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The Cyberthief and the Samurai: The True Story of Kevin Mitnick - and the Man Who Hunted Him Down
     

The Cyberthief and the Samurai: The True Story of Kevin Mitnick - and the Man Who Hunted Him Down

by Jeff Goodell
 
Kevin Mitnick was the most wanted hacker in the world.

He was called "The Condor," and "Mr. Cyberpunk." He was a rebel. A loner. A poor kid from California thumbing his nose at society as he hacked into phone companies, international corporations—and possibly even the U.S. Military Command.

The FBI couldn't stop him. And they sure as hell

Overview

Kevin Mitnick was the most wanted hacker in the world.

He was called "The Condor," and "Mr. Cyberpunk." He was a rebel. A loner. A poor kid from California thumbing his nose at society as he hacked into phone companies, international corporations—and possibly even the U.S. Military Command.

The FBI couldn't stop him. And they sure as hell couldn't catch him.

Then Kevin Mitnick did the "impossible." He got into the personal home computer of the man considered by many a master of cybersecurity, Tsutomu Shimomura. That computer held data for advanced security systems and top secret intrusion and surveillance tools.

Shimomura—a modern-day intellectual samurai—decided Mitnick had to be stopped. He had the high-tech gadgets and the brains to do it.

Now the leading expert on computer crime made it a matter of honor to bring America's most notorious computer criminal to justice. But the Information Highway is the perfect place to run, hide and get away with dirty tricks...

Let the battle begin.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Goodell, a journalist who first wrote about Mitnick for Rolling Stone, here describes how computer hacker Kevin Mitnick was tracked down and finally caught with the help of computer security agent Tsutomu Shimomura. But this is not just a high-speed chase along the information superhighway; it is also the story of how the media hyped the concepts of the hacker and the high tech theft. There is enough accurate technical information to intrigue and educate readers (especially about cellular phones), and Goodell provides a good, clear look at the people, egos, companies and agencies involved in the search for this troubled man. But the mass of details and personalities threatens to overwhelm the book, and the plot plods slowly until the end of the final chase and capture. (Mar.)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780440222057
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
02/01/1996
Pages:
328
Product dimensions:
4.23(w) x 6.94(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt

INTRODUCTION

February 16, 1995, cyberspace went Hollywood. That morning, on the front page of The New York Times, in a box in the top left comer--the spot traditionally reserved by the Times' editors for the second most important story of the day--was the headline: "A Most-Wanted Cyberthief Is Caught in His Own Web." Beside it was a photo of the cyberthief himself, Kevin Mitnick. He looked fat and bloated. Glasses. Dark hair. The picture of a nerd gone bad.

By contrast, the man who captured him, Tsutomu Shimomura, whose photo appeared inside the paper, looked impish and exotic. Long, dark hair flowing over his slender shoulders. Bright, slightly buggy eyes. Asian. The picture of a samurai warrior.

The dramatic opposition of these two characters played out in the story too. It was written by Jon Markoff, the Times' ace technology reporter, in classic Times style: cool, factual, authoritative. But the story had the shape and feel of a Hollywood western. It was a cyberduel between two archetypical characters, a tale of pursuit and cell phones, of mysterious computer break-ins and complex digital sleuthing.

It was more than just a great yarn. The story also tapped into rising fears about high-tech crime and computer espionage. Over the last decade or so, the engine that runs the American economy has gone digital: from Wall Street to Wal-Mart, businesses are relying more and more on computers and electronic networks to track and control daily transactions. Banks are rushing to set up shop on the Internet, medical records are forwarded over phone lines, corporate computers have become prized information vaults. As more and more valuable information goes on-line, the risk that it will be misused or stolen skyrockets. Fifteen years ago, a wayward hacker couldn't do much more than inconvenience a few university researchers. Today, he could conceivably shut down an entire country.

That's the fear, anyway. In fact, the days of the digital desperado riding free and easy on the electronic frontier were about over. By the winter of 1995, cyberspace had become a fairly civilized place: there was digicash and cyberbabes, web star and pet chat, electronic AIDS quilts and digital family trees. More and more, the electronic frontier was starting to look like real life. It was a stubbornly democratic world, to be sure. Computer networks took the power of the media out of the hands of the few and delivered it into the hands of the many. But it didn't show any signs of altering the human spirit. On-line, people had the same desires and emotions, the same social problems and cultural battles. And the same thirst for heroes and villains.

Kevin and Tsutomu fit the bill nicely. All you had to do was look at the pictures and you could see that Kevin was the bad guy. In the first paragraph of the Times story, he was identified as a "31 year-old computer expert accused of a long crime spree that includes the theft of thousands of data files and at least 20,000 credit card numbers from Computer systems around the nation." (About ten 'paragraphs later, the Times pointed out that there was no evidence Kevin ever profited from those credit card numbers.) Besides having swiped--thousands of megabytes of proprietary software, according to the Times, Kevin had broken into a North American Air Defense (command computer in 1982. There was no mention of how he got into this military computer, or what his intentions might have been--was he showing off to friends, or was he trying to launch a missile?--but still, the implication was there. He was a dangerous virus in the system, an evil genius who could roam the world via the global Internet. "He was arguably the most wanted computer hacker in the world," a United States Attorney in San Francisco was quoted as saying. "He allegedly had access to trade secrets worth millions of dollars. He was a very big threat."

And Tsutomu, well, he was straight out of central casting. At the San Diego Supercomputer Center, where Tsutomu worked as a computational physicist, the halls were abuzz with speculation about who would play him in the movie. "Maybe Keanu Reeves, if he grew his hair long? Or maybe Tsutomu will insist on an Asian actor," one administrator mused the day after the story appeared. Plopped there in the sleepy pages of the Times, Tsutomu reeked of hipness and heroism. He was a wizard's wizard, a mild-mannered scientist who had been living a mild-mannered life in his beach cottage near San Diego until someone was foolish enough to break into his home computers. Then Tsutomu was forced to defend his personal honor and the public good. Over a period of several weeks, with the help of a pocketful of gizmos and home-brewed hacker-tracking software, Tsutomu accomplished what law enforcement couldn't: he finally put Kevin Mitnick behind bars where he belonged.

It was a compelling story, one that played off our deepest fears and anxieties about the technological revolution that was unsettling our lives and changing the way we work and live.

But was it really all so simple?

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