“It’s a complex set of steps, but essentially you’re building anonymity from your first connection to the internet.”
So says Kevin Mitnick (pictured in the middle), who calls himself the world’s most famous hacker, with his “career” including breaking into the Republican National Committee.
“I can tell you a story about that,” he said in an interview before so telling the story:
“In 1980, the Republican National Committee was running an old machine from DEC, a big TOPS-20 mainframe.
This was in the ‘80s when I was active as a black hat. I compromised that mainframe and had access to everything. Ronald Reagan even had an account on that machine.
It was just a placeholder for him, though. There was nothing there.
I didn’t really care that it was the RNC. What I was doing, I was just targeting TOPS-20 organizations that were reachable via the ARPAnet that were running a particular operating system.
They happened to be an unlucky one that was running that operating system, so I had access to everything on that machine. But it wasn’t interesting at the time. I didn’t even look around it much,” emphasis ours.
He claims he didn’t do it for the money, more out of curiosity and to have fun with this 56 year old man breaking into many systems and thus so gaining access to plenty of confidential information back when.
For that, he was sent to prison in the late 90s, spending five years inside to come out in 2002 with Mitnick Security Consulting established a year later.
70s Kid, The Nakamoto?
As someone growing up during the dawn of the digital revolution, Mitnick would have been well placed to gain significant knowledge of computer and telecommunication systems.
He is part of a generation that includes the late Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Linus Torvalds, and plenty others.
Unlike Torvalds however, who has said pretty much nothing about bitcoin, Mitnick talks openly about it.
“The standard blockchain used in Bitcoin, that’s a good thing,” he says, mentioning even ethereum.
“It’s kind of like a publishing platform,” he says of the world computer and specifically the token aspect which can potentially create fan communities around celebrities or athletes according to Mitnick.
That perhaps discounts him as a Nakamoto candidate because Nakamoto has one million bitcoin. So you’d expect him to discard these other chains, but distraction is a big part of the art of deception.
Mitnick has written a whole book on that art, as well as a book on the Art of the Invisible.
That’s even though he actually failed to be invisible as he was caught back in the 90s, but five years in prison would have given him plenty of time to think about many things, so perhaps he learned how to actually be invisible.
The Mystery of the Century
More than a decade on, and still no one knows who is Satoshi Nakamoto, the bitcoin inventor.
Theories abound, but in this digital age of total surveillance both online and offline, that this man or perhaps woman or maybe group remains unknown, is a considerable statement of the power of the individual over the collective.
He would have needed to take good care of not being caught by linguistic analysis. Not being caught by time analysis. Not being caught by metadata, or IP, or in any other way.
As a fugitive for two years, Mitnick managed it. He apparently was monitoring FBI’s phone activity at the time, so he could see them while they presumably couldn’t see him until they did see him.
As a wanted man, FBI would have had good reason to put resources on the matter. While for Nakamoto, there’s hardly a reason for such state agencies to turn their resources towards him. So perhaps making it easier for an experienced law enforcement evader to remain invisible.
Yet Mitnick was caught, and therefore he is not a good candidate to be Satoshi Nakamoto even though presumably he has the skills and knowledge to put together something like bitcoin.
The People’s Award
While the stuffy guild elite has their Turing awards which celebrate great achievement in computer science and often do so with the right candidates, being nominated as a potential candidate for being Satoshi Nakamoto is arguably this generation’s people’s award of achievement and accomplishment.
And Mitnick doesn’t get this award. Not from us anyway. He brags too much. He courts the media too much. He does not appear to have any open source code. His talents seem limited to social engineering. He probably can’t do two digits maths, let alone three digits.
He makes exaggerated claims like “a 100 percent successful track record of being able to penetrate the security of any system,” with ‘any system’ presumably excluding bitcoin. And in general he comes across as… how to put this kindly? A facade.
Breaking a door is not an achievement, building a house is, and we can’t see any houses that he has built.
We can’t actually see any achievement within our very stringent criteria of achievement for this “nomination,” except maybe pretty good marketing for his many books.
Excellent marketing in fact. The scary hacker who by whistling into his phone can potentially set off houses on fire.
Do we actually believe any of it? – with that obviously not being a question one even ponders when considering who might be Nakamoto.
Yet we ponder it because he appears to be a media creation for a narrative. The narrative being these kids need to be brought in line by heroic FBI with the naughty boy finding redemption in prison and now assisting companies to keep out bad men.
That’s not Nakamoto. The boy or man as he may be is probably of a certain quality, of… metaphorically speaking aristocratic cloth.
That’s not referring to station, wealth, or linage. He could very well be a very poor person, but of a certain disposition and intellect.
And we say so primarily because from what is known of Nakamoto it appears he stayed away from what the ancients called sophists. People who pretend to engage in knowledge, or even who do engage in it, but for one reason or another they find fiction far more comfortable than the many wonders of reality.
They do so because fiction is easy, it comes naturally, and requires little effort. While engaging reality meets the chief nemesis of temptation, the desire to just watch a movie instead of engage high algebra, or the desire to create a narrative instead of seeing.
All can do the latter, but the ability to see degrades in a general distribution manner, with arguably only a real genius able to see so much that they can come up with bitcoin if it is an individual.
We say so because the combination of many things that create the currency is so finely balanced to the point it reveals many things even like the effect of inflation as we have arguably seen during the two years long bear market or the two years long bull market prior to it.
One must think a lot is by accident. Just like words can take a life of their own, so too code and especially network code. Yet, arguably it is only great words that live, and great words tend to come only from great people.
Is Mitnick great, or just a distraction to consume attention away from the real great people? And if we raise this question then why did we bother with this article?
Well, seeing is the process of pointing out both what might be and what probably isn’t. In pointing out there are great men and there are men who pretend to be great. In showing that there is actual knowledge and there is far too much distraction that purposely or otherwise hides it.
And perhaps in showing that we could be mistaken in suggesting there would be quite a bit more collective advancement if great marketing was not mistaken for great achievement, as afterall Mitnick could well be Nakamoto despite this man seemingly being a considerable media fabrication. As perhaps is Nakamoto.
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