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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating story on two levels - IT security and lifestyle, 23 Dec. 2002
T. D. Welsh (Basingstoke, Hampshire UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Takedown: Pursuit and Capture of Kevin Mitnick, America's Most Notorious Cybercriminal - By the Man Who Did it (Paperback)
I hastened to buy this book when it first appeared, but did not read it till later. At first I was put off by what I saw as extraneous details put in to pad the book out, or as plain bragging. By halfway through I was mellowing, and having finished the book I see it as an artistic whole that was enjoyable on two different levels.
Shimomura is clearly a high-flyer, outstanding from an early age, who could more or less pick his own assignments. Like Cliff Stoll, author of the broadly similar book "The Cuckoo's Egg", he got into computer security more or less as a sideline. The book tells how Kevin Mitnick, a notorious phone phreak and cracker, deliberately broke into Shimomura's computers and stole his files. That set the stage for a classic showdown, although Shimomura did get a lot of help along the way.
Until the final stages, remarkably little of that help came from the authorities, partly because the FBI and other agencies seem to have lacked technical expertise. Indeed the book is interesting as a study of how a loose-knit society like the IT establishment reacts to serious threats. If Shimomura's account is believed, not very much would have been accomplished without him.
About half the book is given over to "background" details - the author's social life, recreational pursuits (mostly skiing), thumbnail sketches of many computer and California personalities, even exact menus of what he ate and drank. He also explains lots of technical topics in a way that anyone can understand - from patching the Unix kernel to how telephone switches work.
It has been suggested that Shimomura staged the whole thing deliberately so that he could make money from this book. Despite his obviously healthy ego, that seems really far-fetched. There are many ways Shimomura could use his time profitably, and frankly writing books is not all that effective a way of becoming rich.
I can recommend this book warmly to anyone interested in computer security, or even in how the industry ticks. It also works, in a way, as a kind of detective story in a new key. I hope this is not Shimomura's last book.
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