The concept of computer hacking is often viewed as scary or seemingly impossible to most people. It’s also generally considered annoying to anyone who remembers the obnoxious girl in Jurassic Park who claimed to be a hacker despite sucking out loud in generally every aspect.
Anyway, there are some people to whom hacking comes with astonishing ease, and over the years they have compiled a long list of extremely impressive hacks. Here are 10 of the best hacks and hackers in history.
10. Captain Zap
When you think of awesome computer hacks, chances are you assume it is something that took place in the recent past. Well, what if we told you that one of our favorite hacks actually took place way back in 1981, which we’re guessing is before a lot of our readers were even born? That’s when a guy nicknamed Captain Zap decided to have a little fun at the expense of AT&T.
Captain Zap, whose real name is Ian Murphy, was apparently fed up with his phone bill, so he and some buddies decided that the only logical recourse was to hack into AT&T and change the internal clocks. Why would this matter? Well, for those too young to remember, back in the day when people still used landlines, phone companies offered discounts for calls late at night. By changing the internal clock, Zap was able to rig the entire AT&T system so that everyone got those same late night discounts during the daylight hours. Also impressive? He’s the only guy on this list who inspired a Robert Redford movie (Sneakers.)
9. Kevin Poulsen
Kevin Poulsen is a smart guy. Over the years, he has become somewhat notorious for his computer hacking antics, but in 1991 he pulled off what has to be his most entertaining hack by far. Of course while we consider it hilarious, Poulsen might not, considering he got 51 months in prison because the judge didn’t share our sense of humor.
So what did he do to earn all that jail time? Well, an LA radio station was holding a contest in which a certain number caller would win a brand new Porsche. Naturally, because everyone wants a Porsche, Poulsen did the only logical thing: he hacked the Los Angeles phone system to make it possible for only he and his friends to call in to the station, guaranteeing that they would be the ones who won the car. That was enough to get him over four years in the pokey.
Don’t feel too badly for Poulsen receiving those 51 months, though. He’s now an editor at Wired. Unless you hate Wired. Then you can feel bad for him.
To most people, hacking a website seems like it would be a very difficult endeavor. Hacking two websites? That seems near impossible to novices like us.
Now imagine hacking a dozen sites. Maybe a hundred. Or, in the case of TiGER-M@TE, how about 700,000? Yes, you read that number correctly. One hacker took down 700,000 sites, and he did it all in one shot.
In 2011, TiGER-M@TE decided to have a little fun by hacking an entire data center, taking down hundreds of thousands of domains hosted by Inmotion, including the Bangladesh Google site. Also included in this mega-hack were the local domains of Yahoo and Bing, but nobody noticed, because nobody uses those anyway.
Well, we’ve already established that the ability to hack multiple sites is pretty freaking impressive. Now imagine attempting to take down massive sites like CNN, eBay, and E*TRADE. And now imagine doing so when you’re 15, and pulling it off with tremendous ease. That’s exactly what Canadian Michael Calce did, crippling some of the biggest websites in the world for a week.
Calce, also known as MafiaBoy, racked up 56 counts of illegal hacking and ended up serving time in a juvenile detention center for his actions. Of course, these days someone was smart enough to realize that it would be much better to have him use his powers for good, so he has become an Internet security consultant.
By the way, were you wondering what exactly possessed him to perform those hacks? For starters, curiosity. That, and the fact that his friends basically triple-dog dared him to do it, saying they didn’t think he could take down CNN. Not only were they wrong, it only took him about the span of a commercial break to pull it off.
6. Anonymous vs. Westboro Baptist Church
Chances are if you’ve ever been around a computer and the Internet, and are even vaguely aware of hackers, you’ve heard of Anonymous. Anonymous is a group of hackers who originated on 4chan, and over the years they have been at the heart of numerous high level hacks around the world. Basically, if you have your own website you should be terrified of them and pray they never get pissed off at something you say. Did we mention they are also very attractive and brilliant, and no doubt terrific in bed? Ahem.
Anyway, while they often engage in anarchic hacks, they also use their powers for good. Our favorite example of this is when they decided to make it their mission to take down the Westboro Baptist Church. You know those jokers, right? Those are the tools who show up to protest the funeral of any person they can even loosely connect to gay rights or other issues they hate, mainly because they are huge tools and other, stronger words that we can’t use here.
Back in 2012, Anonymous took over the WBC website, hacked WBC’s information, and released things such as its members names and social security numbers. Oh yeah, they also filed a death certificate in the name of WBC spokesperson Shirley Phelps-Rogers, which would prohibit her from using her social security number. Oh, and they also changed her desktop wallpaper to gay porn, which is just hilarious.