So, having completed (listening to) Kevin Mitnick’s Ghost In The Wires: My Adventures as the World’s Most Wanted Hacker I decided that the idea – of listening to a book while pounding away on the exercise equipment at the gym – is a good one and I would pick another book, but not a novel (it now seems lazy to listen to a novel but not to a non-fiction work).
I picked The Selfish Gene. Richard Dawkins has taken a lot of flack in the UK of late, adding opponents of private university education to his traditional enemies in the world of religion, after he supported plan for a private university college in Bloomsbury. But the prefaces to the book make it clear that he’s been dealing with wider political interpretations of his work for some time.
In fact, he seems very defensive about them all. Yet it is difficult to disagree with the comment of Stephen Jay Gould, quoted at the start, that the theories in the book will be seen as part of an ideological flow to the right in the 1970s. But then again, as Dawkins makes clear, the theories themselves are about the truth, not politics.
So many hours in the gym later (believe it people) I have got to the end of the Kevin Mitnickaudio book.
Do I feel much more sympathetic to him? No, not really.
Yes, he was treated badly at various times. And he spent a lot of time in prison awaiting trial. And the US penal system is a disgrace (though he doesn’t seem to say much about this). But he also kept on breaking the law in the full knowledge of the likely outcome.
He probably should have had medical treatment rather than be slung into a prison, but then he’s hardly the only one that applies to. (He’s clean these days but his behaviour – such as keeping the hours of a teenager – does suggest a deeper physiological problem is at the heart of this: he just wouldn’t grow up.
The book is a salutary reminder that the biggest security weakness of any IT system is the people using it. Mitnick says nothing to suggest he was a particularly skilled programmer – but he was a world expert in manipulating people.
For the last six months I have been spending a fair bit of time in the gym – I am getting older and I need to lose weight and increase fitness.
In truth, I quite enjoy it in general, but there are moments when I want to stop just because running on the same spot on a treadmill is essentially not that exciting. And recently I have been upping my endurance and pace (from walking to slow running, that is), and the biggest challenge to keeping that up and extending it can feel like beating the boredom, not passing through any physical barrier.
Now, I have listened to about an hour of this and I am really struggling to understand why so many people see Mitnick as a hero. So far he’s only 17 but has already described his engagement in sexual harassment, behaviour which got his mother’s phone cut off and general all-round anti-social unpleasantness.
I am not into lcoking people up and throwing away the key, especially for crimes against property which have minimal impact (after all if you steal a piece of software source code you don’t automatically diminish the utility of the code to the original user). But I think I would find it hard to be angry on Mitnick’s behalf. Perhaps greater injustice will be revealed as the book goes on, but so far Mitnick just sounds like a poorly socialised boor.