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Andrew Flynn
Regional Executive Editor for North Atlantic

Infamous hacker Kevin Mitnick dead at 59

Jul 20, 20233 mins

One of the world’s first and most notorious hackers, Mitnick made the FBI’s most wanted list and spent five years in prison before going straight and becoming a world-renowned “ethical hacker.”

Credit: KnowBe4

Kevin Mitnick, who rose to notoriety as one of the world's first hackers in the 1980s and 1990s, has died. Mitnick, who had suffered from pancreatic cancer for more than a year, passed away on July 16, 2023, according to a news release from his family and colleagues.

Mitnick was chief hacking officer and part owner of Clearwater, Florida-based security awareness training company KnowBe4. He also founded his own company, Mitnick Security Consulting.

"Kevin was a dear friend to me and many of us here at KnowBe4," Stu Sjouwerman, the company's founder and a close friend of Mitnick, said in the release. "He is truly a luminary in the development of the cybersecurity industry, but mostly, Kevin was just a wonderful human being, and he will be dearly missed."

Mitnick's hacking career began in 1979 at the age of 16 when he was attending a Los Angeles high school when, on a dare from fellow hackers, he broke into The Ark, the computer system operated by Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) for the development of its RSTS/E operating system. Using social engineering tactics, Mitnick called DEC claiming to be a member of its development team and convinced a system administrator to allow him access.

Mitnick was arrested and convicted for theft in 1988 after downloading source-code components of the operating system and sentenced to a year in prison plus three years of supervised release. While still on supervised release, Mitnick hacked into Pacific Bell voicemail computers and fled authorities after a warrant was issued for his arrest for violation of probation.

After more than two years as a fugitive and a high-profile FBI search, Mitnick was arrested in Raleigh, North Carolina in 1995 and pled guilty to multiple counts of attacking, damaging, and stealing information from corporate and communications carriers in California, Colorado, and North Carolina.

Mitnick served five years in prison. After his release in 2000, he became a security consultant and a much sought-after speaker and commentator on hacking.

Mitnick is survived by his wife Kimberley, who is expecting the couple’s first child later this year. A memorial will take place in Las Vegas on August 1, 2023, where Mitnick will be buried near his mother and grandmother in a local Jewish cemetery.

"The details of the memorial will be announced soon, including details to allow for his many friends and colleagues to attend virtually," the family said.

Andrew Flynn
Regional Executive Editor for North Atlantic

Andrew Flynn manages the enterprise IT content at the Canada, Ireland, Netherlands/Benelux, and UK editions of, CSO Online, Computerworld, InfoWorld, and Network World. Before joining Foundry, he worked at Business News Network, Financial Post, and the Canadian Press.

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