Renowned hacker and social engineer Kevin Mitnick, who was once one of the world’s most wanted cyber criminals, passed away peacefully at the age of 59 from complications of pancreatic cancer after a 14-month illness.
Mitnick’s death was announced by his family and senior employees of KnowBe4, the security awareness and training company he partially owned and where he served as chief hacking officer.
He is survived by his wife, Kimberly, who is expecting the arrival of their first child later this year.
“Kevin was a dear friend to me and many of us at KnowBe4. He is truly an extraordinary figure in the development of the cyber security industry, but above all, Kevin was a wonderful human being and will be greatly missed,’ said Stu Sjouvarman, CEO of KnowBe4.
Describing him as the world’s most famous hacker by those who knew him, Mitnick was known for his intelligence, humor, technical prowess, and his talent for social engineering was unsurpassed.
Growing up in suburban Los Angeles, Mitnick first encountered the concept of social engineering and hacking at age 12, when he convinced an LA bus driver to tell him where he could find a mechanical punching device. could get tickets, which he used to drive. Buses roamed the city for free after the bus company found unused transfer vouchers left in the dustbin.
By the late 1970s, Mitnick had graduated from college to become a practitioner of the vanishing “art” of phone phreaking, and from there began hacking computer systems. At the age of 16, he entered the network of microcomputer pioneer Digital Equipment Corporation – which eventually became part of Compaq and later HP – and copied the operating system software.
It was for this initial cyberattack that Mitnick was eventually charged and convicted many years later in 1988. He spent 12 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. Near the end of this period of supervised release, he hacked the systems of the Pacific Bell Phone Company, which he said he did to counter surveillance of the phone company by US law enforcement.
For this action, a warrant was issued for Mitnick’s arrest and he fled. After a two-year manhunt in which he allegedly committed several hacking crimes, he was arrested in February 1995 in South Carolina.
He was ultimately charged with wire fraud and possession of unauthorized access devices, interception of wire or electronic communications, unauthorized access to federal computers, and computer damage.
Mitnick has always denied allegations that he was a malicious cybercriminal, saying that he was the victim of misleading coverage in the mainstream media. to enroll register In 2003, Mitnick said that although he was “troublesome” to many people, he never destroyed, disclosed, or otherwise used any data to which he had access.
His supporters, who spearheaded the famous Free Kevin campaign on his behalf, say many of the allegations were fabricated and possibly fraudulent. Famously, at one point during his captivity, a federal judge successfully convinced Mitnick that he had the ability to hack US military systems and launch a nuclear missile by merely whistling, a completely unlikely scenario that nevertheless Treats him to months in solitary confinement.
Ultimately, however, Mitnick pleaded guilty to multiple charges as part of a plea agreement, and received a prison sentence of 46 months and 22 months for violating his previous supervised release plan. Having already served more than four years before his trial, he was released on 21 January 2000, and was not allowed to use any form of technology other than a landline telephone.
After his release, Mitnick founded his own security consulting company and became a successful consultant, speaker and author, a regular on the cyber security event circuit, and a respected lecturer and commentator on cyber issues. He was the author of several books, the subject of others, and his role was played by Skeet Urich (craft, scream, as good as possible) in the 2000 film take down,
Most recently, partnering with KnowBe4, he developed the Kevin Mitnick Security Awareness Training (KMSAT) security education package, turning his accumulated knowledge into one of the organization’s most popular product lines.
A memorial service for Mitnick will be held in Las Vegas on August 1, 2023, where he will be buried alongside his mother and grandmother. More information will be shared in due course, including details of the virtual presence of friends and colleagues.
Mitnick’s family has arranged for donations to be made in his memory to the US National Pancreas Foundation or the Equal Justice Initiative.
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