The 10 Greatest Hackers in the World
Virtually everyone in the U.S. has been affected by hackers at some point in their life. It could be as small as a stolen social media account or as serious as credit fraud. The most recent attack on Equifax allowed hackers to steal the personal information of roughly 110 million individuals. Let’s not forget the 2013 attack on Target that resulted in nearly 40 million stolen credit and debit card numbers. Or what about the 3 billion Yahoo accounts that were hacked in late 2016?
Yeah, hacking is no joke. And neither are the hackers.
Of course, not all hackers are dead-set on destroying lives. Some white hat hackers use their talents responsibly by finding and stopping “evil” or black hat hackers. Others, such as grey hat hackers, sell their hacking abilities to willing buyers. Sort of like a mercenary.
The point is, there are different types of hackers in the world today. Each is more than capable of either torpedoing your credit score, as well as, protecting your social security number. Each hacker on our top 10 list is well-known worldwide for their heinous, ridiculous, and, sometimes, inspiring deeds.
Adrian Lamo “The Homeless Hacker”
Adrian Lamo lived a nomadic lifestyle. As he often camped out in abandoned buildings or with friends, Lamo had no fixed address. This was what earned him the moniker as “The Homeless Hacker.”
During his career, Lamo successfully hacked into numerous company sites, such as AOL Time Warner, MCI Worldcom, SBC Communication, Yahoo, and Microsoft. He would often hack various systems and then, for publicity, would alert the press and its owners.
However, Lamo managed to achieve hacking notoriety in 2002 when he infiltrated computers belonging to The New York Times. Via this hack, Lamo managed to create multiple fictitious user identities while researching high-profile figures. He also incurred a bill of up to $300,000 in research charges for the New York Times.
Lamo was charged with 2 years probation and a $65,000 fine.
In the end, Lamo was most well-known for his betrayal of Chelsea Manning when she leaked classified US documents. Lamo’s argument for that was simple: he felt that it was just too dangerous.
Lamo died on March 14, 2018 at the age of 37.
Kevin Poulsen “Dark Dante”
Poulsen began his short-lived hacking career at the age of 17. In 1983, Poulsen gained notoriety by hacking ARPANET-the Pentagon’s own computer network. Quickly caught, Poulsen was given a stern warning to never try that again. Otherwise, all charges were dropped due to his minor status.
In 1988, Poulsen hacked into another federal computer. However, this time things got serious, fast. Poulsen ran, all the while, continuously hacking government computers and releasing sensitive information. His most well-known antic was that of a radio station hacking in the summer of 1990. This earned him a Porsche and $20,000.
Fortunately, the chase only lasted 17 months. Poulsen was eventually arrested and sentenced to 2 years in prison, as well as, a 3-year ban from computers. After his release, Poulsen threw himself into journalism. Now he currently works as a Contributing editor for Wired News.
Max Ray Butler “Iceman” or “Max Vision”
Considered a super hacker by other hackers, Butler has been deeply invested in computers since his teenage years. In youth, he had a strong interest in bulletin board systems. However, his high school life was often checkered with violence. He was later expelled for stealing chemicals from the school lab.
As an adult, Butler worked in tech support for CompuServe. However, he was later fired for distributing illegal software via company computers. After that, Butler worked as a security consultant, often working for big companies and government agencies. At some point, Butler started building backdoors into his client’s software to gain easy access to their files. Again, he was caught and sentenced to 18 months in prison.
It was not until 2007 that Butler finally cemented himself as one of the greatest hackers in the world. After stealing 2 million credit card numbers, Butler was able to incur over $86 million in fraudulent charges. It was also believed, but never proven, that Butler managed a notorious online forum called CardersMarket. This was a cybercrime marketplace where criminals were able to sell and purchase stolen credit and debit card information.
Butler was sentenced to 13 years in federal prison.
Jonathan James “c0mrade”
James made history as being the first minor (in the U.S.) to serve prison time for hacking. At the age of 15, James successfully hacked the U.S. Department of Defense. There, he gained access to over 3,000 government messages, as well as, employee usernames and passcodes.
James also managed to hack into the International Space Station’s environmental control system. There he stole $1.7 million in software and incurred a repair bill of roughly $40,000.
In 2000, James was sentenced to 6 months house arrest. Due to a violation in probation, this was changed to 6 months in federal prison.
After his release, James lived a calm life. However, things changed for the worst. In 2007, a TJX was hacked into. James was immediately suspected as the culprit, despite the lack of evidence. In 2008, James -suffering from depression- committed suicide via a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Anonymous “Digital Robin Hood”
More of a movement than an actual individual, Anonymous is a social justice-focused hacking group. Or hacktivist group. Its penname is the “digital Robin Hood.” Meanwhile, its members are called Anons who are identified by their Guy Fawkes masks.
Anonymous originated in 2003, via an unnamed forum on 4chan message boards. Since then, they have regularly attacked and publicly criticized various governments, corporations, and religious institutions. So far, their targets have consisted of the KKK, the Church of Scientology, PayPal, and Sony. They have even attacked government agencies, such as U.S.A, Uganda, Israel, and Tunisia.
Anonymous’ protests can range from harmless pranks to physical marches.
An example of an Anonymous operation includes #OpSafeWinter or Operation Safe Winter which occurred in 2013. This was a program that hoped to raise awareness about homelessness. It was a fairly new project that was unlike anything the group had attempted before.
Another example includes the 2014 war on the KKK. Shortly after the Ferguson riots, Anonymous managed to hack the KKK’s Twitter account. They then attacked their site, meanwhile releasing personal information about each clan member. This, of course, was in response to the KKK death threats following the riot.
There is no hierarchy within the group. Therefore, it’s near impossible for FBI agencies to completely take down Anonymous. But what’s most memorable is the group’s tagline: We are Anonymous. We are Legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us.
Not much is known about this hacker. That’s probably why he (or she) is considered one of the most mysterious, and dangerous, hackers in the world.
Active from 2002 to 2008, ASTRA hacked into a French aviation company known as Dassault Group computers. ASTRA managed to steal 5 years worth of weapons technology and 3D modeling software. ASTRA then sold all of this to countries and individuals across the globe, costing Dassault $360 million. After a global manhunt led by Dassault, ASTRA was finally tracked to an Athens apartment in January 2018.
The only information every released about ASTRA’s identity is that they’re a 58-year-old Greek mathematician. And that they’re serving 6 years of jail time.
Albert Gonzalez “soupnazi”
Throughout high school, Gonzalez was often known as the “troubled pack leader of computer nerds.” Later, he became a prominent figure on the criminal message board called ShadowCrew.com. Through this, Gonzalez bought and sold stolen card information, passports, social security cards, and more. However, Gonzalez was eventually captured and initially charged with the possession of 15 fake bank cards.
To avoid jail time, Gonzalez agreed to work as a Secret Service informant and was paid $75,000. As an informant, Gonzalez indicted 19 of his fellow ShadowCrew members. However, Gonzalez, a black hat hacker to the end, continued hacking while working as an informant.
During his time with the Secret Service, Gonzalez managed to still $256 million from the department store, TJ Maxx. Along with this, Gonzalez stole 90 million individual’s card information from various other companies. These companies included Dave and Buster’s, OfficeMax, and Boston Market.
Gonzalez was arrested on May 7, 2009. On 2010, Gonzalez was sentenced to 20 years in prison-the longest prison sentence known to date.
Matthew Bevan “Kuji” and Richard Pryce “Datastream Cowboy”
This British tag-team is known as the hackers that nearly started WWIII. In 1996, Pryce and Bevan infiltrated numerous military networks. These included the Defense Information System Agency, Griffiss Air Force Base, and the Korean Atomic Research Institute (KARI).
The reason for this was to prove a UFO conspiracy theory.
After discovering the hacking incident, the United States Senate misinterpreted Bevan’s pseudonym (Kuji) as a foreign hacker. Meanwhile, Pryce, who had been 16 at the time, had dumped private information from KARI’s database into the USAF’s. The U.S. government was incredibly worried that if North Korea noticed the data breach they would threaten retaliation. Thankfully, Pryce had mistakenly hacked South Korea, instead. Everyone was relieved.
As for the British hackers: seeing as there was no proof, both the boys were acquitted.
Gary McKinnon “Solo”
McKinnon was considered a computer prodigy by the age of 14. Unfortunately, this Scottish genius was interested in only 2 things: hacking and UFOs.
Between February of 2001 and March of 2002, McKinnon hacked into 97 US military and NASA computers. There he deleted files from operating systems. This shut down the military’s Washington network for roughly 24 hours. Within a 13-month time span, McKinnon managed to render 300 computers inoperable and incur a repair cost of $700,000.
At one point, McKinnon left a message on the military’s website: “Your security is crap.”
When McKinnon was finally caught, the U.S. government wanted to extradite him. He was facing 70 years prison time and an $800,000 fine. However, extradition was blocked by the Home Secretary, Theresa May. McKinnon was then taken to the U.K. for trial where his charges were dropped.
So, what was the reason McKinnon’s hacking? Simple, it was to find proof of a UFO coverup and suppression, of free energy.
Kevin Mitnick “Condor” or “Darkside”
We’ll finish off our list with, arguably, the most famous hacker of all time. Mitnick’s hacking career started in his youth. At 13, he’d collect unused bust tickets from the dumpster. With those, he’d make his way around town. That was, until, he managed to purchase a ticket punch. Then, he traveled throughout LA via the bus line for free.
As Mitnick grew older, he began hacking telephone networks. In 1981, he was charged with theft after stealing Pacific Bell computer manuals. A year later, he stepped it up a notch by hacking the North American Defense Command (NORAD). This, of course, inspired “War Games.”
A litter bit after that, Mitnick hacked into the computer network belonging to Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC). He was immediately caught and charged with 12 months in prison. He served his time. However, as soon as he was released, Mitnick was wanted for the hacking of Pacific Bell.
Mitnick ran and evaded the government for 2 and a half years. While on the run, Mitnick continued to hack into large corporations, stealing and selling proprietary software. By the time they caught him in 1995, he hacked into 40 major companies.
Mitnick spent 5 years in federal prison. He now owns his own security consulting agency.
As you can see, there are various types of hackers. Not all are good and not all are bad, because, in the end, hackers are just people. People who’ve made mistakes and have tried to fix them. Each of our top 10 hackers are important additions to our list. This is because in some way (no matter how ridiculous) they’ve helped to make cybersecurity what it is today.