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Hacker Lore: Know Your Ancestors


Who were the grandfathers of hacking? Linus Torvalds? Steve Wozniak? Bill Gates?

What about Kevin Mitnick?

Kevin Mitnick started his hacking career hacking bus tickets, radios, and telephones. Later, he moved into hacking school computers and computer networks. He spent three years on the run from the FBI. His crimes? Breaching some of the largest telecommunication, financial, and technology companies of the time, largely by using social engineering. However, Kevin was different than the nation states and organized crime today. He didn’t hack for warfare or profit, he did it for the rush, the challenge, and the high he got from dominating the tech of his time.

Kevin is now a security consultant, performing penetration tests on site and remotely. But how did he get there? Interested?

You can also read about Kevin’s exploits (heh) in his book:

This book was a long time coming due to the restraints the U.S. government put on him upon his release. He wasn’t even allowed to use the Internet (a new phenomenon upon his release, as I recall it) for the first several months of his release, as referenced in the video below:

Could have been a gag, who knows. :wink:

Who are some of the prominent hackers you’ve read about? People that crossed to the dark side for the thrill and not the profits? DefCon, BlackHat, TedTalks, etc. all welcome.



I don’t know where I’ve heard an interview with him, or maybe he was mentioned, but I have the book on my amazon wishlist and cannot wiat to read it. Mitnick seems like a chill guy. He’s the one that obtained some source code or firmware or something from Motorola in the 80cs or 90’s?



DEC, I believe.

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Went to B-Sides DC was kinda meh, but would probably go again, on my list is schmoo con and Defcon some day.



I remember seeing a documentary on him, I’ve always really respected Kevin.

I’m waiting for another Kevin for the modern era.

not that I endorse breaking the law ofc

Also did you guys ever see the film “In the Realm of the Hackers” (2002)?
It tells the story of one hacker I quite like, “Electron” aka Richard Jones

Side note, an old article that mentions him

He’s pretty interesting



Long haired hippie Astronomer at Berley try’s to track down a Hacker who exploits an weakeness in EMACS. Later teams up with a straight laced FBI agent…who is an Amateur Astronomer. You can’t make this stuff up.
Well written too



ghost in the wires is my bible

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Most of what’s written/consensus on these people is lionizing and revisionist

Not to say they weren’t brilliant but few if any are good people or role models

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If you have something contesting the accuracy of what was posted, feel free to share.

To your second point, no one is deifying these people or calling them role models.


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just pointing out it’s important not to mythologize if you want to get a full picture of the history.

details like:

  • bill gates was a “small loan of a million dollars from my parents” success story
  • mitnick is a dead eyed sociopath that helps the FBI, an organization responsible for arming and training death squads in latin america, countless warrantless wiretaps, and a long track record of other Intelligence, Human rights and domestic tech rights violations. He’s had an ongoing private consultancy with them since the 2000’s, and in that time they have committed hundreds more just in the cybercrimes division.

are definitely important to the overall picture when discussing these people



Got anything on the Woz?
He always seemed prretty wholesome



you seem like someone to help aid me in my interest of ethics.
i’m in a position to have interest in understanding the views of ethics, held by others, ideally based around computers as the interest of computers should hold me focused, and the context will more likely make sense to me.
self improvement is a factor, but also just the experiences of another persons eyes often give valuable lessons.

i’ve started thinking about searching for books that are interviews or biographies on the lives of others, but ideally something recent is better to get with the times and be in touch with things.

this was something i just started looking into today and am still mulling over which direction i’ll turn to to cover the subject. if you’ve got any interest to share that’d be gravy.



woz and linus are definitely teddy bears compared to most of the forefathers of the infosec industry.

I think his brain injury in the middle of his career contributed more to his not doing anything rotten than any moral compass though

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aawwww cmon, he’s so nice!
brain injury could still lead to meanness



many of bryan cantrill’s talks are nice digestible intros to the subject, but it’s not super hard to navigate:

Technology is amoral. the people that apply it are what matters, and the current system incentivises the shittiest people doing the shittiest things with most new technologies



All i got on linus is that he’s yelled at people irl and in the lkml over OCD details, and not the brain injury itself, but the consequences of it (being booted from the mainstream tech industry in any role as a practical technologist or engineer)

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the most recent one with that woman would make me angry lol, boy be rough.

oh fair enough


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“The tone was discovered in approximately 1957,[6] by Joe Engressia, a blind seven-year-old boy. Engressia had perfect pitch, and discovered that whistling the fourth E above middle C (a frequency of 2637.02 Hz) would stop a dialed phone recording. Unaware of what he had done, Engressia called the phone-company and asked why the recordings had stopped. Joe Engressia is considered to be the father of phreaking.[7]