7 Most Popular Cyber Criminals and How They Got Caught

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“Crime never pays!”

Although the idiom came into existence in the early twentieth century, it still applies to modern criminals—cybercriminals. Cybersecurity Ventures Official Annual Cybercrime Report suggests that the cost of cybercrime is going to rise to $6 trillion by 2021 [1]. Even if it does pay, it will be shorter than a black hat can anticipate because stringent laws and regulatory authorities are now using the most advanced tools and techniques to find the faces behind these cybercrimes. In fact, as per the 2018 SonicWall Threat Report, 2017 has been a good year for law enforcement, emerging as a disruptive force against numerous cyber attacks [2].

Here, we celebrate the victory of law enforcement over the most popular cybercriminals around the globe. These seven stories will give you a clear picture of how these cyber attackers used their notorious skills and how they got caught.

1. Gary McKinnon

In 2002, Glasgow-born Gary McKinnon was accused of infiltrating 97 US military and NASA computers in order to find evidence suggesting free energy suppression and UFO cover-ups. During a 13-month period from February 2001 to March 2002, he used his girlfriend’s aunt’s computer under the name “Solo” to hack into various government-owned systems. He also posted a message on the websites belonging to the military, which says: “Your security is crap.” His hack is considered to be “the biggest military computer hack of all time.” US authorities accused him of causing $800,000 damage for which they wanted him extradited on the charges of terrorism. It was later that Theresa May withdrew the extradition after McKinnon was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. She called the extradition against human rights. In 2012, after standing trial in the UK, all of his charges were dropped.

2. Kevin David Mitnick

Kevin David Mitnick is an all-time popular cybercriminal. In 1995, at the time of his arrest, he was “the most wanted hacker in America.” At the age of 12, he used social engineering to get a free ride in the greater LA using unused transfer slips. He made it possible to bypass the punch card system of the buses in LA. After that, he used social engineering to commit other cybercrimes. In 1979, when he was 16, he gained unauthorized access to the computer network of Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) and stole $1 million worth of software. The very next year, he was sentenced to a year in jail followed by three years of release under supervision. During his release, he gained illegal access to voice mail computers of Pacific Bell. After this, a warrant has been issued under his name, but he fled and stayed a fugitive for the next two years, surviving under false identities. Surprisingly, Mitnick did all of this with no real motive other than that of having some fun. After being charged with the felony, he served five years in prison with eight months of solitary confinement.

3. Jonathan James

Jonathan is a computer genius who hacked into NASA and Pentagon when he was just 15 but his illegal online activities led him to our list of cybercriminals. During June to October 1999, the United States Department of Defense (DoD) found that a number of private firms, school systems, NASA, and DoD itself were infiltrated by a black hat, operating under the name “C0mrade.”. When he broke into NASA security, he stole software and data which cost around $1.7 million. As a result of the intrusion, the agency shut down their system for 21 days and this again cost them an additional $41,000 to recover from the loss. He also breached other prominent firms. In September 2000, when he turned 16, he pleaded guilty, but as a minor, he was sentenced to a six-month house-arrest and banned from computer use until he turned 18. If he wasn’t a minor, he would have been subjected to a sentence of up to 10 years with a huge fine to pay for the damages.

Note: Jonathan James was the first person to get illegal access to highly secured DoD.

4. Michael Calce

Calce used the “MafiaBoy” handle to perform malicious cyber activities. Like Jonathan, when Calce was 15, he caused damage to prominent companies like Amazon, Dell, CNN, eBay, and Yahoo by injecting DoS attacks, which brought these firms to their knees, costing them around CAD $1.2 billion in total. As he was a minor when he committed the felony, he was charged a small fine with eight months of open custody, restrictions of internet usage, and probation of 12 months.

5. Max Ray Butler

The US-based Max Butler, aka Iceman, is another known name among people from the cyber world. He has been found guilty multiple times for several crimes. In the year 1998, he gained unauthorized access to US government websites for which, he was put behind bars for 18 months in 2001. After his release, he kept programming malware to steal credit card related data. In 2007, he was found guilty of wire fraud and sent to the Federal Detention Center.

6. Albert Gonzalez

Gonzalez was known by his various online names, which includes “cumbajohny,” “soupnazi,” and “segvec.” When he was 14, he hacked into NASA. He was arrested in 2003 for being a part of a group of cyber criminals, ShadowCrew, who used to steal and resell credit card details online. In exchange for his freedom, he joined hands with authorities, but later in 2006, he again indulged in his mischievous hacking activities. This time he stole and resold approximately 170 million cards. He used a SQL injection to create backdoors in the systems of various corporate firms. He used these backdoors for data theft using packet sniffing, particularly, ARP-spoofing. In 2008, he was arrested and in 2010, he was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison.

7. Roman Seleznev

The, now 35-year old, Russia-based cybercriminal is the son of Russian Parliament member Valery Seleznev. He is well known with his screen names—Track2 and nCux. He stole card details and intruded systems of over 500 businesses and 3,700 financial institutions. This occurred between 2009 and 2013. It is estimated that he made tens of millions of dollars while he was active with his online hacking activities. He was detained in the Maldives while on vacation. Seleznev was then charged with 38 felonies and sentenced to 27 years of prison in 2017. However, it did not end there for authorities and later, in the same year, he was added another 14 years of imprisonment after his known involvement in another case.

Cybercrimes, as fascinating as they seem or sound, are not even close to it. An anonymous life in an underground world, rather than leading the life of a contented individual, that is the life of a black hat hacker. Their fate is sealed; sooner or later, they will end up at the hands of justice and, as the above-mentioned A-listed cybercriminals’ life, will end with harsh punishment, making it evident that walking on a slippery slope is always risky.




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