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Why Did Kevin Mitnick Become a Hacker?

The king of computer hacking and information security, Kevin Mitnick, is a name that instills curiosity — and sometimes terror — into the minds of many within the world of technology.

So, how did Kevin become one of the most notorious hackers in history? What does he do today? This article will discuss his life, motives, and why Kevin is now a whitehat hacker guru and cybersecurity training expert.


Who is Kevin Mitnick and How Did He Start Hacking?

Kevin’s life started out challenging, as he recounts in his autobiography, Ghost In The Wires. Despite his situation, the young Kevin had an insatiable curiosity about the world around him, particularly about emerging technologies.

When Kevin was in high school, he was into Ham Radio and enjoyed watching his friends do phone phreaking wizardry on the school’s payphone. His friends, called “phone phreakers”, had taught him how to use the phone system to make free calls, change phone numbers, and more. He would sometimes convert his friend's home phone line into a payphone that would ask you to deposit change before making a call.

When the school decided to create a new computer lab, Kevin impressed the teacher with his computer and phone skills enough to be allowed to join, despite not having the prerequisites needed.

Kevin Mitnick Pranksterism

When Kevin’s computer lab teacher collected completed assignments, Kevin did not have his to turn in. The teacher was upset because he had fought to get him into the class, but Kevin said, “I wrote something better, isn't your password Johnco?”. 

The teacher was shocked and asked how he got the password. Kevin showed his code on old green bar paper. Of course, the teacher was impressed and showed the class the program, praising Kevin for his hacking skills.

Getting praise to hack phones and computers by authority figures — and not getting in trouble for it — may have been a considerable push onto the path of learning more hacking techniques and trickery, including the practice of social engineering — manipulating people into performing a desired action that makes it easier for the hacker to compromise internal systems.

Eventually, Kevin sought more challenges in the form of hacking companies and organizations for fun, but he never used or sold the private data he obtained. Eventually, his cyber crimes caught up with him, and after giving the FBI the slip for two years, he was caught. 


Free Kevin

In 1995, Kevin Mitnick's case brought many nuances to the cyber security industry. Kevin's imprisonment was highly controversial because he was denied bail, coerced into a guilty plea, and fought an uphill, drawn-out legal battle. Although he committed cybercrimes, Kevin had no intent to exploit or profit from the information he gathered or cause serious harm. 

Many people rallied together in Kevin's defense because they felt that the crimes of this prankster did not match his jail time or how his case was handled. Kevin's supporters wrote articles, posted fliers, made bumper stickers, and even rallied outside the prison to march in a parade with yellow "Free Kevin" banners. This protest for the Free Kevin movement sent the prison into lockdown, which was only the beginning. His cyber advocates also defaced websites worldwide with "Free Kevin" banners. 

As information about Kevin's case was exposed, the support for Kevin grew. The Free Kevin movement extended to parades outside of federal courthouses in fifteen different cities around the globe. Eventually, Kevin was released from prison and greeted by a large crowd of supporters celebrating his release.


Is Kevin Mitnick Still Hacking?

In the sense that Kevin is in charge of the Global Ghost Team that helps companies find security holes and make them less vulnerable, he is. And yes, he spends late nights phoning unsuspecting users during these Red Team engagements to get into their systems.

Although there are different types of hackers, Kevin and his team are considered white hat hackers because they are hired to ethically hack for the benefit of organizations so they can strengthen their cybersecurity posture. 

However, Kevin also loves to share his knowledge of cybersecurity through his books and his famous Kevin Mitnick virtual events.

Best-Selling Author

In addition to Ghost In The Wires, Kevin has also written other highly rated books in the realm of cybersecurity including:

Mitnick Security and Cybersecurity Speaking

Founder of Mitnick Security, Kevin is a renowned cybersecurity speaker who has adapted his popular stage shows to engaging virtual webcasts and webinars to reach remote workers and simplify cybersecurity education. Kevin doesn’t just talk about cybersecurity, he draws his audience in with real-world examples and live hacking demonstrations. Organizations hire him to empower their employees and transform each person into a cybersecurity asset.


Cybersecurity Training

One point that Kevin has made throughout his life is that organizations could — and should — be better prepared for threat actors and the damage they can do to an organization’s reputation, internal systems, and financial stability.

To protect your organization, learn more about Kevin Mitnick, virtual events with Mitnick Security, and the importance of cybersecurity training.

Topics: Free Kevin, Kevin Mitnick's childhood, Worlds's Most Famous Hacker, Kevin Mitnick

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Kevin offers three excellent presentations, two are based on his best-selling books. His presentations are akin to technology magic shows that educate and inform while keeping people on the edge of their seats. He offers expert commentary on issues related to information security and increases “security awareness.”

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