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Open Letter to Psychology Today

by Administrator on October 31, 2008

Just emailed this to PT, which I happened to be perusing in my “library” (aka the rest room) today, in response to an article in their December issue.

Normally, I just find your publication mildly amusing, especially complaints about scantily clad women – how many people out there still view the human body as evil! However, seeing an interview with Kevin Mitnick in your December issue on page 19 compelled me to respond. Your name for him, “ethical hacker,” is wrong. He is neither ethical nor a true hacker.

Mitnick was on the same agenda as myself at a computer conference in Lisbon, Portugal about a year and a half back. To demonstrate the vulnerability of wireless networks to hackers, he opened his presentation by showing the screens of computers he had hacked the previous evening belonging to folks who were staying at the hotel. My screen showed up in his preso.

Interestingly, I was not using wireless connections at the hotel. So, the only way he could get into my system was to violate the hotel server and hard wire network security, which is patently illegal. So much for “ethical.”

As for hacking, most of Mitnick’s tricks and tools are widely known among the lowest ranks of the hacker community, the script kiddies. Real hackers regard Mitnick as a “hack” and not as a hacker, which means expert code breaker. His only claim to fame is 1) that he was caught, and 2) that he partied with the likes of Paris Hilton for a time.

That a teacher rewarded him with a high grade for stealing the teacher’s computing password makes me cringe, if in fact it actually happened. That may have set his feet on a path to success measured in terms of kudos from fellow security breakers. Now that he is ostracized by the hacker community, his ego needs to be fed by articles like this one. He probably hopes that Leonardo DiCaprio will play him in some future movie.

Why would you want to help perpetuate this kind of bent mentality?

Moreover, given the budgetary expense of data security in organizations today and the burden placed on overstressed information technology practitioners by daily breaches of their security systems, why would you devote ink to Mitnick? A better use of the space might be to look at the pressures on the IT practitioners who must stop the Mitnick’s of the world from breaching private customer data, stealing financial or medical identities, and costing every one of us time and money in our day to day lives.

Jon Toigo
Chairman, Data Management Institute

Can you imagine? A celebrity hacker.

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