In movie “The Social Network”, we’ve seen Zuck doing some nerdy stuffs in his dorm room while rapidly moving his fingers over the keyboard. Black screen, god-awful scripts, constant supply of beer, and then suddenly…..BAM! What was shown in David Fincher’s masterpiece is practically true because a computer is the most terrific box of enigmas which could be used to blow up the online ecosystem. However, please accept our humble apologies for not mentioning the name of Facebook’s founder in the list of top 10 hackers of the world because there are many other folks who have done something far bigger than cracking the network of Harvard. They are the real ambassadors of digital mayhem and are known as……
Best known by his screen name ‘Dark Dante’, Kevin Poulsen is highly respected in the community of hackers. Kevin used to work as a coder in SRI International when he was caught by the hack-bug and propelled high-tech stunts on the internet superhighway. He hacked the telephone lines for KIIS-FM, a Los Angeles based radio station, to pretend himself as the 102nd caller who would be awarded with a Porsche 944 S2. He went fugitive after this incident and once again showed his programming skills when the toll-free telephone number of NBC’s “Unsolved Mysteries” chocked up when he was being featured in the television program. Eventually, he was arrested in 1991 and was sentenced to imprisonment of 51 months in year 1994. Currently, he serves as the News Editor at tech news website Wired.
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A Russian computer bloke, Dmitry Sklyarov was arrested in 2001, by the FBI during an annual convention of hackers in Las Vegas, Nevada. He was accused for cracking the Adobe System and violating the copyright laws of Digital Millennium Copyright Act through his software Advanced eBook Processor (AEBR). During the time of arrest he was working with ElcomSoft, a Moscow based company dealing with password cracking and productivity applications. Apart from the job, he was also pursuing Ph.D. in cryptanalysis from the Moscow State Technical University. For some time, he was imprisoned in California but later charges against him were dismissed when he agreed to give testimony.
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Guzman was a computer programming student at the prestigious AMA Computer University, Philippines, who dropped out in final year after the rejection of his thesis on software to crack internet login details. Days after, Guzman and one of his friends Reomel Ramores, created a computer worm ILOVEYOU which very soon attacked millions of Windows computers worldwide. The worm which was in email format, caused a monolithic damage of USD 5.5-8.7 billion globally whereas its complete removal tolled USD 15 billion. At the time of his sensational case, there were no laws in Philippines dealing with computer hacking. Because of legislative deficiency, Guzman and his friend were released.
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One of the most reverend figures of the hacker sub-culture, Mark Abene aka Phiber Optik has been labelled as the “Robin Hood of Cyberspace” by the Time magazine. A computing enthusiast from childhood, Abene had a great interest in exploring the complexities of large-scale packet data network, mainframe operating systems and telecommunication systems. To hone his expertise in these fields, he joined the Legion of Doom (LOD), a group of active hackers in mid 80s. Subsequently he linked up with another hacking group Masters of Deception (MOD) and emerged as a potent figure in the group’s book “Masters of Deception — The Gang that Ruled Cyberspace.” He was always on the radar of the United States Secret Service for his activities and was even arrested couple of times. Currently, he works as a freelance network security consultant for several organizations.
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Famous for exposing the secret link between American soldier Bradley Manning and WikiLeaks, Adrian Lamo is yet another name in this list of famous hackers around. During childhood, he was fond of investigating and tapping networks of universities and cyber cafes, but came to sheer prominence after hacking the computers of Microsoft, Yahoo!, The New York Times, LexisNexis and MCI, a notable American telecommunication corporation. According to Wikipedia, he has performed vulnerability assessments for different firms; however without charging a penny. No doubt he is renowned for his programming skills in the community of hackers, but his role in Manning case has earned him a negative reputation among whistle-blowers.
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A citizen of Scotland, Gary McKinnon chopped the computers of NASA and United States military over a time spanning from February, 2001 to March, 2002. On military’s website, he posted a message “Your security is crap” and proved this statement very true after hacking the weapon station of U.S. Navy, post 9/11 attacks. However, Gary doesn’t believe his acts a crime because for him the intrusions were meant to explore government-related conspiracy theories such as Extraterrestrial Life and Free Energy Suppression. United States has constantly demanded his extradition from UK, but in October, 2012, his transfer to U.S. was blocked by the Home Secretary of Britain. Diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome in 2008, Gary has been freed from any kind of legal action in UK.
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A notable network security consultant and author of The Art of Deception, Kevin Mitnick was 16 when he started his nerdy career by hacking the computer network of Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) and copied software. Mitnick was imprisoned for 12 months along with three years of supervised release, but he somehow managed to escape and lived in fugitiveness for nearly two and a half years. While escaping from the cops, he continued his hacking spree and gained unauthorized access to the computers of various companies such as IBM, Nokia, Motorola, Sun Microsystems and others. It was February 15, 1995, when he was finally nabbed by the FBI at his apartment in North Carolina. He served 5 years in prison prior to his emancipation in January, 2000.
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A notable alumnus of Cornell University and a professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Robert Tappan Morris is a notable hacker best known for creating the Morris Worm. The code was not written to inflict network impairment, but to gauge the size of the internet (this is what Morris says). He disguised the fact that it was released from Cornell; however it came from MIT. The first computer warm spread rapidly and infected thousands of computers imposing a loss between USD 100,000 to 10,000,000. He was convicted under the 1986 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and was also sentenced to probation for 3 years apart from community service of 400 hours and a fine of USD 10,000.
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The boy, who got his first computer at the age of 8 by parents and became master in removing computer viruses at 9, is none other than Albert Gonzalez aka CumbaJohny. While studying in South Miami High School, he hacked the computer systems of Indian Government for which he was deprived from computers for six months. Later he formed ShadowCrew, a hacking group of fierce programmers which is best known for hacking millions of credit and ATM card details. He teamed up with another hacker Stephen Watt aka Unix Terrorist to crack the card details and records of TJX Companies and CardSystems Solutions. A coder at Morgan Stanley, Watt used to write sniffer program for Gonzalez. Currently, he has been imprisoned at Federal Correctional Institution, Milan and will be released in 2025.
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Best known by his nickname ‘c0mrade’, Jonathan James was only 15-years old when he hacked the source code of International Space Station along with DTRA, a combat support division of the United States Department of Defense. These cases of network intrusions made him the first American juvenile to be imprisoned for cybercrime. In 2007, he was once again accused for hacking credit information and account details of millions of customers via Wi-Fi. However, this time, he denied his involvement in the recent hacking cases and finally on May 18, 2008, committed suicide by shooting himself. According to the suicide letter, he had lost faith in the justice system and feared he could be made scapegoat by the officials. The boy of exceptional knowledge was 24 when he died.
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