1) Jonathan James
At the age of 16, James was the first juvenile convicted and sent to prison for hacking. James targeted high-security organizations for his hacking amusement. His conquests included the Department of Defense, NASA and the Department of Justice, where he viewed classified materials and stole software valued at $1.7 million. James served a six-month sentence under house arrest, although an adult convicted of his crimes would serve a 10-year sentence.
2) Adrian Lamo
Lamo, known as the homeless hacker because he used public connections at libraries and Internet enabled coffee houses, committed hacking crimes involving penetration testing, finding security gaps in a company’s computer system. He accessed personal information, such as social security numbers, and then brazenly informed his victims, including The New York Times, Yahoo!, Citigroup and Microsoft, of their system flaws. After his conviction, Lamo paid a $65,000 fine and sentenced to two years probation after serving home confinement for six months.
3) Kevin Mitnick
First arrested at the age of 17, Mitnick eventually became the most wanted computer criminal in the country. Mitnick hacked the systems of such well-known companies as Motorola, Fijitsu and Novell for the purpose of stealing software and damaging their machines. His final arrest came in 1995, and he served four years for computer crimes. Mitnick authored two books, including “The Art of Intrusion.” Hollywood produced a movie based on his hacking activities called, “Takedown.” Today, Mitnick operates a computer security firm.
4) Robert Morris
As a student in Cornell University in 1988, Robert T. Morris created the first computer worm, a virus that spreads via the Internet. His claims that the worm began simply as an experiment that spiraled out of his control did not persuade prosecutors, who pointed out the significant loss of time and money his creation caused. Morris served three years of probation along with community service and paid a fine of $10,000. Morris went on to create a company that sold online software products, which Yahoo! Purchased in 1998 for $45 million. Today, Morris works at M.I.T. as a professor in their computer science and artificial intelligence laboratory.
5) Kevin Poulsen
In 1990, radio station 102.7 FM in Los Angeles hosted a contest, awarding a free Porsche to the 102nd caller of the day. Poulsen, having already hacked into the station’s phone lines arranged to become that caller. He later went on to hack computer systems of the FBI and the Defense Department. Arrested in 1991, after seventeen months of hiding, he received a sentence of 51 months, the longest sentence ever given for computer crimes at that time. Today, Poulsen writes professionally.