After 2 years of searching, the FBI finally arrested 31 year old Kevin David Mitnick on the 15th of February 1995. This was by no means his first offence, in fact his record ranges back as far as 1980, when he first tapped into a restaurant’s drive through intercom and spent the day insulting customers. Some of his other crimes include accessing files from his school, firms Pacific Bell and the Digital Equipment Corporation (which gave him control of 3 New York telephone exchanges allowing him to eavesdrop on FBI conversations), and the North American Air Defense Command computer. His behaviour resulted in several terms of institutionalisation in both juvenile and adult prisons, as well residential treatment programs intended to rid him of his ‘computer addiction’, a compulsive disorder known as ‘computer tendency syndrome’.
On this occasion he was arrested for numerous offenses that included the theft of 20,000 credit card numbers, hacking into Tsutomu Shimomura’s computer system (a security specialist) with a sophisticated spoofing technique, where he copied the ‘Berkeley Packet Filter’, a United Sates military program, and a reverse-engineering package designed to make cellular calls untraceable".
On April 4th 1999, Kevin pleaded guilty and reached an agreement with authorities. Until this point he had been confined for four years without a bail hearing, and faced an almost infinite number of charges. Some of these included - 14 Federal Wire Fraud breaches, computer fraud under California Penal code 502 c (2) – 502 a (10) – 502 a (7), unlawful interception of electronic communications, unlawful possession of access devices (names and passwords), one count of unauthorised access to federal computers, and willfully causing damage.
When Kevin is finally released, it will be under conditions that will not allow him to come in contact with computers or ‘high tech’ equipment (cordless phones) for 3 years. This includes his ability as an adviser to third parties - thus barring him from the entire "spectrum of modern necessities" which will restrict his career opportunities within the information age. This also means he will continue to be a virtual prisoner in this world that has electronic devices everywhere.
It must be remembered, punishment can only be effective if it is practical – and this punishment is not. Furthermore, Kevin’s sixth Amendment right of a speedy trial was violated. Should this not be taken into account when passing sentence? The amount of $80 million estimated for the supposed damages he caused are also out of hand. At no time did he deprive anyone of their property by removing or damaging it – nor did he use any information he obtained for financial gain – instead pursued knowledge over monetary reward. It is preposterous to punish activities that society normally rewards and encourages. Kevin is nothing more than a product of our society - he wanted to be part of the system, but no one would allow him - and now the punishment he is receiving is unjust.
Presumably, the motivating factor behind Kevin’s crucifixion is a message for all other would be hackers that such actions will not be tolerated. But would it not be prudent for the authorities to investigate those whose duty it is to protect such information, and consider the negligent factor on their behalf?
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Written By Evan Sycamnias