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These are the Most Famous and Best Hackers in the World

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Black-hat hackers and white-hat hackers. These are the most famous and successful hackers of all time and what they are doing right now.

Hackers are not all bad. “White-hat hackers” are the best and hack to increase computer security. “Gray-hat hackers” are those who have fun and are not interested in hacking to improve computer security.

But what about the malicious type? These hackers are called “black-hat hackers.” They can be very dangerous, despite being experts at their job. History has proven this.

Here’s a list of some of the most notorious and devious “black hatters”, what they did to gain their reputations, and where they are now.

1. Kevin Mitnick

Kevin Mitnick is the top hacker in the world. He was deemed the most wanted computer criminal in American history by the US Department of Justice. Kevin Mitnick’s story was so bizarre that Track Down, a feature film, was made.

What did he do?

After spending a year in prison for hacking into Digital Equipment Corporation’s network, the judge released him for three years of supervised freedom. He fled after that time and embarked on a two-and-a-half-year hacking spree, which included stealing corporate secrets and breaching the national defense warning system.

Where is he now?

Mitnick was finally caught and sentenced to a five-year prison term. He was released after serving all of his sentences. Mitnick Security Consulting, LLC is now his business.

2. Jonathan James

Jonathan James’ story, also known as “c0mrade”, is tragic. Hacking was something he started at an early age. He managed to hack into many commercial and government networks and was sent to prison while still a minor.

What did he do?

James eventually cracked into NASA’s network, downloading enough source code (assets equivalent to $1.7 million at that time) in order to understand how the International Space Station works. NASA was forced to close its network for three weeks as they investigate the breach. This cost $41,000 more.

Where is he now?

Many malicious network attacks were committed against high-profile businesses in 2007. James denied involvement but he was still suspected and investigated. James committed suicide in 2008 believing that he would be convicted for crimes he did not commit.

3. Albert Gonzalez

Albert Gonzalez is another one of the most skilled hackers in the world. ShadowCrew was his first hacker group. ShadowCrew was responsible for stealing credit card numbers and selling them, as well as creating fraudulent passports, insurance cards and birth certificates to commit identity theft.

What did he do?

Albert Gonzalez was the first person to go online when he accumulated more than 170,000,000 credit card and ATM numbers in just two years. To steal their credit card numbers, he also hacked into Heartland Payment Systems and TJX Companies’ databases.

Where is he now?

Gonzalez was sentenced for 20 years in prison (two 20-year sentences to be served concurrently) and will be released in 2025.

4. Kevin Poulsen

Kevin Poulsen also known as Dark Dante, gained fame through his deep understanding of telephone systems. He once hack the phone lines of a radio station and claimed to be the winner, which earned him a new Porsche. He was referred to by the media as “Hannibal Lecter” of computer crime.

What did he do?

Poulsen was a hacker who stole wiretap data and placed himself on the FBI’s wanted lists. Poulsen was eventually captured in a supermarket and sentenced to 51 months imprisonment and $56,000 in restitution.

Where is he now?

After being released from prison, Poulsen made a change in his life. Poulsen began his career as a journalist and is now a Wired contributing editor. He helped law enforcement identify 744 MySpace sex offenders in 2006.

5. Gary McKinnon

Gary McKinnon (also known as Solo) is alleged to have coordinated the largest military computer hack ever.

What did he do?

McKinnon illegally accessed computers belonging to NASA and the US Armed Forces over a period of 13 months, from February 2001 to March 2002.

Although he claimed that he was searching for information about UFO cover-ups and free energy suppression, US authorities say that he deleted critical files and rendered more than 300 computers unusable, leading to over $700,000.

Where is he now?

McKinnon, who is of Scottish descent, operated out of the United Kingdom until 2005 when he was extradited.

After several appeals, Theresa May (the British Prime Minister at that time) blocked his extradition citing that he was “seriously sick” and that extradition would violate [his] human right to be freed.

6. Robert Tappan Morris

Robert Tappan Morris learned computers from his father Robert Morris. Robert Morris was a computer scientist at Bell Labs, and later at the NSA. Morris is the inventor of the first computer worm known to exist. It is safe to assume that he isn’t very popular among users, considering all computer viruses have been spawned since.

What did he do?

While he was still a Cornell University student in 1988, he developed the Morris Worm. Although the program was meant to measure the internet’s size, it had one flaw. Computers could be infected multiple time and each infection would slow down the computer even further. It rendered more than 6,000 computers inoperable.

Is He Still There?

Robert Tappan Morris was convicted of violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act in 1989. He was sentenced in 1989 to three years probation, 400 hours of community service and a $10,000.50 fine. He founded Y Combinator and is now a tenured professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

7. Loyd Blankenship

Loyd Blankenship is known as “The Mentor” among hacking circles. He has been an active hacker since at least the 1970s. He was an active hacker in the past, including Legion of Doom (LOD).

What did he do?

Blankenship wrote an essay called “Mentor’s Last Words” after being arrested in 1986. This essay is now considered a cornerstone of hacking culture.

Where is he now?

Steve Jackson Games hired Blankenship in 1989 to work with GURPS Cyberpunk. In 1990, the US Secret Service raided Blankenship’s home and took his game’s rules book. They called it a “handbook of computer crime.” Since then, he has given up hacking and is now head of McAfee’s product research and design.

8. Julian Assange

Julian Assange started hacking when he was 16 years old, under the pseudonym “Mendax.” He accessed many corporate and government networks over four years, including the Pentagon, NASA and Lockheed Martin.

What did he do?

Assange created WikiLeaks, a platform that publishes classified documents and news leaks from anonymous sources. In 2010, the United States began an investigation into Assange under the Espionage Act of 1917 to bring him to trial.

Where is he now?

Assange spent the last two years in London’s Ecuadorian Embassy. In 2019, Assange was granted asylum. Police then entered the embassy to arrest Assange. He is currently being held in prison in the UK. However, the British courts rejected Assange’s extradition request.

9. Guccifer 2.0

Who is Guccifer 2.0 We don’t know for certain? It could be a person or a group pretending to be someone. Named after a Romanian hacker (“Guccifer”), who targeted politicians and officials in the United States.

What did they do?

The Democratic National Convention’s network was hacked during the 2016 US Presidential Election. WikiLeaks leaked thousands of documents. Many believe Guccifer 2.0 is a cover to Russian intelligence. However, Guccifer 2.0 stated in an interview that they are not Russian and claimed they were from Romania.

Where are They Now?

Guccifer 2.0 vanished just before the 2016 US Presidential Election. They then reappeared in January 2017 to claim that they had no Russian intelligence ties. Since then, we have not heard anything from Guccifer 2.0.

10. Anonymous

Anonymous is the most famous hacker of all time. However, it’s also one of the most obscure. Anonymous isn’t a single person, but rather a group of hackers that are decentralized and have no hierarchy or membership. Anonymous is open to anyone.

What did they do?

Anonymous was founded in 2003 and has been responsible for attacking many notable targets such as Amazon, PayPal, Sony and the Westboro Baptist Church. They also attacked the Church of Scientology and parts of the darknet.

Where are They Now?

Anonymous hacktivism continues to this day. Two related hacking groups, LulzSec (and AntiSec) have emerged from Anonymous since 2011.

How to Stay Safe from Modern-Day Hackers

Don’t be afraid of hacking. They are more inclined to target large organizations and entities.

You should also be cautious of hackers who may attempt to steal your personal information for their own purposes. You can stay safe by using security software to guard against malware and to recognize when your online accounts are being hacked.

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