Hearing the sample, you might get the impression that you're listening to some sort of "best of" section, and that it couldn't possibly be that intense throughout. You couldn't be further from the truth - that sample was actually taken from the first chapter!
This is the true, chilling story of one of the most talented social engineers and hackers the world has ever seen, both in breadth and depth of hacks and in how long he managed to avoid capture. Kevin Mitnick's exploits mainly relied on cracking the human code - the people, rather than cracking the actual computers. That is not to take away from his achievements, because he truly was a master of the art.
Now; if you've been reading anything about him in the media, you are no doubt aware of the countless lies about his escapades which have all fed into the "myth of Kevin Mitnick" - especially perpetrated by NYT writer John Markoff and by rival hacker Tsutomo Shimomura. This includes ridiculous claims still circulating today, such as saying that he hacked into NORAD and was capable of launching a nuke just by whistling into a telephone (a ridiculous claim since their computers were not networked at the time and thus impossible to access), or that the movie Wargames was based on his life (it was not)... However, as you will find out, truth can be stranger than fiction.
To Kevin, hacking was just like playing the ultimate video game, but with real world danger and consequences; for him it was about the thrill of exploration and proving that he could outsmart the system. He is highly intelligent, and yet equally reckless. His expertise allowed him to remain on the run for years, performing counter-surveillance on the people watching him, and yet simple, extremely stupid mistakes gave the FBI a stronger case against him. However, the fact that he never really destroyed notes or encrypted computer disks now comes back as a blessing, since the information therein allowed him to write this definitive book on an extremely fascinating life.
He never did anything with malicious intent, and never earned a single cent from his hacks even though he was fully capable of making millions -- and this book sets it all straight, telling you the whole story from its humble beginnings to its devastating conclusion; here you have the absolute truth - corroborated with court records, the FBI and police investigation records from various states, companies he hacked into, his own post-it notes and hard disks, telephone recordings, hacking printouts, and his own extremely strong memory. Together, these separate pieces of information have allowed him to create a rich, detailed re-telling of the escapades that eventually landed him in big trouble, and the gross mistreatment that he then received in the eyes of the media, ever hungry for a villain.
There is a free, independent documentary about his life and court case, called "Freedom Downtime", and you should definitely watch it after reading this book, if only to see everyone involved for yourself and to hear other views of the story.
Ghost in the Wires gives you deep insight into the life and times of a man who is utterly obsessed and addicted to hacking to the point of a compulsive disorder. He really cannot quit; and even today, as a free man, he carries on hacking - only this time around he does it legally, as a consultant. This really is a book about addiction, and of going too far in the pursuit of something frivolous - even when those actions put you in great danger. I could identify with the story, and it is both riveting and uplifting as it twists and turns, at home along the best caper stories - except this time it's for real.
If there was anything I took away from the book, it was a strong wake-up call that humans are the weakest link in any situation; that no matter how strong security is, it can all be undone by one talkative employee. I'm now very intrigued to get his other book, "The Art of Deception", which is aimed at preventing social engineering from a company perspective.
The writer, Bill Simon, deserves a lot of praise for his wonderful way with words, and I recommend this book to all listeners with even a vague interest in computers; while highly technical, "Ghost in the Wires" is a riveting "catch me if you can" story at heart.
There are two fantastic Unabridged recordings of this book on Audible.
* This one by Naxos Audiobooks, released in 2011, narrated by Bill Homewood, and
* Blackstone Audio's version, released in 2008, narrated by John Lee.
Now, at first glance, the John Lee version seems more energetic and might seem superior, but that's absolutely wrong. Listen to the audio sample of that version, and you'll be treated to a monotone reading where -every- -single- -character- -sounds- -exactly- -the- -same-. Most of the time you can't even hear the difference between him narrating the story or speaking a character's lines. I assure you that nearly 50 hours of the same monotone voice, where every character blends together, is not the best way to experience the book.
Now listen to THIS recording instead, by Bill Homewood. Listen to the sample all the way until the end, and you'll hear that he expertly crafts a UNIQUE voice for EVERY character, and gives each character a vibrant portrayal. It's an absolute joy to listen to him narrate the work with such talent for voices and accents, and it's really easy to follow along with what's happening since the voices are so distinct.
The book itself? It's a classic for a reason. If you have a taste for epic revenge and adventure stories, then this is for you. I suggest you choose this reading of the book and sit back, relax and enjoy. You'll be in for the ride of a lifetime.
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