Kevin Mitnick, the most famous hacker in history and in the 90s was on the most wanted list in the United States, died on Sunday in Pittsburgh at the age of 59. A spokeswoman for the cybersecurity company he owns, KnowBe4, announced that the cause of death was pancreatic cancer, which he had suffered from for several years. After serving time in prison after being accused of illegal use of a telephony device and computer fraud, Mitnick founded his own security consulting firm.
The American was awarded the title of “the most famous hacker in the world” for being the first known hacker in the world. His life has been told in hundreds of reports and in four books, some of which have had their own film adaptations. Born in Los Angeles on August 6, 1963, his passion for telephone and computer systems began at the age of 13, eventually topping the FBI’s Most Wanted List. However, his hacking skills allowed him to evade capture by the authorities for many years. In 1993, he gained control of the phone systems in California, which also allowed him to tap and mislead the phones of customers who were looking for him.
Eventually, he is caught by another cybersecurity expert, Japanese Tsutomu Shimomura, who becomes Mitnick’s rival after a bizarre duel on the net. It all started on Christmas Day 1994, when an American stole emails from a Japanese hacker and mocked him. Upon learning of the attack, Shimomura volunteers to assist the FBI in helping them track down Mitnick. Using software capable of reconstructing sessions on a user’s computer, Shimomura was able to track down the father of all the hackers a few months later, which led to his capture in February 1995.
He was sentenced to five years in prison for gaining access to about 20,000 credit card numbers, including some from Silicon Valley moguls, through his hacking skills. In fact, no evidence has ever been found that Mitnick used the files he stole to enrich himself. He himself defended himself by saying that his activities were nothing more than a “high-risk form of gambling”, but had not harmed anyone.
His capture caused such a stir in the hacker world that Mitnick was considered more of a legend than a man. In 1998, while awaiting verdict, a group of sympathizers hacked the website of an Anglo-Saxon newspaper. timesThis forced the newspaper to close for several hours. In addition, a worldwide support movement known as “Free Kevin” was created. [liberad a Kevin]which called for the infiltrator’s release or at least a review of the sentence, and was considered too harsh in relation to the crimes committed.
Eventually, Mitnick struck a plea deal, and after pleading guilty to computer and wire fraud, he was released from prison in 2000, albeit in one serious case. For three years, he was forbidden to approach a computer or mobile phone without the permission of the probation officer, because, according to the prosecutor, he was able to cause a nuclear holocaust with just one call. After leaving prison, the hacker again insisted that there was no bad faith in his actions: “My crimes were merely trespassing. My case is one of curiosity.”
When Mitnick was able to reconnect to the network, he decided to become a white hat hacker, as ethical hackers are known to use their skills to serve companies or government organizations. He is the founder of KnowBe4, which describes itself as “the provider of the world’s largest security awareness training”. On its website, the company says it advises more than 60,000 organizations that use the cybersecurity training curriculum designed by Mitnick.
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