What readers say about the net release of Underground (2001)

`I have never felt this way when reading a book of any kind.'

I wont go on to praise what a great book you have written as im sure you know from the thousands of other emails you have recieved..

Im just curious to know if when writing this you were taken in as deeply as I am right now..

I am just about to start on Chapter 5 and already I feel very strange reading it - I have never felt this way when reading a book of any kind..

As I read it im telling myself its fictional writing based on true events - I dont really know how I feel right now, the only feeling that comes to mind is "sorrow"..

If you ever read this mail perhaps you would chat with me about what inspired you to write it the way you did.. - SSIMDX SSIMDX <ssimdx@hotmail.com>

`My personal favourite book of all time'


I still remember reading about some book called "Underground" online, just a few chapters of what seemed to be highly interesting information. I made a mental note to pick up the book someday should I see it in a bookstore.

It was in October 1997 when I was doing work experience at Village Roadshow. I was travelling back to Flinders St station when I realised my walkman batteries had died and I had nothing to do for the trip home. My laptop at the time didn't have a large battery capacity and I had forgotten to charge it during the day. I figured I'd pop in to a bookstore, Dymocks if I recall correctly and I then remembered the book.

From that day on, for the rest of my work at Village, I spent every spare second.. walking, travelling on the train and such, reading Underground.

I reread it two years later in 1999 and it still had the same feel to it. It's a book that sits on my bedside bookshelf along with other personal materials, a copy of the book 'Hackers' which I was given at my first Melbourne 2600 meet, journals, diaries and a copy of George Orwell's "1984".

Right now, I can honestly say that this is my personal favourite book of all time. Even my mum can remember some of the BBS's mentioned in the book as we first used bulletin boards on a borrowed 1200 "high speed" modem connected to an XT computer. Craig Warren still works at Latrobe, and her company has dealt with him as a customer. In reading the book, it made me feel as if I was part of it. I was no longer in my bed, on the train, or at work, but I felt as if I was there - witnessing the horrified looks upon those who were busted, the authorities searching through evidence and it was as if I was running behind those who were on the run from the law itself.

I would have dropped you an e-mail earlier to let you know how much I loved the book but I didn't have any form of contact. Since I just discovered the electronic edition online from a link off Slashdot, I figured I might as well :)...

Once again, thanks for a great book. It was the best $19.95 I had ever spent.

- Tristan Gulyas <zardoz@2600.org.au>

`Total respect'


Total respect for releasing your book for free. It's always nice when people absorb some of the philosophy, and especially when they are prepared to put something back in.

Take it Easy,

Harl - Harl <harl@psyanide.net>

`Absolutely brilliant read!'

Got your book off Project Gutenberg. Started reading it at 3:30pm and finished it (with a few hours break at the gym, etc) at 3am the next morning. Absolutely brilliant read! Fascinating analysis of the techniques used by the AFP to gain information from suspects/manipulate them.

People must remember to always have an experienced lawyer with them when dealing with the police! Also, it pays to have your own tape recorder running during any interviews.

I can't wait for your next book. Regards,

Anakha - full name and address withheld by request

`I treasure writings such as yours,'

As an old school hacker/phreak in the 80's, I was part of the same culture that spawned many of the characters in your excellent book. I saw Par on the BBS's but never did speak with him. He seemed to be freaked out on the Phoenix Project and other BBS's. I did not know pad and gandalf personally since 8lgm was a little bit after my time. But your book captures the essence of these people, as true human beings. Perhaps misled, but fundamentally good people who were questing for adventure. And what an adventure it was... I treasure writings such as yours, for it reminds me of that most intense time in my life between 1985-1990 when I was very active in the hack/phreak underground, and sharing in it's rich culture.

Phantom Phreaker/ANI Failure Legion of Doom - Phantom <phantom@cosmos.lod.com>

`An excellent textbook'

My congratulations on a well researched, thoroughly readable work that I am sure will become a textbook for InfoSec professionals.  The true hacker forces us to alter our perspectives, challenges our technical ability, and is a worthy opponent. Underground also highlights the need for legal reform.  Laws regarding so called cyber crimes have traditionally been made by people who do not understand the issues and have even less understanding of the consequences. - ian.m.fraser@ericsson.com.au

`Great read'


I foolishly opened the book in my browser mid-morning and... ... ... ... then it was supper time (I'm not the fastest reader). What a great read!

There were a few ocr-type errors in my copy ( like /5bin/xxx), but other than that it was great.

I haven't enjoyed a book like this since "Soul of a New Machine" eons ago. You developed the characters very well. I identified with all of them on some level. I experienced a little adrenalin in more than one spot in the story..

The only pc mentioned I never played with was my bbc emulation - I had no clue what to do with it.. The zx81, apples, commodores and amigas brought back a lot of memories. The very first thing I did with my new amiga was write a little basic script to generate mf tones. I mean within a couple of hours of getting it out of the box. I never phreaked, I just thought it would be cool to be able to generate them and write a dialer. If I'd known about in-band and out-of-band signalling... I would have had more temptation.

I had long since forgotten how exciting it was to fire up a shell in my old amiga, borrow an account on tymnet, and telnet into a computer 1000 km away - and from there into another and another ..... I did telnet into a few 'interesting' sites and play around a bit. Just cd'ing here and there and reading things, ftp'ing and so on. There wasn't a lot of security at the time and almost everywhere was wide open if you could drop to a shell. I could never quite decide between the feelings of "gee, what a trusting community, I should respect that" and "man, I wonder if they know I'm here - I should get out!". :-) All this at <1200 cps. Amazing now. I never realized how close I came to ending up like one of those poor sods in the book (except I'm not as bright of course).

I was going to say that it wasn't as `technical' as Kidder's story, but I read his book before I went to college (and took telcom), so I reconsidered. I can't even re-read it, because I lost my copy a long time ago, but I think he merely explained the basics too - only that information needed by the reader to understand the story. It was all new to me at the time though.

Your whole book drew the distinction between hackers and crackers, but only alluded to it by name once I think. The campaign to educate the media (the common carriers anyhow) was lost before it began I guess.

"Soul of a New Machine" kind of inspired me and I hope "Underground" will do the same for this generation.

It re-lit my torch.

-- Regards, Paul

well, you did ask for feed-back.... - Paul Evans <pevans@catholic.org>

`Unbelievably engrossing'

I just spent the better part of the last two days at work reading the book. It was unbelievably engrossing and I managed to do almost no work in the last two days. I found myself being drawn back to the late 80's and early 90 as a teenager and the fond memories I have of those time. I would almost give up the wife kids and corp job for it...well maybe not!

Thanks again for the trip down binary lane!

Chris - Myers, Chris <Chris.Myers@COMPAQ.com>

`This book is addictive.'


When I first heard you were giving it away in Electronic form I thought to myself it was worth the download not to mention the read. So I downloaded it at work and took it home on disk. I thought 500 pages no problem Im a coder thats nothing. So sure enough i started on Friday over eager I guess and when I got home I read a little more and by Sunday afternoon I was finished, your right this book is addictive. When I was a little younger, I used to be into the underground scene, but like most I was no where near that league, but I grew up and am now a web delveloper of all things :). Your book was great I enjoyed throughly so much so I've ordered in a copy from my local book store. What can I say it's excellent, thrilling not technical and funny all at the same time, and yes I can tell you almost everything that happens in that book. I guess some people dont understand the rush you get unless you do get the rush then you can see where these guys are coming from.

Give my regards to Ken Day :). This book was a great achievement, thankyou for writing and giving it away in cyberspace where this book really belongs.

David (yes that is my real name:) ) - David Martin" <davidm@inature.com.au>

`Great book'


my name is Patrick and I'm from Germany and I really enjoy your book! It's simply great. I downloaded the online version of your book and read about 80 pages now. But now I realize that it is not worth reading the book on a screen. I already ordered your book but that will take some time... I think you see that I'm fascinated with the book ;-) - Patrick K. <toreyam@tripod.de;>

`What a great read!'

The rights good people have been fought for by many good men that shoulder arms and fight in wars. These soldiers we recognize as necessary to protect our valuable rights. Thanks for enlightening us about other young people that fight the same war with different tools, they too risk there lives in a very real way and and get little credit. J.West - J.West <jwest@j-west.net>

`I thouroughly enjoyed reading this book.'

I thouroughly enjoyed reading this book. Thank you for publishing it electronically. I will be on the lookout for "hard copies" and I will buy one in order to support your efforts.

I enjoyed hearing the tales of these hackers but I also felt sorry for their addictions and poor family lives..

Once again, Thank you for this great book.

Scott - Angela Frie <friegirl@bellatlantic.net>

`I am adoring your book.'

Dear Suelette,

I am in the process of reading your excellent book "Underground". I am adoring your book. I am really enjoying it. I just wanted to let you know that you had some fans from Tunisia too (this is my country).

My friends (ex-hackers) and I were seeking informations about you, biographies and photos on the web, in vain. So can you point us to a personal website or email us a photo of yours?

Thank You In Advance and keep up the good job,

Take Care,

Ahmed Gasteli, Tunisia - agcie@csoft.net

`Excellent, first rate, etc., etc.'


Excellent, first rate, etc., etc.. Write your own, I'll sign it. - Alan <richard_mills@one.net.au>

`It was clear Suelette has captured the essence of what happened at NASA'

When I first read Chapter 1, I found myself reliving the past. I felt not only deja vu about the events, but of the emotions and the energy of those insane days in 1989. It freaked me out to replay those days nine years previous so clearly and completely. By the end of the chapter it was clear Suelette had captured the essence of what had happened at NASA and that she could tell it to others through the written word.

Download this book, you WILL NOT be disappointed. If you like it, buy a hardcopy to support a really spiffy and clueful author.

Just in case we don't have enough mirror sites yet, here is another mirror site for the text version.

John "FuzzFace" McMahon
Pr. Security Engineer
Cable & Wireless GNO
(Previous life: Assistant DECnet Protocol Manager, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)

- John "FuzzFace" McMahon (on slashdot.org)

`The most in depth and accurate look at hackers and hacking you will read'

"The most in depth and accurate look hackers and hacking you will read"

I Fully recommend this book to anyone who is remotely interested in not only how the hacking scene in Melbourne grew throughout the 80s and 90s, but also how reached out to the rest of the world and showed them that Australia wasn't just a land of hicks and Kangaroo's.

I was lucky enough to have been involved with the Melbourne BBS scene from around 1983 onwards and was privvy to high level access on many boards such as Pacific Island, Zen, MicroHack, Ultimate 64, Devils Playground and Real Connection. It was nice to be on the inside, and although things eventually went bad, I wouldn't change anything even if I had to chance too.

This book captures the essence of what the time, people and culture was about.

Good work guys. - Max Max <mpaull@optusnet.com.au>

`Kick-ass story'

(this is about your recently released-to-the-net-for-free book) pretty kick-ass story. got the txt file last evening, and couldn't get off of it until finished reading it about 9 hours later. of course now it's almost 8am and i've had absolutely no sleep. haha. big, big thanks to xfree4 anti-aliased fonts otherwise my eyes would have been dead by now. anyway, i enjoyed reading. i dunno what it was, writing style, contents or both, but something kept me glued to the book. last time i was similarly obsessed with a non-technical computer-related book was when i read steven levy /hackers/ sometime long time ago. anyway, good job, presenting lots of useful information in informative yet simple style, plus some of the stuff had me laughing for a bit, which surely looked strange at 3 in the morning. :) i would have probably bought this book if i knew it existed. bookstores in my area dont seem to cover this type of books, as far as i could tell anyway. - timecop@japan.co.jp

`I have no words to describe it'


I read 1/3rd of the book and simply, I have no words to describe it, I MUST have it. My whole day is now made of reading this book (the online version). - Daniel <werwolf_1945@yahoo.com>

`Well-written and interesting'

G'day authors,

I've just misspent the better part of a night reading your book. As many say it is well-written and interesting, doubly so given that very many of the names you mention on the underground side are familiar to me, and I know quite a number of people personally. It was interesting to relive the 8lgm days - how I remember hammering the point at the University I was a network administrator for, that this was positive development work on our side. But you know that story, clearly. - Dan Shearer <dan@tellurian.com.au>

`Underground is brilliant'


The electronic version of Underground is brilliant, if I fail my Project Management exam, then its because I was deep in your book rather then in my text books. Now I just have to earn enough to buy the paper version on Amazon.

So when is the next book coming out? - Simon Taplin <simon@pop.co.za>


Thank you both for making your work available on the net.

Fascinating, well expressed and apparently well researched.

But then we would expect the latter from you Proff.... - Derek Weston <derekw@alphalink.com.au>

`Thank you'

Just wanted to say thanks for going opensource. The community continues to thrive on contributions such as yours...

so sincerely, thank you. - John Blaze <bigd@ddy.colorado.edu>

`Thank you!'

Dear Suelette,

Thank's for giving away your book for free. I have been looking for it in almost all local library here in Indonesia to no avail. Now I currently reading your book happily.

Again thank you!

Regards, Erik - erikts2000@yahoo.com


I've just finished reading the first chapter of underground.txt, and am planning to see if I can pick up a copy of the deadtree version when I go out on my weekly bookstore excursion tomorrow..

You seem to have missed a possible sub-meaning to the renaming of 'WANK' to 'OILZ'.. If you turn OILZ upside-down, you get 2710, or the non-US version of Oct 27. (Us North American types generally write dates as MMDD instead of DDMM.)

Looking at the worms' release dates as presented in your book, this makes a sad bit of sense:

   launch Fri Oct 13/89 ??
   DOE:   Sat Oct 14/89
   SPAN:  Mon Oct 16/89

   launch ??
   DOE:   ??
   SPAN:  Mon Oct 30/89

    October 1989
Su Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa 
 1  2  3  4  5  6  7
 8  9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31

The best time for a hacker-with-intent to release a virus/worm, in order to inflict maximum damage, is on a Friday night. Normally offices all go home for the weekend (with the networks all still up), and there's often nobody to even notice until the next Monday morning.

And the date 27.10 is also a Friday, the one immediately before OILZ was found come 30.10.

I suppose it helps me notice this sort of thing, when my own name is (upside-down) 35308.0... and I know how little wordplay games like this turn on those |_33+ ha|<0rz ("elite hackers"). - Darcy Boese

[The second chapter reveals the meaning -ed]

`This type of accuracy is rare'

Have you ever been tempted to hack, or even crack, a system-maybe just to recover your own lost administrator password? If you have, you know how it feels to approach that kind of challenge, and therefore, you share a common perspective with hackers everywhere. But what if the experience so intrigues you that you can't resist testing other people's systems in some unauthorized fashion?

Most of us are probably comfortable living vicariously through the lives of real black hat crackers instead of venturing into that type of activity ourselves. You know the adage: To defend against intruders, you must think like intruders. But how can you gain insight into the lives of system crackers without becoming one? Unembellished tales of the underground are few except for the news reports we see almost every week. However, a few books are available that lend deep insight into the minds of those who would forego the law in favor of a mental challenge-black hat crackers. One such book, "Underground," was recently released in electronic form on the Internet.

"Underground" (ISBN 1863305955) was written by Suelette Dryfus and originally published as a paperback in May 1997. Dryfus recently made the book available online for free at the suggestion of Julian Assange, researcher for the book. Underground tells the true story of a group of people from around the world who banded together and exploited thousands of highly sensitive computer systems, including some belonging to the Pentagon, NASA, and NATO. The book's attraction, according to published reader comments, is the accuracy of the technical and historical aspects of the events within the story. And this type of accuracy is rare in stories about hackers and crackers. So if you haven't already read "Underground," download a copy and check it out (it's only 957KB). I think you'll find it interesting and educational. - Mark Joseph Edwards, WindowsITSecurity.com

`The book is good AND a page-turner'

GOsh, i think i'm not just one of the few guys that got through "underground" in less than 24 hours, but still, i have to spot this: - Sem_D_D (on slashdot.org)

`I well remember the WANK "Worm Against Nuclear Killers" worm'

I well remember the WANK "Worm against nuclear killers" worm. I was a DEC engineer and had to remove it from the systems in CT that got hit.

It was harmless, but interesting. Somewhere someone connected a system to DEC's internal network for a few hours (this would have been necessary for the DECnet addressing to work) and ran it. Basically, The worm (written entirely in DCL) tried to gain access to a systems by brut force -- trying to log into every numerical DECnet node address by using transparent DECnet and default accounts created by the various DEC products, and pitched default or obvious passwords at them. If it got in (which did happen because Admins were not good about changing default passwords or closing transparent DECnet), it then captured the list of logged in users and emailed them back to that connected system. If it had gained privileges, it also modified your welcome banner to display the announcement that you've been hit.

Then this unknown user disconnected that system, and reconnecedt it again the next day (different net address) and try hacking into all the user accounts it collected. Since I already did a cleanup and changed all the passwords, they didn't get in so I don't know what would have happened at that point. Never heard wether the users got caught.

Keith Barrett (kgb)
Red Hat HA Team

- Keith Barrett (on slashdot.org)

`This is an important book'

This is an important book ... (Score:3, Insightful) by matthew_gream on Thursday January 18, @06:02AM EST (#108) (User #113862 Info) http://www.pobox.com/~matthew.gream This is an important book, because it helps to illustrate the psychological and sociological background to people "in the underground" - and help understand that computers, the internet and so on are not inherently evil or a media more suseptible to criminality, but the problems are the ever present problems of children, families, society and the swathe of humanity. Congratulations to Suelette and Julian for putting this important work into the public domain.

- matthew.gream@pobox.com, http://www.pobox.com/~matthew.gream (on slashdot.org)

`I loved it'

I bought this book over three and a half years ago at a bookstore in the city (Melbourne) because I had read about the book on the web at the time and figured that I'd take a read. I loved it. Still, I can't imagine reading it electronically. I read the book on the train travelling to and from work at the time. I don't think I can see myself doing the same with a laptop although I have done so on few occasions to read issues of phrack and such. It's inconvenient. Not everyone has PDA's they can whip out on the train to read. Batteries die as well. Anyway, for anyone who has a bit of spare time on their hands, I'd highly suggest taking a read. It's one of my favorite books of this type :)

- zardoz@wonk.net on (slashdot.org)

`What a nostalgia trip'

What a nostalgia trip, I always wondered what happened to all the other folk who used to hang out on Altos or Altger to give it the proper name. Personally, I ended up working in the kernel support dept of a major Unix vendor (not too many of those left eh kids?) Anyway I've always fancied writing a 'where are they now' piece on the 'kids of Altos' so if you used to hang out on Altos and want to be involved in a piece of 'hacker' history, mail me at garyl@altavista.net.

- garyl@altavista.net (on slashdot.org)

`I loved reading this book'

I loved reading this book when I bought it a few years ago.

Hmm, makes me wonder where I've put it...

/me searches his house =)


- leroy@teksSPAMcode.com (on slashdot.org)

`The book is well researched and written'

She (Suelette)'s a friend of my parents, good person and the book is well researched and written. I read it recently (on my list for a year or two...) and just couldn't put it down, it seems so strange that it all actually happened especcially when you live in Melbourne.

If it's not in the E-text version, and you're in Australia go to: www.ata.net.au - they're a non-profit group that Suelette worked with before she wrote the book, They're mainly intrested in alternative power systems.

Laptop006 (RHCE: That means I know what I'm talking about! When talking about linux at least...) Melbourne.

- laptop006@laptop006.net (on slashdot.org)

`It was thanks to this book that I became interested in Linux/Unix'

Anyone who reads this book and enjoys it should by a copy to show their appreciation to the author. It was thanks to this book that i became interested in Linux/Unix.

I found it portrayed hackers as real human beings many of whom have a moral belief behind their actions.

Nick Denham

Never believe in anything until it has been officially denied. -Otto von Bismarck

- barbaq666@hotmail.com (on slashdot.org)

`It's excellent'

I read through the first chapter of the book online, and so far it's excellent. The writing takes the chaotic, sometimes confusing occurence of a computer worm and turns it into a gripping race against the clock by a desperate group of sys admins and computer managers. I would really recommend that everyone take the time to read at least the first chapter, as it provides insight into the origins of worms and viruses, both what it was like then, as well as how far we have come.

- Daemosthenes (on slashdot.org)

`Fantastic book'

"Underground" is a fantastic book - I got it the day it was released on paper, and highly recommend it.

- Anonymous Coward (on slashdot.org)

`Nearly one meg of plain text'

Nearly one meg of plain text (Score:2, Insightful) by MrBlack on Thursday January 18, @12:00AM EST (#77)

The web is so full of shit. When good content like this comes along you start to realise the potential of the internet for empowering people with information, and how far from the ideal we are right now.

- MrBlack (on slashdot.org)

If you would like to give some feedback on Underground, please mail the author, suzieq, using this address: suburbia.com.au, or the researcher, julian, by mailing Feedback at the domain name underground-book.net. This is an anti-spam format.

Read what the critics, and the hardcopy readers have to say about Underground