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121 of 130 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 400 pages gone in two evenings.
If I wouldn't have started to halucinate at 2am from being so tired after reading for 8 hours, I would have read this entire book through in one sitting. The book isn't overly technical yet is a huge eye opener for anyone who isn't intimately familiar with the details of Kevin Mitnick as the most wanted hacker of the 90's. If you have a moderate interest in computing,...
Published on August 8, 2011 by Aaron J. Maynard

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125 of 155 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars This Book Really Bothers Me - Mitnick Is Talented, But He Can't Have It Both Ways
I know that many people love Ghost in the Wires, but this book really bothers me. It's very difficult to be sympathetic towards Kevin Mitnick, who continually prevails upon his readers to let him have it both ways.

I will leave whatever social sickness the brilliant Kevin Mitnick has to the mental health professionals, but suffice it to say that his writing in...
Published on December 30, 2011 by D. Scott


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121 of 130 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 400 pages gone in two evenings., August 8, 2011
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If I wouldn't have started to halucinate at 2am from being so tired after reading for 8 hours, I would have read this entire book through in one sitting. The book isn't overly technical yet is a huge eye opener for anyone who isn't intimately familiar with the details of Kevin Mitnick as the most wanted hacker of the 90's. If you have a moderate interest in computing, you'll encounter many jaw dropping moments in reaction to the clever, often brazen and sometimes paranoid escapades captured in the book. Towards the 3/4 mark in the book, the story gets a bit drawn out, but was completely well worth the read.
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87 of 98 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Old Game, New Tools, August 1, 2011
When it comes to true crime, I'm pretty squeamish. Nothing violent, please. Clever and devious are what I'm looking for. Frank Abagnale's Catch Me If You Can: The True Story of a Real Fake is one of the best, and it's hard not to compare any subsequent caper story with it.

Ghost in the Wires doesn't reach the level of audacity of Catch Me if You Can - impersonating technicians over the phone doesn't rise to the sheer nerve of a teenager impersonating an airline pilot or a doctor, as Abagnale did, and getting away with it. But Ghost in the Wires goes well beyond the adolescent bragfest of phone hacks that it could have been.

I think this is largely due to the co-writer, William L. Simon. Kevin Mitnick describes in his acknowledgments, how he and Simon argued over how detailed and technical the book should be, and apparently Simon prevailed. There's enough detail to explain how the scams were possible, but not so specific as to send the non-programmer into a hexadecimal stupor.

Another big plus is that many of the hacks depended as much on what Mitnick calls "social engineering" as on specialist knowledge. Unlike the stereotypical computer nerd, Mitnick was as comfortable and proficient at schmoozing people as he was writing code - he could talk his way into places that were restricted and convince people he was entitled to classified information. These were scams anyone can understand.

Mitnick also succeeds at not crossing the line from confident to insufferable, which is another pitfall of true crime tell-alls. Perhaps we can once again thank William Simon for this achievement.

I expected to skim this 400-page book but ended up reading every word. Mitnick was unbelievably audacious, and he says he never profited from his exploits. Knowing the risks (especially after he had already spent an unpleasant stretch in jail), how could he continue to risk getting caught again? He claims he was addicted to hacking, and while that seemed to me a sorry excuse for criminal behavior, it started to seem like the only possible explanation.

Whatever Mitnick's reasons, Ghost in the Wires is as much fun to read as any summer thriller.
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125 of 155 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars This Book Really Bothers Me - Mitnick Is Talented, But He Can't Have It Both Ways, December 30, 2011
I know that many people love Ghost in the Wires, but this book really bothers me. It's very difficult to be sympathetic towards Kevin Mitnick, who continually prevails upon his readers to let him have it both ways.

I will leave whatever social sickness the brilliant Kevin Mitnick has to the mental health professionals, but suffice it to say that his writing in Ghost in the Wires is a terrific nonfiction example of an "unreliable narrator." Throughout the book, Mitnick does the same things over and over again and is surprised when he repeatedly gets caught. He hurts his mother, grandmother, wife, and friends over and over again with his illegal hacking activities, says he regrets doing it each time, but then turns around and does it to them again. Mitnick is upset when he is blamed for things he "didn't do" and when he is "double crossed," but he freely admits to dozens of other computer break ins and instances where he compromises the trust of others using "social engineering" techniques, ridicules them for trusting him, and then betrays that trust. Mitnick says he never took money from hacking, but now of course he's making money from writing this and other books as well as from promoting his computer security company based on his (illegally obtained) skills. Mitnick is all over the place.

In one scene Mitnick is severely critical of prosecutors who use "dirty tactics" to put him behind bars, but then he continues to use his own dirty tactics while behind those bars. For instance, Mitnick is contemptuous of being put in solitary confinement so he can't "phone freak" (a form or hacking using an ordinary telephone), but then uses his severely limited (and monitored) prison pay phone time to phone freak anyway by dialing behind his back as a guard watches, apparently just for the thrill of it and with complete disregard for any consequences.

Even after he is apprehended multiple times, Mitnick still doesn't "get it." He is condescending to and openly critical of the FBI, local law enforcement, and the media throughout the book for their lax procedures, but still doesn't seem to understand why breaking and entering highly sensitive computer systems is wrong and dangerous. When they find his stolen database of thousands of credit card numbers, he doesn't understand why he should be prosecuted for possessing them because he didn't actually use them to steal money. "That would be wrong," he says. Another instance: he spends most of the book using cloned cell phones to make "free" calls all over the world, which are billed to unaware random consumers. This form of theft, as well as repeated breaking and entering, both electronically and physically, seems to be viewed as no problem.

While on the run Mitnick takes great pains to steal and set up new identities in Las Vegas, Denver, Seattle, and Raleigh NC, but each time he goes back to his old hacking and cell phone tricks only to get discovered again and again. In one scene he finally figures out that he is being tracked electronically by the authorities when he uses his cell phone, and is actually being followed by a helicopter that zeroes in on him every time he makes a call. Does he then stop making cell calls? No. Does he stop hacking? No. Even when he is suspicious of being compromised on the phone, he still keeps calling and talking "for hours" to the informant, and yet feels betrayed when they turn over what they have to the authorities.

Mitnick seems to blame everyone but himself most of the time for having the unmitigated gall to trust him through his so called "Social Engineering," which he both repeatedly relies on and harshly criticizes his marks for falling for. He even blames others who actually create the computer systems he feels compelled to compromise. It is much more difficult to create than it is to tear down, and instead of compromising these networks for "trophies," one is left wondering what the incredibly talented Mitnick could have done if he had spent as much time and energy building systems instead of breaking into and stealing information from them.

Mitnick's behavior is deeply disturbing. He writes, "It always seems strange to me that my captors had such trouble grasping the deep satisfaction that could be derived from a game of skill....what it was worth didn't matter to me. So what was the nature of my crime, that I allegedly had access?" It is not a game, and Mitnick completely misses the point, even now, after serving years in prison and being released. Mitnick is obsessive about his own privacy, and yet is utterly indignant about others' attention to and expectation of theirs? It just doesn't wash.
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45 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Highest Adventure Possible for any Security Professional, August 15, 2011
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A fascination with hacking goes back pretty far for me (I'm an old bat). I loved my experiences reading about Kevin Mitnick, even when he made the papers while on the go. The papers were full of hyperbole even then. I knew to reserve my excitement and hold out for Kevin's own words. My patience is rewarded with this book.

I can't help but enjoy reading about someone who has the adept social engineering of a film noir gumshoe, or the undercover detective, who applied it growing up and getting into trouble. Like Kevin, I knew The Three Days of the Condor. I learned it was a favorite of his, and I clung to this fact which fell through the sieve of newspaper myth. Free Kevin!

Now read Kevin's story, where you'll find enough detail to keep any heart racing. Whether or not you have enough awareness for some of the bits, or rely on the plain language, the story can strike sheer terror in the hearts of those who don't know much of anything about bits and bytes. For those who do, this book contains updated method nomenclature and references to security protocol that it's valuable from that perspective.

Kevin possesses the kind of curiosity to dig and uncover gems of hidden info for esoteric purposes in order to unlock a power only a successful hacker knows about. Social engineering is akin to the confidence game, but different all the same when it involves computer networks. The best hackers are never caught, never known about. Kevin has a different distinction: The first and the grandest adventure story, ever.

You don't need to be a hacker or security professional to appreciate and learn from it. Today, security is serious business and hackers typically have bad or misguided intent. Kevin's motivation was harmless fun at the expense of a system, and honest curiosity which was not rewarded with a government security detail. Fear prevailed then, as hacking was an unknown phenomenon. An innocent motive seemed totally suspect in a court setting.

One frequent result of being a trail blazer is its potential costs. When playing around with the law, this can end in time set aside from society. The NYTimes columnist ironically exercised his own opportunistic free market exploit to establish a mythology around Kevin that ruined any chance for freedom. Kevin emerged from lock down to write the correction that I hold in my hands. The highest adventure possible for any security professional.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book for people of all skillsets, October 8, 2011
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I just finished this book and it is excellent. Kevin Mitnick was finally allowed to tell his side of the story after all these years and all the other "fake" stories of his life and capture were made. The book is really good at explaining technical topics in a very high level so that anyone who reads it of all skill levels can understand what is going on. For security professionals, this book is a must read. Sometimes in the world of IT security we get so hung up on firewalls, exploits, SQL injection and all the cool techie things but the completely forget about the social side of security and out users. This book will allow you to see the importance of security through user awareness training, strict procedures to follow, etc.

For people outside of security this is a great introduction for anyone who is worried about how hackers commonly steal information and break into systems. The book will never leave you with eyes glazed over in getting down to the really techie details. A lot of people have views of hackers that they see from the movies which is really crazy nerds with crazy monitors who can break into anything in minutes (think swordfish). This is far from the case with real attacks often taking months to years. The book really does a good job at making users understand that they are the most critical asset when it comes to securing their organizations data as well as their own. The crazy software products are important, but in the end it comes down to the users and what they will do.

I managed to briefly meet Kevin Mitnick at Derbycon (a security conference) this year and he was nice enough to sign my book which is really a nice added bonus!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This Should Be a Movie!, November 28, 2011
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I read this book and then read it again to my wife and daughter. We all loved it! Kevin takes us from his early years, giving a good chronology of how he went from being a typical 9-year-old kid to the FBI's most wanted hacker, and ultimately, a sought-after security professional. Reading it was a good mix of suspense (how will he get out of this one and what will happen next?) and comedy (did he really just go and do that again?). He takes you with him and if you're at all familiar with any of the cities, you almost feel like you're there with him. This writing team also does a great job of balancing the stories so that there's enough "geek talk" for my appetite on the "how he did it" and enough straight, clear talk for my family to follow along and enjoy the story as well. Oh, and for those of us now working in the corporate IT world, it's a HUGE eye opener at just how vulnerable we still are in spite of our expensive security systems.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The real story according to Mitnick himself, November 18, 2011
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I really enjoyed Ghost in the Wires. It tells the story of Kevin Mitnick in his own words and clears up any misconceptions that arose due to other books and movies about Mitnick. Kevin Mitnick has an amazing mind. His memory and his ability to remain one step ahead of law enforcement and other hackers put him in a league of his own. The amount of detail in the book is phenomenal as well, especially since some of the chapters cover things that happened well over a decade ago. The suspense made it hard to put the book down. I was amazed at the dichotomy of Mitnick's genius and his often childlike curiosity when dealing with phone and computer systems. He is a true hacker with an unrelenting need to know how things work. The book also exposes the corruption and illegal methods used by authorities to finally track Mitnick down. Basically, Mitnick was so clever that they would have never caught him without breaking protocol and using illegal cheapshots when tracking him down and searching his apartment. The final chapters of the book and the closing comments say a lot about Mitnick's character. Although he had access to documentation that would have allowed him to steal vast amounts of money, Mitnick did nothing of the sort. The information itself was the prize. Although he would have every reason to be angry with Shimomura, he noted that he respected the man's skills. Mitnick also expressed remorse for putting his mom and grandma the pain of his fugitive and jail days and expressed thanks to his family and friends for standing by him despite his "criminal status". The book is well written, and Mitnick's humor and sarcasm contribute to an already interesting story.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Read THE ART OF DECEPTION instead, August 11, 2012
This review is from: Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World's Most Wanted Hacker (Paperback)
Mitnick's biography is interesting, but not a stellar read. It's written largely for a non-technical audience, and it does a good job of showing Mitnick's inability to stop hacking, if not an outright addiction to hacking. While it shows that he didn't hack out of malice or to make a profit, Mitnick is not a pure white hat hacker. But the hacking stories become repetitive over time, and it seems strange as to why he would continue to hack knowing that the police are getting ever closer to him while a fugitive. Also the book wraps up very quickly, glossing over his capture, trial, and imprisonment.

If you've read Mitnick's other book, "The Art of Deception," you're already familiar with Mitnick's ability with social engineering. And that book also offers tips on how to recognize and prevent such attempts. If you're deciding between books, I'd say go for "The Art of Deception."
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From someone who's been hacked by Kevin..., November 18, 2011
Kevin personally gave me a copy of the book in September after dinner in Vegas (see below) and I just finished today over the course of a trip to Israel for business. It was hard to put down! I personally know and am friends with some of the people in the book (Derrell, Andy G. and Anton). Come to think of it, this is the second hacking book where I knew some of the players! The first being the Cuckoo's Egg. (I got to know Dave Cleveland and Wayne Graves and Andy G. is also mentioned in both)

Ghost in the Wires had me yelling at the book, saying things like "dammit Kevin! Why?!" and "don't tell me you didn't encrypt the tapes!?!?" I was amazed at the audacity and shear hutzpa. As I told Kevin today via Twitter, "you've got balls". I got why he was doing stuff like this. The geek curiosity is addictive but here it's taken to a whole new level. You get to witness a photographic and cunning mind in action and it doesn't disappoint. You don't need to be a geek to appreciate what's happening. The book is way more about social engineering than bits and bytes. It's a view into the workings of the human brain and brings up a lot of doubt around trust. I was fascinated with his ability to get people to trust him! It's pretty scary. Go read this book and you'll find yourself questioning the next person who says "trust me".

Some back story: I was hacked by Kevin around 1988/1989. More details at my blog, yelof.com. Read "A dinner with infamy" and how I finally got confirmation 20+ years later. Kevin told me today that he should have included this story in the book.

I hope you enjoyed this. Thanks!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excitement and Thrill from Beginning to End, January 24, 2012
Kevin Mitnick's recollection of his life is wonderfully enticing. Through the writing talents of William Simon, Kevin's story entraps the reading in a maze of understandable technical jargon, interesting encounters with many kinds of law enforcement, and most importantly his purpose in hacking. As each chapter comes to an end, you are left with a desire to continue reading. I found myself turning pages with the same enthusiasm I felt when reading Stieg Larsson's millennium trilogy.
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Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World's Most Wanted Hacker
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