Twenty years ago this week the FBI nabbed its most wanted hacker, Kevin Mitnick, who was charged with penetrating the computer systems of several large corporations, including Nokia and Motorola. He also broke into dozens of government and educational institutions as well as internet service providers. Mitnick was able to read people's private email, steal passwords and access software. Truly, he was a pioneer in that realm of the criminal world.
At the time of his arrest, and during his trial, Mitnick also was far from repentant. He insisted he never intended to defraud anyone, and that he was a victim of malicious prosecution by a government bent on trampling his constitutional rights. Mitnick had supporters who saw him as a crusader for internet freedom and they set up an online fundraising effort on his behalf. In the end he was found guilty and received a 68 month federal prison sentence, at the time a record penalty for cyber crime.
After four-and-a-half years behind bars, Mitnick was released from Lompoc with the stipulation that he stay away from computers and cell phones for three years.
In an interview with Fox 11 after his release, Mitnick admitted that what he did was wrong and that he deserved to be punished, but insisted the punishment didn't fit the crime. He said he got into hacking as an intellectual pursuit, as well as for the challenge and adventure. Post prison, Mitnick wrote a book and formed a company to teach people how to protect themselves from the types of identity theft he was convicted of perpetrating.
I've included some clips of our coverage of the Kevin Mitnick case, including a brief comment from him describing his hack knack.