Legendary Hacker Kevin Mitnick Passes Away at 59, Leaving a Legacy in Cybersecurity

Kevin Mitnick, a pioneer in the world of hacking during the 1980s and 1990s, passed away on July 16, 2023, after battling pancreatic cancer for over a year. The renowned “ethical hacker” had made a name for himself both as a cybercriminal and as a cybersecurity expert, leaving a lasting impact on the industry.

At the time of his passing, Mitnick held the position of chief hacking officer and co-owner of KnowBe4, a security awareness training company based in Clearwater, Florida. Additionally, he was the founder of Mitnick Security Consulting, a firm that focused on enhancing cybersecurity measures.

Those who knew him well, including Stu Sjouwerman, the founder of KnowBe4, expressed their grief over the loss of a dear friend and luminary in the field. Sjouwerman emphasized that Mitnick’s contributions to the cybersecurity industry were invaluable, but it was his genuine and compassionate nature that truly set him apart.

Mitnick’s journey into hacking began in 1979 when he was just 16 years old. During his time at a Los Angeles high school, he accepted a dare from fellow hackers to breach The Ark, a computer system operated by Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) for its RSTS/E operating system development. Employing social engineering tactics, Mitnick called DEC posing as a member of the development team and convinced a system administrator to grant him access.

This incident led to his arrest and conviction in 1988 on charges of theft for downloading source-code components of the operating system. He was sentenced to one year in prison and three years of supervised release. While on supervised release, Mitnick evaded authorities by hacking into Pacific Bell voicemail computers, resulting in a warrant being issued for his arrest due to a violation of probation.

Following more than two years as a fugitive and an extensive FBI manhunt, Mitnick was captured in 1995 in Raleigh, North Carolina. He later pleaded guilty to multiple counts of attacking, damaging, and stealing information from various corporate and communications carriers across California, Colorado, and North Carolina.

Subsequently, Mitnick served five years in prison before being released in 2000. Upon his release, he transitioned into a career as a security consultant, rapidly gaining popularity as a sought-after speaker and commentator on hacking and cybersecurity.

Mitnick’s legacy extends beyond his professional achievements; he is survived by his wife Kimberley, who is expecting their first child later this year. The family has planned a memorial service in Las Vegas on August 1, 2023, where Mitnick will be laid to rest near his mother and grandmother at a local Jewish cemetery.

Details about the memorial will be shared soon, allowing friends and colleagues to virtually attend and pay their respects. As the cybersecurity community mourns the loss of a true pioneer, Mitnick’s contributions and dedication to improving digital security will undoubtedly continue to inspire future generations of ethical hackers.

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