In this article, we have created a list of Black Hat hackers. Black Hat hackers usually have extensive knowledge about breaking into computer networks and bypassing security protocols. They are also responsible for writing malware, which is a method used to gain access to these systems.
- Gary McKinnon
- Gary McKinnon is a Scottish systems administrator and hacker who was accused in 2002 of perpetrating the “biggest military computer hack of all time”.
- Jonathan James a.k.a. comrade
- Jonathan Joseph James (December 12, 1983 – May 18, 2008) was an American hacker who was the first juvenile incarcerated for cybercrime.
- George Hotz
- The name of the acclaimed jailbreak artist, George Hotz, will forever be associated with the April 2011 PlayStation breach.
- Adrian Lamo
- Adrián Alfonso Lamo Atwood was an American threat analyst and hacker.
- David Smith
- Smith’s fame is due to being the author of the infamous e-mail virus, Melissa.
- Michael Calce a.k.a. MafiaBoy
- Michael Calce launched a series of widely known denial-of-service attacks against large commercial websites, including Yahoo!, Amazon.com, Dell, eBay, and CNN.
- Robert Tappan Morris
- Robert Tappan Morris is an American computer scientist. He is best known for creating the Morris Worm in 1988,
- Vladimir Levin
- Vladimir Leonidovitch Levin is a Russian individual famed for his involvement in the attempt to fraudulently transfer USD 10.7 million via Citibank’s computers.
- Albert Gonzalez
- Albert Gonzalez is an American computer hacker and computer criminal.
- Kevin Poulsen a.k.a. Dark Dante
- Kevin Lee Poulsen is an American former black-hat hacker and a contributing editor at The Daily Beast.
1. Gary McKinnon
In 2002, an exceptionally odd message appeared on a US Army computer screen: “Your security system is crap,” it read. “I am Solo. I will continue to disrupt at the highest levels.” It was later identified as the work of Scottish systems administrator, Gary McKinnon.
McKinnon suffers from Asperger’s syndrome, which is the least severe form of autism. The symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome certainly match Gary’s actions: that is, highly intelligent with an exceptional understanding of complex systems. Though sufferers often have difficulty reading social cues and acknowledging the impact of their often-obsessive behavior, they tend to be geniuses in one particular subject. For Gary, it was computers.
Gary has been accused of executing the largest ever hack of United States government computer networks — including Army, Air Force, Navy and NASA systems. The court had recommended that McKinnon is apprehended to the United States to face charges of illegally accessing 97 computers, causing a total of $700,000 in damage. Even more interesting are McKinnon’s motives for the large-scale hackings, which he claims were in search of information on UFOs. He believed the US government was hiding such information in its military computers.
2. Jonathan James a.k.a. comrade
Jonathan James, a 16-year-old black hat hacker, became the first juvenile imprisoned for cybercrime in the United States. James gained his notoriety by implementing a series of successful intrusions into various systems. At an amazingly young age of 15, James specialized in hacking high-profile government systems such as NASA and the Department of Defense. He was reported to have stolen software worth over $1.7 million. He also hacked into the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and intercepted over 3,000 highly secretive messages passing to and from the DTRA employees, while collecting many usernames and passwords.
On May 18, 2008, at the age of 25, James committed suicide using a gun. The words in his suicide note provide some insight into this obviously brilliant but troubled youth who thought he would be a scapegoat and blamed for cybercrimes he did not commit: “I have no faith in the ‘justice’ system. Perhaps my actions today, and this letter will send a stronger message to the public. Either way, I have lost control over this situation, and this is my only way to regain control.”
3. George Hotz
The name of the acclaimed jailbreak artist, George Hotz, will forever be associated with the April 2011 PlayStation breach. Being one of the first hackers ever to jailbreak the Sony PlayStation 3, Hotz found himself in the midst of a very relentless, public and messy court battle with Sony – perhaps worsened by Hotz’s public release of his jailbreaking methods. In a stated retaliation to Sony’s gap of the unstated rules of jailbreaking – never prosecute – the hacker group Anonymous attacked Sony in what would be the dubbed as the most costly security break of all time to date.
Hackers broke into the PlayStation Network and stole personal information of some 77 million users. However, Hotz denied any responsibility for the attack and added “Running homebrew and exploring security on your devices is cool; hacking into someone else’s server and stealing databases of user info. is not cool.”
4. Adrian Lamo
Nicknamed “the homeless hacker,” Adrian Lamo used coffee shops, libraries and internet cafés as his locations for hacking. Apart from being the homeless hacker, Lamo is widely-known for breaking into a series of high-profile computer networks, which include The New York Times, Microsoft, Yahoo!, and MCI WorldCom. In 2002, he added his name to The New York Times’ internal database of expert sources and utilized LexisNexis account to conduct research on high-profile subjects. The Times filed a complaint, and a warrant for Lamo’s arrest was issued, followed by a 15-month investigation by federal prosecutors in New York.
After several days in hiding, he finally surrendered to the US Marshals, and then to the FBI. Lamo was ordered to pay approximately $65,000 in damages and was sentenced to six months of house arrest at his parents’ home, with an additional two years of probation. In June 2010, Lamo disclosed the name of Bradley Manning to U.S. Army authorities as to the source of July 12, 2007, Baghdad airstrike video leak to Wikileaks. Lamo is presently working as a threat analyst and donates his time and skills to a Sacramento-based nonprofit organization.
5. David Smith
Smith’s fame is due to being the author of the infamous e-mail virus, Melissa. Smith claims that the Melissa virus was never intended to cause harm, but its simple means of propagation (each infected computer sent out multiple infected emails) overloaded computer systems and servers around the world. Smith’s virus takes an unusual turn in that it was originally hidden in a file that contained passwords to 80 well-known pornography websites. The name Melissa was derived from a lap dancer Smith met while on a trip to Florida. Even though over 60,000 email viruses have been discovered, Smith is the only person to go to the federal prison in the United States for sending one.
6. Michael Calce a.k.a. MafiaBoy
In February of 2000, Michael Calce launched a series of widely known denial-of-service attacks against large commercial websites, including Yahoo!, Amazon.com, Dell, eBay, and CNN. He hacked Yahoo! when it was still the web’s leading search engine and caused it to shut down for about an hour. Like many hackers, Calce exploited websites primarily for pride and establishing dominance for himself and his cybergroup, TNT. In 2001, the Montreal Youth Court sentenced Calce to eight months of open custody, one year of probation, restricted use of the Internet, and a minimal fine.
7. Robert Tappan Morris
On November 2, 1988, Robert Morris released a worm that took down one-tenth of the Internet, crippling 6,000 plus computer systems. It didn’t take long for the police to track him down. Due in part to the need for social acceptance that seems to be common amongst many young hackers, Morris made the fault of chatting about his worm for months before its release on the Internet. Morris claimed it was just a stunt, and added that he truly regretted causing $15 million worth of damage: the estimated amount of carnage his worm left behind.
Morris was one of the first to be tried and convicted under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act but only had community service and a fine as his penalty. The defense for such a light sentence was that Morris’ worm didn’t destroy the actual contents of affected computers. Morris now works in the department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
8. Vladimir Levin
It’s almost like the opening of a James Bond movie: in 1994, while working from his laptop from his Russian apartment in St. Petersburg, Vladimir Levin transferred $10 million from the accounts of Citibank clients to his own accounts around the world.
However, Levin’s career as a hacker was only short-lived, with a capture, imprisonment, and recovery of all but $400,000 of the original $10 million. During Levin’s 1997 trial in the United States, he was said to have coordinated the first ever internet bank raid. The truth is Levin’s ability to transfer Citibank client funds to his own accounts was possible through stolen account numbers and PINs. Levin’s scam was a simple interception of clients’ calls while recording the punched in account numbers.
9. Albert Gonzalez
Albert Gonzalez is a computer hacker and computer criminal who is accused of masterminding the combined credit card theft and subsequent reselling of more than 170 million card and ATM numbers from 2005 through 2007—the biggest such fraud in history. Gonzalez’s team used SQL injection techniques to create malware backdoors on several corporate systems in order to launch packet-sniffing (specifically, ARP Spoofing) attacks, allowing him to steal computer data from internal corporate networks. When he was arrested, authorities seized $1.6 million in cash including $1.1 million found in plastic bags placed in a three-foot drum which had been buried in his parents’ backyard. On March 25, 2010, Gonzalez was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison.
10. Kevin Poulsen a.k.a. Dark Dante
The notorious ’80s black hat hacker, Kevin Poulsen, gained recognition for his hacking of the telephone lines for LA radio station KIIS-FM, securing himself a place as the 102nd caller and winning a brand new Porsche 944, among other prizes. Law enforcement dubbed Poulsen the “Hannibal Lecter of computer crime.” Poulsen went underground as a fugitive when the FBI began its search for him, but in 1991, he was finally captured.
Authorities began to pursue Poulsen after he hacked into a federal investigation database. During this pursuit, he further drew the ire of the FBI by hacking into federal computers for wiretap information. His hacking specialty, however, revolved around telephones. Poulsen’s most famous hack, KIIS-FM, was accomplished by taking over all of the station’s phone lines. In a related feat, Poulsen also “reactivated old Yellow Page escort telephone numbers for an acquaintance who then ran a virtual escort agency.” Later, when his photo came up on the show Unsolved Mysteries, 1-800 phone lines for the program crashed. Ultimately, Poulsen was captured in a supermarket and served a sentence of five years, which was the longest sentence ever given for hacking at the time. However, since serving time, Poulsen has worked as a journalist and is now a senior editor for Wired News. Poulsen’s most note-worthy article details his work on identifying 744 sex offenders with MySpace profiles.