Tech by VICE

How Kevin Mitnick Stole the Source Code for the Best Cell Phone of 1992

While on the run from the feds, Kevin Mitnick stole the source code of the Motorola MicroTAC Ultralite, the most advanced cellphone at the time, with a few phone calls.

by Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai
Nov 14 2018, 5:35pm

Image: Koji Yamamoto/Motherboard

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In 1992, Kevin Mitnick was on the run from the cops, one of the most wanted men in the United States, and certainly the most wanted hacker. He was living in Denver under a pseudonym, and was very worried about government surveillance.

To avoid it, he thought it’d be a good idea to hack the Motorola MicroTAC Ultralite, the iPhone X of the 1990s. His plan was to try changing the identifying data on the phone, or even turn off the ability for cellphone towers to connect to it and, thus, give the cops his location.

That’s when he made “the stupid and regrettable decision” to go after the phone’s source code. The rest, as they say, is history—hacking history to be precise.

We sat down with Mitnick, who told us how he stole the source that source code just using social engineering over the phone for the latest episode of Greatest Moments in Hacking History, our series on the most famous and influential hacks in the history of information security.

Watch the episode here.