Heeeee's back: Hacker Kevin Mitnick free to use computers again

Almost eight years after his arrest in North Carolina on charges related to a two-year computer hacking spree, notorious hacker Kevin Mitnick today is finally free to use computers and roam the Internet.

Mitnick plans to hit his girlfriend's Web log to find out "what she's been saying about me," and send an e-mail message to U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman to ask for a pardon.

"It's a great relief. I'm glad to get this all behind me," Mitnick said in a phone interview.

Mitnick was forbidden from using the Internet under the terms of a plea agreement he reached with federal law enforcement officials following his arrest in 1995.

As part of that agreement (see story), Mitnick was barred from using computers or other devices, including modems and electronic organizers, as part of a period of supervision following his release from prison in 2000 after almost five years behind bars.

Mitnick was also barred from working in the computer industry and, for a while, from even speaking or writing publicly about computers or computer security issues.

Shortly after his release (see story), Mitnick challenged the prohibition on speaking and writing about computers, arguing that it went too far and violated his First Amendment right to free speech. A federal judge ruled in 2000 that such blanket decisions were unacceptable without consideration of the specific offers.

Since that time, Mitnick has written about security for print and online publications, hosted a radio call-in show and published a book titled The Art of Deception, which highlights the threat to businesses posed by "social engineering" -- the ability to extract valuable information about internal computer systems from employees.

Mitnick also continued his struggles with the U.S. government, going to court against the Federal Communications Commission in an effort to regain his ham radio license.

In October, 39-year-old Mitnick put the two Toshiba Corp. Satellite notebook computers seized by law enforcement officers up for auction on eBay.com in an effort to raise money to pay his legal bills for the FCC fight. Those auctions were ultimately canceled after a number of fraudulent bids were received, according to Mitnick.

Surfing the Web will be high on his list of activities on his first day of Net freedom, and his first time surfing and using the Internet since his capture in 1995 will be featured on the TechTV program The Screen Savers, Mitnick said.

The first Web site the ex-hacker plans to visit will be that of his girlfriend, Darci, who maintains a Web log about life with him. Actor Kevin Spacey's TriggerStreet.com will also be high on his list of sites to visit, Mitnick said.

Mitnick said his first e-mail message will be addressed to Democratic presidential candidate Joseph Lieberman, who invited Mitnick to testify before Congress on computer hacking and strategies to secure critical infrastructure from hackers in 2000.

Mitnick, who has expressed an interest in pursuing a career in law, plans to ask Lieberman for a pardon, saying that Lieberman told him at the time that he would make a great attorney.

"I plan to remind him of our conversation and let him know that I could still use that pardon," Mitnick said.

After three years of experiencing the Internet only through proxies and reams of computer printouts, Mitnick said that he is most looking forward to using instant messaging and a new BlackBerry 6710 wireless handheld device, bought for him by his girlfriend as a "getting-off-probation gift," Mitnick said.

In addition to rejoining the Internet community for the first time since Windows 95 was being beta-tested, Mitnick plans to pursue customers for his security consulting business, Defensive Thinking Inc., and will update the KevinMitnick.com Web site, thanking supporters and posting all the legal documents stemming from his fights with the federal government as a resource for lawyers and civil libertarians interested in the case, he said.

Mitnick said that he intends to use the Internet as a tool for research and for keeping up with technology only and that hacking is out of the question.

"I'm just looking forward to contributing to society and living the American dream," he said.

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Copyright © 2003 IDG Communications, Inc.

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