Posted in Reviews

Review: Ghost in the Wires by Kevin Mitnick

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Title: Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World’s Most Wanted Hacker

Author: Kevin Mitnick, William L. Simon

Kevin Mitnick was the most elusive computer break-in artist in history. He accessed computers and networks at the world’s biggest companies, and however fast the authorities were, Mitnick was faster, sprinting through phone switches, computer systems, and cellular networks. He spent years skipping through cyberspace, always three steps ahead and labeled unstoppable. For Mitnick, hacking wasn’t just about technological feats; it was an old-fashioned confidence game that required guile and deception to trick the unwitting out of valuable information.

Driven by a powerful urge to accomplish the impossible, Mitnick bypassed security systems and blazed into major organizations including Motorola, Sun Microsystems, and Pacific Bell. As the FBI’s net began to tighten, Mitnick went on the run, engaging in an increasingly sophisticated cat-and-mouse game that led through false identities, a host of cities, plenty of close shaves, and an ultimate showdown with the Feds, who would stop at nothing to bring him down.

Ghost in the Wires is a thrilling true story of intrigue, suspense, and unbelievable escape, and a portrait of a visionary whose creativity, skills, and persistence forced the authorities to rethink the way they pursued him, inspiring ripples that brought permanent changes in the way people and companies protect their most sensitive information.

Rating: 4/5

Kevin Mitnick is a fascinating person. I’ve been interested in his life ever since I read his amazing book The Art of Intrusion a few years ago. And now I’ve finally gotten around to reading his autobiography. I can’t even explain to myself why it took me years to start reading it.

First, the bad stuff: there’s way too much tehnical detail about old telephone systems, sometimes it feels like he keeps doing the same thing over and over again, so the book gets a bit monotone at times. If you have a thing for old phones and you want to know more about how you could have hacked them back in the eighties, this book is for you! But my interest is in computers so I wanted to read more about computer hacking.

Other than that, the book is amazing. Kevin Mitnick’s life isn’t ordinary in any way – the guy goes to great lengths just to keep things interesting, even if it means he could end up in prison which, eventually, he does. But not before breaking into every system he could, manipulating so many people into doing so many things to help him, being on the run for three years and just generally behaving in ways that I, as a nice and normal person, shouldn’t support, but for some reason I do. He seems to think of himself as quite innocent and people who were trying to catch him as very bad (they were just doing their jobs, Kevin) but I’m rooting for him either way. It helps that after prison he turned his life around and now hacks into systems only when he’s paid to do so.

The foreword is written by Steve Wozniak whose book iWoz I read last year. I was reminded of that book when reading this one, simply because both authors seem way too happy with themselves – sometimes you want them to screw up just so they will stop being so arrogant. Still, I can’t help but admire their knowledge and abilities. Kevin also debunks some of the ridiculous rumors that are part of “The Myth of Kevin Mitnick” – it’s funny how people were so scared of computers, they were willing to believe anything they were told.

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