One of my favourite books to revisit is Ghost in the wires by Kevin Mitnick. I read the book once and I am on the third time around for the audio book. The whole story is strangely fascinating to me.

The technical side

The story moves more or less chronologically through Mitnick’s life, from his growing up in the San Fernando Valley getting hooked on magic tricks and phone freaking right up to his adult life where he spent time on the run from the FBI.

Throughout the story Mitnick goes into some detail about some of the schemes he was involved in. He talks about the conversations he was having with phone operators to get information out of them as well as the more technical details about the software he was using / obtaining. I get the impression from those who I have spoken to about this book that the technical details are a bit of a yawn, but for me these details are what make the story fascinating.

The hook

The reason why Mitnick’s life has obtained the interest that it has is likely down to the time in which he was active. The majority of people didn’t understand what he was doing or what he was capable of. They also didn’t really understand why he was doing it. He didn’t make any money out of what he did ( besides the book deal presumably ), choosing his career for his curiosity and excitement.

There is a point early on in his life where he loses a job at one of the phone companies. From what we know of Mitnick it seems that this would have been his dream job but he loses it because of the more questionable activities he had been involved in. I feel like if he had not lost this job he would never have ended up on the run and would have been an asset to the emerging technology of the day.

The take home

One of the more memorable anecdotes of the book comes from one of Mitnick’s legal trials. Part of the evidence that was brought against him was that given a phone he could whistle down the line to launch the nukes. Despite this being untrue, it resulted in the loss of parole and significant time spent in solitary confinement. The whole book is gripping. A long series of one intriguing story after another. Would recommend.