Reviewed by: BigAl
Approximate word count: 75-80,000 words
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R.J. Webster, is an Information Security expert with years of experience in the field and two masters degrees in information technology.
“Young, passionate and radicalized after exposure to the poverty in Haiti, Jack becomes a hacker for a cause. He learns about botnets, rootkits, crimeware creation kits, anti-forensics and cryptography. He eventually tries to leverage it to help the poor. If the money trail leads to charities, how can he ever be caught?
The Hacktivist is the story of the evolution of a hacker but it is also a primer on information security topics. It provides a high level description of the techniques used to hack our computers and the tools we can use to protect ourselves and our internet financial transactions. After reading this book, one should have a good understanding of what it really means to use a credit card on the Internet.
Ten percent of the proceeds from this book will go to Partners in Health to help the poor in Haiti.”
This review is probably going to seem contradictory. That’s because it is. I’ll start with an appraisal of The Hactivist as a fictional story, where it has some issues. Then I’m going to argue that reading it might still be a good idea.
The issues I found begin with a lot of grammar, spelling, and other proofing problems. I spotted more than double the number of these kinds of issues I’ll allow before considering it a serious problem. Although a lot of these are one particular mistake, words that should be compound as two separate words, which I suspect most readers wouldn’t be bothered by, there were more than enough remaining even if I were to ignore this issue. They include homophone errors (magnet vs magnate, are vs our, etc), wrong and missing words, incorrect spellings.
Another issue was repetition, usually of technical background or backstory. A couple examples are a discussion of how a hacker might spread a virus using the autorun feature on a thumb drive and an explanation of a group that openly works to find ways around “digital forensics” (techniques used, usually by governmental agencies, to discover what you’ve done on your computer). There were other issues that occasionally cropped up like showing instead of telling and giving unneeded information about a character that bogged the story down.
The last item I’m going to discuss is both positive and negative (here’s where I start contradicting myself). There is a lot of technical information spread throughout the book. Enough that, were I to find this much detail in how something worked in another context, I’d complain. For purposes of what was needed for the story it was too much. But as a “primer on information security topics,” a goal the author is upfront about in his book description, this information is good. And I’d argue that for anyone who owns or uses a computer (that would be all of you) this is information you need. I’d guess many people would prefer getting it as part of an often entertaining story.
A large number of proofing and copyediting misses.
Rating: *** Three stars