Peer to Peer Magazine

Fall 2014: Security Is Everyone's Business

The quarterly publication of the International Legal Technology Association

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WWW.ILTANET.ORG 25 The true (if somewhat accuracy-challenged) saga of the exploits and pursuit of the most wanted computer criminal in history. by Andy Spiegel Andy is a creative director and freelance writer. A lifelong movie lover, he maintains a movie review blog called Andy's Private Screening Room at jasscreeningroom. Andy can be contacted at The name Kevin Mitnick might not be familiar to you, but even a cursory Web search for Who's Who lists of infamous hackers will show that he's on every one of them. Throughout the '80s and '90s his brilliant, much publicized computer and communications-related crimes, though considered by some to be more mischievous than harmful, earned his being labeled by the Department of Justice "the most wanted computer criminal in U.S. history." Mitnick's colorful career inspired several books, a documentary and a feature film called TRACK DOWN. Based on the book Takedown by John Markoff and Tsutomu Shimomura, it dramatizes two of his more famous hacking shenanigans. As the film begins, Mitnick (Skeet Ulrich), then a teen, is on three-year supervised probation, having served 12 months in prison after being convicted of hacking Digital Equipment Systems' computer network and copying their software. His friend Alex Lowe (Donal Logue) urges him to go straight, but hacking compulsive and show-off that he is, Kevin agrees to meet with another hacker who calls himself "Icebreaker" and is offering to share information about an FBI service that enables anyone to monitor any phone anytime, anywhere. Actually, Icebreaker is an FBI informant out to entrap Mitnick. Mitnick has his suspicions, but ego trumps caution and he takes the bait, managing to hack the service in only a few days. A warrant is issued for his arrest, but he flees and becomes a fugitive. Two years later, Kevin is now targeting leading computer security expert Tsutomu Shimomura (Russell Wong). Annoyed and challenged by the man's histrionic testimony before Congress on cybersecurity, he blocks Shimomura's access to his work computer system, steals, and then deletes from the system a large encrypted file. FBI agent Mitch Gibson (Christopher McDonald), now under intense pressure to catch Mitnick because of the hype generated by a series of articles in The New York Times, enlists Shimomura's willing help. Keyboards on both sides of the law go into action, and a lively chase in cyberspace and on foot ensues, with Mitnick and a couple of friends the pursued, police and FBI the pursuers. I'm sure you've figured out how it all turns out, but you'll have to watch the movie to get the details. Let's just say that Kevin — who today runs Mitnick Security Consulting, LLC — spent five years in a none-too-cushy residence where the only computing he did was to count days and nights as they slowly passed. TRACK DOWN can't be called a great film by any stretch — various plot points are vague, the timeline is muddled and, according to Mitnick and his defenders, inaccuracies abound. Nonetheless, it does provide an entertaining peek into cybercrime in earlier days and reminds us — as if we needed reminding! — how vulnerable to black-hat hacking technology, people and companies are. The next time you find yourself awake in the middle of the night stressing about your firm's cybersecurity, you might want to have this film in your Netflix streaming queue.

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