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Three Lessons from the Life of Kevin Mitnick

Kevin Mitnick passed away last week at the age of 59. Computer Weekly published a nice piece about his life. You may not recognize the name unless you’re really into cybersecurity. But you’re probably familiar with some of the things that have become standard, recommended practices in cybersecurity because of what he did. 

In 2012 he published Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World’s Most Wanted Hacker. I read it about as fast as I’ve read any good spy story. There are some lessons in that book and in his life after getting released from prison that I think most teachers can appreciate. 

1. Kids need someone to support, encourage, and direct their intellectual curiosities. In his book he writes about how phone phreaking and gaming the LA bus system were things he did as a kid because he liked the challenge of it, not the financial gain (minimal, if any).

2. Your security settings, passwords, and even two-factor authentication is never as strong as you think it is. Read his book for the details on he used social engineering to get the source code for one of Motorola’s prototype cell phones. 

3. People can change for the better. After being released from federal prison he went on to start a white hat hacking company and the Chief Hacking Officer at a cybersecurity improvement firm called KnowBe4

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