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Who was Renowned hacker Kevin Mitnick

Renowned hacker and social engineer Kevin Mitnick, once one of the world’s most wanted cyber criminals, has peacefully passed away at the age of 59 due to complications from pancreatic cancer after a 14-month battle with the illness.

His family and senior staff at KnowBe4, the security awareness and training company where he held the position of chief hacking officer and co-owned, announced his demise. Kevin leaves behind his wife, Kimberley, who is expecting their first child later this year.

“Kevin was not only a valued colleague but also a dear friend to many of us at KnowBe4. He was a true pioneer in the cybersecurity industry, and beyond that, he was a wonderful human being. His absence will be deeply felt,” said KnowBe4 CEO Stu Sjouwerman.

Known as the world’s most famous hacker, Mitnick was celebrated for his intelligence, humor, unmatched technological skills, and exceptional talent in social engineering.

Growing up in suburban Los Angeles, Mitnick’s interest in social engineering and hacking began at the age of 12 when he convinced an LA bus driver to reveal the location of a mechanical ticket punching device. He ingeniously used the device along with discarded transfer slips to ride buses across the city for free.

During the late 1970s, Mitnick delved into phone phreaking and eventually progressed to hacking computer systems. At just 16 years old, he infiltrated the network of Digital Equipment Corporation (later acquired by Compaq and then HP) and copied its operating system software.

In 1988, he faced charges related to this early cyber attack and was convicted, serving 12 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release. During his supervised release, he hacked into the systems of Pacific Bell to conduct counter-surveillance against the company’s monitoring of him on behalf of US law enforcement. This led to a warrant for his arrest, and he went on the run. After a two-year manhunt, he was apprehended in South Carolina in February 1995.

Mitnick always maintained that he was not a malicious cyber criminal, asserting that media reports had misrepresented him. Despite support from the Free Kevin campaign, Mitnick eventually pleaded guilty to several charges as part of a plea bargain. He received a 46-month jail term and an additional 22 months for violating his earlier supervised release arrangement. Having already served over four years before his trial, he was released on 21 January 2000, with restrictions on technology use, limited to a landline telephone.

After his release, Mitnick established his security consultancy, becoming a successful consultant, public speaker, and author. He regularly participated in cybersecurity events, and his expertise earned him respect as an educator and commentator on cyber issues. Additionally, Mitnick authored several books, was portrayed in the 2000 movie Takedown, and collaborated with KnowBe4 to develop the popular Kevin Mitnick Security Awareness Training (KMSAT) security education package.

A memorial service to honor Kevin Mitnick will be held in Las Vegas on 1 August 2023, where he will be laid to rest alongside his mother and grandmother. Further information, including details for virtual attendance, will be shared in due course for friends and colleagues.

In memory of Mitnick, his family has requested donations to the US National Pancreas Foundation or the Equal Justice Initiative.

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