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Ask Kevin Mitnick 839

Okay, Kevin Mitnick is getting back online and can start taking email tomorrow, January 21. We've spoken with Kevin by phone, and he agrees that a Slashdot interview is a fine way to help celebrate his return to the Internet, especially since he has a book to sell and a consulting business to build. (Don't forget: Kevin hasn't been able to make much money for a number of years, and has a lot of lost time to make up for.) One question per post, please. We'll email Kevin 10 of the highest-moderated questions, and post his answers shortly after he gets them to us.
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Ask Kevin Mitnick

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  • How about.... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Psx29 ( 538840 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:03PM (#5119192)
    What is the first thing that you have done with access to the internet?
  • by ackthpt ( 218170 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:04PM (#5119200) Homepage Journal
    No offense meant,but

    he has a book to sell and a consulting business to build. (Don't forget: Kevin hasn't been able to make much money for a number of years, and has a lot of lost time to make up for.)

    Knowing all this as the result of your choice, would you choose this path again? If so, why?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:30PM (#5119483)
      I don't think he chose to be kept in Federal prison without a trial for more than 4 years. I don't think he chose to have the software he downloaded (and did not distribute) valued at an amount way beyond reality because the Feds said to. I don't think he chose to have terms of his probation which kept him from using his First Amendment rights or being able to make a meaningful use of his technologic abilities.

      Did he choose to be the poster-boy of government corruption when it comes to prosecution of technology-related case? I don't think so.

      You're the type of person who would ask Skylarov why he chose to come to the U.S. to speak at a technology conference.
      • by ackthpt ( 218170 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @02:35PM (#5119880) Homepage Journal
        You're the type of person who would ask Skylarov why he chose to come to the U.S. to speak at a technology conference.

        On the contrary, I applaud Dimitri Sklyarov and feel his work was construct, in the face of unjust legislation the USA exports and tries to exert on other peoples. It should be the choice of each sovereign nation to determine the extent of copyright/patent protection to inventors. One country, such as the USA, may attempt to hold all others in thrall as long as the life of intellectual property protection.

        Besides, Kevin didn't attempt to bypass electronic IP safeguards, except as the DMCA may regard hacking. He revealed the swisscheese security of information systems in their infancy. He made people afraid, powerful people. We already, well most of us, are aware what sort of democracy-for-sale the Congress and Administration are, when their friends sneeze, they catch cold, and act within or without the law. It's a matter for the defendant to pry him/herself out of such a mess. As often as such examples play it's remarkable anyone wants to open themselves to such harrassment, particularly without alerting the ACLU or some group ahead of time that they intend to demonstrate how unjust the system is, in whole or part.

        Anyone remember the 414's? A group of young men in the Milwaukee area who, when caught breaking into DEC systems wanted to sell movie rights? It wasn't too hard to figure how they did it, hell, I was admin on a DEC system and there were default passwords and field service passwords easy enough to guess. You just had to be bored and stupid enough to go trespassing.

        I have plenty of sympathy for those treated unjustly, but those who go alone to spread fear among powerful interests are no more clever than a swimmer dogpaddling around in a shark tank.

      • by overunderunderdone ( 521462 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @05:56PM (#5121433)
        I don't think he chose to be kept in Federal prison without a trial for more than 4 years.

        Actually (a little googleing reveals that) in many instances he DID - or rather his lawyers did. The trial kept getting delayed due to it's complexity - often at the request of HIS lawyers. Hiring and firing three different lawyers doesn't usually speed things up any either (though I'll grant you it is possible they were incompetant - but the real possiblity exists their client was part of their problem). As for being denied bail that whole time - well that is sort of a natural penalty for running & continuing to commit the same crimes while on the run - for some reason people just don't trust you not to it again. Wasting time in useless appeals to GET bail when no sane judge would give it to you is just another thing that drags out the time you spend waiting for trial.

        I don't think he chose to have the software he downloaded (and did not distribute) valued at an amount way beyond reality because the Feds said to.

        And they should have been valued at less because he & his lawyers said so? I have no idea what the real value of the damage he caused to various systems was or the value of the information he stole. I doubt HE knows it's value. I am sure his victims and the prosecution exagerated it's value. On the other hand it is not difficult at ALL to assume that the value was quite significant. Big companies worth many billions of dollars keep stuff on their computers that really do have multi-million dollar values to those companies. Those where the kinds of companies he liked to hack and the kind of information he liked to steal BECAUSE he wanted to be a big deal and make a big splash. Well he did.

        I don't think he chose to have terms of his probation which kept him from using his First Amendment rights

        While convicts have rights the whole point of being a convict is having certain rights taken away. As for his specifically first amendment rights - I don't know of any instance during his sentence when the government established a religion for him, forbade him to excersise his own, forbade him to speak, talk to the (or even run a) press, assemble peacably or petition the government to redress his greavances (this last I think he excersiced far more than most of us) Being forbidden to use a computer after being convicted 4 or 5 times (on multiple counts each time) of computer fraud & abuse is not much different from being forbidden to own a gun after being convicted of a gun crime. Being forbidden to use a tool that you only seem adept at using criminally seems appropriate and fitting not cruel nor unusual. Having himself argued in court before that he was compulsive and unable to control himself probably didn't help his case any on this point.

        Did he choose to be the poster-boy of government corruption when it comes to prosecution of technology-related case

        After being caught and convicted on numerous prior occasions and being dealt with fairly leniently by the courts at first - then doing the same thing again *while on probabation* - then running when a warrant is issued - then continuing to commit the same high profile crimes while on the run IS asking for it.

        Yes, there are murderers that have been dealt with less harshly. That's a GREAT argument for harsher treatment of murderers IMO than for more lenient treatment of multiple offense fraud artist fugitives. All the time I hear on /. that online crimes should be dealt with the same as offline - well his punishment doesn't seem so out of whack for a string of multiple breakings & enterings, thefts, & frauds while on the run from the law.
  • What do you say? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PhysicsGenius ( 565228 ) <physics_seeker AT yahoo DOT com> on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:04PM (#5119205)
    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?
    • Priorities (Score:5, Interesting)

      by iamacat ( 583406 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @03:17PM (#5120163)
      Actually, I think Kevin's time is better first spent on a law change so that hacking is never punished in the same way as violent crimes. And that writting programs to use things you legally bought - like a DVD player for Linux or a program to print your ebooks - is legal. Excesses of the government is a much bigger concern than small infractions of individuals.

      Anyone here who wouldn't be in trouble if every one of their computer and copyright related "offenses" came to light can throw the first stone. Ever downloaded an unlicensed MP3 plugin for Redhat 8? Ever renamed irc to emacs to violate a school policy on computer use?

  • Thoughts (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ScannerBoy ( 174488 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:05PM (#5119207) Homepage
    At any point did you consider leaving the computer world behind to search out other means of makeing a living such as teaching, history, construction...?

    Or is is the old, I just gotta do this feeling?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:05PM (#5119209)
    In Cuckoo's Egg, Cliff Stoll siad that in some cases life is better without the internet. Did you find any advantages to life without it?
    • by pVoid ( 607584 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @02:07PM (#5119717)
      I've seen many intelligent people get enraptured in computers, and eventually come off of the high. I am one of those people too, and despite the fact that I've made a career out of it, I've had days where I cought glimpses of another life in which I would only have the crudest computer access, and manage to be happy.

      Did spending an extensive period of time away from computers make you realize that you might just move away one day? or are you still fascinated like the first geek was?

  • What's Different? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by theGreater ( 596196 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:05PM (#5119210) Homepage
    I wonder what the largest single difference between going in and coming out will be for KM. What kind of access to infotech did he have while inside? Was he at least able to keep abreast of current trends?

    -theGreater Ponderer.
  • by cluge ( 114877 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:06PM (#5119215) Homepage
    What would you say was your finest moment in court? While you seem to have been pretty much beat up by the court system I'm quite sure you must have had a shining moment or 2, either as a defendant, or perhaps an expert witness?
    • by b0r1s ( 170449 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:32PM (#5119496) Homepage
      And along the same lines, what are some of the more enjoyable things you've accomplished outside of court.

      When you had your weekend radio show on KFI in Los Angeles, you had many stories that brought about changes in your tone, such as experiments with "drive thru"s involving intercepting and overriding the employees such that you could speak directly with the customer from a distance away. While many would argue (and I would certainly agree) that this isn't a technical marvel, it is pretty damn funny.

      So, my question is: everyone knows the big things you've done that you've been punished for, what about the little things you've done that you look back on and smile about?
  • Yes? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by egoff ( 636181 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:06PM (#5119216)
    How do you think that your sentence has changed you, and the way you view your society?
  • Do you feel... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Shads ( 4567 ) <> on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:06PM (#5119217) Homepage Journal
    ... that current laws against technology abuse are adaquete and what kind of changes do you feel should be made if not?
  • Skill sets? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by inteller ( 599544 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:06PM (#5119219)
    How have you been able to maintain current skill sets while you were in the clink and after you got out? Is there any one skill set (programming, etc) that you plan to get current on?
    • Re:Skill sets? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by _ph1ux_ ( 216706 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:28PM (#5119457)
      further - what skill would you say you have increased or bettered while you were away - and what skill(s) would you say have atrophied the most?

      (these skill having to do with computers - even though you have not had access to computers during this time)
    • Re:Skill sets? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Kevin Stevens ( 227724 ) <> on Monday January 20, 2003 @03:37PM (#5120296)
      IIRC, mitnick did not program. His skill was entirely in social engineering, and phone technology (which I presume meant he had a good amount of electronics knowledge). Buffer overflows and computer exploits as we know them today were not his thing. While he may have understood how OS's like Unix work, on a very detailed level, he did not code in C/C++.
  • How do you find it? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by riflemann ( 190895 ) <riflemann@bb. c a c t i i . n et> on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:06PM (#5119221)
    So now that you've been back online for what's probably a few days by the time you read this:

    What do you think of todays internet?

    • He loves ... San Dimas!!
    • by TGK ( 262438 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:30PM (#5119476) Homepage Journal
      Welcome back. Things have changed a lot in the last 8 years. People with your kind of skills are becoming rarer while the number of people that commit on line "crimes" has increased.

      The hot issue for many of us concerns the idea of Fair Use, copyright, and copyright enforcment. Government regulations have been changed and are changing in favor of the same kinds of large corporations that claimed huge damages against you during your less than ideal experiance with the Judidical System.

      My question is this. What are your thoughts on the continued expansion of corporate copyright enforcement rights, including the legalization of some of the techniques you were convicted of using?

      Do you trust corporate america to weild the tools you've used and helped pioneer and what if any regulation do you consider both accecptable and feasable?
  • Which OS? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DocStoner ( 236199 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:06PM (#5119222)
    Are you using WindowsXP, MacOS 10.2, (insert Distribution here)Linux, or your old personal favorite... Sun?
    Hmmm, maybe you will try them all? You are a sneaky one.
  • So... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:06PM (#5119223)
    ...where's the best place to get some sweet WaR3Z, d00d???//

    Honestly, though. Do you think your return to the internet should be a 'celebration'? You -did- break the law, why should we be happy you are back on the saddle again?
  • by Bonker ( 243350 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:06PM (#5119226)
    Kevin, you've said and many of us feel that you had the book thrown at you to try to deterr other wouldbe hackers and crackers from plying their craft.

    How many of the charges brought against you were unfair? What do you feel would have been a fair set of charges to levy against you?
    • by Ooblek ( 544753 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:52PM (#5119632)
      ...and do you think the charges were unfair even though you're a multiple repeat offender?

      Do you hold ill will towards the friend you had in the early days that you bullied into giving you mainframe access at his work? I read in the book Hackers that you not only bullied him into letting you into his workplace after-hours, but you would make him drive you around and buy you Fatburgers. How much of this account is true?

  • by sterno ( 16320 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:06PM (#5119228) Homepage
    Looking abck at the last 8 years that has left you unable to use the Internet, do you feel that this deprevation has had any positive benefits on you? Did you have to find other hobbies that you now enjoy to while away the hours you used to spend hacking?
  • The slammer (Score:5, Interesting)

    by UVABlows ( 183953 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:07PM (#5119231)
    Is the pen as bad as it is made out to be? Did you ever run in to trouble or not get along with the other inmates? Is there any advice that you can offer to any slashdotters that have to serve some time that you wish you had known?

    Welcome back.
  • Your wrongs... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jamienk ( 62492 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:07PM (#5119234)
    2600 and others (even you) often say that it is true that you did some things that were wrong, but nothing anywhere near as bad as what you were accused of and nothing warranting the treatmeant you got. But from a self-critical point of view: what was it that you did that was "wrong" and what punishment would have been fair?
  • Free Kevin! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cioxx ( 456323 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:07PM (#5119241) Homepage
    Question: Do you feel, not being able to use the internet and generally spending so much time incarcerated, set you back on your knowledge? Case in point, 5-6 years ago Linux was still in its infancy. Do you ever get amazed how much OSS community has accomplished in such a short period of time?
  • by mikehihz ( 555979 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:08PM (#5119243)
    Seeing that you have taken some responsibility for your actions, do you think your penalty was fair and will a penalty like you received, fair or not, deter others from following in your footsteps?
  • Future vs Past (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PovRayMan ( 31900 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:08PM (#5119249) Homepage
    I'm curious to know, do you believe your whole case would have been held differently had the crimes been committed in the year 2000 under newer laws rather than the ones of your time?
  • by Astrogen ( 16643 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:08PM (#5119250) Homepage
    There has been alot of press, and over the years you have been a hero, and a Martyr to thousands of geeks and hackers, in addition to phone phreaks and anti establishment movements.

    In what light and or combination of these types do you see yourself now, is that different from how you were 20 years ago, and do you see yourself as a champion of these things in the future or do you intend to just mix back into society and get a "normal" life back (after your book of course)?
  • The speed of change (Score:5, Interesting)

    by zwoelfk ( 586211 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:08PM (#5119254) Journal
    Although social engineering has changed very little since before your unfortunate experience (perhaps only slightly in awareness of the value of the information), the state-of-the-art in hacking (in the more technical, not criminal sense) and even general-purpose programming has changed significantly. Do you feel as though you are at a disadvantage compared to those who have made every attempt (though truly impossible) to keep up? If so, what's your strategy for regaining your edge?

    As a side note, if you're interested in game programming, let me know!! :)

  • Prison Life (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SloppyElvis ( 450156 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:09PM (#5119263)
    This is really a barrage of questions. What did the other prisoners think when they learned the nature of your detainment? Did you tell them you were in for armed robbery to toughen your rep? How would you rate Hollywood's penchant for prison portrayal, accurate, or way off the mark? Also, were you able to follow developments in computing through books; were you granted such a right?
  • still possible (Score:5, Interesting)

    by adamruck ( 638131 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:09PM (#5119269)
    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?
  • clueful authorities? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jeffy124 ( 453342 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:10PM (#5119272) Homepage Journal
    Several months ago we had a warez guy in (Chris Tresco) for a /. interview [], and I'd like to ask the same question I did he:

    >How clueful are they?
    >In your opinion, how did the each party (prosecution, your lawyer, and most
    >important - the judge) look when it came to their understanding of
    >technology? Did they know every nook and cranny, or seem lost in a maze of
    >confusion? Do you think an understanding of the issues in question was a
    >significant factor in court proceedings?

    I know you spoke of this briefly in that lost chapter of your book, in that the companies who said they were victimized significantly overstated their losses (and admitted to it), and the judge went beyond prosecution's suggestion for punishment. But I'm curious to know how competent you think the feds are in these types of legal matters.
  • by crashnbur ( 127738 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:10PM (#5119276)
    For better or worse, what is the most important thing that you have learned that applies to us all?
  • by OneStepFromElysium ( 549625 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:10PM (#5119283) Homepage

    Have your recent law-related experiences (for lack of a more elegant term) brought about any major philosophical changes in your life ? By this, I mean not necessarily computer related changes, but in all aspects of your perception of the world.

  • by Motherfucking Shit ( 636021 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:10PM (#5119286) Journal
    My question, in a nutshell: Did you know that you were going to get caught?

    I guess what I'm most curious about is whether you knew the risks and took them anyway, or whether you thought you were covering your tracks and that the risks were minimal. It would be interesting to know if you knew you'd eventually get busted or whether you thought you were relatively "safe" from discovery.
  • question (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BlackArrow ( 61347 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:11PM (#5119297) Homepage
    Do you think you made a deffinitive impact on security policies today, or do you think that most companies still have a lot to learn about security?
  • by cioxx ( 456323 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:12PM (#5119305) Homepage

    What are your thoughts about TCPA Initiative / Palladium? Do you see it as a destructive force in the computing industry?
  • Seeing.. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Maeryk ( 87865 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:12PM (#5119306) Journal
    As how you have spent 8 years involved in a situation that seems by all accounts to have been an overblown kangaroo court, do you feel the government needs a specific branch specifically to deal with "cybercrime", and if so, how would you see it laid out, ideally, and why?

  • by bungo ( 50628 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:12PM (#5119307)

    I enjoyed your bio, it's a pitty it was cut from your book.

    Can you tell me why it was better to stay in prison and sign away your rights, than to go to trial early with a less prepared lawyer?

    Weren't you just keeping yourself in prison longer that you should have been?

    Do you really think that you would have got an even worse treatment if you went to trial earlier?

  • Question about Trust (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Neck_of_the_Woods ( 305788 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:12PM (#5119314) Journal

    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 recieved by the establishment, and how have you been dealing with the obvious question of you being trusted in the very area you manipulated.

  • Poor guy (Score:4, Funny)

    by OblongPlatypus ( 233746 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:13PM (#5119319)
    ...he agrees that a Slashdot interview is a fine way to help celebrate his return to the Internet

    I guess he'd know better if he'd actually read any Slashdot interviews lately.
  • Social Engineering (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JeanBaptiste ( 537955 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:13PM (#5119324)
    I know that many of your exploits were due to social engineering as well as exploiting known holes in hardware/software. You write heavily about s.e. in your book as well.

    Do you think that social engineering still plays as big a part now as it did in your heyday? Moreso maybe?
  • by aerojad ( 594561 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:13PM (#5119326) Homepage Journal
    Back when you were on last, Hotmail was an independent company, no one knew what the GO network was, NetNanny was just an idea, .coms could go no where but up, p2p was underground, everything was free, and no one had pened the term 'cyber terrorism'.

    How is the 'net different now from the last time and are you going to miss it?
  • You've been prohibited from using computers for some time. This has, obviously, prevented you from gaining experience with new technologies. Couple this with the fact that your name is fairly well-known, how difficult do you think it will be for you to find employment in the computer industry? Will you be trying to do so, or will you try to stay away from technology? And, if you feel it will be difficult for technology reasons, how long do you think it will take you to catch up?

    Yes, I know it's only supposed to be one question per post, but I think these are pretty well related.

  • by Kaypro ( 35263 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:14PM (#5119337)
    What has been the biggest stumbling block or surprise, if any, in attempting to re-educate yourself into today's tech world.
  • by Corporate Troll ( 537873 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:14PM (#5119338) Homepage Journal

    Is it "cracker" or "hacker"?
  • by Dirk Pitt ( 90561 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:14PM (#5119339) Homepage
    I've read a number of editorial writers that have stated that the outright menacing portrayal of you in writings such as Hafner's Cyberpunk is twisted fiction at best. To the thousands of people who've derived opinions of you based on these works, what would you say in response?

  • What's it like? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Pii ( 1955 ) <jedi.lightsaber@org> on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:14PM (#5119340) Journal
    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?

  • Out of the Loop (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dev_sda ( 533180 ) <nathan@uni[ ].net ['t03' in gap]> on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:16PM (#5119355) Homepage Journal
    Kevin, you've been seperated from computers by law, yet now you are running a consulting business. This would suggest that you have some level of expertise with computer technologies that did not exist or existed in fairly immature version of their current incarnations.

    How did you/do you stay current on technologies without actual experience, and was it difficult without having an opportunity to put theory into practice?
  • Security Precautions (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DohDamit ( 549317 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:16PM (#5119356) Homepage Journal
    What security precautions are you going to use to prevent bad people from hacking into your company's systems?
  • by GMontag ( 42283 ) <gmontag AT guymontag DOT com> on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:16PM (#5119358) Homepage Journal
    What is the password to my PayPal account? I forgot it a while back.

    Thanks in advance!
    • Re:Big question (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Tackhead ( 54550 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @02:04PM (#5119699)
      > What is the password to my PayPal account? I forgot it a while back.


      A half-serious question: "If the statute of limitations has expired, and/or your lawyers think you're safe from double jeopardy... What was the passphrase to all those files the DoJ couldn't (or wouldn't admit to being able to) decrypt after all these years?"

  • Social Engineering (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dr_dank ( 472072 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:21PM (#5119386) Homepage Journal
    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.
  • Welcome back Kevin (Score:5, Interesting)

    by T-Kir ( 597145 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:21PM (#5119387) Homepage

    There was a very interesting (and well balanced) program about you I saw in England a while ago, and in it it mentioned that you were put into solitary confinement (AFAIK) for 6 months, and weren't allowed to use (let alone go near) a telephone under the misaligned fear that you could "blow up the country with one call".

    My question is: How does it make you feel when there are such ignorant and misinformed people who are in a position of authority (i.e. judges, police, government) and are there any ways in which you can use your experience to change these attitudes/problems for the good?

  • by squarooticus ( 5092 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:22PM (#5119393) Homepage
    Having read numerous accounts of your activities, both favorable and not, my impression is that your punishment was well deserved.

    My question is therefore, "Did you learn that it is wrong to intentionally destroy others' work for your own amusement? If so, what part of the punishment was most effective? And, if not, what additional punishment might have changed your mind?"

    This is a serious question. I'm not just trolling.
  • by teamhasnoi ( 554944 ) <.teamhasnoi. .at.> on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:23PM (#5119400) Journal
    From what I have read, it seems that you did more with social engineering than you did with actual hacking. What would you say your greatest strength is with regards to using hardware/software? Your greatest weakness?
  • by bloxnet ( 637785 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:23PM (#5119401)
    If 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?
  • Time Flies (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jjwahl ( 81757 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:24PM (#5119409) Homepage
    Time flies and the pace of change is ever increasing in this industry. Certainly the landscape of the computer world has changed dramatically since you were last able to lay your hands on a keyboard.
    Yours is a unique perspective - almost like a kid that has had full run of the candy store and was taken outside and forced to watch (face pressed to the glass). Now you're allowed back in to a drastically changed candy landscape. (Pardon the candy analogy, but I'm fond of sugary things).

    In your opinion, what technology has changed the greatest since you were actively involved in the scene?

    What will be your primary technology focus when you get back online - in terms of getting back up to speed?

    Do you feel intimidated at the prospect of catching up on so many things? Are there areas that you will simply ignore out of necessity but would like to learn more about if you had the time?

    Do you have any desire to hack just for the joy of hacking/discovery or have you been turned off of that in light of the consequences?

    Thank you for your answers and welcome back!
  • public opinion (Score:5, Interesting)

    by k2enemy ( 555744 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:24PM (#5119410)
    you have done an amazing job at garnering support and sympathy from the public, but how will we ever know if you deserve it? the only person that knows your true motives is you. with your social engineering skills and drive to see how far you can push things, wouldn't changing an entire public's opinion be the ultimate social hack?
  • Addiction (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SUB7IME ( 604466 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:25PM (#5119421)
    Commonly, high-risk activities are found to be addictive. Would you say that you were addicted to 'hacking' and social engineering? If so, did your lengthy sentence give you enough time to get over that addiction, or do you still feel the pangs of desire?
  • by _ph1ux_ ( 216706 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:26PM (#5119428)
    While you were incarcerated - were there any attempts at unauthorized access to your ports? How did you manage to secure these ports from would be DoS attacks? Did you have to do a lot of social engineering to keep them safe?
  • by pcraven ( 191172 ) <<moc.ylimafnevarc> <ta> <luap>> on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:27PM (#5119441) Homepage
    I read a story where you were an expert witness for a trial in Las Vegas over redirected telephone calls. The defense called in to question if you really had hacked into the phone system. On a break, you ran to some old 'storage' locker and retrieved a printout of accounts and passwords or something.

    What was the story behind your part that trial? (And how much stuff do you have in storage?)
  • by billmaly ( 212308 ) <(bill.maly) (at) (> on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:27PM (#5119444)
    Despite your legendary status as a cult hero within the geek community, we all know that to remain viable, we must all remain up to date on latest/greatest trends, tools, skills, terminology, etc. Let's be honest, we gain skill and knowledge re: computers by using/interfacing/reading about them. After your long absence from the computer world, how viable do you imagine yourself being? Admittedly, your name alone will open a lot of doors, but if your skills don't keep the door open, you may find yourself back outside. How have you kept current, and how do you plan to get yourself back up to speed with changes that have occured since you were forced offline?
  • by caferace ( 442 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:28PM (#5119453) Homepage

    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 IP's) so I am well and truly curious.


  • by tstoneman ( 589372 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:30PM (#5119479)
    Essentially, you have been in limbo in terms of technology for the past 8 years, having missed the biggest revolution of computing since it's inception (ie. the Internet).

    I've been a hardcore programmer for the past 10 years, and even I find it difficult to keep up with all these new technologies, terms, etc, and I spend around 3 hours a night after work just dedicated to investigating new technologies.

    Where you able to keep up with technology during your incarceration and probation period by just reading books, or were you even allowed to read books? How soon do you think it will take you to re-absorb enough knowledge and, more importantly, experience to make yourself useful in today's world?
  • As we all know, you've been away from the technology scene (by court order) for quite a long time now. A lot of things have changed. I understand that you are likely trying to use this unfortunate situation to your advantage but in all reality, are you really the person who is best suited for the job?

    To be quite blunt, why would a corporation hire someone with a criminal history who hasn't touched a computer in 8 years?

    With all that said, I do wish you the best of luck.
  • by crush ( 19364 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:32PM (#5119495)
    Hi Kevin, Two questions: 1. Have you been approached by any government agencies to deploy your cracking/hacking skills "in the service of the country" and what do you feel about these recruitment drives? 2. How would you hack the court systems to improve it?
  • John Markoff (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Memophage ( 88273 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:34PM (#5119507)
    Kevin: 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?
  • by weave ( 48069 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:36PM (#5119519) Journal
    OK, how about a little balance in this interview. Tell us something about you that's not computer-related. What's your favorite type of music, fave movie, tv show? Are you involved with anyone? Do you have any non-tech hobbies? What do you drive? Do you think you are cool enough to hang with the Icy Hot Stuntaz? (What? You don't know the Icy Hot Stuntaz? You will soon, whether you want to or not. You've missed out on so much culture...)
  • One last chance? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by alistair ( 31390 ) <> on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:38PM (#5119532)
    If you were allowed to crack (hack) just one more machine or network, which one would it be.

    And how would you do it?....
  • Remorse? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by suwain_2 ( 260792 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:38PM (#5119533) Journal
    I'm curious: Do you feel remorse / guilt for what you've done? The law aside, do you believe what you did was unethical? (If not, why?) Would you do it again?

    (BTW, I think Slashdot should start having people answer more questions, such as, say, 20-25. I've seen a *lot* of interesting questions, and would hate to see them go unanswered simply because they're not in the top ten.)

  • power (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Kallahar ( 227430 ) <> on Monday January 20, 2003 @02:12PM (#5119756) Homepage
    During your pre-trial detainment, you were put into solitary confinement. The government was afraid that you could start a nuclear war with a mere telephone call. Do you think that was within your skills at the time or were they just afraid of their own fears?

  • by mrtroy ( 640746 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @02:12PM (#5119758)
    At the risk of destroying all of my karma and having a swarm of 2600 guys wearing free kevin shirts coming after my bandwidth I dare to ask the question which I think we are all thinking

    What do you have to offer the security world after being in the clinker for so long. I do not doubt your oldschool skills in any sense, however tthe field of security and networking which you plan on consulting for has changed dramatically in the past few years.

    What do you have to offer still? Despite your fame and being unargueably the cybercrime scapegoat, what skills do you possess that will benefit the security world in 2003? Have you had your relatives print 0-day exploits as well as your email? Do you have knowledge of current OS's and the security flaws they possess?

    This is not a cheapshot at your abilities, however a simple question of how in the fast changing world of technology you have been able to maintain skills while not being able to touch a computer? By Moore's law you are way behind!
  • by Theovon ( 109752 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @02:14PM (#5119769)
    If memory serves, one of the things you got into trouble for was that you broke into computer systems owned by certain big corporations and downloaded proprietary code and/or documents. I've heard your justification for this which is that since you didn't remove anything from their systems, and you didn't sell it for profit, then you didn't really harm them.

    An analogous situation would be where you had a Xerox machine and your own paper in a backback, and you entered into the file rooms of a company where you copied files, and then put them back where you got them. You didn't actually remove anything, and you didn't sell the documents, but you have copies of something that they didn't want you to have.

    In that case, it would be considered breaking an entering and/or espionage, and few people would question that you did something unethical.

    I am an advocate of open source software and disclosure of scientific information which may enhance innovation. But my personal view is that there are certain bits of information about myself that I don't want other people to have. My salary is one such thing. There are open-source software projects I work on in secret before I consider them releasable, which I work on in secret, and I would not appreciate them being released prematurely. The basic idea is that people have personal information and personal inventions which they own and which they have the right to control completely.

    This also applies to a corporation. If IBM pays money to engineers to develop an application, then they own it, and they have the right to control it 100%. That also means they have the right to prevent others from looking at it, even if some of those lookers wouldn't do anything harmful with it.

    In addition, there's this basic idea of being nice and respecting people's rights. I can peek into my neighbors' house and watch them having sex without them knowing it, but out of respect for their wish to not be observed when doing that, I don't try to look.

    Given these two intimately related ideas that people own their inventions that they should have complete control over, and that they have the right to not disclose them, regardless of whether or not you intend to use it for anything, how do you justify hacking into computer systems which do not belong to you and making copies of information which the owners do not wish you to have?

    How is not not harm when you violate someone's personal privacy, even that of a corporation?

  • by nomadicGeek ( 453231 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @02:15PM (#5119779)
    A lot has changed over the last 8 years. While you haven't been able to use computers or the Internet, I'm sure that you have been able to keep up with books and other reading.

    I'm sure that there is something new that you just can't wait to get your hands on. What is it and why?
  • Hacker (Score:5, Interesting)

    by the_Bionic_lemming ( 446569 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @02:52PM (#5120024)
    The media has portrayed you as a master Hacker. Do you consider yourself a hacker? Is there a difference between social engineering and hacking? I ask becuase you indicated in an interview posted on 2600 that you were "admittedly light" in programming skills. What are your thoughts on this?
  • by jolshefsky ( 560014 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @03:03PM (#5120096) Homepage
    I assume there are people who are watching your actions now ... even this interview and its responses. Who do you know is watching you and who do you suspect is watching? As someone experiencing government surveillance first hand, just how bad is it?
  • by Bilbo ( 7015 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @03:43PM (#5120343) Homepage
    Even being the Net.Junkie that I am, I have to admit, there are times when I like to get away from the Internet and being online all the time... for perhaps a week or so. But as soon as I get back from camping in the woods, one of the first things I do is log on to check my email. :-/

    I'm sure that, with all the things you were forced to give up being away from any contact with computers for as long as you were, there were plenty of things you quickly got used to being without, and things you probably even forgot existed. However, I'm sure there were some things you really missed.

    Of all the things you had to do without, what one thing about computers and the Internet did you miss the most?

  • by tchdab1 ( 164848 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @04:10PM (#5120484) Homepage
    How free are you to tell us what you really think about things, and how much is your freedom of speech being moderated by the terms of your parole? For example, if you felt that (this is purely hypothetical), in response to IP issues you believed in taking actions that might be interpreted as criminal, would there be reprecussions for you if you stated them here?
  • by eyefish ( 324893 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @04:41PM (#5120814)
    I was wondering, even though you were not allowed near a machine or the Internet, how did you keep up to date with the latest developments on tech-related issues?

    This I'm sure will be the first question that will come to mind when anyone considers paying for your services as a security expert. i.e.: how can you help a company when you have been "out of the loop" all these years? I figure that since most security concerns are usually on the social engineering side that this will not be a big deal, but when it comes to other more technical aspects, how will you be able to help them?
  • by Drestin ( 82768 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @04:43PM (#5120834)
    OK, check with your lawyers but as I'm sure you know the statue of limitations for computer crimes (not otherwise associated with violent crimes) is 4 years in most every state. So, with that in mind; can you tell us some of the coolest hacks you've ever done? Most especially; any so well done that they have gone undiscovered (and unprosecutable now)?

If I had only known, I would have been a locksmith. -- Albert Einstein