Hacker's media career in probation officer's hands

Published June 27th, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

Thirty-six-year-old Kevin Mitnick, who spent five years in jail following a 1995 guilty plea to computer and wire fraud, has been offered a job writing columns for a new computer magazine and a radio talk show, but the judge in his case has ruled he needs his probation officer's permission to take the gig.  

A Reuters report said Mitnick has been refused permission by probation officer Larry Hawley to take the job at "Contentville," due to launch next month, even though he intends to write the columns on a typewriter.  

US District Judge Mariana Pfaelzer refused to overrule Hawley's decision, which maintains that the former hacker, who was released from federal prison in January, is barred from using computers or working in the computer industry as a condition of his three-year parole. 

"I'm just trying to make a living like the next guy," Mitnick was quoted by Reuters as saying. 

"I'm not interested in hacking anymore, but I have so much experience in it, I'm trying to make lemonade out of lemons. I'm just trying to turn myself around."  

US District Judge Mariana Pfaelzer said blanket decisions by the probation officer were unacceptable without consideration of the specific offers, but she gave no indication of easing any of the conditions of his 36 months of supervised release.  

"We've had a terrible, terrible time with this defendant," said Pfaelzer, recalling Mitnick's three-year flight from justice while hacking into computer systems of major corporations. 

"But he should not be treated differently than anyone else."  

Under the terms of his release, Mitnick is prohibited from having any contact with computers, cellphones, computer networks, personal information assistants, and televisions that can be used for online access. 

He's also barred from working as a consultant to computer companies or any firms with access to computers.  

Mitnick, considering the offers, sought court approval because he could be jailed if he violated terms of his probation by taking the jobs. The probation officer had sent him a general notice of disapproval of such work.  

Mitnick's lawyer, Sherman Ellison, said the onetime hacker is a changed man since spending five years in federal prison and wants to speak out on computer-related issues to deter others from cyber crime.  

"He seems to be a valuable asset both to government and to the private sector," Ellison was quoted as saying by The Associated Press. "If Mr. Mitnick speaks out, he will be a deterrent."  

But Pfaelzer was clearly concerned about what Mitnick would do if given free rein.  

"We couldn't find Mr. Mitnick for a very long time," the judge said, refusing to approve his latest travel request to appear before a governmental committee in Washington, DC. 

The US Commission on National Security/21st Century, chaired by former Sens. Gary Hart and Warren Rudman, invited Mitnick to address questions of national security in the information age. The judge suggested they could take his testimony in California.  

Mitnick became an icon to some hackers after leading the FBI on a three-year manhunt that ended in 1995 when investigators traced his electronic footprints to a Raleigh, NC, apartment.  

Mitnick, who was released from prison in January, is said to have cost companies and institutions millions of dollars by stealing their software and altering computer information. Victims included such companies as Motorola, Novell, Nokia and Sun Microsystems, and the University of Southern California -- (Various Sources)

© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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