Kevin Mitnick

Kevin Mitnick was one of the most talented hackers, and the one one most prosecuted by the state. Mitnick’s hacker handle was “Condor”. He became the first hacker to appear on an FBI “Most Wanted” poster, for breaking into the Digital Equipment Company computer network. When he was captured he was sentenced to a year in a treatment center to get over his “computer addiction”.

In February, 1995, Mitnick was arrested again for breaking into various computers and downloading 20,000 credit card numbers. In April, 1996, he pleaded guilty to illegal use of stolen cellular telephone numbers. But his most celebrated hacking exploits involved breaking into company computers and downloading proprietary software as a kind of trophy to prove that his hack was successful.

The story of Mitnick’s capture is described in The Hacker Takedown, starting with the discovery by security expert Tsutomu Shimomura that his computer had been hacked, and ending by tracking the incursion to a specific modem in a site in Raleigh, North Carolina. Finally, the FBI used cell-phone tracking equipment to find and capture Mitnick in his apartment.

Because Mitnick was seen to be so dangerous around any electronic network, he was held in jail without bail for four years without trial, before finally pleading guilty and accepting a five year sentence including time served, and was freed ten months later in January 2000. However, even then, the conditions of his release included no contact with a computer or a cell phone, making it difficult for him to make a living.

Mitnick has become something of a celebrity in hacker circles due to his unusually vigorous, some say unfair, prosecution by the state authorities. Several hacker groups have broken into various websites and posted messages in Mitnick’s defence, most notably on the website of the New York Times.

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