Famous Hackers and What Happened to Them

Not all hackers are evil. The ones we hear about most often, Black-Hat Hackers, are the baddies, and can do a lot of damage. This post has a look at some of the best-known members of this group.

You can’t believe what these guys got away with! While the rest of us are trying to figure out how to use our PCs and mobile devices to get in on Geelong Cup betting and the like, these guys are hacking into NASA!

Kevin Mitnick

The American Department of Justice dubbed Mitnick The Most Wanted Computer Criminal in US History, and his story is so incredible it became the basis for a film, Track Down.

After serving one year in prison after he hacked into the Digital Equipment Corporation Network, he left, being granted three years of supervised release.

Near the end of that period, however, he made a run for it, and went on a hacking spree that lasted 2 ½ years! It involved breaching the US National Defense warning system and saw him stealing corporate secrets, too.

He was eventually apprehended, and was given a prison sentence of five years. After serving the entire sentence he traded in his Black Hat and became a public speaker and consultant for computer security, and opened Mitnick Security Consulting, LLC.

Jonathan James

Jonathan James, or c0mrade, is a sad story. He started off his hacking career at a very young age, and got into a number of government and commercial networks.

He was caught and sent to prison, all before he’d come of age. James eventually managed to hack in to the NASA network and he downloaded enough source code, valued at US$1.7 million, to discover how the International Space Station operates.

NASA was forced to shut its network down for a full three weeks while they tried to find the source of this breach, and this cost an extra US$41 000. Back in 2007, a number of well-known companies suffered multiple malicious attacks on their networks.

Even though James strongly denied having anything to do with this, he was suspected, and got investigated. He committed suicide just one year later, fearing that he would be convicted of crimes he had not committed because of his past.

Kevin Poulsen

Also known as Dark Dante, Kevin Poulsen found his 15 minutes of fame by putting his detailed knowledge of telephone systems to use.

At one point in time, Poulsen hacked into the phone lines at a radio station and made sure he was the winning caller in a competition being held, getting a brand-new Porsche in the process.

He was later arrested in a supermarket and got sentenced to 51 months in prison and a bill for US$56 000 which he had to pay in restitution.

Poulsen changed after he came out of prison in 1995. He started working as a journalist, and has gone on to become the senior editor for Wired. In 2006 he also assisted law enforcement in bringing 744 sex offenders on MySpace to book.