Saturday, October 08, 2011

A Review of Kevin Mitnick's Ghost in the Wires

Pauk Dunklin is not impressed Kevin Mitnick's autobiography slammed by security researcher:

I'm reviewing it merely because it relates to the field of computer security, rather than because I'd suggest that you buy it.

The book in question is the recently-publishedGhost in the Wiresby infamous convicted phone hacker Kevin Mitnick.

It's an example of a curious but common contradiction-in-terms genre in publishing: an autobiography written in conjunction with someone else.

Mitnick's book doesn't cover his whole life story: the bulk of it is about Mitnick the hacker, from his early age on page 3 until his release from prison in January 2000 on page 383. He wraps up the decade since his release very rapidly in the ten pages which follow.

As I mentioned above, I enjoyed this book, but only up to a point. That point was somewhere around page 123, when the repetitious descriptions of Mitnick's repetitious escapades began to wear thin.

I was also disappointed to find very little about what I'd consider hacking (whether for good or evil) in thecomputer sciencesense.


The most disappointing thing about Mitnick's book is its overall implication - perhaps, in fact, its thinly-disguised purpose - that we should trust him now that he's out of prison, has finished his supervised release, and has turned into a businessman.

In his Acknowledgments, a seven-page appendix to the book, Mitnick shows no repentance. He doesn't apologise to the very many victims he abused, lied to and cheated; nor to those whose cellphone time he ripped off and whose identities he stole; nor to those outside his own circle whom he left in potentially serious trouble or whose lives he diminished by his self-obsessed criminality.

In fact, he doesn't really acknowledge his victims at all, and he gave me the impression that he's still proud of his time as a liar and a cheat.

(He's happy, indeed, to have the back cover describe him as a "visionary".)

I have to admit that made me feel slightly cheated at having put my own money into Kevin's royalty bucket.

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