Burglar for hire: The people who break into homes and offices and are often caught – but never charged
- People Hacker is a professional confessional by burglar for hire, Jenny Radcliffe
- She tests security of companies and individuals by breaking into their buildings
People Hacker by Jenny Radcliffe (Gallery £16.99, 304pp)
by Jenny Radcliffe (Gallery £16.99, 304pp)
Here’s another Professional Confessional, a book about someone’s unusual worklife, and as gripping as any of this fascinating genre I have read.
Jenny Radcliffe is what she would probably call a freelance security consultant, but what the publishers have sensibly labelled a ‘burglar for hire’.
She tests the security of companies and individuals by breaking into their buildings, often with the greatest of ease, telling them about it afterwards, often with some glee.
It sounds a wonderful job. Some burglars for hire are more technologically minded, and absolute whizzes with computers.
Radcliffe, by contrast, is more of a people person. She thinks that the weaknesses in most organisations are not the technology, but the people who run it.
Her job, as she sees it, is to identify the most careless and the least observant of those people and then run rings around them.
Her book is essentially a collection of greatest hits: her adventures in the security trade.
Radcliffe has been nearly caught more times than seems entirely decent: it’s a small miracle that she has survived to write this book.
With each chapter allotted to a separate adventure, we begin in the Far East. One day she gets a call from ‘Frank’, an occasional client.
He wants her to break into a house somewhere in Asia belonging to a friend of his, one that isn’t especially well-alarmed, guarded or even inhabited for most of the time, and leave a note saying, in effect: ‘You’ve been Tango-ed.’ (It may have been Frank’s idea of a joke.)
She finds the house in a deserted residential area: it looks completely uninhabited. Getting in isn’t too hard, and leaving the note is a piece of cake, but as she goes to leave, what she calls a ‘serious security crew’ roll up in their enormous black cars, armed to the teeth, chattering in Chinese and looking for trouble.
It takes luck and a following wind for her to make her escape, after being face down in some soil and getting her hair caught under the back wheels of one of the vehicles, but she makes it back to the hotel, runs a bath and downs two large cocktails to steady her nerves.
Jenny Radcliffe is a professional ‘people hacker’ – someone who claims she can get past anyone and get in anywhere
Later chapters take us around Radcliffe’s rather rackety childhood in Liverpool, which seems to be mainly characterised by her getting access to a really good pair of binoculars.
Staring at the office building over the street, she notices that nothing ever happens on the eighth floor. No one works there during the day, no lights are ever switched on, and the security staff don’t even bother checking it at night.
So she breaks in and has a look around. In her later career, she will establish that a lot of buildings have their ‘eighth floor’ equivalents, where the building’s water tanks have been built in and where old files go to die.
We’re talking about someone who has never paid to get into the Glastonbury Festival, although sneaking in gets harder with each successive year. Only for the first year was she hauled over the fence by a friendly Irish guy.
Later on she pretended to be part of the litter patrol, and latterly has even turned up in her own hi-vis yellow vest, to be waved in by careless security guards. Buying a ticket is so 20th-century!
Radcliffe claims that being a woman has definitely been a help in her chosen career, and now being a middle-aged woman makes her even more invisible.
Her problem lately is that she has become rather too well-known in security circles, so has been reduced to ‘travelling the world advising clients and speaking at high-profile events on the subject of security’. The poor lamb. You almost feel sorry for her.
Anyway, this is a rip-roaring read, full of derring-do and sometimes comic, often foolhardy bravery. She sounds an absolute hoot, and her book is never anything less.
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