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.
“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)
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.
Retired from the Labor movement and a fiberista (love to spin, knit and weave)
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.
"Excellent Text and Excellent Reader"
This book was fascinating in that it showed that at least 50% of the "hacking" prowesses of Kevin Mitnick were what he calls "social engineering" and what most of us would call using psychology to trick people. No major technical prowess; just understanding how people think. Very enlightening for anyone concerned about IT security.
In addition the reader of this book is excellent. One feels that it is Kevin Mitnick who is telling us his story directly. The only other time I kept on feeling that it was the author telling me his story rather than someone reading a book was for the Churchill WW2 Memoirs.
"A treat to read and better then a James Bond novel"
I read Kevin Mitnick's first book about hacking and I was hooked. its a great read, as is this book and it tells you so much about social engineering and how hackers do it. I naively though that they sat at the computer guessing passwords. If you think that then read this book. Its far easier to hack and break into a company's server then you could realise and though I assume that if this guy wasn't guilty he would not have been sent to jail, he tells a really goos storey about manipulating people to get people to give you access to company secrets.
This is a tale about breaking in, and having to be on the run. There was a film of his encounters which was a flop but to be rank you need to read this to get to the real adventure. Its all here, secrets, FBI, mistrust, betrayal and finding new identities. Great.
Loved it and hope there are other similar books out there for me to delve into.
"The absolute obsession and love of the challenge.."
The absolute obsession and love of the challenge rather than any financial gain is richly described in this deeply detailed account of Kevin Mitnick's life as one the original hackers and expert social engineers of the 80's. I'm sure others may dispute Kevin's version of events but it is both scary and scandalous how he is portrayed in both the courts and the media. He is no angel but some accusations levelled at him are not only rubbished by Mitnick but also shown to be completely implausible and utterly untrue! His skills as one of the original hackers are amazing and his audacity to social engineer people is breath taking. The sheer joy he gets from taking on a hacking challenge and succeeding is described in rich detail and it makes for an exhilarating, roller coaster listen.
"Next time you credit card company phones..."
Listen to it. Learn about social engineering. Understand why you should be sceptical with phone calls claiming to be from your bank, your credit card company and/or your mobile phone company. All they want is your date of birth, the first line of your address and your post code. Hello Kevin! This book is cool.
The life of Kevi Mitnik unfolds like a Jason Bourne story but without people getting killed. Whether or not you approve of hacking you cannot help holding this man in awe in terms of his high intelligence and his incredible audacity. Also, the narration by Ray Porter is superb. Highly recommended.
"Not just for Geeks and Nerds!"
Ghost in the wires is a fast paced story of how Kevin Mintnick evades and escapes the police and FBI after being a caught numerous time hacking into various different organisations computer networks.
I really enjoyed listening to this book. You genuinely feel an attached towards Kevin, and you don't want him to et caught. He is honest with the reader and doesn't embellish being on the run, he tells it how it was, make helps you appreciate the loneliness and isolation that he felt.
Ghost in the wires is not a book that I would normally choose to read, but I enjoyed every page. For this reason I gave it 5 stars.
"A brilliant Audio Book"
Once I started listening to this Audio Book I couldn't stop and until I got to the end I thought it was actually Kevin Mitnick reading it! This is a brilliant audio book from start to finish and I would highly recommend it.
I wasn't sure i would like this, But after the first hour i was hooked. I actually listened to it in about 2-3 days as i could not STOP listening, its such an interesting story and very exciting, I could also tell there is an effort to explain it to people who are not tech smart, which is nice (not that i needed it). Its actually one of the best books i've had the pleasure of listening to.
"Close but no cigar"
Sadly no, even though this book was well written and amazingly actually based on real life events that kept me listening to just one more chapter finished leaving me with no real closure.
Obviously very clever Kevin Mitnicks crimes eventually come to grow a pointless and as a reader I ended up hoping for him to get caught just for some variety. A very clever man with one hell of a story to tell but I personally only want to hear it once.
Without giving too much away the most memorable moment in Ghost in the wire, was the fugitive tacking the FBI, the way he went around it was genius.
Kevin Mitnick, this is the only choice really as it is only Mitnicks side of the story that is retold.
Firstly sheer disbelief, with what he had the guts to do. As most of the crimes are repetitive a ended the book in frustration.
Kevin Mitnick gets information from people by basically lying to them. It is called social engineering in the book, social engineering to get information out of people to use to your own advantage. I just wonder if you replaced every reference of social engineering with the word lying if Kevin Mitnick would come across as such a likable person? A good listen but I wouldn't recommend it to anyone without a technical background.
I started off enjoying this story, - Kevin's cleverness and undoubted skills make for interesting reading. However he has made a fortune out of lying to people and taking great delight in tricking other people- who trust him. He really enjoys making people look stupid. it is very telling that some of his closest friends also betray him...He never sees this as a personal character flaw - in fact every time his behaviour is challenged he reverts to 'poor old me'. The two most salient factors that absolutely turned me OFF were when he stole the identities of dead babies, without a thought to how this would impact any families involved in those tragic events. Secondly, several time he mentions the tole his life choices have taken on his Mother & Grandmother- he calls on them every time he gets into trouble, but he never thinks to alter his behaviour, change his choices, in fact every time he gets a steady job, he 'just can't help' & 'just to see if I can' and ends up getting fired again. I couldn't wait to see him locked up, but he seems to fall on his feet right to the end. This book made my blood boil, I ended up intensely disliking the author.
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