Book Finished: September 15th, 2014
Rating: 3.5/5 Stars
After two years of just dropping my boyfriend, Kevin, off at the entrance to the Rio Convention Center in Las Vegas for DEF CON and then day drinking until he was done for the day, I attended DEF CON 22 back in August. Day drinking was still included, but I was also able to learn a lot more about what Kevin does for a living, and learn quite about the technologies that my field (public relations/communications) uses day-to-day.
DEF CON seemed as good a time as any to pick up a book by a different Kevin that I’d been meaning to read for awhile: Ghost in the Wires, Kevin Mitnick’s autobiography. I unfortunately woke up too late during one of our DEF CON days where Mitnick was doing a book signing, so I didn’t get to meet him in person. However, thanks to this autobiography, I am eager to do so next year.
Ghost in the Wires is (as far as I can tell) a very thorough adaptation of Mitnick’s life. We get a brief rundown of his childhood, which mostly serves to provide a basis for his loving relationship with his mother and grandmother, before launching into Mitnick’s education on and immersion into the world of hacking. From there, the book is really organized by Mitnick’s various run-ins with the law, and how these shaped his hacking skills and exploits.
I found the book to be very engaging, even when my understanding of certain hacks Mitnick was doing was minimal. He does a decent job of trying to bring some of the technical stuff down to a 5th grade level, so that people like me can get a good grasp on what is actually happening. I found myself rooting for him, and upset when he finally had to face consequences.
From reading other reviews, this is where some readers have a problem with Mitnick. Through his telling of his story, it sure seems like “the man” really was out to get him, and even resorted to lying to Mitnick away for longer (saying he could whistle into a phone and launch nuclear weapons, which Mitnick points out is absolutely ridiculous). He mentions that he never made any money from his hacking, and that it was more of an ego-boosting hobby. Mitnick can get a bit “woe is me” about some points of his story, especially when talking about the damage done to his mother and grandmother’s lives. However, this is Mitnick’s story, and he has the right to tell it as he saw it and remembers it.
I would recommend this book for anyone who already knows Mitnick’s name and hasn’t read it yet, as well as though curious about the world of hacking.