10 Alleged Computer Crooks Who Have Secretly Made Your Life Miserable

albert gonzalez

Computers don’t hack themselves.

Even so, the idea of a “hacker” has changed a lot over the years.

Back in the early days of the Internet, a hacker was often a genius kid getting himself into trouble. (Think the 1983 movie WarGames, starring Matthew Broderick, or 1995’s Hackers.) Facebook and other Silicon Valley companies use this curious-tinkerer definition.

But as the Internet grew into the backbone of the economy, the dark side of hacking attracted more sophisticated criminals. Today, a criminal who breaks into computers is often out to steal money. And for good reason. Some of the world’s top cybercrooks could be hauling in $100 million a year, some experts say.

In the last few years, a new hacking trend has arrived, too, known as “hacktivism.” This is a type of hacking meant to protest a company or government’s policies. They might try to take down a company’s website or steal and expose information. While their intentions may be noble, some of these hacks have ended up being as dangerous to the public as the ones conducted by organised crime.

[slideshow]
[slide
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title=”No. 10: Kevin Mitnick”
content=”Kevin Mitnick was a genius kid hacker. By the time of his arrest in 1995, he was he was the most-wanted computer criminal in the United States.

He hacked into IBM, Motorola, NEC, Nokia, Sun Microsystems and Fujitsu Siemens, Pacific Bell, FBI, Pentagon, Novell. He even managed to wiretap NSA agents, the story goes.

Mitnick served five years in prison, but as an adult turned his life around to become a good-guy hacker. He’s now hired by companies to help them set up their security systems. And he’s written a couple of books, too.

Impact: He made hacking cool for a lot of other genius kids who went on to write their own viruses and break into systems. But he did turn his life around to become a better role model.”
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title=”No. 9: Adrian Lamo”
content=”Adrian Lamo’s name was etched into hacker history after he broke into systems belonging to the New York Times, Yahoo, Microsoft, and MCI Worldcom.

He was arrested in 2003, sentenced to six months of detention at his parents’ home, two years of probation, and $65,000 in restitution.

Lamo would make a lot more news, particularly after he told federal authorities that Bradley Manning, a soldier, was responsible for leaking hundreds of sensitive U.S. documents to Wikileaks. Manning was arrested and Lamo faced national criticism by WikiLeaks supporters and fellow hackers for his decision.

Impact: His decision to out Manning polarised the hacking world, potentially making it difficult for other hackers who want to break ranks with their peers.”
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[slide
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title=”No. 8: Gary McKinnon”
content=”Gary McKinnon is a British hacker accused of causing more than $700,000 in damage to U.S. military systems in what U.S. prosecutor called the ‘biggest military computer hack of all time’.

He has been fighting extradition for seven years and faces up to 60 years in a U.S. jail if he were to be tried and found guilty.

McKinnon, 46, is autistic. He admits hacking into Pentagon and NASA computers under the pseudonym ‘Solo’ but said he was looking for evidence of UFOs. Earlier this month, Britain has refused to release him into U.S. custody.

Impact: The case has set a precedent for countries to ignore extradition treaties. It has also raised questions about the treatment of hackers with disabilities.”
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title=”No. 7: Jonathan James”
content=”Jonathan James, aka c0mrade, was just 16 when he was convicted of breaking into the BellSouth phone company and various U.S. government computer systems. He installed a backdoor and a sniffer and collected over 3,000 messages, including from a good 10 military servers.

In 1999, he broke into NASA and stole the source code that controlled the International Space Station’s life support system. NASA had to shut down its system for weeks after the hack, costing over $40,000 to upgrade its security.

He was the first juvenile to go to be convicted for cybercrime, sentenced to six months of house arrest and probation until the age of eighteen. Years later, he was implicated in a series of hacks that stole credit card numbers from TJX retail stores. He committed suicide while authorities were investigating the crimes, his suicide note claiming that he was innocent.

Impact: He set the precedent that teenagers can be convicted for cybercrime.”
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title=”No. 6: Raynaldo Rivera”
content=”Raynaldo Rivera is a suspected member of the hacktivist group LulzSec who was arrested in August on for allegedly participating in the group’s biggest hack: stealing information from Sony.

Following the attack, the group published the names, birth dates, addresses, emails, phone numbers and passwords of over 1 million people. Authorities said that the hack cost Sony over $600,000.

Impact: Even though authorities have caught members of the original group, the Sony hack hurt a lot of innocent video-game players. And it encourages other hacktivist groups to do the same.”
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[slide
permalink=”no-5-robert-soloway-6″
title=”No. 5: Robert Soloway”
content=”Robert Soloway was known as one of the world’s biggest spammers when he was arrested in 2007. In 2008, he pleased guilty to tax evasion and wire and e-mail fraud and spent four years in jail.

But that wasn’t his first run-in with the law. Years earlier, Microsoft sued him and he was ordered to pay $7 million in damages in December. He lost another court case that cost him $10 million in damages and even with all that, he reportedly switched IP addresses to a Chinese site so he could keep on spamming.

Impact: Spam has turned something great, email, into something annoying and sometimes dangerous. This guy was a mastermind in the spam industry.”
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title=”No. 4: Barrett Brown”
content=”Barrett Brown has proclaimed himself a spokesperson for the hacktivist group Anonymous. (Since anyone can proclaim themselves a member of Anonymous and the group has no formal hierarchy, it’s not clear what legitimacy he has–but that’s kind of the point of the group’s chaotic ethic.)

Earlier this month, Brown was indicted on three federal charges, much of this stemming from comments he allegedly tweeted and said in several YouTube videos threatening FBI agent Agent Robert Smith.

Last month, investigators raided Brown’s apartment and arrested him while he was chatting online. A video of him screaming while being handcuffed went viral. Hackers claiming to be from Anonymous retaliated hours later when they released what they said were credit-card numbers of government employees.

Impact: Despite losing Brown’s voice, Anonymous is still out there. Earlier this month, they claimed to take down a number of government sites in Greece, and threatened to hurt Zynga and Facebook in November.”
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[slide
permalink=”no-3-hector-xavier-monsegur-8″
title=”No. 3: Hector Xavier Monsegur”
content=”Hector Xavier Monsegur is one of the founders of the hacktivism group LulzSec, short for Lulz Security, who went by the hacker name of Sabu.

LulzSec claimed responsibility for a bunch of big attacks, including stealing user accounts from Sony Pictures in 2011 and taking the CIA website. It also released passwords from other sites it compromised.

Monsegur was arrested in March 2012 and then became an informant for the FBI, helping the FBI arrest people associated with other hacktivist groups, including Anonymous, Lulzsec and Antisec.

He pleaded guilty to 12 criminal charges and could face up to 124 years in prison.

Impact: LulzSec let hackers feel like the good guys while they were clearly doing wrong, encouraging other bright young people to head down the hacktivist road.”
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title=”No. 2: David Smith”
content=”David Smith was the guy who wrote the notorious Melissa worm, the first self-replicating email-aware virus. It shut down computers around the world and launched a whole new kind of malware.

That malware exploited a hole in Microsoft Outlook. Once it got onto a computer, it would fire up Outlook and send itself to other recipients. He pleaded guilty and admitted to causing $80 million in damage. Smith was convicted and served 20 months in jail.

Impact: Smith gave us the modern email worm, a technique that has since been used by lots of other hackers to plant malware on our PCs.”
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title=”No. 10: Albert Gonzalez”
content=”Albert Gonzalez was a hacker involved with stealing and selling more than 170 million credit cards and ATM numbers between 2005 and 2007, the biggest hacker credit-card fraud in history.

In 2010 he was sentences to 20 years in prison.

He was also accused, but never indicted, of leading another group of hackers that stole and sold 1.5 million credit and ATM card numbers and racked up $4.3 million. The group also sold stolen email accounts. Authorities charged him and he reportedly helped them indict other members of the hacker group.

Even while helping authorities, he was also said to be the mastermind behind a scheme to steal credit cards from TJX stores and other retailers. The investigation of this crime contributed to the suicide death of another famous hacker, Jonathan James (see slide No. 4).

Impact: Gonzalez is an example of the new breed of criminal hacker who makes a lot of money stealing from ordinary people.”
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permalink=”the-next-frontier-is-keeping-your-smartphone-safe-from-hackers–11″
title=”The next frontier is keeping your smartphone safe from hackers …”
content=”10 Awesome Apps To Protect Your Smartphone
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[/slideshow]