Instead of hiring criminal defense attorneys as has been the trend with too many high-profile Scientologists in the past five years, Scientologist Stu Sjouwerman is popping the cork on a bottle of champagne after selling his cybersecurity firm KnowBe4 for $4.6 billion. We congratulate Stu Sjouwerman and his team on their success.
Intriguingly, the KnowBe4 story does involve non-Scientologist Kevin Mitnick who was once the most notorious computer hacker in the world. After serving prison time in the 1990’s, Mitnick went legit and became an expert on social engineering. He later partnered with Sjouwerman to form the cybersecurity firm KnowBe4 in Clearwater, Florida. Mitnick became KnowBe4’s Chief Hacking Officer. Mitnick’s job is to see if he can hack KnowBe4’s products in a real world setting.
As we previously wrote, Stu Sjouwerman departed from L. Ron Hubbard’s policy by partnering with a “Type B” which is a convicted felon. Under normal circumstances, OSA would call Sjouwerman in for a severe ethics handling for hiring a Type B. However, by the time Sjouwerman partnered with Mitnick, the former hacker was a big moneymaker and a celebrity in the computer world. As money and celebrity always buy forgiveness in Scientology, it was all upside for Sjouwerman and his Church.
Vista Equity Partners has agreed to a $4.6 billion all-cash deal to acquire KnowBe4, a publicly traded cybersecurity company specializing in helping enterprise workers avoid phishing attacks.
“Under Vista’s ownership, we will have access to additional resources and support, which will help us achieve our goals and deliver enhanced value to our customers,” KnowBe4 founder and CEO Stu Sjouwerman noted in a press release.
Founded in 2010, Clearwater, Florida-based KnowBe4 delivers simulated phishing attacks via the browser, offering a range of programs spanning videos, games, interactive modules and more. It’s all about getting workers to know how to spot an attack, and reduce the “human error” factor from a company’s attack surface.
The unlikely duo of Stu Sjouwerman and Kevin Mitnick each control 7.86 percent of KnowBe4 stock, so the Scientologist and the famous hacker Kevin Mitnick are in for a big pre-tax payday of about $360 million each. Mitnick, once the most notorious computer hackers in the world, served time in prison in the 1990’s after living as a fugitive for many years:
In 1999, Mitnick pleaded guilty to four counts of wire fraud, two counts of computer fraud, and one count of illegally intercepting a wire communication, as part of a plea agreement before the United States District Court for the Central District of California in Los Angeles. He was sentenced to 46 months in prison plus 22 months for violating the terms of his 1989 supervised release sentence for computer fraud. He admitted to violating the terms of supervised release by hacking into Pacific Bell voicemail and other systems and to associating with known computer hackers, in this case co-defendant Lewis De Payne.
Mitnick served five years in prison—four-and-a-half years’ pre-trial and eight months in solitary confinement—because, according to Mitnick, law enforcement officials convinced a judge that he had the ability to “start a nuclear war by whistling into a pay phone”, implying that law enforcement told the judge that he could somehow dial into the NORAD modem via a payphone from prison and communicate with the modem by whistling to launch nuclear missiles. In addition, a number of media outlets reported on the unavailability of kosher meals at the prison where he was incarcerated.
How soon before Scientology’s regges (fundraisers) will be knocking at Stu Sjouwerman’s door demanding Scientology’s cut of the money from the sale? The speed can be measured in nanoseconds. Sjouwerman and his wife Rebecca have been large scale donors to Scientology for many years and have all of the IAS trophies to prove it.
Back in the 1990’s when Scientology was on a rampage against this new thing called the internet, Scientology’s lunatic in-house Freedom Magazine wrote a vitriolic hit piece on Stu Sjouwerman’s future All-Star employee and money-maker Kevin Mitnick (Note: here is the live link to Scientology’s webpage where the Mitnick story appears; use a VPN if you have concerns):
Kevin Mitnick, who has been called a “computer terrorist” by the Department of Justice, is perhaps the most high-profile computer criminal — and responsible for more havoc in the computer world today than virtually any other computer outlaw. Mitnick explored computers and telephone systems for more than a decade, turning complex systems into the instruments of his lawless trade. For years, he refined his skills and pushed himself up the ladder of computerized criminality…
In 1989, he was convicted of computer fraud after breaking into MCI telephone computers and accessing long distance codes, as well as doing millions of dollars in damage to Digital Equipment Corporation. Judge Mariana Pfaelzer of the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles ordered him to receive therapy while in prison — likening his obsessive hacking to substance abuse — and prohibited him from use of a telephone or a computer. He served one year behind bars in a minimum-security prison. But when Mitnick was released, little had changed.
In September 1992, warrant-carrying FBI agents searched Mitnick’s Calabasas, California, office on suspicion of Mitnick having violated probation by hacking. The California Department of Motor Vehicles concurrently sought him for posing as a law enforcement officer to gain classified information and possibly creating false identities.
By November 1992, Mitnick had disappeared, a wanted man — but it didn’t slow his mania for computer crime. By late 1994, he was purloining computer files, e-mail and software from a computer belonging to Tsutomu Shimomura, computational physicist and computer security expert in San Diego. Shimomura was incensed and began a crusade to find the intruder. Then technology consultant Bruce Koball in Berkeley, California, discovered strange files stored in an account which he occasionally used. After a short inspection, he found they were Shimomura’s — and Mitnick’s undoing was under way.
Koball contacted Shimomura, who confirmed that the files were his and took off on the trail of the culprit, Mitnick, accompanied by FBI agents and federal marshals. After an elaborate cyberspace chase, Mitnick was brought down. On February 15, 1995, he surrendered from his apartment in Raleigh, North Carolina, surrounded by FBI agents.
Mitnick waived extradition and is now in jail in California, charged with computer fraud and illegal use of a telephone access device. The list of allegations against him include theft of many files and documents, including 20,000 credit card numbers from Netcom On-Line Services, which provides thousands with access to the Internet.
If convicted, Mitnick faces up to 35 years in prison and half a million dollars in fines. Until this most recent apprehension, the FBI had termed Mitnick “the most wanted computer criminal in the country” — and the techniques that snared Mitnick this time will help federal authorities gain an understanding of how to catch veteran computer thieves.
Given Kevin Mitnick’s admirable self-reformation (which he achieved without Scientology) and his significant contribution to Stu Sjouwerman’s financial success, we think Freedom Magazine owes Mr. Mitnick a new article in which it tells the story of his reformation and partnership with Stu Sjouwerman.
Of course, as Freedom Magazine is itinerant these days, this could be an episode for Scientology TV entitled The Former Hacker and the OT: Making $4.6 Billion in Clearwater.