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ExtraHoppers Reflect on the Passing of Kevin Mitnick, Hacking’s GOAT

Meridith Levinson

July 24, 2023

ExtraHop employees are mourning the loss of the legendary Kevin Mitnick, who died on July 16, after a 14-month battle with pancreatic cancer. We send our deepest and most heartfelt condolences to his family and friends, as they navigate this unimaginable loss.

The shocking news of Mitnick’s passing sparked an outpouring of reflections, recollections, and anecdotes from ExtraHop employees who had been inspired by him, who had the chance to meet him, or otherwise had memorable brushes with him. What follows are several of the comments and anecdotes they shared:

His books were one of the first things that really got me interested in security. RIP to a true titan of the hacker world. :(

–Charlie Weismann, Intern - Software Engineer

I read “Ghost in the Wires” in high school. RIP to a legend.

–Connor Myers, Support Technician

This took me back to my middle school days, reading the physical copy of “2600 Magazine.”

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At last, Kevin is free.

–Sergio Casillas, Principal Sales Engineer - US/LATAM

I never had the chance to meet Kevin but I think we would have got on well. Like Kevin, I went through a hacking period, which was really a time of learning how systems worked in depth, rather than doing anything malicious. I think that’s what unites old school hackers: an insatiable thirst to understand how things work.

RIP Kevin.

–Jamie Moles, Senior Manager - Technical Marketing

Adding my voice to those who first got interested in cybersecurity due to him. I had a friend who introduced me to his story back in college. Everything was exotic in those days when we were barely out of BBSes and the POTS system was still pretty close to the peak of technology, and Kevin Mitnick had mastered it all.

If it was only the phone phreaking and hacking he'd be notable just for that, but add social engineering to the mix and you have a legend.

–Jason Jones, Senior Solutions Engineer

I read “Ghost in the Wires” when it came out. He was a true legend. He taught all of us in the security space that the great hackers are the ones who keep finding new ways to penetrate their targets…After reading Kevin's works and seeing his speeches, you begin to realize that the more you, as a defender, can think outside of the box about mounting and hardening defenses, the better off you'll be. That was an invaluable lesson.

–Omar Zaidi, Senior Solutions Architect

Brings back a lot of memories. In the early 90s, Kevin socially-engineered his way into our company through our IT help desk to access proprietary and confidential information. Kevin charmed his way through the help desk and was routed to one of our WAN specialists who realized something wasn't right. The rest is history... What's interesting about this story is that the person who reported him to the FBI also realized the injustice that Kevin was going through and offered to help the defense team. They became lifelong friends and cybersecurity evangelists.

Good reminder of how small our world is, and that every day is a gift.

–Dani Scherrer, Vice President - Revenue Operations

While assigned to other squads at the FBI’s Washington Field Office from 1995-1999, on several occasions I assisted Criminal Squad 17, the National Computer Crime Squad at the FBI's Tyson Corner Resident Agency. Some of this included the runup to Kevin’s trial. I met with Tsutomu Shimomura after Kevin’s arrest during trial prep. I helped with some of the analysis of Kevin’s techniques and validated the technical accuracy of Tsutomu’s statements. I believed that we should have operated him as a confidential source to inform on Eurasian organized crime enterprises that were targeting U.S. companies at the time.

I ran into Kevin again in 2018, when I popped into KnowBe4’s corporate office while visiting Tampa, Fla. on business. Stu Sjouwerman, KnowBe4’s CEO, introduced me to Kevin, who at the time was KnowBe4’s Chief Hacking Officer. I am not sure if Kevin initially recognized me, but I think he did, because he looked warily at me when Stu introduced me as having worked for the FBI for 20+ years. Kevin did the math, but we laughed and had an enjoyable conversation.

I absolutely believe in redemption and second chances, and I am glad that Kevin was able to seize that second chance.

The world is a much sadder and less brilliant place without Kevin Mitnick.

–Mark Bowling, Chief Information Security and Risk Officer,


To Kevin’s family and friends, we wish you strength as you walk the mourner’s path. May Kevin’s memory be a blessing to us all.

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