No matter the color of their hat, hackers are a dangerous force to reckon with. They can target bank information, PIN numbers, passwords, but they also can stroke mayhem by hacking into the most secure places like NASA and FBI, sometimes to find traces of ET and sometimes to leak exotic pictures of celebrities on the internet.
Here are the top 10 most dangerous hackers in history.
Astra has never been publicly identified, he was apprehended by authorities in 2008 and at that time he was identified as a 58 year old Greek mathematician. Reportedly he had been hacking into the Dassault Group for almost half a decade. During that time he stole cutting edge weapons technology software and data which he then sold to 250 individuals around the world. His hacking cost the Dassault Group $360 million in damages he was sentenced to six years in prison. No one knows why his complete identity has never been revealed but the word Astra is a Sanskrit word for weapon.
2. Kane Gamble
Kane Gamble who used to be known online as “Cracker” was the most prominent member of the hacking group “Crackers with attitude” or CWA. In late 2016 Gamble wreaked havoc by hacking into the personal accounts of several US government officials including the email account of CIA Director John Brennan and the home internet account of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper as well as several US government portals and tools. At the time gamble was just 15 years old. He was eventually arrested and sentenced to two years in prison. Even after his release Gamble was not allowed to use a computer and was banned from using anything that connected to the internet for a year.
3. Albert Gonzalez
The son of Cuban refugees, 12-year-old Gonzalez purchased his first PC with his own money. Within two years he managed to hack into NASA, prompting a visit by FBI agents to his South Miami High School. At just 28 years old Albert Gonzalez had amassed a fortune from his credit card theft system dubbed “Operation get rich or die trying”.
He stole more than 180 million payment card accounts from companies including Officemax, Dave and Busters, and Boston Market. Using a basic SQL injection, this famous hacker and his team created back doors in several corporate networks stealing an estimated $256 million from TJX alone. During his sentencing in 2015 the federal prosecutor called Gonzalez’s human victimization “unparalleled”. He also famously buried $1 million in his parents backyard.
4. Kevin Mitnick
Despite being denied access to a telephone upon arrest for fear he would launched nuclear war by whistling a code, the world’s most wanted cyber criminal in 1995 Kevin Mitnick never used his stolen information for financial gain or to cause any harm. He didn’t refer to what he was doing as hacking, instead he liked to call it social engineering. When Kevin was 15 he learned how to bypass the punch card system for Los Angeles city buses.
Later he graduated to the big time by breaking into the networks of Pacific Bell, Nokia, IBM, Motorola and a few other companies. He was arrested in 1995 and after serving 12 months in prison, he continued hacking and went on the run for almost three years using clone cell phones to hide his location. He was again sentenced to prison for four years in 1999 and was the most wanted computer criminal in the United States at the time.
5. Karl Koch
Hackers these days are famous for leaking pictures of celebrities, but back in the 70’s and 80’s computer hackers were responsible for leaking and selling information relating to the cold war. Such was the case for Karl Koch who was part of a group called “The Chaos Computer Club”. Doesn’t that sound like what a 15 year old would name their club.
The club was responsible for attacks on American agencies like NASA as always, Chief of Staff’s desk bank and even The Max Plant Institute for nuclear physics. They stole information and source codes from the servers and sold them to the KGB. In may of 1989 Karl Koch was found dead under suspicious circumstances. He was actually burned alive but his death was ruled as a suicide. Reports later said that the KGB or the German state was behind his death to avoid further cooperation.
6. Guardians of Peace
Normally the name Guardian of Peace should be guarding stuff not stealing and causing havoc between countries. But that wasn’t the case for a notorious hacker group. In late november of 2014 Sony Pictures entertainment was about to release the controversial movie “The Interview” in which the plot involves the death of Kim Jong-un. Before the movie was released, Sony was hacked by a group calling itself the Guardians of Peace. The hackers were widely believed to be working in at least some capacity with North Korea, stole huge amounts of information off of Sony’s network and displayed a scary image of demands.
They also posted five Sony movies out of which four were unreleased to file sharing networks. They also leaked thousands of confidential documents, everything from a private correspondence among Sony executives to salary and performance data about Sony employees. They even threatened to commit terrorist attacks if the film was released anywhere. Even though nothing violent took place the hacker group was never found.
7. Gary McKinnon
The hunt for ET led this mastermind, also known as ‘solo’, to commit one of the largest cyber-attacks on a military system in history. Gary McKinnon hacked nearly 100 American military and NASA servers from February 2001 to March 2002. What’s even crazier is he did it all from his girlfriend’s aunt’s house in London. He managed to delete sensitive data, software, and files, and the U.S. government spent over $700,000 to recover from the damage.
He taunted the military while he was at it, posting this message to their website: “Your security system is crap. I am Solo. I will continue to disrupt at the highest levels.” McKinnon is an interesting guy, while hacking NASA he purposely looked for files that contained evidence of extraterrestrials. He even found filtered and unfiltered, processed and unprocessed files that included the names of non-terrestrial officers, but they never made their way to the internet.
8. Edward Majerczyk
If you have been on the internet for some time, you probably remember the huge scandal “celebgate”. For the curious minds hearing that term for the first time, yes it was named after the watergate scandal. Edward Majerczyk had orchestrated the whole thing and was behind the release of nude pictures of many celebrities including Jennifer Lawrence. He engaged in a phishing scheme from November 2013 to August 2014 to obtain usernames and passwords for his victims.
He sent emails to them that appeared to be from security accounts of internet service providers that directed them to a website that would collect their information. After they responded by entering their usernames and passwords at that site, he illegally gained access to their iCloud and Gmail accounts. It was for his personal use but the pictures were released to the world and they still remain on the internet. As for Edward Majerczyk, he was sentenced to 9 months in prison after he pled guilty.
9. Matthew Bevan and Richard Pryce
This British hacking duo took the U.S. government for a ride when they attacked the Pentagon’s network for several weeks in 1994. It all started when Richard Pryce became friends with Mathew Bevan and instantly started idolizing him. Now, normally a mentor is supposed to take you under their care and show you the meaning of the world but Bevan had darker plans for Pryce. Much darker. They copied battlefield simulations from Griffiss Air Force Base in New York, intercepted messages from U.S. agents in North Korea, and got access to a Korean nuclear facility. Pryce was a 16-year-old then, and Bevan was 21.
The hacking attacks were especially troublesome for the U.S. government because they couldn’t tell if the duo was using their system to hack into a South or North Korea, if it were North Korea, the attacks could’ve been seen as an act of war. Luckily, South Korea was the hackers’ target, and after an international investigation, they were arrested in the following year. They are also famous for their attacks on NATO and NASA.
10. Jonathan James
Between June and October of 1999, one of the most incredible episodes in the history of computer crimes was carried out. And the most fascinating part of all of it was that a 15-year-old teen was behind all of them. Jonathan James, who operated under the pseudonym of ‘C0mrade’, is considered one of the greatest hackers in history, thanks to his great ability to access private systems for entertainment.
He was the first juvenile to be convicted and jailed for hacking in the United States. Starting at 15, he hacked into Bell South, the Miami-Dade school system, NASA, and the Department of Defense, and stole software said to have been worth $1.7 million from the government. That caused the agency to shut down their systems for 21 days, and cost them $41,000 in repairs and losses. That was nothing compared to what was actually in the software.
It had the source code that controlled critical elements of survival within the International Space Station. It was such a big deal that had he sold it to any enemy country, he could have made millions of dollars. He was sentenced to six months of house arrest and probation until he turned 18. In 2007, the Secret Service investigated James of a crime he didn’t commit. Out of fear of being prosecuted, James committed suicide himself in his shower in May 2008.