back to article RIP Kevin Mitnick: Former most-wanted hacker dies at 59

Kevin Mitnick, probably the world's most-famous computer hacker – and subsequently writer, public speaker, and security consultant – has succumbed to pancreatic cancer. He was 59. Tributes have poured in from around the world following the announcement of his death this week. "We've lost a true pioneer of the digital world, …

  1. Victor Ludorum

    RIP Kevin

    The world would have been a much duller place without you.

    1. Graham Cobb Silver badge

      Re: RIP Kevin

      Indeed. His "social engineering" and Morris's "worm" are the two defining moments which really created computer security as a topic, in the 1980's. I remember both very clearly, and both had massive impacts on the way we worked in DEC's Engineering group. It is unimaginable today how lax even big IT companies were before Mitnick and then Morris.

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge

        Re: RIP Kevin

        Interesting you mention DEC - in the late 70's I recall a PDP 11/70 running RSTS/E that had all of the priveleged programs that run at startup not only marked with temporary privileges, they could be RUN BY ANYONE. Once I found out about INIT I experimented with it and quickly learned how to bypass a login password [as long as I was already logged in]. Security CRATERS does not even come close to this basic design blunder, which should never have been set up 'that way' at a university...

  2. Lusty


    Great movie, can't seem to find it anywhere to watch though. Anyone know where it can be found?

    1. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge

      Re: Takedown

      It appears to be available on Amazon Prime, although I can't imagine that Kevin would disapprove of finding alternate means to access it.

      Also, finding it took me about 30 seconds with Duck Duck Go. Not to condescend, but are you sure you're reading the right Web site? Maybe Ars Technica is more your speed.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Takedown

        Not in the UK it's not, are you sure you're looking at the right movie? Possibly best be sure before being a snarky tosspot

        1. Martin-73 Silver badge

          Re: Takedown

          Indeed, geofencing is evil. I am sure Kevin would agree

          1. bombastic bob Silver badge

            Re: Takedown

            I have region free DVD player that I bought for that very reason - geofencing. Obviously does not work on Blu-Ray but you can still buy DVDs, especially used ones, for older movies [and most of the features I see available here in the USA usually have dual media]

            1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

              Re: Takedown

              The Sony Multi Zone Region Free Blu Ray Player works great with PAL and NTSC Playback on Zones A B C and Regions 1 2 3 4 5 6 etc - It allows me to watch DVD's and Blu Rays from all over the world.

      2. Handy Plough

        Re: Takedown

        Are you sure you're in the right place questioning searching ability? This isn't Hacker News.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Takedown

        I suspect he'd actively encourage pirating it, I recall seeing interviews where he was highly critical of the movie and especially the book it was based on...the book it was based on was laughably bad if I recall. It was written by Tsutomu Shimomura and from what I've heard the book reads more like Shimomuras food diary than anything else.

        I'd highly recommend reading Ghost in the Wires instead.

      4. jgard

        Re: Takedown

        Not to condescend, but are you sure you're reading the right Web site? Maybe Ars Technica is more your style.

        A fun loving pioneer has died far too young, tragically leaving a young family. What do you do? You spot the tiniest, most oblique, of opportunities to act like a supercilious, self-satisfied dick, before meeting that challenge with ease. Seriously mate, what's wrong with you?

        You should know that it's usually better to keep your mouth shut and let people think you're an arse, than to open it and remove all doubt. Having read a lot by and about Kevin Mitnick, I'm pretty sure he'd be of the same opinion.

        To quote Alan Partridge: "Some People!".

        To quote me: "What a knob!".

    2. John H Woods Silver badge

      Re: Takedown

      It'll be somewhere on the seven seas ... Yarr!

    3. Martin-73 Silver badge

      Re: Takedown

      The pirate bay seems to have it (I think Kevin would approve of the irony)

      Inside the US it's known as 'track down' for some reason, maybe that would also help the search

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Takedown

        Mitnick didn't get any money for Takedown, nor did he have any was completely unauthorised and produced when he was in prison.

        1. Martin-73 Silver badge

          Re: Takedown

          Yep, hence me thinking he'd approve of piracy

    4. PermissionToSpeakPlease

      Re: Takedown

      Also Freedom Downtime is available on YT:

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Takedown

      Here it is

    6. Aussie Doc

      Re: Takedown

      Rumour has it that it may be available from certain '1337X Arrr' sites.

      It is a great movie.

      So I'm told.

      ~1.8GB, 1080p, only 110 seeders.


  3. gotes


    I don't know a huge amount about the guy, but he was super famous in the 90s when teenage me got his first taste of internet and started hanging out with other teenage wannabe hacker dweebs. Free Kevin!

    Also the mention of l0pht brings more 90s nostalgia. I used to frequently visit camneerg. It was pretty useless, but I thought it was cool.

    Anyway, farewell, hackerman.

  4. PhilipN Silver badge

    Hats off from a non-techie

    And "pregnant with their son" always tugs at the heartstrings.

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: Hats off from a non-techie

      I do not even have vestigial 'heart strings' (and if I did I'd have them removed)

  5. ronkee

    Mitnick Message: Rest in Peace.

    Ghost in the Wires really was an entertaining and eye-opening read.

    One of the great stories from that was how he went legit and got a job at AT&T, but they sacked him because they assumed he was trying to hack them again.

    1. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Yeah I read it on holiday and couldn’t put it down.

      RIP Kevin, the world would have been a far duller place without you.

  6. Michael Hoffmann Silver badge

    A name spoken in awe...

    ... oh so many years ago, at our regular hack meets, different time, different continent.

    We wondered how we could be like him.

    Without the jail time. ;)

    Vale et ei bibendum!

  7. DoctorNine

    But why tho...

    Interesting that both Kevin Mitnick and Steve Jobs died of pancreatic cancer. I wonder if there is something in their common history which led to that.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      No published links

      but if we find out that exposure to e-waste did it, I wouldn't die of surprise.

      I would die of Osbourne induced pancreatic cancer.

      1. David 132 Silver badge

        Re: No published links

        Wow, the Osbourne effect is more sinister than I'd thought!

      2. bombastic bob Silver badge

        Re: No published links

        I suspect one of two causes for his cancer:

        a) hereditary susceptibility

        b) tobacco or recreational drug use

        or less likely but possible: some kind of cancer causing retrovirus (retrovirus modifies DNA)

        And, sometimes cancer starts in one place, but ends up killing you somewhere else.

        Sad face 'cause nobody wants to die from 'El Cancer' ('Deadpool' reference). A plane crash, run over by a train, getting hit with lightning or a car, over quickily. Cancer often lingers and puts you through HELL.

    2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: But why tho...

      The wiki article on that states that "Pancreatic cancer is the fifth-most-common cause of death from cancer in the United Kingdom,[17] and the third most-common in the United States", so I think it's more of a coincidence than anything else.

      1. Chz

        Re: But why tho...

        It's worth noting that it's not the 3rd or 5th most common cancer though. It's just incredibly deadly because of how exceedingly rare it is to pick it up before it's too late.

        "In 2014, an estimated 46,000 people in the US are expected to be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and 40,000 to die of it.[2] Although it accounts for only 2.5% of new cases, pancreatic cancer is responsible for 6% of cancer deaths each year."

        1. Stork Silver badge

          Re: But why tho...

          In Steve Job’s case it wasn’t helped by him trying alternative medicine before actual medicine.

    3. Cliffwilliams44 Bronze badge

      Re: But why tho...

      As stated below, it is very common.

      One possible cause may be alcohol. But like most cancers, there is no definitive cause.

      Or maybe the gubment has somethin' to do with it! Nah, they would never do that!

      1. cyberdemon Silver badge

        Re: But why tho...

        In the cases of the few people I know who have died of pancreatic cancer, a big factor in their lives was stress. Probably that's a common factor, whether you're CEO of Apple or on the run from big corps and the FBI.

        1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: But why tho...

          My mother died of pancreatic cancer a few years ago, and in her last several years she was pretty stress-free. Others I know who have succumbed to the disease were also not what I'd consider "stressed" (at least not significantly beyond what I've experienced as the norm).

          The topic of this thread is just selection bias, I think. There are quite a few famous tech figures; it's not hard to find a handful who have died of various fairly-common causes. Pancreatic cancer may be responsible for "only" on the order of 104 deaths in the US each year, but that's still a pretty big pool.

          And relatively wealthy people will be more likely than the population at large to die from a cause such as pancreatic cancer, because they can afford a lifestyle and medical care that will improve their resistance to a number of other more-common pathologies. Reducing the likelihood of generally-more-common ends shifts probability mass toward the less-common, treatment-resistant ones. (As someone noted above, pancreatic is so often fatal because it's detected so late.)

          1. jgard

            Re: But why tho...

            You are spot on with your analysis here my friend, an epidemiologist would struggle to provide a better summary.

            Cancer is cruel and indiscriminate, I'm very sorry to hear about your mother. All the best.

          2. parlei Bronze badge

            Re: But why tho...

            Yep. Same reason why suicide is an increasingly "common" cause of death in young males: regardless of the tragic prevalence once you make automobiles safer, improve vaccination programs, workplace safety and general public health the other causes increase. Including the "evil lottery"[1] of cancer.

            [1] Basically you have mutations all the time, pretty much at random. A tiny fraction of them are "cancerous" AND able to survive/evade the immune system AND able propagate in your body.

    4. Mike 16

      Re: But why tho...

      Add Jef Raskin to the list, although he got less warning than Steve Jobs.

      IIRC, he got very little warning (typical for pancreatic cancer, but even less that usual)

      BTW I recommend the Humane Interface.

  8. fronty

    I was lucky enough to attend a conference a few years ago where he was the keynote speaker - was a really interesting talk and he gave out his lockpick business cards, which I've still got somewhere. Cancer's a b!tch. :-(

  9. david 12 Silver badge

    And then it was all open-sourced

    There were large numbers placed on the value of the material he "stole" from the phone companies. The large numbers were largely imaginary. But it was somewhere between sad and funny that all API documentation, operation manuals, and source code was eventually released free, when AT&T realized that the secrecy had no commercial value.

    1. Grinning Bandicoot

      Re: And then it had to be open-sourced

      The best way to think of the corporate mind set at ATT and its owners BellSouth is in the way a thief sees the world: an image of itself. They have in my way found any and every technique to avoid repayment of refund and deposits why but to protect The Corporation. Using this as a principle of understanding if they can monetize technical data against so may "THEM" do so against The Corporation. Scott Adams worked for a telco and his work illustrates this well.

  10. fowljr

    Reading the Hacker Crackdown, Cyberpunk Outlaws & Hackers on the computer frontier, Hackers: Heroes of the computer revolution and the Cuckoos Egg fuelled my fascination with hacking!

    1. Norman Nescio Silver badge

      Fuelling fascinations...

      Oddly enough, the Cuckoo's Egg fuelled my fascination with auditing. It all started with a small discrepancy on a phone bill. It's not sexy, or interesting to normal folk*, but investigating the reason for small discrepancies has lead to all sorts of interesting discoveries. Fraud, sometimes.

      *I freely admit to not being normal.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I work for one of the largest cybersecurity companies in the world that requires all employees to take an online security awareness course every year. The first time I got an email with a link to the course I asked the company's security bods for a confirmation that the KnowBe4 link was legitimate and safe to click. To my disappointment the vigilance didn't get me an automatic credit for the course (that was quite decent, especially the social engineering bits).

    R.I.P., Kevin - your legacy lives on.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Legacy

      At my work we have these 'phishing simulations' where they deliberately send emails with dodgy links, to educate people. We also get regular mandatory training courses hosted by random external providers. So I report them as suspicious, I email our IT department asking if the links are safe to click, I get completely ignored and then I get told off for not doing the training in time. The phishing training works, but the process for reporting suspicious activity is completely broken.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Legacy

        I just set up a mail rule to examine the mail headers and dump any originating from the domains that Cofense PhishMe used.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Legacy

          Yeah, worked with someone who did similar, although he just checked for the "X-Phishing-Simluation" header or whatever it was the provider had injected.

          As for how to flag them, most places I've been at recently have had a "report phishing" button in Outlook which reports it to the security team. For the training emails, it usually popped up a "congratulations, stay vigilant" type message for spotting it.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Legacy

        Same here, kind of. I work in Outsourcing Hell, and all things phone and IT are outsourced. So I get an email with "please click this link to see the status of your request", and there I'm expected to log in... And that is supposedly how it is supposed to work. Good thing I have learnt to curse quietly under my breath, or HR might get a report regarding offensive language in the workplace.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Legacy

        I'm in charge of information security for a mid sized company. I'm the person that sets up the test phishing campaigns, and also the person that assigns the security awareness training. We also use KnowBe4, and find them to have a great product. Having training material from Kevin himself was always a little special somehow. It's funny though, in the training videos, Kevin usually plays the unsuspecting end user.

        We do the testing/training quarterly. There is increasing consensus that we should do the tests and training monthly. I think that is pushing it a little too hard, however.

        I usually do this as: Training, testing, additional training if needed. KnowBe4 has the ability to assign people that fail the phishing tests campaigns to a particular group. That way I can send them through additional training. This works because the reward for passing the test is not having to sit through a bunch of additional, much longer training sessions.

        We have a good mechanism for reporting suspicious email in place. End users often forward questionable email directly to me, however. I've worked hard to promote a culture of "if in doubt, please ask" when it comes to email (or any communications, really). I always respond personally, thanking the person for asking, and for their vigilance. I stress that it is never a bother for me to look at an email for someone. Whether is was a real phishing email, or a simulated one, I usually take a screen shot of the email, and highlight all of the red flags in the message when I respond. That way, even though their training worked, and they questioned the email, this can be a learning opportunity.

  12. BoaterDave

    He left a rich legacy!

    An interesting read about Kevin here:-

    My condolences to his wife and family.

  13. Juanca

    RIP Kevin

    Please accept my deepest condolences during this difficult time. May his legacy continue to inspire and contribute to the advancement of cybersecurity, and may his family, friends, and colleagues find strength and comfort in their memories of him.

  14. 00T4BLUD

    rip km

    c0mrade jj will be there to welcome you with open arms, maybe!. rip bud

  15. Moggy

    RIP Kevin

    RIP to a legend, you will be missed greatly.

    enjoy your rest Hackerman.

  16. Jude Bradley

    They seem not to have updated their website. You can still book him for events.

    1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge

      AI likeness, or Ouija board??

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        nope he just entered the ethernet. Now he is everywhere.

        Just wait till all the phones start to ring

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      re: booking him for events

      Yes, but if you cancel, you don't get 100% back.

  17. ShortLegs

    Another Legend passes. Another god from youngr, more innocent times.

    Stephen Northcutt did an excellent dissection of Mitnick's hack against Tsuromu Shimomura's system in his 1999 book "Network Intrusion Detection" - and at that time, syn flooding and TCP hijacking was still possible. What is also worth noting, for someone who is described as not a particularly clever coder, Mitnick used routines to hide and obfusificate his source address, check the fake IP addressed he used is routable but not active, and so on.

    L0pht - anther blast fro mthe past... L0pht Heavy Industries. L0phtcrack, an essential tool on every engineer's utility floppy disk. <- and I was old even then!!!

  18. Steven Guenther

    not a good hacker

    He was not that great of a computer hacker. He was a liar and thief who preyed upon those who tried to be helpful.

    He made the world a colder place where people are afraid to help others.

    1. Martin-73 Silver badge

      Re: not a good hacker

      Wow dude, have a beer to replace the pee in your cheerios

  19. Plest Silver badge

    That no age to pass away

    That's a terrible shame, I never knew the guy obviously only of his infamous exploits but 59 is not an age any person should pass away, proof to me that the universe really is just a scary and random place sometimes.

    To lose his life to the big-C and leave a wife and young son without a father, rather than offer meaningless platitudes I'm off to make a donation to Cancer Research in Mitnick's name.

  20. steviebuk Silver badge

    Freedom Downtime

    I think it was around 2002 or 2003, may have been a bit later that I discovered Freedom Downtime and Kevin Mitnick.

    Later I bought some of his books, The Art of Deception, The Art of Intrusion. They were a good read. Still would be a good read today.

  21. Marty McFly Silver badge

    Security paranoid...

    I had the opportunity to be Kevin's liaison during a corporate speaking event. That meant I got to operate the hand truck and haul around his computers. He would not let them out of his sight. To & from the stage for the rehearsal, and repeat for the live event.

    My impression of meeting him personally in the context of a Vegas convention center is vastly different from the public persona he presented in later years. Out of respect for his widow & child, I will omit any details and just say he social engineered all of us until the end.

    Without his antics we would not have the security awareness we have today, and many of us would not have the careers to match. Cheers!

  22. Grinning Bandicoot

    Oh No more class actions coming

    USian TV in the off prime hours is populated by Infomercials offering cash for cancer caused by many sundry things. Now - here - we see pancreatic cancer linked to people who loomed large in the field. Just image the spokething asking if you have developed pancreatic or any other abdominal cancer after being exposed to some computer virus. Fingers hurt so time for a action against all keyboard manufacturers. This page will be referred but not shown as to the linkage that computers were the cause. Robbin, Shearim, and Lauff will represent you with the usual stipulations.

  23. SVD_NL

    Speaking of ahead of his time...

    I read his contribution linked in this article, dated 2001. Back then I needed the entirety of my mental capacity not to soil myself. I think that article could've been published today and still hold up.

    Truly a pioneer.

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