Hacking has been around for decades, and as long as computers exist, this practice will continue to thrive. While hacking is often seen as a vice, some ethical hackers can help identify and correct system vulnerabilities. And then there are black hat hackers who leak sensitive information and profit from exploiting network systems; they are the ones who are usually condemned. Today, we highlight some of the world’s most notorious hackers.

1. Julian Assange

Julian Asange’s association with Wikileaks, which leaked confidential US military logs, made him one of the most notorious hackers ever. Even before becoming the editor of Wikileaks, Assange had been accused of hacking hundreds of systems, including the Pentagon.

He often thought of himself as an ethical hacker despite some people differing. The fact that he was on Interpol’s most-wanted list also did not help. For a long time, the US government has wanted to extradite Julian Assange from the UK and charge him for espionage.

2. Elliot Gunton

Elliot Gunton is a British young adult convicted of hacking several major systems, including Talk Talk, a UK-based telecommunication firm. The hacker first attacked the platform when he was just 16 years old. From there, he continued to hack and sell famous people’s Instagram accounts, laundering money using crypto and data theft.

Within no time, Elliot Gunton had become so prolific in his craft that he started hacking international systems, including a US currency exchange site called EtherDelta. He swindled millions of dollars from EtherDelta’s users in just two weeks. In 2019, Elliot Gunton was caught in the UK, fined £400,000, and sentenced to 20 months.

3. Kevin Mitnick

Unlike many hackers who prefer to lay low and avoid infiltrating big organizations, Kevin Mitnick was not afraid of “going big.” During the 80s, he hacked into the North American Defense Command before exploiting the systems of the Digital Equipment Corporation and making copies of their software in 1989.

He was arrested, but that didn’t deter him as he hacked into the US Department of Justice in 1995. Mitnick also practiced white hat hacking in his spare time through his consulting firm, which offered cybersecurity services.

4. Evgeniy Mikhailovich Bogachev

A Russian hacker named Evgeniy Bogachev created a powerful malware known as the Gameover ZeuS botnet in 2007. It affected millions of computers worldwide and stole all data stored on the devices, resulting in damages of up to $100 million.

Evgeniy Bogachev is an FBI person of Interest and has managed to evade capture despite using his real name and living in Russia. This has prompted speculations that the hacker might have been working with the Russian government.

5. Graham Ivan Clark

In 2020, Graham Ivan Clark created a Twitter hack that used the handles of famous people like Rihanna and Donald Trump to ask users for Bitcoin. At the time, Clark was only 17 years old, so it’s suspected he had older/experienced accomplices. While he was known as the Bitcoin-Twitter hacker and was prominent in the cybersecurity world, Clark was arrested and sentenced to 3 years in prison.

6. Gary McKinnon

Gary McKinnon is an English hacker who was popular for hacking US military systems while looking for information about the presence of UFOs in 2002. Unlike most hackers on this list, he wasn’t driven by greed for money; he wanted to publicize this information.

Although the UK did not extradite Gary Mckinnon to the US as requested, the authorities arrested him in London and detained him in Briston for a while. In 2008, Gary was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, making his terms of extradition even more complicated.

7. Jeanson James Ancheta

Mr Jeanson Acheta was the first hacker jailed for using botnets (controlling many hijacked computers). In 2005, he created botnets that would attack almost 500,000 computers and then sell their access to other hackers and advertising companies. Jeanson Ancheta was arrested and slapped with a $75,000 fine alongside a 57-month prison sentence.

8. MafiaBoy

MafiaBoy, whose real name is Michael Calce, was a high school student who used university computers to destabilize Yahoo search engines in the 2000s. He was impressively gifted for his age as he successfully shut down Yahoo services for about an hour on his first attempt.

This encouraged him to target other major corporations, including CNN, eBay, the computer company Dell, and Amazon. It is safe to say that MafiaBoy was among the reasons why most huge business entities started investing in cybersecurity. Michael Calce also switched to ethical hacking.

9. Kevin Poulsen

As a teenager, Kevin Poulsen hacked the Pentagon’s computer network, one of the most guarded security systems in the United States. Of course, he was tracked and arrested. Fortunately for him, cybersecurity crimes weren’t as serious as today, so Poulsen was released with a slap on the wrist.

However, Kevin went on to hack more government systems, including the FBI. Besides government entities, one of Kevin Poulsen’s infamous hacks is when he targeted a radio station and declared himself the winner of $20,000, a vacation, and a Porsche. Like MafiaBoy, Kevin transitioned into Whitehat hacking and contributes to The Daily Beast as an editor.

10. Aaron Swartz

Aaron Swartz should be a familiar name because he and his two roommates, Alexis Ohanian and Steve Huffman, founded Reddit. Besides his immense contribution to social network, Aaron Swartz is a renowned hacktivist. In 2011, he hacked MIT and downloaded a huge academic record file. This was a serious crime with heavy repercussions, including the possibility of a 35-year imprisonment and a fine of up to $1 million. Unfortunately, Aaron Swartz took his own life in 2013.

11. Jonathan James

At only 15 years old, Jonathan James hacked into the United States Department of Defense and NASA, accessing crucial government employee data such as usernames, passwords, and messages. He was arrested, banned from recreational computer use, and put under house arrest.

Following the violation of his probation terms, Jonathan James was imprisoned for 6 months. He was also suspected of being part of a TJX data hack, one of the largest and most impactful data breaches that happened in 2007. Unfortunately, James ended his life in 2008.

Last Update: June 30, 2024