5 Most Famous Hackers
August 14, 2013
Hacking, whether white or black hat, is an art form that few truly master. Below we have outlined some of the hackers whose skills stand out the most and whose hacks have garnered the world’s attention.
1. Albert Gonzalez
The infamous computer hacker, Albert Gonzalez, was once an ethical hacker for the Secret Service, but he never seemed to care much for abiding the law. He endured several convictions for his habit of malicious hacking and credit card fraud, both before and after his work with the Secret Service.
In his most recent conviction, the TJX hacker was sentenced to over 20 years in prison for leading a group of computer criminals responsible for stealing and selling over 170 million credit card, debit card, and ATM numbers over several years. He actually faced multiple sentences for his crime as he was responsible for hacking several major companies including:
- TJ Maxx
- Dave & Buster’s
- Heartland Payment Systems
- Office Max
- Boston Market
- Sports Authority
His 20-year sentence is the longest ever faced for this kind of crime. It is believed that his group stole over $4.3 million and Gonzalez was forced to forfeit $1.7 million along with much of his assets after his conviction.
2. Jonathan James
Known by his alias, “cOmrade,” Jonathan James was an American computer hacker made famous for being the first juvenile to be sentenced for a cyber crime in the United States. He was held responsible for the 1999 intrusion into computer systems of the U.S. Department of Defense, where he accessed source code that allowed him to disrupt NASA operations by causing them to shut down computers for three weeks. He did all of this at only 15 years old and was sentenced to 6 months in juvenile detention. However, his detainment did little to impede his efforts.
In 2007, he was suspected of involvement with the aforementioned group of thieves led by Albert Gonzalez. He feared prosecution for involvement in the large identity theft case and committed suicide in 2008 to avoid being sentenced. In his suicide note, he denied any involvement in the TJX case and explained that his suicide was due to his lack of faith in the justice system.
3. Gary McKinnon
Gary McKinnon, also known as “Solo,” is likely responsible for committing one of the largest hacks of military computers in history. Between 2001 and 2002, he was accused of having infiltrated 97 computers owned by the U.S. Armed Forces and NASA. McKinnon had gained access to their systems and installed hacking software to delete important files and steal confidential information. He also referred to himself as “Solo” in the threatening note that he left on an U.S. Army-owned computer. The information that he was going after consisted of free energy suppression and evidence of U.S. actions taken to cover up the existence of UFOs. His actions resulted in over $700,000 in damages and left over 300 computers inoperable.
McKinnon is diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, which has led some to suspect that he will commit suicide if he becomes any more psychologically fragile. This case is still ongoing as McKinnon is located in the United Kingdom and continues to avoid extradition to the United States at all costs.
4. Kevin Poulsen
Kevin Poulsen is now a news editor for Wired.com, but he was formerly a black hat hacker who is best known for his hack into an LA radio station’s phone lines. His hack involved exploiting the phone lines in order to fix himself as the winning caller of the radio station’s contest and claim a brand new Porsche 944 S2 Cabriolet. He later became a wanted criminal by the FBI after hacking into federal systems and stealing classified information from the Air Force. After spending 18 months as an underground fugitive, he was finally caught and arrested in 1991. He pleaded guilty to computer fraud and spent the next 5 years in prison. Once he got out of jail, he gave up hacking to become a journalist and was eventually hired by Wired.com, where he occasionally writes stories about hackers akin to his former self.
5. Barnaby Jack
The New Zealand native, Barnaby Jack, was a renowned hacker and cyber security expert. Unlike the others, Jack was famous for his great expertise in white hat hacking and exposing security flaws before criminals could have a chance to exploit them. He was best known for his high-profile presentations given at the Black Hat hacker’s convention in Las Vegas. In the past, he made presentations that demonstrated how to make ATMs spit out cash without making a withdrawal and he showed how insulin pumps and pacemakers could be hacked wirelessly to assassinate a victim. He was scheduled to make a presentation involving a wireless hack on heart implants at the 2013 Black Hat conference, but he was recently found dead at an apartment in San Francisco just a week before the conference was scheduled to start. The cause of death is reportedly unknown and it could be weeks before it is determined. His hour of presentation on August 1, 2013 at the Black Hat conference will not be replaced, but instead devoted to commemorating his life and his white hat contributions.