Published on August 18th, 2014 | by John I.0
5 Most Famous Hackers of All Time
Hackers dominate the mysterious underbelly of our technology systems. There are black hat hackers, the disreputable individuals and crews who work with viruses, trojans and malware to infect systems and cause havoc. And there are white-hat hackers, who work with organisations and governments to fix vulnerabilities and improve cyber security. Here are five of the most famous hackers of all time – some white hat, some black hat – and the uses and abuses of technology that made them famous. Reading of their exploits and cunning provides further evidence of the very real need for increasingly sophisticated digital security platforms, such as Your Digital File (www.yourdigitalfile.com/), which protect businesses and individuals against malicious hackers.
When he was arrested in 1995, Kevin Mitnick was the United States’ most wanted computer criminal. He began his hacking career when he was only 16, hacking into Digital Equipment Corporations systems and illegally copying their software. This crime saw him sent to prison for 12 months. Jail didn’t slow Mitnick down. He hacked into Pacific Bell’s voice mail systems while still on bail, and turned fugitive when a warrant was issued for his arrest. Mitnick led the FBI on a three-year manhunt, using his hacking expertise to stay ahead of authorities. He was finally apprehended in 1995 and was sentenced to five and a half years in prison in 1999. This last prison stint helped Mitnick turn around – he is now a white hat hacker and security consultant, helping large organisations test the strengths and weaknesses of their systems.
Max Ray Vision
Max Ray Vision’s story really highlights the dual nature of many hackers. Vision, born Max Butler and AKA Iceman, has had a career as a tech support officer, a systems analyst, a security consultant, and an informant for the FBI. These roles were often performed while moonlighting as a black hat hacker. He got in serious trouble with the FBI when he was caught installing backdoors in the federal government websites he’d been hired to secure. Over his career, Vision stole nearly 2 million credit card numbers and racked up nearly $86 million in fraudulent charges. Hacking hasn’t worked out well for Vision – he’s currently in prison in Louisiana.
Kevin Poulson is most famous for hacking into the phone system of KIIS-FM, a Los Angeles radio station, and rigging the system to ensure he was the 102nd caller during a dial-in competition. He was rewarded with a Porsche 944 S2 for his efforts. Poulson went underground after the FBI caught on, and like Mitnick, he used his skills to help evade capture. He was featured on NBC’s Unsolved Mysteries; however, the public were unable to provide tips on his whereabouts as the show’s 1800 number inexplicably crashed after the show went to air. He was eventually caught and sentenced to five years in prison. Poulson is now a security journalist for Wired News.
One of the good guys, Stewart uses his incredible knowledge of systems and technology to hack the hackers. He is probably best known in hacking circles for his work to undermine the Clampi trojan, a malicious piece of software that steals the financial information that enables cyber-criminals to run fraud scams. Stewart was also one of the first to identify the SoBig worm, a malicious trojan that spreads through email systems. He also spends a considerable amount of time tracking and destabilising the criminal activities of digitally savvy mafia organisations in Europe and Asia, which has gained him serious notoriety in the criminal underworld. Stewart is currently working as the Director of Malware Research at SecureWorks.
Steve “Woz” Wozniak
Steve “Woz” Wozniak is probably best remembered for the work he did after a short career in hacking. In the early 80s, Woz developed a product he called blue box – a small device that subverted the phone system and allowed the user to make free international calls. Woz used his blue box device to ‘phreak’ (hack telecommunications and banking systems over the phone lines) and make untraceable calls to international celebrities, including the Pope. Partnering with Steve Jobs, a friend from college, he started selling these blue boxes to other college friends. The pair soon turned their attention to a new computer system Woz had been developing, which was the foundation of the massive Apple empire.
Online technologies are incredibly useful, but as the exploits of these hackers demonstrate, these tools can be very susceptible to worms, trojans, viruses and all manner of malevolent hacks. Luckily for the average computer user, the work of the nefarious black hat hackers is often undermined by the white hat hackers who work with organisations to strengthen systems and reduce vulnerabilities.