Master cyberthief appears in court

RALEIGH, North Carolina, Feb 17 1995 (AFP)

A man described as the world's most dangerous computer hacker was ordered held without bond when he appeared Friday before a federal magistrate.

The master cyberthief, Kevin Mitnick, 31, appeared in court in leg irons as he waived his right to a probable cause hearing before Magistrate Wallace Dixon.

Mitnick, who has broken into military defense computers, credit card data banks and telephone company systems, was arrested by the FBI this week after a two-week nationwide electronic manhunt by law enforcement agents and computer specialists.

"I'm curious to know what's broken in him ... why he feels compelled to do this," said Tsutomu Shimomura, a 30-year-old computer security specialist with the San Diego Supercomputer Center in California, who helped set up the web that nabbed Mitnick.

Mitnick is charged with computer fraud and illegal use of a telephone access device, federal crimes that could lead to up to 20 years in prison.

Mitnick had been wanted since November 1992, but the search began in earnest in the last few weeks when authorities enlisted the help of Shimomura and his team of experts, who traced Mitnick to an Internet provider and eventually determined his calls were coming from a cellular phone in North Carolina.

The FBI and local telephone technicians drove around the city of Raleigh

Monday with Shimomura and a directional antenna to trace the calls to Minnick's apartment complex.

Mitnick, one of the first people indicted under the Computer Security Act of 1987, was convicted in 1989 of breaking into MCI Corp.'s computer to gain long-distance access codes and of causing four million dollars in damage to Digital Equipment Corp. He served one year in prison and underwent court-ordered therapy

His former therapist, Harriet Rosetto, dismissed claims that Mitnick was a dangerous cyberspace criminal.

Rosetto said she sees Mitnick as "a sad, lonely, angry, isolated boy ... That he's become public enemy No. 1 is kind of laughable."

Mitnick's arrest underlines the problem of fraud and other illicit activity on the Internet and other computer networks, analysts said. Last month, the US administration established a Computer Emergency Response team to help guard against piracy on the government-operated Intenet.

Industry experts say some of the largest US companies, including IBM, General Electric and Sprint have been victimized by hackers using on-line networks.