A hacker with a history of breaking into some of the nation’s most protected computer systems has agreed to a plea bargain that would put him in jail for only eight months, his lawyer said Saturday.
Kevin Mitnick was arrested Feb. 15 after he allegedly broke into a San Francisco-area computer network and read private e-mail and other files, and cracked the tightly guarded system of computer security specialist Tsutomu Shimomura.
Shimomura, a researcher at the San Diego Supercomputer Center, put his own vacation on hold and helped federal agents track his intruder through cyberspace.
Prosecutors said Mitnick commandeered cellular phone circuits to raid corporate computer systems and steal information, including thousands of credit card numbers.
Mitnick, 31, had been scheduled to go on trial July 10 on 23 federal counts.
However, according to the plea agreement signed last week, Mitnick admits illegally possessing 15 telephone numbers to gain access to computer systems, and the government agrees to drop the other 22 counts.
If the agreement is accepted by the court, he would serve just eight months in jail, said John Dusenbury, Mitnick’s public defender. He could have faced a maximum of 20 years on each of the 23 counts.
“It was certainly going to be beneficial to him under the circumstances” to plead guilty, Dusenbury said. No sentencing date has been set for the remaining charge.
This wasn’t the first time Mitnick’s computer activities got him in trouble. As a teenager, Mitnick broke into a sensitive Defense Department database.
He later pleaded guilty to breaking into Digital Equipment Corp. computers and struck a plea bargain with California prosecutors in which he served one year in prison and promised to get treatment for an addiction to computers.
However, he went on the lam in 1992 before completing the treatment, eluding authorities until his arrest in Raleigh in February.