Computers and informational technology require tremendous security. Individuals may wish to steal information from another’s account for a wide variety of reasons. Due to this, companies need to ensure they hire the best informational technology people to protect their assets. While it may seem bizarre at first glance, this person should be a hacker. The best hacker of all time remains Kevin Mitnick. A convicted criminal, he currently runs a business as a computer security consultant.
Wide spread use of computers began in the 1980s. The need for computer security quickly followed. During the 1980s, Kevin Mitnick successfully gained access to top computer systems in the country. However, he did not use technology as his primary methodology. Mr. Mitnick succeeded through the use of social engineering. Social engineering schemes involve the use of confidence on the part of the transgressor. A person may convince another person through the use of psychological manipulation to divulge confidential information. Common manipulative tricks include phishing, flattery, baiting and pretexting.
Individuals readily surrender confidential information without realizing it. Kevin Mitnick ranked as a top social engineer due to his success with this method. In March, 2000, Mitnick testified before the Senate regarding his techniques. He stated that his first step in gaining access was through social engineering. According to Mitnick, “The first line of attack would be what I call a social engineering attack, which really means trying to manipulate somebody over the phone through deception. And I was so successful in that line of attack that I rarely had to go toward a technical attack” (PBS, 2001).
Experts estimated the damages to various companies from Kevin Mitnick’s activities at $300 million. These companies include Sun Microsystems, Nokia, and Motorola. Authorities arrested Mitnick in 1995. After his conviction, he served five years of a fifteen year sentence. During his three year probation following his release, he could not use a computer without permission. Many in the computer world viewed his success as a hacker with astonishment. They respected his illegal contributions to the world of computer security (PBS, 2001).
After his release from probation, Mitnick began his own computer security company. As a consultant, he utilizes his background in security weaknesses to strengthen security systems. He recently helped ensure the security of the elections in Ecuador (Gadgets, 2013). Many question whether or not an ex-convict should have access to these companies. Personally, I believe that Mitnick represents the ideal solution for finding flaws in a security system. If I had a company to run and required a consultation on its security, I would turn to Mitnick or someone similar. There is an old adage that if one wants to catch a criminal, one needs to think like a criminal. A person who is not manipulative by nature is easier to manipulate. This person likely believes that individuals have good intentions. Luckily, most people believe this and many people do have good intentions. However, the ones who want to harm a person or a company do not.
Therefore, one must use similar thought patterns to catch them. This is not the first time for a notorious criminal to later help stop criminal behavior. The famous imposter and confidence artist, Frank Abagnale, also became a security consultant after serving his prison sentence. His exploits are well known and the basis for the movie, Catch Me if You Can. He also runs his own consulting firm and assists the FBI in catching criminals. Obviously, the top criminals in security issues also become the top security consultants. I believe it would be difficult to find a better consultant than a reformed criminal. However, with that being said, I would probably still guard my wallet while working with a criminal, reformed or not.
- Gadgets (2013, February) Notorious hacker Kevin Mitnick now working to keep elections secure. Retrieved March 25, 2013, from: http://gadgets.ndtv.com/internet/news/notorious-hacker-kevin-mitnick-now-helping-elections-secure-331973
- PBS (2001) Thetestimony of an ex-hacker. Retrieved March 25, 2013, from: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/hackers/whoare/testimony.html