Five Greatest Computer Hackers In History


Five Greatest Computer Hackers In History

Dan Steiner
Aug 5, 2013

Society seems to create celebrities out of criminals, no matter how heinous their crimes may have been. So it makes sense that society would turn the criminals that spend countless hours behind their monitors night after night, breaking into databases and mainframes of the most powerful organizations and governments in the world. Hackers have captured our imaginations for decades, and while there seem to be more hackers than ever before, these few listed below are the best the world has ever seen.

Kevin Mitnick

The “poster boy” of computer hacking, Mitnick was once the most wanted cybercriminal in the U.S. and mastered the very early iterations of social engineering, to which he gained access and modified telephony switching systems. After being chased across the country for over two years (and changing his identity multiple times), he was arrested and incarcerated. Mitnick was the first high profile computer hacking criminal case in American history, and one of the most memorable criminal cases of the 1990’s altogether. Interestingly enough, Mitnick never made a dime from his exploits, citing that he hacked because of the challenge alone.

Albert Gonzalez

Mitnick may have not made anything off his hacking exploits, but Gonzalez certainly did: $200 million to be exact. From 2005 – 2007, Gonzalez stole over 170-million credit card and ATM numbers, and was also the moderator at a website called Shadowcrew – a forum that allowed members to purchase stolen credit card and ATM numbers. Gonzalez may have been active for only a few years, but he was responsible for more credit card/ATM thefts than nearly anyone else in American history.

Kevin Poulsen

Known as Dark Dante in the hacking community in the 1990’s, Poulsen specialized in hacking telephone systems – most notably radio stations. Thanks to his hacks, Poulsen was able to ensure that only phone calls originating from his home to make it to the stations, ensuring that he won every listener radio contests. His greatest hack was in 1991 when he took over all of the telephone lines for the Los Angeles KIIS-FM station, to which he was guaranteed to win a Porsche 944 S2. In the end, Poulsen won the Porsche, $20,000 in prize money, and was arrested to which he spent 51-months in federal prison.

Jonathan James

At the age of 16, James was the first juvenile to be ordered to be sent to prison for hacking. Responsible for various hacks between August and October 1999, James biggest hack was hacking into the United States Department of Defense computers and stealing NASA software, estimated to cost roughly $1.7 million. Moreover, he also stole software that contained the International Space Station’s source code for controlling life-sustaining elements. Thanks to his hacks, NASA had to shut its computer system down for three weeks.

Max Ray Butler

Butler is unique in that he spent much of his career “white hacking,” to which he helped various security system firms to secure their networks, while also taking part in “black hacking” projects; by the name, you can appropriately guess that “black hacking” is another term associated with “illegal hacking.” Butler’s biggest “black hacking” project? Stealing 1.8-million credit card numbers from June, 2005 – Sept. 2007. In total, he earned $86.4-million and was ordered to spend 13-years in jail and spend $27.5 million in restitution.

John Draper

By far the oldest cybercriminal on this list, John Draper (also known as Captain Crunch) received his nickname by using a toy whistle that arrived in a box of cereal to foil phone companies. How did he do it? The whistle’s frequency was the exactly frequency used by AT&T long distance lines, Draper was able to access the operator mode of the phone company, and with this knowledge he created blue boxes that would reproduce other tones used by AT&T. Eventually, he was arrested on toll fraud and sentenced to five years’ probation.

Author: Dan Steiner
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