A larger-than-life prominent figure in the early 90’s hacker community dies at age 59, Kevin Mitnick. According to BBC News, Kevin died on July 16th, 2023 after battling a long-time pancreatic cancer. Mitnick is survived by his wife, Kimberley who is expecting a child later this year.
Mitnick’s importance in the Cybersecurity community is vital as he was once considered the “most wanted” cybercriminal in America under the FBI’s most wanted list. Kevin was widely known in the 80s and 90’s for a series of back-to-back cybercrimes that involved breaking into corporate networks, including Pacific Bell, stealing credit card information, government websites and networks, and possession of trade secrets worth millions of dollars. He was eventually caught in 1995 and charged with “illegal use of a telephone access device and computer fraud”.
After serving five years in prison, Mitnick was later released and reinvented himself into a published author, and a white-hat cybersecurity professional. He wrote his first book, “The Ghost in the Wires” which became a best-seller, with further titles such as “The Art of Deception” and “The Art of Intrusion“. In, 2011 he also joined KnowBe4 as the Chief Hacking Officer. KnowBe4 states “Kevin will always remain the world’s most famous hacker” and was renowned for his intelligence, humor and extraordinary skill with technology, surpassed only by his talent as the original “social engineer”.”
The BBC News lists his notable Brief History below:
- He was dubbed as the “most wanted” computer hacker in the world by investigators.
- A two-year-long nationwide FBI manhunt led to his 1995 arrest and he eventually pleaded guilty to computer and wire fraud.
- Authorities believed he had access to corporate trade secrets worth millions of dollars.
- In his 2011 memoir, Ghost in the Wires, Mitnick denied using his skills to steal or exploit information for financial gain.
- “Anyone who loves to play chess knows that it’s enough to defeat your opponent. You don’t have to loot his kingdom or seize his assets to make it worthwhile,” he wrote.
- His arrest sparked a ‘Free Kevin’ movement in the hacking community, which lobbied on his behalf, including with rallies outside the prison where he was held.
- Following his release from prison, he became a “white hat” hacker, writer and public speaker.
- A “white hat” hacker aims to use their skills and identify vulnerabilities or security issues of organisations to test security configurations.
- In 2003, he founded Mitnick Security Consulting, which advised Fortune 500 companies and government agencies on cybersecurity.
- In 2011, he became “chief hacking officer” and part owner of KnowBe4, which offers phishing security awareness training.