Kevin Mitnick, a former hacker on the FBI’s most-wanted cybercriminal list has died at the age of 59 years old.
Kevin Mitnick was arrested in the 1990s after a two-year federal manhunt. He was arrested in 1995 where he plead guilty to computer and wire fraud and was imprisoned for five years.
Upon his release in 2000, he decided to use his skill for good and became a “white hat” hacker, cybersecurity consultant, and author.
Mitnick died on Sunday following a 14-month battle with pancreatic cancer.
His life was described as a fiction story, according to his obituary.
“Kevin was an original; much of his life reads like a fiction story”.
“He grew up brilliant and restless in the San Fernando Valley in California, an only child with a penchant for mischief, a defiant attitude toward authority, and a love for magic.”
Kevin Mitnick became famous and was referred to as the “most wanted” computer hacker in the world by investigators, when he broke into government websites and corporate networks, including Pacific Bell, and stole corporate data and credit card information.
He was involved in the theft of thousands of credit card numbers and data files across the country in addition to working his way into the country’s cell networks, and vandalizing corporate, government, and university computer systems.
Mitnick was said to have held top secrets of top corporations worth millions of dollars.
Mitnick was first arrested for stealing $1 million in proprietary software from Digital Equipment Corporation in 1988. He was sentenced to one year in prison and three years of probation, but a new arrest warrant was issued in 1995 for violating that probation.
Mitnick went on the run and started a breaking spree, breaking into the computer systems of multiple corporations, cell phone companies, and educational institutions, according to the federal indictment against him.
“Anyone who loves to play chess knows that it’s enough to defeat your opponent”, Mitnick said, in his 2011 memoir, Ghost in the Wires, as he denied using his skills to steal or exploit information for financial gain.
“You don’t have to loot his kingdom or seize his assets to make it worthwhile,” he wrote.
“I was an old-school hacker, doing it for intellectual curiosity,” he would also tell Wired magazine in a 2008 interview.
A ‘Free Kevin’ movement was accompanied by rallies outside the prison he was held stared after his arrest.
Mitnick and federal prosecutors agreed to a plea deal in 1999 to seven criminal counts, including wire fraud and causing damage to computers.
The deal included a 46-month prison sentence and a ban on being “employed in any capacity wherein he has access to computers or computer-related equipment or software” during a period of probation, but he was released in 2000 due to credit for time already served.
Following his release and reformation as a “white hat” hacker, Kevin Mitnick established Mitnick Security Consulting, which advised Fortune 500 companies and government agencies on cybersecurity.
In 2011, he became “chief hacking officer” and part owner of KnowBe4, which offers phishing security awareness training.
White hat hackers, also called “ethical hackers” or “good hackers” – are the opposite of black hats. According to Kaspersky, they exploit computer systems or networks to identify their security flaws so they can make recommendations for improvement.