Renowned former hacker Kevin Mitnick unexpectedly passed away on Sunday at the age of 59.
After being identified over a year ago, it has been reported that he sought pancreatic cancer treatment at the renowned University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre.
Mitnick’s demise was published at KnowBe4, the security awareness and training company that he part-owned and where he held the position of chief hacking officer. He leaves behind his wife, Kimberley, who will give birth to their first child later this year.
He was renowned for his brilliance, intellect, technological skills, and unrivaled capacity for social engineering.
Mitnick’s Hacking Crimes
At the age of 12, Mitnick, who was raised in a suburb of Los Angeles, had his first experience with social engineering and the idea of hacking when he persuaded a LA bus driver to tell him where he could get a mechanical ticket punching device.
He then used to ride buses for free all over the city after discovering unused transfer slips that the bus company had thrown out.
By the end of the 1970s, Mitnick had mastered the vanishing “art” of phone phreaking and had moved on to hacking computer systems.
At the age of 16, he hacked into the network of the first microcomputer manufacturer, Digital Equipment Corporation, which eventually joined Compaq and HP. He copied the operating system software from the company.
Later, in 1988, Mitnick was accused of and found guilty of carrying out the first cyberattack. After serving 12 months in jail, he was released under supervision for three years.
He claimed that he broke into Pacific Bell’s phone systems towards the end of his time of supervised release to carry out counter-surveillance of the phone company’s monitoring of him on behalf of US law enforcement.
A warrant for Mitnick’s arrest was issued as a result of this behavior, and he subsequently fled. He was captured in South Carolina in February 1995 after a two-year search during which it was claimed he had committed many hacking offenses.
In the end, he was charged with many counts of both wire fraud and possession of tools that might be used to gain unauthorized access, listening in on wire or electronic conversations, gaining unauthorized access to a federal computer, and harming a computer.
Many of the allegations, according to his supporters, who organized the well-known Free Kevin movement on his behalf, were allegedly made up or at least fraudulently obtained.
Famously, during Mitnick’s detention, a federal court was persuaded that he could hack into US military systems and launch a nuclear missile by whistling, an utterly improbable scenario that yet won him a life sentence.
In the end, however, Mitnick did enter a guilty plea on a variety of counts as part of a plea agreement and was sentenced to 46 months in prison in addition to an additional 22 months for breaking the terms of his prior supervised release.
He was freed on January 21st, 2000, after serving more than four years previous to his trial, and was only permitted to use a landline phone.
Mitnick as Security Consultant
Following this experience, he underwent a transformation and embarked on a new career path as a White Hat hacker and security consultant.
His extensive participation in cybersecurity conferences and renowned reputation as an educator and commentator make him a frequent and highly respected speaker in the field.
He was the author of numerous novels, the focus of others, and Skeet Urich (The Craft, Scream, As Good As It Gets) played him in several films.
With an impressive track record, he has successfully passed on his expertise in Social Engineering to numerous businesses and government organizations.
Additionally, he has conducted penetration tests for some of the most renowned firms globally, showcasing his exceptional skills in assessing vulnerabilities.
Notably, he has also offered security consultancy services to esteemed Fortune 500 companies, solidifying his reputation as a trusted advisor in the field.
At the time of his passing, Mitnick was employed as a security evangelist and “Chief Hacking Officer” by KnowBe4, a Florida-based security awareness training provider.
The US National Pancreas Foundation or the Equal Justice Initiative will receive donations in Mitnick’s memory owing to the family’s arrangements.