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“The Art Of Deception” by Kevin Mitnick

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Sander Hofman
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Jul 22

This week, the world lost Kevin Mitnick (59). Dubbed “the most dangerous hacker in America” back in the 1990s, he was a legendary blend: half hacker, half con man. An incredibly smart cookie with the wit and audacity to get anything done. When he was 12 years old, Mitnick convinced a bus driver to tell him where he could buy his own ticket puncher, and was then able to ride any bus in the greater Los Angeles area using unused transfer slips he found in a dumpster next to the bus company garage. When he was a young adult in the 80s and 90s, he got obsessed with exploring telephone and computer systems. The way he hacked was about much more than infiltrating and exploiting computer systems—he was a gifted "social engineer", someone who could con people into doing things to unwittingly compromise a system. As he honed the arts of phreaking (phone hacking), social engineering and hacking, he broke into the systems of Sun Microsystems, NEC, Motorola, Nokia, and even got access to the switch access services of Pacific Bell (which could be used to wiretap phone lines). He also got himself a prime spot on the FBI’s Most Wanted list. He was hunted down and jailed in 1995. He spent 5 years in federal custody, of which 4 in solitary confinement out of fear that he could "start a nuclear war by whistling into a pay phone”. After his release, he became a speaker, white hat hacker, security consultant and author.

When I was a kid coming online in the mid 90s, I vividly remember being enthralled with the FREE KEVIN campaign that was all over the internet. The campaign was run out of the hacker mag “2600 Magazine” during Mitnick’s time in jail. It was a trigger for me to dive headfirst into the online hacker scene of the 90s and I was in awe of what I discovered. Mitnick was one of the pioneers. Later, his 2003 book “The Art of Deception” became a bible on my desk—and on the desks of an entire generation.

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