Hackers conjure images of infamous criminals who break into computer systems for nefarious purposes. Of course, not every hacker has bad intentions. “White-hat-hackers” are the nice guys who utilize hacking to make the internet safer for everyone. “Gray-hat” hackers are the ones who break the rules sometimes for pleasure.
There are also the malicious “black-hat-hackers,” who use their anonymity online to hide their true identities. In doing so, they break the law and compromise the security of every system they pursue. Hackers with malicious intentions (black hats) have a long and damaging history. In this piece, I will discuss the few most notorious hackers in history, including who they were, what they did, and how they became so feared.
1. Kevin Mitnick
As the most well-known hacker on the planet, Kevin Mitnick would naturally come in the first place. The US Department of Justice has named him the “most sought cyber felon in US history.”
The young Mitnick began his career as a hacker. After breaking into the computer systems of North American Defense Command (NORAD) in 1981, he became well known. Later, the film ‘War Games,’ which took its inspiration from these happenings, was created.
Mitnick penetrated the network security of Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) in 1989. That got him arrested and thrown in jail. Following the announcement, he demonstrated his abilities by hacking Pacific Bell’s voicemail system.
2. Albert Gonzalez
The son of Cuban exiles became an important pioneer of computer geeks. When Gonzalez was 12 years old, he saved up and purchased his first personal computer. Within just two years, he was able to get into NASA’s computer systems.
At the age of 22, the authorities detained Gonzalez and charged him with bank account fraud connected to the theft of debit card information. Over 180 million customer payment card records were stolen from various businesses. In all, Gonzalez and his crew have taken about $256 million from TJX. Gonzalez was sentenced to two separate periods of 20 years each, with the second term ending in 2025.
3. Adrian Lamo
Because of his transient lifestyle, Adrian Lamo became known as a “homeless hacker.” Notwithstanding this, in 2002 he was able to successfully get into the internal systems of The New York Times. Through this breach, Lamo was able to access private databases, among which was the information of more than 3,000 people who had contributed to the newspaper’s Op-Ed page. He was put on probation for two years and fined almost $65,000.
Lamo has lately re-entered the spotlight after denouncing Chelsea Manning for disclosing classified US Army information.
The term Astra means “weapon” in Sanskrit. The Greek hacker, who went under the name “Astra,” reportedly spent over five years breaking into the systems of the French aircraft manufacturer Dassault Group and collecting classified information on weaponry. Nobody knows who Astra really is just yet. Upon his arrest in 2008, he was identified as a 58-year-old engineer. The Dassault Group lost $360 million due to his breach, and he was given a six-year jail sentence.