Hacker Mitnick's Internet homecoming

Notorious computer hacker Kevin Mitnick goes back online for the first time after a jail term and a period of probation that combined lasted nearly a decade.

Robert Lemos Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Robert Lemos
covers viruses, worms and other security threats.
Robert Lemos
3 min read
Notorious computer hacker Kevin Mitnick is going online Tuesday for the first time in nearly a decade.

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Notorious hacker plans high-tech future
Kevin Mitnick, convicted hacker
The event marks the end of a long journey for the 39-year-old convicted cybercriminal. Mitnick began his trip through the U.S. legal system in February 1995, when he was captured in a raid and sent to jail for almost five years for computer crimes against companies including Sun Microsystems and Motorola. The prison term was followed by another three and a half years of restrictions regarding Mitnick's access to computers and the Internet.

"The greatest relief is that I am no longer subject to any conditions of supervised release," Mitnick said in an interview Tuesday. "I am a free man."

Mitnick, whose Internet homecoming happens at 4 p.m. PST on TechTV's ScreenSavers, said he will first go to the Web site of his girlfriend, Darci Wood, a former TechTV producer. He also plans to visit the Web site of actor and producer Kevin Spacey, with whom Mitnick has discussed a movie deal.

Finally, he plans to send an e-mail to Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., to ask for a pardon for his crimes should Lieberman's presidential bid be successful. Mitnick spoke with Lieberman when the former hacker testified in front of Congress in March 2000.

The end of the Internet restrictions removes a steep hurdle from the path Mitnick now hopes to take: entering the computer-security industry as a legitimate consultant. Mitnick has already founded his own company, Defensive Thinking, and on Monday he interviewed for a security position with a Santa Clara, Calif., company, the name of which he declined to divulge.

"Being prohibited from the Internet has been an impediment going forward with my own business," Mitnick said.

While under the ban, Mitnick wrote his first book, "The Art of Deception," and had his own radio show. He also tried to make money on eBay by selling the computers he used to break into various companies. (Because of the Net restriction, friends handled all details of the auction.)

In October, Mitnick thought he had sold the Toshiba Satellite laptop seized by the FBI in the February 1995 raid that led to his arrest. The final bid on the 486DX laptop with Windows 95 was $15,200, but the bidder turned out to be a teenager using his parents' eBay account. A second laptop, taken by Seattle police in an unsuccessful bid to capture Mitnick, also failed to sell.

Mitnick has placed both laptops on eBay again. In addition, the former hacker has set up another eBay auction, for the Sony Vaio that he used to write his book and that he will use to get online Tuesday. Finally, Mitnick also plans to auction off the cell phone he was using when the FBI caught him.

Mitnick hopes to replace the laptops with a 17-inch Apple PowerBook. While he continues to play with computers and technology, he stressed that misusing them is something he will never do again.

"I learned my lesson," Mitnick said. "(I) have a lot of plans, and hacking isn't part of them."