Kevin Mitnick is man who has been undeniably titled the greatest hacker of our time. He has forever changed the way we handle information security and trust both computer and social networks.
Kevin grew up in suburban Los Angeles with divorced parents in the 1970's. He lived in a lower middle class environment, people say it was this lack of excitement that gave him the need to search for entertainment and mischief. He started developing many hobbies which included amateur radio, and was later introduced into phone phreaking.
While a member of the phone phreaking community, Kevin learned the fundamentals of social engineering. Social engineering now seems to be Kevin's unofficial and most trademark, and is now the basis of many of his security lectures.
Kevin was introduced to computers when he was 17 by a fellow high school student, whom he knew through his amateur radio hobby. At first he wasn't really interested in computing and was even told by the computer course teachers that he couldn't do the course without the prerequisite math courses. However, after showing him what he could do with a telephone, they waved the prerequisites.
During the mid to late 80's Kevin was already online computer bulletin board systems using the online alias "The Condor. He quickly learned the basics of computing and started playing around with the idea of accessing remote computers. Around this time he befriended a female hacker at school, Susan Headley AKA Suzy Thunder, and started dating.
In 1987, Kevin was busted for invading a computer at the Santa Cruz Organization. He got off with a misdemeanor charge and only 3 years prohibition. However, he could not stay away from the rush he felt on the computer, and was ratted out by a friend the following year. He was arrested and charged with breaking into the Digital Equipment Corporation and stealing source code.
Mitnick once again got his charge lessened and had to only serve a year in prison, thanks to his lawyer who claimed that Kevin had an addiction to his computer. However, the FBI was misinformed by Kevin's betrayer into thinking that he was skilled enough to call a phone number, whistle a code, and start a nuclear war. This lead to Kevin having to spend 8 months in solitary confinement.
In 1989 Kevin was released back into the world and started searching for employment. His new job, gathering information for private investigators soon led him back into the shadow of computer hacking. Mitnick, knowing that he already had pushed his luck and scared of returning to prison decided to run.
For the next 2 years Kevin ran across states, picking up new skills along the way allowing him to create new identities for himself. He was soon labeled by the media as a fugitive cyber terrorist and became the focus of the FBI.
In 1995 the FBI finally caught up with Kevin. Mitnick answered his door to find a dozen agents waiting for him. Aiding in his capture was Times reporter John Markoff, and Tsutomo Shimomura.
Mitnick was abused and unfairly charged in court and in jail, and is a poster boy for constitutional abuses by the prison system. Victim corporations inflated lost estimates by tens of millions of dollars, and many of the fines for damages of stolen software included the cost for all the hardware, salaries, and buildings that were used to write it. Mitnick's trial was delayed for over 4 years without bail while authorities scraped up evidence against him.
Kevin changed his plea to guilty and got to strike of his 4 years served on his 5 year sentence. When he was released he was restricted from touching a computer keyboard for years.
Kevin now heads his own security consulting company, and as of 2003 can now enjoy the marvels of computer technology and the internet.
Article written by Ryan Woodford