Cyber alert: portrait of Kevin Mitnick

Thursday, 5 June 2003, 9:41 AM EST

It's April, and more than 1,600 corporate techies crowd into a ballroom in San Francisco's Moscone Center. The room buzzes with excitement as the star attraction, convicted computer hacker Kevin D. Mitnick, saunters onto the stage. He's on a panel of security gurus and legal experts ready to talk about whether companies should hire ex-hackers to safeguard their computer networks.

It's an explosive subject in the industry, and sparks fly as Mitnick takes on other panelists, including Ira Winkler, chief security strategist at Hewlett-Packard Co. After Winkler warns against hiring ex-hackers, Mitnick mocks him, claiming Winkler himself once hired ex-hackers to work at a consulting company he owned. "I know them personally," Mitnick says acidly. "I had traded [break-in secrets] with them."

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