Before the FBI collared the notorious cyberspace bandit Kevin Mitnick earlier this year, he conducted an 18-month dialogue with Silicon Valley journalist Littman (Once Upon a Time in Computerland, 1987) via telephone and the Internet. Drawing on these conversations and his own reportage, the author offers fascinating insights into the world-class hacker's life on the run. Mitnick was one of those fiercely free spirits who invade computers linked along the so-called Information Highway to showcase their own technical virtuosity, play pranks on the establishment, expose security weaknesses, and (more ominously) appropriate valuable data and services or wreak havoc on the telecommunications systems of presumptive enemies. Mitnick, now 31, became a legend before he was out of his teens. Among other unverifiable feats, the electronic brigand is credited with having penetrated the North American Air Defense Command's machines during the early 1980s, a dubious achievement said to have inspired the film War Games. Law-enforcement agencies were not amused by the young Californian's antics, and he did time briefly in a federal correctional facility for violating communications statutes. Having been implicated in further computer break-ins after his release, an unrepentant Mitnick took it on the lam in late 1992. Throughout his flight, however, the digital desperado stayed in touch with Littman, who concludes that his correspondent hacks for the challenge of outwitting guardians of the status quo. With a big assist from Tsutomo Shimomura, whose network privacy Mitnick breached, the government located its man in Raleigh, N.C., last February (through his cellular phone use) and again took him out of circulation. A consistently absorbing book that fills in many of the blanks left by Takedown (p. 1692), Shimomura's first-person account of the role he played in putting Mitnick back behind bars.