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HomeHacking & Cyber-CrimeKevin Mitnick, Legendary U.S. Hacker, Dies at 59

Kevin Mitnick, Legendary U.S. Hacker, Dies at 59


Kevin Mitnick, the famed U.S. hacker known for his pioneering antics in the 1980s and 1990s, has passed away at the age of 59. Mitnick died on Sunday in Las Vegas after a 14-month battle with pancreatic cancer, confirmed Stu Sjouwerman, CEO of the security training firm KnowBe4. Mitnick, who served as the chief hacking officer at KnowBe4, had a remarkable career that spanned from being a criminal hacker to becoming a respected cybersecurity professional, public speaker, and author.

Mitnick’s journey reflects the evolving understanding of computer hacking in society. According to a report by, his trajectory shed light on the distinction between serious cybercrime and youthful troublemaking. Mitnick’s motives were not monetary; he was primarily interested in acquiring trophies, especially cellphone code.

In 1995, Mitnick’s high-profile arrest garnered substantial attention, as he had previously violated probation on a computer break-in charge. The government accused him of causing millions of dollars in damages to major companies, including Motorola, Novell, Nokia, and Sun Microsystems. However, federal prosecutors struggled to gather evidence of extensive crimes, and Mitnick eventually reached a plea agreement in 1999 that credited him for time served.

After his release from prison in January 2000, Mitnick stated that his crimes were merely trespassing. He expressed his desire to learn about phone networks and enhance his knowledge of computer systems. Initially, he faced strict restrictions on using technology, including computers, modems, and cell phones. These limitations gradually eased, and he regained internet access in December 2002.

Mitnick excelled at social engineering, a technique in which he would impersonate company employees to obtain passwords and data. This method, known as pretexting, remains one of the most effective hacking strategies and requires extensive research for successful execution.

Throughout his career, Mitnick testified before the U.S. Senate and offered advice to both American lawmakers and global corporations. His exploits challenged existing systems, sparking dialogue and pushing boundaries in cybersecurity. Mitnick’s quest for knowledge and the intellectual challenge of hacking motivated him.

Despite his controversial past, Mitnick played a significant role in shaping the understanding of computer security. He authored several books, including “The Ghost in the Wires” and “The Art of Deception,” which detailed his experiences as a hacker.

Kevin Mitnick will be remembered as a testament to the power of curiosity and the potential for redemption in the world of cybersecurity.



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