Kevin Mitnick, the controversial hacker-turned-cybersecurity professional has died at...


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What just happened? Notorious hacker-turned-cybersecurity consultant Kevin Mitnick has died from pancreatic cancer, aged 59. Mitnick was originally known as a small-time hacker who served a brief prison sentence in the late 1980s for breaking into the Digital Equipment Corporation's computer system. However, he rose to nationwide infamy in the mid-90s when the FBI launched a lengthy manhunt for him for allegedly hacking into Pacific Bell voicemail computers.

The manhunt ended with his arrest in February 1995, but in the intervening years, Mitnick allegedly carried out many more attacks against federal agencies and public companies like Motorola, Nokia, and Sun Microsystems, catapulting him to the FBI's Most Wanted list. Following his arrest, Mitnick was charged with more than a dozen counts of wire fraud, as well as a multitude of other charges related to illegal access to various electronic systems.

For his crimes, Mitnick served five years in prison, including four-and-a-half years without trial. The pre-trial incarceration made him into a sort of a celebrity among sections of the cybersecurity community, who believed he was the victim of corrupt prosecutorial practices and negative media coverage. Many of his supporters staged protests across the U.S., while 'Free Kevin' bumper stickers became popular among sections of the hacker community.

Some angry Mitnick supporters even took matters into their own hands and hacked into popular websites like Yahoo and The New York Times as a mark of protest. The DoJ however, remained adamant on its stance that Mitnick was nothing more than an opportunistic criminal, even going so far as to call him a 'computer terrorist.' He also had plenty of critics who believed his actions harmed the reputation of white hat hackers in a nascent internet industry.

Mitnick initially reveled in his notoriety, even branding himself the 'world's most famous hacker.' He claimed that he was a misunderstood genius and a pioneer who was being unfairly targeted by the law enforcement. At the peak of his fame in 2000, a Hollywood movie called 'Track Down' was made based on his life story.

Following his release from jail in 2000, Mitnick gave up illegal hacking in favor of a lucrative career as a cybersecurity consultant, author, and public speaker. As part of the rehabilitation process, he started his own company called Mitnick Security Consulting in the early 2000s. Later on, he worked as the Chief Hacking Officer for a security training company called KnowBe4.

Mitnick is survived by his wife, Kimberley, who is expecting their child later this year.

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The amusing part was when he was on the lamb from the FBI, he gained access to the cellular networks, got phone numbers of FBI agents, and could track their rough locations in real time (and who was calling who). Part of the reason it took several years for them to catch up to him was because he could see they were a few miles away and just leave.

RIP Kevin Mitnick!
Wow, what a shame. The guy was definitely a wizard with some great stories to tell. No surprise though why the telcos and gooberment were so threatened by what he could do.