Kevin D. Mitnick has previously written three books focused on his early days as a hacker running from the FBI. His fourth book is less a collection of thrilling escapades that you would only think happened in fiction, more a instructional book on how to become invisible while being online.
For those of us from the communities that saw Snowden’s 2013 leaks more as a confirmation of what we’ve known for a while, rather than new, revealing information; books like these aren’t new, yet they are sorely needed and don’t get enough attention.
I knew when Mitnick’s book would be available, yet no mention of it in any of the media I follow, which is rather broad.
The essence of the book, that we are constantly tracked, and most likely watched, 24/7 was covered well in the book Privacy Lost by David H. Holtzman. The difference is that Mitnick goes far deeper into the technological aspect of the tracking and surveillance of any user of the Internet.
I have had a passion for security, cryptography and privacy for decades and I was impressed to have learnt a lot of new things that scared the shit out of me. To the point I almost suffered from a sudden onset of privacy fatigue, wondering if I should go all in with pen and paper.
Technically what is described in Mitnick’s book is not too much bother for me to execute. It’s more the logistical part that almost brought on the debilitating privacy fatigue. Not to mention the possible cost.
If someone with the technical savknow-how to give it some thought if this is worth it, how would someone who is not?
Actually I know.
Take a look around on the Internet. How many has truly bothered with encrypting their email or any other communication since 2013? Post 2013 explains why so few even bothered with PGP/GPG. Even I didn’t bother with PGP/GPG as it is, even for someone like me, a pain in the arse to not just set up, but maintain.
It’s unfortunate that a book like this won’t make the impact it should.
However how important the book is and good at providing instructions for anyone to understand how to become invisible online, it’s structure is what will most likely hold it back.
The book should have been split in two. The first part has the bare instructions on how to do certain things. Then the examples and stories in the other part. I grew so tired of some of the long winded examples and stories I started to skip several paragraphs, even pages, to get to the next instruction.
Then you have the part that will make most people to ignore the book’s advice. That you are told to either do all this to become near invisible, or ignore them all and accept your faith of being tracked and watched 24/7. At least that is the message I got after reading it.
What would be better is more of a gradient view on privacy. As in, asking you how invisible do you not only want to be, but more importantly, need to be. Some might be happy with leaving a bit of meta data around as long as all their communication is encrypted.
As a former journalist I can’t help but think this book would’ve have needed a bit more editing. I know in interviews while working on the book Mitnick said it wasn’t easy to write, something I respect. However, a book that is not just important, but sorely needed now needs to cater to everyone.
A book that can feel a bit long winded and in the end makes you feel you either go all in or not will not make people want to protect their privacy. It will scare them, and instead risk them feeling there is no hope any more. Other than going all in with pen and paper, and moving to a cabin in the woods.
I still recommend it tho. It has some really good advice. Advice, from my point of view, you can mix and match depending on how invisible you want to be. It also, more importantly, might stop you from using the phrase, I have nothing to hide.