10. Jonathan James
At the age of 15, Jonathan James hacked into basically everything he could, from the Florida based Miami-Dado school system to the US Defence Threat Reduction Agency, who are supposed to protect the country from weapons of mass destruction. He even found a way into NASA systems, stealing $1.7 million worth of software which could control the physical environment of the international space station.
As a result, NASA was forced to shut down their systems for three weeks, which cost $41,000. This national security breach wasn’t taken lightly and in 2000 James was arrested and convicted on two counts of juvenile delinquency. His sentence? Six months house arrest, probation until the age of 18, and a written letter of apology to NASA.
He was on the government’s radar from then on, and in 2008 James’ house was raided when he was suspected of taking part in another series of hacks. But the possibility of being jailed for a crime he claimed he hadn’t committed evidently spooked James and he killed himself, despite not having been arrested for the crime.
9. Matthew Bevan & Richard Pryce
A mentor is supposed to take you under their wing and show you the ways of the world. But instead, 16-year-old Richard Pryce was shown the dark side of the matrix when he and his 21-year-old mentor Matthew Bevan committed a series of hacks against government agencies.
Together they hacked the United States Air Force, NASA (again) and NATO, copying battlefield simulations and trying to find evidence of UFOs.
In addition, the pair hacked into the Korean Atomic Research Institute’s database and copied the information onto the United States Air Force systems. The US didn’t know who had given them the information and were concerned that if North Korea found out they can accuse them of spying and potentially threaten war in return.
Luckily the data was South Korean, meaning any potential tension could have been easily de-escalated. The pair got off lightly, with the price being fined $1,500. By the time Bevan’s case came to court, the hack of evidence against him led to a full acquittal.
8. Edward Majerczyk
Do you remember the nude photo leak in 2014, wittily referred to as “Celebgate” or “The Fappening” by 15-year-olds with sticky palm?
Well, this was down to several figures, including Edward Majerczyk.
The serial hacker cracked the iCloud and Gmail accounts of hundreds of celebrities, including Jennifer Lawrence, in order to obtain nudes for his “personal use”.
But this didn’t last long and these nude images found their way onto the internet for everyone to see. The photos made headlines worldwide and caused a fair amount of concern over the security of people’s private data.
It seemed that hackers were able to break into iCloud accounts with a simple e-mail address.
Majerczyk was convicted of the hack in September 2016 and took responsibility for the invasion of privacy.
7. Gary Mckinnon
British citizen Gary Mckinnon has been called the most dangerous hacker in history after being accused of hacking 97 United States military and intelligence systems over a 13-month period, starting in 2002.
On one network alone he caused 2,000 computers to be shut down, deleting weapons logs and other important files. During another hack, Mckinnon got straight to the point and left the message “your security is crap” on the US military’s website.
According to Mckinnon this campaign of messing with the Americans was largely to do with his attempts at trying to find evidence for UFOs.
After hacking into NASA websites, he claimed to have found imaged of extraterrestrial spaceships. He also claimed that he’d uncovered an Excel spreadsheet detailing the names of “ non-terrestrial officers” who work in the US Air Force as well as the details of a secret space program named Solar Warden.
He was eventually detained in 2002 when an American grand jury indicted him and called for his extradition however he wasn’t handed over but 10 years later the British government threw out the case against him.
6. Guardians of Peace
In the autumn of 2014, Sony Pictures announced the planned release of their latest comedy, The Interview in which Seth Rogen and James Franco come up with an elaborate plot to kill the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un. But before the film could be released a group calling themselves “Guardians of Peace” demanded that Sony pull The Interview from upcoming screenings,
They revealed that they had hacked Sony’s system and stolen information including 47,000 social security numbers and a whole series of embarrassing emails. These purportedly revealed Hollywood secrets and celeb gossip, including an email by Hollywood producer Scott Rudin in which he called Angelina Jolie a “minimally talented spoiled brat”.
Not content with just embarrassing Sony, the Guardians of Peace went on to release malware on Sony systems and even threatened to commit terrorist attacks at film screenings if “The Interview” wasn’t canned.
What the US formally accused North Korea of the attack, there are those who say that’s too convenient. The hackers have never been caught.
5. Karl Koch
Now to the dark days of the cold war. Karl Koch was a German computer hacker during the eighties who associated with a hacker group called the Chaos Computer Club.
This group of renegades would hack into US government computer systems and steal information and source codes to sell to the Soviet security agency The KGB.
On their hit list was NASA (as always), the US Chief of Staff’s data bank, and the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics.
In 1989 the West German authorities discovered this espionage and Koch, along with the other members of the club began to co-operate, confessing to their crimes with the promise they wouldn’t be prosecuted.
Soon after his confession, Koch was found burned to death in a forest near Celle in Germany. The death was officially ruled as a suicide, but numerous conspiracy theorists believe he was killed by either the German State or the KGB to prevent further co-operation.
4. Kevin Mitnick
Kevin Mitnick became the poster boy for hackers everywhere when in the early nineties he hacked into everything from communications giants Nokia and Motorola to IBM.
But in 1993 after making one hack too many into telephone service company Pacific Bell, the FBI began investigating him. This manhunt was widely publicized and Mitnick went on the run for two and a half years. He was eventually caught in 1995 and served five years in prison. The court found him so threatening that for 8 months of his sentence he was placed in solitary confinement.
Law enforcement had convinced a judge that he could start a nuclear war by whistling codes into a payphone. No longer considered an international threat today Mitnick uses his powers for good and works as a cybersecurity adviser for several of his former targets, including IBM and the FBI.
3. Albert Gonzalez
Even those hacking for the right side of the law can go rogue. In 2003 computer hacker Albert Gonzalez was working as an administrator for the website shadowcrew.com which held auctions for stolen credit card information before he was arrested by the secret service.
On his arrest, he began cooperating with the authorities and thanks to his information they put away nearly thirty of his fellow hackers. But despite his co-operation with the secret service, from 2005 to 2007 Gonzalez is believed to have been the ringleader in a hacking operation that stole approximately 175 million credit card numbers.
That takes balls, as does going with the 50 Cent inspired operation name, Get rich or die trying”. During his spree, it was rumored that he threw himself a $75,000 birthday party and that he once complained about having to count $340,000 by hand.
The total amount of money stolen from the victims remains undisclosed, but in 2010 Gonzalez was eventually caught and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
2. Cutting Sword of Justice
The Cutting Sword of Justice, as they call themselves, is a group of hackers whose stated goal is to oppose several Arab states including Egypt, Syria, and Saudi Arabia.
So far they’ve only picked on one group, though Aramco, Saudi Arabia’s national oil company. In 2012 the Cutting Sword of Justice released a virus worm called Shamoon.
Shamoon damaged 30,000 computers by searching for files in specific directories and deleting them causing a massive headache for Aramco and placing 10% of the world’s oil supply at risk.
Why is this dangerous? Well, one of the main states suspected of being behind The Cutting Sword is Iran which suggests that these hackers are just a few codes away from further escalating tensions in the Middle East.
Back in 2008, when the world was slowly sliding into the economic abyss of the Credit Crunch, a 58-year-old unidentified Greek mathematician was arrested in Athens under suspicion of conducting potentially one of the most damaging hacks ever.
The hacker, going by the name of ASTRA, allegedly hacked into the French Military Contractor Dassault and spent five years stealing sensitive weapons technology information.
According to Greek officials, Astra caused more than $360 million in damages to Dassault. But Astra’s mischief doesn’t end there. He then set about selling the information which contained intelligence on military jets used by India, Egypt, and France. For $1000 a pop to anyone who wanted it. Astra has never been officially identified, but security analysts have said that the culprit was an insider who gained illegal access. He was sentenced to six years in jail.