In today’s world, technology is definitely the way of doing well…everything. You can watch T.V. online, listen to music online, bank, shop, give yourself a virtual makeover and even order food. As great as technology is, especially computers and the Internet, there are down falls. Some claim that with the invention of the Internet, computers, and television, society as a whole has become lazy, which has lead to many health problems. With everything good there is always something bad, and computers and the Internet are no exception. While you may just love the ‘net for the great conveniences that it provides, others love it because it also offers some conveniences to them, just in a more illegal way.
Afraid of you having your personal information stolen, your computer nonfunctional, your passwords changed, or a web page of yours taken over by someone else, then look no further than today’s hackers. Below are ten hackers who have made their mark in history.
10. Eric Corley
Better known as a pseudonym from George Orwell’s book 1984, Emmanuel Goldstein, Eric Corley was a well-known figure when it came to hacking, especially in the 1980 and 90s. In 1999 he went to court for sharing DeCSS codes and a method to download it, a program that was able to decrypt content on an encrypted DVD. His court case stands as the first to test the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Corley was told to remove the program from his website. Though the main link was removed, almost 500 other websites had provided their own links to access and download the program. To continue this motion, Corley posted a banner stating that he encouraged mirroring of the link. And even today, you can still easily find the program.
Now Corley lives in N.Y.C. and hosts a radio show called Off the Hook on WBAI as well as Brain Damage on Stony Brook University’s WUSB. He also runs a magazine named 2600: The Hacker Quarterly that provides information about phreaking and basic hacking. In 2001, he took part in a demonstration against the jailing of Kevin Mitnick (see #1) and in 2004 was arrested for videotaping the demonstration and was charged with disorderly conduct.
9. Robert T. Morris, Jr
Best known for a worm named after himself, the Morris worm, Robert T. Morris, Jr. is accredited with creating the first computer worm, not to be confused with the first computer virus. While a computer virus uses other files to replicate itself, a computer worm will utilize other networks in order to spread and infect others. In 1988, the Morris worm was created. To hide his tracks, Morris first set off the virus from MIT, even though he built and released it while a student at Cornell. According to Morris, the main purpose of his worm was to see how many computers were connected to the Internet. However, due to a configuration in the worm, it did a lot more damage than expected. Some of the totals ranged from $20,000 to $530,000. Despite this damage, Morris only had to do community service and was spared jail time.
Today, Morris is a professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology teaching in the computer science and electrical engineering field. In the past, despite his record with computer hacking and other illegal activity, he was able to become the chief scientist at the National Computer Security Center. The NCSC is a branch of the National Security Agency.
8. Nahshon Even-Chaim
Nahshon Even-Chaim stands as the first person in Australia to be arrested and convicted of computer hacking. Even-Chaim, better known as Phoenix online, was part of a very popular hacking group based out of Australia known as The Realm. Though the internet wasn’t as widely known during the beginning of his hacking reign, Even-Chaim was able to utilize X.25 networks as well as “dialing-in” methods to hack and focused on penetrating networks of defense and nuclear agencies. Eventually the Australian Federal Police caught on and were able to get a warrant to wire-tap his phone and watch all signals coming in and out of his modem.
In April 1990, Even-Chaim’s home, along with two others, was raided. He was arrested and charged with 48 crimes. However, once his time in court came, he was able to strike a bargain and only had to do a 12 month jail term and 500 hours of community service, opposed to 10 years in jail. Today, Even-Chaim works in the IT field and has delved into music.
7. Mark Abene
Online, you’d have known Mark Abene as “Phiber Optik.” Born in New York City, Abene was a well-known member of groups such as Masters of Deception and Legion of Doom. Both of these groups were known for their hacking skills and often times those who took part in the groups would be able to share hacking knowledge with others. Most of the members were eventually caught and investigated by the F.B.I. Abene was no exception. At the young age of 9, Abene was able to access dial-up computers and from there his curiosity grew and he learned numerous computer languages of the time. He was soon introduced to the Legion of Doom as well as the Masters of Deception and during this time he became interested in operating systems as well as telecommunications which enabled him to learn about the hacking technique of phreaking.
However, soon after joining the group, on January 24, 1990, those who took part in these groups had their homes searched. In 1991, he was formally arrested with computer trespassing and tampering. He took a plea bargain and only had to serve 35 months of community service. In 1997, Abene and other ex-members of the Legion of Doom created Crossbar Security, but the company soon went out of business in 2001. Today Abene works as an independent consultant.
6. Fred Cohen
Though not as malicious as most on this list, Fred Cohen is definitely well known in the computer world. Studying to be a computer scientist at University of Southern California’s School of Engineering in 1983, Cohen was able to create the first computer virus. The virus he created was able to completely overtake a computer and control each one of its functions. His virus allowed other computer scientists to see that not all viruses can be solved by just one commonly used algorithm.
However, Cohen was also able to create good viruses. As silly as it sounds, he was able to create a virus that did nothing malicious to a computer. After putting the virus on a computer, it went into each executable file (.exe) and made them smaller. He named it the compression virus. Cohen was never jailed because his efforts were done for educational purposes. Today he runs a company that provides information security.
5. Vladimir Levin
Levin was well known in the 1990s for his hacking efforts which exposed the vulnerability of popular company websites, one of the most notable in this case being Citibank. Levin, in 1994, was able to access Citibank accounts belonging to various corporate customers. He used the dial-up wire transfer service and was able to successfully transfer the money out of these accounts into accounts located in Israel, Germany, the U.S., Finland, and the Netherlands. Levin had an accomplice at each of these locations. However, 3 of his accomplices were watched as they attempted to withdraw money. They were arrested and all of them gave signs pointing to Levin. In 1995, Levin was arrested.
By the end of it all, Levin was able to successfully, but fraudulently transfer about $10.7 million dollars from Citibank accounts into ones he had set up. In 1997 he was brought to the U.S. and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud as well as stealing $3.7 million. He was put in jail for 3 years and ordered to pay $240,015. Out of all the money that Levin was able to transfers out of Citibank into other banking facilities, only $400,000 was located and recovered. Since the incident Citibank has upped its security, as have many other banking companies that utilize online actions. Today he owns and runs a business in Lithuania.
4. John Schiefer
Schiefer is well known for defrauding companies, as well as installing malware to intercept vital information. The malware that Schiefer used was known as “spybots.” These pieces of malware acted as wiretaps and were able to access communications between the infected computer and bank accounts. He then was able to find out usernames, passwords, and other information. From there Schiefer would use the bank accounts to make fraudulent purchases, and would share the information with others. He utilized the same method to infected and gain information from computers with Microsoft operating systems.
Once arrested, Schiefer was charged with wire and bank fraud, intercepting private information to commit identity theft, and installing malware on dozens of computers in order to retrieve the private information that he needed. He stands as the first person to be charged with using botnets for hacking purposes. In 2009 he was charged and sentenced to four years in prison.
3. Adrian Lamo
Known as a grey hat hacker, meaning one who hacks sometimes for good reasons, Adrian Lamo is another hacker that found himself in trouble after the F.B.I was able to probe his illegal actions. Lamo is unique as he never stayed at one location to perform his hacking. He usually lived house to house, couch to couch, and often did a lot of his exploiting and investigating from internet cafes and university libraries. He is well known for exploiting companies such as Microsoft, the New York Times, Lexis-Nexis, and Yahoo!. Because of his actions, many companies, namely, the New York Times, filed complaints and for 15 months Lamo was investigated by the F.B.I. He eventually realized he was being tracked and went into hiding, but surrendered to the U.S. Marshals on September 9, 2003. He plead guilty in court and was ordered to pay $65,000 and was sentenced to home detention and probation afterward.
However, Lamo, as a grey hat hacker, did have a good side. He took it upon himself to hack into several different Fortune 500 companies’ websites in order to find security flaws. After finding what he could, he then reported back to the company of what security issues needed to be fixed. While many would get paid for this type of work Lamo never accepted any type of monetary award. Today Lamo is in college working his way towards becoming a top-rated journalist. A documentary, Hackers Wanted, was made depicting Lamo’s life and hacking skills.
2. Kevin Poulsen
Poulsen, a black hat hacker, meaning one who hacks for a malicious purpose, is well known for his skills. Also known as Dark Dante, Poulsen is probably best known for his takeover of the KIIS-FM phone lines, a Los Angeles based radio station. At the time, the radio was running a contest. The 102nd caller would possibly win a Porsche 944 S2. With this in mind, Poulsen was able to clog all of the lines, which inevitably would make him the 102nd caller. Once the F.B.I realized Poulsen’s actions, they began to investigate him, but during this time he found ways to keep himself hidden. However, one day on Unsolved Mysteries, Poulsen was one of the many fugitives aired on the show, and during that time, the phone lines crashed. Of course this was Poulsen’s doing. In June 1994 he was finally caught and arrested and charged with wire, mail, and computer fraud, as well as money laundering. He spent about 4 months in jail and had to pay $56,000. Today he works as a senior editor for Wired News.
1. Kevin Mitnick
At the age of 12, Mitnick learned the high importance of social engineering. Though this type of hacking doesn’t involve computers, it helps you to gain access to things such as emails, social networking sites, and others, by simply asking the right questions. He used this method to bypass the card system used in the L.A. transit system. In 1979, at the age of 16, Mitnick was able to get access to his first computer network. After years of accessing numbers of networks and private emails, as well as cloning cell phones and using false I.D., Mitnick was arrested in 1995.
After being arrested, he was charged with evading the F.B.I., wiretapping, computer fraud, hacking into Digital Equipment Corporation systems, taking over a computer at the Computer Learning Center in Los Angeles, and hacking many other systems including Nokia, Motorola, Fujitsu Siemens, and many others. When he was arrested, Mitnick was the most wanted computer hacker in the U.S. His activities cost companies a lot of money. Digital Equipment Corporation alone had to pay $160,000 to clean up the damage Mitnick had done. In 2002 he published a book entitled The Art of Deception: Controlling the Human Element of Security in which he talks all about his experiences and how he did it. Today he owns a company that offers security consulting.