MAFIABOY: HOW I CRACKED THE INTERNET AND WHY IT’S STILL BROKEN by Michael Calce and Craig Silverman (Viking), 275 pages, $34 cloth. Rating: NNN
Michael Calce had some explaining to do to his hotheaded father. It seems (heh, heh - gulp) that the FBI and RCMP were desperately trying to nab him, and, oh yeah, U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno had gone on national televison vowing to bring him to justice.
Well, not him exactly, but his online alter ego, Mafiaboy, who was big news after he crashed the eBay, Yahoo, Dell and CNN websites. That's a lot of powerful people taking aim at a 14-year-old kid from Montreal.
After eight years, Calce has finally broken his silence to write about his career as the world's most notorious hacker. In Mafiaboy: How I Cracked The Internet And Why It's Still Broken, he and his writing buddy, Craig Silverman, have delivered a fun retrospective on the hacking underworld at the dawn of the new millennium.
From all outward appearances, Calce was your regular basketball-playing teenager. At school he was known as a smart aleck, but online he became something much more fearsome - an Internet warrior who battled other hacking crews and knocked them out.
Calce developed powerful tools in his wars, including a network of zombie computers that could bombard a target with millions of messages, enough to paralyze a site. And that's what Mafiaboy did to some of the biggest sites on the Net.
His reason: to sow fear in the hearts of the other hacking crews.
The first two-thirds of the book, dealing with Calce's hacking career and the FBI and RCMP hunt for him, is compelling. The last part, about the state of hacking today, feels like an unnecessary add-on to justify publishing the book eight years after Mafiaboy made headlines.
It's hard not to like Mafiaboy. He's that confused kid who didn't know when to stop. And in the end, the person he hurt most was himself.