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Kevin Mitnick: death of a legendary hacker

After his cat-and-mouse game with the FBI in the 80s and 90s, he became a cybersecurity consultant.

Cybercrime - July 28, 2023

Kevin Mitnick, one of the world’s most famous hackers, passed away on July 16, 2023, at the age of 59, from pancreatic cancer. His “career” as a cybercriminal began in the early 80s: he managed to penetrate the computer systems of giants such as Motorola, Sun Microsystems, Nokia, Fujitsu and NEC. His first arrest came after the Pacific Bell hack, for which he served three months in prison.

Throughout the 80s, he alternated between spectacular hacks, which were carried out for no monetary gain, and stints in prison. “I liked hacking because of the adrenaline rush you get when you manage to get into a system, to find a security flaw, or to access confidential information,” revealed the man who went by the name “The Condor”.

In 1988, with the help of Lenny DiCicco, he hacked the Digital Equipment Corporation’s Palo Alto lab, in an attempt to steal the VAX computer’s operating system source code. The FBI decided to go after him and he soon made the agency’s ten most wanted list. The FBI flipped Lenny DiCicco to set a trap for Kevin Mitnick, and he landed back in prison.

Upon his release, he became a programmer and then joined a private investigation agency. In this capacity, he hacked the computer network of a communications company. The FBI spotted the intrusion, charged him with violating his probation, and moved to arrest him. But Kevin Mitnick was once again on the run.

For over two years, he went from State to State, covering his tracks, all the while pursuing his cybercriminal activities. He even hacked the FBI’s communications to remain a step ahead of the agents on his tail. The media reported extraordinary anecdotes of the manhunt, making Kevin Mitnick particularly popular.

Tsutomu Shimomura, a cybersecurity expert, spotted the hacker during one of his intrusions. In response, “The Condor” hacked into the expert’s computer and stole some of his data. Tsutomu Shimomura then joined the FBI in the hunt for Kevin Mitnick. The hacker was finally arrested in February of 1995, and sentenced to five years in prison. He was also prohibited from using computers.

After his release in 2000, he became cybersecurity consultant and helped a number of companies improve their cyberprotection. Kevin Mitnick wrote a dozen books on his life and cybersecurity. He was “hacking head” of KnowBe4, an organization that raises cybersecurity awareness.

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