Tangled Web
by Richard Power
QUE 2000
431 pages, 3 appendices, index, glossary
ISBN 0-7897-2443-X.    Approx. $25

Reviewed by:  Robert Bruen   October 12, 2000


The Tangled Web, Tales of Digital Crime from the Shadows of Cyberspace is the result of several years of data gathering by the Computer Security Institute surveys and shift in the thinking by the general public.  Power reflects on a conference 1944 where he heard Donn Parker, an early proponent of looking at hacking and other related activities as crime, speak about what was coming down the road.  Most of the audience did not see the same vision as Parker, but Power listened and soon began collecting data.  Today after the several large scale virus attacks on both corporate and at home users, these attacks are seen not only as unacceptable social behavior, but also as crimes that deserve prison time.

In the past six years the growth of the Internet, the Web, and the numbers of users and businesses that have gone from just using to depending on network communications has changed the level of response to hacking, cracking and phreaking.  The response to the Morris worm was a technical one, followed by an arrest and a bit of outrage, but the net was smaller then.  The latest virus attacks affect a much larger audience with about the same level of technical response coupled a much larger legal response.  For what it is worth, the vision many of us had twenty or more years ago has come to pass, a world wide communication medium for everyone.

Unfortunately, not everyone plays nicely with the rest of us, so the protectors of society have a new mission, keep us safe from the bad guys.  But who are the bad guys and what are they doing?  This is where the data comes in.  The Tangled Web provides lots and lots of data along with case examples. It is often hard to read books with lots of dry data, but Power has turned volume of data into a very readable book.  The focus tends towards corporate America, the outcome of surveying them and is slanted towards law enforcement, the outcome of working closely with the FBI.  To the author's credit, the large amounts of money claimed to have been lost by virus attacks and the scare tactics of computer crime stories is put into proper perspective.  In spite of the section titles such as "Muggers and Molesters in Cyberspace" and "Spies and Saboteurs," the data and the presentation put it all into a more realistic framework.

This is a book that one should read as part of learning more about how the global culture is changing as the Web reaches everyone.  Everyone include all the usual people that we deal with everyday. Now we can the keyboard to the pen and the sword as weapons of war.  A definite buy for $25.00 for both information and a good read.