I am currently reading “Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World's Most Wanted Hacker”. I am enjoying reading the book. It’s a little early for me to recommend the book but it is better then the previous book I read about Kenvin Mitnick.
I picked up a copy of “Takedown: The Pursuit and Capture of America's Most Wanted Computer Outlaw -- By The Man Who Did It” at a used bookstore and it was a total waste of time to read. Besides not covering the technical details well Shimomura comes off as a egomaniac. One good thing is Shimomura did was to step up and help end Kevin Mitnick’s rampage. Well not so good if you were Kevin Mitnick. If you are reading this to better under stand hackers like Kevin or technical details in how to prevent their intrusions into your systems then read something else.
I have read other accounts about the personalities involved in bring Kevin down including Kevin’s own accounts in interviews. The one thing I can say for sure is everyone seems to have his or her own perspectives of whom and what Kevin did and the amount of damage he is responsible for.
Another drawback to this story is Shimomura insistences in his bringing too much of his personal life into the story. His relationship with his girlfriend was a complete mystery to me why this filler was included in the story.
When I read these types of books I am looking for three things. One is an understanding of the events and a timeline so I can out things into perspective, Second is an understanding of the individuals involved and their motives and lastly is an understanding of the tools, how the hacks worked, and other technical details. I am not looking for a how to hack book but I do expect a good technical discussion. This book did not meet any of those objectives for me.
The police work and forensic data where not discussed in detail at all. To make matters worse the FBI and other law enforcement individuals do not come off in a good light when compared to Shimomura’s ego. The book would have benefited from a more team approach in using individuals along with law enforcement. I am at the opinion that everyone from Kevin, Shimomura to John Markoff all saw dollar signs in stopping Kevin. A book written in a more honest approach about dealing with law enforcement individuals would have gone further in educating everyone into the dangers that Kevin and other hacker’s pose. I would not recommend this book to anyone.
I did read “Fatal System Error: The Hunt for the New Crime Lords Who are Bringing Down the Internet” and found that many of the complaints I listed in Takedown above were overcome. I was able to take away knowledge that was useful and the book was very entertaining story without being dishonest. The relationship with the main character and law enforcement was not without issues but it gave an honest account on getting law enforcement involved. I would recommend this book to anyone.
Tsutomu with John Markoff Shimomura. “Takedown: The Pursuit and Capture of Kevin Mitnick, America's Most Wanted Computer Outlaw-By the Man Who Did It Tsutomu Shimomura” Hyperion Books 1996.
Joseph Menn. “Fatal System Error: The Hunt for the New Crime Lords Who Are Bringing Down the Internet” PublicAffairs 2010
Kevin Mitnick. “Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World's Most Wanted Hacker” Little, Brown and Company 2011