Legendary hacker and author Kevin Mitnick has died at the age of 59 after a 14-month battle with pancreatic cancer, Dignity Memorial funeral service has disclosed. He is survived by his wife Kimberley, who is pregnant with their first child.
Raised in San Fernando, California, Mitnick displayed an early talent for computers, which initially led him astray as he quickly mastered social engineering and hacking techniques.
Despite reportedly never using his skills to extort or steal money from targets, Mitnick was prosecuted by the US government. After spending time in a juvenile detention facility, he also served two prison sentences and was, for a while, on the FBI’s Most Wanted List.
But, as charismatic as he was brilliant, he eventually won over his adversaries — even the FBI officer in charge of his case defected to Mitnick’s defense team after becoming disillusioned with what he saw as undue persecution of the computer wizard.
Mitnick was able to turn his life around after being released from prison in 2000, using his skills for the good as a “white-hat” hacker and becoming Chief Hacking Officer in 2011 of KnowBe4, a cybersecurity company founded by his close friend Stu Sjouwerman. He also founded his own firm, Mitnick Security Consulting.
He co-wrote several books, including the New York Times bestseller The Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World's Most Wanted Hacker, and The Art of Deception, The Art of Intrusion, both with William Simon, and The Art of Invisibility with Robert Vamosi.
Professionals inspired by Mitnick’s talented career offered heartfelt condolences on Twitter as they paid tribute to the man who influenced them.
“So young!” tweeted cybersecurity strategist Maggie MacAlpine. “Kevin was there from the beginning of my time in security, I was thunderstruck by the news.”
“Between him and [deceased computer security engineer] Dan Kaminsky, it feels like the community is losing a lot of icons lately,” repliled cybersecurity journalist Kim Zetter.
Describing Mitnick as a “visionary and an expert” in his field and a force for good, Dignity Memorial said his contribution to cybersecurity had left “an indelible mark and an incredible legacy.”
“To know Kevin was to be enthralled, exasperated, amazed, amused, irritated, and utterly charmed — in equal measure,” it said. “He set incredibly high standards for himself and those who worked with him, and would get lost for hours in complex problems encountered in his work. Self-educated and driven by eagerness, intense drive, immense curiosity, and seemingly endless energy, he continually expanded his skills as a hacker. He was insatiable in pushing himself, and his team, to pursue excellence in their tradecraft.”
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