Have you ever picked up your home phone and had an operator tell you "please enter twenty-five cents?" If yes, you probably already know of Kevin Mitnick because that’s what got him into computer hacking when he was young — that and an insatiable appetite for what he calls ‘forbidden knowledge."
Kevin was the closing keynote speaker last week at Dell’s Executive IT Summit where CIOs and IT decision-makers came into Austin for two days of deep-dive sessions around IT trends, discussion of the economy and how to drive a more efficient infrastructure.
Before he took the stage, I had the opportunity to talk to Kevin about what got him into trouble and what small businesses, corporations and other institutions should be mindful of as they secure their IT infrastructures. (Take a look at Kevin’s business card, complete with some tools get pick locks.)
He now spends his time doing what he calls ‘ethical hacking’, working with many of the companies that were previously his adversaries. These corporations call on Kevin to perform ‘pen tests’ or identifying external weaknesses in their security systems. And while someone can easily hack into a secure network, he tells me the preference for many hackers today is to use social engineering — essentially just calling someone and asking them to send you the information you’re looking for. Does it work, I asked him? His response, "99 percent of the time." You can have the most robust security infrastructure but as he said in his talk, "There is now Windows update for stupidity."
If you’d like to read more about Kevin, there’s some interesting information about Kevin in Wikipedia, but also in this excerpt from Takedown, the book written by John Markoff and Tsutomu Shimomura, as well in this interview on 60 Minutes.
Kevin has already published numerous books including The Art of Deception and The Art of Intrusion, but later this year will release an autobiography in which he’ll talk about his upbringing and life as a hacker.
I also probed Kevin specifically around security for individuals who use mobile devices (digital nomads) and you can see that interview over at the Digital Nomads community.