For as long as the internet has been around, there have been hackers, crackers, sneakers, and cyber-terrorists. However you prefer to call them, they’re thieves and they prey upon not only unsuspecting victims, but large, seemingly secure corporations (think Target), and even the government as well.
The world of hacking doesn’t discriminate, however, and the most successful hackers gained notoriety for hacking some of the biggest and safest systems and organizations in the world. They also gained notoriety after getting caught.
There are certainly more than five accomplished cyber hackers in the history of the Internet, however these guys below consistently appear in list after list of the most infamous hackers.
Chaos Computer Club
This “club” is Europe’s largest association of hackers. It’s based in Germany but extends to other German-speaking countries. Founded in Berlin in 1981, the CCC drew public attention when they hacked into the Bildschirmtext computer network and transferred 134,000 DM (roughly $100,000) into a Hamburg bank in favor of the club.
In 1989, the CCC was peripherally involved in a cyber-espionage case. Karl Koch, who was loosely affiliated with the CCC, led a group of German hackers to breaking into U.S. government and corporate computers and selling operating-system source code to the Soviet KGB.
While members of the group still actively “hack,” they are currently more widely known for their public demonstrations of security risks and exposing them. In general, the group advocates more transparency in government, freedom of information, and the human right to communication. The club also fights for universal access to computers and technological infrastructure while embracing a hacker “ethic.”
Milw0rm is a group of “hacktivists” best known for penetrating the computers of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) in Mumbai, the primary nuclear research facility of India, on June 3rd, 1998. The motivations behind this group’s attacks are mainly political and the group’s logo features the slogan “Putting the power back in the hands of the people.”
A month after the BARC incident, Milw0rm hacked the British web hosting company Easyspace, putting their anti-nuclear mushroom cloud message on more than 300 Easyspace websites. Wired reported that this incident was perhaps the “largest mass hack” ever undertaken. Some of the sites that were hacked included the World Cup, Wimbledon, the Ritz Casino, and the Saudi Royal Family among others.
Typical of hacking groups, which often conceal members’ identities to avoid persecution, little is known about the individual members of Milw0rm.
Known as “Dark Dante,” Kevin Poulsen was a former computer hacker and his best-known hack involved penetrating telephone company computers in the early 1990s to win radio station phone-in contests. By taking over all the phone lines leading to Los Angeles radio stations, he was able to guarantee that he would be the proper-numbered caller to win. Some of his winnings included $20,000 in cash, and a Porsche 944 S2 Cabriolet.
When the FBI started pursuing Poulsen, he went underground as a fugitive. He was featured on NBC’s Unsolved Mysteries, and was finally arrested in April 1991 after 18 months on the run. He pleaded guilty to computer fraud and served a little over 5 years in prison. At the time, it was the longest U.S. sentence ever given for hacking.
He has since reinvented himself as a journalist and became a senior editor at Wired News. In recent years, Poulsen used his skills to track registered sex offenders on the social media website, Myspace, and also broke the initial story of the arrest of Bradley Manning, the U.S. serviceman accused of leaking classified information to WikiLeaks.
Kevin Mitnick’s journey as a computer hacker has been so interesting and compelling that the U.S. Department of Justice called him the “most wanted computer criminal in U.S. history.” His story is so intriguing that it was the basis for two feature films (2000’s “Takedown” and “Freedom Downtime”).
After serving a year in prison for hacking into the Digital Equipment Corporation’s network, he was let out for 3 years of supervised release. Near the end of that period, however, he became a fugitive and went on a 2.5-year hacking spree that involved breaching the national defense warning system and stealing corporate secrets.
Mitnick was eventually caught and convicted, ending with a 5-year prison sentence. After serving those years fully, he became a consultant and public speaker for computer security. He now runs Mitnick Security Consulting, LLC.
Max “Iceman” Butler
A former security researcher turned criminal hacker, Max Butler used the pseudonym “Iceman” and was sentenced to 13 years in a federal prison in 2010 on charges of wire fraud and identity theft. He was also ordered to pay $27.5 million in restitution to his victims.
He gained notoriety for hacking into carder forum websites where stolen credit card numbers are bought and sold and forcing members to conduct their business through his own site, CardersMarket.com. Criminals used the stolen credit card numbers to create fake debit and credit cards that were then used to steal money or merchandise.
Butler previously served an 18-month sentence for writing malicious software that installed back-door programs on computers, including some on government networks in 2000. After being released in 2002, he fell on hard times and eventually turned back to the world of cybercrime. And by the time of his arrest in September 2007, he had built the largest marketplace for stolen credit and debit card information in the world.
** 73% of all Americans have fallen victim to some sort of cybercrime.
** Over 27 million Americans have fallen victim to identity theft over the past 5 years.
- 9 million of them found their identities stolen in the past year alone.
** On average, it takes a hacker 10 minutes to crack a lowercase password that is 6 characters long.
- It takes a hacker roughly 3 years to crack a password that has 2 extra letters added and some of them are uppercase.
** 90% of all business suffered some sort of computer hack over the past 12 months.
- 77% of these companies felt that they were successfully attacked several times over the same period of time.
The unfortunate truth is that as long as there is an Internet, there will be hackers. However, while cybercrime may appear to be rampant, the Internet is, for the most part, safe. Taking the proper precautions can most certainly save you from a lot of hassle, heartache, time, and money. Check out the AIS Data Centers infographic of the 5 most infamous hackers for a visual representation of this blog as well as additional information!