Get ready to step into the dark side of the internet with our list of 11 biggest hackers the world has ever known. These guys went beyond using the internet and computers to read the news or hang on Facebook.
Nowadays, the term hacker has become a synonym for anyone who has an extensive knowledge of computers, computer systems, network securities, etc. But, a while ago, the hacker was a person who used its skills to bypass or crack the security of a website or a server and gain access to data he didn’t suppose to.
Over time, different types of hackers started appearing. We already talked about it in our article on 7 biggest hacks of all time. Hackers who use their knowledge for their own benefits are called black hat hackers or crackers. The ones that use their knowledge for non–malicious purposes and are not breaking the law are called white hat hackers. There are also gray hat hackers who are somewhere in-between. They do break the law with their actions, but are not keen on gaining any benefits from that.
To compile our list of 11 biggest hackers the world has ever known, we looked at the lists made by various tech-based magazines like Kaspersky, Hacked and Tech Worm among others. We checked the names that were featured on almost all the lists and put them on our own. Note that we didn’t take in consideration groups like Anonymous. Let’s get started then.
11. Matthew Bevan and Richard Pryce
We’ll start off our list with a duo – Matthew Bevan and Richard Pryce. In 1994, they caused big trouble for the United States government when they hacked into Pentagon’s network which enabled them to intercept messages and somehow get into South Korea’s nuclear facilities system.
10. David L. Smith
You may not be familiar with his name, but you should be familiar with the virus he created called Melissa. Melissa was a virus that would infect the user’s computer and send itself through Microsoft Outlook to 50 contacts in the address book. That would happen each time when the virus gets to the new computer. It is estimated that Melissa infected more than 20% of all computers in the world by 2000.
9. Adrian Lamo
Lamo gained media attention when he hacked Microsoft, Yahoo! and Google. Since that obviously wasn’t enough for this guy, he decided to hack The New York Times. He breached into the company’s network and gained access to subscribers’ personal info as well as all the company’s top executives. However, he is better known for tipping Chelsea Manning, the person who leaked thousands of government’s classified documents and was sentenced to 35 years in prison for his actions.
8. Kevin Poulsen
This man ended up on our list of 11 biggest hackers the world has ever known because he really wanted a brand new Porsche. In 1990, KIIS-FM radio station from Los Angeles organized a contest in which 102nd caller would get a brand new Porsche. Kevin Poulsen took over the radio station’s telephone lines and secured himself the prize. Sadly, he didn’t get to enjoy it, since the FBI caught him and sentenced him to 5 years in prison. He is currently a journalist at Wired.
7. Vladimir Levin
In 1994, Vladimir Levin attempted one of the first online money frauds. He hacked into Citibank’s network and gained access to multiple accounts, transferring more than 10 million USD to other accounts opened by his accomplices. The fraud was later revealed, and Levin was sentenced to 3 years in prison.
6. Jonathan James
Being only 16 years old, Jonathan James caused serious trouble for the US government. He hacked into one of the agencies that were part of the Department of Defense of the United States and gained access to various sensible data like usernames, passwords, and messages. But, the biggest problem was that he got his hands on a source code crucial for International Space Stations. The code had a task to control critical life-sustaining elements. After he was caught, James was sentenced to house arrest until he became an adult.
5. Gary McKinnon
After hacking into more than 90 US military and NASA computers, Gary McKinnon said he was just trying to find some information on the UFOs. The truth was somewhat different. He deleted crucial system files from computers and caused a crash of several military networks. After 9/11 attacks, he also targeted Earle Naval Weapons Station, disabling their network and immobilizing monition deliveries to the US Navy’s Atlantic Fleet.
4. Kevin Mitnick
Kevin Mitnick ranks 4th in our list of biggest hackers the world has ever known. He started his hacking spree in 1979 when he was only 16. He broke into the Digital Equipment Corporation’s network and copied their software. Alongside 12 months of prison, he was sentenced to, he got additional 3 years of supervision, but near the end of it, he hacked into computers of Pacific Bell, the company managing telephone operations. After the warrant for his arrest was issued, he fled and spent more than 2 years as a fugitive, continuing with hacking operations. After the arrest, he was sentenced to 46 months in prison.
3. Max “Iceman” Butler
We are continuing our list of biggest hackers the world has ever known with Max Butler,who is known better for his alias Iceman, began his career as an online security consultant. He served as an informant for FBI after they found him trying to hack their network in 1998. After a brief time, he decided to quit and was eventually sentenced to 18 months in jail. However, his biggest hack happened 9 years later, in 2007, when he stole 2 million credit card numbers that he used for various purchases. He is currently serving 16-year prison sentence.
Although his full name was never revealed, it is known that this infamous hacker was a mathematician from Greece. He became famous when he hacked into computer systems of Dassault Group, stealing weapon data and software. It is estimated that he caused more than 250 million USD in damage. He is currently serving 6-year prison sentence.
1. Albert Gonzales
The last hacker on our list of the biggest hackers the world has ever known, Albert Gonzalez, specialized in credit card hacks. Between 2005 and 2008, he was involved in the biggest credit card data theft in the history, getting his hands on the credit card information of users from Heartland Payment Systems and TJX Companies. He was caught in 2008 trying another credit card hack, and sentenced to 20 years in prison, the biggest sentence for any hack related crime in history.