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Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World’s Most Wanted Hacker | [Kevin Mitnick, William L. Simon]

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

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.
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Audible Editor Reviews

Why we think it's Essential - Ghost in the Wires is a thrilling story of hair's-breadth escapes, brazen sociopathy, and ultimately redemption. What's more, it's all true. Ray Porter expertly narrates the stranger than fiction autobiography of Kevin Mitnick as he recounts how he went from gaming the LA bus system for free rides to gaining unauthorized access to the most secure corporate computer systems in the world, all the while playing cat and mouse with the FBI. —Michael

Publisher's Summary

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. But for Kevin, 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. But as the FBI’s net began to tighten, Kevin 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 to 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.

©2011 Kevin Mitnick. Foreword 2011 by Steve Wozniak (P)2011 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

What the Critics Say

“Intriguing, insightful, and extremely educational into the mind of one who truly mastered the art of social engineering with the use of a computer and modern-day technologies. I strongly believe that one can learn a great deal about protecting themselves once they understand how another one perpetrates the crime.” (Frank W. Abagnale, author of Catch Me If You Can)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.3 (4410 )
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  •  
    Amazon Customer 09-17-14 Member Since 2015

    I value intelligent stories with characters I can relate to. I can appreciate good prose, but a captivating plot is way more important.

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    "For a smart guy, Mitnick was an idiot"

    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.



    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John Stone 04-10-14
    John Stone 04-10-14
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    "Entertaining with tid-bits of knowledge throughout"
    What did you love best about Ghost in the Wires?

    An engaging story that reminded me of just how much fun the process of discovering computers and networks could be without the Internet.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    I bought the book to listen on my long commutes to work, but found myself sitting in the car at lunch to catch a few extra minutes of it each day.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Loren Indiana, USA 04-02-14
    Loren Indiana, USA 04-02-14 Member Since 2014
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    "Repetitive"

    First, you probably won't like this book unless you are at least a bit of a geek.

    Given that I AM a bit of a geek, I thought that this would be a fascinating story. I was wrong. The first five or ten times you hear of Kevin Mitnick gaining access, either via computer or a physical presence, to someplace where he is not allowed it's interesting. The next five or ten times, it's just more of the same with the names changed.

    If you need to know if this book has an interesting ending, you'll have to read a different review. I gave up after about the tenth or fifteenth break-in.

    Don't hold it against Ray Porter, the narrator. He did a very good job.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Thomas McKinney, TX 03-19-14
    Thomas McKinney, TX 03-19-14 Member Since 2015
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    "great listen"
    What made the experience of listening to Ghost in the Wires the most enjoyable?

    the Narrarator was wonderful and the story kept me intigued.


    What did you like best about this story?

    I like how he made himself seem like just an average joe who liked hacking phones for the fun of it.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    yes. couldn't stop listening to this


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Caroline Alameda, CA, USA 01-16-14
    Caroline Alameda, CA, USA 01-16-14 Member Since 2002
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Kevin Mitnick is a scary guy"
    What disappointed you about Ghost in the Wires?

    I would have given this more stars if it had be properly catagorized as fantasy.

    Kevin Mitnick takes no responsibility for his actions. He even blames his childhood obesity on someone else. He may not have taken credit cards and but he had access to the data which violated people's sense of security. Using his logic, it's ok to break into you house as long as he didn't take anything.

    He claims he hasn't benefitted from hacking. What do you call hacking into the phone system so he can win money? He has also adjusted people's pone bills, utility, etc and changed the amount due to thousands of dollars.

    His blatent disrespect of his terms of parole is offensive. He claimed only the FCC could take away his ham license. That may be true, but by getting out on parole you sign a contract agreeing to abide by the terms of the release.

    He's amazed the guards in the prison wouldn't let him see their badge numbers? I wouldn't be surprised if my next gas bill was $1,000,00 after writing this review.

    I think Kevin Mitnick is an arrogant sociopath


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert Placentia CA, United States 11-29-13
    Robert Placentia CA, United States 11-29-13 Member Since 2013

    Iranians keep their nukes, Americans lose their insurance.

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    "Captivating and thrilling!"

    Funny and fun, and I was so nervous for Mitnick! This and Pillars of the Earth are the only books I have sat in a parking lot listening to because I did not want to stop. His poor saintly Gram and mom, I hope they are ok. I worried about them more than I did Kevin, ha! Seriously this is a fantastic book, excellent narration,and even more spectacular larger than life story about a kid who was too smart for his own good, but too good to stop hacking. I admire his ethics of not stealing credit cards or destroying files. Phone Phreaks! You will know what that means when you read this book. FREE. KEVIN.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Aleksandr Kiev, Ukraine 11-24-13
    Aleksandr Kiev, Ukraine 11-24-13
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    "The best book I've ever read"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    This book has everything a good book has to have. It has action, detective, journey, romance, a lot of intriguing moments, interesting plot twists.
    More over, it's an autobiography of a real person. And it's about computers, which makes the book even more interesting (well, at least for me).


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    barc2003 Glendale, AZ, United States 11-16-13
    barc2003 Glendale, AZ, United States 11-16-13 Member Since 2010
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    "Fascinating"

    I found this book totally fascinating. If you are under the age of 40 a lot of the things mentioned in this book, like rotary phones, brief case cell phones & pagers, maybe foreign to you. However it is an amazing story of one of the first hackers, Kevin Mitnick.

    Kevin starts as a teenager, messing with the speaker at a local drive through by saying wild things to the customers. From there he progresses to what was then called Phone Freaking, using social engineering to get the information he wanted to get the information. It's all a huge game to him, just how far can he get before someone says "hey, wait minute...".

    Mitnick spend over 30 years social engineering his way to hack into some of the largest companies in the US. Never doing anything malicious, just having fun to see if he can. He also spends 30 years running from the FBI until he is finally caught.

    If you are even a little bit of a geek, you'll enjoy this book.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Margaret 11-01-13
    Margaret 11-01-13
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    "Wow! What a tale! Nicely nerve wracking!"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Ghost in the Wires to be better than the print version?

    Haven't read the print version.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    I found all of the social engineering scenes intriguing. Creepy, crazy, but cool in a "can't believe it" way.


    What’s the most interesting tidbit you’ve picked up from this book?

    That people can be manipulated because of ego issues more easily than I'd have thought.


    Any additional comments?

    This audio books was a tad redundant in places but well worth purchasing.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Keith 10-31-13
    Keith 10-31-13
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "I don't suffer narcissism well ..."

    I find myself almost scared to write this review for fear that Kevin Mitnick will hack into my life and -- using some contorted interpretation of ethics -- make my life a living hell.

    I do not care for his brand of nerdy selfishness, which sets its own rules at the emotional expense of others. While true that Mitnick may not have stolen material possessions from the people whose privacy he intruded on, I must say that I really feel bad for his victims, and the turmoil that resulted (I especially feel bad for his family, "Ann" at the SSA, et al, and the others he manipulated over and over again).

    The story is one of a kid who becomes a hacker back in the pre-Internet days of dial-up telephones, old-school modems, and mainframe computer systems, although his primary means of law-breaking was through manipulation of people's trust (his social engineering practices). At first I found his story entertaining because it had sentimental quality, and a childlike innocence that, perhaps, could've been forgiven. But as the story wore on I found myself hoping he would get busted.

    He did, eventually get busted, but Mitnick seems to lack a sense of self-reflection necessary to make his plight sympathetic; in fact, just the opposite is the case here: He is arrogant, self-righteous and condescending. He seems to seek sympathy and understanding for being treated unfairly while failing to realize that trust has to be earned. During the course of this memoir he did not earn my trust. The book consists of far too much whining, not enough contrition.

    Would I recommend it? In a way, yes, because it is a solid warning to others not to venture down the road of the hacker and, much more importantly, a cautionary tale about the fact that our actions really and truly can hurt others even if we do not gain wealth from those actions.

    The narrator, by the way, is outstanding. His reading of this biography made it a worthwhile purchase.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Sort by:
  • S. Jenö
    Budapest, Hungary
    6/11/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A life worth knowing"

    It might be less interesting for someone without IT knowledge, but an instructive story nevertheless. I think I never understood why they are saying that the weakest spot in security is the human. Learning about social engineering is learning about yourself. A must listen.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Katrina
    5/4/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Great real life story for all"
    What made the experience of listening to Ghost in the Wires the most enjoyable?

    Fascinating twist and turn story


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    True story so author Kevin


    Have you listened to any of Ray Porter’s other performances? How does this one compare?

    No


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    No - easy book to listen to in small chunks


    Any additional comments?

    A fair bit of technical info so techies will love it - however, as a non-technie, this did not spoil the listen

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Travelcard
    UK
    3/23/14
    Overall
    Performance
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    "Awesome book, well read."
    What made the experience of listening to Ghost in the Wires the most enjoyable?

    This is an incredible story. I'd not heard of Kevin Mitnick before and just went for it on a Twitter recommendation. I work in a sysadmin type role so it was an eye-opener that our recent NSA privacy problems have been pre-dated by a whole team of independent kids who hacked as a hobby. It'll certainly make me more cautious when using the phone as well as email/internet.


    What does Ray Porter bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

    Ray's reading was fantastic. I felt like I was listening to the author tell the story.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Ed
    Addlestone, United Kingdom
    3/5/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "BUY THIS NOW!"
    What made the experience of listening to Ghost in the Wires the most enjoyable?

    It was captivating from the start, even if you're only a little bit interested in technology or hacking in general. It's like a James Bond adventure in cyberspace and telephony systems and all based on the exploits of one remarkable nerdy guy!


    What did you like best about this story?

    The sheer mastery he possessed of both technology and social engineering is fascinating to listen to, the way he outclasses the FBI and is ahead of them at almost every turn even leaving them doughnuts in his fridge when he knew they were about to raid him!


    What about Ray Porter’s performance did you like?

    This was the first audio book I've listened to and it's certainly one of the best performances. It didn't even enter my head that this wasn't Kevin Mitnick himself reading this aloud.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    It's more of an adventure story rather than high drama so it's more action than emotion, however he comes across as a really nice guy and not the mastermind criminal he was made out to be at the time all this was happening.


    Any additional comments?

    I've recommended this audio book to absolutely all my friends and family and those who have listened to it have not been disappointed!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Nitish
    LEICESTER, United Kingdom
    2/26/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Great first read (listen"
    If you could sum up Ghost in the Wires in three words, what would they be?

    'Page tuner', funny, great narrator


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Kevin


    Any additional comments?

    This was my first audiobook and what a start. I loved this audiobook, great story and narrator. Kevin has the mind of a genius.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Richard
    HINCKLEY, United Kingdom
    1/21/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "I loved it."
    Where does Ghost in the Wires rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    This was a really fantastic book, the author has a really amazing memory and scatters a wonderful array of details throughout the book which really brings it to life. He gives lots of detailed descriptions about his techniques which is great!

    One of the best audio books I've listened to and I've been an audible member for many years now.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • John
    Harrogate, United Kingdom
    12/8/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A captivating tale that improves with each chapter"
    Would you listen to Ghost in the Wires again? Why?

    No. I never read a book twice.


    Which scene did you most enjoy?

    They get better as the book progresses. The detail given throughout the book will be interesting to both technical reader and non-technical reader alike - explanations are clear and well explained but not dumbed down.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Yes


    Any additional comments?

    If you trust the ratings given to this book on Audible then you need to read this book. If you've read the book and still don't question the ratings then you didn't read the book properly.

    This book is well worth reading for the insight it gives into human nature.

    The author's character is a little irritating in the first few chapters as he seems to be getting into trouble needlessly but it very quickly grows into a likeable one. After the first half hour of listening I wasn't sure if I would make it all the way through but soon after that I couldn't put it down.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • A P Smith
    Bath, B&NES England
    11/6/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Fantastic, Inspiring stuff"

    Really enjoyed this. Facinating insight into the exploits and mind of one of the most famous 'hackers' ever. What was most interesting to me was that a large part of what Kevin did was 'Socially Engineering' not the stereo type of a spotty kid sitting in front of a computer in a dark room at all. Some of ways he would trick people into revealing highly confindential information to what was effectively a stranger on the phone left me open mouthed at the both the shear audacity and the genius of it.

    Sure the writing is not perfect and Kevin clearly relishes describing the technical detial of his hacks which I found facinating, but may put others off. Some other interesting details of his life are kind of glossed over to focus more on the actuall hacking. I would have like to hear a little more of how he coped with his time in prison, and a little more about why his close family seemed so acepting and tollerant of his exploits - even when he was on the run from the FBI and using a false identity!

    All in all though this is a facinating listen and should be required reading for any one working in computer/phone security.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Mrs
    Holmfirth, United Kingdom
    9/24/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Interesting at first..."
    What disappointed you about Ghost in the Wires?

    It began well but towards the end it all became a bit repetitive. Lost interest in the character and didn't really care what happened to him.


    What could Kevin Mitnick and William L. Simon have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    Could do with a ruthless edit.


    Any additional comments?

    Social engineering sections were interesting.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Alistair
    MARLBOROUGH, United Kingdom
    7/10/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Compelling stuff"

    This felt like a hacker's version of 'catch me if you can' (the Leonardo DiCaprio film) and I found myself listening at any opportunity I could, to find out what would happen next. A very interesting story and told well, though at times I found the narrator's voice a bit grate-y.
    On top of this it provided a real insight into how you might take steps to protecting yourself and your personal information from other hackers like him, particularly as more and more is done online.
    I'd thoroughly recommend this book!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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