World's most famous hackers
Richard Stallman Stallman joined the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT in 1971. He received the 250K McArthur Genius award for developing software. He ultimately founded the Free Software Foundation, creating hundreds of freely distributable utilities and programs for use on the UNIX platform. He worked on some archaic machines, including the DEC PDP-10 (to which he probably still has access somewhere). He is a brilliant programmer.
Dennis Ritchie, Ken Thompson, and Brian Kernighan Ritchie, Thompson, and Kernighan are programmers at Bell Labs, and all were instrumental in the development of the UNIX operating system and the C programming language. Take these three individuals out of the picture, and there would likely be no Internet (or if there were, it would be a lot less functional). They still hack today. (For example, Ritchie is busy working on Plan 9 from Bell Labs, a new operating system that will probably supplant UNIX as the industry-standard super-networking operating system.)
Paul Baran, Rand Corporation Baran is probably the greatest hacker of them all for one fundamental reason: He was hacking the Internet before the Internet even existed. He hacked the concept, and his efforts provided a rough navigational tool that served to inspire those who followed him.
Eugene Spafford Spafford is a professor of computer science, celebrated for his work at Purdue University and elsewhere. He was instrumental in creating the Computer Oracle Password and Security System (COPS), a semi-automated system of securing your network. Spafford has turned out some very prominent students over the years and his name is intensely respected in the field.
Dan Farmer Farmer worked with Spafford on COPS (Release 1991) while at Carnegie Mellon University with the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT). For real details, see Purdue University Technical Report CSD-TR-993, written by Eugene Spafford and Daniel Farmer. (Yes, Dan, the byline says Daniel Farmer.) Farmer later gained national notoriety for releasing the System Administrator Tool for Analyzing Networks (SATAN), a powerful tool for analyzing remote networks for security vulnerabilities.
Wietse Venema Venema hails from the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands. He is an exceptionally gifted programmer who has a long history of writing industry-standard security tools. He co-authored SATAN with Farmer and wrote TCP Wrapper, one of the commonly used security programs in the world. (This program provides close control and monitoring of information packets coming from the void.)
Linus Torvalds A most extraordinary individual, Torvalds enrolled in classes on UNIX and the C programming language in the early 1990s. One year later, he began writing a UNIX-like operating system. Within a year, he released this system to the Internet (it was called Linux). Today, Linux has a cult following and has the distinction of being the only operating system ever developed by software programmers all over the world, many of whom will never meet one another. Linux is free from copyright restrictions and is available free to anyone with Internet access.
Bill Gates and Paul Allen From their high school days, these men from Washington were hacking software. Both are skilled programmers. Starting in 1980, they built the largest and most successful software empire on Earth. Their commercial successes include MS-DOS, Microsoft Windows, Windows 95, and Windows NT.
Kevin Mitnik Mitnik, also known as Condor, is probably the world's best-known cracker. Mitnik began his career as a phone phreak. Since those early years, Mitnik has successfully cracked every manner of secure site you can imagine, including but not limited to military sites, financial corporations, software firms, and other technology companies. (When he was still a teen, Mitnik cracked the North American Aerospace Defense Command.) At the time of this writing, he is awaiting trial on federal charges stemming from attacks committed in 1994-1995.
Kevin Poulsen Having followed a path quite similar to Mitnik, Poulsen is best known for his uncanny ability to seize control of the Pacific Bell telephone system. (Poulsen once used this talent to win a radio contest where the prize was a Porsche. He manipulated the telephone lines so that his call would be the wining one.) Poulsen has also broken nearly every type of site, but has a special penchant for sites containing defense data. This greatly complicated his last period of incarceration, which lasted five years. (This is the longest period ever served by a hacker in the United States.) Poulsen was released in 1996 and has apparently reformed.
Justin Tanner Peterson Known as Agent Steal, Peterson is probably most celebrated for cracking a prominent consumer credit agency. Peterson appeared to be motivated by money instead of curiosity. This lack of personal philosophy led to his downfall and the downfall of others. For example, once caught, Peterson ratted out his friends, including Kevin Poulsen. Peterson then obtained a deal with the FBI to work undercover. This secured his release and he subsequently absconded, going on a crime spree that ended with a failed attempt to secure a six-figure fraudulent wire transfer