Banned from the Internet

Joe Lavin's Humor Column

From Computoredge

Banned from the Internet

March 14, 2003


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Recently, legendary hacker Kevin Mitnick accessed the Internet for the first time in seven years. In jail for computer fraud from 1995 to 2000, Mitnick was released with the stipulation that he not access the Internet for three years. Just to read e-mail, for example, Mitnick was forced to ask friends to print it on paper, because viewing e-mail on a computer would have been a violation of his parole. While Mitnick's plight has received much media attention, he is not the only person to have dealt with a long computer ban.

For example, next month, Clarence Miller of Spokane, Washington will be allowed to use a computer for the first time since February 23, 1997. That was the night when Miller, a computer novice, managed to accidentally shut down the entire Department of Defense computer network just by checking his e-mail with America Online. "I don't know what the heck happened," Miller recalled. "I guess I'm just not very good with computers."

The FBI originally charged Miller with five counts of computer fraud, but the charges were later dropped when they realized that Miller had accomplished his feat through sheer incompetence alone. Miller served no jail time but was ordered by a judge not to touch computers for five years as a penalty for being "a clueless yet dangerous threat to our nation's computer networks."

In April, Stacy Henderson of Washington, DC will be allowed to use e-mail at work for the first time since last July when she was banned for forwarding too many frivolous messages to co-workers. "It was awful. Every little joke that came her way she sent to the entire office," her boss James Carberry said. "One week she sent the Neiman Marcus cookie recipe three times!" Even after the end of her sentence, Henderson will remain forbidden to use the cc line on e-mail for another year.

James Allan of St. Paul, Minnesota has been allowed to call tech support at his Internet provider for the first time in three months. Allen was banned last fall after calling the help desk of Sure Net Connect approximately once every twelve minutes. After his last call -- in which help desk worker Dylan Gerber spent over forty-five minutes explaining the concept of double-clicking -- Allan was told not to call for at least three months.

Allan said he's excited to have a second chance to call tech support. "I've heard great things about the whole web page. I can't wait for them to help me see it," he said. The help desk, however, did not seem nearly as excited. "I swear to God. If he calls me up again, I'm quitting," Gerber said quietly yesterday.

Boston Red Sox fan Ted Collins has recently logged onto a sports web site for the first time since last September. In what is becoming an annual tradition, a bitterly depressed Collins announced a complete moratorium on all Red Sox-related media in September, after the team failed yet again to win a championship. Collins had originally intended the moratorium to last "for frickin' ever," yet he has lately decided to read a few articles about the Red Sox online. "You know, if Pedro's healthy, and Nomar can get to 35 home runs, they might just be able to do it," a delusional Collins said while checking out ESPN.com.

In March, Stanley Waterhouse of Brooklyn, New York will be allowed to use the Internet for the first time in four years. In 1999, Waterhouse was convicted by his wife of looking at one pornographic web site too many, and he was sentenced to four years without Internet access. The penalty also included participation in several family events and a weekly car ride with his in-laws, but it was the Internet ban that was most agonizing to the 43-year-old Waterhouse.

Since 1999, his wife has not allowed him to touch any computer connected to the Internet. Just to view Internet pornography, for example, Waterhouse has had to ask a friend to log onto the Internet for him and print out the pornographic image so that Waterhouse can view it on paper. "The wife was a little suspicious about the new color printer, but I convinced her that it came free with her CD player," he said.

Waterhouse said he can't wait to finally use the Internet when his sentence expires on March 3rd. "Online news sites," he said when asked what he had missed most about the Internet. "That's the first thing I'm going to check out when I get back -- an online news site." As his wife was present at the time, his answer can not be considered reliable.


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