Book Reviews: Information Security Books and Product Reviews – Ghost in the Wires

Book Title: Ghost in the Wires

Subtitle: My Adventures as the World’s Most Wanted Hacker

Authors: Kevin Mitnick, William L. Simon

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company

Date of Publishing: August 15, 2011

ISBN(13): 9780316037709

Price (UK&US price – full price, not discounted price): £19.99,   $25.99

URL of Amazon UK web page: Ghost In The Wires: My Adventures as the World’s Most Wanted Hacker

URL of Amazon UK (MP3) web page: Ghost In The Wires

URL of Amazon US web page: Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World’s Most Wanted Hacker

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Kevin Mitnick is probably the single most notorious hacker on the planet. The stories about his life and his eventual capture by the FBI have been the stuff of fable for decades, but because of various stipulations and caveats on his release from prison, he has been unable to tell the full, unadulterated story in his own words. Until now that is! And what a tale it is: mystery, intrigue, betrayal, chases, revenge, and eventual capture by the Feds… Ghost in the Wires is a truly gripping read about a boy with a brain the size of a planet who gets bored with the mundane things and life, so starts to explore things that are not directly available to him (albeit illegally), and end up, as a result on the run from the highest law enforcement authorities in the world. What stuck me about this book was the simplicity of how Mitnick slips into being a fugitive, from being a teenager with some playful hacking tricks up his sleeve, to the world’s most wanted cyber criminal in just a few years. However, what made me really sit up and take stock, especially working as a security architect myself, is the fact that at the heart of all his technical know how and genius with a keyboard and screen, the thing that really made hacking work for him was social engineering. People are our weakest link in pretty much every security system. Mitnick breaks in the amazing tale of deception – and interestingly enough, his previous book, The Art of Deception, shows exactly how these sorts of attacks are launched. His other previous title, The Art of Intrusion, discusses a variety of well-known hacks that have been perpetrated on systems over the past couple of decades, which is also a nice precursor to this particular autobiographical piece. What I liked a lot about this book is that you don’t need to be a technical genius to read it, but I think you get the most fun out of it if you have a technical background. Mitnick does discuss aspects of technical exploits he’s expedited on some of the systems he hacked but always casts them in such a way to make them accessible to the layman – with the only criticism being how easy he makes them sound: these are easy, if you happen to be a well-practices conman with the depth of understanding of the computer systems you are attacking that IBM’s chief programmer might have.I must admit, I worried that I’d get bored reading this book, especially as I’ve read every other cybercrime title going recently (part of being a reviewer I suppose), however, this one was different. Hearing this stuff straight from the horse’s mouth (bad metaphor) helped immensely, however, what compelled me the most was the same thing that originally drew me into IT as a career, and then into security – my own innate curiosity. I think a lot of the hacks that Mitnick carried out would have been possible by many more IT experts than the number of actual people that perpetrated them, for one reason alone. Mitnick lost his way. He’s a computer genius, no doubt. He’s a hacker – aren’t we all. But he crossed the line. And reading about that aspect of his personality, the one that shows he didn’t know right from wrong (or should I say, didn’t seem to care as much as he should have) was what was most compelling.

This is a great book. It’s as great for computer geeks as it is for non-technical people, yet I think anyone in the security business will certainly get a little extra kick out of it as it’s a real eye opener into the mind of the most experienced deception expert of all time.

This is a great book. It’s as great for computer geeks as it is for non-technical people, yet I think anyone in the security business will certainly get a little extra kick out of it as it’s a real eye opener into the mind of the most experienced deception expert of all time. Worth every penny!

Marks: 5 out of 5
*****

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