Although I have enjoyed Kevin’s previous books The Art of Deception and The Art of Intrusion, these were collections of stories about black hats. These were written while Kevin was waiting for the 10 years to expire so he could legally write about his own adventures, as he eventually did in Ghost in the Wires. By the time he wrote it the material was more nostalgic than useful, even though it was entertaining. Today Kevin is a white hat security consultant, and has long since parted ways with any credibility he accumulated as a black hat.
Although he continues to be the world’s most famous hacker that’s merely because he was the first one to get caught, and because the feds made a showpiece out of his conviction. He stayed in prison for 5 years while the feds wrote new laws to charge him under, and then forced him into a plea. For that I have to give him credit, but again, that was in another technological era. I am a bit biased though as he only did 5 years, and here I am with one of the longest sentences ever handed down for cybercrime, also for screwing with the telecoms. So as a high profile black hat I was fully prepared to hate this book, but I do have to admit The Art of Invisibility is well written, and a great introduction to an important topic.
The Art of Invisibility is a comprehensive and very readable book for real people. This is a book that I would give to friends and loved ones when they ask how to be safe online. It’s a great introduction to anonymity, and Operational Security (OpSec). As a black hat and frequent fugitive, I’d personally prefer a more advanced and international approach, but that’s a difference of philosophy and strategy for a different scenario. For most people this is the right book, with the right techniques.
I also expected Kevin to be more politically correct considering the book is with a mainstream publisher. Although he doesn’t continuously throw the US government under the bus, he does say the government can monitor everything in very verbose language. The book is very US-centric, and focuses on issues largely relevant to US citizens. He does touch on some travel issues, but doesn’t really touch on international surveillance issues, as used by other countries. Thus this is a great book for US citizens that are slightly more technical than average, or that hope to become so. It’s not exactly ideal for black hats, real criminals, or people at odds with the police state. For those, I’d still recommend this book, but you’d certainly need to take your education further building on the foundation Kevin covers here in The Art of Invisibility.
Beyond that general criticism I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in online privacy, and even for black hats I’d suggest this book for food for thought.