Kevin Mitnick

From Academic Kids

Kevin Mitnick
Kevin Mitnick

Kevin David Mitnick (born August 6, 1963) is one of the most famous criminal hackers to be jailed and convicted. Mitnick's last arrest was by the FBI on February 15, 1995 -- he was charged with breaking into some of the United States' most "secure" computer systems.

Mitnick had previously been convicted in 1981 of destroying data over a computer network and with stealing operator's manuals from the telephone company. In 1983 he was convicted of breaking into a Pentagon computer over the ARPANET from a USC campus terminal room. Several years later he went underground for more than a year after being accused of tampering with a TRW credit reference computer; an arrest warrant was issued, but it later vanished from police records without explanation. He was convicted of stealing software from the Santa Cruz Operation (SCO) in December 1987. In 1988 Mitnick pled guilty to one count of computer fraud and one count of possessing illegal long-distance access codes after being caught for nightly attacks attempting to gain entry to Digital's corporate computer network, known as Easynet, in order to steal a copy of Digital's VMS minicomputer operating system.

It was the fifth time that Mitnick had been apprehended for a computer crime, and the case attracted nationwide attention because, in an unusual plea bargain, he agreed to one year in prison and six months in a counseling program for his computer "addiction". It was a strange defense tactic, but a federal judge, after initially balking, bought the idea that there was some sort of psychological parallel between the obsession Mitnick had for breaking in to computer systems and an addict's craving for drugs.

After he finished his jail time and his halfway-house counseling sentence, Mitnick took a job at the Tel Tec Detective Agency. Soon after he began, someone was discovered illegally using a commercial database system on the agency's behalf, and Kevin was once again the subject of an FBI investigation. In September the Bureau searched his apartment. Two months later a federal judge issued a warrant for Mitnick's arrest. When the FBI came to arrest him, Mitnick had vanished.

Mitnick eluded the police, US Marshalls, and FBI for over two years. His downfall was his Christmas 1994 break-in to Tsutomu Shimomura's computers in San Diego, California. Less than two months later, Tsutomu had tracked him down after a cross-country electronic pursuit.

Following his 1995 arrest, Mitnick was held without bail for over two years before sentencing. He has said that he set some kind of United States record by being held for four and a half years without a bail hearing, while also held in solitary confinement for eight months "in order to prevent a massive nuclear strike from being initiated by me via a prison payphone." Jail officials stated that Mitnick could have launched the deadly nuclear strike by whistling into the phone and pressing a few numbers on the dialpad, though this has been confirmed as only a rumor. The course of his trial and punishment became a cause clbre amongst the hacker community. This movement was spearheaded by 2600's "Free Kevin" campaign.

He was released from prison in January 2002, but banned from using the Internet until the midnight of January 21, 2003. On January 21, 2003, on the live television show The Screen Savers on TechTV, Kevin Mitnick visited the first website since his release, Labmistress.com (http://www.labmistress.com), the weblog of his girlfriend, TechTV producer Darci Wood. Mitnick is now working in consulting and is CEO of the security company Defensive Thinking.

His arrest is detailed in the book Takedown: The Pursuit and Capture of Kevin Mitnick, America's Most Wanted Computer Outlaw-By the Man Who Did It. Other media inspired by Mitnick's story include the movie, also with the name Takedown, sometimes mistitled as Hackers 2: Takedown. A counterpoint view to the events surrounding Mitnick was written by journalist Jonathan Littman, in The Fugitive Game: Online with Kevin Mitnick.

Mitnick is also the subject of a two-hour documentary by 2600 entitled Freedom Downtime. It is from the perspective of a fellow hacker and offers a very different view of his case than found in Takedown or most other media today. The film is the winner of the Audience Award for Documentaries at the 2002 New York International Independent Film and Video Festival.

As a cracker, Mitnick is best known for his use of social engineering. He wrote a book on this subject after leaving prison but before returning to the Internet: The Art of Deception: Controlling the Human Element of Security. It was published in October 2002. The first chapter of the book was omitted by the publisher. It gives some details of his own "career" and his grievances against journalist John Markoff. The chapter has since been made available elsewhere. Its sequel, The Art Of Intrusion: The Real Stories Behind The Exploits Of Hackers, Intruders, And Deceivers was published on February 11, 2005.

Contents

Controversy

Kevin Mitnick's criminal activities, arrest, and trial were controversial, and have caused some computer industry journalists to raise legal and ethical questions concerning the events surrounding him.

The core of the controversy came from two books that presented varying facts 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 main stream 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 was an important one. It 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 criminal hacker, despite the fact that his activities are thought to have been far less damaging and significant than those of other computer criminals of the time.

Radio

Kevin also usually makes semiannual appearances on the popular, late-night radio show Coast to Coast AM.

Bibliography

  • Takedown: The Pursuit and Capture of Kevin Mitnick, America's Most Wanted Computer Outlaw-By the Man Who Did It, by Tsutomu Shimomura (ISBN 0786889136)
  • The Fugitive Game: Online with Kevin Mitnick, by Jonathan Littman (ISBN 0316528587)
  • The Art of Deception: Controlling the Human Element of Security, by Kevin Mitnick (Hardback ISBN 0471237124)
  • The Art of Deception: Controlling the Human Element of Security, by Kevin Mitnick (Paperback ISBN 076454280X)
  • The Art Of Intrusion: The Real Stories Behind The Exploits Of Hackers, Intruders, And Deceivers, by Kevin Mitnick (ISBN 0764569597)

External links

da:Kevin Mitnick de:Kevin Mitnick es:Kevin Mitnick fi:Kevin Mitnick fr:Kevin Mitnick ko:케빈 미트닉 it:Kevin Mitnick ja:ケビン・ミトニック nl:Kevin Mitnick pl:Kevin Mitnick pt:Kevin Mitnick ru:Митник, Кевин sl:Kevin Mitnick sv:Kevin Mitnick

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