Top Five Old School Hackers

Turning on the television brings news of hacking organizations like Anonymous, and logging into Facebook often brings claims that a friend’s account has been “hacked.” While the two terms are used to describe any unwelcome entry to an account or other online system, they really do not mean the same thing, and it is more than just guessing a password or taking the time to learn JavaScript.

There are some hackers who’s ability to bypass security and create digital havoc is the stuff of legends, and whose feats are still whispered about in classrooms and have inspired awe in the eyes of other hackers. Here is a list of the top five old school hackers:

1)     Kevin Metnick

Kevin was a computer prodigy from a very early age, and his love of computing led him to hack systems owned by the FBI (resulting in a five year prison sentence) Motorola, Sun Microsystems, and Pacific Bell. Of course, Mr. Metnick has reformed his passion for hacking into a respectable career: He has written two books about common hacking methods and how they can be avoided, and has a company called Metnick Security Consulting that helps corporations deal with sophisticated software holes and how to spot social engineering.

2)     Jonathan James

Jonathan gained notoriety at the youthful age of 16, making a hobby of breaking into systems just to see if he could pull it off. Also known as “c0mrade,” Jonathan had a string of high profile cyber break-ins to his credit, including one that accessed the life support systems of the International Space station that caused NASA to shut down their systems for three weeks and spend 41,000 patching security holes. Other cyber-crimes included installing a backdoor on a Department of Defense computer and stealing sensitive information. He was also a person of interest in a credit card theft ring, but ended his own life before he could be arrested, his suicide note proclaiming his innocence.

3)     Adrian Lamo

Adrian Lamo made himself infamous by hacking into several systems created by well-known companies, such as the New York Times and Microsoft. Also known as the “homeless hacker,” he used public computer access through Kinko’s, the library, and coffee shops and exploited holes in computer security to gain access to information. Adrian was in the news most recently for outing Bradley Manning in the Wikileaks scandal. Today, like Kevin Metnick, is a public speaker and computer security specialist. His Facebook page is here.

4)     Robert Morris

Author of the “Morris Worm,” the internet’s first widespread self-replicating virus, Robert Morris is actually the son of a former National Security Agency scientist. He states that the code was really written to see how large the internet had become, but had the effect of slowing down infected computers to the point where they were unusable. After being fined and made to do community service for his hacking exploits, he currently is a professor at MIT, and his MIT bio can be found here.

5)     John Draper

John Draper is best known for his trick that utilized a whistle he retrieved from a box of cereal, giving him the nickname of “Captain Crunch.” He realized that the whistle replicated the tones produced by the phone company AT&T, and used this information to tap into phone lines for the purpose of making free long distance calls. John Draper went into business making blue boxes with both Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs, and helped design the early boards for Apple computers. Today, Mr. Draper hosts Crunch TV, an internet TV show. Here’s one of his early podcasts here on YouTube.

Why do people hack? Many computer users do it for the same reason that others climb Mount Everest; because it is there. Just remember there is a fine line between hacking and breaking the law.

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