Every year, hackers cost businesses and consumers trillions of dollars. According to sources, hacks will cost a total of $6.5 trillion by 2021, with a loss of $2.4 trillion in 2019. Much of the cybercrime problem stems from the same characteristics of the Internet that we all use. Even the most inexperienced hacker can easily find all of the required tools on the Internet for virtually no cost. The hacking world did not occur overnight. It took decades for well-known hackers to discover critical vulnerabilities and uncover the strategies that laid the groundwork for the Internet and its free-for-all libertarianism.


Poulsen, then 17, used the alias Dark Dante to hack into the Pentagon’s ARPANET computer network in 1983. Even though he was quickly taken under custody, the government decided not to prosecute Poulsen, who was underage at the time. Instead, he was given a warning and fired. Poulsen ignored the warning and continued hacking.

Poulsen hacked into a federal computer in 1988 and obtained files attempting to remove Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos from his position. Poulsen fled when the authorities caught him. Poulsen was busy breaking into government files and exposing secrets while on the run.

According to his website, he entered a radio race in 1990 and was the 102nd caller to win a new Porsche, a vacation, and $20,000. Poulsen was quickly arrested and barred from using the computer for the next three years.

He has since moved into hacking and white hat journalism, writing for Wired, and his Threat Level blog about cybersecurity and social and political issues related to the Internet. Paulson has also worked on various social justice and freedom of information projects with other well-known hackers. Perhaps most notably, collaborated with Adam Schwartz and Jim Dolan to create the open-source SecureDrop software, formerly known as DeadDrop.


Aaron Schwartz rose to fame as a hacktivist and helped launch the popular social network Reddit. Schwartz was arrested and charged in 2011 with hacking into MIT’s network to download a massive cache of JSTOR academic data. These charges were eventually upgraded to two federal computer fraud charges and nearly a dozen violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which carries a maximum penalty of $1 million and 35 years in prison.

Schwartz tragically committed suicide after refusing to participate in the plea bargain. The Internet Hall of Fame invited Schwartz to contribute to his work in creating online groups like Demand Progress and its campaign against Internet privacy laws a few years after his death.


Julian Assange was known for founding Wikileaks and began hacking when he was 16 years old. After that, Assange went on to hack networks such as NASA and the Pentagon before launching Wikileaks in 2006. The US government launched an investigation into Assange in 2010. Despite his biological father’s divorce from his mother, Assange was raised by his mother only. He traveled extensively as a child and even lived in several locations before reaching the age of adolescence. Nonetheless, when he was young, he became fascinated with computers and began to break into other people’s computer systems.


Michael is well-known for launching a series of Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks against various corporate networks. Mr. Cales began by using the university’s computer network to destroy Yahoo, the dominant search engine at the time.

Shortly after, he used the infamous DDoS attack to target Dell, eBay, CNN, and Amazon. The attack came as a surprise warning to American companies, who were shocked to learn that billion-dollar businesses could be shut down so easily.

Concerns about corporate interests have resulted in legislative changes aimed at stopping cybercrime. Michael now works as a white-hat hacker, promoting pen-testing and cybersecurity awareness courses to help businesses protect themselves from online threats. Because of his interest in “botnets,” Jeanson approached hacking differently than the others on the list.


Jeanson had successfully compromised nearly 500,000 computers by 2005. These botnets were software attacks that compromised computer system control. This type of attack can be devastatingly scaled by connecting hundreds of different computer systems. According to sources, Ancheta profited from the network by selling access to ad companies and other hackers.

The government charged him with a crime specifically for violating the Computer Fraud Act. His punishment would have been 57 months in prison and a $75,000 fine, making him the first hacker to be imprisoned for using a botnet.


Pryce was a British hacker that started a hacking group known for hacking military networks in the late 1990s. He passed information about US military systems to the South Korean Institute of Atomic Energy, which nearly sparked a global conflict.

While Pryce claims to be looking for information on UFOs, attacks on advanced military networks have revealed their vulnerability. This was not just a raid; the events occurred just a few months after 9/11.
The government charged him with a crime specifically for violating the Computer Fraud Act. His punishment would have been 57 months in prison and a $75,000 fine, making him the first hacker to be imprisoned for using a botnet.


Adrian Lamo, who was of 20 years of age, used Yahoo’s insecure content management tool in 2001 to edit a Reuters article and insert a false quote attributed to former Attorney General John Ashcroft.

Lamo frequently hacked into systems and then reported his findings to the press as well as his victims. In some cases, this would assist in cleaning up the mess and improving their security. According to sources, Lamo went too far in 2002 when he hacked into the New York Times intranet, joined a list of expert sources, and began researching well-known public figures. Lamo was dubbed “Homeless Hacker” because he preferred to roam the streets with a small backpack and frequently had no fixed address.


Gonzalez, nicknamed “Supnaci,” began as the “troubled leader of the computer nerd pack” at his Miami high school, according to the research. He eventually became involved with the crime trading website, where he was regarded as one of the site’s top hackers and moderators.

Gonzalez was arrested in New York at the age of 22 for debit card fraud, which involved the theft of data from millions of card accounts. To avoid prison, he became a Secret Service informant, eventually assisting in the prosecution of dozens of Shadowcrew members. Gonzalez continued his criminal activities while working as a paid informant. Gonzalez and a group of associates stole over 180 million payment card accounts from companies like OfficeMax, Dave and Buster’s, and Boston Market.

According to the New York Times magazine, Gonzalez’s 2005 attack on US retailer TJX was the first serial credit leak. This notorious hacker and his team used basic SQL injection to create backdoors across several corporate networks, stealing approximately $256 million from TJX alone.


In 1996, a group of British hackers led by Matthew Bevan broke into several military networks, including Griffiss Air Force Base,  and the Korea Atomic Research Institute (KARI). After uploading a KARI study on US military systems, Bevan (Coogee) and Pryce (Datastream Cowboy) are accused of nearly starting World War III.

Bevan claims he was attempting to prove a UFO conspiracy theory, and his case is similar to Gary McKinnon’s, according to the BBC. Whether with malicious intent or not, Bevan and Pryce have demonstrated that military networks are also vulnerable to hacking.


In 2002, Gary McKinnon hacked into 97 US military and NASA computers. He has Asperger’s Syndrome and claimed that when he was caught, he was only looking for proof of UFOs, anti-gravity technology, and free energy suppression.

The US government attempted to extradite him for trial but was unable to do so due to his medical condition and the fact that medical experts believe he would commit suicide if forced to leave the UK to stand trial. Prosecutors decided to drop any plans to prosecute him on UK soil after a 10-year tug of war due to the complications of him being in the UK and the evidence and witnesses being in the US.

Image credits: Wikipedia & Internet

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