History's most notorious hackers


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From phone phreaking with cereal box whistles to make free long distance phone calls to stealing credit card numbers and making millions in fraudulent purchases, hacking has certainly come a long way – both in technology and in motive.

This week we look at some of history’s most notorious hackers, and the fate they met when the law caught up with their illegal activities.

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History's most notorious hackers

  1. 1. History’s most notorious hackersFrom phone phreaking with cereal boxwhistles to make free long distance phonecalls to stealing credit card numbers andmaking millions in fraudulent purchases,hacking has certainly come a long way –both in technology and in motive.This week we look at some of history’smost notorious hackers, and the fate theymet when the law caught up with theirillegal activities. By Jeff Jedras Image courtesy of chanpipat at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
  2. 2. Kevin PoulsenBorn in California in 1965, Poulsen’smost well-known hack is his takeoverof the phone lines of a Los Angelesradio station, ensuring he would winthe contest prize – a Porsche 944 S2– as the 102nd caller.Similarly, when he was sought by theFBI and featured on the televisionprogram Unsolved Mysteries, theshow’s tip line mysteriously crashed.After his release from prison hebecame a journalist, and is now aneditor for Wired News.
  3. 3. Robert Tappan Morris Born in 1965, Morris, a computer scientist, has the distinction of creating the first computer worm on the Internet in 1988. The Morris Worm also led to him being the first person convicted under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. After turning white hat, he would co- found online store Viaweb and co-found funding firm Y-Combinator. He’s now a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  4. 4. John DraperBorn in 1943 as the son of a US AirForce engineer, Draper is a formerphone phreak whose aliases includedCaptain Crunch.He helped design the firstmultifrequency tone generator (knownas a blue box) that allowed the user tomake free calls from payphones – thetone was the same as that emitted bya whistle given away in Captain Crunchcereal – hence, the nickname.After serving his time, he brieflyworked for Apple, and he now writessecurity software and is a developerfor a VoIP client.
  5. 5. Jonathan James Born in 1983, James was the first juvenile incarcerated for a cybercrime in the US when, at age 15, he hacked into a number of systems, including his local school and a division of the Defence Department. He was investigated in connection to the 2007 TJX hacking, but no evidence was found to linking him to the crime. He would later commit suicide, citing fear of being prosecuted for a crime he didn’t commit.
  6. 6. Albert GonzalezBorn in 1981, Gonzalez wasaccused of being behind the largestcase of credit and debit card theftin history, using a SQL injection todeploy backdoors on corporatesystems to launch packet sniffersand steal corporate data.He was indicted in three cases –Dave & Busters, TJ Maxx andHeartland Payment – and he wassentenced to 20 years in federalprison in 2010.