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The Fugitive Game: Online with Kevin Mitnick Paperback – January 1, 1997
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The Fugitive Game introduces Kevin Mitnick moments before the fugitive hacker surrenders himself to FBI agents who have located him with the help of the so-called cybersleuth, Tsutomu Shimomura. The prologue to Jonathan Littman's book kicks off with the epic climax that came to tantalize movie producers and video game designers and launch magazine covers worldwide. However, this is not another version of Takedown. The Fugitive Game is a compelling, journalistic look at the events that led up to the capture of Kevin Mitnick, and no portion of the folklore surrounding the case is left untouched by the book's critical eye. The real gold of this volume comes from the nearly 200 pages of conversations with Kevin Mitnick himself, most of which were transcribed while he was fleeing from the law.
Over the course of Mitnick's flight from justice, Littman documents and examines the public transformation of Mitnick into Public Enemy Number One, mostly through the efforts of the New York Times writer John Markoff. Markoff's involvement in the eventual capture of Mitnick by Shimomura is also scrutinized at length. Littman even questions the now-legendary Christmas Day break-in of Shimomura's computer, citing reports that the "IP spoofing technique," which Markoff claimed was so ingenious, was in fact a well-known method of gaining access to systems for years. This is a brilliant look at a compelling individual and also the manufacturing of media events and the inept efforts of law enforcement to prepare for the next wave of high-tech crime.
From Library Journal
Computer security expert Shimomura gained instant celebrity with his highly publicized capture of Kevin Mitnick, a notorious computer hacker who allegedly plundered the Internet at will, stealing files and information from computer systems throughout the world. Markoff, a new breed of cyberspace journalist, was the sole reporter present when Mitnick was arrested, invited by Shimomura to cover the bust. Markoff's account of this story first appeared on the front page of the New York Times on February 16, 1995, the day after the bust. Markoff and Shimomura were friends, and Markoff's previous book, Cyberpunk (LJ 6/1/91), devoted a third of its content to the nefarious Mitnick. Takedown is a riveting account of the investigation and capture of a skilled hacker by a brilliant cybersleuth. Littman, an investigative reporter, has also written a compelling narrative of the Mitnick case. In contrast to Takedown, Littman captures Mitnick's side of the story. He focuses on Mitnick's motives and ambitions, drawing on personal conversations and correspondence with the world-class hacker while he was still a fugitive. Littman alleges questionable motives on the part of Shimomura and Markoff as they tread the murky water of journalistic ethics surrounding book advances, movie deals, talk-show appearances, and speaking fees. He exposes a conflict of interest raised by the financial rewards Shimomura and Markoff received by cooperating with the FBI, and asserts that the ensuing publicity over Internet security and the need for tougher laws distracted us from the real issue of a constitutional right to privacy on the information superhighway. Most libraries should have both The Fugitive Game and Takedown.
--Joe Accardi, Northeastern Illlinois Univ. Lib., Chicago
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
First of all, this is by far the most informative and interesting of the three works, and aside from the very insightful dialogue of fugitive Mitnick, Littman poses a number of intriguing questions glossed over by the mainstream "press" and which could never be addressed in the other two books:
What was Shimomura's real relationship with Lottor, an ex-hacker and former roommate of Poulsen? Why were the two working together to disassemble cell phone software? What practical application could this possibly have, other than for illegal ESN cloning and eavesdropping? Was Shimomura being covertly employed by the NSA, Air Force, or some other government agency? Why is Shimomura considered a top-notch "security expert" when his computers were systematically violated over the course of many months? Why do Shimomura and the FBI insist that certain valuable applications were being stolen from Shimomura's computer, when at least some of these same programs are freely available on the internet? Why was Markoff permitted to write (uncorrected, in the NY Times) that just before he was caught, Mitnick had attempted to destroy an entire ISP, when in fact the damage was restricted to erasing only a small portion of one backup tape?
Two people benefitted most from the hype surrounding the arrest and criminalization of Mitnick: Shimomura and Markoff. Much of Mitnicks' "crimes" were nothing more than unsubstantiated accusations. Yet the two detectives managed to parlay the bust into a $750k book advance, movie rights, fame, etc., at the expense of Markoff's journalistic integrity.
This book is a must read for anyone looking for an honest account of events, free from self-serving rhetoric of Shimomura and Markoff, and the biases of the mainsteam media.
I read Jonathan Littman's two books first, and was very excited with the stories, and his factual presentation. His writing style is an excellent fit for the type of story he is telling. It was obvious that Littman researched the facts and presented them in an unbiased manner. I liked that he presented both the technical information and the human elements of the stories. I also liked that he exposed many myths and controversy regarding the players in the stories, like John Markoff's getting involved in the chase for Mitnick, crossing the ethical boundary between journalism and law enforcement.
I then read "Cyberpunk" by Markoff and Hafner. Boy, what a difference! Where Littman was factual, Markoff was more into storytelling. I cannot say who's right (I wasn't THERE), but Markoff just didn't come across as complete and factual, especially in light of Littman's comments on his questionable involvement in Mitnick's capture. I did, however, love Markoff's telling of the rtm story (Robert Tappan Morris - the sendmail internet worm guy). I'd give this book 3 stars.
I'd like to take a moment to comment on some other reviews that I think are unfair or inaccurate.
Regarding "The Watchman":
"Big Letdown" stated that there was too much technical information. I completely disagree. It's true that I personally enjoyed the technical details, but I also felt it was important insight into a hacker's curiosity response to forbidden systems. "Hmmm...Perhaps Jonathan should have done more research" stated that Littman didn't give Poulsen a chance, and made him out to be a monster. I wonder if we read the same book? I did not get the impression that Poulsen was a monster of any kind, just a kid addicted to the power and thrills of having absolute control over other people's forbidden systems. On the contrary, I think Littman did a professional, accurate, and entertaining presentation of the story and it's facts.
Regarding "The Fugitive Game":
"lots of clumsy writing here" stated that Littman tried to make Mitnick out to be a hero. Again, I have to wonder if we read the same book. Littman did no such thing. In fact, Littman "de-heroed" other characters that John Markoff pumped up in his telling of events. From reading the above-mentioned three books, Littman comes across as MUCH more factual. "Not Very good" stated that the story was boring, and to get other books like the Cuckoo's Egg, and maybe even At Large. The book was far from boring, but I'd have to agree that "The Watchman" was better (I give "The Fugitive Game" 4 stars, "The Watchman" 5 stars.) I guess I'll have to check out "Cuckoo's Egg" and "At Large" - at least the reviewer made alternative recommendations, which I thank him/her for.
Finally, to help the reader of this review judge how relevant my opinion is, I'll tell you where I'm coming from. I consider myself to be very technical. I really got started with computers back in 1978, about the same time these guys were getting going. I went through many of the same "phases" these hackers went through. I did things to computers that weren't supposed to be done - and got caught a couple times (ahh, the old days...) So I think I'm qualified to judge a "real" story. All three books were nostalgic for me, but Littman's were the most accurate, I think. In my opinion, he described what it was REALLY like: the curiosity, the intensity, the excitement of discovery, the thrill of the hunt, and the addiction of absolute control.
Littman exposes the conflicts of interest in Mitnick's pursuers, the lack of financial gain in Mitnick's crimes, and the irony of Shimomura's "dangerous software" that Mitnick allegedly copied.
Everybody seems to have an ulterior motive in this story, and Littman's sympathies clearly belong to Mitnick. After reading this book, chances are you will at least see the "David vs. Goliath" aspect as well.
I really enjoyed this book and found it very informative and fair to the subjects, since it is a true story.
highly recommend if you are interested in computers and those that hack, just from the vicarious thrill, as well as how to protect yourself online!
It is well written, however, as Littman is a professional writer. Contrast this with "Takedown," in which you're given a lot of techical information, but the writing is a bit less refined, as Shimomura makes his living as a scientific computing expert.
Take it for what it is.