I value intelligent stories with characters I can relate to. I can appreciate good prose, but a captivating plot is way more important.
This was an amusing and informative book. I have to say, though, I like Mitnick less now that I've gotten to know him.
I always thought of Mitnick as a brilliant hacker who was persecuted by a government that didn't understand the technology that they were trying to control. This is half true. The government certainly did overstep the bounds of sanity when they went after Mitnick... but Mitnick was not a brilliant hacker.
Mitnick spends the book telling us that all his greatest hacking achievements were about "social engineering", which is the marketing term for "lying". He was certainly an intelligent guy who knew how to do research and learn about systems... but all the brilliant computer hacking was actually just him taking advantage of bugs that he read about or was told about.
What made Mitnick famous wasn't that he was the smartest hacker, it was that he was the dumbest. In spite of constantly being caught in the act, and knowing that he was being watched by the highest echelons of law enforcement, Mitnick kept engaging in very risky hacks. He was the only one stupid enough to apply known bugs to breach security at major institutions, and he told other people about it, and kept hard evidence about it on his person.
I have lost so much respect for Mitnick after reading this. He wasn't a genius that couldn't be contained. He was a fool who couldn't stop getting himself in trouble.
The sad thing is that if Mitnick had actually had some brains and self-control he could have been the mastermind that the world mistook him for. At several points he was monitoring the FBI and police as they were tracking him. A sensible person would have kept this card close to the vest. But Mitnick tipped them off by leaving a box of donuts for raiding FBI agents. When I first heard this anecdote, I thought it was awesome, because he was one step ahead of the FBI. The book flushes this out a bit more, and we see that Mitnick didn't really have a plan at this point. This wasn't measured taunting... this was an impulse control problem.
The list of idiotic things that Mitnick did just goes on and on: he frequently stuck around after he had evidence that his cover was blown; he made no contingency plans; he gave incriminating evidence to people he didn't know, or worse, knew as untrustworthy or suspicious characters; and he always kept damning evidence of his crimes on him... without encrypting it.
I wanted Mitnick to be just like Richard Feynman mixed with Frank Abagnale. Instead I found out he was a damned fool.
This book is great for anyone who wants a non-technical overview of the progression of Hacking from the late 70s to early 90s told from the inside. He never gets very technical about how he accomplished some of his hacks, but he does cover the spectrum of methods he used.
I don't know how similar Ray Porter's portrayal and Kevin Mitnick actually are, but he really brought life to his reading. Well done.
One of the most compelling books in my audible.com library, and I have more than a hundred. Although he was one of the most hotly-pursued and agressively prosecuted hackers ever, in the end Kevin Mitnick has done us all a favor: making computer networks and phone systems more secure. And he's done us another favor: writing page-turners.
Mitnick, himself, is easy to like. He's no reptile. Besides his remarkable intellegence and resoursefulness, he has a conscience and a sense of humor.
Lastly, Porter's narration is excellent. He reads the book as though he wrote it himself. Nice job, Ray.
First and foremost, Ray Porter is just the right narrator for this book. His delivery is right on.
The story itself is riveting. While I know, on one level, that for the most part, the police, FBI, and variety of corporate IT security is in place to protect us, there is another, darker side to that protection. I found myself cheering for Kevin, and hoping that he'd evade capture and prosecution. Why didn't these folks hire him?
This book is filled with shocking stories of how Kevin Mitnick was able to hack into systems through social engineering and computing security holes. He collected information from dumpster diving and other simple methods. Then he brazenly bluff his way in getting more information by acting as an "insider." He patiently kept mining for more information from different people to fill in gaps in his "insider" persona... until he was able to access the restricted information he wanted -- codes, dial-in numbers, IDs, and passwords.
Since the book is co-written by Kevin Mitnick, he paints himself as an awkward youth hacking into systems out of curiosity and the satisfaction of being able to do it. He repeats throughout the book that he didn't profit from the information he had stolen. When he's finally caught, he portrays himself as a victim of unethical governmental prosecution. Although he may not have sold the information he had stolen, he shared his hacking techniques with other hackers who did cause damages. There was good reason why the government wanted to put him away for life. I think the book would have been improved if it was a biography and had a more balanced view of Kevin Mitnick.
This book is illuminating on how easily social engineering can work and how the collection of seemly unconnected, basic information can make a company vulnerable to hacking.
Mitnick provides an exhaustive account (both a good thing and a bad thing) of his 'exploits'. The book is mostly entertaining, and does a good job of showing how obsessive he was. However, detailing hack after social engineer after hack can get a little boring.
This book, and the narration, was REALLY well done. I had a hard time turning this thing off. I had been following Kevin since he first made the news about the whole Netcom incident as I was a member at that time. It was interesting hearing the differences reported from the main stream news as well as the online tech community and hearing so many discrepancies between the facts. Over the years we all found out how unfair they were towards Kevin in regards to the law. Of course he was no angel and he did deserve to pay for some things, which he admits to. But seeing how he did turn all of this into such a positive for himself was probably the best part of the story in my opinion. Of course it was extremely entertaining hearing some of these exploits and how he "maneuvered" the system.
I highly recommend this book!
I love listening to books when cycling, paddleboarding, etc but I press pause when I need to concentrate. Its safer & I don't lose the plot!
naughty computer geek
The emotions described when Kevin has to return to solitary confinement. It seems unbelievable that a white collar perpetrator of largely victimless crimes should undergo a Stalinesque torture
You are able to believe that Kevin is reading it to you, and that is all you could ask for
The trials and tribulations of the world's most notorious hacker
It started slowly, and initially I had no sympathy for this maladjusted nuisance blowing his own trumpet about how he pointlessly infiltrates various phone companies. But as the book develops you develop empathy with him. It becomes especially interesting when he is on the run and creates new identities for himself. But the idiot still can't stop himself from engaging in meaningless hacking, he's just addicted. There is a nice happy ending which gives you a feelgood factor, and you can't help yourself warming to this odd character.
This book has great reviews and I was excited to get my ears on it. I got about 70% through and decided I'd had enough. There are very few, if any "thrilling" moments. If you enjoy a guy talking about how he uses social engineering to trick people into giving him confidential information over the phone and then repeat that story over and over again.. this might be your cup of tea.
I enjoyed this book. My problem is really with the moral landscape of its author. Kevin Mitnick is not a sympathetic character, at all. What intrigues me about his book is his still apparent air of condescension when he refers to one of his adversaries catching him stealing or lying. After all, he's not really a thief or a liar. He's just a joy-rider on the information highway. As readers, we're invited along for the ride. What fun!
There is real irony when he mentions how law enforcement officials must have something better to do with their time than pursue him. (Uhm-- yes they do, Kevin-- but you need to be stopped). When he hacks into his ex-wife's answering machine to discover that she is seeing someone else, he comments in dismay at her apparent betrayal: "...Where's the trust...?"
I have to wonder if he actually understands himself, even now as he wrote this book-- and how skewed his perception of his actions appears to be. Mitnick justifies his actions by stating that he did no harm, and never gained monetarily. Well, at least not until the publication of his books.
Still, this is a fascinating look at the pre-Internet world of modems, call-back numbers, back-up tapes and mainframe systems on raised floors. More importantly though, it is a telling portrayal of how easily people can be used to reveal small details and secrets that allow Mitnick access to systems and places that he has no right to be. He calls it "Social Engineering"; really just taking advantage of the very human desire to be helpful.
The book is very well narrated. I could not stop listening.