Ex-hacker Kevin Mitnick, whose computer activities in the 1990s resulted in a three-year manhunt by the FBI, is finally to be allowed to work online again.
Since 1995, under the terms of an agreement with US authorities, Mitnick has lived under an order barring him from contact with computers, mobile phones or any technology that might allow him online access.
After his prison release this January, Mitnick's probation officer stopped him from speaking or writing publicly about technology or from taking a job involving computers. Mitnick's plight became a cause championed by hacker groups and civil liberties activists who mounted a campaign on his behalf.
Mitnick went to a US federal judge to challenge those restrictions, and the judge agreed that they were too wide ranging. This week, Mitnick's probation officer told him that he was free to pursue work as a computer consultant or online columnist. However, he is still barred from leaving southern California.
"We are pleased with the decision because we think it lends itself to the rehabilitation of Kevin," Mitnick's attorney Sherman Ellison told the Associated Press. "It's also constructive for the community to use this man's brain for the benefit of the community."
Neil Barrett, technical director of security consultant Information Risk Management, said similar restrictions have never been imposed on UK hackers, and he doubted whether any such conditions would ever me made a condition of bail here.
"In the land of the free and the brave they have the most onerous restrictions of the lot," said Barrett. "Mitnick has done his time and has been punished, and that should not go on for ever and ever."
Mitnick was sentenced to five years in prison after FBI investigators traced him to a North Carolina apartment. Investigators said that he cost companies millions by cracking into systems, altering information and stealing software. The victims included Motorola, Novell, Nokia, Sun Microsystems and the University of Southern California.
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