Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Book Review: Ghost in the Wires

The second book for our book club this month was Ghost in the Wires by Kevin Mitnick. I didn't know anything about Kevin Mitnick before reading this book. I'm probably too young to remember seeing any news about him. So everything I know about him, I've learned from this book.

Ghost in the Wires
My Rating: 4 out of 5 bookmarks
Summary from Amazon page:  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 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.

My review:
For the most part, I really enjoyed this book. I found it fascinating to read his accounts of his exploits and to see how easy it was to get past so-called security measures. His social engineering was genius. I've never been good at thinking on my feet, so his talent makes it that much more impressive to me.

The only reason I didn't give 5 bookmarks was some of the descriptions of his exploits got a little repetitive after a while. Many started to sound like the same thing over and over. Although if you're into the technical aspects, you might find some of those details interesting.

The book starts at the beginning, when he was just a kid. It's interesting to see how he evolved through the years. It's also amusing to see that the authorities just couldn't fathom someone who  was doing all this just for fun, not for any sort of profit. Many people have a hard time understanding that sort of mentality, but I kind of get it. It's just about accomplishing the task, like someone trying to beat a game.

I felt for Kevin when people he trusted turned against him, and even though I knew he was eventually caught, I found myself rooting for him when he was on the run. I could feel the tension, how he must have been always on edge, just waiting to be found out. 

If you enjoy biographies, real-life stories, or reading about hacking, I definitely recommend this book.