A friend of mine recently lent me Kevin Mitnick‘s book Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World’s Most Wanted Hacker. It’s an entertaining story that highlights how the willingness of people to trust and help others who they assume to be co-workers is often the greatest weakness in security systems.
It also highlights some of the characteristics of obsessive behaviour. I had no idea how many separate times Mitnick was caught. It reminded me of Marc Lewis’ Memoirs of an Addicted Brain, in terms of how repeated contact with agents of authority was insufficient to interrupt a longstanding pattern of behaviour.
The book is also a reminder of what seems like a more innocent era of global interconnectivity – when phone phreaks with blue boxes were a cutting-edge threat, and when the FBI would have real trouble tracking you down if you assumed the identity of someone who died in childhood. Now, attacks against computer systems seem associated more with governments themselves than with curious amateurs, and it’s difficult to imagine someone like Mitnick evading the surveillance state for long.