Kevin Mitnick “chief hacking officer” of a cybersecurity firm, died on Sunday in Pittsburgh

Kevin Mitnick, who at the beginning of widespread internet usage in the mid-1990s became the country’s archetypal computer hacker — obsessive but intelligent, shy but mischievous, and potentially dangerous — and later used his skills to become “chief hacking officer” of a cybersecurity firm, passed away on Sunday in Pittsburgh. He was 59.

Pancreatic cancer, according to Kathy Wattman, a spokeswoman for KnowBe4, the cybersecurity firm he co-owned.

Mr. Mitnick, who The New York Times referred to in 1995 as “the nation’s most wanted computer outlaw,” was on the run for more than two years.

He was wanted for stealing software that was used to protect the privacy of wireless calls and handle billing information, as well as for illegally accessing about 20,000 credit card numbers, some of which belonged to Silicon Valley billionaires.

He was ultimately apprehended and imprisoned for five years. However, there was no proof that Mr. Mitnick had profited financially from the papers he had stolen. Later, he would explain his actions as a risky but ultimately harmless type of play.

In his 2011 book, “Ghost in the Wires,” he stated: “Anyone who loves to play chess knows that it’s enough to defeat your opponent.” “To make it worthwhile, you don’t need to plunder his kingdom or seize his property.”

The computer age was still in its infancy when Mr. Mitnick was apprehended in February 1995; Windows 95 had not yet been made available. The Mitnick Affair sparked an anxious global debate about hacking as well as the internet itself.

In March 1995, Times columnist Frank Rich lamented that because to the commotion around Mr. Mitnick, “the internet is now seriously overexposed.”

The most notable crimes committed by Mr. Mitnick involved his attempts to elude law enforcement. He took over Californian phone systems in 1993, which gave him the ability to wiretap the F.B.I. agents hunting him and thwart their efforts to find him. When they invaded Mr. Mitnick’s house at one point, they discovered a Middle Eastern immigrant watching TV instead.

Another time, Mr. Mitnick found that the F.B.I. was pursuing him using a radio scanner and software. When the police arrived, they discovered a box of donuts waiting for them after he had departed from his residence.

On Christmas Day 1994, Mr. Mitnick got into problems when he obtained emails from a rival hacker named Tsutomu Shimomura and insulted him. Mr. Shimomura decided to forgo his cross-country skiing trip after hearing about the attack and offered to assist in finding Mr. Mitnick.

The result was what The Times called a “duel on the net.” While Mr. Shimomura was the self-employed gunslinger with morals and accused Mr. Mitnick of breaking the rules of the online community, Mr. Mitnick was the immoral genius who praised the technological prowess of his rival.

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