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Takedown: The Pursuit and Capture of Kevin Mitnick by the Man Who Did It Hardcover – January 22, 1996

2.4 out of 5 stars 105 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The true story of how Kevin Mitnick was snagged by computer security expert Tsutomu Shimomura. As gripping as a great mystery novel -- but true -- and as important as any book on computer security -- but eminently readable by anyone.

You can read more about Mitnick specifically or computer crime and social engineering generally in Jonathan Littman's recent The Fugitive Game: Online With Kevin Mitnick, or in any one of a sampler of books on computer crimes and computer cracking.

From Publishers Weekly

Despite some tedious, self-indulgent subplots, this is an engaging account of the electronic battle between cybersleuth Shimomura and cyberthief Mitnick, which ended last February with the FBI's arrest of Mitnick in Raleigh, N.C. The two men are not dissimilar: they're both in their early 30s, technologically brilliant and personally arrogant. Born in Japan, Shimomura was a computer consultant at Princeton at 14 and a postdoctoral researcher at Los Alamos at 19, although he never finished high school or college. Mitnick, who also has little advanced formal education, has been in and out of prison for computer hacking. Shimomura seems to have made Mitnick's apprehension a personal mission after the hacker invaded his computer on Christmas Day 1994. Coauthored in the first person with New York Times reporter Markoff, the story grows in excitement as Shimomura, a computer-security analyst at the government-funded San Diego Supercomputer Center, traces Mitnick's electronic incursions and confers with Internet service providers Netcom and The Well. The book raises vexing questions. Why was Shimomura allowed to virtually commandeer the FBI's investigation? How does the Justice Department determine the varying dollar values of files Mitnick is charged with stealing when he has never attempted to profit monetarily? This is an engrossing tale of high-tech derring-do, but Markoff and Shimomura are such interested parties that readers should turn to Jonathan Littman's The Fugitive Game (reviewed below) for a more disinterested account. 100,000 first printing; $150 ad/promo; film rights to Miramax; foreign rights sold to 13 countries, among them England, Brazil, Japan and Poland.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Hyperion; 1st edition (January 22, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786862106
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786862108
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.4 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 2.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (105 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,329,569 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
It's a breezy read, which is pretty amazing, given the number of obscure details that Shimomura feels compelled to share, such as his lunch menu. Still, when you team up an experienced author with a brilliant subject matter expert, it shouldn't be a surprise that the result is something which demands attention.
The definitive story of Kevin Mitnick has still not been told--this is an interesting story, but it is hardly conclusive. Furthermore, given the author's attitude--he's got an ego a mile wide--it's difficult to accept everything in this book at face value. Certainly, Shimomura and Markoff had every incentive during their journey to work towards creating an exciting story. A critical reader must consider the possibility that they manipulated events in order to increase sales of their expected book. It is certainly possible that this did not happen, but how can you know?
A greater understanding of what Mitnick represents is important in developing an ability to think in useful information security ways. He's become such a cultural icon--a criminal genious in the eyes of one side, and a victimized innocent on the other. Neither of these simplistic views is accurate. I believe that Mitnick probably is a genius, but not in technical terms. He's truly one America's great con-men, and his story teaches us a great deal about how gullible normal people can be, and how easy it is for a smooth-talker with selfish motivations to manipulate normal people. There are a lot of lessons to be learned from a study of Mitnick, although the writers of this text provide minimal assistance in helping the reader draw useful conclusions about the story.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Shimomura comes off as a completely annoying egomaniac who downplays the contributions of others and inflates his own achievements. Why he's considered an "elite security expert" when he was hacked by old, known techniques, and boasts that he doesn't use a firewall, is beyond me. However, Shimomura did the world a favor in helping catch and stop Kevin Mitnick. In Jonathan Littman's fascinating book The Fugitive Game, Mitnick's best friend Lewis De Payne is quoted as calling Mitnick "a sociopath." If the choice is between rooting for a bratty diva or rooting for a sociopath, I'll pull for the bratty diva. The self-obsessed Shimomura allows co-author Markoff to treat us to WAY more personal details than we want to know about him, but the second half of the book delivers a few useful insights into backtracing hackers. This is a slog of a read, recommended only if you are a security professional or hackers are your favorite topic. To make it more fun, try reading it side by side with the superior yet conflicting account in Littman's The Fugitive Game -- and decide for yourself who you believe.
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By A Customer on November 7, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I've read just about every book on hacking & related topics, and this one really ranks at the very bottom end. Looking for information, perspective, or even technical clues? Forget it. The right choice for the elderly who know nothing about the net and are hooked on those 70ies good-hunts-bad tv serials.
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By A Customer on December 5, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I can't blame Tsutomo Shimomura for writing page after page of uninteresting and unrelated narrative in this "thriller," but I can blame the publishers for leaving it in. Most of the book proceeds in a plodding, second-by-second account of Shimomura's life during his pursuit of Mitnick. This might have been a good formula if either (a) - Shimomura's life were interesting (it isn't), or (b) - he was skilled enough to make it seem interesting (he isn't).
The book actually manages to build some excitement as authorities begin to close in, but the conclusion of Mitnick's take-down is a let-down.
By the way, did John Markoff read this book before he allowed his name to be included as co-author? It doesn't even seem like anyone edited it.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I hated this book. Wading through the endless tripe about food and girlfriends really made Takedown a chore to read. Shimomura can't resist an opportunity to make himself seem like a God while everyone else is a complete dolt. His beratement of his own graduate student protege was thoughtless and cruel. I finally concluded that "Julia" is his loving name for his right hand. I can't imagine that anyone would want to be around so irritating a person.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Markoff's story wreaks of unsubstantiated rumors. Seek the truth in a book by john littman.
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Format: Hardcover
In Takedown, Tsutomu Shimomura tells the story of his pursuit and the eventual capture by Federal agents of Kevin Mitnick, the fugitive hacker whom Shimomura believes attacked his computers on Christmas Day 1994.
Shimomura, a computational physicist and highly-regarded computer security expert was lionized in New York Times accounts by high-tech writer John Markoff, who is co-author of the book.
The book is written as Shimomura's first-person account of the events surrounding the attack and the ultimate capture of Mitnick in Raleigh, North Carolina on February 15, 1995.
Shimomura's account starts with, and often returns to, the chronicle of an awkward and messy personal relationship with Julia Menapace, a programmer, as she struggles to leave mutual friend John Gilmore for Shimomura. Interspersed is the account of Shimomura's discovery and high tech pursuit of a hacker who launches a very sophisticated attack on his home computers.
Attacking a renowned security expert at the National Super Computer Center certainly falls into the class "tugging on Superman's cape". The attack is a state-of-the-art assault using "IP spoofing", a technique which renowned experts had theorized, but which had never been observed (or, at least, reported) previously.
Incredibly, the attack is launched from toad.com, one of John Gilmore's computers at Toad Hall, his stately San Francisco Victorian home. Even more incredibly, Shimomura and Menapace are present at Toad Hall while the attack takes place, though their interest is not in the many computers in the toad.com domain.
Shimomura dismisses any notion that he might have been involved in attacking his own machine, a tack pursued by San Jose Mercury News reporter David Bank.
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