Freedom Downtime - The Story of Kevin Mitnick (2001)

2600 Films

1 rating
Views: 15,698
Date Added: 14 years ago.

Documentary Description

Freedom Downtime is a 2001 documentary film sympathetic to the convicted computer hacker Kevin Mitnick, directed by Emmanuel Goldstein and produced by 2600 Films.

The documentary centers on the fate of Mitnick, whom is claimed to have been misrepresented in the feature film Takedown (2000) produced by Miramax and adapted from the book by the same name by Tsutomu Shimomura and John Markoff, which is based on real events. As well as documenting a number of computer enthusiasts who drive across the United States searching for Miramax representatives and demonstrating their discontent with certain aspects of the bootleg script of Takedown they had acquired. One major point of criticism by them of Takedown was that it ended with Mitnick being convicted to serve a long-term prison sentence. While in reality, at the time the film's production, Mitnick had not yet been in front of a court; although nevertheless, was to be incarcerated for five years without bail in high-security facility. Freedom Downtime also touches on what happened to other hackers after being sentenced. The development of the Free Kevin movement is also covered.

Several notable and iconic figures from the hacking community appear in the movie, including Phiber Optik (Mark Abene), Bernie S (Ed Cummings), Alex Kasper, and (director) Emmanuel Goldstein (Eric Corley). Freedom Downtime tries to communicate a different view of the hacker community than that usually shown by the mainstream media, with hackers being depicted as curious people who rarely intend to cause damage, driven by a desire to explore and conduct pranks. The film goes on to question the rationality of placing computer hackers who went "over the line" in the same environment as serious felons.

It also contains interviews with people related to Mitnick and hacker culture in general. The authors of Cyberpunk: Outlaws and Hackers on the Computer Frontier, ex-couple Katie Hafner and John Markoff, appear in very different roles. While Hafner's empathy for Mitnick is shown to have grown, Markoff continues to defend his critical book and articles in The New York Times newspaper about the hacker. Markoff is ridiculed, as the narrator, director Goldstein (a hacker himself), points out his factual errors in the interview given. Reba Vartanian, Mitnick's grandmother, also appears in a number of interview segments. Furthermore, lawyers, friends and libertarians give their view of the story. Footage and interviews from the DEF CON and Hackers on Planet Earth conventions try to dispel some hacker myths and confirm others.

The film premiered at H2K, the 2000 H.O.P.E. convention. After that the film saw a limited independent theatrical release, and was shown at film festivals. It was released on VHS and sold from the 2600 web site.

In June 2004, after years in production, a DVD was released. The DVD includes a wealth of extra material spread over two discs, including three hours of extra footage, an interview with Kevin Mitnick in January 2003 (shortly after his supervised release ended,) and various DVD eggs. [1] It also included subtitles in 20 languages, provided by volunteers.


From the original website:

FREEDOM DOWNTIME is the story of computer hacker Kevin Mitnick, imprisoned without bail for nearly five years. The film tries to uncover the reasons why the authorities are so scared of Mitnick as well as define what exactly he did. As word of a new Hollywood movie portraying Mitnick as a terrorist becomes known, hackers begin to turn to activism to get their message out. Through interviews with relatives, friends, lawyers, and experts in the computer and civil liberties arena, a picture of a great injustice becomes apparent. A cross country journey uncovers some realities of the hacker culture as well as the sobering reality that so many technically adept young people seem destined for prison.

Winner of the Audience Award for Documentaries at the New York International Independent Film and Video Festival, 2002


Kevin David Mitnick (born August 6, 1963) is a computer security consultant and author. He was a world-famous controversial computer hacker in the late 20th century, who was, at the time of his arrest, the most wanted computer criminal in United States history.[1]

Arrest, Conviction, and Incarceration

After a well-publicized pursuit, the FBI arrested Kevin Mitnick on February 15, 1995 at his apartment in Raleigh, North Carolina, on federal offenses related to a 2½-year computer hacking spree.[2]

In 1999, Mitnick confessed to four counts of wire fraud, two counts of computer fraud and one count of illegally intercepting a wire communication, as part of a plea agreement before the United States District Court for the Central District of California in Los Angeles. He was sentenced to 46 months in prison in addition to 22 months for violating the terms of his 1989 supervised release sentence for computer fraud. He admitted to violating the terms of supervised release by hacking into PacBell voicemail and other systems and to associating with known computer hackers, in this case co-defendant Louis De Payne.

Mitnick served five years in prison, four and a half years pre-trial and eight months in solitary confinement, because law enforcement officials convinced a judge that he had the ability to "start a nuclear war by whistling into a pay phone".[3] He was released on January 21, 2000. During his supervised release, which ended on January 21, 2003, he was initially restricted from using any communications technology other than a landline telephone. Mitnick fought this decision in court, eventually winning a ruling in his favor, allowing him to access the Internet.

As per the plea deal, Mitnick was also prohibited from profiting from films or books that are based on his criminal activity for a period of seven years.

Mitnick now runs Mitnick Security Consulting LLC, a computer security consultancy.

Early life

At the age of twelve Kevin Mitnick used social engineering to bypass the punchcard system used in the Los Angeles bus system. After a friendly bus driver told him where he could buy his own punch, he could ride any bus in the greater LA area using unused transfer slips he found in the trash. Social engineering became his primary method of obtaining information, whether it be user names and passwords, modem phone numbers or any number of other pieces of data.

In high school, he was introduced by "Petronix" to phone phreaking, a method of manipulating telephones, which he often used to evade long distance charges. Mitnick also became handy with amateur radios; using radio equipment, Mitnick reportedly managed to gain unauthorized access to the speaker systems of nearby fast food restaurants.

Computer cracking

Mitnick gained unauthorized access to his first computer network in 1979, at the age of sixteen, when a friend gave him the phone number for the Ark, the computer system Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) used for developing their RSTS/E operating system software. He broke into DEC's computer network and copied DEC's software, a crime he was charged and convicted for in 1988. He was sentenced to twelve months in prison followed by a three year period of supervised release. Near the end of his supervised release, Mitnick hacked into Pacific Bell voice mail computers. Mitnick fled after a warrant was issued for his arrest, becoming a fugitive for the next two and a half years.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice while a fugitive Mitnick gained unauthorized access to dozens of computer networks. He used cloned cellular phones to hide his location and, among other things, copied valuable proprietary software from some of the country’s largest cellular telephone and computer companies. Mitnick also intercepted and stole computer passwords, altered computer networks, and broke into and read private e-mail. Mitnick was apprehended in February 1995 in North Carolina. When arrested he was found with cloned cellular phones, over one hundred clone cellular phone codes, and multiple pieces of false identification.[4]

Confirmed Criminal Acts

* Using the Los Angeles bus transfer system to get free rides[5]

* Evading the FBI[6]

* Hacking into DEC system(s) to view VMS source code (DEC reportedly spent $160,000 in cleanup costs)[5][6]

* Gaining full admin privileges to an IBM minicomputer at the Computer Learning Center in LA in order to win a bet[5]

* Hacking Motorola, NEC, Nokia, Sun Microsystems and Fujitsu Siemens systems[6]

Alleged Criminal Acts

* Stole computer manuals from a Pacific Bell telephone switching center in Los Angeles[7]

* Read the e-mail of computer security officials at MCI Communications and Digital[7]

* Wiretapped the California DMV[7]

* Made free cell phone calls[8]

* Hacked SCO, PacBell, FBI, Pentagon, Novell, CA DMV, USC and Los Angeles Unified School District systems.

* Wiretapped FBI agents according to John Markoff,[7] although denied by Kevin Mitnick.[9]


Kevin Mitnick's criminal activities, arrest, and trial, along with the associated journalism were all controversial.

Though Mitnick has been convicted of copying software unlawfully and possession of several forged identification documents, his supporters argue that his punishment was excessive. In his 2002 book, The Art of Deception, Mitnick states that he compromised computers solely by using passwords and codes that he gained by social engineering. He claims he did not use software programs or hacking tools for cracking passwords or otherwise exploiting computer or phone security.

This controversy is highlighted by the differing views offered in two books: John Markoff and Tsutomu Shimomura's Takedown, and Jonathan Littman's The Fugitive Game. Littman made four notable allegations:

* journalistic impropriety by Markoff, who had covered the case for the New York Times based on rumor and government claims, while never interviewing Kevin himself.

* overzealous prosecution of Mitnick by the government

* mainstream media over-hyping Mitnick's actual crimes

* Shimomura's involvement in the matter being unclear or of dubious legality

The case against Mitnick tested the newly enacted laws that had been enacted for dealing with computer crime, and it raised public awareness of security issues involving networked computers. The controversy remains, however, and Mitnick is often used today as an example of the quintessential computer criminal.

Supporters of Mitnick have asserted that many of the charges against him were fraudulent[10] and not based on actual losses.[11]


In 2000, Skeet Ulrich and Russell Wong portrayed Kevin Mitnick and Tsutomu Shimomura in the movie Track Down, which was based on the book Takedown by John Markoff and Tsutomu Shimomura. The DVD was released in September of 2004.[12]

Further controversy came over the release of the movie, with Littman alleging that portions of the film were taken from his book without permission.

A fan-based documentary named Freedom Downtime was created in response to Track Down.

Mitnick is the author of two computer security books:

* The Art of Intrusion: The Real Stories Behind the Exploits of Hackers, Intruders & Deceivers[13]

* The Art of Deception[14]


- United States Attorney's Office, Central District of California (9 August 1999). "Kevin Mitnick sentenced to nearly four years in prison; computer hacker ordered to pay restitution to victim companies whose systems were compromised". Press release.

- United States Department of Justice (15 February 1995). "Fugitive computer hacker arrested in North Carolina". Press release.

- Mills, Elinor (20 July 2008). "Social Engineering 101: Mitnick and other hackers show how it's done". CNET News.

- Painter, Christopher M.E. (March 2001). "Supervised Release and Probation Restrictions in Hacker Cases". United States Attorneys’ USA Bulletin (Executive Office for United States Attorneys) 49 (2).

- a b c The Art of Deception: Controlling the Human Element of Security, by Kevin Mitnick (2002, Hardback ISBN 0-471-23712-4, Paperback ISBN 0-7645-4280-X)

- a b c 2600 Live Mitnick interview, 2600 Magazine, Released January 2003, Run time: 1 hr 18 min 5 sec

- a b c d A Most-Wanted Cyberthief Is Caught in His Own Web by John Markoff 1995 New York Times

- Chapelle, Joe (Director). (2000). Takedown.

- "A convicted hacker debunks some myths". 13 October 2005. Retrieved 2008-08-27.

- Randolph, Donald C.. "About Kevin's Case". Free Kevin Mitnick. Archived from the original on 2006-04-24.

- "Defense consolidated motion for sanctions and for reconsideration of motion for discovery and application for expert fees based upon new facts". Free Kevin Mitnick. Archived from the original on 2005-12-22.

- Skeet Ulrich, Russell Wong. (2004). Track Down. [DVD]. Dimension Studios.

- Mitnick, Kevin; Simon, William L. (December 27, 2005). The Art of Intrusion: The Real Stories Behind the Exploits of Hackers, Intruders & Deceivers. Wiley Books. ISBN 978-0-7645-6959-3.

- Mitnick, Kevin; Simon, William L. (October 2003). The Art of Deception: Controlling the Human Element of Security. Wiley Books. ISBN 978-0-7645-4280-0.


About the DVD:

The long-awaited DVD of FREEDOM DOWNTIME is now available. We had so much extra material that it couldn't fit on a single DVD! This two disc set has more features than just about any DVD ever released.

Translation into Danish, German, Spanish, Estonian, Farsi, Finnish, French, Hebrew, Croatian, Italian, Japanese, Dutch, Norwegian, Polish, Portugese (Brazilian), Russian, Swedish, Turkish, and Chinese

Additional caption in English

Director's commentary track

Full length interview with Kevin Mitnick

Nearly three hours of extra footage

Lots of games and hidden stuff

Two full length discs, Region Free, DVD Formatpad


There are no comments. Be the first to post one.
  Post comment as a guest user.
Click to login or register:
Your name:
Your email:
(will not appear)
Your comment:
(max. 1000 characters)
Are you human? (Sorry)
All external videos in CosmoLearning are merely links to outside video hosts that make available embed codes to be used by external websites or blogs. CosmoLearning will never be responsible for any kind of hosting of external productions. To contact the original host company or uploader, please click on the video displayed to be forwarded to the original video.