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  • Released June 26th, 2016
    Size 212.6 MB
    Download phreaks_and_geeks.mp4

    A documentary produced by National Geographic about the life and exploits of Kevin Mitnick. The documentary features a number of interviews ranging from book authors, journalists, friends and an addiction specialist who worked with Kevin.

    The documentary begins with Kevin's childhood and him first getting involved in the phone phreaking. Kevin meets Lewis De Payne in 1978 and together they begin to explore the phone network. The group was involved in a number of phone pranks like turning someone's grandmother's home telephone into a payphone asking to deposit 25 cents.

    The Los Angeles area phone phreaking community had a physical presence at Shakey's pizza parlor where people would meet up and trade knowledge. It is at one of these meetings on May 25th, 1981 that Kevin invited his two other friends Lewis De Payne and Mark Ross to go the COSMOS center. COSMOS (Computer System for Mainframe Operators) was a telephone company computer system which was used to keep track of work orders on the network. Gaining access to the system gave one a tremendous power to make changes to the network. Not satisfied with what they found in the trash, Kevin challenges the group to actually get inside the building. Kevin was able to social engineer the security guard to let them inside and quickly found the COSMOS control room. Once there, the group collects every dialup number and password they could find. They also grab several COSMOS manuals.

    The break-in is quickly discovered and the group is arrested. Of the three, only Kevin gets any jail sentence. He spends three months in the California Youth Authority and released on probation. After the release, Kevin goes right back to hacking. Him and Lenny DiCicco go on a seven year hacking spree competing with each other for how much access one can get. The rivalry ended with DiCicco reporting Kevin to the FBI getting him arrested with a car trunk full of hacking notes and paraphernalia in the parking lot on December 8, 1988.

    It was around that time that the movie Wargames was released and the media hysteria about the hacking was at its peak. The news media was saying that hackers could turn off power and reroute water supplies. When Kevin was arrested he was put in a solitary confinement for almost a year out of the fear that he could whistle launch codes into NORAD computers.

    After a year of federal prison and with a five year probation prohibiting him from using computers, Kevin was unable to find a job to apply his abilities. It is around that time that Kevin was contacted by Eric Heinz (aka Justin Petersen) who invited him to trade information. During the meeting Eric raised a number of red flags about him being an informant. To show off his knowledge, Eric has briefly mentioned SAS (Switching and Access Systems). SAS was a system that allowed secret wire-tapping and control of any telephone.

    Armed with only the name of the system, Kevin was quickly able to get documentation and access to SAS. The very first system that he has activated was Eric's home number. The very first telephone call that Kevin has intercepted had Eric talking with an FBI agent about an imminent search warrant for Kevin's property. At this point, Kevin knew that the FBI was building a case against him once again and quickly got rid of all incriminating evidence. By the time FBI searched his place all they could find was a box of donuts labeled "FBI donuts" in the refrigerator.

    Kevin could not resist digging up more information about Eric which eventually turned him into a fugitive after an unsuccessful attempt to collect Eric's driver license Soundex at Kinko's. Confronted by FBI and DMV agents, Kevin went on a run and managed to evade authorities for three years. He moved to North Carolina and managed to hold a job under an assumed identity. Kevin continued hacking with a new target being cellphone firmware source code. The search for the source for the Oki cellphone led him to attack the computer system of a famous security specialist, Tsutomu Shimomura.

    After the successful hack, called "Christmas Day Hack", Tsutomu began to actively help FBI with tracking down Kevin. On February 15th, 1995 FBI has finally located Kevin in his North Carolina apartment and arrested him. After the arrest, Kevin would spend 46 months in federal prison most of it without being actually charged. He essentially became a martyr for the hacker community which resulted in the "Free Kevin" movement.

    Following his release and the end of his probation, Kevin Mitnick was able to start his own business also hacking into computer system, but this time ethically, hired by companies themselves to expose security flaws. He is also teaching a number of classes about hacking to help companies better defend against the real bad guys.

    The documentary concludes with a constantly changing profile of hackers. Gone are the day of adrenaline junkies like Kevin who simply enjoyed the rush of getting access to systems. The hackers of today are working in the interests of foreign governments or criminal enterprises.

    References

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