Computer Crime Research Center


The Cyber Crime Hall of Fame

Date: September 08, 2008
Source: PC

Rules are made to be broken the same way networks are made to be hacked into. These are nine of the most infamous criminal hackers to ever see the inside of a jail cell.

There are all sorts of crimes, but the ones that probably happen most often and hurt the most are crimes of opportunity—breaking into a house with an open window, nabbing the wallet from a purse left unattended, stealing an unlocked car, etc. Now, for the average Joe, breaking into NASA's infrastructure and bringing online giants like Amazon to a grinding halt would not fall into that category; for someone with in-depth networking and computer know-how, though, it's a different story altogether.

Often the greatest tech crimes in history have little more reason behind them than "because it was there." More often than not, a hacker sees an open window—a hole in system's security, a backdoor, etc.—and climbs on through. And they don't do it for any real worldly gain, but merely to prove that they can. That's not to say that there isn't malicious intent underlying some attacks (take Vladimir Levin's $10.7 million hoax on CitiBank, for example). And we're not saying that all hackers are bad guys, but a few fall prey to the dark side and use their talents for evil—not good.

What does it take for a cyber crime to catch our eye? In compiling our list, we looked for a few things: ingenuity (had it been done before?), scope (how many computers, agencies, companies, sites, etc. did it affect?), cost (how much in monetary damages did it cause?), and historical significance (did it start a new trend?). Only one of the nine crimes we highlight ranks on all four counts. No matter how you slice it, though, each one of these security cracks warrants a, well, we'll let you fill in the exclamation.

Kevin Mitnick
Though Kevin Mitnick landed on the hacking radar in 1981 (at age 17), he didn't hit the really big time until 1983. While a student at USC, Mitnick gained access to ARPANet, an Internet predecessor used by large corporations, universities, and the U.S. Army. Getting into ARPANet provided him with access to the Pentagon and all the Department of Defense's files, but he didn't actually steal any data. It's a glory thing. After the system administration got wise, Mitnick was arrested on the USC campus and served a short stint in a youth detention center—the first sentence for illegally accessing a computer system. The incident marked Mitnick's second arrest, but he would continue to be on the FBI radar and has since been the subject of many more arrests, investigations, and court cases.
Ranks For: Ingenuity, Scope
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