8th December 2008

Mafiaboy Not An Impressive Read

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Mafiaboy – How I Cracked the Internet & Why It’s Still Broken
Michael Calce with Craig Silverman

Mafiaboy – How I Cracked The Internet & Why It’s Still Broken reads more like a “what I did last summer” essay combined with a school research project than a true authoritative look at the problems inherent with security and the internet. I found Mr. Calce’s tale to be built more on ego and teenage swagger than on remorse. Granted, he did learn some good coding skills in his early career, but I find it hard to believe that an otherwise seemingly well-behaved kid had no foresight into the wrongness of his activities. At times I did wonder who he was trying to convince – himself, his family, or readers – that his foray into piracy, hacking and bot herding was nothing more than an innocent quest for knowledge gone wrong.

While I understand the lure of power and being able to do something no one else (or very few) can do, Mr. Calce broke the law, and he deserved all he got. Although he cautions others against following in his footsteps as the end result is not worth the brief intoxication of power, my respect falls on the side of the RCMP and FBI agents who put an end to Mafiaboy’s thoughtless attacks. I do not feel that his inclusion of very basic internet security information in any way redeems the millions of dollars in damage and lost time he caused.

I freely admit to harbouring ill-feelings towards script-kiddies and bot herders – feelings developed through firsthand experiences as our own network fell victim to botnet DDoS attacks. That said, I tried to not let that experience influence my opinion of this book, and I think that for the most part I succeeded. I was able to read this book more from an educated point of view in regards to internet and network security rather than as a neophyte. However, try as I might, I found very few redeeming qualities in Mafiaboy. He alone did not crack the internet as the title seems to imply – there were many before him and many more after him who saw the internet as their personal crime-filled playing field. I don’t understand why Mr. Calce felt that a full-blown book was required in order to “clear the air” other than to draw further attention to what he did and perhaps earn himself a little notoriety and fame within a new generation of young internet criminals. Despite his words to the contrary, I view Michael Calce’s book as nothing more than a way to make money from his crimes.  Perhaps this is why there is yet another version of his book being published in 2009 – but the new title is “Mafiaboy – A Portrait of the Hacker As A Young Man” – perhaps others took exception to the boastful claim in his title – or perhaps there was another reason, but either way, it’s a new title I won’t be picking up – reading this story once was more than enough for me.

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