Hackers helped fuel the antivirus industry. Their ability to gain access to the most confidential information in the world has created the need for computer protection. These hackers, several of whom have served a prison sentence, were able to find ways to break into some of the most secure databases in the world. Here is a list of the top fifteen hackers of all time:
Known as the pioneer of "social engineering," Kevin Mitnick has become one of the most famous hackers of all time. Mitnick was accused of hacking into some of the most influential databases in the technology and telecommunications industry, which ultimately led to an FBI investigation. He served jail time two separate times before changing his ways and starting his own computer security business as well as speaking at major conventions.
He started his hacking career as a child, learning how to whistle into a pay phone to receive free calls. His hacking eventually won him a Porsche. His abilities have been detailed in a book. Kevin Poulson went on to hack into federal investigation databases, which led to his prison sentence. Poulson has left behind the cyber criminal lifestyle and now works as a journalist.
Like Poulson, Adrain Lamo also finds work today as a journalist, however that is not how he started. Known as the "homeless hacker," Lamo hacked into databases with the intent of helping out the company's computer security. Lamo would hack into various company computer networks from public networks, and then reveal to them the holes in their computer security. Lamo eventually found his fame after gaining access to the New York Times database and collecting information and details surrounding well-known figures.
Draper, commonly known as the "phone freak," started his hacking career by imitating telephone tones for free calls with a whistle. After a stint in the Air Force, Draper learned the intricacies of the phone system and found internal codes. He eventually became friends with Steve Wozniak and helped write some of the first word processing programs. Draper did not lack programming talent, but his job opportunities were limited due to his peculiar nature.
As a member of the hacker group "Legion of Doom," Blankenship worked tirelessly to out-do the rival group Masters of Deception. After hacking into numerous systems, Blankenship was arrested, which ultimately led to his now infamous book, "Hacker Manifesto: The Conscience of a Hacker." In his book, Blankenship argues that the hacker's only crime is a result of curiosity.
After hacking into the Department of Defense and NASA computer systems, Jonathan James became the first minor to go to juvenile hall for his cyber crimes. At just 16-years-old, James stole private information which led to thousands of dollars worth of damage. Unlike a lot of hackers, James did not turn his life around even after juvenile hall. His home was searched in 2008 during an investigation surrounding the largest identity theft case in the United States. Shortly after he was interrogated, James committed suicide.
One of the most impressive details about Michael Calce's hacking career was his ability to gain access to top websites at such a young age. By the time he was just 15-years-old, Calce sent denial-of-service attacks that affected Amazon, Yahoo, and eBay. Calce made one critical mistake following his successful hacking spree by posting about his antics in online chat rooms. Calce was arrested and received a punishment which included "limited internet access."
Whether or not Morris was the very first person to send a "worm" to cause computer damage is debatable. What is not debatable is the fact that Morris was the first person charged and convicted under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act after his "worm" infected an estimated 6,000 Unix machines. The worm caused damages which ended up costing millions of dollars in repairs and left some machines unusable.
McKinnon is a Scottish hacker who is suspected of hacking into U.S. government computer networks. He reportedly hacked into 97 computers and installed software that deleted or stole important files and information. After some time, McKinnon took responsibility and admitted to hacking in to U.S. government computers because he believed they were covering up evidence that UFOs existed.
This hacking group served as the rivals of the "Legion of Doom" during the 80's. Their battle with the Legion of Doom led to the "Great Hacker War" which has been highlighted in several books. They hacked into United States phone systems, and eventually gained access to the AT&T computer system. The group was ultimately brought to justice in 1992 when five members of the group plead guilty to cyber crimes, and four of them served prison sentences.
Smith is responsible for the first successful email virus, known as the Melissa worm virus, which caused an upward of eighty million dollars worth of damage. Smith sent the virus through email and was later arrested and sent to jail for the cyber trouble he caused.
Gonzalez was part of the infamous TJX identity theft ring and was sentenced in 2009 to 20 years of prison after he admitted to hacking into various companies' computer systems. Gonzalez helped the TJX identity theft ring steal 36 million credit card numbers which resulted in over $170 million dollars worth of damage for TJX, who owns companies like TJ Maxx. Even though Gonzalez had worked as an informant for the secret service, he eventually got involved in a life of cyber crime working under Maksym Yastremskiy.
Jaschan was also a young hacker, creating his first prominent worm as a youth. The worms, known as Netsky and Sasser, were responsible for an estimated 70% of all malware at the time. Although arrested for his activity, Jaschan was only given three years probation for his crimes and then was subsequently hired by a security company.
Before he started a successful business with his buddy Steve Jobs, Stephen Wozniak was the big man on the USC campus. No, he wasn't the start quarterback, but he did have quite a few fans after inventing the "blue box" which allowed students to make free long distance phone calls. Wozniak's phone phreaking days ended once he committed to co-founding a well-known company called Apple.
This cyber criminal duo nearly started a war with their hacking endeavors. The two infiltrated an Air Force computer system and may have gained access to a North Korean system as well. Both were eventually arrested for their involvement in breaking into U.S. military systems.