic Frontier
First edition
AuthorBruce Sterling
Cover artistKirschner Caroff
CountryUnited States
GenreElectronic Crime
PublisherBantam Books
Publication date
November 1, 1992
Media typePrint

The Hacker Crackdown: Law and Disorder on the Electronic Frontier is a work of nonfiction by Bruce Sterling first published in 1992.

The book discusses watershed events in the hacker subculture in the early 1990s. The most notable topic covered is Operation Sundevil and the events surrounding the 1987–1990 war on the Legion of Doom network: the raid on Steve Jackson Games, the trial of "Knight Lightning" (one of the original journalists of Phrack), and the subsequent formation of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The book also profiles the likes of "Emmanuel Goldstein" (publisher of 2600: The Hacker Quarterly), the former assistant attorney general of Arizona Gail Thackeray, FLETC instructor Carlton Fitzpatrick, Mitch Kapor, and John Perry Barlow.

In 1994, Sterling released the book for the Internet with a new afterword.

Historical perspective[edit]

Though published in 1992, and released as a freeware, electronic book in 1994, the book offers a unique and colorful portrait of the nature of "cyberspace" in the early 1990s, and the nature of "computer crime" at that time. The events that Sterling discusses occur on the cusp of the mass popularity of the Internet, which arguably achieved critical mass in late 1994. It also encapsulates a moment in the information age revolution when "cyberspace" morphed from the realm of telephone modems and BBS' into the Internet and the World Wide Web.[citation needed]

Critical reception[edit]

Cory Doctorow, who voiced an unabridged podcast of the book, said it "inspired me politically, artistically and socially".[1]


I can see a future in which any person can have a Node on the [Internet]. Any person can be a publisher. It's better than the media we now have. It's possible.

[John Perry] Barlow was the first commentator to adopt William Gibson's striking science-fictional term "cyberspace" as a synonym for the present- day nexus of computer and telecommunications networks. Barlow was insistent that cyberspace should be regarded as a qualitatively new world, a 'frontier.' According to Barlow, the world of electronic communications, now made visible through the computer screen, could no longer be usefully regarded as just a tangle of high-tech wiring. Instead, it had become a place, cyberspace, which demanded a new set of metaphors, a new set of rules and behaviors. The term, as Barlow employed it, struck a useful chord, and this concept of cyberspace was picked up by Time, Scientific American, computer police, hackers, and even Constitutional scholars. 'Cyberspace' now seems likely to become a permanent fixture of the language.

— On the initial founding of the Electronic Frontier Foundation

The electronic landscape changes with astounding speed. We are living through the fastest technological transformation in human history. I was glad to have a chance to document cyberspace during one moment in its long mutation; a kind of strobe-flash of the maelstrom.

— From the afterword

If you paid serious attention to every rumor out and about these hacker kids, you would hear all kinds of wacko saucer-nut nonsense:

  • that the National Security Agency monitored all American phone calls,
  • that the CIA and DEA tracked traffic on bulletin-boards with word-analysis programs …
— Chapter 2, The Digital Underground


  1. ^ Doctorow, Cory (June 23, 2007). "Cory podcasts Bruce Sterling's "The Hacker Crackdown"". Boing Boing.

External links[edit]

Editions of the book in English[edit]

Translations and other formats[edit]