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Great Cyber Crimes and Hacks
September 30, 2008 5:44 PM   Subscribe

The best criminal hacker is the one that isn't caught — or even identified. These are 10 of the most infamous unsolved computer crimes as selected by PC Magazine. However, some do get caught. Here are nine of the most infamous criminal hackers to ever see the inside of a jail cell. PCMag also reached back into the early days of computing and dredged up the most inspiring examples of hacker brilliance they could find. posted by netbros (43 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
The best criminal hacker is the one that isn't caught — or even identified.

No, the best criminal hacker is the one that isn't noticed. Ever.
posted by Ryvar at 5:49 PM on September 30, 2008 [16 favorites]


That wireless rotary phone is dope.
posted by Mister_A at 6:04 PM on September 30, 2008


They forgot to include the time Timothy Oliphant in Live Free or Die Hard managed to hack into an elevator security camera in the middle of a power outage. Impressive work.
posted by brundlefly at 6:05 PM on September 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


They'll never catch me... because I'm fucking innocent.

/Dignan
posted by educatedslacker at 6:05 PM on September 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


The greatest trick
The Devil ever pulled
Was convincing the world
There were no plums.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 6:06 PM on September 30, 2008 [3 favorites]


Dennis Kucinich on CBSNews.com (October 2003)
As Representative Kucinich's presidential campaign struggled in the fall of 2003, a hacker did what he could to give it a boost. Early one Friday morning the CBSNews.com homepage was replaced by the campaign's logo. The page then automatically redirected to a 30-minute video called "This is the Moment," in which the candidate laid out his political philosophy. The Kucinich campaign denied any involvement with the hack, and whoever was responsible was not identified.


Wow. Hacking is pretty boring.
posted by mannequito at 6:10 PM on September 30, 2008


omg hax
posted by C17H19NO3 at 6:12 PM on September 30, 2008


John Draper didn't invent the "whistling 2600hz" thing, and the Captain Crunch whistle story is just that, a story. The guy who actually did the whistling was a blind phone phreak with perfect pitch named Joe "Whistling Joe" Engressia, who later changed his name to Joybubbles, and was a prominent member of a group of blind phone phreaks who Draper hung around with and sort of elected himself spokesman for. All Draper was really good at was self-promotion, and all he really accomplished was bringing a lot of heat down on his friends by agreeing to be interviewed by Esquire magazine in his quest for attention. All the stuff in that article about a "van full of high-tech equipment" is also crap. Draper is kind of an asshole, really, and reportedly in recent years he spent most of his time hanging around raves and Burning Man trying to hit on girls in their early 20s.
posted by DecemberBoy at 6:21 PM on September 30, 2008 [7 favorites]


No, the best criminal hacker is the one that isn't noticed. Ever.

I guess it depends on the end-goals of the hacker in question. Some definitely go out of their way to shake things up when flying under the radar would make more sense in terms of personal gain.
posted by Donnie VandenBos at 6:37 PM on September 30, 2008


Due to the context of its usage in the parent post, I was under the assumption 'best' meant 'most skilled.'

It's always a lot easier to get noticed during/after a successful network penetration than it is to avoid being noticed.
posted by Ryvar at 6:51 PM on September 30, 2008


FREE KEVIN!!!%?%%%%%5555
posted by cavalier at 7:09 PM on September 30, 2008


I was working at BBN in the WAN group when the Morris worm hit. There were a lot of really worried people walking around the office that day. We ran the ARPANET NOC from that site, and those people were running around like madmen trying to cope.

It wasn't a fun day. I personally felt that Morris got off easy. He should have gotten prison time for that stunt.

The thing was, the Morris worm wasn't really very original. It took advantage of a known vulnerability in a standard internet server program, one which had been widely known for a long time. And it also turned out that his implementation wasn't optimal. Some of the people who helped fight that fire that day had captured a copy of the code and disassembled it, and at one point kind of as a joke they issued a "bug fix".
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 7:18 PM on September 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


All I want form the hacking community is for someone to release a massively successful windows virus that identifies when people are looking at porn, records them on their webcam, compresses the file, and sends it to all their outlook contacts. Is that so much to ask?
posted by jeffburdges at 7:25 PM on September 30, 2008


Is that so much to ask?

You must have a lot more beautiful people at your place of work than I have at mine.
posted by b1tr0t at 7:30 PM on September 30, 2008


Steven, Georgia Tech intentionally left rwall wide open on the major student unix boxes while I was a student. Drunk frat boys occasionally hit that port with dribble, occasionally being disciplined by Deans. But honestly why did they need to leave rwall open to the entire university?

Intent does matter in our legal system. Morris didn't mean for his worm to cause the havoc that it did. A vulnerability just moves this closer to the "drunk frat boy" scenario where you must blame incompetent, lazy, or overworked IT people.

Ideally most hacking cases should be handled in civil court, not criminal court, since they are basically miss-use of property type crimes.
posted by jeffburdges at 7:39 PM on September 30, 2008


b1tr0t, No, dear god no, anyway who cares about beautiful people? I'd want to see the fallout in Washington.
posted by jeffburdges at 7:43 PM on September 30, 2008


reportedly in recent years he spent most of his time hanging around raves and Burning Man trying to hit on girls in their early 20s.

Boys.
posted by flaterik at 8:01 PM on September 30, 2008


That wireless rotary phone is dope.
posted by Mister_A


They 'dope' enough for someone to pay for 'em? Cuz I have that and a original sony discman I'm looking to sell. Perhaps to the bailout?

Craig Neidorf - The man who's case was a catalyst in the founding of the Electronic Frontier Foundation should have rated. Good thing he can rate here now.
posted by rough ashlar at 8:06 PM on September 30, 2008


Yes, I may have biased sources but I have a very very hard time seeing any of the classical or under age hackers as "bad guys." I mean, sure the modern botnets are evil sources of spam, but we're basically talking corporate mentality there. An individual seeking lolz just isn't going to cause any real & prolonged trouble. Morris may have waisted a few people's day, but how many man hours rest upon one spammer's soul?

If we're accounting for waisted hours, then let's do it honestly. I wager the hours difference is so extreme that, when your 24 hour worm writer gets off with a $1000 fine, then you can still hire Putin approved hit men for the spammer.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:22 PM on September 30, 2008


What about that time someone cracked the I.R.S. Kansas City D-Base? Granted, that was a long time ago.
posted by Clandestine Outlawry at 8:51 PM on September 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


All I want form the hacking community is for someone to release a massively successful windows virus that identifies when people are looking at porn, records them on their webcam, compresses the file, and sends it to all their outlook contacts. Is that so much to ask?

This is kinda weird. Is looking at porn still considered that unusual or perverted? Sending the cam footage to yourself would imply "boy wouldn't it be fun to see Hot Person of Your Chosen Gender doing themselves" and I'd probably agree. But sending it to all outlook contacts suggests you want to shame or discredit people who are privately enjoying themselves. OMG, people enjoy seeing other people naked! OMG, people masturbate!


Can anyone remind me of the site (assuming it's still around) that recorded found hacks of the "pwnage" variety?
posted by maxwelton at 8:53 PM on September 30, 2008


I'm sure this is rehashing old news, but if you haven't read this book you should -
Hackers:

Steven Levy's classic book explains why the misuse of the word "hackers" to describe computer criminals does a terrible disservice to many important shapers of the digital revolution. Levy follows members of an MIT model railroad club--a group of brilliant budding electrical engineers and computer innovators--from the late 1950s to the mid-1980s. These eccentric characters used the term "hack" to describe a clever way of improving the electronic system that ran their massive railroad. And as they started designing clever ways to improve computer systems, "hack" moved over with them. These maverick characters were often fanatics who did not always restrict themselves to the letter of the law and who devoted themselves to what became known as "The Hacker Ethic." The book traces the history of hackers, from finagling access to clunky computer-card-punching machines to uncovering the inner secrets of what would become the Internet. This story of brilliant, eccentric, flawed, and often funny people devoted to their dream of a better world will appeal to a wide audience.
posted by P.o.B. at 9:04 PM on September 30, 2008


Draper is kind of an asshole, really, and reportedly in recent years he spent most of his time hanging around raves and Burning Man trying to hit on girls in their early 20s.

Boys. Just to be clear. Everything else is factually correct.
posted by o0o0o at 9:24 PM on September 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


maxwelton, it was antionline.com, but it's long gone.
posted by castironskillet at 9:42 PM on September 30, 2008


a massively successful windows virus that identifies when people are looking at porn, records them on their webcam, compresses the file, and sends it to all their outlook contacts

Just because they're looking at porn doesn't mean they're naked or interfering with themselves.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have some webcam software to uninstall.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:51 PM on September 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


All I want form the hacking community is for someone to release a massively successful windows virus that identifies when people are looking at porn, records them on their webcam, compresses the file, and sends it to all their outlook contacts. Is that so much to ask?


It's called MSN.
posted by mandal at 2:34 AM on October 1, 2008


Craig Neidorf - The man who's case was a catalyst in the founding of the Electronic Frontier Foundation should have rated.

Knight Lightning didn't actually ever spend any time in prison, did he? Plus, he wasn't even busted for actual hacking, just for running a 'zine about hacking. But yeah, he probably should have at least been mentioned. I'm also surprised they didn't mention Mark "Phiber Optik" Abene and the MOD/LOD wars, but then this article isn't all that well researched.
posted by DecemberBoy at 2:51 AM on October 1, 2008


...trying to hit on girls in their early 20s.

Boys. Just to be clear. Everything else is factually correct.


Early 20s = women and men, adults, fully grown people who are old enough to take care of themselves. Not boys and girls. Now do you mean he was chasing underaged kids (not "in their early 20s") or that he was just trying to pick up men embarrassingly younger than himself? There's a giant difference.
posted by pracowity at 3:37 AM on October 1, 2008


I remember when Parson was arrested. Seeing his smirking mug on the news was what pushed me from Windows and into the arms of Linux.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:59 AM on October 1, 2008


Grr, seeing the ApplyYourself issue raised even here as a "hack" boils my blood. The kids were checking to see if results were out every day (or half hour, probably). They noticed that after logging in they were directed to a page like

https://applyyourself.com/school/application?showresult=no

Some genius decided to change that "no" to a "yes" in the address bar. It worked. ApplyYourself programmers were idiots who didn't know squat about security. They then told the schools that their system was "hacked." HBS and the big guys immediately rejected the students who did so based on "ethics violations."

Apparently I, too, am a master hacker, violating ethics in Google searches and Yahoo sites by directly editing in the address bar.

No, I wasn't one of the kids rejected. I'm just furious that the people who would accept or reject me based on this have no understanding of the issue
posted by FuManchu at 4:01 AM on October 1, 2008 [3 favorites]


Being British, the 'WANK worm' brings a whole lot of strange connotations
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 4:02 AM on October 1, 2008


he was just trying to pick up men embarrassingly younger than himself?

This. I forgot that he's gay, but yeah, the gist of it is that he hangs around youth-counterculture-type places and events and tries to pick up people like 40 years younger than he is. This was in the mid-late 90s, though, so I have no idea if he's still doing it.
posted by DecemberBoy at 4:06 AM on October 1, 2008


OK, can anyone explain what the plus is to running "Hackintosh"? If you're going to run OSX on a PC, but need to do all kinds of app tweaking and download codecs, you might as well get Gentoo or something.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:18 AM on October 1, 2008


The guy who actually did the whistling was a blind phone phreak with perfect pitch named Joe "Whistling Joe" Engressia

This guy is supposed to be the inspiration for the Whistler character in the hacker cracker movie Sneakers.
posted by ghost of a past number at 4:53 AM on October 1, 2008


Now do you mean he was chasing underaged kids (not "in their early 20s") or that he was just trying to pick up men embarrassingly younger than himself? There's a giant difference.

From everything I heard, some of which was first hand, it was extremely creepy and unwanted attention. Not illegal or horribly evil, just icky.
posted by flaterik at 5:03 AM on October 1, 2008


OK, can anyone explain what the plus is to running "Hackintosh"?

The 'hackintosh' never came into existance. Don Lancaster's goal was to add an expansion bus to a mac-like design. The NuBus and the way Apple had the ROMS locked up made the project 'uninteresting'.


Knight Lightning didn't actually ever spend any time in prison, did he? Plus, he wasn't even busted for actual hacking, just for running a 'zine about hacking.

Correct.

The part of the bust/trial that makes it VERY interesting and worth pointing out was the way in which AT&T lied to the Government and then the Government went hammer and tongs after Mr. Neidorf.

But worry not American Citizen - soon you too can be subject to the same kinds of things like inflated damages over IP
FAQ: What to expect from a new IP cabinet position
posted by rough ashlar at 5:24 AM on October 1, 2008


Craig Neidorf - The man who's case was a catalyst in the founding of the Electronic Frontier Foundation should have rated.

Knight Lightning didn't actually ever spend any time in prison, did he? Plus, he wasn't even busted for actual hacking, just for running a 'zine about hacking. But yeah, he probably should have at least been mentioned. I'm also surprised they didn't mention Mark "Phiber Optik" Abene and the MOD/LOD wars, but then this article isn't all that well researched.


Nope. No jail time. KL & TK both got off.
posted by jbelshaw at 6:02 AM on October 1, 2008


I'd take that list of Greatest Hacks with a large pinch of salt, seeing as how No 2 on the list (the UK Military satellite takeover) is a complete urban legend.

How do I know? I was a mission controller on Skynet IV in the mid-1990s. The idea that anyone could 'hack in' and take over a satellite was utterly laughable, and could only come from someone with a Hollywood idea of computer security. I understand that the story came from The Daily Telegraph, so that figures.

To begin with, the ground control system was physically and electronically isolated, so hacking into it wasn't an option. Trying to patch into one of the remote antennas we used would have been a bit difficult, seeing as how we used dedicated lines and military-grade crypto. Even if someone had managed to do this, the actual telecommands that were sent up to the satellite were themselves encrypted. Finally, if someone had started to send commands, we'd have seen an alarm go off because the satellite command decoders would have powered up unexpectedly. (And without going into details, we had a back channel override that would have locked out anyone else who did manage this.)

Ironically, much of this security came from the 1970s architecture of the satellite and ground system, which was by and large bespoke and special-to-task. When I was working with a small satellite manufacturer there was a project to demonstrate 'TCP/IP for Satellites', which on the one hand simplified things a lot but on the other removed a lot of potential obstacles to access control. (So, of course, others had to be put in...)
posted by Major Clanger at 8:00 AM on October 1, 2008 [3 favorites]


I dunno about John Draper. On the one hand, he does seem kinda creepy; even in that Esquire article that DecemberBoy linked to, he recounts stalking a woman via his ability to tap into a phone conversation without special equipment. On the other, this WSJ article makes a good case for his being chronically mentally ill.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:59 AM on October 1, 2008


The idea that anyone could 'hack in' and take over a satellite was utterly laughable

What...?? You are saying WarGames could not have happened!?! Next you'll be telling me Hackers was a load of rubbish.. then I'll have to cancel all your credit cards, get you declared legally dead etc...

HACK THE PLANET!
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:14 AM on October 1, 2008


I think Hello Kitty can help....
posted by Kronos_to_Earth at 1:03 PM on October 1, 2008


[bitchchecker] shut up i hack you
posted by everichon at 3:20 PM on October 1, 2008


Kaiser Soze was an amateur.
posted by scalefree at 9:37 AM on October 2, 2008


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