Jan 252015

Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World’s Most Wanted Hacker by Kevin Mitnick with William L. Simon 

Kevin Mitnick is a man obsessed with other people’s information. In this autobiography, he details how he became the world’s most wanted hacker, breaking in to corporation after corporation, just because he could. He would steal source code, email and other software, setting himself up to make free phone calls on masked phones to cover his tracks. Why? He never used any of the things he stole to actually make money. He did use his vast telephone system knowledge to rig radio phone contests so he would win. But, all he did with the valuable things he stole was stash copies in various places on the Internet. Most of the time, he didn’t even use the software. Occasionally, he would study it to see how he could exploit it for the next target. It was obvious throughout the book, Mitnick is mystified why others consider this a crime. In his mind, no harm was done other than to show companies the vulnerability of their security from someone who truly would steal it. Now, out of prison, he make incredible money ‘legally’ hacking into companies as a security consultant, having leveraged his fame into a lucrative business.

There are those who agree with Mitnick. I am not one of those. I do agree the government, in his prosecution, went way beyond the mark and strayed into illegalities. He was held without a bond hearing, just because (according to Mitnick) she had decided beforehand there was no way she would grant his release. He was barred from seeing the evidence against him because the information was all electronic and the court was afraid to even let him look at a computer, believing he could somehow hack systems without touching a computer. He was denied the use of a telephone because they believed he could “whistle into the phone can launch a nuclear missile strike from jail.” Granted, he could manipulate the phones to do amazing things, but launch missiles from systems not even connected to phones? Really? Do your homework, people.

What scared me the most was Mitnick’s accounts of how he would social engineer the information. Social engineering is getting people to give you information that can be used to gain access. He would call up someone in a targeted company and say, “This is Frank over in engineering. We are doing an audit of the passwords on the VMX system. We have your pin code as 1234. Is that correct?” More often than not, the person would reply, “No. it is 4854.” Duh… I would like to think most people wouldn’t fall for that, but they did time after time. This is a real problem for corporations even today. People try to be helpful and end up giving away information that is then used to hack into the computer systems. Mitnick’s greatest contribution by writing this book is to show just how easy it is. Perhaps knowing this account will make me more aware of the attempts that happen on a daily basis all over the world. Any little tidbit of information is useful to a hacker, who often piece together enough innocuous pieces of information over time to create the entire picture. Minick, hero or villain, at least showed me that much.

Jan 042015
2015 Sparklers

Heard about the guy who took a two-week vacation and came back two years later? That would be me. I planned a new blog and decided to forsake this one in favor of the new one. Except, I never got the new one underway. And then life happened and… Well, I hope to post here a little more often than in the past two years.

I am still working on the new blog. It has taken me a long time to 1) get up the courage, 2) figure out what exactly I wanted to write about and 3) quit procrastinating. I have decided 2015 is the year it begins. So, look for more announcements for that in the future.

In the meantime, I apologize for my absence. I don’t think anyone really missed me besides myself. If nothing else, I need this forum to hold myself accountable for my goals, plans and such. Writing is good therapy. The last two years, I have not accomplished much and tried other forms of therapy. I think this one works better than those.

Here’s to a successful 2015!

 Posted by at 5:19 pm
Dec 232012

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! I love this time of year. There are many wonderful traditions surrounding the many holidays that coexist at the end of the calendar. It seems everyone has something to celebrate. Whatever your inclination, I hope this time of year is wonderful for you and yours.

Growing up, my family had so many traditions around Christmas. We used to hike into the woods and cut down a Christmas tree (always cedar). There was inevitably a bare side we had to disguise with something. Christmas morning, we had to make our beds, get dressed, make breakfast and have the table ready before we could wake Mom and Dad. Then we had to eat breakfast together before we could go see the tree and what Santa had brought. What an excruciating experience for a young child! Those few minutes seemed like weeks to me.

Many of my childhood traditions have hung around for my own family. We have a caroling party every year. We invite a few families over and we wander the neighborhood, singing to anyone who will listen. Once we get cold, we head back to the house for lots of goodies and hot chocolate. I remember doing this for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid, we did it Christmas Eve, probably as a method of killing time and tiring us kids out. I remember some of our neighbors checking with Mom and Dad early in the month to make sure we were coming, as “it wasn’t Christmas without the Strattons coming to sing.”

Another tradition is having little green army men hiding in our Christmas tree. That started the year Toy Story came out and our son received a Bucket Of Soldiers. Santa Claus took a few extra minutes out of his schedule to hide them all over the tree. The tradition stuck. Every year, no matter how much I protest, soldiers show up in our tree. We are down to only one this year, but he is on guard, up near the top, next to a silver ball. His lonely vigil is almost sad, yet wonderful. I hope we don’t lose this one.

That is the challenge for this week. Honor your family traditions. Make a few new ones. Step outside your comfort zone. Let us know your favorite traditions we might incorporate ourselves. What are your favorite memories? Please share!

 Posted by at 6:00 am