Review of 'The Fugitive Game'

The Fugitive Game by Jonathan Littman

the_fugitive_game.jpg On February 15th, 1996 Kevin Mitnick was arrested by the FBI. Accused of every cyber-crime you can think of: Credit card fraud, breaking into various web sites, etc. The person that eventually tracked down Mitnick was Tsutomu Shimomura, a “security specialist”, but was Tsutomu just as bad as Mitnick? Was Mitnick really the demon he was portrayed to be? For years Johanthan Littman had direct communication with this often misunderstood “hacker” with regular phone calls with Mitnick while he was on the run. In this book this communication is traced in meticulous detail as the weight of half-baked accusations and untruths in the media eventually force the reluctant FBI to take Mitnick into custody when his cell phone calls are traced to North Carolina.

I have had this book on my shelf for quite some time (complete with a flyer for a store that no longer exists in London) but have only, just now, managed to read it. I had followed the Mitnick story only on the periphery of my attention when it originally occurred, being involved in the IT industry, it certainly seemed to me he was being made into a scapegoat as a result of an irrational fear of even the whiff of impropriety. At the time there was a lack of understanding of the technology and Mitnick was an easy target. This book seems to make this quite clear though, from a reader's perspective, I found the details extremely overwhelming as this book was likely rushed to publication in the height of the media frenzy. It does seem to put the cross-hairs firmly away from Mitnick in casting doubts on the methods used to both trap him but also in the allegations that were assigned to him.

Of course, in the intervening years, Mitnick has gone onto the lecture circuit and acknowledged that he had stepped over the line (though it always struck me that this admission is more to ease off the pressure he no doubt felt to say it). Personally I think he was a curious individual who broke various systems for the challenge/fun of it without any desire for financial benefit - A concept that perhaps non-IT people might find odd, but understandable to many of us in the field.

Well researched, but a bit dry. Certainly interesting from a historical perspective as well.

Rating: “Average, but who wants to be average?”

Review Date: 2013-05-06

Genre: Non-Fiction

Publisher: Little, Brown

Publication Date: 1996