Hackers are a very interesting bunch, there’s an entire hierarchy to how they operate, a food chain that defines who they are as manipulators of networks. There are a few who stand above the rest at the very top of that food chain, the hackers who are milestones in a growing history of intrigue and criminal charges. While they may have been responsible for astronomical financial damages and spreading viruses, some hackers are just in it for the kicks.
Here’s some food for thought before we begin: Anyone who’s name appears here have been caught, which means they made a mistake. There’s always a more efficient hacker behind the scenes, the true masters of the craft are on the loose by definition.
5. Jonathan James
Jonathan James wasted no time getting acclimated to the finer points of computing. He went under the alias c0nrade. At the ripe and early age of 15 years old in 1999 he hacked into BellSouth and the Miami-Dade school network. He also accessed NASA and the Department of Defense, an impressive feat for such a young mind. When he accessed the NASA database, he downloaded software from it worth $1.7 million, and as a result they had to shut down the whole network which cost them a total of $41,000. James said in an interview, ”The code itself was crappy . . . certainly not worth $1.7 million like they claimed.” He also sniffed a lot of information from his interference with the Department of Defense, including quite a few private transmissions between employees. He became the first juvenile convicted for hacking crimes.
In 2007 there was a huge wave of computer attacks. James denied any involvement, but he was investigated nonetheless. In 2008 he committed suicide via gunshot, saying that he would be prosecuted for crimes he had nothing to do with. It’s a shame that he was pushed into a corner like that, he was remarkably intelligent and could have used his skills for good- given the chance.
4. Robert Tappan Morris
Robert Tappan Morris is son of the late Robert Morris who was a coauthor of UNIX and a prestigious computing figure who served as a cheif scientist for the National Computer Secutiy Center (NCSC).
Robert Tappan Morris is famed with being the inventor of the first known computer worm and was thus convicted under the Computer Fraud and Abuse act. He developed the worm while studying at Cornell University, and had only meant to develop a way to measure the size of the internet. Due to some logical discrepancies in his code, there were unforeseen consequences to releasing the worm. It ended up causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages and many companies were affected.
He did his probation and performed his required community service, and now Robert Tappan Moris is a professor at MIT.
3. Gary McKinnon
This rogue hacker went under the name of ‘Solo’, and he is famous for hacking into 97 NASA and US Military computers through 2001-2002. He allegedly deleted critical files and was generally a poltergeist to the system, causing $700,000 in estimated damages. He is also accused of shutting down an entire network of 2000 computers in Washington for a full 24 hours.
He did all of this while living in the UK, so the American government ran into some problems when trying to extradite him for what they called attacks against US Defense systems. He was later diagnosed with Asperger’s, and it was argued that he would become suicidal if put in a US prison.
2. Kevin Mitnick
Kevin started his hacking career at a young age (noticing a pattern?), he got free rides on the LA bus system when he was 12 by bypassing the punch card system. In 1979 at age 16 he went on to hack into the Digital Equipment Corporation’s network and copy some of their software, a crime he was convicted of 9 years later.
He served one year in prison and 3 years on supervised release, but near the end of the supervision period he fled and became a fugitive for 2 and a half years, using computers and cell phone hacks to steal valuable information from private databases. He was eventually caught and tried for his crimes, and the judge seemed convinced that he was able to, as he said, ”Start a nuclear war by whistling into a pay phone.” Mitnick now runs Mitnick Security Consulting LLC.
1. George Hotz
George Hotz is most widely known as “geohot”, and he is responsible for jailbreaking the iPhone and the PS3. By jailbreaking and unlocking iOS devices, Hotz created an entire subculture of users who prefer to use a more open and manipulable OS, one that allows more user-created content and even cracked apps.
He set his sites on the Sony Playstation 3 after his iOS projects, and found success quickly. However, he ran into trouble after posting the root keys for the PS3 console allowing other developers to manipulate it’s security. Sony took him to court and won access to a lot of personal information and IP addresses who accessed geohot’s site when the root keys were posted.