Kevin Mitnick was once the Earth's most wanted hacker. This highly stylized film juxtaposes his extraordinary hacking adventures with the infamous Koobface virus that attacked social networks in 2008.
On December 8, 1998, the most popular website on the planet was hijacked by hackers revealing that every computer that used Yahoo around that time now had a virus within. Come December 25 it would detonate and destroy millions of computers infected unless the authorities gave in to their demands to FREE KEVIN. But "who is Kevin?" many asked.
Three years earlier, in 1995, 32-year-old Kevin Mitnick was arrested and convicted for computer hacking, wire fraud, cellular phone cloning and more. By then, Kevin was already a 20-year hacking veteran, including allegedly hacking into the North American Aerospace Defense Command or NORAD in 1981, when he was only 17.
Using social engineering and legitimate computer science know-how, he also took over voicemail at Pacific Bell and infiltrated other big companies like Nokia, Fujitsu, and more. He was on the run for two years and was caught by a top cyber security expert. He spent four of his five years in prison in solitary confinement.
Fast forward to 2008, when a virus called "Koobface" spread through early social media platforms, such as MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, and Yahoo Mail and Gmail, throughout various websites and into the Mac ecosystem.
In this instance, Kevin and Koobface share many similarities, using social engineering to commit fraud. Koobface used Fast-flux, where IP addresses constantly changed at high speeds, making it extremely difficult to trace the source. It was cleverly disguised, people would unknowingly download it, and it secretly attached itself to CTA buttons that, once clicked, would download a PDF to scan the contents of your computer.
The virus would then reroute you to wherever it wanted you to go, usually to a host of affiliate networks before you click out to get to your original destination. They earned money for those clicks.
The minute the user noticed the slow loading time and more pop-ups, Koobface would offer virus cleaning software. Once you signed up and paid, they took your money and ran, leaving you with less cash and more virus. Eventually, digital investigators found out who was behind Koobface, a group called "Alibaba and 4". Koobface went offline, its perpetrators gone and off the grid.
Going back to 1997, Christmas Day came and went without any of the promised FREE KEVIN explosions. It was a giant hoax started by the "Free Kevin" movement.
Kevin Mitnick was given his freedom in 2000. When he entered prison, he was considered a high-risk convict, but the world needed his skill set by the time he was released. He testified in the Senate, advising them on better-protecting computers from hijackers and is now a whitehat hacker.