Trevor Dixon

Hacking Isn't Cute

As I reflect on Ghost in the Wires, the memoir of famous hacker Kevin Mitnick, I’m disgusted by Mitnick’s selfish disregard for others. Mitnick’s thesis is that his hacks amounted to harmless games and that he was the victim of unjust persecution by brutish thugs from big corporations and the government. Mitnick never physically harmed anybody and never profited from his hacks, but his actions seriously wounded civil society’s trust.

If we all had to deal regularly with liars like Kevin Mitnick, it would rock the foundations of society. Many social constructs are built on a foundation of trust, and they continue to stand, because most people are trustworthy. Liars that abuse that trust do real harm to those constructs. If everybody lied like Kevin Mitnick, sociality would become dangerous, and the joy of human interaction would be lost. Life would be miserable.

Kevin Mitnick now leads an honorable life, but the idea promoted in his memoir—that hacking and lying are a fun game for those cut out for it—is a dangerous attitude.