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Accused Ebay hacker on electronic leash

Judge sends Heckenkamp home with modifications

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Until he goes to trial in March, the only sophisticated electronics in accused eBay hacker Jerome Heckenkamp's life will be the monitoring bracelet bolted to his ankle, under a court order issued Tuesday clearing the way for his release.



In a hearing in federal court in San Jose, Calif., U.S. magistrate Patricia Trumble reestablished bail for the imprisoned computer whiz at $50,000, but imposed a new set of restrictions on his release. Heckenkamp will remain prohibited from using cell phones and the Internet, and is now also banned from accessing or owning a computer, even without an Internet connection.

Trumble carved out exceptions for ATMs, point of sale terminals, and some other computerized conveniences, while explicitly banning others, including video games and fax machines.

In handing down the order, Trumble said Heckencamp's recent court appearances gave her pause.

Heckencamp, 22, had been free on bail until January 18th, when he unexpectedly fired attorney Jennifer Granick, and in an impromptu hour-long hearing persuaded the reluctant Trumble to rescind his $50,000 bail, so that the money could be returned to the friend who posted it on his behalf. Heckenkamp was immediately taken into custody at his own request. He later rehired Granick.

"I'm concerned about these events," said Trumble, at Tuesday's hearing. "I have no idea what's going on in this young man's head."

In an interview at the Santa Clara County Jail last week, Heckenkamp told SecurityFocus that his actions were aimed at relieving his friend from the financial burden of the bond, and were also prompted by growing frustration over the slow pace of his criminal case, and the ongoing restrictions that conditioned his release. "As long as I was out on bond, I didn't feel free anyway," said Heckenkamp. "And I can't work on my case properly with the computer restrictions."

Electronic Monitoring

Last week, Heckenkamp's pre-trial supervisor claimed that an FBI search of Heckenkamp's computer hard drive following his detention turned up evidence of Internet use. Heckenkamp's father, Thomas Heckenkamp, flew in from Wisconsin to testify at Tuesday's hearing that it was him, and not his son, who went online, but the matter was dropped when prosecutor Ross Nadel told the court that he didn't oppose Heckencamp's re-release under the tighter restrictions.

The senior Heckencamp said he would post the bail through a bail bondsman.

If Heckencamp found his pre-trial restrictions onerous two weeks ago, they've only gotten worse. In addition to the new computer restrictions, Heckencamp will be permitted to leave his San Jose home only in accordance with a schedule established by his pre-trial release supervisor, with his comings and goings tracked by an electronic monitoring system.

The monitoring system used by the federal judiciary works something like a cordless phone. It consists of a tamper-resistant radio transmitter that's clamped over the defendant's ankle, with a stationary receiver plugged into his home telephone line (which must not have call forwarding). The receiver keeps a log of every occasion the transmitter moves into or out of its 150 foot range. The log is polled automatically by a central monitoring company under contract with the U.S. courts, and the results made available to the defendant's pre-trial release supervisor.

A former network engineer at Los Alamos National Labs in New Mexico, Heckenkamp lost his job in January, 2001, when prosecutors charged him with defacing eBay under the hacker handle MagicFX in 1999, while a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin. He's also charged with penetrating computers belonging to Lycos, Exodus Communications, Juniper Networks, E-Trade Group and Cygnus Support Solutions. Heckenkamp says he's innocent on all counts. His trial is set for 19 March.

© 2001 SecurityFocus.com, all rights reserved.

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