While most hackers escape with only minor traces of their organization left behind, there have been times when individuals have come forward or been captured. Most of these names never make the headlines, however, and thus tend to only be known within circles involved with security. Names like Snowden and Assange are recognized by most of the general public for their whistle-blower actions while other significant individuals like Mitnick, Iceman, Poulsen or McKinnon may go unnoticed.
Perhaps the most well known hacker in the world, Snowden used his access and connections as a contractor for the CIA and NSA to release thousands of documents to the public. While this act alone is not exactly a form of hacking, his background is very much in security and systems, which qualifies him for both the title and reputation. Snowden is a great example of a morally motivated black hat, akin to the Anonymous hacker sec, and as such he has received both praise and criticism for his exploits.
Like Snowden, and often times working alongside him, Julian Assange has been a notorious hacktivist for quite some time. He is well known for his creation of WikiLeaks, a website that allows whistle-blowers and informants to anonymously share classified documents with the public. Many such documents are contributed by the black hat actions of hacktivist secs and individuals, in addition to inner operatives and employees within government institutions.
One of the most famous hackers in the days of phreaking was a hacker by the name of Kevin “Darkside” Mitnick. He was the most famous and publicized hacker in the 90’s, notorious for his phreaking abilities. Mitnick played a cat and mouse game with the FBI for many years. He has penetrated many organizations including Novell, Sun Microsystems, and even went as far as spying on FBI phone calls. He had an addiction of sorts to hacking and for him the incentives were based entirely on the satisfaction of getting into a system or business through social engineering and software exploits. Often times his theft and impact was minimal, with childish antics of pranking individuals or calling celebrities. Still, the media loved to blame problems on Kevin and his hacks helped drive many legislative efforts towards regulating and criminalizing acts in cyber security. Kevin has a great book called Ghost in the Wires where he shares his personal experiences and journeys of phreaking.
Max Ray “Iceman” Butler
Whether Ray “Iceman” Butler started out in as white hat or black, after running a security consulting company for a few years he was discovered to be one of the world’s biggest hackers. Butler was discovered to have stolen over 2 million credit cards numbers and racking up $86 million in fraudulent charges. To handle the volume of cards which he possessed, he created “Carders Market,” where hackers could buy and sell stolen credit card information with each other. He was arrested in 2007 and given a 13 year sentence.
Also known as Dark Dante to some, Poulsen was a master of telecommunication hacking. Shortly after hacking a radio station to win a prize Porsche, the FBI forcing Poulsen to go underground for over a year. He was then featured on an episode of television show, “Unsolved Mysteries,” which gave viewers a 1-800 number for information. Shortly after airing, the phone lines mysteriously crashed. When he was finally apprehended, he was sentenced to five years in a federal prison. In addition to the prison sentence, he was given a three year ban on computer and internet use set to begin after his release; making him the first American hacker to serve such a ban.
With a cocky attitude and a lot of skill, Gary McKinnon breached nearly 100 US military networks and left taunting notes on their machines mocking their security. He also wiped a few critical systems, causing over 2,000 computers of the US Army to crash for a full 24 hours or more. Supposedly on a mission to uncover UFO secrets and other securities, McKinnon was caught but never successfully extradited to the United States from the UK’s asylum.