http://www.wired.com/news/infostructure/0,1377,57338,00.html 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 scrutinized. 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 relief." Offstage, Woznial decried the government's over-zealous prosecution of Mitnick. "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 present. Woz actually bought Mitnick two PowerBooks. The first one he lent to a friend in hospital, but hadn't yet gotten it back. - ISN is currently hosted by Attrition.org To unsubscribe email majordomoat_private with 'unsubscribe isn' in the BODY of the mail.
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