Hackers mostly exist outside the public consciousness – they just do their thing and hide. Once in a while, something big enough happens that everyone notices. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad. Let’s take a look at five infamous pirates.
Although not a single person, “Anonymous” might be the most notorious hacker group in the world. You’ve probably seen the Guy Fawkes mask worn by some community members, inspired by the movie. V for Vendetta.
Anonymous started out in 2003 in 4chan, and it’s attacked many high-profile targets since. Some of them include Amazon, Church of Scientology, PayPal, and several governments around the world. Dozens of people have been arrested for their involvement in the group.
Best known for: In 2011, Anonymous blocked PlayStation Network for an entire month in retaliation for Sony trying to stop PlayStation 3 hacks. Over 100 million Sony accounts were compromised in the process.
Kevin Mitnick is an American hacker who got his start as a teenager. At age 16, he broke into the Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) computer network and copied the company’s software. He was later convicted of the crime at the age of 25.
While a fugitive for two and a half years, Mitnick hacked into dozens of computer networks. One of his favorite tactics was cloning cell phones to hide his location and then copying highly protected proprietary software from carriers and IT companies.
Best known for: Maybe not the biggest hack, but one of Mitnick’s hacks inspired a movie. The 1983 film War Games was inspired by his NORAD hack in 1982. He was only 17 years old.
Technically speaking, Edward Snowden is not a “hacker”. He used his privileges as an NSA system administrator to leak 20,000 highly classified documents that exposed numerous global surveillance programs.
Snowden was able to access these documents without a trace. The NSA was not monitoring the system for leaks, and Snowden took advantage of this lax security. He simply put the files on a USB drive and took them with him.
Best known for: Snowden’s leak of NSA documents had a lasting impact on public opinion regarding government surveillance. Many people had no idea of the NSA’s nationwide internet surveillance before Snowden’s massive leak (despite the existence of things like Room 641A previously reported.)
Julian Assange started hacking at the age of 16 under the name “Mendax”. In those early days, he was able to access the major networks of NASA, Lockheed Martin, and the Pentagon.
However, Assange is best known for creating WikiLeaks in 2006. WikiLeaks was a platform for publishing anonymous classified documents (not this anonymous sources). One of the most prominent sources was Chelsea Manning, a US Army intelligence analyst.
Best known for: WikiLeaks claimed in 2015 that it had released 10 million documents since its debut in 2006. Many of these documents revealed major human rights abuses to American and international audiences.
Adrian Lamo was a hacker known as the “Homeless Hacker”. He earned the nickname by hacking into businesses from his laptop in cafes, libraries, and other remote locations.
Some of the prominent companies he has hacked include Google, Microsoft, The New York Times, and Yahoo. When he hacked into the NYT in 2002, he added himself to the network’s list of expert sources and used the LexisNexis account to conduct research on high-profile topics.
Best known for: Lamo was eventually arrested and worked with the US government as a threat analyst. He is perhaps best known for using Chelsea Manning as a source for WikiLeaks documents.
Hackers aren’t inherently bad or good; it depends on the intentions of the person (or group) doing the hacking. Edward Snowden, for example, is highly controversial and has been called both a hero for pulling back the curtain on the NSA and a traitor for revealing the same information. Wherever there are highly secure systems, there will be hackers trying to break into them.
RELATED: Why “hackers” and “hacks” aren’t always bad
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