Kevin Mitnick was the most elusive computer break-in artist in history. He accessed computers and networks at the world’s biggest companies–and however fast the authorities were, Mitnick was faster, sprinting through phone switches, computer systems, and cellular networks. He spent years skipping through cyberspace, always three steps ahead and labeled unstoppable. But for Kevin, hacking wasn’t just about technological feats-it was an old fashioned confidence game that required guile and deception to trick the unwitting out of valuable information.
Driven by a powerful urge to accomplish the impossible, Mitnick bypassed security systems and blazed into major organizations including Motorola, Sun Microsystems, and Pacific Bell. But as the FBI‘s net began to tighten, Kevin went on the run, engaging in an increasingly sophisticated cat and mouse game that led through false identities, a host of cities, plenty of close shaves, and an ultimate showdown with the Feds, who would stop at nothing to bring him down.
Ghost in the Wiresis a thrilling true story of intrigue, suspense, and unbelievable escape, and a portrait of a visionary whose creativity, skills, and persistence forced the authorities to rethink the way they pursued him, inspiring ripples that brought permanent changes in the way people and companies protect their most sensitive information.
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The Fog of a “Cyber” War
“It is late fall 2025; Al Qaeda sleeper cells target the disruption of airline traffic into multiple East coast airports during the busy travel season from Thanksgiving through Christmas.
ADS-B IN/OUT has been fully implemented by the FAA; all commercial airlines have invested heavily to comply with the mandate. Oil prices are at an all time high and flights are carrying minimal fuel loads to save money and offset the cost of avionics.
The goal: force multiple airplanes to divert; pilots, FAA controllers and passengers to lose faith in the system; and possibly cause enough chaos to the NAS system that a few lives are lost.
The plan: exploit the U.S. dependency on ADS-B IN/OUT and GPS for arrivals into busy airports, especially during low visibility conditions.
The teams: five two man teams have been put into play for the mission. They are provided with all the commercially available technology they will need, along with a few modified laptop computers, antennas and transmitters.
The targets: Regan National, Dulles, La Guardia, JFK and Philadelphia International airports. The terrorists have been tasked to park minivans with computers containing modified software that are coupled to ADS-B OUT transmitters. The software is designed to be remotely activated and controlled over an Internet connection. Each computer is programmed specifically for the targeted airport, and transmits 978MHz and 1090MHz signals out a boosted transmitter.
As a result, airlines on final approach will receive false targets on their displays. The terrorists ghost target injects also propagate to the FAA controller’s screens. The terrorists intended these spoofed targets, programmed at conflicting arrival and departure corridors as well as in runway incursion situations, to cause multiple airports to become temporarily unusable. The resulting domino effect causes aircraft diversions and delays that will lead to chaos.”
DONALD L. McCALLIE
Degree of Master of Cyber Warfare
Air Force Institute of Technology
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, USA
Download Exploring Potential ADS-B Vulnerabilities in The FAA’s Nextgen Air Transportation System