Picks and Pans Review: At Large: the Strange Case of the World's Biggest Internet Invasion
You probably never heard of the Phantom Dialer, but he may have read your e-mail. A physically stunted post-adolescent from a modest neighborhood in Portland, Ore., the kid who logged on as "Phantomd" was probably the most successful computer cracker in history. In the early '90s this unlikely wizard gained control of hundreds of sensitive computer networks, from those at MIT to Intel Corp. to the government's Los Alamos National Laboratory. His online break-ins, and the efforts of a mismatched crew of brilliant cybergeeks and helpless Feds to track him down, make At Large a genuinely intriguing true-life whodunit.
As the first case tackled by the FBI's National Computer Crime Squad, the Phantomd saga is as instructive as it is entertaining. But this cautionary tale is also an oddly moving tribute to the human spirit. Phantomd, an asthmatic outcast with gnarled fingers and greasy eyeglasses, wasn't out for money or military secrets; all he longed for was access. (Simon & Schuster, $24)