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Hacker may get 35 years

Kevin Mitnick, the world's most wanted computer hacker, yesterday appeared in court in leg irons, facing up to 35 years in prison and huge fines.

His long hair tied back with a rubber band, Mitnick was remanded in custody by a federal magistrate in Raleigh. His arrest on Wednesday night in the North Carolina town had brought to an end a two-year cyberchase for the computer outlaw, led by Tsutomu Shimomura, a computer security expert.

The authorities claim Mitnick, 31, electronically raided some of the most heavily protected corporate computer systems in the nation and pilfered information worth more than $1m, including at least 20,000 credit card numbers.

He has been recognised as a world-class hacker since, in his teens, he broke into a top security military computer.

He is now 31, and his former therapist described him yesterday as "a sad, lonely, angry, isolated boy".

No motive has been attributed to Mitnick, except perhaps vanity. Mr Shimomura said yesterday: "I'm curious to know what's broken in him: why he feels compelled to do this."

Hunting the outlaw, page 3