REVIEW: "Catch Me If You Can", Frank W. Abagnale

Discussion in 'Computer Security' started by Rob Slade, doting grandpa of Ryan and Trevor, Nov 30, 2004.

  1. BKCMIYCN.RVW 20041008

    "Catch Me If You Can", Frank W. Abagnale, 1980, 0-7679-0538-5
    %A Frank W. Abagnale
    %C 201 E. 50th St., 31st Floor, New York, NY 10022
    %D 1980
    %G 0-7679-0538-5
    %I Random House/Broadway Books
    %O 212-751-2600, 800-733-3000
    %P 293 p.
    %T "Catch Me If You Can"

    Frank Abagnale was a con man, specializing in passing fraudulent
    cheques. Subsequently, he became a consultant on the topic of
    avoiding cheque swindles. "Catch Me If You Can" is his autobiography,
    which was recently made into a movie.

    The first comparison to make is between the movie and the book. Both
    are equally amusing and engaging. The book is quite readable, and
    presents Abagnale as a likeable rogue. (Well, what else would you
    expect from a con man?)

    Interestingly, both the book and the movie, separately, each have
    details that the other lacks. The book notes the need for constant
    study of a field or situation in order to continue to perpetrate a
    ruse, and to continue to improve on the delivery. The movie
    demonstrates more examples of social engineering than does the book,
    such as making the target party complicit by offering them a seemingly
    unrelated benefit, or using a well-timed compliment to interrupt the
    process of a security check (since people seldom "re-enter" such a
    procedure at exactly the same point).

    The other obvious comparison to make is with the more recently self-
    proclaimed chief charlatan, Kevin Mitnick, and his "The Art of
    Deception" (cf. BKARTDCP.RVW). Both perpetrated crimes with the help
    of technology, Mitnick with computers, and Abagnale with cheque forms.
    Both used social engineering. Both have written books.

    One difference is that Abagnale's text is more interesting than
    Mitnick's. "The Art of Deception" has been described as "nineteen
    chapters of GOTCHA!," and gets tedious very quickly. Abagnale is coy
    on some points, but is more open and entertaining. Mitnick basically
    says that people can be fooled: Abagnale examines some of the methods
    how, and reasons why, and presents at least a few points that can be
    used to detect and avoid trickery.

    I would not say that "Catch Me If You Can" is a "must read" for
    security people, but it is short, amusing, and raises some useful
    questions in regard to fraud detection adn prevention.

    copyright Robert M. Slade, 2004 BKCMIYCN.RVW 20041008


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    Rob Slade, doting grandpa of Ryan and Trevor, Nov 30, 2004
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