Hacker Kevin Mitnick Ghost In The Wires Dies at 59

Ghost In The Wires Kevin Mitnick Dies at 59

Kevin Mitnick is perhaps best known for a notorious series of hacking incidents that took place in the 1990s. This was a period when the internet was starting to be widely used. In these incidents, he managed to steal vast amounts of data and credit card numbers.

However, despite his murky past, Mitnick was able to turn his life around and later became a well-respected security consultant and public speaker. He even held the position of “chief hacking officer” at a cybersecurity firm. Sadly, Mitnick passed away at the age of 59 in Pittsburgh. Kathy Wattman, a representative from KnowBe4, a cybersecurity company that he partially owned, reported that he died of pancreatic cancer.

In 1995, The New York Times labelled Mitnick as “the nation’s most wanted computer outlaw.” He spent more than two years on the run from authorities for his illegal activities. Mitnick managed to gain unlawful access to approximately 20,000 credit card numbers.

Some of these numbers belonged to influential figures in Silicon Valley. In addition, his cyber-attacks caused millions of dollars in damages to corporate computer systems. He also stole specialized software that was used for securing the privacy of wireless calls and handling sensitive billing information.

Despite these activities, Mitnick was eventually caught and served five years in prison. Interestingly, there was no evidence that Mitnick used the stolen data for his own financial gain. He always maintained that his actions were a form of play, likening them to a challenging game of chess.

His capture in February 1995 marked a significant moment in the history of the internet. At the time, the digital era was in its early stages, and Windows 95 hadn’t even been launched yet. Mitnick’s case sparked worldwide discussions about hacking and the internet’s potential vulnerabilities.

Mitnick was particularly renowned for his ability to avoid arrest. In 1993, he managed to seize control of phone systems in California. This enabled him to intercept communications from the FBI agents who were on his tail, further complicating their efforts to locate him. On one occasion, they mistakenly raided the home of a Middle Eastern immigrant, thinking it was Mitnick’s residence.

In another daring incident, Mitnick detected, via a radio scanner and software, that the FBI was closing in on him. Before they could apprehend him, he left his apartment, leaving behind a box of doughnuts for the incoming agents.

Mitnick’s luck began to run out on Christmas Day in 1994, when he decided to steal emails from another hacker, Tsutomu Shimomura, and mock him. Infuriated, Shimomura put a halt to his ongoing ski trip and volunteered to assist in tracking down Mitnick. A virtual cat-and-mouse game ensued, with Mitnick lauding Shimomura’s tech skills, while Shimomura criticized Mitnick for breaching the ethical boundaries of the online community.

With the help of software he had developed that could recreate a user’s computer sessions and cellphone scanning equipment, Shimomura managed to locate Mitnick. Eventually, Mitnick was arrested by the FBI and charged with the illegal use of a telephone access device and computer fraud.

After entering plea agreements in 1996 and 1999, which included confessing to computer and wire fraud, Mitnick was released from prison in 2000. However, his release was contingent upon him not using a computer or cellphone for three years without his probation officer’s approval.

Upon leaving prison, Mitnick offered a justification for his past actions. He insisted that he was simply a trespasser whose actions were fueled by curiosity rather than malevolent intentions.