Hacking has been around as long as the Internet, and continues to thrive. Here is a list of ten of the most famous hackers, including individuals and groups.
10. John “Captain Crunch” Draper
Also known as “Crunchman”, Draper has achieved legendary status as a hacker, and he became infamous in the 1970s because of his involvement in phone fraud. Draper was known as a phone phreak, and he once routed a call he made on a public phone all round the world. This resulted in the phone next to him ringing, while all this was achieved with Draper not having to pay for the call. While in prison in 1979, Draper made history as he created a word processor for Apple II – it was the first word processor ever created.
9. Michael Calce
Going under the alias of MafiaBoy, Michael Calce became famous as a teenager for a series of hacks in 2000. Calce targeted Internet giants, including Yahoo!, Amazon.com and eBay, as well as Fifa.com, CNN and Dell. Calce has since claimed that he had inadvertently brought down the sites, which caused the loss of millions of dollars for the companies and organisations affected. Some claim the figure was really over a billion dollars.
8. Max Ray “Iceman” Butler
Butler is currently serving the longest prison sentence ever given to a hacker in the US – 13 years. Ironically, Butler had been an FBI informant and a computer security consultant. Butler’s relationship with the FBI ended after he had second thoughts about working for them, and he subsequently descended into cyber crime. Butler was jailed in 2001, after accessing computers without authorisation, that belonged to the Defense Department. But, after coming out of jail in 2003, Butler committed, with the help of others, a cyber crime on a staggering scale. Targeting American Express and Citibank Butler stole two million credit card numbers. He was eventually arrested in 2007.
7. Adrian Lamo
Now employed as a threat analyst, Lamo first came to the attention of the media after hacking into the likes of Microsoft, Yahoo! and The New York Times at the start of this century. He was arrested in 2003 and found guilty, and ordered to be detained at his parents home for six months in 2004. In recent years Lamo was back in the news after reporting Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning. Lamo had claimed that numerous sensitive documents relating to the US government had been leaked to WikiLeaks via Manning.
6. Robert Tappan Morris
Morris has the dubious distinction of creating what is believed to be the net’s first computer worm in 1988, which was named after him. Morris then created history for a second time, as he became the first individual to fall foul of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Now a respected computer scientist and entrepreneur, Morris was responsible for co-establishing one of the first applications with the Internet in mind, namely the Viaweb store.
5. Kevin Poulsen
As with Robert Tappan Morris, Kevin Poulsen has left his hacking past behind him, and at the time of writing is a senior editor at Wired. Years earlier, Poulsen was known as a black hat hacker and used his abilities to win a Porsche, that was offered as a prize by a Los Angeles radio station. The 102nd caller was down to win the prize, which Poulsen achieved by gaining control of all the phone lines into the radio station. A jail sentence of five years followed, together with a ban, following his release, on using computers or the Internet for three years. Poulsen was the first American to begin such a ban.
One of the most famous computer hacking groups, LulzSec are black hat hackers. Some of their most high profile attacks include the 2011 attack on Sony Pictures, that resulted in user accounts being compromised, and their claiming responsibility for making the CIA website unavailable. The group decided to close down in 2011, and one of its final attacks was on the News Corporation website.
3. Gary McKinnon
Scottish hacker Gary McKinnon has become known for what has been called the “biggest military computer hack” ever. Accused of the hack in 2002, McKinnon has claimed to be innocent. While, after years of legal wrangling and support from many famous figures, an extradition order to the US was finally abandoned in 2012. McKinnon merely insisted that he had been looking to find information on UFO cover-ups and sources of free energy – information that he thought may be being hidden from the public.
2. Kevin Mitnick
Another reformed hacker, Kevin Mitnick began hacking as a 16-year-old in Los Angeles. There he found a way of getting free bus rides by utilising transfer slips that hadn’t been used – which he’d find thrown away with the garbage. Mitnick specialised in obtaining passwords, user names and modem phone numbers in this opportunistic way and he ended up breaking into dozens of computer networks. However, it was the illegal copying of software that saw him first being jailed in 1988. By the time he was arrested again in 1995, Mitnick had carried out wire fraud, and, for this and other crimes, he was given five years in prison. Mitnick now works as a computer security consultant, as well as being an author.
Beginning in 2003, Anonymous are the most famous hacking group of all-time. It’s also a group of hackers that has easily more numbers than any other group, and it’s involved in many different types of activism all around the world. Anonymous has targeted government, corporate and religious websites, and it has also disabled child pornography websites. Among the big name companies Anonymous have targeted in the past are PayPal, Visa and MasterCard. Though a deeply controversial group, especially with its targeting of Israel, Anonymous is so loosely structured it will be interesting to see what ideological differences surface in the coming years – and how this effects the net as a whole.