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Takedown: the Pursuit and Capture of Kevin Mitnick, America's Most Wanted Man Hardcover – 31 Dec 1996

3.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 324 pages
  • Publisher: Hyperion; First Edition First Printing edition (31 Dec. 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786862106
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786862108
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 3.5 x 24.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,569,234 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Shimomura, assisted by NY Times journalist John Markoff, tries to out-Stoll Stoll in this 1996 re-run of The Cuckoo's Egg. This tale recounts the demise of Kevin Mitnick, 'the world's most wanted computer criminal'. Mitnick was a cell-phone fanatic and arrogant with it, breaking into computer after computer, we are told, stealing and trashing as he went. Shimomura, evidently a computer security guru (I've never heard of him either), became personally involved when Mitnick and his buddies broke into his computer and started leaving rude messages on his answerphone.

This book suffers from a couple of problems. First, it's padded with endless 'California lifestyle' twaddle about Shimomura roller-skating around town with cell-phones and pagers and computers strapped to his body, and as if that wasn't enough, we're treated to blow-by-blow accounts of his personal relationships. On top of all this, Shimomura comes across as an arrogant prima donna, to the extent that by the end of the book it would have been almost as entertaining if Mitnick had won. There's some interesting technical stuff in there, particularly about cell-phone technology, but in the end it's really just a long, drawn-out shadow of Clifford Stoll's book.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
I read this book after reading Ghost in the Wires. Two sides to a very interesting story. Since the book was written around 1996 it captures a unique point in the internet's life - when it was starting to get traction; when the big players were still small and the communities around the silicon valley. Great read.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x8b481c48) out of 5 stars 105 reviews
45 of 49 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8b9f67e0) out of 5 stars Recommended, but with reservations 22 Jan. 2001
By J. G. Heiser - Published on
Format: Hardcover
It's a breezy read, which is pretty amazing, given the number of obscure details that Shimomura feels compelled to share, such as his lunch menu. Still, when you team up an experienced author with a brilliant subject matter expert, it shouldn't be a surprise that the result is something which demands attention.
The definitive story of Kevin Mitnick has still not been told--this is an interesting story, but it is hardly conclusive. Furthermore, given the author's attitude--he's got an ego a mile wide--it's difficult to accept everything in this book at face value. Certainly, Shimomura and Markoff had every incentive during their journey to work towards creating an exciting story. A critical reader must consider the possibility that they manipulated events in order to increase sales of their expected book. It is certainly possible that this did not happen, but how can you know?
A greater understanding of what Mitnick represents is important in developing an ability to think in useful information security ways. He's become such a cultural icon--a criminal genious in the eyes of one side, and a victimized innocent on the other. Neither of these simplistic views is accurate. I believe that Mitnick probably is a genius, but not in technical terms. He's truly one America's great con-men, and his story teaches us a great deal about how gullible normal people can be, and how easy it is for a smooth-talker with selfish motivations to manipulate normal people. There are a lot of lessons to be learned from a study of Mitnick, although the writers of this text provide minimal assistance in helping the reader draw useful conclusions about the story. They are much more concerned with showing how incredibly clever Shimomura is, purportedly tracking Mitnick from ISP to ISP across the Internet, and eventually right to his doorstep with a junior G-man RDF unit.
A Mitnick story that I believe is much more balanced is Jonathan Littman's book, "The Fugitive Game : Online With Kevin Mitnick," which is unfortunately out of print. While Littman's personal relationship with Mitnick--Mitnick apparently just likes him--also should be a datapoint in your evaluation of what actually happened, I think he takes care to make any potential bias clear, and to avoid it.
Littman raises some interesting questions about Shimomura. I summarize my feelings about the purported Mitnick attack on Shimomura like this: 1) Shimomura makes it widely known that he has software on his Internet server that is of interest to hackers. 2) He leaves an incredibly obvious security hole open on his Unix server that any Unix newbie would have known to plug. 3) He sends the syslog (system logging) data to another host, which just so happens to be REALLY TIGHT. If he's capable of capturing syslog records in such a secure and non-compromisable way, why did he leave r-services running on the server with the source code? We will probably never know if he actually created a honeypot with the intention of entrapping Mitnick and writing a book about it, but what he did was fully consistent with such a plan. Fascinating, huh? I guess you'll need to read the book to make up your own mind, but if that is what really happened, how do you feel about subsidizing it through reading the book?
We'll also never know if Mitnick was really the one who hacked into Shimomura's Sun box using a technique that was previously considered theoretical. Somebody did, and Mitnick certainly was aware of it, but I personally don't believe that Mitnick is technically capable of writing such hack code himself, and I'm not sure that he was the one to perform the exploit. The best description I know of this exploit is found in Stephen Northcutt's book, "Network Intrusion Detection."
So it is an important story that can help you develop a better understanding of Internet security, and both security experts and non-specialists could benefit from having a realistic view of the significance of Mitnick. For the time being, this is the most detailed book available, and as an autobiographical account of one the participants in Mitnick's takedown, the book will always have a certain historical significance. But be an especially critical reader with this one. Think through the motivations of the authors, and consider the possibility that Mitnick is a genius at social engineering, but only an average technician. If that's the case, then what really did happen? Read Shimomura's account, and make up your own mind.
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8b9f6834) out of 5 stars An insufferable jerk ... on the side of the angels 17 Jan. 2002
By LingoSlinger - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Shimomura comes off as a completely annoying egomaniac who downplays the contributions of others and inflates his own achievements. Why he's considered an "elite security expert" when he was hacked by old, known techniques, and boasts that he doesn't use a firewall, is beyond me. However, Shimomura did the world a favor in helping catch and stop Kevin Mitnick. In Jonathan Littman's fascinating book The Fugitive Game, Mitnick's best friend Lewis De Payne is quoted as calling Mitnick "a sociopath." If the choice is between rooting for a bratty diva or rooting for a sociopath, I'll pull for the bratty diva. The self-obsessed Shimomura allows co-author Markoff to treat us to WAY more personal details than we want to know about him, but the second half of the book delivers a few useful insights into backtracing hackers. This is a slog of a read, recommended only if you are a security professional or hackers are your favorite topic. To make it more fun, try reading it side by side with the superior yet conflicting account in Littman's The Fugitive Game -- and decide for yourself who you believe.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8b9f6c6c) out of 5 stars For simple minds only 7 Nov. 1999
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I've read just about every book on hacking & related topics, and this one really ranks at the very bottom end. Looking for information, perspective, or even technical clues? Forget it. The right choice for the elderly who know nothing about the net and are hooked on those 70ies good-hunts-bad tv serials.
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8b4c603c) out of 5 stars Quite poor 5 Dec. 1999
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I can't blame Tsutomo Shimomura for writing page after page of uninteresting and unrelated narrative in this "thriller," but I can blame the publishers for leaving it in. Most of the book proceeds in a plodding, second-by-second account of Shimomura's life during his pursuit of Mitnick. This might have been a good formula if either (a) - Shimomura's life were interesting (it isn't), or (b) - he was skilled enough to make it seem interesting (he isn't).
The book actually manages to build some excitement as authorities begin to close in, but the conclusion of Mitnick's take-down is a let-down.
By the way, did John Markoff read this book before he allowed his name to be included as co-author? It doesn't even seem like anyone edited it.
25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8b9f6dec) out of 5 stars Shimomura redefines the word ego... 7 Jan. 2000
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I hated this book. Wading through the endless tripe about food and girlfriends really made Takedown a chore to read. Shimomura can't resist an opportunity to make himself seem like a God while everyone else is a complete dolt. His beratement of his own graduate student protege was thoughtless and cruel. I finally concluded that "Julia" is his loving name for his right hand. I can't imagine that anyone would want to be around so irritating a person.
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