Hitting a Hacker Where it Hurts -- in the Mouse

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By normal criminal standards, it would seem that Kevin Mitnick got off easy. Mitnick, the only computer hacker to make the FBI's 10 Most Wanted list, pleaded guilty to five felony counts of software theft and online sabotage that caused millions of dollars in damage. For that, he must pay -– get this -- a $4,125 fine. Prosecutors had asked that Mitnick be ordered to pay $1.5 million, claiming his notoriety and skills would eventually allow him to earn money through book, film or TV contracts, but the judge, apparently, wanted to hit Mitnick where he lives: in cyberspace.

Counting time served, the 36-year-old Mitnick also has a year left in prison before he’s eligible for parole. And that’s when the real punishment kicks in. For his three-year probation, Mitnick is prohibited from having access to anything that can be used for Internet access. No computers, software, hardware, or cellular telephones –- not even TV. Which doesn’t leave Mitnick much in the way of a life; hence the small fine. As she handed down the sentence, U.S. District Judge Mariana Pfaelzer said she doubted Mitnick would be able to earn anything more than minimum wage for the next three years without access to his most marketable skills. But he won’t be doing any damage either.