Kevin Mitnick is, I think, the most famous or notorious computer cracker (and hacker) to come out of the L.A. area. He spent quite a bit of time in jail for his crimes. His book with William L. Simon, "Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World’s Most Wanted Hacker," came out this weekend and was reviewed favorably in the New York Times. Sample:
While he excelled at infiltrating computer systems from a keyboard and had a sharp memory for numbers, “Ghost in the Wires” ...really showcases another of Mitnick’s skills: social engineering, or what he describes as “the casual or calculated manipulation of people to influence them to do things they would not ordinarily do.” By doing his research and impersonating authority figures over the phone or by e-mail, Mitnick found he could persuade just about anybody — programmers, technicians, even the nice lady at the Social Security Administration — to give him the things he wanted, like passwords, computer chips and personal information about F.B.I. informants on his tail. “People, as I had learned at a very young age, are just too trusting,” he writes.
It’s this element to his story that makes “Ghost in the Wires” read like a contemporary über-geeky thriller.
He's funny too, says reviewer J. D. Biersdorfer. Mitnick's Twitter bio plays off one of the stories in the book — "Computer Security Consultant, Public Speaker Whistling ICBM launch codes since 1988." He's had a Twitter dialogue over the weekend with John Markoff, who wrote a lot about Mitnick as the New York Times tech writer in San Francisco. Mitnick to Markoff: "Let bygones be bygones. You should really switch to writing fiction. You have a great imagination."