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Hacker's auctions stir up controversy

Kevin Mitnick, the infamous hacker, finds a new and controversial way to make money: auctioning his personal items online.

    Kevin Mitnick, the infamous hacker, has found a new and controversial way to make money: auctioning his personal items online.

    Released in January after serving nearly five years in prison for hacking-related crimes, Mitnick is selling his prison identification card and autographed "Free Kevin" bumper stickers on start-up auction site

    Forbidden by the terms of his release from using a computer or the Internet, Mitnick is selling the items through his father.

    Although Mitnick has already sold a mobile phone and a TRS-80 pocket computer through eBay, the leading auction site canceled his auction of the ID card, Mitnick said Thursday. After and canceled similar auctions of the card on their sites, Mitnick moved the auction to

    Insisting that the auction is legal, Mitnick called the actions of the leading auction sites "ridiculous and absurd."

    "I'm insulted by it," Mitnick said. "If there was a law against it, then I wouldn't blame them."

    Singling out eBay, Mitnick accused the site of canceling his auction because "they didn't like the idea that I'm profiting off the fact that I went to prison."

    Representatives from Yahoo and Amazon confirmed that the sites canceled the auctions, believing the sale of the ID card was against the law. eBay representatives declined to comment.

    "It's illegal to sell something that's owned by the federal government," said Amazon spokeswoman Richele Craveiro. "If he wants to relist the item, he has to have written proof from the government that he can sell it."

    A spokesman for the federal Bureau of Prisons, which issued the ID card, did not immediately respond to calls seeking comment. But founder Eric Rosenberg said he had no concerns that the site was doing anything illegal by allowing the auction.

    "We have contacted our attorneys and asked them to research it," Rosenberg said. "They found no laws that said we were doing anything against the law. We are not concerned that we have legal liability on this."

    Mitnick has been no stranger to controversy. Convicted of stealing computer manuals as a 17-year-old in 1981, Mitnick has bounced in and out of the court system since then, primarily on hacking-related charges. After eluding authorities for three years, he was arrested in 1995 after being tracked down by computer security expert Tsutomu Shimomura.

    More recently, Mitnick fought against a speaking ban imposed by his probation officer. The ban, later rescinded, would have prohibited him from speaking or writing about computer-related topics. As part of the conditions of his release from prison, Mitnick is prohibited from using a broad range of computer and electronic devices.

    Earlier this month, Mitnick's Motorolla StarTAC phone fetched a $355 winning bid on eBay. His TRS-80 computer sold for $510 on another eBay auction.

    But the ID card may far outpace both of those sales. Bidding on the card, which started last week, has already reached $2,000. The auction will close December 9.

    An auction for Mitnick's ham radio was canceled Thursday. Mitnick denied that he had closed the auction, which was scheduled to end Sunday, and blamed eBay for the auction's closure. Bidding on the radio had reached $237.50.

    Mitnick and his father have used the auction to take a swipe at leading auction sites.

    "Next month, Kevin will be hosting a talk radio show discussing everything about the Internet," the item description reads. "Among the first show topics, Kevin will discuss the unfair practices of certain online auction sites that engage in questionable practices. It has recently been brought to Kevin's attention that online auction sites can indiscriminately pull items at will and without justification. Stay tuned--further details to follow."