U.S. Lets Hacker Back Online

Thursday, July 13th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A notorious computer hacker who led the FBI on a three-year manhunt while allegedly causing millions of dollars in damage to technology companies now has federal permission to pursue work as a computer consultant or online writer.

It's a ''180 degree change'' in the restrictions previously enforced by Kevin Mitnick's probation officer, Mitnick attorney Donald Randolph said Wednesday.

Under terms of his 1995 plea agreement, Mitnick had been barred from any contact with computers, cellular phones or any other technology capable of online access.

After his release from prison in January, his probation officer also barred him from speaking publicly or writing about technology-related issues and from taking any job that might give him access to a computer.

Mitnick, 36, challenged the limitations, and a federal judge last month ruled such blanket decisions were unacceptable without consideration of the specific offers.

His federal probation officer informed him this week that he could pursue some computer-related work, Randolph said. Among the jobs approved: writing for Steven Brill's online magazine Contentville, speaking in Los Angeles on computer security, consulting on computer security and consulting for a computer-related television show.

Randolph said he believes Mitnick is considering taking advantage of all opportunities, though he remains barred from leaving Southern California.

``We are pleased with the decision because we think it lends itself to the rehabilitation of Kevin,'' said attorney Sherman Ellison, who also represents Mitnick. ``It's also constructive for the community to use this man's brain for the benefit of the community.''

Calls to Southern California U.S. Probation Offices for comment late Wednesday rang unanswered.

Mitnick spent five years in prison after FBI investigators traced his electronic footprints to a Raleigh, N.C., apartment in 1995. He is said to have cost companies millions of dollars by stealing their software and altering computer information. The victims included Motorola, Novell, Nokia and Sun Microsystems, and the University of Southern California.