Computer hacking is viewed as a prank by many people. Other hackers enjoy the challenge of breaking into a complex computer network. However, some computer hackers steal personal information, wreck havoc on expensive computer systems and cause other problems for millions of innocent Internet users. Some hackers can even threaten national security and international relations. The following are five famous computer hackers that faced serious consequences for their unlawful Internet adventures.
At the height of the 2008 presidential campaign Kernell, a 20 year old college student, accessed the personal email account of Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin and posted a number of her private messages to another website. The fact that Palin was a Republican and Kernell was the son of Tennessee Democrat legislator Mike Kernell led to fierce accusations of campaign election fraud, but it was later revealed that Kernell apparently acted alone. He was convicted of a variety of offenses including unauthorized computer access and obstructing a federal investigation and was sentenced to one year in federal custody in 2010.
While still in his teens James was found guilty of hacking into the NASA computer system in 1999, an act which he claimed was simply “harmless exploration.” James was the subject of an episode of the PBS documentary show Frontline with his identity masked because of his age. Due to his youthful status he received a relatively light sentence of six months in a state prison and probation. In 2009 James was again the focus of hacking allegations, this time for allegedly using his skills as part of a large criminal ring to steal credit card information. As investigators closed in James committed suicide at the age of 24.
One of the first well-known computer hackers, Mitnick used his computer programming knowledge to hack into a number of computer systems including public utilities and technology companies in the early 1990s. He also used his extensive skills to evade detection and avoided arrest for nearly three years. He was finally captured by the FBI in 1995 and was subsequently convicted and served five years in prison. In recent years, Mitnick has gone straight and now uses the expertise he gained as a hacker to operate his own computer security firm.
Although most well known for the controversy regarding Wikileaks, his website that published classified documents and other material gathered by computer hackers, Assange was himself convicted of computer hacking in the 1990s. Although he faced over 30 charges he avoided a lengthy prison term because the judge deemed his crimes to be essentially harmless. Assange continued to work as computer programmer and Internet technology specialist throughout the 1990s and early 2000s and in 2006 founded Wikileaks.
Because of the Wikileaks controversy as well as to escape the consequences of a sexual assault allegation levied against him Assange sought asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he has remained in hiding since August 2012.
Hammond represents a different and more threatening element of computer hacking, hacktivism. Hammond began hacking as a teenager, a time when he also discovered and embraced counterculture politics and anarchism. He, along with other members of the hacktivist group Anonymous used their skills to infiltrate the websites of various government agencies, political organizations and businesses. Hammond was indicted in early 2013 for hacking into the website of global intelligence company Stratfor and is expected to go to trial later in the year.
About Today's Contributor:
Terry Scott works as a computer networking systems administrator and enjoys sharing with his readers information about computers, networking, and other related topics. Terry is also a contributor at Top Computer Science Degrees, a great resource for anyone interested in starting a career in computer science.