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Clearwater tech executive and once-famed hacker dies at 59

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  • | 4:30 p.m. July 21, 2023
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Kevin Mitnick, white-hat hacker and 'chief hacking officer' at Clearwater-based KnowBe4, died on Sunday after a battle with cancer.
Kevin Mitnick, white-hat hacker and 'chief hacking officer' at Clearwater-based KnowBe4, died on Sunday after a battle with cancer.
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Kevin Mitnick, a former hacker who became a top executive at Clearwater-based anti-phishing and cybersecurity firm KnowBe4, has died.

Mitnick died peacefully July 16 after battling pancreatic cancer for more than a year, his family says in a statement. He was 59. 

After getting into trouble with the FBI for computer hacking and serving five years in federal prison, Mitnick was hired by KnowBe4 in late 2011.

Mitnick's new career began after his 1999 conviction and a five-year prison term. Like some other hackers have done, Mitnick made a career of protecting people and businesses against the crimes he used to commit. (These computer workers are often referred to as "white hat" hackers.)

Mitnick co-authored two books on the subject, and worked as a consultant and speaker on the issue. One of his main themes came to be making managers and employees aware of bad practices that could lead to a hacking attack.

Clearwater-based KnowBe4's computer security niche just so happened to be protecting clients against "phishing" scams, which use hyperlinks in emails to lure people into malicious websites, using tricks and deception to make the reader believe they are viewing an email from a reputable business.

KnowBe4 made Mitnick its "chief hacking officer," where, according to a 2012 news release, he used his "expertise to help organizations identify, correct, and prevent network security vulnerabilities."

Mitnick grew up in the San Fernando Valley in California, an only child with a penchant for magic tricks and, later, computer hacking, according to his family. In November 2011, KnowBe4, founded by close friend and business partner Stu Sjouwerman, made Mitnick the white hat, as well as part owner of the security awareness training company.

A private memorial and burial service will be held for close friends and family members.


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