Think you have a pretty good grasp of internet security? Think again. There are skilled and secretive hackers out there who could get past pretty much anything you choose to put in their way. Not only are these hackers fiendishly clever, they are also inventive and constantly invent new ways of getting past security protocols. Whatever you and your server do to protect yourselves, the hackers are always one step ahead. Be happy then that the most skilled of them choose to concentrate on draining millions from banks or discovering government secrets rather than sending your friends messages pretending to be you. Discover more in our Top 10 Most Dangerous Hackers.
10. Jeremy Hammond
Currently serving a 10-year prison sentence, Jeremy Hammond is the hacker who stole 60,000 credit card numbers and used them to make donations to charity. So quite a nice hacker then? He certainly seems to be broadly on the side of good, attacking neo-nazis and holocaust deniers, but there’s no denying he’s on the wrong side of the law at the same time. One of his biggest achievements was hacking the e-mails of the Stratfor group, who specialize in global intelligence, and publishing 973 of them on the WikiLeaks website. Among the revelations contained in the e-mails were details of Osama bin Laden’s death and plans to incite a revolution in Venezuela. It was shocking stuff, but it was the credit card theft that saw him sent to jail, some say unfairly.
9. Kevin Poulsen
Sometimes hackers can appear perfectly innocuous in their day-to-day lives. Take Kevin Poulsen, who is now News Editor for wired.com – a popular and legitimate site favored by geeks. But he was once a black-hat hacker, pulling off such stunts as winning a Porsche 944 S2 from KIIS-FM by hacking their phone lines and guaranteeing he was the 102nd caller. Like other hackers, he has used his powers for the greater good by identifying MySpace users who were looking for child porn. But he also hacked into the FBI computers and ending up serving a 5-year sentence for his crimes. Since his release, he’s concentrated on his writing career not just at wired but also with his book “Kingpin”. A versatile and, it would seem, reformed hacker.
8. Jonathan James
A lot of hackers start young and they will only get younger as this generation grows up surrounded by technology. Jonathan James was the poster boy for teenage hackers, gaining his first conviction at the age of 16 for stealing $170m worth of code from NASA. He did this by hacking into the computers of the Defence Threat Reduction Agency and installing a “backdoor” which gave him access to both messages and source code. He was 15 at the time of the offence and 16 when tried, so received only a juvenile sentence. He resolved to put this past behind him but in 2007 his name was mentioned in conjunction with a hack on the TJX department store. Maintaining his innocence but convinced he would go to prison, he committed suicide on May 18th 2008.
7. The Aurora Hackers
A group of hackers rather than a single one, these were the people responsible for “Operation Aurora“, an international and complex hack in 2009 that targeted 34 companies including Google and Yahoo!. The hackers are believed to come from China as part of the Elderwood Gang – a group of hackers based in Beijing. A Shanghai-based group, PLA Unit-61398, were also believed to be involved, in this massive operation. Google were the first to make the attack public, stating on their blog that they had had their intellectual property stolen – it seems that the hackers were after the source code of these internet giants, rather than any personal information although it later emerged that certain gmail accounts had also been hacked. The hackers behind Aurora have never been caught and said to still be actively hacking. The main result of the whole episode was that Google withdrew from China entirely.
6. Adrian Lamo
Known as “the Homeless Hacker” because he did his hacking while couch-surfing and living in hostels, Adrian Lamo is something of a troubled character. Ex-girlfriends describe him as controlling, and he has been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. He may also have been the subject of a restraining order at one point and is so strongly religious that he refuses to give blood samples. All of which may explain his anti-social behavior – hacking into the New York Times website and adding himself to their expert database. It was for this that he was convicted in 2004, and sentenced to six months’ detention at his parents’ house, plus a fine. He also turned the hacking community against each other – after donating to WikiLeaks, he then exposed one of their contributors – a soldier called Bradley Manning, who was leaking confidential military information. Lamo was supported by Kevin Poulsen and together they were called “felons” and “snitchs” but Lamo maintains that Manning was putting lives in danger with his actions. When last heard of, Lamo was in hiding for fear of Manning’s revenge.