Cyber hacking has become the fastest growing crime in the world. Credit card data breaches have jumped over 150 percent in the last five years. The healthcare industry is one of cyber criminals favorite places to hack. Virtual criminals use all types of malware to invade our privacy. And no matter how you fortify your security measures, they work just as hard to break them.
There are even “heroes” in the world of hacking. Take for instance these guys, 10 of the most famous hackers of all time.
- Vladimir Levin – Levin accessed Citibank’s telecommunications systems. He listened in as customers openly talked about their accounts. He used the information to route $10 million into accounts around the globe. After being caught, Levin pled guilty to a single charge of transferring $3.7 million. He was sentenced to three years in prison. He also had to compensate Citibank $240,000. Except for $400,000, all the funds were recovered.
- Gary McKinnon – Over two years in the early 2000s, McKinnon cracked into almost 100 American military networks. He left a bold, succinct message on the military’s website, “Your security is crap.” The U.S. found him but was unable to get the Scotsman extradited. Unlike many on this list, McKinnon has never been legally held accountable for his hacks. Today, he uses his talents to help organizations rank high in engine searches.
- Jonathan James – James, at the tender age of 15, was the first minor in the United States convicted of hacking. James infamously hacked the Miami-Dade school system, Bell South, the Department of Defense and NASA. Due to James, NASA had to shut down their systems almost a month and lost over $40,000.
- Astra – Curiously, even though caught and jailed, Astra’s true identity has never been revealed. It has been theorized Astra was a mathematician and may have been in his (or her) late 50s. We do know Astra is Greek and managed to crack the code to French aviation company Dassault Group’s networks. For five years, Astra stole and sold technology about military aircraft and jet fighters to foreign powers. The hack cost Dassault over $350 million.
- Kevin Mitnick – Mitnick hacked into cellphones to make calls and stole code from major companies like Novell and Sun Microsystems. He told The New York Times he’d hacked into NSA phones. Mitnick did five years after taking a plea to numerous fraud charges. His actions have had an impact on the security industry to this day. He works as a professional security consultant. You can find Mitnick on Twitter.
- James Kosta – Kosta and his cohorts hacked banks, IBM and General Electric. He was arrested for his cyber crimes at the tender age of 14. Kosta was convicted of 45 counts of technical burglary. Instead of serving his 45 years in prison, he joined the Navy and, at 18, became an intelligence analyst. Two years later, he joined the ranks of the CIA and tracked warlords in the Middle East and Africa. By 24, he was a millionaire, selling his first dotcom. Today, Kosta mentors troubled youths to focus their potential.
- John McAfee – Hackers break security for many reasons. Out of ego, to challenge themselves or to get money being at the top of the list. McAfee did it for revenge. While living in Belize, McAfee’s home was seized by the government after it was discovered he was producing drugs in a lab. This was after a government official tried to get a bribe from McAfee. In retaliation, McAfee hacked into the Belize government’s systems and uncovered corruption, drug running, money laundering and even murder. He avoided prison by faking a heart attack and escaping. He’s still out there somewhere.
- Stephen Wozniak – Wozniak may be considered a techno god as one Apple’s co-founders, but his history as white hat hacker earns him a ranking on this list of infamous cyber criminals. When he studied at the University of California, Wozniak created “blue boxes.” These devices were capable of bypassing traditional phone systems, allowing free long distance phone calls. There has long been a rumor Wozniak used one of his blue boxes to try and call the Pope.
- Adrian Lamo – Laimo hacked computers at the New York Times and grabbed info off their databases. This included info on 3,000 authors at the paper. He was fined $65,000 and sentenced to two years probation. But Lamo’s real claim to infamy is turning in Chelsea Manning as a WikiLeaks source. Lamo says it was not a decision he wanted to make. It was “thrust” upon him.
- David L. Smith – Smith is easily the most infamous hacker in computer history. He is the author and distributor of the Melissa worm virus, the first successful virus that was email-aware. It made its way across the Internet through the Usenet discussion group alt.sex. Smith served a little under two years in prison, found guilty of the hack and the $80 million in damage the virus is believed to be responsible for.
- Honorable Mention: Anonymous – Anonymous is a hacker group. While there is a core group, supporters use the brand to put forth their own causes. One of their prominent attacks was on the Church of Scientology when the organization’s servers were bombarded with requests to overwhelm them and shut them down. There have been Internet attacks on corporations, religious groups and governments. Anonymous recently took credit for hacking Donald Trump and releasing the presidential candidate’s personal info.
As our list attests, hackers are using our systems to get to our critical information. Considering the risk, it’s more important than ever to have a solid VPN securing your computers and Internet connection. VPNs safeguard your data and activities from prying eyes. A VPN also offers greater flexibility for using the Internet.
Whether an individual looking for greater resources or a business connecting data centers, with a VPN protecting info and interests, you increase the chances your story never ends up on this list.