Hacker free to browse Web again

"Are you there Joe? It's me, Kevin!"

Almost eight years after his arrest in North Carolina on charges related to a two year computer hacking spree, notorious hacker Kevin Mitnick on Tuesday was 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. Senator Joe 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, 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 September, 2000 after spending 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, Mitnick challenged the prohibition on speaking and writing about computers, arguing that it was overboard 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 on-line publications, hosted a radio call-in show and published a book, "The Art of Deception," in October that highlighted the threat posed to companies 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 U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in an effort to regain his ham radio license.

In October, the 39 year-old Mitnick put the two Toshiba 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 cancelled after a number of fraudulent bids were received, according to Mitnick.

Surfing the Web will be high on the list of activities in Mitnick's first day of 'Net freedom. His first time surfing and using the Internet since his capture in 1995 will be 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 (or blog) of life with Kevin. (See http://www.labmistress.com.)

Actor Kevin Spacey's www.triggerstreet.com Web site will also be high on the list of sites to visit, Mitnick said.

Mitnick's first e-mail message will be addressed to Senator and presidential candidate Joe 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 print outs, 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, and will update the http://www.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 he intends to use the Internet as a tool for research and 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," Mitnick said.

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Paul Roberts

PC World
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