When the first computer networks went online in the 1960s and 1970s, it didn’t take long before computer whizzes found ways to “game” the system. The earliest so-called “hackers,” “phone phreaks,” learned how to access long distance lines to make free calls. By the 1980s, hackers were illegally accessing banks and other institutions for financial gain, and today, cyber-crime costs businesses worldwide some $400 billion a year. But hacking is a very nuanced issue. Many hackers have used their skills to highlight flaws in computer security, sparking a debate about “black hat” hackers who work for malicious purposes, “white hat” crackers with beneficial intentions, or “gray hats,” who fall somewhere in between. Even the term “hacker” has fallen out of favor in the computer world, replaced by the less-judgmental term “cracker.”
However you classify them, the following 10 individuals all made headlines for their hacking and cracking exploits.