KEVIN MITNICK:

Written By Akshay Prabhale on Friday, April 11, 2008 | 4:57 AM

KEVIN MITNICK:

Kevin David Mitnick (born October 6, 1963) is a controversial computer hacker and convicted criminal in the United States.
Mitnick was convicted in the late 1990s of illegally gaining access to computer networks and stealing intellectual property. Though Mitnick has been convicted of computer related crimes and possession of several forged identification documents, his supporters argue that his punishment was excessive.


Mitnick served five years in prison, of which four and a half years were pre-trial, and eight months were in solitary confinement. He 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. Mitnick fought this decision in court, and the judge ruled in his favor, allowing him to access the Internet.
Mitnick now runs Mitnick Security Consulting, a computer security consultancy.




Early life :
Kevin Mitnick began social engineering or perhaps discovered his first engineerable situation at the age of 12. He realized he could bypass the punchcard system used for the Los Angeles bus system: by buying his own punch, he could get free bus rides anywhere in the greater LA area. Social engineering became his primary method of obtaining information, whether it be user names and passwords, modem phone numbers or any number of other pieces of data.

In high school, he was introduced to phone phreaking, the activity of manipulating telephones which was often used to evade long distance charges for his benefit..

Computer hacking :
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 computer network and copied DEC's software, for which he was later convicted. This was the first of a series of run-ins with the law..

Acts by Kevin Mitnick :
Using the Los Angeles bus transfer system to get free rides
Evading the FBI
Hacking into DEC system(s) to view VMS source code (DEC reportedly spent $160,000 in cleanup costs)
Gaining full admin privileges to an IBM minicomputer at the Computer Learning Center in LA
Hacking Motorola, NEC, Nokia, Sun Microsystems and Fujitsu Siemens systems

Alleged :
Stole computer manuals from a Pacific Bell telephone switching center in Los Angeles
Read the e-mail of computer security officials at MCI Communications and Digital
Wiretapped the California DMV
Made free cell phone calls
Hacked SCO, PacBell, FBI, Pentagon, Novell, CA DMV, USC and Los Angeles Unified School District systems.

Kevin Mitnick myths:
Hacked into NORAD
"Theft of... at least 20,000 credit card numbers from computer systems around the nation"
Ability to launch nuclear weapons by whistling into a payphone
Issued a false press release for Security Pacific Bank causing a $400 million loss in market capitilization
Changed a judge's TRW credit report
Wiretapped FBI agents
Turned off the utilities of an FBI agent
Vandalized many government, corporate and university computer systems.
Hacked into Tsutomu Shimomura's home computer
Harassed actress Kristy McNichol.

Controversy :
Kevin Mitnick's criminal activities, arrest, and trial were controversial, as was the journalism surrounding his conviction.
The controversy is highlighted by the differing views offered in two books: John Markoff and Tsutomu Shimomura's Takedown, and Bendelladj Hamza's The Fugitive Game. Littman made four notable allegations:

journalistic impropriety by Markoff, who had covered the case for the New York Times
overzealous prosecution of Mitnick by the government
mainstream media over-hyping Mitnick's actual crimes
Shimomura's involvement in the matter being unclear or of dubious legality
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.

Supporters of Mitnick have asserted that many of the charges against him were fraudulent and not based on actual losses.
Falsehoods have also surrounded Mitnick's exploits. For example, many mistakenly believe that Mitnick was once in the FBI's most wanted list. Federal prosecutor Kent Walker said in an interview with the New York Times that 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.

While Mitnick's actual actions may not have justified the level of official concern they received, the fact that his activities were criminal is not disputed. Mitnick's first adult criminal sentence was considerably shorter than is the norm today.
The film Freedom Downtime, a documentary that centers on the topics of Kevin Mitnick's incarceration in a maximum security prison, 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.

Attacks on Mitnick's sites :
On August 20, 2006, Kevin Mitnick's site was defaced by Palestine PHP Emperor with offensive messages against him. The domain names defensivethinking.com, mitsec.com, kevinmitnick.com and mitnicksecurity.com 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 has been targeted by hackers who wish to bolster their status and for people seeking to prove their abilities.
Zone-H reports that on 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 replaced the vandalized copy with an original unmodified one. This went on for a full day.

Recent activity :
Kevin Mitnick is now a professional computer consultant (doing business as Mitnick Security Consulting, LLC), and has co-authored two books on computer security: The Art of Deception (2002), which focuses on social engineering, and The Art of Intrusion (2005), focusing on real stories of security exploits.

He co-authored (with Alexis Kasperavicius) a social engineering prevention training course and certification: CSEPS.
On August 20, 2006, a Syrian editor, Nidal Maalouf, accused Mitnick of stealing his domain name (Syria-news.com). 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 occasionally appears on the late night radio show Coast to Coast AM. He has also hosted the show, interviewing Steve Wozniak (on April 30, 2006) and others.

Mitnick has spoken at events: IAPP (International Association of Privacy Professionals) Privacy Academy in Las Vegas, October, 2005 (keynote speaker); National Youth Leadership Forum on Technology in San Jose, CA, in the summer of 2004; the Fifth H.O.P.E. in New York, NY, July, 2004 (keynote speaker); ITESM Monterrey Tec, in February 2003 (keynote speaker).

Kevin Mitnick was a "surprise guest" in the 40th TWiT podcast when he ran into Steve Wozniak by chance in Las Vegas. 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 third 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.

Kevin Mitnick appeared on the South African actuality programme "Carte Blanche".

On 2 March 2007, the WELL declined his application for admission, refunding his membership fee.
Mitnick teamed up with John Walsh on the November 10, 2007 episode of America's Most Wanted on a segment on Edward Pena, another computer hacker.


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