Geeks We Envy No. 4: Kevin Mitnick



Photo: Joao Canziani

Kevin Mitnick hacked The Man. The Man hacked back, and a martyr was born.

Mitnick, who went by the code-name “Condor,” started hacking and phreaking as a bored Los Angeles teenager. His exploits started as simple phone pranks and escalated to major breaches of corporate security, typically just to see if he could. For his crimes, Mitnick spent five years in jail, despite a lack of evidence showing that his hacks did all that much damage. In a world where WikiLeaks actually put lives in danger, his offenses now seem positively quaint. So when he spent 8 months in solitary confinement (allegedly because prosecutors had convinced a judge that Mitnick could start a nuclear war by whistling into a pay phone) and was forbidden from touching a networked computer after his release, Kevin Mitnick became a touchstone for everyone who felt the government was paranoid and out of touch.

Why He’s a Geek: He’s the most famous hacker in the world, for heaven’s sake.

Why we envy him: See above. Also, this seemingly reserved, normal guy evaded the FBI for years and made them look like amateurs. He even left a box of “FBI Donuts” for them in a vacated safe house. And Skeet Ulrich played him in a controversial movie about his capture. He gets extra cred if he really can whistle up a nuclear war.

See #3: He Took a Submarine 36,000 Feet Beneath the Waves

View previous geeks:
No. 5: Jeff Skoll
No. 6: Larry Page
No. 7: Mark Pincus
No. 8: Sean Parker
No. 9: Eduardo Saverin
No. 10: Kim Schmitz aka Kim Dotcom