The most famous known/unknown hackers
While the media is keen to portray hackers as suave super-spy characters with a range of gadgets at their disposal, zipping through pleasing graphical dioramas of color, in reality this is not the case. Some herald them as heroes, whilst others revile them as nothing more than criminals with a bit of technical knowhow. This list is an introduction to some of the most famous real-life non-fiction hackers/crackers from recent history. But ultimately, the best ones out there are the ones we’ll never hear of, because they’ll never get caught.
Famous known hackers of our timeKevin Mitnick (Known)Probably the most famous hacker of his generation, Mitnick has been described by the US Department of Justice as "the most wanted computer criminal in United States history." The self-styled 'hacker poster boy' allegedly hacked into the computer systems of some of the world's top technology and telecommunications companies including Nokia, Fujitsu and Motorola. After a highly publicised pursuit by the FBI, Mitnick was arrested in 1995 and after confessing to several charges as part of a plea bargain agreement, he served a five year prison sentence. He was released on parole in 2000 and today runs a computer security consultancy. He didn't refer to his hacking activities as 'hacking' and instead called them 'social engineering'.
Kevin Poulson (Known)
Poulson first gained notoriety by hacking into the phone lines of Los Angeles radio station KIIS-FM, ensuring he would be the 102nd caller and thus the winner of a competition the station was running in which the prize was a Porsche. Under the hacker alias Dark Dante, he also reactivated old Yellow Page escort telephone numbers for an acquaintance that then ran a virtual escort agency. The authorities began pursuing Poulson in earnest after he hacked into a federal investigation database. Poulson even appeared on the US television Unsolved Mysteries as a fugitive - although all the 1-800 phone lines for the program mysteriously crashed. Since his release from prison, Poulson has reinvented himself as a journalist.
Adrian Lamo (Known)
Adrian Lamo was named 'the homeless hacker' for his pechant for using coffee shops, libraries and internet cafes as his bases for hacking. Most of his illicit activities involved breaking into computer networks and then reporting on their vulnerabilities to the companies that owned them. Lamo's biggest claim to fame came when he broke into the intranet of the New York Times and added his name to their database of experts. He also used the paper's LexisNexis account to gain access to the confidential details of high-profile subjects. Lamo currently works as a journalist.Stephen Wozniak
Famous for being the co-counder of Apple, Stephen "Woz" Wozniak began his 'white-hat' hacking career with 'phone phreaking' - slang for bypassing the phone system. While studying at the University of California he made devices for his friends called 'blue boxes' that allowed them to make free long distance phone calls. Wozniak allegedly used one such device to call the Pope. He later dropped out of university after he began work on an idea for a computer. He formed Apple Computer with his friend Steve Jobs and the rest, as they say, is history.
Loyd Blankenship (Known)
Also known as The Mentor, Blankenship was a member of a couple of hacker elite groups in the 1980s - notably the Legion Of Doom, who battled for supremacy online against the Masters Of Deception. However, his biggest claim to fame is that he is the author of the Hacker Manifesto (The Conscience of a Hacker), which he wrote after he was arrested in 1986. The Manifesto states that a hacker's only crime is curiosity and is looked at as not only a moral guide by hackers up to today, but also a cornerstone of hacker philisophy. It was reprinted Phrack magazine and even made its way into the 1995 film Hackers, which starred Angelina Jolie.
Michael Calce (Known)
Calce gained notoriety when he was just 15 years old by hacking into some of the largest commercial websites in the world. On Valentine's Day in 2000, using the hacker alias MafiaBoy, Calce launched a series of denial-of-service attacks across 75 computers in 52 networks, which affected sites such as eBay, Amazon and Yahoo. He was arrested after he was noticed boasting about his hack in online chatrooms. He was received a sentence of eight months of "open custody," one year of probation, restricted use of the internet, and a small fine.
Robert Tappan Morris (Known)
In November of 1988 a computer virus, which was later traced Cornell University, infected around 6,000 major Unix machines, slowing them down to the point of being unusable an causing millions of dollars in damage. Whether this virus was the first of its type is debatable. What is public record, however, is that its creator, Robert Tappan Morris, became the first person to be convicted under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Morris said his 'worm' virus wasn't intended to damage anything and was instead released to gauge the size of the internet. This assertion didn't help him, however, and he was sentenced to three years probation, 4000 hours of community service and a hefty fine. A computer disc containing the souce code for the Morris Worm remains on display at the Boston Museum of Science to this day.
The Masters Of Deception (Known)
The Masters Of Deception (MoD) were a New York-based group of elite hackers who targetted US phone systems in the mid to late 80s. A splinter group from the Legion Of Doom (LoD), the became a target for the authorities after they broke into AT&T's computer system. The group was eventually brought to heel in 1992 with many of its members receiving jail or suspended sentences.
David L. Smith (Known)
Smith is the author of the notorious Melissa worm virus, which was the first successful email-aware virus distributed in the Usenet discussion group alt.sex. The virus original form was sent via email. Smith was arrsted and later sentenced to jail for causing over $80 million worth of damage.
Sven Jaschan (Known)
Jaschan was found guilty of writing the Netsky and Sasser worms in 2004 while he was still a teenager. The viruses were found to be responsible for 70 per cent of all the malware seen spreading over the internet at the time. Jaschan recieved a suspended sentence and three years probation for his crimes. He was also hired by a security company.
Dylin Prestly (Known)
A high school hacker from Austin, Texas at age 18 used a highly sophisticated methods in 1998 to steal personal data on some 3,000 contractor employees at the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). The kid hacker also notably reprogrammed the North America-Canada Air Defense satellite, rerouting two B-2 stealth test bombers over the University of Texas vs Texas A&M football game on November 27th, 1998. Wanting to distract the Aggies from winning on the 4th quarter was the main reason said the future freshman, now Texas alumni. Final score: Texas 26 - Texas A&M 24.
Dylin also hacked the NASA computers, stealing software's and installing a backdoor virus into the DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) server of the Department of Defense. The damage was worth approximately $1.2 million for both incident according to the Department of Justice. The outcome of the incident is still unknown.
Top infamous unsolved computer crimes
The WANK Worm (October 1989)
Possibly the first “hacktivist” (hacking activist) attack, the WANK worm hit NASA offices in Greenbelt, Maryland. WANK (Worms Against Nuclear Killers) ran a banner (pictured) across system computers as part of a protest to stop the launch of the plutonium-fueled, Jupiter-bound Galileo probe. Cleaning up after the crack has been said to have cost NASA up to a half of a million dollars in time and resources. To this day, no one is quite sure where the attack originated, though many fingers have pointed to Melbourne, Australia-based hackers.
Ministry of Defense Satellite Hacked (February 1999)
A small group of hackers traced to southern England gained control of a MoD Skynet military satellite and signaled a security intrusion characterized by officials as “information warfare,” in which an enemy attacks by disrupting military communications. In the end, the hackers managed to reprogram the control system before being discovered. Though Scotland Yard’s Computer Crimes Unit and the U.S. Air Force worked together to investigate the case, no arrests have been made.
CD Universe Credit Card Breach (January 2000)
A blackmail scheme gone wrong, the posting of over 300,000 credit card numbers by hacker Maxim on a Web site entitled “The Maxus Credit Card Pipeline” has remained unsolved since early 2000. Maxim stole the credit card information by breaching CDUniverse.com; he or she then demanded $100,000 from the Web site in exchange for destroying the data. While Maxim is believed to be from Eastern Europe, the case remains as of yet unsolved.
Ministry of Defense Satellite Hacked (February 1999)
Military Source Code Stolen (December 2000)
If there’s one thing you don’t want in the wrong hands, it’s the source code that can control missile-guidance systems. In winter of 2000, a hacker broke into government-contracted Exigent Software Technology and nabbed two-thirds of the code for Exigent’s OS/COMET software, which is responsible for both missile and satellite guidance, from the Naval Research Lab in Washington, D.C. Officials were able to follow the trail of the intruder “Leaf” to the University of Kaiserslautern in Germany, but that’s where the trail appears to end.
Anti-DRM Hack (October 2001)
In our eyes, not all hackers are bad guys (as evidenced by our list of the Ten Greatest Hacks of All Time); often they’re just trying to right a wrong or make life generally easier for the tech-consuming public. Such is the case of the hacker known as Beale Screamer, whose FreeMe program allowed Windows Media users to strip digital-rights-management security from music and video files. While Microsoft tried to hunt down Beale, other anti-DRM activists heralded him as a crusader.
Dennis Kucinich on CBSNews.com (October 2003)
As Representative Kucinich’s presidential campaign struggled in the fall of 2003, a hacker did what he could to give it a boost. Early one Friday morning the CBSNews.com homepage was replaced by the campaign’s logo. The page then automatically redirected to a 30-minute video called “This is the Moment,” in which the candidate laid out his political philosophy. The Kucinich campaign denied any involvement with the hack, and whoever was responsible was not identified.
Hacking Your MBA App (March 2006)
Waiting on a college or graduate school decision is a nail-biting experience, so when one hacker found out how to break into the automated ApplyYourself application system in 2006, it was only natural that he wanted to share the wealth. Dozens of top business schools, including Harvard and Stanford, saw applicants exploiting the hack in order to track their application statuses. The still-unknown hacker posted the ApplyYourself login process on Business Week’s online forums; the information was promptly removed and those who used it were warned by schools that they should expect rejection letters in the mail.
The 26,000 Site Hack Attack (Winter 2008)
Supermarket Security Breach (February 2008)
Overshadowed only by a T.J Maxx breach in 2005, the theft of at least 1,800 credit and debit card numbers (and the exposure of about 4.2 million others) at supermarket chains Hannaford and Sweetbay (both owned by the Belgium-based Delhaize Group) in the Northeast United States and Florida remains unsolved more than six months later. Chain reps and security experts are still unclear as to how the criminals gained access to the system; the 2005 T.J.Maxx breach took advantage of a vulnerability in the chain’s wireless credit transfer system, but Hannaford and Sweetbay do not use wireless transfers of any sort. Without more information, the difficulty in tracking down those responsible grows exponentially.
Comcast.net Gets a Redirect (May 2008)
A devious hack doesn’t always mean finding a back door or particularly crafty way into a secure network or server; sometimes it just means that account information was compromised. Such was the case earlier this year when a member of the hacker group Kryogeniks gained unauthorized access to Comcast.net’s registrar, Network Solutions. The domain name system (DNS) hack altered Comcast.net’s homepage to redirect those attempting to access webmail to the hackers’ own page (pictured). Spokespeople for Comcast and Network Solutions are still unclear as to how the hackers got the username and password.
Adam was framed by Eve!