Noted hacker and security researcher Kevin Mitnick has died at the age of 59, following a 14-month battle with pancreatic cancer.
Growing up in San Francisco, his talents as a self-professed "confidence trickster" were clear from his capabilities to ride public transport for free, and while he denied the rumors that he was able to carry out a hack by simply whistling a specific frequency down a phone line, his black-hat activities resulted unauthorized access to dozens of computer networks and private data.
His activities landed him on the FBI's Most Wanted list, but he was able to turn his life around in 2000. His first book, The Ghost in the Wires, went on to be a best seller. He also authored further titles: The Art of Deception and The Art of Intrusion.
In 2011, he joined KnowBe4 as chief hacking officer and part owner. KnowBe4 said in a statement that "Kevin will always remain 'the world's most famous hacker' and was renowned for his intelligence, humor and extraordinary skill with technology, surpassed only by his talent as the original social engineer."
KnowBe4 CEO Stu Sjouwerman added, "Kevin was a dear friend to me and many of us here at KnowBe4. He is truly a luminary in the development of the cybersecurity industry, but mostly, Kevin was just a wonderful human being and he will be dearly missed."
Friends of Mitnick are offering tributes as well. Ralph Echemendia, the independent cybersecurity researcher, issued a statement on Twitter:
"Kevin Mitnick’s life stories are that of a hacker superhero! Love him or hate him, through innovation and education, he proved there is no remedy for human stupidity in the hacking world. Being a part of the Free Kevin Movement and then later becoming friends after meeting at Black Hat in Las Vegas, I can say this is a tremendous loss to our community. It’s heartbreaking. My deepest condolences to his wife, family, friends, and all of us who looked up to his talent, kindness, and hacker revolution legacy. 'Hack the Planet,' Kevin!"
Mitnick is survived by his wife, Kimberley, who is expecting the arrival of the couple's first child later this year.