Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Mitnick, Kevin & Wozniak, Steve (2012): Ghost in the Wires - My Adventures as the World's Most Wanted Hacker

What is it about?

The book covers the life of Kevin Mitnick, perhaps the best known telephone and computer hacker in the world. The story is told in the words of Mitnick himself, and therefore offers quite a fascinating "insider's view" on how a hacker works, and what makes him or her tick.

The book focuses heavily on Mitnick's hacking activities - relying quite much on "social engineering" (i.e. persuading people to do things for oneself) instead of technical hacking - and his avoiding of law enforcement until his major arrest and conviction in mid 1990s.

Was it good?

The book is highly interesting, for a large part thanks to Mitnick's descriptions of how he pulled off various hacks, often relying heavily on social engineering.

The book also paints a very insightful picture of how the mind of an (ethical) hacker works. In a nutshell, an ethical hacker - such as Mitnick - is after "trophies" and enjoys accomplishing hard hacks as such, instead of seeking any economic or other such gain. Moreover, in the hacking scene, there seems to be (or has been) a social hierarchy wherein hackers hack each other - and a disgruntled fellow hacker eventually was indeed instrument in capturing Mitnick at the end of his hacking career.

The main take-away for me?

I was quite surprised to realize how much top-notch hackers rely on social engineering, i.e. persuading people to grant user credentials, tell proprietary information etc., and how much advance studying such social engineering often requires (e.g. studying organizational charts, rehearsing a role etc.). Mitnick, for example, could have never accomplished even a half of his hacking without social engineering.

Another take-away was the relization that we human beings are very, very vulnerable to social engineering - all it takes is for someone to put forth a plausible story on the telephone and often we're in.

Who should read the book?

I think that every computer (or more broadly technology) enthusiast would enjoy the book immensely - especially those who remember and relish the "Commodore 64 years".

The book on Amazon.com: Ghost in the wires

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