Repentant and reformed hacker Kevin Mitnick, once one of America’s most wanted computer criminals, died last Sunday of complications related to pancreatic cancer. Mitnick was 59 years old.
Kevin Mitnick was notorious for stealing thousands of data files and credit card numbers from computers across the country in the 1990s. It penetrated computer and cellular networks in the United States, disrupting the computer systems of governments, businesses, and universities. He had the status of the world’s most wanted hacker.
In 1995, after two years on the wanted list, he was arrested by the FBI and charged with illegal use of telephone access equipment and computer fraud. In 1998, while Mitnick was awaiting sentencing, his associates took over the New York Times website for several hours, forcing the publisher to shut down the resource. A year later, he struck a deal with prosecutors, pleaded guilty, and received a 46-month sentence. He was also forbidden from using a computer or cell phone for three years after his release. Mitnick was fired in 2000 and began working as a cybersecurity consultant, author, and speaker.
Kevin Mitnick grew up in Los Angeles and was the only child of divorced parents. At age 12, he figured out how to ride the bus for free using a $15 punch card and used tickets he pulled from a trash can. In high school, he became interested in the technical basics of the phone companies. By the age of 17, he was breaking into corporate computer networks, which drew the attention of authorities – the beginning of a long-running game of “cat-and-mouse” with law enforcement.
In his memoirs, Mitnick denied allegations that he had hacked government computer systems. He also stated that he did not sell the stolen credit card numbers. “Anyone who enjoys playing chess knows that defeating an opponent is enough. There is no longer a need to plunder your kingdom or confiscate assets.”says the book of the legendary hacker.