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Top 10 Most Famous Hackers of All Time

Get to know these notorious hackers, famous for wreaking havoc and driving technological innovation. The portrayal of hackers in the media has ranged from the high-tech super-spy, as in Mission Impossible where Ethan Hunt repels from the ceiling to hack the CIA computer system and steal the "NOC list," to the lonely anti-social teen who is simply looking for entertainment. The reality, however, is that hackers are a very diverse bunch, a group simultaneously blamed with causing billions of dollars in damages as well as credited with the development of the World Wide Web and the founding of major tech companies. In this article, we test the theory that truth is better than fiction by introducing you to ten of the most famous hackers, both nefarious and heroic, to let you decide for yourself. Black Hat Crackers The Internet abounds with hackers, known as crackers or "black hats," who work to exploit computer systems. They are the ones you've seen on the news being hauled away for cybercrimes. Some of them do it for fun and curiosity, while others are looking for personal gain. In this section we profile five of the most famous and interesting "black hat" hackers. 1. Jonathan James: James gained notoriety when he became the first juvenile to be sent to prison for hacking. He was sentenced at 16 years old. In an anonymous PBS interview, he professes, "I was just looking around, playing around. What was fun for me was a challenge to see what I could pull off." James's major intrusions targeted high-profile organizations. He installed a backdoor into a Defense Threat Reduction Agency server. The DTRA is an agency of the Department of Defense charged with reducing the threat to the U.S. and its allies from nuclear, biological, chemical, conventional and special weapons. The backdoor he created enabled him to view sensitive emails and capture employee usernames and passwords. James also cracked into NASA computers, stealing software worth approximately $1.7 million. According to the Department of Justice, "The software supported the International Space Station's physical environment, including control of the temperature and humidity within the living space." NASA was forced to shut down its computer systems, ultimately racking up a $41,000 cost. James explained that he downloaded the code to supplement his studies on C programming, but contended, "The code itself was crappy . . . certainly not worth $1.7 million like they claimed." Given the extent of his intrusions, if James, also known as "c0mrade," had been an adult he likely would have served at least 10 years. Instead, he was banned from recreational computer use and was slated to serve a six-month sentence under house arrest with

and is now a computer security consultant. things got serious. "Legendary computer hacker released from prison. Adrian Lamo: Lamo's claim to fame is his break-ins at major organizations like The New York Times and Microsoft. Dubbed the "homeless hacker. Mitnick had a bit of hacking experience before committing the offenses that made him famous. Although there were numerous offenses. It kind of redefines the term multi-jurisdictional. about 8 months of it in solitary confinement. Squats by Night. He served five years. coffee shops and libraries to do his intrusions. in which he found flaws in security. Today. Lamo was ordered to pay approximately $65. He was also sentenced to six months of home confinement and two years of probation.C." The CNN article. scrambled phone networks and broke into the national defense warning system. He started out exploiting the Los Angeles bus punch card system to get free rides. which led to his undoing." explains that "he hacked into computers. 2007. Today. James asserts that he's learned his lesson and might start a computer security company. Kevin Mitnick: A self-proclaimed "hacker poster boy. What Lamo did is not." His exploits were detailed in two movies: Freedom Downtime and Takedown. Bank of America. Mitnick's mischief got serious when he went on a two and a half year "coast-to-coast hacking spree. he served six months in prison for violation of parole. His mischief was hyped by the media but his actual offenses may be less notable than his notoriety suggests. exploited them and then informed companies of their shortcomings. "He Hacks by Day. In a profile article. When white hat hackers are hired by companies to do penetration testing.probation. including Social Security numbers. However. author and speaker. stole corporate secrets. He added himself to a list of experts and viewed personal information on contributors. Citigroup and Cingular. When he broke into The New York Times' intranet." Mitnick went through a highly publicized pursuit by authorities." He then hacked into computer expert and fellow hacker Tsutomu Shimomura's home computer. The Department of Justice describes him as "the most wanted computer criminal in United States history. Then. Lamo is currently working as an award-winning journalist and public speaker. it's legal. Mitnick has been able to move past his role as a black hat hacker and become a productive member of society. . like Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak." he used Internet connections at Kinko's. a change of clothes in D. 3. dabbled in phone phreaking. "I have a laptop in Pittsburgh. which expired January 16. Lamo also hacked into The Times' LexisNexis account to research high-profile subject matter." Lamo's intrusions consisted mainly of penetration testing." Lamo reflects. His hits include Yahoo!.000 in restitution. For his intrusion at The New York Times. 2. Mitnick was ultimately convicted for breaking into the Digital Equipment Corporation's computer network and stealing software.

400 hours of community service and a fined $10. It is not possible to know exactly how many computers were affected. revolved around telephones. along with current Apple CEO Steve Jobs. He asserts that he intended to use it to see how large the Internet was. Robert Tappan Morris: Morris. however." Later. Poulsen has worked as a journalist. which earned him a brand new Porsche. 1. Poulsen's most famous hack. but experts estimate an impact of 6. Stephen Wozniak: "Woz" is famous for being the "other Steve" of Apple. slowing computers down so that they were no longer usable." Authorities began to pursue Poulsen after he hacked into a federal investigation database. During this pursuit. Kevin Poulsen: Also known as Dark Dante. he was the first person prosecuted under the 1986 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Others. Since serving time. Law enforcement dubbed him "the Hannibal Lecter of computer crime. He principally researches computer network architectures including distributed hash tables such as Chord and wireless mesh networks such as Roofnet. the first computer worm to be unleashed on the Internet. among other items. White Hat Hackers Hackers that use their skills for good are classified as "white hat. 1-800 phone lines for the program crashed. In a related feat.4. when his photo came up on the show Unsolved Mysteries. son of former National Security Agency scientist Robert Morris." hired by companies to test the integrity of their systems. Poulsen also "reactivated old Yellow Page escort telephone numbers for an acquaintance who then ran a virtual escort agency. Poulsen gained recognition for his hack of LA radio's KIIS-FM phone lines. The worm. operate without company permission by bending but not breaking laws and in the process have created some really cool stuff. he further drew the ire of the FBI by hacking into federal computers for wiretap information. Ultimately. Morris is currently working as a tenured professor at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. His most prominent article details his work on identifying 744 sex offenders with MySpace profiles. was accomplished by taking over all of the station's phone lines. co-founded Apple Computer.500. 5. He was sentenced to three years' probation. As a result of this crime." These white hats often work as certified "Ethical Hackers. replicated itself excessively. Wozniak. Morris wrote the code for the worm while he was a student at Cornell. In this section we profile five white hat hackers and the technologies they have developed. He has been . Poulsen was captured in a supermarket and served a sentence of five years.000 machines. KIIS-FM. He is now a senior editor for Wired News. is known as the creator of the Morris Worm. His hacking specialty. however.

Wozniak called up his buddy Jobs. "Whilst [at Oxford].org reports. In the Letters section of Woz." Since his creation of the World Wide Web. Additionally. a full-time staff and the public work together to develop Web standards. is distributed freely with no patent or royalties due." 2. Berners-Lee recounts how he put them together: "I just had to take the hypertext idea and connect it to the TCP and DNS ideas and – ta-da! – the World Wide Web. one of the earliest electronic computers. Most notable is his function as fairy godfather to the Los Gatos.66 each. TTL gates. He has received numerous recognitions. an M6800 processor and an old television. focusing primarily on philanthropy instead. documents and files on the Internet. Jobs had the bright idea to sell the computer as a fully assembled PC board. Wozniak dropped out of college and came up with the computer that eventually made him famous. Berners-Lee created a hypertext prototype system that helped researchers share and update information easily." Technological innovation seems to have run in his genes. Wozniak even used a blue box to call the Pope while pretending to be Henry Kissinger. After reading an article about phone phreaking in Esquire. he recalls doing "what Ed Roberts and Bill Gates and Paul Allen did and tons more. "Wozniak 'adopted' the Los Gatos School District. . Woz got his start in hacking making blue boxes. While working with CERN. Berners-Lee was caught hacking access with a friend and subsequently banned from University computers. The pair did research on frequencies.awarded with the National Medal of Technology as well as honorary doctorates from Kettering University and Nova Southeastern University. School District. Woz was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in September 2000. devices that bypass telephone-switching mechanisms to make free long-distance calls. most notably the Millennium Technology Prize. the system that we use to access sites." Wozniak and Jobs sold the first 100 of the Apple I to a local dealer for $666. While a student at Oxford University. he built his first computer with a soldering iron. Wozniak designed the hardware and most of the software. as well as standards from the W3C. Calif. providing students and teachers with hands-on teaching and donations of state-of-the-art technology equipment. Woz no longer works full time for Apple." Berners-Lee's World Wide Web idea.org. The W3C describes itself as "an international consortium where Member organizations. a European nuclear research organization. with no help. then built and sold blue boxes to their classmates in college. as Berners-Lee's parents were mathematicians who worked on the Manchester Mark1. w3. Berners-Lee founded the World Wide Web Consortium at MIT. He later realized that hypertext could be joined with the Internet. The Steves sold Wozniak's cherished scientific calculator and Jobs' VW van for capital and got to work assembling prototypes in Jobs' garage. Tim Berners-Lee: Berners-Lee is famed as the inventor of the World Wide Web.

"The GNU Project. modify. which they did. he began work on GNU. The success of this public invitation to contribute code for Linux is touted as one of the most prominent examples of free/open source software. After that." a method that employs copyright law to allow users to use. forbidden to share it and unable to change it. then sent users messages informing them of the removal of the password system. It was at this point that he was "convinced…of the ethical need to require free software. he's known as the father of free software. he put out a call for others to contribute code." 4. "the crucial software to use a computer." Stallman. He then moved on to a Sinclair QL. Torvalds hacks included "an assembler and a text editor…as well as a few games. At the MIT lab. However. the very popular Unix-based operating system." and has said that his aspirations are simple. He calls himself "an engineer. using the Minix operating system as inspiration. only about 2 percent of the current Linux kernel is written by Torvalds himself. It was located away from the lab and the absence of the alerts presented an inconvenience. Currently. He was a critic of restricted computer access in the lab. Torvalds serves as the Linux ringleader. He has had an asteroid named after him and received honorary doctorates from Stockholm University and University of Helsinki. He started with a task switcher in Intel 80386 assembly and a terminal driver. he and other hackers were allowed to modify code on printers so that they sent convenient alert messages. which he founded to develop a free operating system. He was also featured in Time Magazine's "60 Years of Heroes." At this time. Stallman's crusade for free software started with a printer." Torvalds created the Linux kernel in 1991. When a password system was installed. "I just want to have fun making the best damn operating system I can. Wikipedia reports that he modified the Sinclair "extensively." With this inspiration. the GNU/Linux version of the operating system uses the Linux kernel started by Torvalds.3. resetting passwords to null strings. Stallman wrote an essay. GNU is distributed under "copyleft. coordinating the code that volunteer programmers contribute to the kernel. a new printer came along – one that they were not allowed to modify. Currently. an 8-bit home computer. especially its operating system. For this. . He worked as a "staff hacker" on the Emacs project and others." Specifically. Linus Torvalds: Torvalds fathered Linux." in which he recalls choosing to work on an operating system because it's a foundation. His "Serious Bio" asserts. "Non-free software keeps users divided and helpless. Stallman broke it down. Richard Stallman: Stallman's fame derives from the GNU Project. A free operating system is essential for people to be able to use computers in freedom." Torvalds got his start in computers with a Commodore VIC-20. got his start hacking at MIT. who prefers to be called rms. copy and distribute the software.

Using Mitnick's cell phone. fellowships and four honorary doctorates. he made it his cause to help the FBI capture him. but he is not without his own dark side. Tsutomu Shimomura: Shimomura reached fame in an unfortunate manner: he was hacked by Kevin Mitnick. including awards." Mitnick was arrested shortly thereafter. Shimomura "used a cellular frequency direction-finding antenna hooked up to a laptop to narrow the search to an apartment complex. The article. Shimomura wrote a book about the incident with journalist John Markoff. listening to him. Armed with a technician from the phone company. they tracked him near Raleigh-Durham International Airport. Shortly after finding out about the intrusion. He has received extensive recognition for his work." Shimomura out-hacked Mitnick to bring him down. Following the pursuit. Author Bruce Sterling recalls: "He pulls out this AT&T cellphone. Following this personal attack. Digital Restrictions Management) through organizations like Free Software Foundation and League for Programming Freedom. He works against movements like Digital Rights Management (or as he prefers.Stallman's life continues to revolve around the promotion of free software. finger-hacks it. Shimomura's work to catch Mitnick is commendable. pulls it out of the shrinkwrap. . which was later turned into a movie. "SDSC Computer Experts Help FBI Capture Computer Terrorist" recounts how Shimomura pinpointed Mitnick's location. 5. and starts monitoring phone calls going up and down Capitol Hill while an FBI agent is standing at his shoulder. he rallied a team and got to work finding Mitnick.