Smith...serves a fascinating and entertaining account ... Vignettes careen from gripping to funny and show the critical need for regular testing, as security breaching in elections and corporate and personal identity theft are growing industries ... Like an espionage thriller, this account ensnares readers into the high-stakes world of computer security, told through Alien's emergence as a recognized expert in a male-dominated profession. It will reach audiences of enthusiastic hackers and general readers.
Further complicating things, Smith gives every character and company a pseudonym and changes the locations of key events. We are told this is to protect their privacy, but the effect is that Alien, on whom so much is riding, feels distant. This distance is compounded by the fact that Breaking and Entering includes long stretches of dialogue and precise details from decades-old events. When you never quite know how much about a character is fictionalized, such precision can make the scenes feel reimagined. Smith’s writing style, though, is crisp as he charts the course of Alien’s life ... Smith is a lively storyteller ... at times I wished we could have stepped back a bit from her story to see the bigger picture. Instead, tethered to Alien, we can see only as far as she can in the moment ... The story offers just enough technological details to establish its bona fides without slowing its pace ... Alien’s social-engineering techniques have been detailed in books by and about the hacker Kevin Mitnick and elsewhere, and will come as no surprise to tech-savvy or security-conscious readers. More casual readers will get an introduction to that world, but not a guide to help them understand it.
...a book that reads like a fictional thriller while remaining solidly grounded in fact ... Smith’s book is remarkably easy to read. Although hacking can involve very complex programming tactics and systems architecture issues that lay readers would struggle to understand, the author keeps the technical side of the story manageable and easy to follow ... Breaking and Entering is an engaging cautionary tale of security vulnerabilities and the constant threat of cyber attacks that businesses and institutions face on a daily basis.
...riveting ... The world of hacking and cybersecurity still carries a mystique; only the privileged few are permitted to learn the secrets that lie within the close-knit hacker community. This book opens the gates and invites readers inside. It’s not only a powerful story about a specific hacker; it’s also a fascinating look at the hacking world, in general.
...poorly sourced ... Smith, who presents Alien’s story, complete with dialogue and details from decades ago without any documentation, doesn’t even assert that he utilized his subject’s detailed diary or other contemporaneous records, and concedes that he changed certain facts. But even readers who put aside their reservations about the book’s credibility may find it hard to get engaged ... The writing is uneven at best, and neither Alien, who now works in information security, nor the people she interacted with leave much of an impression. This account fails both as a look at a person for whom living 'a normal, boring life… would be the hardest hack of all,' and as a warning that there is 'no such thing as absolute security in this world.'
A novelistic tech tale that puts readers on the front lines of cybersecurity ... a fast-paced cautionary tale ... A page-turning real-life thriller, the sort of book that may leave readers feeling both invigorated and vulnerable.