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Mitnick's Capture: A Battle Between Hackers

The Fifteen Greatest Hacking Exploits

In 1994, Kevin Mitnick was back to his illegal activities, and wanted by the FBI. He was already known worldwide because of his exploits, and his portrait had been distributed all over, encouraging people who recognized him to call the authorities if they spotted him. It was during this year and the one following that Kevin Mitnick would become the object of the most spectacular manhunt launched against a hacker.

Mitnick Attacks a Rival

Mitnick decided to attack another hacker and security expert, Tsutomu Shimomura. His attack was well prepared, and to be certain nobody would disturb him, Mitnick launched it on Christmas Day, December 25, 1994. He hacked Shimomura's personal computer using a technique unheard of at the time, IP spoofing, which involves using a bogus IP address to avoid being discovered during an intrusion.

Mitnick was betrayed by Shimomura's firewall, however, which recorded all activity on the target machine. On December 26, Shimomura received a call from one of his colleagues informing him that his machine had been the victim of an intrusion. He quickly established a link to Mitnick, and decided to lend a hand to the FBI in arresting the hacker, by using his own hacking skills.

A Virtual Manhunt

Shimomura obtained carte blanche from the FBI, including authorization to use hacking to find Mitnick. The pursuit became a virtual chase; for example, Shimomura reported that he surprised Mitnick on January 17, 1995, when he infiltrated a network belonging to Motorola in order to steal the company's security software.

Mitnick's Arrest

As the chase intensified, they started closing in on Mitnick, who retreated to the city of Raleigh, North Carolina. To find the cell phone Mitnick used to launch his attacks, Shimomura walked the streets of Raleigh for two days equipped with a communications detector. On February 15, 1995, at 2:00 in the morning, the FBI burst into Mitnick's apartment together with Shimomura. When he saw his rival, the fugitive exclaimed: "Hi, Tsutomu! Congratulations!" After a pursuit of almost two years, Mitnick was sentenced to five years in prison, at that time the harshest sentence ever given to a hacker.

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