[ISN] Live on the Web: Kevin Mitnick

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Thu Jan 23 2003 - 03:28:36 PST

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    By Leander Kahney 
    Jan. 22, 2003
    After an absence of eight years, hacker Kevin Mitnick rediscovered the
    Web on Tuesday afternoon. He did exactly what everyone does when they
    first log on: he vanity surfed, wrestled with browser plug-ins and was
    assailed by popup porn ads.
    Mitnick, once labeled "the most wanted computer criminal in U.S.  
    history," hadn't surfed the Web since 1995, when he was arrested for
    breaking into the networks of software and phone companies.
    Mitnick served five years in a federal prison for wire fraud, computer
    fraud and intercepting communications.
    Freed in January 2000, Mitnick's probation forbade him from connecting
    to the Internet or sending e-mail, although he was allowed to use
    unconnected computers, cell phones and his ham radio under the strict
    supervision of his parole officer. Travel and employment were also
    When Mitnick's parole expired at midnight, Jan. 20, he was too busy
    partying to surf the Web, so he logged on the following afternoon
    during TechTV's live Screen Savers TV show.
    The first site Mitnick visited was his girlfriend Darci Wood's weblog,
    where their relationship has been documented. "I wanted to see what
    she'd said about me," Mitnick said after the show.
    Mitnick then visited a series of sites -- the Screen Savers, Slashdot,
    Google News, Wired News and The Register, among others -- mostly to
    see what others had been writing about him.
    The show had invited two aides to help him surf the Web: the legendary
    hackers Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, and Emanuel Goldstein,
    publisher of the hacker quarterly 2600, a vocal supporter of the
    long-running "Free Kevin" campaign.
    The second site Mitnick visited -- actor Kevin Spacey's TriggerStreet
    (the pair are collaborating on a project) -- required him to download
    the Flash plug-in. He responded with a puzzled shoulder shrug, but Woz
    and Goldstein helped him out.
    Soon after, off-camera, a series of porn popups burst across his
    computer screen. "Whoops," Mitnick laughed.
    When Mitnick was locked up, the Web was mostly text. Popup ads and
    multimedia were nonexistent. The last browser he used was an early
    version of Mosaic (which later became Netscape's Navigator).
    Mitnick also visited the Joy of Tech, which has cartoons about him;  
    the Internet Movie Database, to see his listing for a TV appearance as
    CIA agent; 2600 (Free Kevin), Amazon, to check on his book; The Art of
    Deception; and his new security company's website, Defensive Thinking.
    "I really want to check out online banking," he joked, as a taped
    police siren wailed in the background.
    "The Internet is like the phone," Mitnick said on-air. "To be without
    it is ridiculous. I could not use an electronic toilet without
    permission from the U.S. government."
    Ironically, The New York Times on Tuesday reported that two federal
    appellate courts ruled Internet prohibition was too broad a punishment
    for computer criminals. The Internet was as essential as a phone, the
    courts said.
    "The day I get off," Mitnick said with a shrug.
    Mitnick planned to send his first e-mail to Sen. Joseph Lieberman, the
    Connecticut Democrat who is running for president. They met last year
    when Mitnick was testifying before Congress on computer security
    issues. Impressed by Mitnick's performance, Lieberman recommended that
    he become a lawyer. But Mitnick said his conviction prohibited it.  
    Mitnick plans to ask Lieberman for a pardon if he becomes president so
    he can follow his advice.
    Before his arrest, Mitnick led the FBI on an intensive three-year
    manhunt. During his trial, Mitnick was portrayed as a "computer
    terrorist" and accused of causing tens of millions of dollars in
    damage to computer networks.
    Mitnick said he was so demonized, authorities held him for 4-1/2 years
    without a trial or bail hearing. Eight of those months were spent in
    solitary confinement.
    He spent five years in jail for what he claims was essentially
    harmless hacking for educational purposes. He said he was denied
    access to a pay phone in prison, because prosecutors argued he might
    launch a nuclear strike by whistling into the handset.
    Mitnick claims he never deleted files, crashed computers or stole
    money, although he had plenty of opportunity to do so.
    Mitnick's parole prevented him from using most electronic gadgets, or
    even connecting to the Internet through a third party. He worried that
    booking a flight over the phone, which required an agent to log onto
    the Net, might send him back to jail.
    Mitnick was delighted he no longer had to be extremely cautious about
    everything he did. "It's a relief," he said. "It's a tremendous
    Offstage, Woznial decried the government's over-zealous prosecution of
    "He didn't do anything that was completely disastrous," Wozniak said.  
    "He didn't destroy any files or steal any money. He was punished so
    severely, so unusually, for things he hadn't done, it gave hacking, an
    innocent activity, a bad name."
    Woz, a legendary hacker who built blue boxes -- telephone hacking
    devices -- with Steve Jobs before the pair launched Apple, presented
    Mitnick with a brand-new Titanium PowerBook as a parole graduation
    Woz actually bought Mitnick two PowerBooks. The first one he lent to a
    friend in hospital, but hadn't yet gotten it back.
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