Long before any of us had heard of Julian Assange, Kevin Mitnick was the world’s foremost computer hacker—and a sometime fugitive who spent three years on the lam, and five more in prison, for his criminal actions. Open his new memoir, Ghost in the Wires, to any given page, and you’re likely to run across sentences like the following: “At seventeen, I was still in high school but dedicated to working on what might be called a Ph.D. in RSTS/E hacking.” Or: “Incredibly, the people at Pacific Bell Security had never changed the manufacturer’s default PIN on these boxes.” Or: “Agent Thomas glares at me and says, ‘Mitnick, the jig is up!’ ” It ain’t Shakespeare. But it’s a quick and fascinating read.
Working with his longtime writing partner, Bill Simon, Mitnick gives us step-by-step descriptions of his hacks and cons, as well as the details of his prolonged cat-and-mouse game with the FBI. (The latter involved more than a few close calls and quick evasions, and the assumption of various false identities.) Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak contributes a foreword; he calls Mitnick’s story an “incredible, almost unbelievable tale” and assures us that no real harm was caused by his actions. (“He took software but never sold any of it. He was hacking just for the fun of it, just for the challenge.”) The corporations that Mitnick hacked might have a few things to say on that score—but that probably won’t stop their security teams and IT departments from ordering his book in bulk.
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