Image from Atomic Books
I just finished Kevin Mitnick’s latest book Ghost in the Wires. It is one of the best autobiographies that I have read. I am biased since it deals with my career field of computer security. Before the book was published there were some hanging questions that I have never heard him answer. The most important question to me was if Mitnick did or did not pull off the previously theoretical TCP sequence attack. He didn’t, but he did have a friend do the attack for him that allowed him to relay into the box. He also doesn’t admit to the leaving the voicemail messages on Shimomura’s answering machine, so I’m guessing that ends that rumor also.
If you have ever heard one of Mitnick’s speeches about his life, you already know about seventy-five percent of the story. I thought I would be bored with the book since I’ve heard most the story told by him two or three other times. I wasn’t. Somehow it was all still fascinating. Since he has a co-writer I don’t know how much of the writing style is his or his partners. Regardless, it has an easy to read style that matches his other books, The Art of Deception and The Art of Intrusion.
When his other books were published, I read them immediately. I didn’t jump right into this one, because I thought it would be boring. All through the book I could hear Kevin’s voice speaking. That is what happens when you have heard his talks way too many times. It was a great tale.
In the late nineties I was a fervent believer in the “Free Kevin” movement. I was also ecstatic when he was released. In my younger I believe Mitnick to be one the greatest hackers ever. Part of this of course was the myth’s and the book cleared a few of those up. There are so few books about hacking stories, so in the nineties I scooped up all I could. These unfortunately didn’t separate myths, legends, and facts to the best degree.
A few years ago I figured out that Kevin wasn’t a hacker in at least one definition. If you use the original definitions of making things do what they weren’t supposed – yes he is one of the world’s greatest hackers. If you go off the theory of computer genius – he was mid level in the game. He used existing exploits on unpatched systems and reports that hadn’t yet been disclosed to the public to do his computer hacking. He didn’t discover vulnerabilities on his own.
What he excelled at was phone phreaking and social engineering. There isn’t a single person that could say that Mitnick wasn’t world-class in these two areas of cyber security. He also has the correct mindset on spotting vulnerabilities with the perseverance to manipulate them to their fullest extent. He deserves the attention he is getting after his time in prison. Good luck Kevin, may things always seem so bright.