Kevin David Mitnick
August 6, 1963
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Other names||The Condor, The Darkside Hacker|
|Organization||Mitnick Security Consulting|
|Criminal charge||1995: Wire fraud (14 counts), possession of unauthorized access devices (8 counts), interception of wire or electronic communications, unauthorized access to a federal computer, and causing damage to a computer.|
|Criminal penalty||1999: 46 months prison plus 3 years' probation 1988: One year prison.|
Kevin David Mitnick (born August 6, 1963) is an American computer security consultant, author, and convicted hacker, best known for his high-profile 1995 arrest and five years in prison for various computer and communications-related crimes.
He now runs the security firm Mitnick Security Consulting, LLC. He is also the Chief Hacking Officer of the security awareness training company KnowBe4, as well as an active advisory board member at Zimperium, a firm that develops a mobile intrusion prevention system.
Life and career
Mitnick was born in Van Nuys, California on August 6, 1963. He grew up in Los Angeles and attended James Monroe High School in Los Angeles, California, during which time he became an amateur radio operator. He was later enrolled at Los Angeles Pierce College and USC. For a time, he worked as a receptionist for Stephen S. Wise Temple.
At age 12, Mitnick used social engineering and dumpster diving to bypass the punch card system used in the Los Angeles bus system. After he convinced a bus driver to tell him where he could buy his own ticket punch for "a school project", he was able to ride any bus in the greater LA area using unused transfer slips he found in a dumpster next to the bus company garage. Social engineering later became his primary method of obtaining information, including usernames and passwords and modem phone numbers.
Mitnick first gained unauthorized access to a computer network in 1979, at 16, when a friend gave him the phone number for the Ark, the computer system Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) used for developing their RSTS/E operating system software. He broke into DEC's computer network and copied their software, a crime for which he was charged and convicted in 1988. He was sentenced to 12 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release. Near the end of his supervised release, Mitnick hacked into Pacific Bell voice mail computers. After a warrant was issued for his arrest, Mitnick fled, becoming a fugitive for two and a half years.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Mitnick gained unauthorized access to dozens of computer networks while he was a fugitive. He used cloned cellular phones to hide his location and, among other things, copied valuable proprietary software from some of the country's largest cellular telephone and computer companies. Mitnick also intercepted and stole computer passwords, altered computer networks, and broke into and read private e-mails.
Arrest, conviction, and incarceration
After a well-publicized pursuit, the FBI arrested Mitnick on February 15, 1995, at his apartment in Raleigh, North Carolina, on federal offenses related to a two and half year period of computer hacking which included computer and wire fraud. He was found with cloned cellular phones, more than 100 clone cellular phone codes, and multiple pieces of false identification.
In December 1997, the Yahoo! website was supposedly hacked, displaying a message calling for Mitnick's release or risk an internet "catastrophe" by Christmas Day. Yahoo! responded that the worm is nonexistent, and there were claims that it was a hoax only to scare people.
Mitnick was charged with wire fraud (14 counts), possession of unauthorized access devices (8 counts), interception of wire or electronic communications, unauthorized access to a federal computer, and causing damage to a computer.
In 1999, Mitnick pleaded guilty to four counts of wire fraud, two counts of computer fraud and one count of illegally intercepting a wire communication, as part of a plea agreement before the United States District Court for the Central District of California in Los Angeles. He was sentenced to 46 months in prison plus 22 months for violating the terms of his 1989 supervised release sentence for computer fraud. He admitted to violating the terms of supervised release by hacking into Pacific Bell voicemail and other systems and to associating with known computer hackers, in this case co-defendant Lewis De Payne.
Mitnick served five years in prison—four and a half years pre-trial and eight months in solitary confinement—because, according to Mitnick, law enforcement officials convinced a judge that he had the ability to "start a nuclear war by whistling into a pay phone", meaning that law enforcement told the judge that he could somehow dial into the NORAD modem via a payphone from prison and communicate with the modem by whistling to launch nuclear missiles. In addition, a number of media outlets reported on the unavailability of Kosher meals at the prison where he was incarcerated.
He was released on January 21, 2000. During his supervised release, which ended on January 21, 2003, he was initially forbidden to use any communications technology other than a landline telephone. Mitnick fought this decision in court, eventually winning a ruling in his favor, allowing him to access the Internet. Under the plea deal, Mitnick was also prohibited from profiting from films or books based on his criminal activity for seven years, under a special judicial Son of Sam law variation.
In December 2002, an FCC Judge ruled that Mitnick was sufficiently rehabilitated to possess a federally issued amateur radio license. Mitnick now runs Mitnick Security Consulting LLC, a computer security consultancy and is part owner of KnowBe4, provider of an integrated platform for security awareness training and simulated phishing testing.
Mitnick's criminal activities, arrest, and trial, along with the associated journalism, were all controversial. Though Mitnick has been convicted of copying software unlawfully, his supporters argue that his punishment was excessive and that many of the charges against him were fraudulent and not based on actual losses.
In his 2002 book, The Art of Deception, Mitnick states that he compromised computers solely by using passwords and codes that he gained by social engineering. He claims he did not use software programs or hacking tools for cracking passwords or otherwise exploiting computer or phone security.
Jonathan Littman wrote The Fugitive Game in response, alleging:
- Journalistic impropriety by Markoff, who had covered the case for The New York Times, based on rumor and government claims, while never interviewing Mitnick himself;
- Overzealous prosecution of Mitnick by the government;
- Mainstream media over-hyping Mitnick's actual crimes;
- Shimomura's involvement in the matter being unclear or of dubious legality.
Further controversy came over the release of the movie Track Down (titled Takedown outside of the United States), based on the book by John Markoff and Tsutomu Shimomura, with Littman alleging that portions of the film were taken from his book without permission. The case against Mitnick tested the new laws that had been enacted for dealing with computer crime, and it raised public awareness of security involving networked computers. The controversy remains, however, and the Mitnick story is often cited today as an example of the influence that mainstream newspapers can have on law enforcement personnel.
Since 2000, Mitnick has been a paid security consultant, public speaker and author. He does security consulting for Fortune 500 companies and the FBI, performs penetration testing services for the world's largest companies and teaches Social Engineering classes to dozens of companies and government agencies. His custom metal business cards also serve as lock picking kits.
In 2000, Skeet Ulrich and Russell Wong portrayed Kevin Mitnick and Tsutomu Shimomura in the movie Track Down (known as Takedown outside the USA), which was based on the book Takedown by John Markoff and Tsutomu Shimomura. The DVD was released in September 2004. A documentary named Freedom Downtime was produced by 2600: The Hacker Quarterly in response to Takedown.
On August 18, 2011, Mitnick appeared on The Colbert Report to talk about his new book, Ghost in the Wires. On August 23, Mitnick was interviewed on Coast to Coast AM during the episode "Hacking & Technology". On August 24, he appeared on the TWiT.tv network's Triangulation episode.
On September 12, 2011, Mitnick answered readers' questions on the technology news site Slashdot. This was the second time he was interviewed on Slashdot, the first time being in February 2003.
Written by Mitnick
Mitnick is the co-author, with William L. Simon and Robert Vamosi, of three computer security books and his autobiography:
- (2003) The Art of Deception: Controlling the Human Element of Security
- (2005) The Art of Intrusion: The Real Stories Behind the Exploits of Hackers, Intruders & Deceivers'
- (2011) Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World's Most Wanted Hacker
- (2017) The Art of Invisibility: The World's Most Famous Hacker Teaches You How to Be Safe in the Age of Big Brother and Big Data
Authorized by Mitnick
- (1996) The Fugitive Game: Online with Kevin Mitnick. In this book author Jonathan Littman presented Mitnick's account of his story,  as John Markoff's book "Takedown" (1996) and Jeff Goodell's "Cyberthief and the Samurai" (1996) presented Shimomura's side (when Mitnick was legally unable to profit from his own story).
- Kevin Poulsen
- "My kung fu is stronger than yours"
- List of computer criminals
- The Secret History of Hacking
- Gengler, Barbara (1999). "Super-hacker Kevin Mitnick takes a plea". Computer Fraud. 1999 (5): 6. doi:10.1016/S1361-3723(99)90141-0.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on May 18, 2014. Retrieved September 13, 2014.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
- "Kevin Mitnick Case: 1999 - No Bail, No Computer, Hacker Pleads Guilty". jrank.org.
- "#089 Fugitive Computer Hacker Arrested in North Carolina". justice.gov. Archived from the original on June 13, 2013.
- "HEARING DESIGNATION ORDER (FCC 01-359)" (PDF). Federal Communications Commission. December 21, 2001. Retrieved December 3, 2015.
- "Kevin Mitnick sentenced to nearly four years in prison; computer hacker ordered to pay restitution to victim companies whose systems were compromised" (Press release). United States Attorney's Office, Central District of California. August 9, 1999. Archived from the original on June 13, 2013.
- "Free Kevin, Kevin Freed", Jan 21, 2000, Jason Kroll, Linux Journal
- "Ex-hacker reveals tricks of the trade". AsiaOne Digital.
- Darlene Storm (July 19, 2012). "Interview: World's most famous hacker, Kevin Mitnick, on mobile security & Zimperium". Computerworld. Archived from the original on December 26, 2013.
- Alex Williams. "Zimperium Raises $8M For Mobile Security That Turns The Tables On Attackers". TechCrunch. AOL.
- Merritt, Tom (2012). Chronology of Tech History. Lulu.com. p. 87. ISBN 978-1-300-25307-5.
- Mitnick, Kevin (2011). Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World's Most Wanted Hacker. Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 978-0-316-03770-9.
- Mills, Elinor. "Q&A: Kevin Mitnick, from ham operator to fugitive to consultant". cnet.com. CNET. Retrieved December 18, 2017.
- Jason Gots. "Hacker for the Hell of It: The Adventures of Kevin Mitnick". Big Think.
- Greene, Thomas C. (January 13, 2003). "Chapter One: Kevin Mitnick's story". The Register. Archived from the original on September 12, 2012.
- "Freedom Downtime - The Story of Kevin Mitnick : 2600 Films : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive". Internet Archive. October 23, 2016. Retrieved May 14, 2019.
- "Fugitive computer hacker arrested in North Carolina" (Press release). United States Department of Justice. February 15, 1995. Archived from the original on June 29, 2012.
- Colbert Report
- Pnter, Christopher M.E. (March 2001). "Supervised Release and Probation Restrictions in Hacker Cases" (PDF). United States Attorneys' USA Bulletin. Executive Office for United States Attorneys. 49 (2).
- "1997-06-27 -- Computer Hacker Kevin Mitnick Sentenced to Prison". fas.org.
- Mills, Elinor (July 20, 2008). "Social Engineering 101: Mitnick and other hackers show how it's done". CNET News. Archived from the original on July 13, 2012.
- "Famed hacker to Snowden: Watch out". CNN.
- "Life Not Kosher for Mitnick". Wired. August 18, 1999. Archived from the original on September 18, 2012.
- Bowker, Art. "Hackers, Sex Offenders, and All the Rest". Retrieved September 14, 2018.
- "F.C.C. Lets Convicted Hacker Go Back on Net" (Press release). New York Times. December 27, 2002.
- Noory, George (January 7, 2019). "Cybercrime & Security". Coast to Coast AM. Retrieved January 8, 2019.
- no conviction for forged documents – http://articles.latimes.com/1999/mar/27/business/fi-21393
- Randolph, Donald C. "About Kevin's Case". Free Kevin Mitnick. Archived from the original on April 24, 2006.
- "Defense consolidated motion for sanctions and for reconsideration of motion for discovery and application for expert fees based upon new facts". Free Kevin Mitnick. June 7, 1999. Archived from the original on December 22, 2005.
- John Christensen (March 18, 1999). "The trials of Kevin Mitnick". Retrieved December 11, 2018.
- Shellenbarger, Sue. "Business Cards Aren't Dead, They're Just Getting Weirder". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved September 24, 2018.
- Heber, Alex (May 5, 2015). "This hacker's business card has a built-in lock picking set". Business Insider Australia. Retrieved September 24, 2018.
- Skeet Ulrich, Russell Wong (2004). Track Down (DVD). Dimension Studios.
- "Kevin Mitnick – The Colbert Report". The Colbert Report. video clip: Comedy Central. August 18, 2011. Archived from the original on July 23, 2012. Retrieved September 12, 2011.
- "Hacking & Technology". Coast To Coast AM With George Noory. August 23, 2011. Archived from the original on July 23, 2012. Retrieved September 12, 2011.
- "Triangulation #21". TWiT. August 24, 2011. Archived from the original on September 18, 2012. Retrieved September 12, 2011.
- timothy (September 12, 2011). "Kevin Mitnick Answers". Slashdot. Geeknet Inc. Archived from the original on July 11, 2012. Retrieved September 12, 2011.
- Roblimo (February 5, 2011). "Kevin Mitnick Answers". Slashdot. Geeknet Inc. Archived from the original on July 18, 2012. Retrieved September 12, 2011.
- Mitnick, Kevin; Simon, William L. (October 2003). The Art of Deception: Controlling the Human Element of Security. Wiley Books. ISBN 978-0-7645-4280-0.
- Mitnick, Kevin; Simon, William L. (December 27, 2005). The Art of Intrusion: The Real Stories Behind the Exploits of Hackers, Intruders & Deceivers. Wiley Books. ISBN 978-0-7645-6959-3.
- Mitnick, Kevin; Simon, William L. (2011). Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World's Most Wanted Hacker. Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 978-0-316-03770-9. Archived from the original on November 4, 2011.
- Mitnick, Kevin; Vamosi, Robert (February 2017). The Art of Invisibility: The World's Most Famous Hacker Teaches You How to Be Safe in the Age of Big Brother and Big Data. Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 978-0-3163-8049-2.
- Hafner, Katie. "The Fugitive Game: Online with Kevin Mitnick: Jonathan Littman: Books". Retrieved May 16, 2011.
Freedom Downtime https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0309614/
- Kevin Mitnick with Robert Vamosi, The Art of Invisibility, 2017, Hardback ISBN 978-0-316-38049-2
- Kevin Mitnick and William L. Simon, Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World's Most Wanted Hacker, 2011, Hardback ISBN 978-0-316-03770-9
- Kevin Mitnick and William L. Simon, The Art Of Intrusion: The Real Stories Behind The Exploits Of Hackers, Intruders, And Deceivers, 2005, Hardback ISBN 0-471-78266-1
- Kevin Mitnick, The Art of Deception: Controlling the Human Element of Security, 2002, Paperback ISBN 0-471-23712-4
- Jeff Goodell, The Cyberthief and the Samurai: The True Story of Kevin Mitnick-And the Man Who Hunted Him Down, 1996, ISBN 978-0-440-22205-7
- Tsutomu Shimomura, Takedown: The Pursuit and Capture of Kevin Mitnick, America's Most Wanted Computer Outlaw-By the Man Who Did It, 1996, ISBN 0-7868-8913-6
- Jonathan Littman, The Fugitive Game: Online with Kevin Mitnick, 1996, ISBN 0-316-52858-7
- Katie Hafner and John Markoff, CYBERPUNK – Outlaws and Hackers on the Computer Frontier, 1995, ISBN 1-872180-94-9
- Littman, Jonathan (June 2007). "The Invisible Digital Man" (PDF). Playboy. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 4, 2016.
- Fost, Dan (May 4, 2000). "Movie About Notorious Hacker Inspires a Tangle of Suits and Subplots". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved April 24, 2007.
- Darell, Khin. "From Being Hunted By The FBI To Working Alongside Them- Kevin Mitnick". Appknox. Retrieved May 27, 2016.
- Ehrlich, Thomas. "Renowned security expert Kevin Mitnick can steal your identity in 3 minutes". Forbes. Retrieved July 17, 2015.
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