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Kevin Mitnick Answers 726

Kevin Mitnick has been crazy-busy with media tours and book promotion stuff, and apologizes for taking so long to answer your questions. But answer he has, at length and in detail, with a brief intro at the start to correct a story in which he says he was misquoted. He has some other things on which he wants to set the record straight, too. Lots of them. Strong stuff here.


I wish to make a correction to a story that was posted about my interview with Yahoo Internet Life magazine several months ago. The author misquoted a statement of mine that I wish to clarify for the entire Slashdot readership.

I had never recommended that the Federal Government establish a DNA database to track our identities or our locations. I explained to the journalist that I believed the government would use DNA as a means of authentication in the future. Of course, many Slashdot readers flamed me for something I never said, or that was taken out of context by the writer. Consider who I am and what I been through. Do you really believe that I would advocate such a thing? Absolutely not!

1) John Markoff (Score:5, Interesting)
by Memophage

Since 1995, we've been subjected to numerous articles, three books, and (for those who have managed to download a copy) a movie mostly based on information written about you by John Markoff. I've heard you rant about his demonizing writings, the damage they did to your reputation (particularly the '95 NYT article), and your inability to refute his assertions at the time since you were trying to avoid arrest. What are the pieces of misinformation that you'd most like to refute, and how much damage do you think the actions of this one reporter has done to your life?


John Markoff had first libeled me in his book, Cyperpunk, which he co-authored with his former wife, Katie Hafner. In and around 1990, Markoff and Hafner contacted me to request my participation for a book about three hackers, including myself. In considering their request, I asked about their budget to compensate me for my time and/or life story rights. Both Markoff and Hafner were unwilling to compensate me as a source, because it was unethical. I explained that it was unethical for me to give them my story for free. We were at an impasse.

Sometime later, Markoff or Hafner gave me an ultimatum to cooperate, or any statement made by any source would be reported as fact. As it turned out, that's exactly what Markoff and Hafner did. Markoff or Hafner interviewed other phone phreaker or hackers, including my co-conspirator, Steven Rhoades and Lenny Dicicco. One or both of these individuals had falsely claimed that I hacked into NORAD in 1983, coincidentally the year Wargames was released. I never attempted to compromise NORAD or any other military installations. Rather than verify the authenticity of their claims with the alleged victims, Markoff and Hafner just wrote their statements as fact.

When published in the early 90's, the book portrayed me as ultimate "Darkside Hacker." I truly believed that both Markoff and Hafner had acted with malice, because I refused to interview or cooperate unless I was paid. The authors made substantial efforts to cast me in the most unfavorable light, supported by false statements, presumably to get even with me and to increase interest in the "story."

Several months after Markoff's book was published, a movie producer phoned with great news: Hollywood was interested in making a movie about the Darkside Hacker depicted in Cyberpunk. I pointed out that the story was full of inaccuracies and untruths about me, but he was still very excited about the project. I accepted $5,000 for a two-year option, against an additional $45,000 if they were able to get a production deal and move forward. When the option expired, the production company asked for a six-month extension. By this time, I was gainfully employed, and so had little motivation for seeing a movie produced that showed me in such an unfavorable and false light. I refused to go along with the extension. That killed the movie deal for everyone, including Markoff and Hafner, who had probably expected to make a great deal of money from the project. Here was one more reason for John Markoff to be vindictive toward me.

I'd never met Mr. Markoff until February 17, 1995, at my second court appearance in Raleigh, and yet Mr. Markoff has literally become a millionaire by virtue of his libelous and defamatory reporting -- and I use the word "reporting" loosely -- about me in the New York Times and in his 1991 book Cyberpunk.

On July 4th, 1994, an article written by Mr. Markoff was published on the front page of the New York Times, above the fold. Included in that article were numerous un-sourced allegations about me that were stated as fact, which even a minimal process of fact-checking would have revealed as being untrue or unproven.

In that same defamatory article, Mr. Markoff falsely claimed that I had wiretapped the FBI (I hadn't), that I had broken into the computers at NORAD (which aren't even connected to any network on the outside), and that I was a computer "vandal" despite the fact that I never intentionally damaged any data I've ever accessed. Mr. Markoff even claimed that I foreshadowed the movie, War Games, when a simple call to the screenwriter of that movie would have revealed that he had never heard of me when he wrote his script.

Many of the same rumors were repeated in Markoff's subsequent New York Times stories of my arrest. Among the same false claims made in his 1994 article, Markoff had accused me of planting a false news story claiming that Security Pacific Bank lost millions of dollars when they withdrew a job offer. This claim is also false. Markoff's exaggerations about me were so egregious that one of the alleged victims in this case, the internet service provider The Well, demanded that Mr. Markoff issue a retraction for Mr. Markoff's overstatement of the damages claimed by him to have been caused by me.

I've learned a great many things in the past decade. I've learned that an unethical reporter for the New York Times who had a vendetta against me, had the power to destroy my life, based on his publication of repeated inaccuracies and outright falsehoods. I'll remind the reader that Mr. Markoff has failed to acknowledge a pre-existing relationship with me and with Tsutomu Shimomura since the publication of his false and defamatory article about me on July 4, 1994. Mr. Markoff has been hiding from the truth in this regard for over eight years.

I have stated repeatedly, that the crimes I committed were wrong, and that I deserved to be punished. I served nearly five years in prison as a result. As I said on the day I was released from Lompoc, I offered to plead guilty to the crimes I committed shortly after my arrest. Sadly, Mr. Markoff demonstrates no such sense of responsibility as he continues to insist his lies about me and my life, qualify as "reporting."

I sincerely believe that the Justice Department would not have labeled me a computer terrorist, and treated me as such, if it hadn't been for Markoff's false and defamatory reporting.

2) What were you thinking? (Score:5, Interesting)
by caferace

During your escapades which eventually landed you in hot water, you used the EFF account at The WELL to hide the files you stole from T. Shimomura. I'm still trying to figure out why the heck you did that. A simple "last" would have shown you that that was an active account, and you could have guessed that the user was probably technically savvy enough to notice the sudden spike in disk usage. Was that just an act of hacker hubris, or were you just not paying attention? Ultimately, it's what led to your downfall (FBI monitoring your keystrokes, live tracing of IPs) so I am well and truly curious.


I wasn't the only person who had access to Mr. Shimomura's computer systems and was storing information on The Well. Interestingly enough, the government never investigated the existence of any co-conspirators, once I was arrested. Kevin Mitnick was the only fish they wanted to fry.

Any accounts that were used by me had been dormant for at least three months. I changed the password to the account and shared it with other hackers. I overlooked checking cron for any scheduled scripts that were looking for disk hogs. We were discovered after a user was notified via a cron process that complained about our excessive disk usage. At the time, we didn't really care because the Well only contained a backup of the information we had stored. The same files were mirrored on several sites in the Netherlands, among others, that Shimomura and the FBI had never found. (No, I don't have any copies.)

While accessing the Well, I was carefree because my location was masked through many other computer systems and the cellular telecommunications network. I could have taken precautions by installing a covert backdoor to avoid the typical UNIX accounting and logging, but I didn't bother.

To avoid any traps and traces, I routinely compromised the local exchange carriers and cellular providers to gain access to their switches. Even if my connection was identified, I routed my data calls in a certain way that was very difficult to track in a reasonable amount of time. In one report, Shimomura had claimed that he and the FBI were unsuccessful at tracing any calls to the point of origin, but were only able to identify the cellular carrier.

As for avoiding detection, I underestimated the speed of the pursuit and that the FBI had been sharing confidential information, such as trap and trace data with Shimomura. Instead of tracing inbound calls, the cellular carrier did a terminating number search in their billing database searching for known Netcom POP dialups. As expected, the carrier identified the cell site and the MIN (mobile identification number) I was presently using. Since I changed my number on at least a daily basis, the cellular engineers monitored the cell site for anyone initiating data calls. Shimomura, Markoff, and the cellular provider's engineers used a Cellscope 2000 to trace the cellular radio signal to its origin (my location.)

Since I had just relocated to Raleigh within the last two weeks prior to my arrest, I was not vigilant in checking the dialup lines I used for caller line identification (trap and trace). Within hours of my arrest, I accessed the DMS switch only to notice that CLI (Caller Line Identification) had been put on the dialup hunt group assigned to Netcom in Research Triangle Park. I immediately started to investigate the extent of the surveillance and the party responsible for initiating the trap request. I found that an unidentified individual had accessed an account I was using at, from the Well's subnet. As I started to track down any logging of my activity, the U.S. Marshal Service and the FBI knocked on my door.

3) How Do You Plan on Getting Up to Speed? (Score:5, Interesting)
by bloxnet

I have read a bit about you, so I know that you were no slouch back in the days prior to your incarceration and release...but if you have actually stuck with the limits of your probation how are you planning to jump into consulting again?

Don't get me wrong, but you can only advise people on social engineering and easy passwords for so long ... what kind of knowledge did you already have on PKI, VPNs, Firewalls, IDSes? There seems to be so much that has changed that just a cursory understanding of the principles behind these technologies does not seem sufficient to serve as a consultant (or at least one I would pay for).

Since so much has changed radically in the last few years, how have you kept up or do you plan to keep up at the moment? I can't see just reading a book on the latest OS specs and administrative tasks and being able to consult on them without hands on experience, and in your case you have quite a few years of language, os, security, and other operational technology advances to get up to speed with, etc.

So basically....what's you game plan to get back to a modern day equivalent of the proficiency you had several years ago?


There's a widespread misconception that I only used social engineering attacks to compromise my targets. Not so. I do admit, however, that social engineering was extremely effective in reaching my goals without resorting to using a technical exploit. I would look for the weakest link in the chain that was the least risk and cost to me. This involves looking at the big picture, rather than focusing on a single access point. For instance, if an attacker can walk into the server room without much chance of detection, that's all she wrote.

You are correct that security technologies have evolved in the last decade. I haven't been living in a vacuum, even though the Bureau of Prisons made efforts to restrict my reading material. I've kept up with the many trends in the industry and have been able to use computers for the last year prior to the expiration of my supervised release, as long as I didn't access the Internet. I have plenty of previous experience working with security technologies such as firewalls, operating systems, configuration and patch management. As far as PKI and IDSes, I've kept up with the technology by reading until the time I was finally permitted to use computers in January, 2002. Of course, I still have a lot to learn since security technologies are evolving rapidly, but I have no doubt that I'll be up to speed in no time.

As you know, security is not a product that can be purchased off the shelf, but consists of policies, people, processes, and technology.

4) Social Engineering (Score:5, Interesting)
by dr_dank

I read your book and attended H2K2 last summer (I look forward to seeing you speak at the next one). I meant to ask this question to the Social Engineering panel:

Do you have any stories about Social Engineering gone awry? That is, a situation where the mark saw right through your ruse and you just couldn't pull it off.


Not really.

If the target was uncooperative, or skeptical, I would backpedal out of the request to avoid generating suspicion, and move on to the next person.

On one occasion, I was challenged by a friend of mine to get his Sprint Foncard number. He said he would buy me dinner if I could get it. I couldn't pass up a good meal so I phoned customer service and pretended to be from the IT department. I asked the rep if she was having any difficulties with her computer. She wasn't. I asked her the name of the system she uses to access customer accounts, to verify I was working with the right service center. She gave it to me. Immediately thereafter, I called back and got a new service rep. I told her my computer was down and I was trying to bring up a customer account. She brought it up on her terminal. I asked her for the customer's Foncard number? She started asking me a million questions? What was your name again? Who do you work for? What address are you at? You get the idea. Since I did not exercise any due diligence in my research, I just made up names and locations. It didn't work. She told me she was going to report my call to security!

Since I had her name, I briefed a friend of mine on the situation and asked him to pose as the "security investigator" so he could take a report. He called back customer service and was transferred to the woman. The "security investigator" said he received a report that unauthorized people were calling to obtain proprietary customer information. After getting the details of the "suspicious" call, the investigator asked what information the caller was after. She said the customer's Foncard number. The "investigator" asked for the number. She gave it to him. Whoops! Case closed!

5) Big question (Score:5, Funny)
by GMontag

What is the password to my PayPal account? I forgot it a while back.


It's guym0nt4g. Hope that helps!

6) What's it like? (Score:5, Interesting)
by Pii

Slashdot has no shortage of technological "Rock Stars" (Linus, ESR, RMS, Bruce Perins, etc), but most of them didn't attain their fame as a result of being prosecuted to the fullest extent allowable by law ... You are a notable exception. What's it like being a rock star, and how great is it that you'll now be able to fully capitalize on your fame in the financial sense? Would you be in as promising a position today had you not run afoul of the law?


A rock star? That's funny. My senior editor at Wiley had said the same thing when I was at the RSA security conference last year. I don't feel like a rock star, at least my bank account doesn't reflect it. Maybe I should partner up with Eminem?

The truth of the matter is I never was a hacker out for fame or prestige. I have to thank two reporters (John Markoff, New York Times and John Johnson, LA Times) and overzealous Federal prosecutors for over sensationalizing the Mitnick case.

Soon after my arrest in February 1995, my attorney told me that Federal prosecutors were demanding that I participate in a CIA debriefing because of national security interests. I laughed out loud, asking him to repeat the request. He did. After I agreed to the ridiculous demand, they immediately lost interest. It appears that the prosecutors were hoping to try the first hacking-spy case. It must have been extremely disappointing for the Justice Department, once they realized the true facts of the case in comparison with my larger-than-life reputation. Nonetheless, I was treated worse than a person accused of industrial espionage, in large part because of the appearance that I was a "computer terrorist", although the government never pointed to any facts that supported this hypothesis.

On a positive point, my case has received world-wide attention, in large part, because of hyperbole and the total disregard of my constitutional and statutory rights as the accused. More specifically, I was held in solitary confinement for eight months, in order to prevent a possible nuclear strike being initiated by me from a prison payphone, and was held for an unprecedented four and one-half years without a bailing hearing.

I can honestly say that I paid a heavy price for trespassing into global networks and copying source code. I plan to capitalize on my knowledge and talent by helping businesses mitigate their security risks. Of course, having name recognition can help attract potential clients. One of my initial goals is to turn my image around from the most notorious hacker in the world, into a positive one.

7) Question about Trust (Score:5, Interesting)
by Neck_of_the_Woods

I realize that you may have put your cracking days behind you but can you really address the question of trust in the computer security industry? How has your move into the security industry been received by the establishment, and how have you been dealing with the obvious question of you being trusted in the very area you manipulated?


My career in the information security profession has been met with much enthusiasm and good wishes. Of course, there are people that believe that hiring reformed hackers is out of the question. I don't agree with that blanket assessment. In fact, many retired or former hackers have legitimate careers in the security professional to assist businesses with risk mitigation.

The issue of trust has been a difficult challenge for me to face. Many people have bought into "The Myth of Kevin Mitnick" that was fueled by John Markoff's reporting in the New York Times. I have been wrongly accused of computer-related crimes that never happened, let alone committed by me. I strongly believe these myths have caused people to form opinions about me that are not based solely in fact.

As described below, I was never accused of abusing a position of trust, profiting from any illegal activity, or intentionally destroying information or computer systems. I illegally hacked into networks to look at, or copy software to advance my goals in finding security vulnerabilities. What I did was wrong, and I regret it. At the same time, I would not place myself into the same category as a convicted industrial spy or embezzler. I believe that actions speak louder than words. Therefore, I've taken my knowledge, experience, and background and used it to assist government and businesses in their efforts to shore up their defenses.

Although I've turned over a new leaf, my critics will surely speak up and discourage others from retaining my services. It's interesting to note that a conflict of interest may affect the judgment of some of my colleagues who work in the same industry. I believe that former non-malicious (no intent to cause harm) hackers can be extremely valuable in helping businesses identify their weaknesses in technologies and procedures.

This question is really a question of balance. Does the prospective employee (former hacker) bring enough knowledge, experience, or skills that outweighs the risks associated with hiring that person? You have to closely examine the background, values, beliefs, goals, and attitude, to gauge the risk to the business. In some cases, the person can be hired to perform a service that is a low risk or even risk free. I firmly believe that once a person has paid their debt to society for past transgressions, that individual should be free to pursue legitimate employment opportunities that benefit society.

People are human, and they make mistakes. We all have to learn to accept this fact and forgive our brothers and sisters.

8) still possible (Score:5, Interesting)
by adamruck

Given the state of technology today, and some of the recent new laws passed, do you think that the path that you took would still be possible today?


I believe you're asking whether I could accomplish the same hacking feats that I did many years ago, in light of the advancement in security technology and the new laws giving law enforcement officials broad surveillance powers.

First of all, I've learned my lesson, so taking the path I did before, is personally out of the question for me. My illegal hacking days are far behind me.

Breaking into systems and networks is much easier today than it was a decade ago. I spent many hours (improperly) acquiring and examining source code to find security vulnerabilities. Once I found a vulnerability, I would code an exploit for it. After a while, it became a very time consuming process.

Back in my hacking days, I compromised CERT, several software manufacturers that developed operating systems I favored, and a selected group of "security researchers" that reported security vulnerabilities. My goal at the time was to have knowledge of all the security holes.

In today's world, anyone with an Internet connection can obtain "security assessment" tools and/or published proof-of-concept exploit code. This information can be used by an attacker to compromise his or her targets without even knowing how the tool works or the bug is exploited.

There is more than one way to skin a cat: systems and networks can be compromised by exploiting other weaknesses other than security bugs. The target may have limited physical security, personnel security, or trusted insiders that can be deceived or bribed to hand over the keys to the kingdom.

Unfortunately, too many organizations are lulled into a false sense of security when they acquire and implement typical security technologies, such as firewalls and antivirus software. Although these technologies are essential in mitigating risk, in my personal experience, I have combined technical attacks with social engineering to compromise my targets. It's a lethal combination. No technology in the world can stop people from being manipulated and deceived. As the site posts, "there is no patch for stupidity."

Almost a decade after my arrest, computer systems and networks are still being successfully attacked on a daily basis. The saying, "The more things change, the more things stay the same" comes to mind.

The new laws such as the Patriot Act certainly gives law enforcement officials more surveillance powers, but it won't eliminate computer crime or hacking. The truth of the matter is the hacker mind does not consider the consequences when doing an illegal act, but gauges the risk of getting caught.

New Federal statutes certainly increase the risk (more surveillance without judicial review) of hackers being identified, but the more sophisticated ones will utilize new technologies, such as widespread open wireless networks, to stay under the government's radar.

The new amendment to existing Federal law making certain hacking offenses punishable by life in prison, without the possibility of parole, is ludicrous. More specifically, any person who recklessly or intentional causes serious bodily injury or death using a computer that affects interstate commerce, can be subject to this punishment. I don't understand why using a computer as a tool of the offense is such an aggravating circumstance. Should it matter whether it's a gun, motor vehicle, knife, hammer, or poison? The harm is still the same? Isn't it? If a person recklessly kills or serious injures another while driving, shouldn't that person be locked up for the rest of their life? In California, it's called involuntary manslaughter.

It appears the hyperbole of cyber terrorism has created a sense of fear surrounding using the computer as a tool to commit a crime. Unfortunately, the FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) has, in my opinion, been exploited by the Justice Department to advance their agenda of gaining more power and larger budgets.

9) What do you say? (Score:5, Interesting)
by PhysicsGenius

I've heard that you've expressed regret over the actions that landed you in jail and I think I even heard you say that you think you were in the wrong. So how do you respond to the hundreds of wannabes who hacked sites "in your honor" and wore "Free Kevin" shirts at the risk of repelling girls? Do you owe them anything, even a little guidance towards the straight and narrow?


I do regret over my past actions involving my computer hacking activities. What I did was wrong, against the law, and I deserved to be punished.

However, the punishment in my case was extremely harsh and did not fit the crime. I equate my illegal actions not to a person who molests children or burglarizes a house (I heard these specious analogies before), but to a person who illegally copies software.

The difference in my case is the software was proprietary. I was not an industrial spy, nor did I ever attempt to profit or damage any systems or information that I had illegally accessed. The government falsely claimed I had caused millions of dollars of loss, in an effort to demonize me in the press and the court. The truth of the matter is I regretfully did cause losses, but nowhere near a million dollars. The theory the government used to reach those numbers was to use the same formula for traditional theft or fraud cases. When a person steals money or property, the Federal Sentencing Guidelines use the value of the property lost, damaged, or destroyed as the loss amount. This formula works well with tangible property, but when the property at issue is information, or in my case source code, does the same formula reflect the true intended or actual loss? The government requested that my victims provide their research and development costs as the value of the information I either copied, or reviewed online (source code). Federal prosecutors simply added up all the R&D costs associated with the source code I had accessed, and used that number (approx $300 million) as the loss, even though it was never alleged that I intended to use or disclosed any source code. Interestingly enough, none of my victims had reported any losses attributable to my activities to their shareholders, as required by securities laws. Unfortunately, due to media hyperbole, the unknowing public believes I had caused these tremendous losses.

To this day, I believe this "formula" was used to further the government's agenda to turn me into the poster boy for computer hacking. Although I had committed socially unacceptable acts through my hacking, I've been turned into this mythological Lex Luthor type character that can destroy the world. As I write these words, I think back to the publicity campaign for libelous book Takedown: He could have crippled the world. Only one man could stop him: Shimomura. Oh Please!

  • First and foremost, I really can't start a nuclear war from a prison payphone, as prosecutors alleged, which resulted in my being placed in solitary confinement for eight months.
  • I served over four and one-half years in a Federal detention center prior to trial or settling the charges against me.
  • I'm the only person in United States history that was held without an initial bail hearing.
  • My residence was searched with a blank search warrant at the time of my arrest in Raleigh.
  • A government informant, Ron Austin, was working at my attorney's office at the same time he was representing me.

The Free Kevin campaign was initiated by a group of people who realized that Federal prosecutors and the Federal judiciary had turned a blind eye to my constitutional rights and statutory law that protects any person accused of a crime. To my amazement, some people believe my treatment was justified. With that in mind, I must remind you that our forefathers have fought and died in wars to preserve our freedoms and inalienable rights that we hold dear to our hearts. These inalienable rights also include constitutional and procedural due process that every person accused of a crime. Would my detractors have a change of heart if they or their family and friends were treated in the same fashion? I would assume so. I spent over four and one-half years in prison as a presumed innocent man, because Federal prosecutors were very adept at manipulating the technically-challenged judge who presided over the case. For instance, one prosecutor argued that my attorney should not be able to review the electronic evidence with me on a laptop computer, because I could somehow break into the Bureau of Prisons computers and release myself from custody, or write a virus/worm that would somehow leak out from the computer and wreak havoc upon the free world. I was astonished that the judge bought into these scenarios, even when my attorney pointed out the laptop did not have modem or network capability.

As to the question, I never advocated or condoned anyone hacking or damaging any computer system or network, in an effort to bring attention to my cause. I released a similar statement at the time of the major hacks into Yahoo and the New York Times.

I don't encourage, and in fact, discourage anyone from doing any illegal activity that affects other's property rights. However, I do advocate hacking in the sense that it does not amount to illegal or unethical behavior. Since the cost of computing is significantly lower nowadays, one activity may involve setting up a LAN with different computing platforms and attacking those systems in order to find vulnerabilities. Furthermore, a group of people sharing similar interests may participate in finding vulnerabilities on each other's systems to invoke a challenge, without violating anyone's property rights.

As a young teenager in high school, my family could not afford to purchase any computer-related equipment to learn on. I'd hang out at Radio Shack and local universities, spending hours and hours learning on their computer systems. Perhaps I would have gone down a different path if I had legitimate access to technology as young people have today.

10) How about.... (Score:5, Interesting)
by Psx29

What is the first thing that you have done with access to the internet?


I've been spending a lot of time emailing people that have written me in the past couple of weeks. I have to admit, it was a lot easier to have family and friends helping me with email, because it's unmanageable at the moment. I intend to use the Internet as a means to help grow Defensive Thinking into a prominent security services company. The Internet, of course, is a powerful tool to communicate messages to potential clients.

At the same time, I plan to explore the new features of the Internet that did not exist in 1995. As we all know, the Net is a new medium for communication, association, and research. I intend to use the Net to its full potential to advance my professional and personal agendas.

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Kevin Mitnick Answers

Comments Filter:
  • by PhysicsGenius ( 565228 ) <physics_seeker AT yahoo DOT com> on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @01:34PM (#5232155)
    This is all interesting information, but it doesn't sound like he really learned anything. He still advocates illegal activity and seems oblivious to the basic idea of penal theory. We don't lock up people based on how much damage THEY think they can do, we lock them up based on how much damage WE think they can do. The people who kept him from a payphone back in 1990 (or whenever) were fearful, and rightly so, that his "social engineering" (which sounds like "lying" to me, btw) was pulling the wool over their eyes and nobody knew what he could really do. Better safe than sorry.

    Perhaps I would have gone down a different path if I had legitimate access to technology as young people have today.

    Oh yes, be sure to blame society. Even worse, you appear to be saying that if we'd "given you what you wanted" after your first crime, the other crimes would have been avoided. Perhaps if you'd been locked up after your first "hack" your life would have gone down a different as well.

  • I'm betting... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FyRE666 ( 263011 ) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @01:35PM (#5232168) Homepage
    ...that any website Kevin sets up to promote his new company will be the the main focus of crackers/skript kiddies for the foreseeable future. Imaging the kudos in the playground if you managed to haxor "Mitnick's site"...
  • I realize that I am feeding a troll here, but are you saying that you would prefer that /. not interview him? You don't think that an interview with a well known computer criminal is worth reading? Maybe we should put you in charge of the "Good Taste Commission" and you can decide who is worthy of an interview.
  • by (nil) ( 140773 ) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @01:38PM (#5232183)
    As described below, I was never accused of abusing a position of trust

    So, you call someone, and pretend to be someone they trust in order to get information that you're not supposed to have.

    Hey, I'm sure you're a good guy and all, but that statement is a bit much.


  • by SweetAndSourJesus ( 555410 ) <> on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @01:38PM (#5232186)
    Hey Kevin, isn't this really the best thing that ever happened to you?

    Most geeks lead lives of quiet desperation. Woz hasn't given me a PowerBook. Slashdot hasn't interviewed me. I don't get to go on tech tv.

    Really, if you hadn't been busted, where would you be? You'd be among us, commenting on some other guy's interview, one of the teeming useless irrelevant masses.

  • by CycleMan ( 638982 ) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @01:39PM (#5232189)
    Kevin Mitnick knows how Slashdot works. His response to Question 1 is largely a consolidation from the unpublished first chapter of his book: Kevin Mitnick's 'lost' bio []
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @01:39PM (#5232193)

    Many of us used 'illegitimate" learning methods back in the 80's and early 90's. There wasn't much you could do with a Trash80. We feel for him. Many of us could have ended up like him (probably to a lesser degree) if only we had been more savvy and/or less cautious. We never wanted to cause ANY problems. Just to learn. How does a 15 year old in 1986 learn about Unix? He goes to the nearest University and cracks the system.

    Many of us are just dumber and/or luckier versions of Kevin.
  • by M-2 ( 41459 ) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @01:40PM (#5232198) Homepage
    Well, he was libeled by the press, abused by the federal justice system, and used as one of the reasons for a number of draconic laws against cracking being passed.

    Basically, he's the poster child for a techie getting sodomized, as well as the It Can Happen To You example.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @01:41PM (#5232204)
    Here, tell you what, I'll write some baseless stories in the New York Times about you, get the Feds to hunt you down, lock you up for over 4 years without a bail hearing. Included in that 4 years will be something like 8 months in solitary because if you use a payphone, the world will be destroyed in nuclear flame, all thanks to the baseless stories I wrote.

    After all that, maybe you'll figure out that this guy did wrong, but is the poster child for government abuses of power. He got treated in the same light as the 'enemy combatants' that the US has locked up in Cuba, even though he never caused harm to a single person, never harmed any tangible property, and never conspired to either.

    He's a US citizen with rights defined in the US Constitution. Maybe once you see what they fucking did to him, all based on libelous reporting, you'll see that he may be a criminal, but that's no fucking reason to strip him of his humanity, his rights, his life itself.
  • by Acidic_Diarrhea ( 641390 ) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @01:42PM (#5232216) Homepage Journal
    Well, I see your point BUT I also think that you could make the argument that in the case you cite, he wasn't in a position of trust. There was no reason for a caller without any real credentials to be considered to be telling the truth until some verification has ben done. Such verification was not done. Thus he was trusted but incorrectly so. I don't know - I guess he abused the trust he was given but he was given that trust incorrectly. He may have been referring more to his professional work rather than his hijinx on the phone.
  • by Tim Doran ( 910 ) <timmydoran&rogers,com> on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @01:50PM (#5232272)
    Dude - give your head a shake. He spent almost 5 years in prison, much of it solitary. That's one hell of a price to pay for a Powerbook, a Slashdot interview and some time on Tech TV.

    And beyond that - "most" geeks lead lives of "quiet desperation"?!? You've been reading too much Jon Katz, my friend.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @01:52PM (#5232293)
    We don't lock up people based on how much damage THEY think they can do, we lock them up based on how much damage WE think they can do.

    Actually, no. We lock up people based on what they HAVE done, not what you think they can do.

    Well, that's how things are supposed to work.
  • Re:About Markoff (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sri Ramkrishna ( 1856 ) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (anhsirkmar.marirs)> on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @01:53PM (#5232294)
    Why should Kevin prove it? The writings were about Kevin's life. If anything Markoff needs to prove what he writes about someone is true.

    This is akin to me writing about you and having you refute what I said. If I wrote that you like to have fun with yourself alone at night with a doll how will you refute it? The onus is on me to prove that you do not the other way around. Otherwise we level accusations at anyone we wish. This is also the basis of the U.S. Constitution where you're considered innocent until proven guilty.

  • by LongJohnStewartMill ( 645597 ) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @01:53PM (#5232296)
    It seems to me that script kiddies were a large portion of the people that hacked web sites and left huge "Free Kevin! 1 4m 4 13370 bur1770! pr0p5 70 71mmy 4nd my m0m!" messages as proof of their accomplishment. I think that's what the original poster was suggesting. Script kiddies made up a lot of the 'fan' base.
  • by waldo2020 ( 592242 ) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @01:55PM (#5232311)
    Weren't you paying attention? It was that Markoff Times reporter and sidekick Tsutomu Shimomura that made themselves millionaires hawking the story. Curious that there isn't too much mention of how or why stolen cell phone source code ended up on Tsutomu Shimomura's workstation. Or how such a self proclaimed security genius and crypto expert was so easily hacked himself;) Samurai honor, my shiny a$$... Isn't Shimomura then as guilty as Mitnick for stealing the source code in the first place? Wasn't he even more arrogant and vindictive in trying to shamelessly retaliate for his loss of face? The press and government scripted this as a good-wins-over evil story, and as it turns out, the evil wasn't and the good was anything but!
  • Re:About Markoff (Score:3, Insightful)

    by scotay ( 195240 ) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @01:57PM (#5232330)
    I don't think you start by accepting $5000 on an option for a Hollywood treatment that shows you in an "unfavorable and false light."

    Seems like Mitnick's claims of "falsifications" varied inversely with Mitnick's level of employment. Sounds like the same sociopathic blinders of people who try to rip off little old ladies in phone scams.
  • by JoeBuck ( 7947 ) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @01:58PM (#5232332) Homepage

    I'm the only person in United States history that was held without an initial bail hearing.

    No, Kevin, you are not. Haven't you been paying attention to the news lately? Ashcroft has disappeared hundreds of people, who are being held without charges and without any right to see attorneys. Most are immigrants (and in many of their cases, their families don't even know where they are), but at least two are US citizens. None of these folks are getting bail hearings.

  • bzzzt! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Ender Ryan ( 79406 ) <[ ] ['' in gap]> on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @01:59PM (#5232341) Journal
    Please stop this nonsense, you're furthering the FUD surrounding Mr. Mitnick's life.

    What it means to abuse a position of trust, would be something like gaining employment somewhere to commit crimes against your employer. Such as a security professional getting a job at a company and then installing backdoors for himself on the company's systems.

    Mr. Mitnick never did anything remotely similar.

  • by JoeBuck ( 7947 ) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @02:05PM (#5232390) Homepage

    We don't lock up people based on how much damage THEY think they can do, we lock them up based on how much damage WE think they can do

    What? We lock people up because we have convicted them of crimes, or because they are awaiting trial, which is guaranteed by the Constitution to be "speedy and public". Mitnick was locked up for 4.5 years before his trial, something that is unheard of.

    What you're talking about is straight out of "Minority Report", locking people up for "precrime".

    Now, given Mitnick's career, he's basically a con man, and I certainly wouldn't trust him even now. Just the same, even con men have rights.

  • by GuyMannDude ( 574364 ) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @02:06PM (#5232394) Journal

    What is the password to my PayPal account? I forgot it a while back.

    Yeah, we all had a cute chuckle when someone posted this in the original "Ask Kevin" story. And it was rightfully modded 5, Funny. But considering that slashdot only submits 10 of the top rated questions to interviewees, I would really like to see no more Funny comments taking up an important slot. If you'll remember, there were tons of Interesting and Insightful questions rated with a score of 5 that were presented as possible questions for Mitnick. It annoys me that some truly important question was dropped to make room for the PayPal joke.

    My request for the editors is to either (a) don't include Funny comments in the 10 questions you submit to an interviewee or (b) bump up the number of questions to 20 or something. If anyone else agrees with me, I encourage you to reply to this thread so the editors take note.


  • by WNight ( 23683 ) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @02:06PM (#5232396) Homepage
    His treatment was far beyond what was reasonable for a non-violent, repeat criminal suspected of theft.

    The calculation of the value stolen is silly. We laugh when software companies these days equate a copied program to a direct monetary loss. Can you imagine if someone copied NFL-2003 and was charged with the full development costs, plus the yearly publicity costs of the NFL, etc... It's ridiculous, and yet this is the math that contributed to him being considered a terrorist. Nobody panics when someone "steals" access to files that would have cost $2000 in total to have printed and delivered. They knew this and inflated the figures, thinking that $300 million would be much more impressive.

    Also, eight months in solitary confinement!? For what? Did he attack the other prisoners? Getting eight months in solitary is fairly difficult for even violent criminals, yet they did this based on the ridiculous idea that he could call in a nuclear strike? What do they do to any other criminal who has potential connections on the outside? Why treat him differently than a Mafia Don who might still be in charge? If they can manage to keep phone access away from some people without putting them in solitary, why can't they manage it with Kevin?

    They called him a terrorist and it justified doing pretty much anything they could want to do. He was one of the first to be persecuted this way, beyond any rational comparison to his crimes, but he won't be last.
  • Re:About Markoff (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jester99 ( 23135 ) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @02:06PM (#5232398) Homepage
    Desperation invites strange friends to dinner.
  • by ragnar ( 3268 ) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @02:07PM (#5232409) Homepage
    This is all interesting information, but it doesn't sound like he really learned anything. He still advocates illegal activity and seems oblivious to the basic idea of penal theory.

    How many times must the guy say "I did the wrong thing and deserved to be punished for it" until you think he learned something? I thought he brought up some very good points about how he was denied his consitutional rights. There is nothing in the consitution which gives a judge the right to trample someone's right just because he or she is ignorant about the specifics of the case.
  • by Ed Avis ( 5917 ) <> on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @02:08PM (#5232414) Homepage
    That's not what abusing a position of trust means. It means, when you are placed in a position of responsibility, not living up to the trust placed in you. For example a customs officer who helps in smuggling is abusing a position of trust (among other things). An ordinary person who smuggled goods would not be abusing a position of trust, because they were never in that position to start with. It doesn't just mean general dishonesty or confidence trickery.

    So if Mr Mitnick had been appointed as a security consultant and used that to break into systems for personal gain, that would be an abuse of trust. As it is, he doesn't seem to have committed this kind of dishonesty, whatever else he did.
  • by brettlbecker ( 596407 ) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @02:08PM (#5232419) Homepage
    Regardless of what you personally think of Mitnick, and it appears quite obvious that you can't stand him, you and everyone else ought to care about how justice is brought to bear on criminals. Mitnick's treatment at the hands of the Justice Department is obscene, and he is quite correct to be furious about how his constitutionally protected rights were overlooked or blatantly ignored. I don't agree with what he did either, for the most part (and, from his statements, neither does he), but it wouldn't matter if he was a murderer, a rapist, a kidnapper, a shoplifter, a burglar, or a drunk-behind-the-wheel. We all have rights, and the stripping of the rights of one person can only open the door to the acceptance of the stripping of the rights of the rest. See: The USA PATRIOT Act

    Along the lines of "people ought not to look at him as a celbrity, martyr, etc", think back to all the times you rooted for someone in a movie or a book or on the news that was doing "questionable" or even "bad" things. It's fun to stand behind criminals sometimes... fun to watch car chases and robberies in movies, fun to play games like Grand Theft Auto or Hitman or Quake...


  • by ipsuid ( 568665 ) <> on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @02:09PM (#5232423) Journal

    First off, where is he advocating illegal activity? Not one place in the interview does Kevin express that he would like someone to go out and do something illegal. In fact, he is advocating not committing computer crime, and gives alternative legal methods if you still care to learn about hacking.

    Secondly, what country do I live in again? The basic premise of justice is that an illegal action can be counterbalanced by restitution. The subtle concept here is that the penal system does not exist to punish, but rather it exists to rehabilitate. (Its supposed to at any rate, YMWV). So we shouldn't be locking up people based on what others think or worry about, we should be locking them up based on what damage they have actually caused. The reason Kevin is a hero, is not because he was a hacker, it is because he survived an ordeal that should never have happened in this country. And in so doing, he and others have brought to our attention just how out of control the justice system in this country is at the moment.

    Why has a large majority of population of the United States suddenly forgotten our government, our law, is based on a constitution? Why all of a sudden is it OK to ignore laws in some cases, enforce them in others, and blow them way out of proportion in yet others? Is there some type of Moore's Law in relation to repeating history?

    The moment our laws reflect our fears rather then the facts will be the moment in which we are all doomed. Like money, laws are not tangible things. Laws are based on the faith of the people. The more the justice system fails to follow procedure and law, the less faith citizens will have in those laws. If citizens lose faith in the justice system, justice and laws will no longer have any power.

  • by WNight ( 23683 ) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @02:12PM (#5232457) Homepage
    Actually it is interesting. Kevin's response to a funny question tells us a lot about him, he's got a sense of humor and it's much like ours. Contrast that to Shatner, or some of the other interview subjects.

    Slashdot doesn't really send ten questions, just the questions of ten people. They should either send about 2500 words (of the top of my head) and let it be any number of actual questions so the short funny ones don't "waste" anything, ditto with the other (serious) short obvious ones that will be answered with essentially a form letter. Or, get serious about the limit of ten questions, one per comment, and start ignoring multi-question comments.
  • Re:Uhhhh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Planesdragon ( 210349 ) <slashdot@cPERIOD ... minus punct> on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @02:13PM (#5232476) Homepage Journal
    Ok, explain to me exactly WHY you aren't filing suit versus the Federal Government for gross violation of your constitutional righ

    I'd guess because either (1) he's broke, (2) he wants to just move on or (3) he tried , and the lawyer & judge told him "the government can't get sued for doing its job."

    The first statement is a bit harsh--but the second was flase (folks have been held w/o bail hearings for centuries) and the third was probably just a judge trying to adapt to the unknown.
  • by nEoN nOoDlE ( 27594 ) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @02:14PM (#5232482) Homepage
    yeah, he's famous... but you could be too if you went out and murdered either someone famous or a bunch of regular joes. Mitnick went to jail... I would rather live my whole life as one of slashdots "teaming masses" if I didn't have to spend 5 years in prison. That's a conscious choice I make practically every day. I don't envy Mitnick for his fame.
  • by jg ( 16880 ) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @02:18PM (#5232545) Homepage
    Having lived through one of Kevin's early penetrations (that of Digital Equipment Corporation) I can report that the damage was large.

    The issue is not whether Kevin damanged the machines directly: as he says, he probably did not. The problem is that as a manufacturer, if the systems you build products on *might* have been compromised, you can no longer trust them, and get to rebuild them from scratch (get out distribution disks from before any possibility of compromise, reinstall from scratch, rebuild, and examine all source code that might have been edited). As a manufacturer, you owe it to your customers to be very careful about trojan horses, etc. You don't know all of what *might* have been done to the systems, and you certainly can't allow such things to end up in products shipped to end customers.

    It is this cleanup of hundreds and/or thousands of systems (since you may not know exactly what has been compromised in an attack) that causes havoc and great damages to the victims.
    - Jim
  • by fgb ( 62123 ) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @02:19PM (#5232553)
    We don't lock up people based on how much damage THEY think they can do, we lock them up based on how much damage WE think they can do.

    I thought we locked people up based on how much damage they actually DID.
  • Sigh (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @02:22PM (#5232584)
    Although most of the entries in this version of slashdot don't seem to be very intelligent or to have even read your entire response, I want to relate that I am very sorry you underwent such an attack on your rights while in the judicial system. I posted "Free Kevin" on my site and I am glad you were made so.

    I have a bit of an overview I'd like to point out:

    Although we would like to avoid saying so, hackers consist mostly of curious and intelligent people exploring their world. They are the new explorers, at least to me. And why not? There is more technology and boxes and wires and technology around us than ever before. Don't explore that? Don't try to understand the world around you? Tell a child that! How absurd!

    Using the knowledge gained from an intimate exposure to electronic and network systems for ill gain or for grins will certainly be a bad thing. Information is power which is supposed to be in the hands of the people who run those networks or handle those electronics systems. But with the pervasiveness of this new enviornment, who is not going to look? Who among us is uncurious? Fewer and fewer techno-phobic individuals are among us.

    What is really the issue to Kevin and the slashdot community, I see, is that the obvious extent of ability caused by this knowledge is something like magic. I'm sure you've heard ALL the ridiculous number of "spells" these new magicians were supposed to posess.

    As technology becomes more pervasive, there will always be those savants among us who understand it better than the rest. I hope all the new myths that come out of it from the movies that made us afraid of aliens and afraid of nukes and afraid of swimming in the ocean do not continue to extend to hackers. I would like for us to stop fearing things we don't necessarily understand. Because explorers, children and hackers don't and that's not - as I've described - a bad thing.

    Good luck in your new life.

  • by phorm ( 591458 ) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @02:32PM (#5232688) Journal
    You sue somebody who has a large amount of money. You both pay for lawyers, but yours are cheap and few while his are expensive and many.

    You might win, but odds are against you... and then you end up eating the court costs.

    Why do you think large corps throw idiotic copyright/patent/etc violations against the smallest targets first? Easy win...
  • by ShieldWolf ( 20476 ) <jeffrankine@nets[ ] ['cap' in gap]> on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @02:33PM (#5232693)
    "But he's no more a criminal than the PC maintenance guy that looks at data on a machine he or she is repairing. Or someone who reads the papers sitting out on someone elses desk. No theft, no intentional vandalism, just access to information he or she didn't have."

    A better example would be someone who drives into an industrail park, opens a locked door using a credit card, rumages around in peoples filing cabinets, and photocopies some things he finds interesting and then leaves.

    Although I admit going through unauthorized systems is a trip, it is still illegal.

  • WTF??! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by medscaper ( 238068 ) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @02:37PM (#5232724) Homepage
    How does a 15 year old in 1986 learn about Unix? He goes to the nearest University and cracks the system.

    What you meant to ask was : How does a 15 year old Kevin Mitnick in 1986 learn about Unix? He goes to the nearest University and cracks the system.

    I was a 15 year old in 1986. I wanted to learn about Unix.

    I went to the local University and TOOK CLASSES, you jerk-off.

    Learned plenty. Thanks.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @02:46PM (#5232803)
    So only people who have served in the military deserve rights? Like Starship Troopers. His point: we all have these rights, and to infringe upon them is to dishonor the sacrifice made over the decades and centuries of people to died and suffered to protect them.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @02:52PM (#5232854)
    Thoreau was a fool. There's a method of thinking that's responsible for much of the passionate, overinflated opinions that muck up the intellectual climate. If you read his works closely, you can see that he uses that same method.

    From birth, we're given input. How our minds respond to that input depends on the previous input. Some people don't bother to structure their thinking beyond that. Instead, they set up all the incoming data in a loosely configured hierarchy of free-associations.

    To determine if something is true, they hear it in their mind, and if it resonates loud enough with what's already there, it's true, otherwise it's discarded. This is the basis for the belief in a universal natural law, and it's why people who grow up in tightknit fundamentalist backgrounds all think alike and approbate each other, while being certain they have an answer for every question.

    A symptom of people who think like this is that their writing rambles from topic to topic, and their words have ill-defined moral overtones that tip their hat to some kind of cosmic absolute. Transcendentalism is just another one of those ill-conceived social follies.
  • by ackthpt ( 218170 ) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @02:55PM (#5232879) Homepage Journal
    Why is Frank Abagnale a celebrity? (Hint: Catch Me If You Can)

    Frank [] has a site and serves as a consutant on security. (I suggest reading his Film and Book Comments) He's enjoyed a successful career after turning honest. Hopefully Kevin can do likewise. I recognized his name in an article on avoiding identify theft [] this morning.

  • Regarding the NYT (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LeviLevi ( 114307 ) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @03:04PM (#5232944)

    I find it disturbing that there is so little comment on perhaps the biggest issue here, the effect the NYT reporting had on the process Mr. Mitnick was due. If the NYT--the "paper of record"--was so inaccurate about the facts of this case, how can we trust any of its content? Many people will not want to be confused with the facts and continue to judge Mr. Mitnick based on false or exaggerated information. How is this right? How many other things is the NYT wrong about? (From my own reasearch and experience, plenty.)
  • Re:I'm betting... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by plugger ( 450839 ) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @03:04PM (#5232945) Homepage
    I guess he'd take steps to stop it. I doubt he'd have anyone thrown into the slammer.
  • by hymie! ( 95907 ) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @03:10PM (#5233010)
    Unfortunately, those two don't count. Here's a link for Padilla []. Padilla is an enemy combatant [] and loses certain rights. Here's an explanation [] of how it applies to Padilla.

    But isn't that exactly the point? By declaring him an "enemy combatant," he loses, among other things, the right to see the evidence used to make this declaration.

    Even after the government backs [] away [] from Ashcroft's statements about Padilla, and Rumsfeld admits [] that there are no plans to try him, a citizen sits in a military prison without a trial, without charges, and without a lawyer. Big Brother says he's a bad man, and the sheep are expected to thank them.

  • by susano_otter ( 123650 ) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @03:12PM (#5233036) Homepage
    And yet, for some reason, he was never accused [in court, by the prosecution] of abusing a position of trust. The implication is that the punishment he received is usually reserved for someone who does these things, and that therefore it was strange for him to receive this punishment. The meaning is clear: why did he receive this punishment, if the legal point on which this punishment typically depends was never brought up?

    Of course he abused trust. But that fact was never legally resolved, or even brought up. Instead of being punished under the law exclusively for crimes he was proven to commit under the law, it seems that he was punished in part based on hyperbole and misrepresentation of the facts, as well as legally established actions which, by themselves, typically do not merit the legal punishment he received.

    In short, he was punished for abusing a position of trust, but was never legally accused of doing so, and was never legally proven to have done so. It's a problem, and worth pointing out (as many people have done).

    Lest you complain that this is a "distinction without a difference", may I remind you that the U.S. government is currently planning a preemptive strike against Iraq without any clear evidence that Iraq presently merits such a thing? Either we're wrong to put Kevin away for crimes he probably committed but we can't be bothered to prove, or we're right to attack Iraq at this time even though we can't prove beyond doubt that such a thing is necessary. Make up your mind... for great justice!

  • by Malcontent ( 40834 ) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @03:15PM (#5233070)
    "Padilla is an enemy combatant"

    This is a circular argument. Padilla is a citizen of the US. Padilla was declared to be an enemy combatant by the president who then ordered him "disappeared". He was arrested in the Ohare airport by the FBI. That's american soil, a public place, by civilian authorities.

    The whole point is that George Bush can make anybody disappear at anytime by simply pointing at their name and saying the words "enemy combatant". That's all it takes. If the person is in the United States at the time that person will just go away and nobody knows where (my suspicion is that they are sent to another country to be tortured most likely israel). If they are not in the US they will be assassinated by the CIA like the guy who got a missle shot at him in Yemen (that guy was also an american citizen).

    This is no different then what happens in south america. The people the govt doesn't like disapear.
  • Re:About Markoff (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TheCrazyFinn ( 539383 ) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @03:19PM (#5233113) Homepage
    Oh, Come one. The Times has a well documented track record of printing unsubstantiated bullshit. They may have been the Best Paper in the World 15 years ago, but they sure as hell ain't much more than a well respected World Weekly News today. Just follow OpinionJournal's Best of the Web, they regularly debunk NYTimes articles with cold hard facts.

    I did love the writeup on how Saddam never gassed his oown people from last week. Considering the author of that piece had been debunked by even Amnesty International, it was a hoot.

  • Re:About Markoff (Score:3, Insightful)

    by NecroPuppy ( 222648 ) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @03:24PM (#5233157) Homepage
    It might just mean that Mitnick is tired of
    the entire legal process, and just wants to
    get on with his life.

    Did you ever consider that?
  • by cdn-programmer ( 468978 ) <> on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @03:28PM (#5233209)
    I have a great deal of difficulty following this logic. Attributing the cost of a manufacturer debugging flawed code to the person who illustrates the code is flawed makes about as much sense as killing the messenger.

    If it weren't for Kevin cracking into these systems then someone else would have done it... and indeed many other crackers have done exactly this.

    Kevin collectively did us all a service. Were it not for people like Keven the system we rely apon would even be more pathetically insecure.

    The awareness that Kevin's activities helped foster has caused a lot of lazy programmers to clean up thier code.
  • Re:About Markoff (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Pxtl ( 151020 ) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @03:32PM (#5233247) Homepage
    As an engineer, the PEO will take away my livelihood if I do not properly verify and check over the background of calculations I'm given. Once I stamp something, I'm responsible for everything in it.

    I cannot just use simulation software without being certain that it is accurate. I can't use someone elses calculations unless I am confident of them.

    I worked damn hard to get this far, and people have high expectations of me. I fully expect the same of any other profession that can cause serious damage when they screw up.

    It is not his job to believe them. The moment the possibility of doing real damage to a person appears, so do responsibility. If belief was the issue, madmen would make the best reporters - they'd allways have an off-the-wall story (my neighbor is Hussein's estranged son) that would be true - from there perspective. If they're going to print something about someone - they'd better be able to back it up properly, or else the damage done by the statement is their fault.

    Stupidity is not an excuse in my field - it should not be in theirs.
  • Re:About Markoff (Score:2, Insightful)

    by szquirrel ( 140575 ) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @03:50PM (#5233405) Homepage
    It might just mean that Mitnick is tired of
    the entire legal process, and just wants to
    get on with his life.

    Did you ever consider that?

    Sure I did. I also considered that maybe Mitnick is trying to crucify Markoff in the court of public opinion without producing any actual proof, the same thing he accuses Markoff of doing, thus making him a hypocrite as well as a criminal.

    One of these possibilites paints Mitnick in the best possible light, the other in the worst possible light. I imagine the truth lies somewhere in between.
  • by rednaxel ( 532554 ) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @03:54PM (#5233438) Homepage Journal
    This is no different then what happens in south america. The people the govt doesn't like disapear.

    In South America? May you name a country where this is actually going on? Sorry guy, but these days it happen only in the US. After 9/11, anything may be an excuse to ignore civil rights - or to bomb Iraq.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @03:58PM (#5233502)
    Have you ever been arrested or locked up for an extended period? I was only in a cramped holding cell once with other people for 48 hours, but I can tell you I would not trade my freedom for anything.

    Do you know what SuperMax is? It's a prison for "the worst" offenders (most of whom I have no doubt I would not like to meet). In a supermax prison you are in lockdown 23.5 hours a day, on your own, all alone, with basically four walls and a near fully covered door. No voices, no visitors, no NOTHING. Good god, and they wonder why guys released from these places after 10 year senteces loose it on the outside, what the hell do you EXPECT!

    Prison is a 5' room. Isolation is the total absence of ANYONE ELSE AT ALL. Think of this, we're not talking about a couple hours with a book or a few days away, we are talking about YEARS in a sterile closet with only intermittent interaction with others.

    The media has succeeded in recent years in convincing the general public that prison is some kind of playground, and that sentences can never be strict enough for criminals. This is one of the most laughable misconceptions I have ever come across.

    However, it is not as laughable as the belief that the government "doesn't incarcerate innocent people" or that "a small number of innocent incarcerations is acceptable". You laugh, but I had a deep conversation with a Brooklyn ADA in which he stated, POINT BLANK, that he believed he was justified in manipulating situations to get people convicted, even if he had reason to believe they were innocent. He argued that there were acceptable losses... good god, and they say the medical system needs an overhaul!

  • by Drakonian ( 518722 ) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @03:58PM (#5233510) Homepage
    So if no one hacks into your unsecure server, then your server is actually secure? Interesting viewpoint. That's sort of like if a tree falls in the forest....
  • Re:About Markoff (Score:4, Insightful)

    by multimed ( 189254 ) < minus city> on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @04:06PM (#5233644)
    I won't even touch the NYT part beyond saying it's laughable.

    But maybe you should have read his answer a little more closely--newspapers may not pay their sources, but certainly for a writer working on a book about some one to pay them wouldn't be unreasonable now would it? I imagine if someone wanted to write a biography on me (especially one packed with lies), unless I had joint authorship or editorial rights, I certainly wouldn't be terribly forthcoming in helping.

    Perhaps part of the reason is that he won't sue for defamation (aside from moving on with his life and/or not having the money) is that you can't prove a negative. Tell me this, how does he prove that he never hacked NORAD? When you make that type of allegations against some one, they really can't disprove them. Sometime around 1990 I saw you making love to a sheep. Prove you didn't. And guess what, now everyone can write that it has been alleged that you sleep with sheep. Your are not an alleged sheep molestor, how's that feel? I understand and agree with the freedom the first ammendment guarantees the press. But the burden of proof on accusations needs to fall squarely on the shoulders of the accuser whether they are a member of the press or not.

  • by Malcontent ( 40834 ) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @04:24PM (#5233921)
    "you must show "some evidence"."

    Really to who? A judge? Which Judge? Is there a jury? It's all moot. All it takes is for the president to say so.

    "I'm proud to be an American and I'm impressed by the progress we've made so far to evolve."

    Yadda, Yadda, Yadda, flag, apple pie, chevrolet. I say we are moving backwards. The fact of the matter is that I have less freedom today then I did before. I imagine that's pretty much a win for the terrorists.

    " The guys in Yemen were hit by a hellfire from a predator aircraft. There wasn't an operative sitting in the car with a gun executing the guys."

    I fail to see the distinction.

    "The operation was legal under U.S. law."

    Yes. It's now legal to assasinate US citizens if they are abroad.

    "The target deserved it and the American with him probably did too"

    And you know this how?

    "Yeah, he could have been innocent of providing assistance to a movie"

    Yes because in real life innocent people are never accused of crimes or found guilty of the. Innocent people also have never been to jail or put on death row. Because in america we are infallible and our president is all knowing. After all god himself chose this country and appointed this president and everybody knows eating apple pies and driving chevrolets makes you infallible.

    "Supposedly, they did not know that an American citizen was with him. That's an honest mistake."

    Oops you just contradicted yourself. Did the guy deserve it or was he there by accident? Oh well it's OK to kill american citizens with a missle if it's an honest mistake. We may be infallible but the CIA operatives in yemen probably were not eating apple pie and driving chevrolets. That's why they made this honest mistake.

    "This is an extremely perverted comparison."

    Really? I don't think so. Here I'll hit you with this one too. There is no real difference between the conctration camps set up by hitler and the contration camps set up by bush. Ok maybe the conditions are better (but then again how would any of us know) but the idea is the same. Round people up and send them away to a distant concentration camp to be "interrogated".

    Kind of sucks huh?
  • by imbezol ( 588268 ) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @05:26PM (#5234419) Homepage
    Not only is it ridiculous that he would call in a nuclear strike, but also unbelievable that the government would release a person they believe is capable of such atrosity in just 5 years. Rehabilitation must be extremely effective.
  • by WNight ( 23683 ) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @06:25PM (#5235134) Homepage
    That's a lame excuse. You're saying that you assumed everything was all right before you saw an attack, but after that attack you had to go over everything with a fine-toothed comb to "make sure it was safe". As safe as it had been before being hacked, you mean.

    If you're designed a "secure" system you need to follow secure practices from the beginning. Boot-strap a system from known-safe code, do an audit first. Then assemble a system for checking this code doesn't change. Put copies on write-once media so they can't be corrupted. Occasionally make sure that you can take your latest source code and build an identical executable on a system which has never (and will never) be connected to a network, or left outside of a locked room. If you can't build an identical executable, it's probably not a hack, "just" a bug, but you need to find bugs, so hunt it out. It may have been benign, or it may be a hack.

    If you do anything less you're not at all secure, you just haven't been hacked yet. Real security involves monitoring enough to be able to tell what has been tampered with.

    Tell me, did you throw out the hardware? Why not? Many machines have bios or microcode that can be written to from executing software. It's how updates are done. You probably reject that (rightly) yet are unable to point at why it's actually impossible. How do you know he hadn't arranged for you install CDs (probably tapes in that era actually) to be trojaned? Just admit that you don't have a clue as to what they could have done and that your paniced reinstall was just voodoo system administration.

    Adding unreasonable security expenses to the cost of an intrusion is like demolishing a house (and blaming the thief) after a break-in.
  • by po8 ( 187055 ) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @06:31PM (#5235205)

    Please don't take these comments personally: they are directed at everyone here with similar attitudes.

    First, if you weren't managing a reasonable-sized installation in 1989, you are not qualified to comment on best practice: you have no idea what it was like to do so. (I was, and do.)

    Tripwire?? Tripwire barely existed yet, and no one used it. Secret-key encryption was more-or-less illegal because of governmental administrative rules. Public-key encryption was the legal property of RSA Inc., and as a result no reasonable tools were built and distributed that used it. There was no DSA. So all the 'leet security tools everyone seems astounded jg wasn't using were not even close to options. No SSH, obviously. Not even encrypted telnet.

    Backups? Backups were on the fancy new 1GB Exabyte tape drives, if you were lucky. The less-lucky were still using 9-track tape. Restore times were literally overnight: disks were slow, and much of the restore process was (get this) CPU-limited. The number of operators skilled enough to perform restoration from backups was small: that job paid better at the time than web-monkeys got at the height of the .com era. And remember: more or less the whole organization (DEC, for Pete's sake, one of the largest computer companies in the world at the time) was down while the restore completed, due to the joys of centralized computing.

    Do I think that Mitnick "got what he deserved"? No: he was persecuted and prosecuted beyond the extent his legal and ethical crimes deserved. Do I think he caused a lot of very clueful people lots of legitimate grief for no good reason? You bet. Even he seems to think that. Hopefully you can understand the compatibility of these two viewpoints, and not just blame the victims for Markoff's and the government's sins.

  • by mr_z_beeblebrox ( 591077 ) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @06:45PM (#5235327) Journal
    Thanks for the names. Unfortunately, those two don't count.

    As a former paratrooper (3/505th PIR / 82d abn) I would like to remind people of this (carnivore if you read this send it to your big boss)

    (possibly paraphrasing) "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal and all men have certain inalienable rights"

    Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin never once uttered the phrase "All Americans have certain inalienable rights.
    Padilla, Hamdi and ALL imorally and unjustly detained foreign nationals have certain inalienable rights and I can only hope that J. Ashcroft and his superiors are held accountable for this gross breech of liberty. I for one favor the idea of impeachment.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 06, 2003 @12:44AM (#5238023)
    We never wanted to cause ANY problems. Just to learn.

    Heck, some of us DID want to cause problems. We did stupid things because we were 15 and felt invincible. When we finally grew up and wised up a few years later, we wondered what on Earth would've happened to us if we'd been caught like Kevin.

Nondeterminism means never having to say you are wrong.