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10 hacks that made headlines

Joan Goodchild | May 16, 2012
Ten infamous social engineers -- con men who exploited human weaknesses rather than technical vulnerabilities.

The FBI eventually caught up with Levin at a London airport and he was tried and convicted in the U.S. and sentenced to three years in jail in 1998. He was also ordered to pay Citibank $240,015 in restitution.

Jonathon James hacks NASA

Known by the hacker name c0mrade, Jonathon James was 16 when, in 1999, he hacked into the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, and downloaded proprietary software for the International Space Station. The software supported the International Space Station's physical environment and was responsible for critical control of humidity and temperature for living in space.

NASA officials valued the documents stolen by James at around $1.7 million. The incident forced NASA to shut down its computer systems for three weeks and cost them about $41,000 to fix.

Adrian Lamo hacks the New York Times

In 2002, at age 19, Adrian Lamo hacked into the internal network of the New York Times and accessed many sensitive records, including an extensive database of op-ed writers the paper had used in the past.

The records contained names and, in some instances, phone numbers, home addresses and payment history on contributors such as Democratic strategist James Carville, former secretary of state James Baker, and (ironically, Sneakers movie veteran) actor Robert Redford. Lamo added his own name to the list of "experts" and under "expertise" he wrote "Computer hacking, national security, communications intelligence."

Gary McKinnon hacks the US military

Scottish hacker Gary McKinnon, who went by the handle Solo, was accused of hacking to several US military computers in 2001 and 2002. McKinnon allegedly wanted to know what the government knew about UFOs.

Military officials said the damage caused by McKinnon included the deletion of critical files from operating systems, prompting a shut down the US Armys Military District of Washington network of 2,000 computers for 24 hours. McKinnon also allegedly deleted weapons logs at the Earle Naval Weapons Station. Officials said the cost of cleanup from McKinnons hack was over $700,000.

McKinnon is currently in London and has been fighting US extradition orders for over a decade. He could face a sentence of over 60 years in prison if convicted of the charges against him.

Albert Gonzalez hacks TJX (and many more)

Albert Gonzalez was the convicted ring leader of a group of cyber criminals which, from 2005 through 2007, stole more than 90 million credit and debit card numbers from TJX and other retailers, including shoe sellers DSW, OfficeMax, BJs Wholesale Club and Dave & Busters. Gonzalez was also the mastermind behind the hacking that caused the massive records breach of Heartland Payment Systems in 2008.

In 2009, Gonzalez was sentenced to two concurrent 20-year prison sentences, the lengthiest sentence ever imposed in the United States for hacking or identity-theft.


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