Kevin Mitnick

Kevin David Mitnick (born August 6, 1963) is a computer user, convicted of wire fraud and of breaking into the computer systems of Fujitsu, Motorola, Nokia, and Sun Microsystems.

Mitnick served five years in prison (four years of it pre-trial), 8 months of that in solitary confinement, and was released on January 21, 2000. During his supervised release, which ended on January 21, 2003, he was initially restricted from using any communications technology other than a landline telephone. After fighting this decision in court, the judge ruled in favor of Mitnick, allowing him to access the Internet.

Kevin Mitnick began his computer related activities around the age of 12, when he figured out he could reverse-engineer the punchcard system used for the Los Angeles bus system, and get free bus rides anywhere in the greater LA area. In high school, he was introduced to phone phreaking. He also developed proficiency in social engineering.

Mitnick broke into his first computer network in 1979, when a friend gave him the phone number for the Ark, the computer system at Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) used for developing their RSTS/E operating system software. He broke into DEC's systems and stole DEC's software, for which he was later convicted. This was the first of a series of run-ins with the law.

While he studied computers enough to learn how to gain illicit access, Mitnick was not a particularly knowledgeable computer programmer.

Kevin Mitnick would change his identity by exploiting how the identification system worked in the United States. He would obtain the birth certificates of newborns and very young children (around the ages of 1 to 3 years old), as the government had no distinct record of their death since they never worked nor were involved in society. Furthermore, the certificates would have to be from someone who was, for example, born in Washington and died in California, as it was more difficult to trace back to the original source. He changed his identity about three or four times, any time he changed jobs. He claimed to have learned most of this information through a book by the title of Paper Trail, written by Barbara Snow Gilbert.(ISBN 1-886910-44-8) Boyds Mills Prwhse. Mitnick was arrested after the FBI obtained a search warrant, searched his house, and found his wallet with the fake ID's. Although he was caught in what seems like a foolish accident (by having the fake identification still in his possession), he was able to evade the FBI and police for an impressive amount of time.

Kevin Mitnick's criminal activities, arrest, and trial were controversial.

The core of the controversy came from two books that presented views that were at odds with one another: John Markoff and Tsutomu Shimomura's Takedown, and Jonathan Littman's The Fugitive Game. In particular, Littman made allegations of journalistic impropriety against Markoff, of overzealous prosecution of Mitnick by the government, of mainstream media over-hyping of Mitnick's actual crimes, and of the legality of Shimomura's involvement in the matter. Further controversy came over the release of the movie Takedown, with Littman alleging that portions of the film were taken from his book without permission.

The case against Mitnick tested then-nascent laws that had been enacted for dealing with computer crime, and it raised public awareness of security issues involving networked computers. The controversy remains, however, as Mitnick is often used today as an example of the quintessential computer criminal although his exploits are less notable than his notoriety suggests.

Furthermore, supporters of Mitnick assert that many of the charges against him were fraudulent and not based on actual losses. A lot of the hype surrounding Mitnick's exploits were media sensationalism; For example, many believe that Mitnick was once in the FBI's most wanted list. This is actually a myth. Federal prosecuter Kent Walker said in an interview to the New York Times: "He (Mitnick) was arguably the most wanted computer hacker in the world, he allegedly had access to corporate trade secrets worth millions of dollars. He was a very big threat." The headline of the resultant article, "A Most-Wanted Cyberthief Is Caught in His Own Web," was later picked up by Associated Press, Time Magazine and Reuters, thus perpetuating the myth. Mitnick has alleged that at one time he was held in solitary confinement for 8 months because his girlfriend Suzy Thunder told authorities Mitnick could cause a nuclear attack by whistling into a phone. He was refused access to a phone because of this.

While Mitnick's actual actions may not have justified the level of official concern they did, the fact that his activities were criminal is not disputed. Mitnick's first adult criminal sentence was considerably shorter than is the norm today. His second adult criminal sentence was typical for a second offense committed while on probation.

The film Freedom Downtime, a documentary that centers on the topics of Kevin Mitnick's incarceration in a maximum security prision, Miramax's film's screen adaptation of Takedown, and the "FREE KEVIN" movement, was made in 2001 by Emmanuel Goldstein and produced by 2600 Films in 2006.

On August 20th, 2006, Kevin Mitnick's site was defaced by Pakistani hackers with offensive messages against him. The domain names,, and displayed the vandalism for hours before the affected files were replaced.

Mitnick commented:

The Web hosting provider that hosts my sites was hacked, fortunately, I don't keep any confidential data on my Web site, so it wasn't that serious. Of course it is embarrassing to be defaced—nobody likes it.

As a notorious figure Mitnick is a good target for hackers who wish to bolster their status and for people seeking to prove their abilities. Also, sites supporting Mitnick have proven to be targets too, as evidenced by an attack three years earlier to one such site.

Zone-H reports that in one occasion, there was a struggle between different black hat and white hat hackers when some defacers put their nicks on Mitnick's site and fans who were replacing the vandalized copy with an original unmodified one. This went on for a full day.

* Mitnick offers security consulting services through his company Mitnick Security Consulting, LLC and has co-authored two books on computer security. The books are The Art of Deception (2002), which focuses on social engineering, and The Art of Intrusion (2005), focusing on real stories of security exploits.
* He has also co-authored (with Alexis Kasperavicius) a social engineering prevention training course and certification: CSEPS.
* On Aug 20, 2006, A Syrian editor, Nidal Maalouf, accused Mitnick of stealing his domain name (, He falsely claimed that Mitnick is the FBI's No.1 wanted person for illegal acts against a number of internet sites. Maalouf was interviewed by the local newspaper "Bourses & Markets", and the interview was quoted by Al-Ayham Saleh on his personal website.
* Mitnick usually makes semiannual appearances on the popular late night radio show Coast to Coast AM. Mitnick has also hosted the show with interviews including Steve Wozniak (on April 30, 2006).
* Kevin Mitnick has been invited to be a speaker at many events. He was the keynote speaker at the IAPP (International Association of Privacy Professionals) Privacy Academy in Las Vegas, NV, October, 2005, Kevin Mitnick was also a speaker at the National Youth Leadership Forum on Technology in San Jose, CA, in the summer of 2004 as well as a keynote speaker at The Fifth H.O.P.E. in New York, NY, July, 2004. One of his first appearences was at ITESM Monterery Tec, on February 2003 where he was also the keynote speaker, and spoke to a sellout at the campu's auditorium, Auditorio Luis Elizondo. He was scheduled to speak at the sixth H.O.P.E. in 2006, but was unable to attend after becoming ill while vacationing in Colombia.
* Kevin Mitnick was a "surprise guest" in the 40th TWiT podcast when, while in Las Vegas for a conference, he ran into Steve Wozniak at a table outside a Starbucks coffee store. Wozniak was on the line with fellow TWiT hosts via Skype on his notebook computer, and Mitnick remained with Wozniak for much of the remainder of the show.
* Kevin Mitnick appeared on "Thebroken", an online videozine marketing itself as 'borderline legal.' He appeared on the 3rd episode of the show, but was given mention in the first.
* Mitnick guest starred in a first season episode of Alias. The casting was an in-joke, since Mitnick played a CIA hacker. Due to the conditions of his parole, however, the computer he used in the scene was a prop.
* Mitnick landed a cameo role in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas as a caller on the WCTR show, "Area 53". In his call, he talks about how the United States' supply of nuclear missiles is under his control, and not the government's. He then goes on to reference the false accusation of him being able to launch which led to him being held in solitary confinement for 8 months. The host asks him to destroy all the other radio stations in town, to which Mitnick replies "I don't do that any more, I only use my powers for good."
* Mitnick also appeared in Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories as a caller named "Ken" on the LCFR show, "The Electron Zone." There, he complains that the FBI keeps showing up at his house and searching his hard drive, because he likes to look at "exotic" pictures as a "hobby." One of the hosts catches on to what he is saying, and reveals that Ken is looking at child porn.
* Kevin Mitnick has recently appeared on the South African actuality programme "Carte Blanche".
* Kevin Mitnick now resides in Las Vegas, Nevada.
* Mitnick is referenced by a fictional radio caller in the video game Grand Theft Auto III. The crazy caller rants and raves about the National Security Agency's ECHELON system and government conspiracies. At the end, he is asked if he wants to say anything else and answers "yes", and then shouts "FREE KEVIN!", but is immediately cut off. "Free Kevin" is a reference to the controversy over Mitnick's trial and incarceration.
* Kevin Mitnick is mentioned in episode 18 of the anime "Black Lagoon".
* The video game "Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines" features a Nosferatu hacker named Mitnick.
* Mitnick is played by actor Skeet Ulrich in the movie Takedown.Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
Virtual Magic is a human knowledge database blog. Text Based On Information From Wikipedia, Under The GNU Free Documentation License. Copyright (c) 2007 Virtual Magic. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

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