Picks and Pans Review: Takedown: the Pursuit and Capture of Kevin Mitnick, America's Most Wanted Computer Outlaw—by the Man Who Did It
by Tsutomu Shimomura with John Markoff
In the age of the Internet and cyber-crooks, computer security expert Tsutomu Shimomura may be the quintessential good guy—Elliot Ness, Clark Kent and Sam Spade rolled into one. Or that’s what New York Times writer Markoff would have readers believe. He has written an engaging account of how Shimomura tracked down Kevin Mitnick, a dark-side hacker-thief of corporate secrets, phone operating systems and credit card numbers. Although Markoff has been criticized for glorifying Shimomura and demonizing Mitnick, the story reads like a detective novel from the pre-e-mail era.
Shimomura practically never leaves his desk as he chases Mitnick through the nation’s telecommunications system. Along the way the reader learns the true vulnerability of much of the information hurled through modems, computers and cell phones every day, and gets acquainted with a new type of detective.
Private eyes in pulp fiction used to be lone wolves subsisting on whiskey and cigarettes; Shimomura dates a yoga instructor/computer programmer, skis cross-country and eats veggie burgers. And he fervently believes that the Internet can unite people and improve the world—if hackers like Mitnick, who break and enter computer systems to steal valuable information, can be stopped. Somewhere Ness is cheering. (Hyperion, $24.95)