In an age where information technology is growing at an increasingly exponential rate, news stories of computer-based crimes are becoming a daily occurrence. Computer hacking is no longer an exclusively underground concept. To highlight its mainstream notoriety, here are five of the most high-profile computer hacking cases of recent times:
1. Jonathan James – The Boy Who Played Spy
Jonathan James became popular when he became the first juvenile to be given a prison sentence for computer hacking. Luckily, because of his age (he was 16 years old at the time of verdict and was 15 years old when he committed the crime), his possible 10 year prison sentence was reduced to just six months of house arrest.
Like most convicted computer criminals, he was banned from using a computer during his probation. James was convicted of hacking into both Department of Defense and NASA computer systems. One of the charges included stealing a software program worth $1.7 million. When asked about the motive behind his crimes, James said he was only playing around.
2. Adrian Lamo – A Homeless Hacker
Because he traveled around the country and used free internet connections at libraries and popular coffee shops, Adrian Lamo was given the nickname “homeless hacker.” Lamo felt his computer intrusions were justified since he only tested the security of high-profile computer systems. He never stole anything or caused damage to the system.
He would tell the owners of these systems about their security flaws so that they could fix them offering penetration testing services and other types of security services. However, he did not have permission to run these security penetration tests. He was charged and sentenced to six months in prison and two years of probation. His victims include Microsoft, Yahoo!, The New York Times Bank of America, Cingular and Citigroup.
3. Kevin Mitnick – The Hacker Poster Boy
Kevin Mitnick is one of the most famous hackers of all time. He evaded authorities for years, and their hunt for him was widely publicized. There have been a couple of movies that have detailed his exploits, and his story has also inspired Hollywood’s portrayal of hackers in a number of other movies.
Mitnick went on a malicious computer hacking spree while traveling the country for two and a half years. In the end, he served five years in prison. Part of that was in solitary confinement. He is now a successful security consultant and an author.
4. Kevin Poulsen – Next Caller Wins
When a radio show was giving a new Porsche to a specifically numbered caller, Kevin Poulsen became the luckiest man in the world. He used his hacker knowledge to take control of the radio’s phone system and ensure that he was the correct caller. The authorities began pursuing him when he started hacking into FBI computer databases.
When the show America’s Most Wanted displayed his picture, he allegedly crashed their phone system to prevent witnesses from calling. He was eventually caught and served five years in prison. He now works for Wired News as a senior editor.
5. Robert Tappan Morris – Worldwide Infection
Robert Tappan Morris is famous for being the creator of the world’s first computer worm. A worm is like a virus in many ways, but replicates itself to grow exponentially. Morris, son of an NSA scientist, said he only released his worm to see how big the internet was. His computer worm slowed any computer that was infected and caused many of them to crash.
Morris became the first person to be prosecuted under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986. He received three years of probation. He is now a tenured professor at MIT, working in the artificial intelligence and computer science laboratory.
These are five of the most high-profile cases of computer hacking. Computers are becoming an increasingly important part of everyone’s lives, and computer hacking crime-rates are likely to grow. However, keep in mind that not all computer hackers are the malicious criminals portrayed by Hollywood.
- George Hotz (jailbreak-ed iPhone and PS 3)
- Tsutomu Shimomura (helped FBI to catch Kevin Mitnick)
- Gordon Lyon aka ‘Good Hacker’ (developed Nmap Security Scanner)
- John Draper aka ‘Phone Phreak’ (hacked into phone lines using a plastic whistle)
- Max Butler (assembled largest ever cybercrime commerce site)
- Michael Lynn aka ‘Hacker Hero’ (shared Cisco routers’ vulnerabilities with the hacking world)
- Anonymous Group (responsible for various top notch hacking cases)