Claims to fame: High-profile hackers and what happened next

Claims to fame: High-profile hackers and what happened next

Summary: Some of the most high-profile computing criminals and alleged hackers - and it seems many turn to journalism after.

TOPICS: Security

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  • David Smith. A common enough name, but in the word of viruses, Smith is notorious for one achievement -- the release of the Melissa worm, which was the first successful email-distributed infection of its kind.

    Based on a Microsoft Word macro, the virus 'Melissa' -- apparently named after an exotic dancer -- was released into the wild through the Usenet discussion group alt. sex.

    The virus worked by asking email recipients to open a document with a message such as 'Here is the document you asked for'. After opening, the virus replicated itself and spread through the first 50 email address contacts in the victim's address book.

    According to statements released by the FBI, the Melissa virus "wreaked havoc" on governmental networks, and for some companies, email platforms were frozen until the virus was controlled due to the rapid increase in traffic. Smith was eventually given a 20-month jail sentence, a fine of $5,000 and was barred from computer network access without authorization.


  • Gary McKinnon was once accused of being the "biggest military computer hack of all time" by a U.S. prosecutor. Born in 1966, McKinnon was accused of trawling through NASA computing systems and those of the U.S. defense department.

    He stated it was to find evidence of free energy suppression and to look for information on UFO activity.

    After leaving a trail of rude messages about the state of the system's security, he was arrested by British police. No evidence has been discovered so far of any damage done to the systems in question.

    More than a decade has passed, but McKinnon is currently fighting extradition to the United States. He was placed at "extreme" risk of suicide if extradited in a recent psychiatric assessment, and Nick Clegg is reported to have said:

    "Gary McKinnon is a vulnerable young man and I see no compassion in sending him thousands of miles away from his home and loved ones to stand trial. If he has questions to answer, there is a clear argument to be made that he should answer them in a British court."


  • Jonathan James became famous for being the first juvenile to be carted off to prison for illegal computing activity. At 16 years old, James targeted high-profile organizations including an agency of the Department of Defense, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) and NASA.

    In an interview, he said:

    "I was just looking around, playing around. What was fun for me was a challenge to see what I could pull off."

    It ended up being a little more than a few challenges. James installed a backdoor into the DTRA's server so he was able to view sensitive emails and catch profile details, and in the case of NASA, he hacked into computers and stole software worth approximately $1.7 million, according to reports.

    NASA ended up shutting down its computer systems, resulting in costs of $41,000 according to the Department of Justice. James aka 'c0mrade' would have possibly faced a minimum of ten years in prison if he was an adult at the time. Instead, he was banned from recreational computer use, and after breaking a house arrest parole, ended up in prison for six months.


Topic: Security

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  • It ain't worth it. No way. No how.

    The hackers that do crime have this teflon belief where they have convinced themselves that they are smarter than everyone else. Delusions of grandeur, etc. Everyone makes a mistake. Count on it.
  • A dream

    That guy's a profiler's dream; he ego, narcissism and depravity and lack of conscience show well in his photo. It's the kind of face you'd just love to fill with a jack-boot.
  • Wastes of skin

    Amen; and with egoes to match on top of their narcisism. I'm a profiler of sorts and that photo of that guy shows a total lack of respect for anyone else, an overblown ego, no consience and if not already true could be guilty of heinous crimes and an inability to see where anything he does is wrong. That's typical of these types of people.
  • Charlie, you missed one of your ZDNet guest writers.

    By which I mean Robert Schifreen. At least we know what HE's doing now - he has been writing about it all through May 2012 for ZDNet UK!
  • Mitnick

    They always say Mitnick works as a security consultant, but I've heard no one uses his services more than once. Why hire a guy who will install a back door into your computer when there are thousands who won't? I wouldn't hire him to clean out my pool.
  • Claims to fame: High-profile hackers and what happened next

    these people (hackers not crackers) were kids with more brain processing power than most of us. some of them opted to skirt the law and got caught, others became lucky and still are running wild in their chosen criminal profession. but we should not forget that most of them became the pillar of advancement in computing. kids are kids, they need guidance from home and from society to channel their creative energy for the benefit of us all. mitnick is a security consultant because he knows more about the psyche of a criminal mind, remember the old adage, "you need a thief to catch another thief." anybody can watch "catch me if you can", and see how the government used the talent of a young criminal to secure our checking system. and don't forget the woz. there are millions of them like him out there, working their butt off to understand how computers and networks work, and then use those gained knowledge when they join the job market later.
  • These guys should get laid

    If only these guys had managed to find a woman and something better to do in life besides sitting at a computer all day.. sigh..