Mitnick calls for hackers' war stories

Notorious hacker Kevin Mitnick is collating tales of hackers' 'art' into a book
Written by Patrick Gray, Contributor

Famed hacker and master social engineer Kevin Mitnick has been commissioned to write a new book following the success of his first text The Art of Deception.

The new book, tentatively titled The Art of Intrusion will tell the stories of real hacks, with the names of attackers obscured to protect them from the authorities and their victims. Mitnick has called on retired hackers to come forward with their stories, offering a $500 (£283) prize for the best story that makes it into the book, and a $200 payment for all stories that make the final draft.

"I'm going to tell the true stories of some of the untold most salacious hacks in cyberspace. The sexy, the ingenious, the innovative and the clever," he told ZDNet Australia by phone from the US "The stories are not going to be the same attack vector or the same class of vulnerability. I'm looking for stories that will include a variety of attack methods exploiting physical, operational, network host, and personnel security vulnerabilities."

Fame found Kevin Mitnick when the US government made an example of him, incarcerating him for five years for computer based offences. Four of his years inside were served before he was even tried, and he was forced to endure eight months in solitary confinement because "the government said I could start a nuclear war if I had access to a telephone," Mitnick says.

In trouble with the law for technological mischief since 1982, Mitnick became a fugitive in January 1993 when he skipped town after authorities sought to question him about a possible parole violation. During that time he used various aliases, including Eric Weiss -- Harry Houdini's real name -- and worked several jobs, including a stint as a systems administrator at a law firm. He was captured in 1995 by the FBI after two years on the run. The hunt for Mitnick and his subsequent capture were dramatised in the novel Takedown, which was subsequently turned into a movie of the same name. The book was written by Mitnick's rival and security professional Tsutomu Shimomura, and co-authored by New York Times journalist John Markoff. Shimomura assisted the FBI in tracking Mitnick, who launched a scathing attack on the Takedown account of events in a chapter of his last book that was never published.

Mitnick was released from custody into supervised release in early 2000. The conditions of his release meant he was not allowed to use a computer. When it came time to write his book, however, the government was flexible.

"The government had given me permission to obtain a computer prior to my supervised release expiring. I wasn't permitted to use the Internet but I did use a computer to do the last book. It was more difficult... I had to actually send a floppy disk to my co-author, that's how we traded material -- by physical postal mail," Mitnick explained. "But now these restrictions have been lifted I think it's really going to increase our productivity… now we can use this marvellous thing called email."

The terms of Mitnick's supervised release were lifted in January this year. As well as being able to use the Internet again, Mitnick has been able to leave the US -- a luxury not afforded to him while under the conditions of his release agreement. "Lately I've been travelling all around the world, I've been to Brazil -- I just got back from Portugal. I've been in the Czech Republic, Poland, Spain, Helsinki [in] Finland -- which is kind of funny because Nokia mobile phones, one of our prior victims, actually sponsored my talk… which is great. They've been forgiving," he said.

Conceding his notoriety is at least in part responsible for his "reversal of fortune" -- he claimed he was worried that the initial conditions of his release would make it difficult for him to find a job -- Mitnick says his well-known name is useful in getting his foot in the door.

"My demand in the speaking arena -- my name value or my branding -- is really a product of the sensationalism that was attached to the 'Kevin Mitnick' case... if that never happened I might be a fantastic author, a fantastic consultant, and a world renowned security professional, but by name I might not be known," Mitnick argued. "I do attribute the trials and tribulations that I experienced in the past to why my name is so well known, and... this notoriety -- it does drive some business."

Mitnick plans to hand the finished manuscript to his publisher in September next year. Have you got a story for Mitnick's new book? Email him at hacks@defensivethinking.com.

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