In a community known for its acrid, sometimes misogynistic discourse on Twitter, Kaminsky stood out for his empathy. He despised Twitter pile-ons and served as a mentor to journalists and aspiring hackers. He often paid a hotel or a Black Hat travel bill for those who couldn’t afford it. When a protégé broke up with her boyfriend, Mr. Kaminsky bought her a plane ticket to visit the young man and believed that it should be her. (They married.)
It was open when privacy and security were at stake. After the FBI tried to force Apple to weaken the encryption of its iPhones in 2015 in federal court, James B. Comey, who was then FBI director, testified to Congress in 2016 that he did not ask for a back door, Instead, Apple asked for a back door to “take away the malicious watchdog and let us open the lock”.
“I’m that vicious watchdog, and that used to be a compliment,” Mr. Kaminsky said to this reporter at the time. “The question for Mr. Comey is, what is America’s policy like right now? Is it to make things safer or less secure? “
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil liberties group, said in a tweet on Saturday that Mr. Kaminsky was a “friend of freedom and the embodiment of the true hacking spirit.” Jeff Moss, founder of the DefCon and Black Hat hacking conferences, suggested Mr. Kaminsky be inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame.
Mr. Kaminsky’s generosity extended to his many side projects. When a friend was struggling with color blindness, he developed the DanKam, a mobile app that uses a phone’s camera to decode colors that the color blind would otherwise not be able to decipher. When his grandmother Raia Maurer (97) experienced hearing loss, he focused again on hearing aid technology.
And when his aunt, a dermatologist, told him that she could no longer treat patients with insufficient resources for AIDS-related skin diseases, some of which could potentially be fatal, in sub-Saharan refugee camps and in Rohingya, Mr. Kaminsky helped develop it telemedical instruments for the National Institutes of Health and AMPATH, an Indiana University health project that he planned to bring to San Francisco during the coronavirus pandemic.
In addition to his mother, father and grandmother, his sister Angie Roberts and his stepfather, Mr. Kaminsky, survive.