Nine Famous Hacks
Thu Jan 8,10:56 AM ET
Michael Fitzgerald - ExtremeTech
1.) Captain Zap: Ian Murphy, aka "Captain Zap," was the first person convicted of hacking. He and three friends broke into AT&T's computer system and shifted the metering clocks around, so the system charged peak rates at off-peak hours and vice versa. Busted in 1981, he was convicted in 1982, and is credited as the real-life source for the movie "Sneakers." Murphy has since run a security consulting firm, IAM/Secure Data Systems.
2.) The Morris Internet Worm: In November 1988, Cornell graduate student Robert Morris released what remains the most devastating Internet worm ever, based on number of systems shut down - more than 10 percent of the servers online, causing damage of some $15 million. The Morris worm caused the government to create CERT (Computer Emergency Response Team), and Morris himself was one of the first hackers prosecuted under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. He now teaches computer science at MIT.
3.) Kevin-1: Kevin Mitnick and Kevin Poulsen have two things in common: their first names and serving jail time for hacking. Mitnick is probably the most famous hacker alive, the subject of multiple books and even a movie or two (one, War Games, is inspired by a hack of the North American Air Defense Command computer, which Mitnick denies having committed). He spent two and half years running from an FBI (news - web sites) manhunt (he'd jumped probation on - what else? - a 1988 hacking conviction) and was finally caught in 1995. He got out of jail in 2000 and is now a security consultant and author.
4.) Kevin-2: Poulsen, meanwhile, was more of a classic phone phreak. He took over phone lines to win contests at Los Angeles radio stations in 1990, including a Porsche 944. Poulsen went into journalism after he got out of prison and is now editorial director at SecurityFocus.com.
5.) The Melissa Virus: Written by David Smith and named for a certain stripper he wanted to flatter, the April 1999 virus remains one of the most damaging to date, and paved the way for our current epidemic. Melissa, a macro virus, blasted the computers of hundreds of thousands of users - some would estimate it ultimately hit as many as 20 percent of the computers on the Internet. Despite the wake up call for companies and consumers alike, e-mail viruses continue to wreak devastation, as evidenced by last year's Slammer and SoBig viruses.
6.) The New York Times defacement: Sure, defacements like the September 1998 replacement of the New York Times site with a rambling "Free Kevin Mitnick" manifesto are just Web versions of graffiti. But it was prominent, it thumbed its nose at the Times and reporter John Markoff, and also at the FBI. And the perpetrators, "Hacking for Girliez," have never been caught. You can see it today at this mirror.
7.) Mafiaboy: In February 2000 a series of denial of service attacks temporarily made it impossible to get to sites like Amazon.com, Yahoo! and eBay. A Canadian script kiddie with the handle of Mafiaboy was quickly busted and convicted for setting loose the script that caused the problem, but some think this was a test of how the U.S. government would respond to a cyber attack.
8.) The Kriegsman Furs Hack: It happened in 1996 and it's not well-known, but one elegant Web site hack was pulled off by anti-fur activists, who replaced the Kriegsman Furs company Web page with an anti-fur manifesto and links to animal rights sites. This wasn't quite the first politically motivated Web hack - two others happened a few months earlier - but it was well done. You can see it today at this mirror.
9.) Linux (news - web sites) and Perl: With a nod to the origins of the word, these are two of the best hacks of all-time, in terms of impact. Linus Torvalds (news - web sites) hacked together Linux and made it work on the Intel platform, a big plus for companies that wanted Unix (news - web sites) performance without having to pay workstation prices. Larry Wall took two programs called 'sed' and 'awk' and put together PERL, one of the most widely used scripting tools around. Steve Wozniak's hack, the Apple I, is also worth a mention.