We read about and witness the work of black hat hackers all the time. It was just last week that some of the largest financial institutions in the US were hit by another cyber attack that overloaded their servers and made their websites unusable. But the stories that we don’t hear as often are those about what happens when hackers get caught.
Here’s a round-up of some of black hats whose work has made headlines, and what they’re up to now:
Known for founding Wikileaks and exposing classified information and news leaks from anonymous sources, Julian Assange has been deemed an “enemy of the United States” by the Department of Defense. He’s currently in political asylum at the Ecuadorean embassy in the UK, avoiding extradition to Sweden (for a non-hacker related charge) and is still fighting extradition to the United States.
Samy Kamkar originally made his claim to hacker fame in 2007 by creating a worm that spread across MySpace, earning himself three years of formal probation, 90 days of community service, restitution, and restrictions on computer use. These days, he’s a security researcher, known for discovering that the Apple iPhone, Google Android, and Microsoft Windows phones were transmitting GPS and Wifi information even when disabled.
Kevin Mitnick is hard to forget. (Hollywood made a movie about him.) He’s known for a variety of hacks that were so big the U.S. Department of Justice called him the “most wanted computer criminal in U.S. history.” After serving five years in prison, he’s a reformed white hat hacker, who’s now a computer security consultant and author.
Albert Gonzalez committed the biggest fraud in history by hacking his way into ownership of over 170 million credit card and ATM numbers from 2005 to 2007, many of which he sold, though he didn’t hesitate to keep millions of dollars for himself. He was eventually arrested and convicted in 2008 and is serving one of two consecutive 20-year sentences.
Kevin Poulsen is probably the most famous ex-black hat of them all. He’s known for taking over a radio station and rigging the phone lines so that he’d be the 102nd caller and therefore win a Porsche. He was finally convicted for that stunt and many more cyber crimes, and sentenced to 51 months in prison and $56,000 in restitution. At the time — this was in the 1990s – it was the longest sentence ever handed to a hacker. These days, he’s the News Editor at Wired.com.
Gary McKinnon, aka “Solo”, coordinated what’s considered the largest military computer hack of all time. He hacked 197 U.S. military and NASA computers between 2001 and 2002, and would have been given handed seven 10-year U.S. prison sentences, however, this month his extradition from his native UK was blocked on human rights grounds.