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Kevin Mitnick

Kevin Mitnick

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

Following his 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 possible nuclear strike being initiated by me from a prison payphone". The course of his trial and punishment became a cause celebre 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, the blog of his girlfriend. Mitnick is now working in consulting, and will be a keynote speaker at a security conference for executives held in November 2003. He also is CEO of the security company Defensive Thinking.

His arrest is detailed in the book Takedown. Other media inspired by Mitnick's story include the movie, also with the name Takedown, sometimes mistitled as Hackers 2: Takedown.

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 hacker, 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 hacker-journalist John Markoff. The chapter has since been made available elsewhere.

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