A legendary hacker recalls his escapades and life on the run from the FBI.
Mitnick (The Art of Intrusion: The Real Stories Behind the Exploits of Hackers, Intruders and Deceivers, 2005, etc.), who now works as a computer-security consultant, spent nearly five years in a federal prison for computer crimes. With the lifting of a court ban that prohibited him from writing about his exploits, he offers a whirlwind account of his thrill-seeking adventures stealing source code and other sensitive data from phone and computer companies while leading the FBI and other federal authorities on a cross-country chase that ended with his arrest in 1995. Now in his late 40s, Mitnick grew up in California and developed an early fascination for pranks, deception and technology. At age 17, he was arrested for stealing phone-company manuals. At 23, he writes, his hacking gave him control over phone systems in much of the United States. One judge, in denying bail, said Mitnick posed a threat to the community when “armed with a keyboard.” In fact, his strongest suit was his ability to manipulate people; he learned the inside lingo of bureaucrats, won their trust and gained access to information. “People are just too trusting,” writes the reformed con man. The author delights in recounting his celebrated hacks of Sun Microsystems and other corporations; his outwitting of FBI pursuers; his elaborate methods of creating new identities; and his obsessive search for still edgier challenges. “Hacking was my entertainment,” he writes. He never gained financially from his “trophies” (source codes, passwords, credit-card and social-security numbers, etc.), but gathered them “purely for the thrill.” His breezy, in-your-face, anti-establishment narrative will please many readers, but some may find the author’s self-important attitude grating.
A lucid, brightly written tale for both techies and lay readers.